You and Erwin’s Cat by Michelle Hanlon

Before you sit down in that chair, there are two possibilities.

Right now—there is this morning. Any choice could cause the flask to be shattered releasing death. But any choice could ensure that it remains intact. You really must clean the ceiling fan soon; there is what can only be described as dust monsters peeking over each blade.

In the shower, the warm water offers no comfort. There are so many little choices. You question everything. And, those questions lead to the question, how did you get here?

There is still time. If there is no answer—

In fact, you could step out of this shower, right now. Gather a few of your things. Get in your car. And, go. Just go. You could travel the country, picking up odd-jobs here and there to make enough money to get by. You imagine a horizon that is endless, and lonely, desert roads. But, that’s crazy, right?

You shut off the water. And lean your head against the wall. They forgot one of the steps in the five steps of grieving. They forgot fear. Just one more moment here. The showerhead drips—one drop. Two. Three.

It is quiet. Jeans, t-shirt. Socks and shoes. You sit, still, on the bed. The digital clock passes minutes. You once watched your grandfather, sitting in his chair, as he knocked over pill bottles, tumbling the orange plastic across the table, searching for one. “The important one, the important one,” he mumbled. He was a veteran of war, one of the greatest generation, felled and humbled by his body’s betrayal.

Time does not make any sound as it passes.

And well, breakfast sounds unappealing. Ugh—the thought of food. But, maybe this is one of those choices; food is nourishment. What could you force down? Toast? Toast and some orange juice. That’ll do.

As you eat with the grains of bread softly scratching your tongue and the roof of your mouth, you think of the cat. Tiny atoms, tiny little things that make up all of the world around us and, by their actions, as if they were living things themselves, seem to create and destroy.

At this moment, it seems that God does play dice. You just wish you weren’t sitting at the table.

Your plate is now empty, save for the small crumbs. It is time to go.

The next span of your time is filled with an array of choices. Twist the door handle to the left. Or should it be to the right, turn it to the right? Set the alarm, don’t set it. Take this street or take that one. Park here or find a better spot.

Which choice, or combination of choices, will cause the waveform to collapse in your favor? You need to roll a seven, or an eleven would be good too.

Is there anything more dreary than a waiting room? The clipboards and the paperwork. The muted tones, and why is the artwork always so bad in these places?

You can’t help yourself as you survey the people sitting around you, wondering what brings them here. What are they facing? You, like them, wait for your turn.

The nurse calls your name. Your body feels awkward. You walk toward her and the open door. Each thread of carpet bends beneath your shoe as you move heel to toe down the hallway.

And now you are in that chair. How are people supposed to act when they sit here? The doctor—the stickman, you think—begins very quickly revealing the roll of the dice.

You should have cleaned off the dust monsters. The cat is dead.



Michelle Hanlon is a copywriter by trade. She graduated from Texas Tech University with a Bachelor’s in Mass Communications and a minor in English. She writes from her home, home on the range (on the West Texas plains). She is doing the social media thing, blogging, tweeting, you know. Drop her a line on Twitter @MLHanlon or see some of her work at: and


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