O is for Outside

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Your outside is in and your inside is out, according to The Beatles. Personally, I find that confusing, but they were incredibly successful so they must have known what they were talking about. One thing I know is that whenever Sam takes the train to London, she makes sure she’s got a ticket to ride.

I’m not sure Alice Penfold agrees with The Beatles on the inside out thing. Consider the beginning of Aftermath, her story in story in Cat Tales, the anthology drawn from last year’s Book a Break short story competition.

Inside. Red ink running low; it was time to replace. Face marked by fatigue, Mark broke away to wash, again. He let his fingers fumble towards the taps in darkness, the light switch left abandoned and unneeded. It was enough to feel, this time—the rushing burn scalding his sores, the splitting in his overworked skin ripping further—as he kept his eyes trained on the edges, where the water smacked against the basin and swirled away to its next stage.

Outside. Cloaked in coats of cold, buried in the shadows of the ending year, Frances had been circling for countless hours. She had managed to avoid the final right hand turn—towards the bridge—by travelling down the same terraced street, again. On one lost-count looping route, her eyes were caught by Number 82: a stray was sneaking through a narrow gap in the house’s front gate, its silhouette squeezing between the rain-rusted bars. A tortoiseshell.

The tortoiseshell’s name is Carpenter. To him there’s quite a difference between inside and outside, just as there is for me. No need to go through the mirror to enter a different world – you just have to go through the cat flap. Inside, for me, is the warm, soft pattern on the rug, as I drift off to sleep to the sound of Sam and Sam getting depressed about Brexit; outside is moonlight and moths and rodents, and the sharp contours of walls. Inside is where I go to pretend I have a home; outside is where I live. I haven’t yet told Sam and Sam that I’m leaving soon. I must admit I’m apprehensive, I’m not sure they’ll be able to manage without me.

Is there a connection between Frances and Mark? Why are Mark’s hands in such a state? What drew Frances to Carpenter? You’ll find the answers in Cat Tales – all I can say is that Carpenter, like me, slips with ease between the two worlds; indeed, it occurred to me as I read Alice’s story that we cats are the revolving doors linking the outside and inside of human reality. My, isn’t that profound! Or maybe not. It might just be nonsense. Perhaps it’s what The Beatles meant, though they don’t specifically mention a cat in the song.

Alice, by the way, is a secondary school English teacher in London and also volunteers with a children’s writing charity in her spare time. She blogs about education and her non-fiction writing can be found at: https://alicempen.wordpress.com/. However, her main passion is creative writing, and you’ll see in Aftermath that she has developed a voice uniquely her own.

The proceeds from Cat Tales go to two charities, Cats Protection and the Against Malaria Foundation. So please don’t hesitate to spread the word (reblog, twitter, faceboook, sandwich board, Times Square illumination) and help us raise all we can. And of course, if you click on the button yourself, you can find out what happens inside and outside of Aftermath. Thank you!

 In a special promotion deal, the price of Cat Tales is just $1.99 for the whole month of April. Available as a PDF (or epub / mobi) complete with colour illustrations directly from this site* by clicking the button below. Also available in print (black & white, $9.50).

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*You can buy from Amazon here, but buying from this site results in $1.61 after the PayPal commission, as opposed to just $0.70 from Amazon. An insecticide treated mosquito net, which protects on average 2 people for 3 to 4 years, costs $2.50. PLUS, if you buy from this site, you’ll get a personal message of thanks from Curtis along with a short story of his own (in which Nibbles the cat, I’m sorry to say, comes to a rather unfortunate end).