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Teens & Young Adult Inspirational Fiction

This story contains themes or mentions of mental health issues.


She woke up to see grainy clumps of shit in the cat box. It had been piling up quickly. Really, she thought, how much could such a small feline produce? More than she had signed up for. In the other corner of this L-shaped room, a pile of laundry grew madly unfolded on the floor. In ways, it was more terrifying than the amount of fecal matter in the cat box. Maybe though, these eyesores would not get to her if not for the rain. The fucking rain, it would not stop. It palpitated on the roof shingles mercilessly. So, she made a steaming mug of coffee and curled back up in the crumpled blankets, ones that would stay crumpled, because she would not leave them, not on days like these. It was 6:29 am. The small sips of coffee did little to heat her cold, already tense stomach.

She watched her beeswax candle melt slowly on the dresser and flinched at the living room bulb dim and brighten. It was her artificial sun casting shadows through the apartment. She would change that bulb someday, maybe after scooping the cat box. She would. She would find a bulb that shone bright and consistently, and she would never be caught off guard by its sudden and uncalled for changes. It was selfish really, how such an inanimate object held its own free will to change the ambiance of her living space at random.

From her corner in the bed, if she could look past the dying succulents on the windowsill, she could look through the glass and think. She could think about irony, about how trees slouched outside so full of water, yet she could not bring herself to pour a drop into the pots of her rapidly deceasing succulents. How could she ever become a parent when she had nearly killed all her plants? She thought more about parenthood and being 23. She thought about bodies and birth control and its small percent chance of ineffectivity. She thought about pregnancy and abortion, and the pro-lifers with huge posters. She thought about God and wondered where she went on rainy days. She thought more about religion and concluded there was no heaven, but she would probably end up in hell. At least it would be warm. She said a prayer and hoped hell would be a temperature similar to her memories of Arizonian palm trees or oceans swimming in sun rays on days that were not covered in a consistent layer of gray. Those times, she could look into eyes that were not full of gloom in their adjustment to see nocturnally. She could see someone’s smile and understand it. She could see her own and feel it. But a notification snapped her back to an unfortunate reality. Work at 10:15, it read. If she called in sick, she could stay here, in the blankets. She could avoid the puddles, the puddles that sprayed pedestrians and soaked a biker’s bottom half. She could avoid a short walk home, elongated by dark alleys. She could avoid plastering on a smile she’d grown numb to.

She lit a joint, and at 9:49, forced her body to leave the blankets, she left them wrinkled and the coffee unfinished. She left to work, the cat box uncleaned.

On the way, she squinted through an old prescription as the rain further blurred her vision. The drops slid down plastic frames from 5 years ago and clouded the lenses. She longed not to feel like the slugs on the sidewalk dragging their bodies through the motions and wondered why she didn’t live in Arizona.

Through her shift, she wondered how short days could stretch so long. She smiled at the office workers and took their trash. She cursed the mop when its metal frame scratched the floor. She tried to be in the present as she scrubbed urinals and she tried to empty her much cluttered head space along with the trash, but only found that with effort it was harder. She rejoiced to walk back home and eat canned soup. But when she returned, she could feel her heart palpitating with the rain, on the rooftop shingles. Maybe a shower could remove more than just the day’s sweat and cleaning chemicals that clung to her skin and clogged her pours. But her hair shedding more rapidly than usual caught itself in the shower drain and clogged it, forcing her to stand in a puddle. She couldn’t avoid the puddles, not even in her own home. She could brush and braid her hair but only while looking through a dirty mirror and try to solve mind puzzles that probably didn’t exist. As the night progressed, the real puzzles scattered their jagged little pieces in her head, lodging themselves in every crevice of thought.

She lost track of when to sleep; it had been dark since 4:00pm. She heard the scratch of tiny paws burying more waste in litter, most likely flinging a small trail of it out onto the carpet. Later the furry creature would most likely bring some of that litter into the bed where he wrapped himself in the bottom corner of the sheets. That was okay. It was routine. She worried instead about insomnia and its causes and cures. She worried about stress acne and ignored the comfort of the cat rubbing on her ankles. She counted the freckles on her arm and feared for melanoma. She listened to the lamentations of the sky, and let her own raindrops fall from her eyelids as hot salt water. She noticed that when leaning over while on the toilet seat, that tears rather than streaming down her face, could fall directly from her eyeballs and splatter the tile. Some of them would land on her bare arms, some of them on her socks, bunched up at the ankles. She found her way to bed. She tried not to pray and failed. It was a habit. With the remnants of her joint from the morning she was allowed to doze off in the welcoming, wrinkled blankets that wrapped her in a temporary alternate reality. She consumed her dreams as motion pictures and dreaded to have them cut short by the alarm.

The next morning though, she woke with no alarm. Because something was different. The smell of the air had somewhat shifted, the feeling on her eyelids before opening them held a distant familiarity. Maybe it was a weed hangover. Maybe she was still dreaming. When she did open her eyes though, there was no more confusion. No longer was there a haunting DeJa’Vu, but immediate understanding, something that made her fear of hell and God miniscule, something that gave her the feeling God in fact maybe showed up to work today.

A mellow orange pried through the plastic blinds. It extended a lovely array of stripes on the pale wall, giving it warmth. She felt as though she was being welcomed to a new day by a very old friend. There was no layer of mist and condensation coating the windows. She could still see the pile of shit in the cat box, but the pile of laundry looked less threatening, less ready to consume passing victims. Her favorite yellow sweatshirt lay at the very top. The plants still slouched. But today, she folded her blankets and decided to water them. She let some life soak its liquid into the soil and drain out through the much-dehydrated grains and into the trays to catch the excess. They seemed to whisper a thank you. She thought about God once more and thought she might have seen her silhouette cast outside in the shadow of a sun that was not at all artificial. She thought about God and concluded that even she might need a vacation at times. But today she saw her, at work in the skies, she saw her play with the neighbor’s hair, ruffling it as he walked by. She saw her that day, in a few pairs of eyes that looked to be awakening from hibernation. She saw her in the bikers, clean and unsoaked by any puddles. She saw her blow a few petals from a newly bloomed tree as they landed in her hair. She walked home with her after work, on a sidewalk clear of slugs, and told her that all which was not okay, would be. She told her that there would not always be shit in the cat box, even if now it only kept accumulating. She was fascinated by this God who infiltrated her headspace and she saw her slip away for the evening to paint a view of vibrant pinks and reds. Then at night, she saw the smoke rise from her joint in a clear, starlit sky. She had a few minutes to spare, and she eyed the cat box. 

March 24, 2022 07:19

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2 comments

Jeannette Miller
18:06 Apr 03, 2022

The struggle is real. I related to your character's struggle of things needing to be done but not having the energy to do while taking care of similar things at work. The light coming back to her perspective brought a hopefulness to the story. Well done and great use of the prompt :)

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Kyla Ojalehto
18:07 Apr 03, 2022

Thank you so much!

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