Hey, my name is Willow May Jennings and I’m a blind writer. I write chick lititure and that’s why I use a pen name; To protect my reputation as a southern redneck. I can’t have the good old boys at the coffee shop learn I write chick lit.
I was told that Stephen King wrote under a female pen name and he wrote romantic lititure until his reputation as a serious writer was established. We all know how well that worked out for him.
I was taught in creative writing and other lititure classes that an author had a responsibility to educate as well as entertain his or her audiences.
In my first novel, Catmando, I portrayed a blind social worker and what it took to become a productive citizen and live to tell about it. Living in the dark can be hazardous to one’s health if one isn’t careful. All the incidents in Chapter One was taken from my own experiences. No kidding, from the inadvertent grope to the near miss by a passing automobile is true.
Believe it or not, my main character in Catmando, was an actual person. There is really glitter critters in this world; even though, I don’t think they are shapeshifters.
I’m told writers should try to imitate life, so in this book, I did my best. Below is the first chapter of Catmando. I hope you will share with me feedback via my e-mail LeapingTiger@knology.net
Catmando - The Land of the Glitter critters
The thing about being blind, you can never see where you are going, especially in a new town. He resigned himself to the fact that once again, being blind has its drawbacks. “Just another wrong turn.” Neil Bonnet mumbled under his breath. I need a break, Neil raise his head to beseech the heavens as he silently pleaded. “You’ve just moved here all the way from the blue grass fields of your uncle’s horse farm. And you did this blind,” Neil’s little voice argued. “You’ve had only a few weeks to orient yourself.” And yet, I’m lost, again, Neil interrupted himself.
A feeling of helpless frustration grinded on every nerve ending. He should have taken a taxi on the most important event of his adult career. Neil realized he had turned down another blind alley when he inhaled less than fragrant odors of rotting garbage and old cat urine. At this rate, he would never make his appointment.
“A lot of good my having a degree in counseling if I can’t even help myself,” Neil grumbled under his breath. “Especially if I can’t distinguish the difference between an alleyway and a street. What’s the point of me going to the job interview at Social Services.”
It was at that exact moment of his frustration when his cane banged up against some garbage cans. He surrendered in defeat. He started banging them harder out of frustration.
“Hey now,” a feminine voice called from further down the alley. “What’s all this racket?”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t realize anyone was using this alley,” he said with the feeling of foolishness warming his face.
“Obviously. Are you lost? Or are you just practicing to become a drummer for AC DC?” the female voice asked.
“No, I am lost and have a job interview in five minutes at Social Services,” he said in embarrassment.
“Why sir, you are standing in the back of the Social Services’ building. The front of the building is the next two left turns. Just hug the building on your left and you will find the stairs to the front door,” the female voice spoke in an urgent assurance.
“Well, thank you ma’am,” Neil said with hope. Without another word, Neil swept his cane along the building, when the female voice replied.
“You’re welcome, sir.” Neil had come equal with the voice. He thought she was squatting against the building, for the level of her voice came up to his waist. Concerns regarding the woman quickly faded as street noises filled his awareness. He noticed he had left the alley when the building no longer blocked his hearing.
“What did she say, turn left or was that right?” Neil paused to recall. “How many turns before reaching the stairs?” Neil was thinking out loud when a small body brushed itself up against his leg and chittered.
“Left, my darling Neil, then left again. Only then will you reach the front of Social Services,” the same female voice said softly.
“Who are you and how do you know my name!” his voice cracked like a scared child. Goose bumps rushed up his spine in alarm and fear. There was no response from the alley. The alley cat stopped rubbing up against his leg. Not knowing what else to do, he said. “Thank you.” Neil quickly walked away.
Neil busied himself with locating the steps leading into the Social Services building. He paused as he stepped onto the first riser and reflected.
He figured there had to be a street person squatting in the alley. She had spoken at the same time the alley cat rubbed up against his leg. If Neil ever entertained the idea that cats talked, then he would commit himself to the nearest asylum. He scrunched up his face in confusion with that notion. He shook his head to clear out the coincidence and climbed the remaining stairs.
Neil paused just inside the front door as it closed quietly with a rush of air. The sound of outside noises quickly faded. Cool air blew against his face with the sterile aroma of an office. He detected a faint odor of ammonia in the foyer.
Neil familiarized himself with the new surroundings.
He could hear the fans blowing the air and there was typing on a keyboard. He soft-tapped his way deeper into the lobby. The typing stopped as he approached. “May I help you?” a friendly female voice offered.
“Yes, I’m Neil Bonnet and I have an appointment with Miss Cooper,” he announced.
He listened to the tones of a telephone keypad. He stood fidgeting with his cane. His stomach fluttered with apprehension. What would he do if they hired someone already? He told himself to chill out.
“Pricilla? There’s a Neil Bonnet here to see you.” The voice paused. “But he’s blind,” the receptionist spoke with disbelief. She muffled her voice to converse in private. “You’re sure he’s not a client?” Another pause. “Yes ma’am,” the receptionist replied reluctantly. “Sir, you may have a seat, Miss Cooper will be out in one moment.”
Neil thanked the receptionist and turned around as if he could see. He took the chance, stayed on the carpeted area, and soon found a cushioned chair.
He could sense when people watched him. They would hold their breath until the blind guy was safe and settled before they resumed breathing.
He relaxed his body and the typing resumed. An air bubble escaped from a water cooler.
He began to fidget in his seat. He wanted to check his talking watch, but knew it was a sign of nervous tension and took deep breaths to calm down.
Time passed slowly before he heard a door open. Heels clicked their way down the hall towards him. They stopped in front of him, seconds before gardenias greeted his sense of smell.
“I hope you had no problem finding Social Services, Mister Bonnet. I’m still learning my way around your city and that early morning traffic. Well,” she sighed loudly before continuing, “it can be a bit aggravating.” Miss Cooper paused to catch her breath.
“No problem. I got lost three times myself and I live only a few blocks away,” he said with a wave of his hand. He quickly stood up, switched the cane to his left hand, and held out his right. Her handshake was soft and firm. “Miss Cooper, it’s a pleasure to finally meet you,” he said, feeling his cheeks stretching into a grin.
“It’s nice to meet you too. Mister Bonnet. If you will take my elbow, I will guide you.”
He switched hands and grasped her elbow. He could not keep himself from smiling. Her relaxed and confident manner eased his stomach from a boiling turmoil down to a quiet simmer. Her quaint English accent was music to his ears. She stopped in front of a closed door. She opened the door and waited. Neil stood back and gestured for her to enter first.
“Thank you sir,” She said politely.
He followed her into the office. A musty odor filled his nostrils suggesting the room was seldom used.
“Please, Mister Bonnet, have a seat,” she said patting the backrest. He used his cane to find the chair and used his hand to find the armrest. He imagined her walking around the conference table as he heard her drop a file on the tabletop.
“This meeting is really just a formality,” she said as the chair on the other side of the table creaked. “I really have only two questions left to ask,” Miss Cooper announced. “First, where do you see yourself in five years?”
Neil pretended to think about the question, but he had already thought it out and had an answer. He tapped his chin. “I envision myself,” he said, “helping every client that comes through my office by returning them to society as a productive citizen.” Neil knew it was mostly fluff, but some employers appreciated confidence. She said nothing for a few minutes and he felt her stare.
“That sounds like a good plan. A bit unrealistic, but who knows, you may be able to pull rabbits out of hats,” she laughed a little. “My second question is how soon can you start?”
“There’s no time like the present,” He said without hesitation.” He grinned and held his breath until she replied.
“Excellent,” she said brightly. “My morning is clear of meetings, so how about we start your orientation?” He heard her get up from the squeaky chair.
“That sounds fine,” he replied full of enthusiasm. He stood up and worked his cane to locate the door. He found the doorknob and opened it with a flourish. Neil waited to allow Miss Cooper to exit first.
“Mister Bonnet, are you sure you’re blind?” She asked with feigned skepticism. “Here’s my arm, if you really need it.”
Neil stepped out of the room, closed the door behind him, and reached out for her elbow."
“No, not really. It’s just a lot of people have the misconception that just because blind people can’t see doesn’t mean they can’t function as normal people. As you well know, many of the visually impaired have complications that make them appear abnormal. Even trained professionals hold these misconceptions that hinder the blind from living a productive life.” he blew out a sigh. “My work is cut out for me. It will take some doing to erase these biases.” He smiled and gently squeezed her elbow. “Of course, it never hurts my reputation to be seen escorting an attractive lady.”
“And how do you know I’m attractive?”
“I can hear it in your voice.” They turned down another hallway and stopped. His cane found a doorway to his right.
A friend had once told him that he was staring off into space instead of looking in his friend’s direction. He said it was weird and made him feel like Neil did not care. Out of habit, Neil would focus his attention on what people were saying, rather than the speaker. He knew that eighty percent of a sighted person’s perception was through sight and understood why it felt like disrespect. This is why Neil made a conscious effort to look over at where Pricilla’s face should be. He chuckled inwardly, for some people thought he was faking his blindness, when he would look in the direction of the speaker’s voice and they thought he could see.
“Yes, and mine is just across the hall. “
Neil Bonnet began his career when he located the knob and opened his office door. Using his cane to orient himself through the doorway, he tapped his way around the room. He paused to reach out and identify the office furniture. His cane dinged something metallic and he discovered the file cabinet. He worked his way to his chair as he completed the circuit of his office. The smile never left his face.
“Thank you, Miss Cooper. This will do,” he said as he trailed the edge of his desk and sat down in his chair. His grin intensified as she closed the door behind her and came around his desk. His heart thumped when she dragged the client’s chair around to his right and made herself comfortable. He could feel the warmth of her closeness.
“Let us begin,” she said as she guided his fingers over the keypad of the phone console as she explained their functions. Her hand was soft, but firm and deliberate. A light scent of gardenias wafted into his senses. He struggled to concentrate on what she was saying.
A college professor had once explained to Neil that when two sighted people of opposite sex communicate, they do it with a knowing smile or a wink that can speak volumes. Such sensory inputs were lost on Neil. Now, he understood when Miss Cooper’s practical hands-on method of instructing her blind coworker made his nerve endings vibrate with excitement as his imagination ran rampant. Unintentionally, her touch felt more like a caress. The distraction sidetracked his attention as his stomach roller-coastered.
While she demonstrated how to operate the computer software, the phone rang. Without thinking, he reached out to pick up the receiver, but instead of picking up the handset, he grabbed Miss Pricilla’s breast.
While the phone continued to ring, he hurriedly pulled back his hand and buried it down in his lap. His entire body flushed with the heat of embarrassment. Neil wished he could crawl inside his desk drawer and close it behind him, but instead, he mumbled an apology. She patted his shoulder.
“Don’t worry about it,” she said casually when the phone stopped ringing. “I realize that being blind will have its awkward moments,” she spoke as her hand gave his forearm a light squeeze. Neil heard her sigh through her nose. ”Accidents will happen,” she said with an airy abandon.
“I’m afraid it’s usually the rule rather than the exception,” he said shyly. He heard genuine laughter bubble up.
They returned to the computer, but he remained distracted. His attention busied itself reliving the contact, the softness of her breast, and once again, feeling the flush of embarrassment flow over his flesh. He made a mental note to be more aware of where she stood and what his hands were doing. From that moment, his life would be in a state of sweet torture.
As the new counselor for the visually impaired, Neil welcomed the heavy workload. After meeting with the client, he would meet with his manager, and together, they would process the bureaucratic paperwork.
There were occasions when he could tell when she stood in his doorway. Sometimes, she would say nothing and then he could not smell the gardenias and knew she had moved along. However, one day when the office had closed, he detected the sweet scent had entered his office. He had the feeling of foreboding rise to the back of his throat when the door closed. Heels tapped across the linoleum, and then the client’s chair creaked. He waited patiently, and then asked. “What’s wrong?”
”I’m really put out with you, Neil Bonnet,” she said. He thought she spoke with a mock seriousness, which made him feel a little better.
“Me? What did I do?” He widened his eyes in exaggerated alarm. “When I first arrived here in Kentucky, all I ever heard was how you Southerners prided yourselves on hospitality. And yet, you haven’t offered to show me around, or even asked me out for a date,” she sounded offended.
“Well Pricilla, I’m devastated at such a gross oversight,” Neil perpetrated a face with feigned horror, while he clutched at his chest; feigning a heart attack. In reality,his heart sighed with relief. His features softened into a smile with a self-deprecating grin. “I beg your pardon at such a faux-pas, but you have to admit, I wouldn’t be very good at sight-seeing tours.” He felt his face begin to warm. “To be honest, I am a little shy around pretty women,” he said as he stared in Pricilla’s direction. “I love the satisfaction from helping others. It’s more important that I help my clients than to think of having a personal life.” He dropped his unseeing gaze to his lap with his confession. She covered his arm and squeezed. The heat of the contact stirred a little mischief into his grin. “Besides, I like you as a friend and wouldn’t want to mess that up by asking you out for pizza and beer.” Neil admitted as he looked up in her direction. He heard the chair creak and listened as her heels walked back to the door.
“Thank you, Neil, for your honesty. And yes, I would hate the idea of ruining a perfectly good relationship over pizza and beer when veal Piccata and a Chardonnay would do a better job of it,” she rejoined. He heard the smile in her voice and smelled the perfume leave the room.
He admired her wit as a grin pulled at his lips. The thought he might be falling in love pushed his cheeks even further. He knew the taboos about office romances and especially with one’s own supervisor. Still, the idea of touching those breasts distracted him for the remainder of his day.
It did not feel like it had been thirty days since he had first started at Social Services. Neil blew out a week’s worth of exhaustion as he waited at a street corner for the traffic light to change.
Fridays were routinely his day to catch up on paperwork and make follow-up calls to vendors. Everyone and his brother had issues today.
“It must be a full moon,” he said out loud. He thought he would need to have the phone surgically removed.
The cars idling in front of him finally moved into traffic and allowed Neil to cross the street. However, this Friday was the day he earmarked for his date with Pricilla.
After his talking watch told him it was time to go home, he turned off his phone and sat in his office practicing the line he would use. He waited for the office to empty out its occupants. He had stalled long enough and mumbled a prayer to the saint that watched over fools and little children. He walked up to Pricilla’s office door and tapped it with his cane.
“Well Pricilla, you can poke me with a fork. I’m done,” he said with a crooked smile. He looked in the direction of her desk and hoped she was actually sitting in the chair.
“Neil? Why would you poke yourself with a fork?” she asked.
“I wouldn’t literally, it’s just a, well, oh never mind. I’ll hear you Monday,” he said turning away, feeling frustrated at losing his nerve.
“And I’ll see you later,” her reply followed him down the hallway. He clenched his teeth with determination and turned back around.
“Pricilla?” Neil had never been on a real date and had no experience in asking a girl out. He was feeling very uncomfortable. His clothing felt tight and he started perspiring under his collar. He thought he would faint.
“Yes, Neil?” The tension eased a little, she was keeping it casual.
“Well, I was wondering, I mean,” he fumbled over his words and began to shuffle his feet.
“Yes, I would love to go out with you tonight. Say seven o’clock?” Pricilla suggested.
“Do you mind picking me up?” Neil said with a grin stretching his lips from ear to ear. “It’s just that I don’t own a car and the State of Kentucky thought it would be better if I didn’t try to drive.” His grin grew lopsided as his head tilted to one side.
“Yes, I agree with the State of Kentucky that it would be better if I drove,” Pricilla said laughing.
He gave her directions to his apartment and left the office with a little swagger. He wondered why he had thought it would be so hard. His whole body tingled with anticipation. His excitement translated down to the tap-tap of his cane tattooing the sidewalk. The very idea of touching those soft breasts, again, made him giddy.
Odors of peroxide from Irene’s Beauty Salon assaulted Neil’s senses and brought him back to reality. His forehead creased with concern. His cane missed his marker and Irene’s place was way past his turn into the apartment. A horn honked and wheels screeched. The rush of air blowing past him meant a vehicle had nearly sideswiped him. He gulped with the sudden realization he had just walked into a busy intersection in the middle of rush hour.
The city fathers in an effort to accommodate wheelchair users deemed it necessary for many of Delbert’s street corners to lose their curb in favor of a ramp.
Neil quickly retraced his steps until he knew he was back on a sidewalk.
After regaining a normal heartbeat and feeling confident that he had not soiled his boxers, Neil cursed his stupidity for not paying attention to his surroundings. He said a prayer of thanks, for it was only by the grace of God that he was not a hood ornament. He found the sidewalk that led into his apartment building and gave out a sigh of relief.
The building was an old brown stone, at least that was what the building supervisor had said. His cane banged the aluminum frame of the apartment’s front door and he used his key to let himself into the foyer. He smelled the familiar musky mildew as his cane’s tapping echoed down the hallway. Neil paused at his door as he reached back into his pocket for the keys.
“I can’t believe I was nearly road kill.” Neil shook his head of the bad memory as he inserted the apartment key. He forced himself to think of more pleasant things, like Pricilla’s English accent. She spoke better English than most of her coworkers. It was only when she got excited, that the accent became more pronounced.
He unlocked the front door of his apartment and the first thing he noticed was how cold it was. He paused in the doorway and stood wondering why he had a cold apartment.
“Damn, it feels like I left the refrigerator door open again,” he grumbled under his breath. It would not be the first time he had left it wide open. More than once, he had kicked the refrigerator door shut, only to return later and find a constant flow of cold air escaping from the opened refrigerator. His face fell into a frown as his fingers found the refrigerator door closed. “Well, that’s
Something was terribly wrong. His guts clenched at the unknown that still lurked in the apartment. He did not have time to worry about it and went to change for his date.
“Man! It feels like January in here,” he complained loudly as he shrugged off his jacket and tossed it onto the bed. The bedroom window was closed shut and still it was very cold.
While emptying his pockets, he recalled hearing a conversation at the water cooler just outside his office. He could hear air bubbles escaping as someone helped themselves to a cup of water. Another air bubble escaped when he recognized Todd’s voice.
“I think Pricilla is a lesbian.”
“Why do you say that?” said the second voice.
“Because,” Todd said in frustration, “she refused to go out with me, again.”
Cecil, the second voice, agreed. “Those English women may actually have good taste. And what’s worse, she’s probably a wildcat when the lights go out,” Cecil said amused.
“Screw you,” Todd responded without menace as his voice trailed down the hallway.
Neil snickered at Cecil’s jibe. He returned his attention back to his report.
He was hopeful, as he unbuttoned his shirt, that he could turn his bedroom into a wildlife safari and satisfy a long neglected animal lust. He turned to toss his shirt into the clothes basket when his body collided with the open closet door. He cursed as pain raced up and down his lean frame. It reminded him that he was not paying attention, again.
A visually impaired person has to be aware of his surroundings at all times, or else, he would be black and blue from head to toe. His stomach bubbled up with aggravation, for he obsessed about closing all doors. Obviously, his obsession with Pricilla had distracted him from his habit.
“Falling in love could be hazardous to my health,” Neil admitted. Worried about the time, he hurriedly stripped off his clothing and dumped them in the clothes basket. He shivered with goose bumps popping up all over his naked body and quickly shut the door. He rushed to the bathroom and turned on the hot water faucet. With the door closed, the bathroom soon filled with steam. After showering and shaving, he hustled to put on some clothing.
The nights were still chilly. He remembered Pricilla saying to keep it casual, so he jerked open the closet door and quickly pulled out a pair of jeans and a dress shirt. He had just closed the door, when something heavy fell against it from inside. Startled, he shuddered.
When he stopped long enough to think about it, he realized that he ran into a rash of lunatics in the last couple of days. It also occurred to him that all the calls he got today were unusually weird. Sheer volume should have alerted him of a full moon. The revelation made him feel uneasy. He pressed his talking watch. Damn, he would be late if he did not shake some butt. He opened his closet door and freezing air rushed out. It felt like he was standing in the doorway of a walk-in freezer. He quickly grabbed his jacket and closed the closet door.
He was struggling into the coat when another something thumped against the door. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. His stomach tightened like a vice in a bad dream. He laughed out loud. It was just his nerves. He was putting the other arm through his jacket, when another thump slammed against the door. This time he jumped with fright.
He hurried to find something to defend himself, but was only able to scrounge up his cane. He went over to put his ear against the closet door. He reasoned that something on the shelf must have fallen. No problem.
He reached down and took hold of the doorknob. It was freezing. His fingertips stuck to it.
Neil instantly recalled the Christmas Story, when the kid was double-dog-dared to stick his tongue to the frozen flagpole. Funny the things that pops into one’s head at times of stress. He jerked his hand away, went to the dresser, and dug out a pair of boxers. He used them to turn the knob. He yanked the door open. Something grabbed him and pulled him in.