Consequences

Kathleen Delaney, author of And Murder for Dessert and other books, retired from real estate to pursue writing full time. Her long time love of small towns sent her looking through the Carolina’s for a new place to settle, Gaffney. Limestone College, a delightful historic district, and a great library immediately drew her in. She lives in a wonderful 100 year old house, with a wrap around front porch, where she and her dog, Laney, can while away a summer afternoon, and a big office, lined with bookcases, where she can spend her days writing. And, as always, reading.

Our beloved Shepard, Shea, died right before Thanksgiving of last year. Laney, my Italian Greyhound, and I miss her a lot. I thought about getting another dog, but for various reasons decided to wait. So, we decided to get a cat. Actually, Laney didn’t express a very strong opinion, but I knew she was lonely. As long as it didn’t whack her, she’d probably like the company.

I have a friend who does animal rescue. I told her that we wanted to rescue a cat. I wanted to save one who was due to be executed and to let me know. I was in Chicago right before Christmas and I got a text from her saying she’d found a cat who not only needed a home but who needed mine.  She’d drop the cat off and she and Laney could become friends while I was gone.

The night I returned a very excited small dog and an immense and very blasé white and tan cat greeted me. She looked as if someone had blown her up with helium. She also  was missing a tail. However, if she needed a home–.

Her name was Petunia. She had made herself at home, staking out a place on my bed at night and for naps during the day, commandeering the red wing back chair while I watched TV in the evenings, and the top of the cedar chest that’s under the window in my office while I worked. She loved the backyard and lay in her favorite spot under the tree, surveying the birds and squirrels, for hours on end. And, she didn’t whack Laney. Looked like she was staying.

One day I noticed a small pile on my dining room floor. That pile belonged in the cat box. I wasn’t sure what to do, but cleaned it up, scrubbed the wood with stuff I hoped wouldn’t leave a stain, recleaned an absolutely clean cat box, and hoped we wouldn’t have a repeat performance. We did. I tried everything but the cat still wanted to use the dining room. Her preference soon expanded to my living room rug. I still tried.  Locked her in the laundry room with a clean cat box, and wouldn’t let her in the rest of the house for a few days.  When I knew she was using the box exclusively, I let her rejoin us. All was well for a couple of days, and then it started over. I did this a couple of times, but soon I’d had enough. I called the woman who had to give up the cat and said come and get her. She had made her decision. I had now made mine.

The cat went to another home and the same performance played out. She is now living in a barn out in the country somewhere, muttering cat curses under her breath, wondering what happened to her nice warm beds. She is reaping the consequences of her own actions.

I doubt strongly that she realizes that. I’ve noticed that dogs, cats, horses and small children are not very good at realizing their actions have consequences. Most of them can be taught. Not all.

That got me to thinking about consequences. Everything we do has a consequence. If we don’t pay the house payment on time the bank gets downright testy. If we don’t brush our teeth, the next trip to the dentist is not pleasant. If we eat every candy bar or piece of pie that tempts us, well, we know about that consequence.  When our children get old enough to be a danger to themselves and the world at large, we start to teach them about consequences. Pulling the plant off the table onto the rug causes Mommy to be upset; not turning in your homework causes Mommy to give you long lectures, not cleaning your room after Mommy has told you twelve times causes Mommy’s face to turn red. After awhile they begin to catch on.

What does that have to do with writing? Quite a lot. Stories are about consequences. All stories. Really.

You’re thinking the last book you read, or wrote, wasn’t about that at all. It was a drama, a mystery, a thriller. It was about this man who was an accountant who loved to go to the races. He never bet, just loved the horses. Until, one day he was so sure. He’d watched this horse since he was a two year old, watched him mature, start to win, and today was his day. He knew it. So, he bet ten dollars. The horse won. The next time he won again and again, until the day the man bet money he’d borrowed from his firm. A sure thing. He’d put the borrowed money back and with what he’d win today and what he had won before, he’d quit. The horse lost. Consequently, he couldn’t put the money back. His office partner noticed his panic and got suspicious. Consequently, he investigated and discovered money missing. Consequently, he went to his friend and told him he had to give himself up, and consequently got himself killed. And the man who bet on the horse? A close encounter with his local law enforcement is, consequently, in his near future.

Consequences. Life and stories are all about them.

I wonder if the cat has figured that out yet.