Blessing Culver vs Dutch Simmons
Benny’s Good Pal Mr. Kitty
Here is Mr. Kitty, sitting on the end of the bed, staring across the sheets at Benny Boppit.
Here is Benny Boppit, sitting up in bed, and staring across the sheets back at Mr. Kitty.
Benny is a little boy, and Mr. Kitty is a small brown dog with long floppy ears. You may think, “Then why is this stuffing filled little dog called Mr. Kitty”, and Benny would answer, “He’s just that sort of dog.”
Wrapped in his green dinosaur sheets, sitting in the dark, Benny had just awoke from a dream. Benny had many dreams, and most of them were good ones, full of sunshine and little babbling brooks, but this dream, this was a bad one. He decided to tell Mr. Kitty. He said, “Mr. Kitty, did you know I just had a dream? Do you want to hear about it?”
Eyes glinting strangely, pushing his long floppy ears back so he could see, and sitting up straight, Mr. Kitty said, “Yes.”
“I dreamed I was sitting in bed. Kind of like this. I was sitting in bed and then I heard something walking around outside my room. All creaky and heavy. Then I heard something knock at the door. I was afraid to get up. The room was dark, and the dark is a little bit scary, and the door was really far away and was getting farther every second, but I got up anyway.”
Benny leaned in closer to Mr. Kitty, squinting to see him in the dark. He whispered.
“When I got the door, I said “Hello”, but nobody answered. I opened the door anyways, and when I did, no one was there. The hallway was just dark, and I didn’t know where the light switch was, but I still wanted to turn on the light because it was dark, and well... I’m scared of the dark. So, I stepped into the hallway and I tried to feel on the wall for the light but...guess what I dreamed then.”
Mr. Kitty didn’t answer Benny.
“I dreamed that I couldn’t find the wall anymore, and I couldn’t remember where my room was, and it was just black around me, and the floor was gone and the walls were gone and I was falling and I was just falling, falling, falling, dropping down, down in the dark, and I was screaming and crying and the air got colder and colder and everything got louder and louder until my skin felt like it was peeling off and my ears felt like they would burst and eyes were bulging and pulsing and my teeth chattered so hard I thought they would break apart and I would never see them again and sometimes, Mr. Kitty, I saw things in there with me. They were cold. They almost touched me. They got so close... I kept waiting to hit the ground, like Alice, from that story Dad read us, remember? But I just fell forever. Forever and ever and ever. And ever.”
Benny didn’t remember, but while he was falling, he heard a song that went like this:
It’s quite funny,
That you jumped down that hole.
It opened up wide,
so you couldn’t hide,
And it swallowed you whole.
Benny shivered, smiled toothily, and said, “But then I woke up, so it’s all okay now, right Mr. Kitty?”
He looked over at Mr. Kitty and waited for a response, and the room was very dark, and very quiet.
Suddenly, Mr. Kitty said, “Are you sure that was your dream?”
“What?” Benny said.
“I said, ‘Are you sure that was your dream?’”
“Sure? I don’t know about sure, Mr. Kitty.”
“Well, Benny Boppit, I think you dreamed something else. I think you dreamed there was something under your bed.”
Benny was shocked. “Under my bed?” he said.
Mr. Kitty moved a little closer to Benny, crawling slightly forward, his long floppy ears dragging laboriously on the bed.
“Yes, Benny Boppit, under your bed. And I think there’s something under there now.”
Benny sat and pondered that, spreading his hands against his sheets, scratching his head, twiddling his thumbs, and then he said, “Do you really think that, Mr. Kitty? Do you really think there’s something under my bed?”
“Yes, Benny. I do think it. I think it. I think it. I think it. “
When someone repeats something, especially more than three times, it means its true, and Benny knew that, so he said, “I believe you, Mr. Kitty. But... is it good, what’s under there? I think it should be good.”
His little black eyes shining, his face stretching wider and wider from a grin, and inching slightly forward, Mr. Kitty said, “It’s very good, Benny, you’ll like it a lot.”
Dropping down to the floor, his dinosaur sheets following after and draping over the edge of the bed, little Benny Boppit slowly pushed the sheets away and peered under his shadowy bed, and saw a hole! A hole in the floor! A perfectly circular hole in the floor under the bed!
He then looked up and saw, across the hole, a dark shape that may or may not have been Mr. Kitty. Benny couldn’t tell very well in the dark.
Benny said, “Mr. Kitty? There’s a hole. You see it? Do you think I should jump in? I could go to Wonderland!”
“Yes, Billy. Do it Billy.”
Benny hesitated. It was dark in the whole. Benny didn’t like the dark.
Frightened now, he said, “I’m not sure.”
“DO IT BENNY! DO IT BENNY!” Mr. Kitty shouted.
Benny laid down flat on his stomach and dragged his tiny body to the edge of the hole. When he reached the edge, he looked down, but he couldn’t see the bottom,.
“Mr. Kitty?” he said timidly.
“Yes, Benny Boppit?”
It was Mr. Kitty’s voice, but it was gravely, and it was like his tongue was made of dirt, and his throat is full of worms. There was a weird rotting, putrid smell growing stronger with each second. Benny thought that was strange. He quietly asked, “Are you sure this is a good idea?”
Mr. Kitty said, “Sure? Yes, sure. In fact, I’ll jump in right after you and be your white rabbit.”
The smell got stronger.
“But... the rabbit goes first.”
The shape grew bigger.
“It doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t matter. Jump.”
Benny blinked twice, and tried through the darkness, but then said, “Okay. I’ll see you there. I want to meet the Cheshire Cat first!”
With the dark shape across from him watching and growing bigger all the while, Benny took a deep breath, smiled, and went headfirst into the hole.
He was immediately surrounded by darkness. He was alone, and he fell forever.
A Brief Note on Carnations
I don’t believe carnations are real flowers.
I say this as I stare at the melamine-wrapped bouquet slumbering on top of the pile of garbage in the trashcan outside the bar. The reflecting moonlight bathes the flowers in a gaudy opalescent hue further adding to the artificiality of the bouquet.
Because carnations aren’t real flowers. They are the daydreams of hopeless romantics and manufactured in a secret lab and mass distributed to supermarkets and bodegas.
At some point or another in my life, I have seen every flower that my florist displays, thriving in the wild or its respective native habitat. Lilies formed an intoxicating blanket as honeymoon lovemaking among hidden trails on the big island of Hawaii occurred with reckless abandon.
A patchwork quilt of tulips danced and bowed under the gentle breeze of Dutch windmills as I sat mesmerized high on hashish.
Rivulets of blood have flown freely from hastily plucked roses from a neighbor’s garden in a last minute attempt to appear as an old-souled romantic on countless first dates that never went anywhere.
But I have never seen carnations.
In grade school art classes, we were taught how to make carnations out of intricately folded tissues; our childhood foray into floral origami. We were encouraged to give them to our “significant others” in full view of the class on Valentine’s Day. There was no escaping the humiliation; you couldn’t hide from an unrequited flower delivery.
As a kid, I collected daisies, black-eyed Susans and daffodils by the fistful in the meadows that would be plowed under and turned into condominiums that we could never afford. My mother was so eager to receive the ragged bouquet I created she dropped her lit Virginia Slim into the thick rust-colored shag carpet nearly burning our two-bedroom efficiency to the ground.
As an adult, I grew hydrangeas in my back yard. I became a mad alchemist and tinkered with soil acidity to change the showy mopheads from a psychedelic Jimi Hendrix purple, to a cotton candy pink whenever the mood suited me.
Like Frankenstein’s monster I became an expert at reanimating hyacinth bulbs after an extended slumber in my freezer. I sniffed their exorbitant fragrance until I grew nauseated.
Every summer I measured my son’s growth as he stood next to the sunflowers that grew in the garden. They dwarfed him initially; benevolent giant yellow cyclops that cast a weary-eye upon his wayward toddling steps.
But I never saw carnations.
I pulled the bouquet from the garbage and turned it over in the moonlight. Even the reflected shadows seemed exaggerated and untrue. The blood red and bone white of the flowers flashed a malevolence reserved for a car wreck, which seemed fitting.
You can’t apologize with fake flowers; it means the apology was as insincere and artificial as the flowers themselves. Whatever the trespass was, it would be repeated.
You can’t say I love you with artificial flowers. Like the flowers themselves, the love isn’t real either. Showy and boastful in an instance, manufactured on the spot with some end game in mind. Maybe meaningless sex so quick, the relationship would be over before the flowers began to wilt.
Whoever received the flowers understood the true nature of carnations. They don’t exist in nature and therefore, they didn’t deserve a presence in their life.
They found their rightful home with the rest of the castaway detritus.