Friday 1 May 2015

So Intimately Entwined

© Denis Fitzpatrick, 2003 & 2015

(This story, in a much shorter form and under the title The Crack of Dawn, was initially published in Denis’ first short story collection, Bearing all Gods and Goddesses, published by

Because the dark side and the bright side are so intimately entwined dawn begins always in utter darkness, being first announced only by birdsong. Marlena Geiger always awoke to this first song and duly felt the sun rise within her, especially so today, the first of her retirement. Saying a quick Protestant prayer of thanks for another morning she would then have liked to sleep in. But as usual she sat up in bed and peeked out through the venetians.
     Thoroughly dark and peaceful, the perfect time to begin the daily chores of her new, free life. She then allowed herself to fall back onto her pillow, scenting the summer air through the window promising her that her life was now completely under her own dominion, the twittering promising anything that she set her mind to. Almost on the verge of sleep again she sat up suddenly: seize the day!
     But there was a problem to attend to first.
     She got up, dressed, and went to have a look outside the front door.
     Again the bowl was still mostly full of kibble: her missing cat had not returned. Naturally, she became a tad more anxious, today being the third since His Imperial Majesty had absconded. But, then again, He had made His choice, and Marlena would only really want Him back if He chose to be with her. Again.
     And so, after cooking and eating breakfast, she was thinking fondly of how her garden was far more trustworthy.


She began her chores with the watering, and soon found something which always infuriated her. It was a surprise: several bushes of catnip. They were planted surreptitiously at the back of the garden. What made it worse was the fact that it must be a gift from a stranger, as all those who knew her knew how she hated surprises. Any sort of surprise.
     She would have to rip it out, and maybe dismember it too. And to teach the gifting lout(s) a lesson she would pile the butchered bushes on her front lawn as a clear example of what she thought of their nasty generosity. Whoever the culprit(s) was/were obviously did it to spite her first day of retirement. Funny, she didn’t think she had any enemies.
     She set to the task with a bound, eager to repulse the affront with all of her might.
    Soon the bushes were uprooted, and wildly strewn about her feet. She felt like jumping on each sorry looking offering gleefully. Best though to save her energy and really demolish it with the shears. That’ll show the lout(s)! 
     And when she had almost reduced the pile of catnip to flakes and chopped, small stems she heard a familiar sound from behind her.
     It was Pepper, her black cat.
     Marlena was overjoyed and had always suspected His Imperial Majesty would return, being trained as He was. She brought Him inside to be fed something special and temporarily forgot about the proffered catnip.


When her son returned home from work that afternoon he found Marlena in the garden moving the scarecrow onto a pile of chopped greenery on the front lawn. Vaughn had split with his wife of fifteen years about three months ago now and seeing as she had sole custody of the two children, and consequently the marital home, Vaughn was temporarily thrown back to living with his mother in Newtown until he could find a place of his own, in a tight renters’ market. Mind you he was learning to relove Newtown’s bohemianism, Sydney’s jewel he thought, in the brighter crown that was Aus: surely God had made such another happy nation, albeit in a parallel universe? And maybe he could stay in Newtown permanently after all; his single mother might well enjoy the company. Something to think about.
     ‘Did you find my gift,’ Vaughn asked, after having parked his car and walking up to his mother, looking somewhat alarmed. There was nothing to suggest that the chopped greenery was his gift of the catnip but Vaughn was well aware that his mother absolutely loathed surprises. He had certainly informed her that he was going to get the bushes but perhaps his mother was having a senior moment, or, now that he thought of it, she was deliberately telling him that she wanted nothing of his freeloading gifts. Marlena paused in her work, and waited before replying:
     ‘That was from you?’
     ‘Who else?  Remember, I told you last week that I was going to buy something for Pepper.’
     Now she remembered.
     ‘Darling… I’m sorry, I forgot. I thought it was from a stranger, or an unknown enemy, a surprise… I tore it out...’
     Not unexpectedly Vaughn wasn’t pleased, and could find no way to allay his suspicions that his mother was perhaps after all giving him some sort of hint, albeit subconsciously. Maybe she wanted to continue her single, lone domicile, with absolutely no-one else to look after except Pepper, who managed to look after Himself anyway. It might even be best to put up with a friend from tomorrow night if his mother really didn’t wish him to disturb the four and a half decades of her quietly and contentedly living on her own. Well, living with His Imperial Majesty.
     Marlena promised him she would buy some more catnip. Vaughn, always being a straightforward person, asked his mother if she wished him to move out sooner than anticipated, to regain her peaceful home, and had destroyed his gift as she wished to destroy his noisy occupancy. Marlena was adamant that she was not in the slightest perturbed by his presence but it still took him a few days to end his sulk.

     Marlena bought some new catnip bushes the following morning and Pepper naturally fell in love with them and has resolved not to leave anymore, entwining Himself with the green goodness whenever the fey mood takes Him. If only life were that simple for the rest of us.


If you've been enjoying Denis' stories here his previous such stories, from September 2013 to February 2015, are also available as a Kindle book, Amongst the Ways of God, at, which also includes several completely new ones. You may also enjoy his debut novel, This Mirror in Me, which tells the story of how Tonia achieves her life's fundamental aim of having her home as a social hub, by staring at herself in the mirror. It is also available as a Kindle book at Denis also has a short non-fiction book available, King Street Blues, which is an encouraging tale of Denis' willfully chosen five years of homelessness in the inner cities of Sydney and Melbourne. It too is available as a Kindle book at If you don't have a Kindle you can download the Kindle app for free onto your smartphone, tablet, or computer through your local app store.

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