C for Cats Do Not Make Good Pillows: #atozchallenge fiction

As a co-host, I begin with A to Z Challenge  reminders: 
1. Turn off your word verification. It helps no one. You may moderate comments for a while if you’re unsure.

2. In your comment id, link only to your AZ blog, NOT your profile which may have 5 other blogs. 

3. Leave a link to you when you comment.
4. Comment when you visit blogs. Start visiting with the blog below you on the linky list.
5. Make it easy for people to follow your blog and follow you on social media.

Today’s word prompt (the bolded beginning of the story) comes from Tom Olsen and the picture prompt from Rayna M Iyer. The prompts just clicked together, so I chose each for the other. Now for the flash fiction:

Cats do not make good pillows, but that was all the boy had– a cat he called Mau for a pillow, best friend, and family on the streets of Mumbai. 
A cat has skills, and the boy had learned quite a few from Mau– how to move and when, where to scrape a meal from, and what to leave well alone. He knew to pad across the road when it was choked with traffic, to curl up on high walls when threatened, to steal a nap in someone else’s ramshackle tent on the footpath— close enough to people to earn a pat or morsel, but far enough away to  bend into a run.
That evening when the earth shook with noise, window panes on the office buildings shattered, and the first sirens blared, the boy followed the other people of the street, to see what was up. But he came back to Mau, who licked him up, perhaps to warn him off the curiosity that killed cats.
That night, when people had run, holding each other, some bleeding, the others bent and wailing, when the sirens had dulled into a lulling song– the people in the tent behind which boy and cat shacked up for the night dwindled their chatter about bomb blasts, and fell asleep. 
Sometime at dawn, the earth shook again, startling them awake, and all was sound and pain and darkness for a while, from which Mau emerged unhurt. But the boy did not. It did not matter how much he had learned from the cat, how hard he tried.

 Mau had nine lives after all, the boy but one.

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  1. Anna

    No cute fairytale here. No sweet jungle book. A cat can do things that a boy cannot. Eery. sad.

    I think you need to rewrite this one. Not so much for the story line or content but for the flow in some parts of the text. This is just my opinion.

    Thanks for sharing.
    Best wishes,
    Anna's Adornments

  2. Beverly Diehl

    I was pulling for a happy ending… but the way you ended this story was perfect.

    I hope we silly humans get to a point where we can stop trying to blow each other to bits all the time.

  3. Damyanti

    Thanks again for all the generous comments, everyone. As a writer undergoing a period of low self-esteem (don't ask) at the moment, your words make me work to try and deserve your praise.

  4. leigh

    Wow, I was just thinking how lucky the boys was to have his companion, and then he died! Oh so sad and very compelling. You managed to draw me in immediately.
    Thanks for stopping by my blog πŸ™‚
    on the A to Z challenge (#970)
    Leigh @oneandoneequalstwinfun.com

  5. Jessica L. Foster

    I love the images of the boy and the cat and the people running. I also love the last line about the cat having nine lives.
    Also, note: while cats do not make good pillows, most cats (aka my cat) believes that human faces make excellent pillows . . .

  6. Isabella Amaris

    A very sad piece… Well done. You've captured the senselessness of what children are going through in much of the world today. And the cat was an excellent way to bring the boy's story out. I adore cats. They're mysterious, independent survivors who nevertheless find their way so easily into human hearts. Mau surviving while the boy didn't definitely added a poignant touch to the tale. I was relieved at least the cat survived, but his young friend's death completed the picture you were trying to paint with just the right edge to it. Thanks, Damyanti.

    C for Cinderella

  7. Sadie Jane

    Your flash fiction posts for the "Blogging from A to Z" challenge are amazing! My only wish? That they were longer! Aww! I get so caught up in your beautiful writing, I just don't want the stories to end!

  8. Damyanti

    Katherine, this story is set in Mumbai, India, the location at which the picture was taken by Rayna M Iyer who kindly let me use it.

    The name Mumbai appears in the very first line. The word Mau comes from a mixture of Ma and Miaow– Ma is the most common Indian word for mother πŸ™‚

    Thanks for your kind comments on the story.

    Thanks to everyone else as well, I just feel humbled.

    Some of your kindnesses make me want to hide under the table (I guess that's why I write, cos it lets me hide)—I can't take compliments very well!

  9. Katherine

    This is a beautiful peace—I wasn't expecting the sad ending, but it did make sense. The story could have gone either way.

    I like the name you chose for the cat as well. For some reason I pictured a Southeast Asian setting for this story, maybe because I took a class centered on women and children in Asia and Africa in college, and this little homeless boy reminds me so much of some of their stories. Mau, the name, reminds me of Mao, the leader, and of the noise a cat makes.

  10. Melodie Wright

    Nicely done. I love the image of the cat trying to warn him away from curiosity with her 'kisses'.
    Your writing is very delicately precise. LOVE

  11. Damyanti

    Once again, thanks for your comments everyone.

    I'm sorry if the sadness in the story filtered through into your day.

    I tried my best to give it a happy ending, but some of my stories write themselves and insist on staying that way– and this was one of them.

  12. Jocelyn Rish

    Great work with this prompt. You took a prompt that was funny (because, really, cats make terrible pillows!) and turned into a sad and poignant story.

    Best of luck with the rest of your prompts,

  13. Li

    Poignant. cats are indeed very adept at surviving catastrophes – we humans are far more fragile.

  14. Archna Sharma

    Beautiful timeless piece with much heart. And if one were to venture in believing that the boy may live again, I do think he would survive.

    You have a true gift of evoking so much emotion and thought with such few words. πŸ™‚

  15. MAJK

    awww you made my eyes all teary πŸ™ Darn you, and your stories that pull me in.

    Seriously, that was great – you made me tear up at the end there. Good work!

    A to Z Challenge

  16. Tracy

    very melancholy, but lovely! Great post and PS…thank you for th tips on the side bar. Now we just need to get some to follow them!

  17. Haddock

    Some times we do learn things from animals, survival tricks, and some of them are worth it.
    Like that thing about nine lives πŸ™‚

  18. Nate Wilson

    Fantastic flash, Damyanti, capturing the essence of such a life, and such a short one at that. But I must disagree with Tom's generalization: Most cats do not make good pillows. Some more docile felines work just fine… as do stuffed tigers named Hobbes.

  19. Joshua

    I think someone needs to teach my cat that she is not my pillow. Never fails that she wants to sit behind my head while I'm on the couch.

  20. Angela Brown

    Oh no! I hadn't prepared myself for that ending so it took me to a sad place rather quickly. Though I'm glad that Mau is still about.

    This was so well written, Damyanti.

  21. Damyanti

    Rayna, the honor is all mine, I assure you.

    Like I said to Rosalind before, I tried my best to save that boy in my story, but could not, because in our India of today where Baby Falak died such a an agonizing death, I could not see that boy grown up.

    I do pray that the boy in your photograph is not just alive, but thriving someplace, with not just a Mau but a large family to watch over him…

  22. Rayna Iyer

    I am honoured, Damayanti, that you have written such a beautiful story to go with that photograph. In a "story", the boy would have survived, but in real life, things are likely to have happen exactly as you write it.
    You paint such a beautiful picture with such economy of words.

    Incidentally, in real life too, that boy just disappeared. I used to see him a couple of times a week, amusing himself with the things he could find on the roadside. And one day, I realized he was no longer there. Where he's gone, I do not know, but I do hope he's alive somewhere.

  23. Gossip_Grl

    WOW on the writing and it actually gripped me as I was rooting for the boy to somehow be ok in all of the chaos. It does paint a true picture of the world around us. Loved it!!!

  24. Damyanti

    Rosalind, I wanted them to survive too, but couldn't save the boy. I'm very fatalistic these days– and have begun to accept that some things are beyond our ken and control, and no matter how hard we try, we can't make it …depressing, right?

  25. Damyanti

    Thanks for the comments, everyone—gosh you guys are fast!

    Paula, Mau is the cat– the boy purposely has no name. Mau comes from a mixture of Ma and Miaow– Ma is the Indian word for mother πŸ™‚

  26. michelle

    Loved the mood of this piece and also the manner in which the tale unfolded… the "curiosity killed the cat" expression was also weaved cleverly into the storyline, and the other cat expression packed a punch in the closing line!