Gazing In

My regular blog readers have seen me post a number of short stories written for creative writing groups or as part of the Idaho Commission on the Arts “IdaPost” pen pal program, which I have participated in since its inception three years ago. For the latter, the staff at the Arts Commission randomly matches writing participants up as pen pals for the duration of the annual program, and the current Idaho Writer in Residence sends participants a prompt every few weeks. The pen pals swap their stories or poems resulting from the prompt and at the end of the program participants can submit their favorite pieces for publication in the IdaPost Zine.

This winter there was a bit of a twist. At the start of the program. Before participants were matched, the Idaho Writer in Residence, CMarie Fuhrman, asked participants to send her a postcard with a few sentences on what makes your place special. Your place can mean your home, your neighborhood, your community, or anything else that makes you feel connected in exploring this year’s theme “Wish You Were Here.” At the end of the program, CMarie will select certain places to visit.

Like last year, I was matched with a pen pal in Colorado, although participants hail from all over the map. Normally I wait until the completion of the current year’s program before posting my stories, but since I’ve been somewhat neglectful of updating the blog, this time I’m posting as we go along.

The first prompt is usually a way for your pen pal to get to know more about you through story or poem, although your responses can be based in fact or fiction depending on your writing style and sharing comfort-level. Our initial assignment this year was to write about a bird’s eye view of who you are through the place you inhabit. It asks what story your place tells about you from the point of view of someone looking in through the window, for instance.  It reminded me of the country song lyrics by Lonestar, “the view I love the most is my front porch looking in.”

Take a look through my window:

Gazing In

© 2022 Carolyn Fenzl

I was alerted this morning that a House Finch had landed on the plastic bird feeder suctioned to the outside of the living room window when three of my cats began vying for the best windowsill position. Three sets of feline eyes with laser focus on the oblivious bird pecking serenely at the seed offering, perhaps pondering its luck in finding food above the several inches of snow trapping the usual pickings underneath. Or perhaps with nothing at all running through its bird brain. But the scene made me wonder what a bird’s eye view into our living room window would offer gazing in. What would a backyard observer glean about the family on the other side of the nose-printed glass?

On this winter day, our interior landscape reveals that our family includes canine and feline members. When a fire is burning in the brick fireplace, whose mantel displays a collection of antique piggybanks, the large dog bed in front is piled with contented cats soaking in the warmth. Meanwhile, the yellow Labrador is spinning in circles trying to figure out a comfortable way to fit in the smaller, less satisfactory cat bed.

The room, formerly carpeted in a stained, drab beige, has recently gotten a new look. Sleek grey laminate flooring, reminiscent of a beach boardwalk, now matches the beachy dune scenery of the thrift store painting hanging over the fireplace. The couple inside often relaxes on the matching sofa, replaced after the cats loved the last one to pieces – literally – by kneading and scratching its fabric.

There are small, plastic trays next to the sofa where the couple usually eats dinner while streaming episodes of Judy Justice or a movie on the enormous wall-mounted television the woman won in a sweepstakes. Other times, the couple plays video games or streams YouTube videos designed for cats featuring birds, squirrels, and other fast-moving temptations. The cats, fans of these riveting shows, jump up on the shelves below the television to watch and often stand on their back legs to paw at the objects on the screen. The dog just stares at his feline siblings in disbelief before lazily resting his head on the edge of the pet bed.

Across from the window, lattice bridges the gap between the divider wall and ceiling, installed by the couple after, on several occasions, their daredevil kitten scaled the ten-foot wall to sit on the ledge above, only awkwardly sliding down the wall face first after being bribed by a bowl of wet cat food.

At times serene and at times chaotic, the view into this living room always shows kindness, love, and laughter.

Steal My Dog Bed? Two Can Play That Game Cats!

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