Dog bites man is not news.
Man bites dog is news.
Dog bites queen is news.
Queen bites king is not news fit to print.
“The cat sat on the mat is not a story.
The cat sat on the dog’s mat is a story.” — John Le Carré
Because we do not have any potatoes to speak of, the king and I agree that is is time to improve our financial situation. This is why the queen and I are in a car parked outside a bank on Broadway. We are figuring to make this a fast stickup job, the proceeds to be shared between the queen and the king and myself.
We are also cutting in two other parties, the cat and the dog. The king speaks well of their reliability. The dog has big jowls, sad eyes, and a forty-five automatic. The cat is the getaway driver, in case we wish to take it on the lam once the king comes out with the dough, which is more than somewhat probable.
Well, I am starting to get a little nervous, when who comes out but the king, and he does not look any too tickled. I am willing to lay 2 to 1 he has bad news, but before I can find any takers the king says, “I fear I have some bad news. They do not have any dough.”
“It cannot be as you state,” says the queen, “for the reason that this is a bank.” When a dame is expecting 50 Gs, and you show up with no potatoes whatsoever, she is apt to give you a look that is not exactly tender, and the queen it turns out is no exception.
“They do not have any dough,” says the king, “because this is the Depression and they just went bankrupt, which is a very sad predicament.”
“This is not a story,” says the cat. “It is merely social commentary delivered through the vector of pastiche.”
“Shut up and drive,” says the dog.
“The queen died and then the king died is a plot.
The queen died and then the king died of grief is a story.” — E.M. Forster
The king sat on the cat is comedy.
The queen sat on the king is pornography.
The dog realized it had been sitting on the cat’s mat all its life is an epiphany.
The man goes away and the dog dies of grief and then later the dog’s ghost returns and saves the man’s life is a country song.
I was standing in the center of the highway with the cat, for some reason, in my arms. Blood came out of its mouth. The clouds reminded me of wrenching subterranean heiroglyphs.
The cat had a knife stuck in it. I’d forgotten why the cat was there, which made me begin to hate it.
It was as if I’d never been born properly.
My best friend the king was asleep in a car, unless he was dead. The light reminded me of furry ice cream.
“The king’s been shot,” someone said, sobbing like a Congressman. Maybe if I’d been on different drugs, or more of the same ones, all this would have made more sense.
A week went by without any of us noticing.
But I meant to tell you another story completely, about the time we were trying to pull off a burglary, or maybe a blasphemy, in a hospital for Christ’s sake. I couldn’t even tell if it was snowing or not, and you expect me to get the story straight? A dog with a .45 floated past asking “Is this a story yet?” and the cat shook its head slowly, as if it was being eaten by golden liquid.
If this happens to you too, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
EXT. DESERT – MIDDAY
The dog is burying an improvised explosive device in the sand. The .45 is strapped to the dog’s front paw. There is the sound of a jeep approaching. The dog frowns and unfolds a carpet over the IED, then runs to hide behind a rock.
INT. GETAWAY CAR
The cat is driving. In the back, the queen is biting the king. The king looks bored.
So what, you don’t like being bitten any more?
By the twenty-first century, the literature of cats and dogs had developed a tradition of indirection, wherein attention shifted away from the reality of cats and dogs to our cultural understanding of these animals.
The car grinds to a halt in front of the mat.
Why not sit on that mat for a while, kitty? You must be tired after all that driving.
Looking suspicious, as it gets out of the car and approaches the mat:
By approaching cats and dogs with particular attention to the mechanisms by which they are represented, we lay bare story’s devices and deconstruct its received ideas.
The king and queen get out and stand behind the cat. Tense, dramatic music.
INSERT: THE CAT’S EYES.
They narrow to slits.
BACK TO SCENE
The dog runs out from behind the rock and bites the queen.
The queen dies.
We’ve been double-crossed.
The king dies of grief. The cat and the dog shake paws.
We fooled ’em into thinking you was the one going to get whacked. Now we can share the take from the hospital job fifty fifty.
Oh yeah? Let me take a look at that gun.
The dog gives the cat the .45. The cat shoots the dog.
Now everything in the getaway car is mine! Mine!
The cat sits on the mat. A sudden look of panic crosses its face as it remembers the IED.
The mat explodes. The car catches fire. We watch it burn furiously as the credits roll.
Can we make the dog more sympathetic? He should hesitate before biting the queen. The queen – Nicole Kidman? Make her a vampire? Set all this in the world of the Aztecs? We need Mel Gibson to play the king. Also, I don’t get the story. What’s the story? Is this how it really happened? And get rid of the cat. Otherwise I love it.
James Warner’s short fiction has appeared in KGB Bar Lit Magazine, Narrative, Night Train, and elsewhere. His novel All Her Father’s Guns was released this year by Numina Press. His website is www.jameswarner.net.