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Unread 10-07-2019, 04:41 PM
John Riley John Riley is offline
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: North Carolina
Posts: 4,051
Default They're Leather

They're Leather

Julia C. walked like a tiger. Strong upper legs with tiny knees, a tail that never slowed down, a smile that said you need me. We were introduced by a friend who had a good income. He was proud of his status and said the kittens in Lemmingville were pretending to be hungry. My affection for him was phony. I needed someone to sponsor me at The Scratching Post. I wanted to learn to dance. Julia C. said she could teach me. Before we were done she'd have me spinning on my head. He got me in The Scratching Post and I never looked back. Saw him one more time, hustling toys in front of the Toys For Me store. I guess he failed to walk the line. Bit the hand that fed him. At The Scratching Post, Julia C. made up her own moves--the 5/16ths shuffle, the fifty cents trot, the mango bop. Honey should only be eaten hot, she said. I never knew if she was waiting for a kiss. It was a question I studied over. At night I took down thick books. Ran my fingers down the pages looking for the answer. What do you do with a girl who has cheekbones as light as skim milk? I knew she'd been purring for years. I spent my day in a room with a painted window, spun around the dance floor until midnight, poured over the books until two. Before I found a solution the problem was gone. She said it'd been nice, wonderful in spurts, but now it was time she did some hunting. "There's no music prettier than the last howls of prey," she said and whistled a little through her nose. When she left I stopped dancing and reading my books. Muttered and jerked and vented to my father's portrait. For six months my stomach filled with oil. I spat on passing cats. Then I met Rosie who hissed like an opossum. I began my studies again until she lost her patience and kissed me, said we have to get you new boots. Now we live in a bungalow on Weekend Street, spend Saturdays doing the tango. Some nights she hides me from the moon.
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Unread 10-08-2019, 03:47 AM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
Join Date: May 2013
Location: England, UK
Posts: 3,443

Hi John,

Great to see you posting here. I really enjoyed this. I have a long list of things that I like about this piece, including the way you sustain the animal theme, the off-kilter and unexpected details (the description of Julia's legs and tail for example) and fantastical elements, the list of invented dances, the subplot of the phony friend, the way the detail of Julia's nose-whistling seems to call into question Julia's attractiveness (something I hadn't questioned), the N venting to his father's portrait, and the generally the way this manages to feel like a complete story despite its brevity.

The title must refer to the new boots that Rosie said he should buy. So at the point at which he's telling the story from, he has them on, I guess. So I can see the title as a proud response to an enquiry about his (new) boots -- or information he was volunteering about his boots, and then whole story as part of his explanation of how he came to have them.

A couple of thoughts:

"Before we were done she'd have me spinning on my head.". I wasn't sure if this is the N narrating, telling us what would subsequently happen, or a continuation of what Julia said. Maybe it could be made clearer? If the latter, a "That" at the beginning maybe?

"I guess he failed to walk the line. Bit the hand that fed him." Do you need both, the seem quite similar in meaning. The biting seems to tie in a with cat/animal theme. So it could just be "I guess he bit ...".

Anyway, much enjoyed.


Last edited by Matt Q; 10-08-2019 at 06:29 AM.
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Unread 10-08-2019, 04:32 PM
John Riley John Riley is offline
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: North Carolina
Posts: 4,051


Thanks for reading and commenting. I wrote this fast. I often write my prose pieces fast. That doesn't mean I don't later revise but that the animal theme, for example, emerged while I was typing and I ran with it. I'm pleased you think it works. I was a little hung-up on the places you noticed and your notes are on point. I can easily fix them.

Again, thanks. Maybe I can write more.

I'll get to your new piece asap. Right now I have three bratty children pestering me to play on my computer.

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