It’s been a while since I’ve posted any of my creative writing (unless you count Hermione Granger’s History of Magic essay), so here’s a short story for you. This is in honor of the new kitten my husband and I are getting in a few weeks—and hopefully not a foreshadow.
My Cat, the Vampire Slayer
When I was born, the Fates decided to make my life into a big practical joke. I was born in April, so my mother, being a very creative thinker, named me April. She is a home care nurse, and had to work full time the first couple years to support us because my father was killed in action when Mom was six months pregnant with me. When I was four, Mom got remarried to the owner of a local pet shop. He is a wonderful guy, a fantastic dad who raised me as his own daughter. He even adopted me legally. The only snag is his name—Greg Showers.
Yup. My name is April Showers.
I’ve had the privilege of being the brunt of many jokes, especially in the spring. Every time it rains, I’m blamed by everyone and their cousin for the weather, and I have often been told that I should give birth to a daughter and name her May Flowers. I laugh and pretend to be amused—which I am not. An old boyfriend asked me once why I go along with the jokes, but I suppose that with a name like April Showers, they just come with the territory.
I earned my Bachelors of Art at the University of Southern California with an emphasis in ceramics, and thought I was set for a career that required a creative eye and nimble fingers. I was right, but not exactly the way I planned.
I am severely allergic to pollen, so naturally, I became a florist. The multiple levels of irony are not lost on me—like I said, the Fates saw fit to make my life the laughing stock of the universe.
For the florist bit, however, I blame my cat.
Buffy is the love of my life. I named her after the teenage vampire slayer, star of a cheesy horror show I was obsessed with in high school. That was a dark period of my life.
Buffy, however, is anything but dark. She is a pure white feline, with dainty paws and the softest fur on the face of the earth. I grew up on cats, as my step-dad is a fellow cat-lover. He would pick me up from school every Friday and I would help out with menial tasks around the pet shop until closing. But when there was a new litter of kittens, everything stopped and my whole world narrowed to the length of their small soft bodies nestled in the palm of my hands.
When I was a junior in high school, I started asking for a cat of my own. Not the ideal time to take on a fifteen-year-plus pet that would have to stay at home when I moved off to college, but I was tired of watching the litters of kittens being sold and taken away to their new homes. I wanted one of my own, to keep. Enter Buffy, the sweetest-tempered cat I have ever known—and I’ve known many cats. We’ve been best friends since the day I brought her home from the shop.
She receives full blame for turning me into a florist. There was this guy named Devon I had a crush on throughout college, whose late father had owned a florist shop in Malibu. Devon didn’t run the shop himself, but had a manager who ran it for him while he was in school. During the winter of our senior year, Devon finally asked me out. I was thrilled, of course. In late March, when my step-dad was in Florida for his annual golf tournament, my mom decided that it was time for her to visit my biological father’s family in Boston, and she could not leave Buffy at home by herself.
I concocted a brilliant plan to house Buffy in the flower shop for a few days after hours, because if my landlord found out I was keeping a cat in my apartment, I would have been out on the street in five minutes flat.
The plan worked wonderfully—until Buffy found the catnip. Apparently, the purple flower, also call catmint, is often used in floral arrangements. Buffy found a bouquet of the stuff in a vase in the back, and started rolling around on the floor in ecstasy. Unfortunately, I had been kind enough to place a heat lamp in the room so Buffy could stay warm—Devon had refused to keep the entire shop heated overnight for the sake of one cat. In her drunken state, Buffy must have bumped into the heat lamp and knocked it over.
Here’s how the scene looked from my perspective as I walked in the through the front door to feed Buffy dinner: my perfect, dainty feline was streaking and yowling across the room, the fur of her tail on fire. I panicked of course—as any responsible pet owner would—and bolted to the back for a bucket of water. By the time I returned, Buffy was clawing her way up the blue and green checkered curtains, igniting both the fabric and the blinds on the window as she climbed. I raced over and doused her. The fire on her tail sizzled out.
My cat was now trapped, hanging vertically half way up the curtain, as the lower half of the window burned. I was oblivious to the damage being done to the flower shop and had eyes only for my cat. Looking back, if I had dealt with the flames first and yowling cat second, Buffy and I might have escaped the situation mostly unscathed. As it was, I ran again to the back room, retrieved a ladder, and pried Buffy off the burning curtains. By the time I held my whimpering cat in my arms, the entire window was on fire, and the flames had started to consume the wall of the building, as well.
It was about this time that I thought to call 911. Buffy was squirming, but I managed to hold onto her, and we became make-shift firefighters with the fire extinguisher—which also would have been a good idea to think of earlier—until the professionals arrived. When all was said and done, I was left with a terrified, singed cat, and half a flower shop.
Oh—and a very angry ex-boyfriend.
It turns out that Devon’s father had wisely purchased business insurance, but the insurance company would not pay for the entire cost of the damage. As the whole situation was Buffy’s fault—and by extension, mine—I was responsible for coughing up a large sum of money. And I mean a really large sum.
Here’s the thing—I was graduating from college in less than two months with an art degree and no perspective jobs on the horizon. Professional artists are not typically rich people to begin with, and I was already entering the work world with a boat-load of student loans to pay off. My step-dad owns a successful pet shop and my mom’s patients all love her, but they were not loaded with extra cash, so it was up to me to find the money on my own.
The offer I made to Devon was this: I am poor, but I am an artist, and artists make good florists. I will work for you and run the shop until I pay off my debt out of my salary.
Not a great offer, I know, but it was the best I had.
Devon, despite being angry and breaking up with me, is a cool guy. After all, I would not have perpetuated a crush for four years on a total loser. He had always hated the florist shop, a fact with which I was very well-acquainted, but had kept it running because it paid for his college education. Thus, it was to my total surprise that he made me a counter-offer. He had been much more successful than me at lining up a job for after graduation, and was set to start making lots of money as an accountant at a large firm in Los Angeles. He offered to sell me his father’s shop at a reduced price—because of the damage—and let me pay him back in small installments. He knew I was diligent and hard-working, and trusted me to pay everything I owed, even if it took a while. Like I said—a good guy.
So here I am: a florist named April Showers, who is allergic to pollen and owns a cat named after Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Life has not turned out as I planned, but hey—it certainly makes things more exciting.
And, as it turns out, a flower shop is an excellent place to sell ceramic vases.
Care for more? Try out this short story.