The Trouble with Cats and Schizophrenia

A Short Work of Fiction

Waiting, I took Sacha into my lap, my smoky grey cat with green eyes. In a matter of minutes, Brian, my boyfriend would be coming over to meet Sacha and take me out to dinner.

Sacha stretched out in my lap. “When’s your boyfriend getting here, Ella? I need my nap.” I could hear Sacha speak when I was on my shizo meds. I didn’t know what I would do without Sacha to keep me company. Her approval meant everything.

The doorbell rang. I straightened out the hem of my skirt and went to answer the door. Pulling Brian into my apartment, I waited to hear from Sacha. She circled around us at lazy pace as I gave Brian a welcome kiss.

“Not bad, Ella.”

I took Brian into the kitchen, where I kept Sacha’s things, for some wine.

Brian and I returned from our date to a dark apartment. I saw Sacha’s eyes in the dark as I turned on the light. Would she leave us alone until her bedtime? Sacha slinked off to my bedroom, and I sighed.

“Give me a minute, Brian. Wine while you wait?” I held up the bottle with a smile.

I found Sacha on the bed, laying there like she owned the place.

“Get out of here, Sacha.”

She hissed and pawed my arm with the claws in. “I don’t like his smell.”

I stood there with my arms across my chest. “What’s wrong with him?”

“He smells like other woman.”

I laughed. “You want to sniff him?”

“Yeah, that would be nice, Ella.”

I scooped Sacha into my arms and put her on the sofa between Brian and I. “This is my friend, Sacha.”

Brian reached out to Sacha.

She lifted up her nose to sniff his wrist. Then Sacha climbed into his lap.

Brian played with her, holding his hands before her paws as targets.

“Brian’s fun. Why won’t he talk to me though?” Sacha meowed with annoyance. “Make him talk to me!” Sacha shrieked in my ear and reached up to scratch Brian’s face.

He was too fast for her.

I pulled Sacha from his lap, bundling her to my chest. “I’m so sorry. I don’t know what came over her.” I dropped Sacha to the floor. “Go to your room.” I pointed to the kitchen with my finger.

I sat on the couch and kissed Brian, feeling the pressure of his hand on my waist. Taking his hand, I led him to my bedroom.

I woke up in an empty bed to Sacha yowling my name. Pulling on a robe, I went to her. She was lying on the linoleum, breathing fast and drooling. I crouched at her side. “What’s wrong, Sacha?”

“I’m burning up. I threw up all over the kitchen and can’t breathe well at all. I need a vet, Ella.”

I put Sacha into the cat carrier and left my apartment. I drove fast through the empty streets at 3am.

Parking in the empty parking lot in the pale yellow light of the streetlamps, I held Sacha in my lap, petting her. Sacha stopped breathing. I opened her little cat’s mouth and breathed into it. Squeezing her chest with two fingers, I pulled her back to life.

The vet took her from my arms in the exam room, and ushered me out. In the lobby, I cried over Sacha. The vet took me back to see her hours later.

I found her in a plastic enclosure with a cone around her head and gauze wrapped around her paw. Turning to the vet, I was crying again.

“Sacha has a throat infection that spread into her lungs. We’ve given her a starting IV dose of doxycycline and are waiting for the tests to come back. She’s on oxygen for now. If everything goes well, she should be ready to go home sometime this afternoon.”

“Thank you, Doctor. Can Sacha hear me?”

“Yes. Can you find your way back to the lobby?”

I nodded, fighting back tears. Putting my hand out to the glass, I talked to her.

She meowed back.

“Talk to me, please. Sacha!” I got strange looks, so I stopped.

I went into the lobby and was about to sit down. A kitten walked over to me to play with the felt on my sneakers. I knelt down. Picking up the cute kitten, I held her in my hands. “Hi, cutie.”

I strained to hear her speak. She purred, nestled into my palm and fell asleep. My shoulders fell. A girl with her mom came to retrieve their kitten.

I went to a pet store full of kittens in pens — not a peep out of any of them.

I went home, and I sat there, not taking my meds.

Days passed with me sneaking antibiotic pills into Sacha’s food and trying to make her talk.

Three days later, it happened. “Ella?”

Alone in my apartment with Sacha, I looked into my cat’s face.

Her lips moved to the words. “Ella, can you hear me?”

“I thought I’d never hear you speak again.”

“I’ve been talking for days. You couldn’t hear me, that’s all.”

Now that I was off my meds, would my shizo voice come back as well?

I walked to work, hearing a nasty whisper behind my back. It was Evil Ella — the voice that told me to lie, cheat, and steal. “Brian isn’t worth your time, Ella. Steve from work is gorgeous though. I wouldn’t mind sleeping with him.”

I said, “No.”

Evil Ella was like an idea. She would spread through my mind, affecting me in ways I couldn’t see until it was too late. I popped my pills that evening.

I asked Sacha what she wanted to eat. She just meowed.

I stood in my doctor’s office wearing the heels and the skinny jeans I’d had from my senior year of college with a dozen rips in it. “Dr. Tomlinson, could we try cutting back on my meds?”

He looked at the computer screen, scratching at his beard. “You’ve been going to therapy?”

I looked into his eyes, wondering what he would say. “For three years.”

He asked me a few more questions and gave me a new prescription.

I heard Evil Ella still. I had a wonderful conversation with Sacha though.

I made a deal with Evil Ella. I’d do things she wanted within reason, like buy those spike heels she wanted me to steal. Or tell the truth with my fingers crossed when she wanted me to lie.

Sacha swept through the apartment, knocking things over like my Grandmother’s favorite vase, shattering it.

I knelt on the floor, crying over it. “Sacha, what’s your damage?”

“Don’t know. Why don’t you tell me?”

I grabbed the spray bottle and chased her around the apartment, spraying until she was curled up in the corner, whimpering for me to stop it with the chilly water. I stopped after she was a little wet.

The little demon scratched me.

I walked away, holding my arm to get a bandage. With her screaming at me, I locked her in the cat carrier wearing the oven-mitts that reminded me of Mom’s cooking. I dropped her off at a neighbors.

I went to the clean smelling, empty Emergency Room to wait for hours with the Evil Sacha there to make me cry. With stitches and a prescription for antibiotics, I returned home to unlock Sacha from the pet carrier.

“Sacha, what’s going on?”

“You go out and bring Brian home to play. It’s so unfair.”

“You want a boyfriend?”

Sacha nodded.

I made her play dates with any cat I knew. Watching her play, I chatted with the owners and their cats when I could. Sasha found a boy cat she liked. I talked to the owner. Philippe — his cat — wasn’t going anywhere by the sound of it.

At Evil Ella and Sacha’s unending arguments, I parked outside Philippe’s apartment when Sacha was in the mood. She climbed the fire escape and snuck into Philippe’s apartment to bring him down to my car.

Philippe was a show cat. Sacha had begged me not to have her equipment removed. Her tubes were tied though. I dyed Philippe’s fur black with a fight.

I had Brian.

Sasha had Philippe.


Russian Exchange Student

A Short Work of Fiction

One decision can change everything.

I snuck into our cramped kitchen. My Mother’s and Father’s Russian mixed together in a fierce argument. I searched for the plane ticket Mother was taking to see her dear brother, Uncle Petr in America.

He’d lost his daughter. Did he need his sister or another daughter more?

I snuck into my room with Mother’s ticket and passport. Calling my friend, Alyosha I looked around my room one last time. A poster of New York City Uncle Petr sent us hung above my bed. It wouldn’t be a dream much longer.

Alyosha was my friend, but I wanted us to be more. Would he help me leave? Looking out my window, I called him to ask for a ride.

“I’ll drop you off. And a kiss?”

Biting my lip, I said, “Yes.”

I could make it to America. Nothing was hard about it. I put on my best dress. With my purse over my shoulder, I left the only room I’d known. Getting his text that he was waiting outside, I hoped my parents wouldn’t notice me walking out the front door with their bickering.

I got in the Taxi Alyosha drove when his Uncle was too sick to. That’s how it would be with Uncle Petr in New York, I’d drive his taxi when he couldn’t. I handed Alyosha the ticket and passport.

“You look close enough to your Mother. Say you quit smoking. Got any cash, Natalya?”

“I’ve been saving up.”

“That’s not enough.” He pulled out a wad of rubbles from his pocket. I never asked where he got the money from.

We stopped at his apartment for my luggage. We’d kept it there earlier.

We drove around before my flight. At the airport entrance, Alyosha handed over my suitcase. Tears came to my eyes. I looked around, whipping my head back and forth. That was my last chance to see Moscow.

Alyosha took my face in his hand. “Natalya, everything will be alright.”

Everything felt okay then. I kissed him on the lips. “Bye, Alyosha.”

I searched for where I needed to be. At the immigration counter, the man took my passport.

“You, thirty-eight?”

I nodded. “I quit smoking.”

“This you in the picture?”

“Need to see my ticket?” I scanned the crowd, waiting for his answer.


I handed over the ticket with all my money tucked underneath. “Please, I need to visit my Uncle. He’s dying.”

“Catch your flight.” He returned the ticket and passport, keeping the cash.

All my money was gone. I boarded the plane. A pretty college student sat down next to me, wearing better clothes than anything I’d ever owned.

The plane shook as it floated into the sky. I shook more than the plane ever did. The student, Sabina held my hand.

With the plane parked in New York, we waited for our luggage. Sabina got a pink suitcase, and mine never came.

I filled out a form for my lost luggage, putting down Petr’s address and phone number.

Borrowing Sabina’s phone, I called Petr. That wasn’t Petr’s number anymore. Sabina was the only friend I had now.

She got in a cab with me. We went to her apartment to regroup. A party was going on. People hugged Sabina right and left. We went into her bedroom, piled high with enough coat to drown. I stayed in there, while Sabina partied.

What was I doing in Sabina’s bedroom?

Sabina walked into the bedroom and shut the door.

I held my purse, shuddering — realizing that was all I had.

Sabina sat down next to me. “How old are you, again?”


She put a cup in my hand. “Couldn’t hurt. It’s a little vodka.”

I took a sip. My tongue burned.

She looked from the cup in my hands to my face. “You could be a model.” She fell into me. In the confusion, her lips met mine. 

I was on my feet and down the stairs before I knew what was happening. Waiting in the cool afternoon, I tried to call a cab.

Sabina came out of the apartment building. “I have no idea what happened back there. I can call you a cab if you want..”

I nodded.

“Do you want me to go with?”

“Sabina, I have to do this on my own.”

Sabina went back inside.

I shivered waiting there.

A taxi pulled up to the curb. I got in and showed him the address I had for Petr.

We stopped outside an apartment building better looking than anything we had in Moscow. I told the headscarfed taxi driver I’d be right back. There wasn’t any cash to pay the man. I went down the hall to 1C and knocked. A man wearing boxers came to the door.

“Petr Petrikov here?”

“Never heard the name.”

I walked away and cried in the hallway. How could I find Uncle Petr? I didn’t have money for the taxi, either. I had to run, but where? New York public libraries — the old music played through my head. I found a way out of the apartment away from my waiting cab.

I sprinted away, still needing directions. An hour later, I saw an old Russian woman that looked like my grandmother. I told her what was going on in Russian. I rode in a cab she paid for and ended up at the library. Finding a computer, I searched for Petr Petrikov.

I knocked on Petr’s door.

He wanted to know why I’d come.

“I always dreamed of living in New York.”

He rubbed his hands down his face. “I should call your mother, send you back.”

Tears came to my eyes. “I’ll do everything you say, Petr.”

Petr turned his back to me. “Where will I get food and clothes for you?”

“I’ll work, make money.”

He sighed. “Call your mother. Tell her you can stay.”

I worked at a coffee shop and went to school.

Uncle Petr got sick. I got another job taking care of him. Sometime in the night, he stopped breathing. I got a ticket back home with money I’d saved. Alyosha was waiting for me at the airport in Moscow.

I was back with a new dream, talking Alyosha back to America with me.