Beware of working with kids and animals. I first heard that advice in reference to movies. When I dreamt up Sia Temple for The Book Of Witness, this advice struck me.
What did I end up doing in Bell The Cat? I doubled down. I wrote a story about a child and an animal.
The way I saw it, as a writer if you’re going to commit the cardinal sin of writing a story told from the point of view of a child, why not throw a cat in there too for good measure?
I don’t know if the short story “Bell The Cat” is really about a cat and a frightened little girl though. For me, the story is about strange patterns of behavior. Sia Temple is child seeking escape from her bickering parents. Consequently, she spends her days alone in the barn. The family’s barn cat (nature’s most willful miscreant) does the bidding of another.
Capturing strange behavior was my motivator for “Bell The Cat”. Even a slight variation on what we understand as “normal” has the capacity to frightens us to the core. Any detection of an unnatural action and movement is one of our primitive protections.
There is a distinct jolt when we experience our sense of order upside down.
Sia and Jasper are, I think, expressions of that fear, as subtle as that may be. Looking back at how the finished short story played out, I feel like there also a host of questions.
Where did Sia end up going after telling her story? Why did her teacher “Bell The Cat” go batty after moving to Portland? And what is Doctor Aldous going to do with the manuscript?