Stories

Well This Trip Fuckin’ Sucks So Far – Homeless

Really an Asshole

 

Hank Williams lies in bed, asleep.

The walls of his room – the color of white eyes after a near death experience – stare at him, unblinking and intense, watching as the last of the black weather finally passes from his head like a slow-dying, mental fog.

As soon as the black weather disappears, a knock comes from the door. The knock is soft and gentle, like it belongs to an old friend who borrowed money from Hank Williams a long time ago and never paid him back – a friend he never expected to see again – but despite the knock’s shyness, the surprise of its arrival is startling enough to wake him up.

Hank Williams rolls over in bed. Looking across his dark, almost prison-like room, he sees a cat the same height as himself standing on its hind legs in the doorway.

The cat is orange and handsome-looking, wears a studded black leather jacket and holds a closed brown umbrella in one of its paws.

The jacket makes the cat look like an orange power chord. The umbrella does not.

The brown umbrella is virginal looking. It has no rain on it and looks as if it’s never been touched by rain or even seen a cloudy day in all its life.

“Hey…” the cat says.

“Hey…” Hank Williams says, responding to the cat as if it’s completely normal for a cat to be talking to him even though he knows it’s not. Hank Williams knows cats don’t speak. He knows they only purr or meow or sometimes screech and howl depending on their mood. But something about this unnatural act of the cat greeting him seems very natural, like it’s supposed to be happening, this unusual verbal exchange between human and feline.

“You’re late,” Hank Williams says after a minute of silence between him and the cat. “I know…” the cat replies. “I’m an asshole.”
“You’re really late,” Hank Williams says after another minute of silence between them. “I know…” the cat replies. “I’m really an asshole.”

 

A Magical Brown Umbrella?

 

“How’d you get in here?” Hank Williams asks. “Well, how’d you get in here?” the cat says. “How’d I get in here?”
The cat nods.

Hank Williams realizes he’s never seen a cat nod before but feels like he’ll remember seeing this cat nod for the rest of his life.

“I tried to kill myself,” Hank Williams says. “A few times… Guess I’m not very good at it.”

“So, you got in here because you tried to kill yourself?”
“Yeah, I guess so… No… I mean definitely. That’s definitely how I got in here.”
“Okay. Then that’s how I got in here too,” the cat says.
“Oh. I see,” Hank Williams says even though he doesn’t see and just wants to make a good first impression rather than have the cat think he’s dense within the first minute of meeting.

“What’s that?” Hank Williams asks the cat in regard to the brown umbrella it holds, not wanting to know so much what it is but why the cat has it.

The cat looks down at what it’s holding in its paw as if it’s forgotten and needs a reminder. It studies the umbrella briefly, reminding itself, the reminder making its whiskers twitch, then the cat looks back at Hank Williams with its big, yellow eyes.

They look warm, the cat’s eyes, like they just came out of the oven after years and years of being baked.

“It’s an umbrella,” the cat says.
“Oh… Well, I mean, is it a magical umbrella?” Hank Williams asks. The cat looks back down at the umbrella and stares at it.
“Yeah,” the cat says. “Sure.”
The cat looks up from the brown umbrella and back at Hank Williams. Hank Williams adjusts himself in bed.
They don’t speak.
And then they do speak.
“Well, do you wanna get goin’ or what?” the cat asks Hank Williams. “Yeah, okay,” Hank Williams says. “Sure.”

 

Hi, Nancy

 

Hank Williams and the cat walk out through the front gates of the hospital undetected.

A red van that looks like a rotten apple sleeping off a cold is parked out front underneath the moonlight.

As they stop in front of the van, Hank Williams glances over at the cat and sees it smiling at the van proudly, affectionately, as if it had given birth to the van.

“Well, what do you think?” the cat asks Hank Williams.
Hank Williams doesn’t think much of the van at all.
He kind of nods to himself then answers the cat’s question with another question, therefore bypassing the cat’s query, sidestepping the issue of having to answer honestly and tell the cat he thinks the van is a huge hunking piece of shit.

“Where’d you get it from?” Hank Williams asks.
“I’ve had her for a while now. Isn’t she pretty? Her name’s Nancy.”

“Oh… Well, hi Nancy,” Hank Williams says even though he knows Nancy isn’t going to answer him back.

“One sec…” the cat says.

The cat places the brown umbrella between its teeth and climbs up the back of the van. It walks to the middle of the roof, takes the umbrella out of its mouth and wedges the handle into a hole cut in the van’s top. The umbrella stands upright, sticking out of the roof like the stem of the rotten metallic apple the van is.

“There…” the cat says, staring down at the umbrella approvingly.

“There, what?” Hank Williams asks. He doesn’t understand the significance or appeal of a brown umbrella sticking up out of the roof of a van.

“Our compass is installed,” the cat says. “That’s what.”

The cat looks up at the night sky then back down at the brown umbrella, the full moon highlighting the overwhelming amount of pride the cat has on its face.

“Is that shit custom or what?” the cat asks.
“Yeah…” Hank Williams says. “I guess that shit is a little bit custom.”

 

Well This Trip Fuckin’ Sucks So Far

 

Hank Williams enters the shotgun side of the van as the cat enters the driver’s side.
The moment Hank Williams sits down, he hears a dim whisper from the back of the van. Hank Williams looks behind them.
In the moonlight leaking through the van’s windows, he sees a sleeping bag, a pillow, two blankets, a couple gallon jugs of water, a black guitar case, a gasoline can, a hose, two litter boxes in desperate need of being scooped and an enormous sword almost as big as Hank Williams himself leaning in the far back. He sees all these things but doesn’t see any people or cats and realizes the whisper didn’t come from any living thing in particular but rather the haggard assortment of things collected behind him.

The cat finishes getting comfortable in its seat and sticks the key into the ignition. “Alright. Ready to go?” the cat asks.
“Yeah,” Hank Williams says, “I’m ready.”

The cat turns the key. The van’s engine coughs once or twice and then turns over. The cat looks at Hank Williams.

“Well?” the cat says.
“Well what?” Hank Williams replies.
“Where are we going?”
“Oh. Shit… I dunno.”
“You don’t know?”
“No. I just kinda assumed you knew where we were going,” Hank Williams says.
“No. I came to get you so I assumed you woulda had someplace in mind, ya know? Like someplace you needed to go or something.”
“Oh… Well, yeah. I guess that makes sense. But I dunno. I’ve never really liked anywhere I’ve been. And so, wherever I was, I was usually always wishing I were somewhere else. And then, on the rare occasion I got to the somewhere else where I wanted to be, it always turned out I didn’t wanna be there either.”

The cat sighs heavily. It and Hank Williams sit completely silent in their seats, blankly staring ahead through the windshield.

“Well,” the cat says, “this trip fuckin’ sucks so far…”

 

Can a Person Be a Destination?

 

“So, come on. Really? You have no place you wanna go? No destination in mind at all?” the cat says.

“Well, I have a person in mind. I dunno… Can a person be a destination?” Hank Williams asks.

“Yeah, I guess so.”
“Even if they’re dead?”
The cat hangs its head and looks down at the steering wheel.
Its eyes become two dead mice.
Not because of the steering wheel. The steering wheel it stares at has nothing to do with the transformation of the cat’s eyes into dead mice. Rather, it’s a particular thought smearing itself across the cat’s brain.

“Yeah… I guess a dead person can be a destination,” the cat says. “Can we go there then?” Hank Williams asks.

Nancy’s engine shuts off.
The cat looks over the steering wheel at the gas gauge and sighs. “Yeah… But we’re gonna need some gas first.”