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Altogether, I've published seven short stories, and I have an eighth coming out soon on the "Melic Review" web site.  Two previously published stories are posted on my own web site,
Jared Carter Poetry. -- Jared
TURNABOUT

Mice: thousands of white mice with bloodshot eyes and quivering whiskers.  Tier after tier, aisle after aisle of stainless-steel cages swarming with them.  He pushed on through the double doors.  Dogs: hundreds of them.  Howling, slavering, surging against their cages to get at him.

He woke up. 

Brutus and Caesar had barked up something close to the  house -- a squirrel, maybe, or a chipmunk.  They were silent now, and it was certainly dead, whatever it was.  He looked across the bedroom.  The girl with the straight black hair lay naked in the corner farthest from the doors, beneath the open window, her head thrown back in sleep, mouth open.  Sunlight slanting through the trees dappled her waxen body and deeply tanned arms and legs.

Try this out on your piano.  Find out who you are.  Without caring who I am.  Take a ride on the Reading Railroad.  Everybody's doing it.  

He stretched, yawned, and sniffed the cool morning air.  His ears told him the lake was calm, yet there was a slight breeze, and somewhere bacon was frying.  The blonde must be up already.  The self-reliant type.  He remembered that she was  tanned all over.  But not a real blonde.  He grinned.  In no hurry, he lay there watching patches of sunlight slither off  the girl's body and onto the sheet in front of her. 

The room was all mattress.  Custom-made triple bunk beds at each side of the room cantilevered out to make a smooth foam-rubber platform fifteen feet square.  He had explained to his wife that it would be fun for the kids.  Couldn't hurt yourself if you tried.   No need to pull the curtains. Make as much noise as you like.  Now that his wife had taken the children and gone to visit her mother in France, it was fun for the grown-ups, too.

It was the third summer she had taken them back to the old country.  This year he had entertained so many friends on the staff at the lodge over on the other lake that he didn't even have to work at it.  Word got around.

By the time the women looking for action had gone through the tennis pro and a lifeguard or two, they had heard about him.  An M.D. and a Ph.D.  Doing something far-out in genetic engineering for a top pharmaceutical firm in Indianapolis.  Comes down each weekend to this remote lakefront cottage.  Wall-to-wall beds, a walk-in fireplace, a freezer full of steaks, an unlimited supply of any drug you could name.

This summer had been unreal.  The lodge had a contract with the state university in the next county to put up overflow groups attending four- and five-day encounter-type workshops.  Nurses, teachers, dieticians, Girl Scout leaders, social workers.  All getting opened up, blossomed out, sensitized, desensitized, gestalted, exalted, and, mostly, laid. 

The sessions were usually played out by Saturday afternoon.  By which time they'd had almost a week of being encouraged to be open and trusting with their fellow humans.  He would park the Lamborghini close to the terrace.  The dues-payers would be sitting around under the pastel-striped umbrellas, having a last drink.  Even before he got out he could look them over and know which ones would be coming. 

All this talk about liberation.  What if you had the opportunity to do anything you  wanted to do?  The chance to get outside your everyday self?  Sometimes a couple of the guys on the staff would come along,  sometimes it was just him and two or three chicks.  Safety in numbers.  Ever make it with another woman?  Ever wonder what it's like?   No one gave her right name.  Sometimes they just came over to the car and got in and he drove away.  Hello central, give me Doctor Jazz.  He's got what I need, I'll say he has.

It was all true, whatever they had been told, whatever they wanted to believe.  Set and setting.  Humongous hurricane fence topped with two-way barbed wire, electronic remote-control gates, a pair of wicked-looking Dobermans patrolling no-man's land, the house in a lush thicket of willows and cottonwoods, the overhanging deck, the lake gleaming and beautiful.  

It was even true that he had an enormous black tomcat named Baby Wolf, who rode in the back with the sacks full of fresh corn and tomatoes, and who would do a couple of purple microdots while everybody else was toking up out on the sundeck.  Who would follow them across the drawbridge and down to the pier, and ride imperturbably in the prow when Doc cranked up the 75-horse Johnson and they spun out across the glassy surface to water-ski for an hour or two in the cool, piney air. 

That cat could even swim, when he had to, Doc told the two girls.  He looked around for the cat now, but instead saw a man's body huddled in the corner opposite the brunette's.  Who the hell was that?  Had somebody else come over?  He couldn't remember.  He tried to shake the gray fog from his vision as he raised up for a better look.  Instantly he knew he was still tripping.  Instead of leaning on his hands, he was poised on two furry, black paws.  He rolled over and looked at the hind legs, then the tail.  Interesting sensation.  He swished it back and forth a few times.  Don't panic.  Take a deep breath and count down from ten.  There has to be an explanation. 

There had been other out-of-the-body experiences.  The first was in an army hospital in Kuwait, in the burn ward.  He had been so full of government regulation morphine he had floated around the top of the room and watched the medic and then the young captain frantically taking turns giving him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and pounding on his chest.  This asshole will slice me open and start massaging my heart if I don't get back down there, he told himself. He decided to put up with the pain a little longer.

Another time, in Istanbul, seven days into an opium tour, there were so many different people all twining together in the middle of the cushions that it took him a while to realize he was only observing.  His body was experiencing its own particular raptures in the depths of all that flesh, while some other part of him wandered about the room as a disembodied point of view. 

True, he could not recall ever having taken over someone else's body, least of all a cat's.  But none of the earlier experiences had lasted longer than two or three minutes.  All he had to do was wait this one out.  And, while he was into it, he  might as well make the best of it.  He stood up, stretched his forelegs and then his back legs, yawned, and padded across the expanse of flowered bed sheets to the place where the brunette lay sleeping.  He leaned over and carefully sluiced his tongue across the surface of one of her nipples. 

She smiled, murmured something unintelligible, and shifted away from him, exposing the other nipple.  He went to work on it.  As he licked it into shape, she fidgeted, sighed, and rolled over on her back.  With a single leap he landed between her outspread legs.  Taking his time, he insinuated his tongue into the fur and outer folds and finally reached her half-erect clitoris.  She was awake now and looking down at him. 'I don't  believe it,' she said sleepily.  Her head dropped back on the pillow. 

His front paws treading at the edges of her triangle, he drifted into her wetness as though following a deeper current.  He unsheathed the claws a fraction and she began to moan.  He labored on.  Visions came to him.  Rows and rows of metal cages,  windowless concrete-block walls.  Rustling, pattering, twittering sounds. 

He searched through interminable fluorescent corridors for the right door.  Windowless concrete-block walls.  A faceless assistant turned the key and they went through.  Larger cages, softer lights.  In the artificial twilight, the rare odors and scents, and the almond eyes peering out at him.  Sibilant Angoras and Persians, long-legged Himalayans and slender Abyssinians, Siamese with sable masks over their faces, somnolent tabbies, meditative calicos. 

Ahead the assistant waits beside a stainless-steel table.  Overhanging lamps give clear, shadowless light.  A large black cat spread-eagled with leather straps, its mouth stuffed with gauze and tape.  'Will this one do?'

 'Oh, oh, oh ' --  In the next instant pain: ribs, gut, backbone reeling under the blow.  And head, as he fell away from the wall something had slammed him against.  He fought to regain his breath.

' ' never believe what that animal's been doing to me,' he heard the girl say.  'Doc?  Doc, what are you doing?"  Her tone softened.  'Oh baby,' she whispered.  'Baby, baby.'

When his eyes were able to focus again he could see the girl on her hands and knees . Gripping her shoulders, head bent low over hers, his own body was fiercely thrusting into her from the rear.  'Baby, baby,' she called out languorously. 

Still groggy from the kick, he crawled to the opposite side  of the room and crouched behind a heavy bolster.  He realized that he himself kicked Baby Wolf like that every once in a while, especially when the cat did something particularly stupid or  annoying. 

What was happening, then, was exactly what would have happened anyway had he awakened in his own body on a Sunday morning and noticed an anonymous, available, naked girl asleep in his bed.  And if his own cat was already fooling around with her, then he'd have kicked the silly son-of-a-bitch halfway across the room.

 Tinker to Evers to Chance.  Cat clobbered.  Doc knocks off a quickie.  God's in his heaven, all's right with the world.  But who's on first?  Or, more precisely, who's minding the store?

'Hey, how about some reciprocity?' the brunette called.  He looked up to see his own body bounding across the mattresses and ducking down through the door into the john.  At the sound of the shower she shrugged, got to her feet, and made her way over the scattered pillows and bolsters to the glass doors giving onto the sundeck. 'Pig,' she muttered. 

He limped after her.  As he came out into the morning light he realized why he could not shake this peculiar grayness from his vision.  Baby Wolf saw everything that way; his entire world was black and white.  He threaded through a series of bamboo tables, calculating that it had been a good ten minutes since he had awakened, and nothing had changed.  The ache in his adopted ribs made it difficult to believe he was dreaming.  The logical thing would be to curl up in some out-of-the-way place and sleep it off, whatever it was.  But the smell of bacon and sausage hung in the air, completely distracting him. 

The deck chairs loomed enormous, the hanging plants seemed immensely far away as he peered  up at them.  The brunette came over and fed him several large chunks of sausage.  'He was giving me a better time than that hair-trigger artist back there in the shower,' she said over her shoulder.  'Nice pussycat,' she added, stroking him as he gulped at the spicy hunks of meat. 

'Well, what are we going to do today, ladies?' Doc called as he strode briskly onto the dining area.  He was wearing white ducks, a dazzling white polo shirt, and deck shoes.  'Tennis?  More skiing?  I've got scuba equipment too.  Or do you just want to fart around for a while'  He laughed heartily and slapped  the blonde on the ass.

Both girls were still naked, and they became shy in his breezy presence.  The brunette went inside to put on some clothes, while the blonde proudly served him sausage and scrambled eggs, unfrozen hashed browns, English muffins, orange juice, and black coffee.  Baby Wolf watched from a corner of the smooth redwood bench that formed part of the deck's railing. 

 Uncanny, he thought.  It's me, hell yes it's me, right down to the European way of handling a knife and fork.  But it can't be all of me, because part of me is here.  And nevermind how I got here, or who's minding the store, how the hell do I get out?  Or, rather, back?  What we have here, he told himself, is an insufficiently random-selected control group.

' ' not those dogs,'  Doc was explaining to the girls.  "They're not the kind you take for a walk.'

The brunette, holding a cup of coffee and smoking a cigarette, peered over the edge of the railing at the two beasts circling below.  She shivered. 

'I'm the only one who can get near them,' he said, reaching for the pack.  'And the caretaker, who comes by every couple of days to load up their automatic feeder.'  He lit up and exhaled.  'They'd tear anybody else to pieces.' 

After much discussion they settled on letting him give a trap-shooting demonstration.  Neither wanted to fire the shotgun, but both were willing to watch him do it.  While the blonde cleared away the breakfast things, the brunette listened carefully to Doc's instructions.  They strolled to the south end of the sundeck, where a galvanized metal launcher was bolted to the outer rail.  He left her with half a case of clay pigeons and returned to the northwest corner.

'Watch Baby Wolf,' he said out of the corner of his mouth as he sighted along the barrel.

'Huh?'  The blonde had settled down in a deck chair and was busily applying suntan lotion to her shoulders and forearms 

'The noise won't bother him,' he said.  'Pull!' he called back.  The black disk came sailing over the corner of the roof.  He took aim.  At a crack the disk disintegrated.  'Pull!' he called out again. 

The cat stood up in panic at the place where he had been sitting near the northeast corner of the deck.  What his alter ego had said was simply not true.  The real Baby Wolf was terrified of loud noises of any kind, and disappeared immediately into one of the bedrooms at the first sight of the Remington air-cooled pump.  He was frightened now, however, of something far more troubling.

Doc was approaching with the shotgun held at an easy ready at the level of his hip.  He himself had made such a shot, with his .22, when he shot gophers as a boy growing up in Nebraska and had virtually lived near a gopher village all one summer.  That was back when he got his first taste of what it was like to slaughter animals.  He sensed, too, that the creature approaching him -- calling back 'Pull!' every two or three seconds while the disks sailed noiselessly on down toward the water, and the blonde continued to rub lotion along her belly and thighs -- was capable of making that same shot from the hip.

He looked up into his own face for the first time that morning.  Every hair on his adopted body rose and his tail went straight up.  It was not the same face.  Not his eyes.

 Salud! a voice said somewhere in the recesses of his brain.  I am that which is minding your store, so to speak.  And now I am going to kill you.

The lips were not moving.  He could see into the smooth, shiny bore of the shotgun pointed directly at his head.  It was like looking into a deep well.  There seemed to be no sound, no movement, nothing happening at all except the calm voice speaking within his brain.

 Your chief failing, the voice continued, is to have confused consciousness and spirit.  I have managed to displace our respective conscious, rational minds only partially and imperfectly.  Each of us still behaves true to form in many respects.  Hence this somewhat confusing morning.  It requires  considerable spiritual discipline to maintain such a transposition.  Occasionally there are relapses.  Try this.

For a second he was back in his own body, holding the shotgun, staring into the narrowed yellow eyes of the cat.  Beyond, he glimpsed blue sky, white clouds, green trees.  Then he became the cat again, staring up at the human figure.  Only  then did he realize that the figure grasping the weapon might have squeezed off a round. 

 Much too slow, the voice said. You'll have to do better than that.

 What the hell is this all about?

 I am about to kill you, as I said.  Or, more precisely, execute you.  

 What for? he cried out in his mind.  And why me?  Just because I kicked you a few times.  You can't be --

 My dear fellow, it will go much easier on you in these last few minutes if you completely abandon your habitual rational, problem-solving, egocentric, All-zu-Menschlich ways of thinking.  If you must have a reason, you may pretend that it is because you are so miserably selfish and closed off from life that you no longer deserve to live.

 What?

 You betray, mislead, deceive your fellow humans at every turn.  Unfaithful to your wife, uncaring about your children, manipulative and cruel with these poor women you lure to this place with your materialism and your shallow chatter.

 What the hell business is it of yours?

 You're right.  The affairs of humans are hardly my concern, or the concern of my species.  We have learned, however, of the fate of our many brothers and sisters in your laboratory.

He began to laugh.

Yes, the comparison is apt.  For us, you are an Eichmann, a Borman, a Himmler.  Therefore you must die. 

He relaxed and took a step toward the figure with the shotgun.  I don't believe a god-damned word of it, he said.  I've had weirder trips than this before, and I've always come back, and this one's no different. 

He lowered his tail.  The shotgun went off with a blast immediately above his head.  He flattened to the plank. 

 The roles are reversed now, the voice said.  I could have killed you with that shot, but first I must play with you, so that you will know stark terror.   As though you were a very small, defenseless mouse.  What's more, now that I have explained these things, there is the possibility that you will kill me before I kill you.  That's more of a chance than you ever gave a cat in your lab. 

 Be prepared to die, however.  Not a quick, clean, antiseptic death, but a slow, agonizing, painful one.  If I can manage, I'll rip your organs out one at a time and stuff them up your miserable asshole.   He pumped the shotgun.  You could have been at me then while the chamber was empty.  Surely you can do better than that.  On guard!

He turned and walked back toward the other end of the deck.  The blonde had put on shorts and a halter.  Both girls were querulous.  He hadn't really been firing, they were getting too much sun, it was time for them to go back to the lodge, some people were waiting for them.

 What a bummer, he thought .  He claims he can switch back and forth.  Whichever body takes the hit, then, I'll go down with it.  Or so he claims.  But he had two chances and he blew both of them.  Because obviously he doesn't want to spend the rest of his life in my body.  He's counting on making it back to his own.  But I'm temporarily controlling it.  I could jump into the water and he'd be screwed.  I'd probably wake up, too.  What in the hell should I do now?

Doc was talking with the two girls near the main entrance to the house.  The brunette was still whining about being late.  Suddenly Doc slammed the edge of his hand into her neck.  She crumpled to the floor. 

The blonde screamed.  'Oh my god!' 

 She's dead, the voice said inside his mind. 

'Oh my god, what have you done, you madman ' --

The blonde was kneeling over the body of her friend.  He gave a slight skip and a jump and drop-kicked her beneath the chin.  She fell backward with a face full of blood.  He leapt into the air and came down with both heels on her chest.  The air wheezing out of her lungs sounded like a broken accordion.  She lay still.

Accuse prominent young scientist in acid love tryst, the voice said evenly, as though reading aloud.  Shocked spouse.  Two nude female bodies.  Sorrowing children.

 You're crazier than I am!  What the hell'd you do that for?

 I'm not crazy, I'm just a cat.  But as a matter of fact, if you can kill me, you still might beat it.  Plead insanity.  Tell them your cat was talking to you.  You know, you've taken hundreds of acid trips.  You've fried your brains, zapped your chromosomes.  You aren't really responsible. 

 Tell them Baby Wolf did it, the voice continued.  He's the one.  You're an eminent biologist, aren't you?  They'll believe you.  A few years of shock treatments and lithium carbonate, and you'll be back in circulation.  He had picked up the shotgun again and strode along the sundeck, closing the sliding glass doors leading into the house as he went along.

 You son-of-a bitch! he yelled and charged across the deck.  He stopped a few feet short of the barrel leveled at his head. 

 You were saying?

The cat turned and sprinted through the last open doorway onto the slippery tile floor of the main living room.  He skittered across the floor and down a hallway, upsetting a wicker magazine table and two potted plants.  The human figure stepped inside and closed the doors behind him.  He no longer carried the shotgun.  Instead, he went to the side of the big limestone fire-place and took down one of two samurai swords hanging there.  He carefully withdrew it from the scabbard and held the blade up to the light.

 There are windows open, the voice said, but you can only jump to Brutus and Caesar below.  They are expecting you, by the way.  I took the precaution of explaining to them some of the things you've been doing to the dogs in your laboratory.  They weren't at all pleased.

The cat scampered through room after room, bunching up throw rugs, ricocheting off chairs and desks, leaping across beds.  Through an open bathroom door he careened against a clothes hamper, scrambled to his feet, and leapt up to find himself in the middle of the bedroom with the wall-to-wall mattresses. The far glass doors onto the deck were closed.  There was one low, broad window that had no screen.  The human figure came into the room and closed the door behind him. 

Across the room the cat suddenly jumped onto the open windowsill.  The man approached cautiously, weighing the sword.  The cat seemed to freeze.  With both hands the man swung the sword over his head.  The cat flipped sideways, avoiding the blade as it crashed into the sill, and managed to wrap itself around the man's face. 

Blinded, screaming, the man leaned for a moment against the edge of the sill, almost pushed over it by the cat's sudden leap toward the center of the room. Gracefully the animal re-bounded off the end of a bolster and hurtled back against the man's chest.  The sudden thrust and added weight tipped him through the window.  The cat rode him for a second, then ran up him as he was falling, and jumped back into the room.  The man plummeted downward.  The dogs were on him almost before he hit the ground.

Three days later, before the sheriff's deputies and state police officers could venture onto the grounds, they radioed for a specialist from the Indianapolis zoo to come put out the two dogs with tranquilizing darts.  They collected what remained of the corpse and put the pieces in a plastic body bag.  Upstairs, through the glass doors, they could see the bodies of the two girls.  Both were horribly bloated and covered with flies. 

On the deck bench, near the double doors, a large black cat lay sunning itself.   It trotted over to the officers, purring and rubbing against their ankles.

One of them reached down and scratched its ears.  'Nice kitty,' he said.

 

Please read the poem, Christmas Morning by Jared Carter, published in 1982 about the exploitation of collier ponies

 

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