4.17 – The Black Dragon

“It’s alright, Kat,” I said.

“RRROWWW!” HateKat said.

“It’s alright, Kat, It’s alright, It’s alright…”

“NO, IT’S NOT!”

“It’s alright, maybe there’s another Chinese place we can go to.”

“NONE OF THE OTHER ONES ARE ANY GOOD!”

“It’s alright, let’s just go anyway.”

“FINE, WE’VE ALREADY GONE TO THIS MUCH TROUBLE!”

Then we got back in the car and she hate-drove us to a place further down the street called The Black Dragon. It was in a dingy old stripmall, and their window had a picture of a horrible, mean-looking, flame-mouth, flyingbeast with chopsticks in his claws. I didn’t want to go in at all, but arguing with HateKat about it was out of the question.

When we got inside it smelled bad, and everything was stained, and there was no hostess.

“THIS PLACE IS SO BAD! HateKat said. “THEY JUST EXPECT US TO SEAT OURSELVES?!”

Only half of the tables were set, and the one we picked wobbled. Then HateKat made us move to another table, and that one wobbled, too.

“THEY PROBABLY ALL WOBBLE!”

And then we just stayed at that one.

“THE SILVERWARE IS SMUDGED! AND WHY IS IT TAKING THEM SO LONG?!”

“It’s al…”

“STOP SAYING IT’S ALRIGHT!”

Eventually a waitress appeared and we were able to order General Tso’s Chicken. When it got there, it was somehow just as good as Golden Lion’s, maybe even better and maybe even better than Wolf’s. It’s goopy brown batter was so sweet but also so spicy, and the chicken was piping hot, and the rice was pure, and the broccoli was crunchy, and it had lots of adorable baby corn.

“Yum” we both said.

It was so good it actually helped calm Kat down out of her HateKat state.

“Well, I did always like getting General Tso’s with you,” she said.

“MeToo,” I said.

“So we didn’t really get a chance to talk last night. Why are you out West again? For school or something.”

“Kinduv.”

“Like grad school?”

“I don’t really wanna talk about it.”

“But I actually have no idea what you’ve been doing for the last couple years.”

“Oh, ya know, nothing really…”

“Why’s it got to be such a big mystery? Just tell me.”

“Maybe cuz it’s something you don’t like.”

“What is it? RockNRoll School? Are you trying to be a RockStar, cuz the odds of you making it are so…”

“No, you’ll hate it worse than that.”

“The only thing more impractical than that would be trying to be a Reality Traveler or something.”

I didn’t say anything.

“But you’re not a Reality Traveler,” she said.

“Actually…” I said.

I flinched back waiting for The HateKat to strike across the wobbly table with knifey claws that I’d have to Roll With. But it didn’t come. Instead she just let out a deep sigh.

“You?… but aren’t ‘reality travelers’ supposed to go out and meet lots of people. You never made any friends at ALC except for me. You never even left Our Own Place.”

I shrugged.

“I mean, isn’t it just something insecure kids make up to feel important anyway?”

“No, it’s a real thing. There’s a whole Training School for it I just graduated from.”

“But what are you going to do for a career?”

“Deliver pizza very part time.”

“Seriously?”
“Maybe drive a cab very part time one day.”

“But those aren’t Adult jobs.”

“Reality Travelers aren’t supposta become Adults. It makes us sick.”

“That makes no sense.”

“It’s alright…”

“Why didn’t you tell me all this before?”

“Sorry. I wanted to be in Love with you more than Reality Travel. But then I realized it was time for me to fly. Like the REO Speedwagon song.”

“Well, I do like Speedwagon.”

“MeToo.”

“But, I just feel bad for you.”

“It’s alright, Kat.”

Then we didn’t know what to say after that. The waitress came back with the check.

“I guess I’m getting this,” Kat said, and I let her.

“I’ve gotta go cat-sit now,” she said.  “You’ve got a place to stay tonight, right?”

“Yeah,” I said. “El Puma Reality.”

Then we left.

4.11 – Katfight

“I’m concerned,” Kat said one day at Our Own Place.

I’d just woken up in a stupor from one of my Benadryl naps. My eyes were crusty, and tissues were jammed up each nostril, and everything itched. I hadn’t made it to class. I’d just stayed on the couch and ate snacks and watched TV all day.

“It doesn’t seem like you’re trying hard enough to be an Adult,” she said.

“What do you mean?” I said.

“Well, for one, you’re supposed to have a job by now.”

I’d actually gotten a job at The Radio. I thought it would be easy cuz I liked listening to the Radio so much, but it was actually hard. You hadta go to the station for hours without leaving, while some Boss Reality told you what to do. I wanted them to ask me to help them pick out good songs to play, but instead they told me to answer the phone and copy papers and make coffee. They didn’t even pay me, cuz they said it was something called an ‘internship’ that was only meant to possibly lead to an actual paying Adult Career sometime in the future. Every day I was supposta work my allergies got way worse, and the Benadryl Perception didn’t even help. Some days, like the second day, I’d feel so crappy I wouldn’t even want to go, and then some days, like the third day, I just stopped going at all.

“It’s not fair,” Kat said. “I’m working sixty hours a week and you’re working zero.”

“You don’t understand, Kat,” I said. “I think jobs make me sick.”

“That’s just your cat allergy.”

“But I started sneezing worse when I was at The Radio Station, and there weren’t any cats there.”

“Then maybe you were allergic to something else there. Just go find another job.”

“But every time I go somewhere to pick up an application the same thing happens. I get all snotgross, and the managers give me a look. I’m telling you, I think I may be allergic to jobs in general.”

“Maybe you’re not allergic to anything at all. Maybe you’re just lazy.”

“But, you’ve seen me sneezing.”

“Even so, it almost seems as if you don’t even want to be an Adult.”

“I swear I’m trying.”

“Well, try harder. Adults don’t get up in the afternoon and watch TV on the couch all day. Adults don’t have their parents pay for everything. Adults get some job, even if it’s a bad one, because they just have to.”

“It’s alright, Kat. I’ll get more applications tomorrow.”

“Eh,” she said.

Then she ended up taking her shower alone that night.

4.9 – Kat Bed

After the pancakes Kat hadta go straight to bed so she could get up early for her job, and I went with her even tho I wasn’t tired at all. She took off her dress and got in bed in her underwear. And then I joined her in my underwear. I put my arm around her, and her she was right up against me.

“Hey, Kat,” I said, “let’s take a shower.”

“It’s late,” she said.

“In the morning then.”

“You won’t get up.”

“I’ll make sure I do.”

“You’ll get up in the afternoon.”

Kat nuzzled in even closer tho, so I started rubbing up and down her arms.

“Prr,” she said.

It encouraged me and then I started rubbing other things.

“Prr, prr,” she said.

Then I started rubbing even other things. The purring got louder and so did her breathing.

It was clear we were being TimeWarped into Love, and our underwear was getting in the way.  We just starting taking them off when Your Son jumped on the bed and sat on the top of my head and started licking my hair. I tried to shoo him away, but he was on there good. And it didn’t take long before I felt a burning inside my nose. I tried to fight it, but it was too powerful, and suddenly snot came exploding out and some of it got on Kat.

“Ew!” she said.

“It’s alright!” I said.

And then I sneezed again and then again and then a bunch of times in a row after that.

“Ugh,” Kat said, “Hold on, I think we’ve got some Benadryl.”

Benadryl is a Medicine Perception about getting rid of allergies. It’s very effective, but it also makes you very drowsy.

She came back with a couple pills and a glass of water. I swallowed them, and then I started to feel the old familiar Benadryl Perception I used to hafta be in all the time. My eyes got heavy and my body sunk into the bed, and I didn’t have the motivation to do anything anymore, let alone Love. I briefly wondered what Wolf would think of such a Perception and then fell into a deep sleep.

4.8 – Our Own Place

After our first year together Kat and I decided we Loved each other enough to live all the time in the same apartment, so we got Our Own Place. I was very excited cuz then I only hadta go to ALC just for classes and didn’t have to deal with the MeNotzie Dorms anymore. Kat had just graduated tho and had her own plans.

“I think since we have Our Own Place, we should start living like Adults now,” she said.

“What do you mean?” I said.

“I mean like we both get jobs, and we go to them every day during the week. And then on the weekends we go out and do things like buy furniture or paint the walls new colors. And we become experts on things like houseplants and coupons. And we get a kitten and raise it like our child!”

“I guess so,” I said.

So on the first day of Our Own Place we went to the pet store. On the way there was something I wanted to show Kat. I’d driven back and forth between OIC(R) and JONYCC a few times by then and had had a lot of time in Alone Reality listening to The Radio and discovered something. Whenever I tried to sing along to a song I was able to sound exactly like the singer. It was strange cuz most things I did at first I was a bad amateur at them, but singing didn’t seem to need any experience for me to be good. I just seemed to know by instinct how to make the air go off the right spots in my throat to match the pitch. I was even able to copy some of the most high and powerful ones.

“Hey, Kat,” I said, “listen to this…”

Then I put in The You&Me Mix to “I Wanna Know What Love Is.”

“Aw,” she said. “It’s our song.”

“Yeah, but listen to me sing it.”

I was nailing it right away on the verse. Then came the little pre-chorus part where Lou Gramm goes “in my life there’s been heartache and pain,” and the vocals suddenly get very high and powerful and I almost got it.

“You’re straining,” Kat said.

“But didn’t you hear?” I said. “I was hitting every pitch up until that last high and powerful one. And I think I can even hit that if I warm up a little. Maybe I should take Voice Training at Artsy Lawless.”

“Eh.”

I’d never heard Kat say that word before then.

“What’s eh?” I said.

“‘Eh’ is I used to take those kinds of classes too,” she said, “but they don’t help you at all when you become an Adult.”

“But what if I have some kind of natural talent?”

“You need to take classes that help you get a job. Like if you take math&science classes it can lead to you becoming a doctor. Then you’ll have a steady Adult salary that allows you to pay for all the things you need to survive.”

“But I don’t like math&science. I like singing a lot tho.”

“I’m telling you as someone who’s just graduated and out in The World now, singing is a waste of time.”

I started singing along with the song again anyway. I wanted to prove to Kat I really could nail every note.  The next time the chorus came along, you couldn’t tell any difference between my voice and Lou Gramm’s.

“Stop,” she said. “You’re ruining the song.”

“But I got it.  Didn’t you hear?”

“I put Foreigner on the mix, because I wanted to hear Foreigner, not Jonathan.”

Then I hadta shut up and decide not to sing in front of her again.

When we got to the pet store there was a really cute gray tabby that Kat had to have. She picked it up and snuggled it against her and it licked her face.

“He Loves me!” she said.

Then she handed it to me, and it licked my face too.

“Aw,” she said, “he Loves you too. It’s like he’s Your Son.”

“Alright,” I said.

But then the place where he licked got red and itchy, and my nose started sneezing.

“I think I’m allergic to it,” I said.

“But we have to get him. We Love him,” she said.

“What if I just sneeze all the time tho?”

“We’ll just get you some allergy medicine. You’ll be fine.”

“I guess so.”

Then we got Your Son.

4.7 – LoveKat

Eventually the Road-80 traffic started moving again, but it took so long there was no way I’d be on time for Kat Reality. The Goddess of Faith gave me some more IAB! when she said goodbye, but it wasn’t long after she’d flown high into the sky toward the sun that Kat called and it all wore off. I didn’t even answer. I just started making Wings go as fast as it could, even tho it was against the law. I even sped right past a sign that said “The Wilderness, PA,” even tho I knew the right Traveler thing to do was Sidetrack into BigFoot’s hometown. I felt like every second counted, and there was just no way.

When I finally got to Kat’s parents’ house it was way after dinnertime. I stayed in her driveway for an extra second to prepare myself. I knew I couldn’t forget a Grounding Device like the last Past Reality, so I tried staring at my Bluebird Sticker long enough for it to stick on the inside of my brain. Then I sighed and grabbed The Mix and put another old delivery sticker on that and wrote…

Play Kat

track 6

and sing

I crossed my fingers and got outta the car.

When I got to the door Kat was already standing there in a sparkly gold dress and makeup, which she rarely wore. She was frowning at me.

“You’re really late,” she said.

“It’s alright, Kat,” I said. “There was construction on Road-80 and they stupidly closed every lane except one and you hadta wait for a guy with a stop sign to tell you you could go…”

But before I could finish she pounced on me with a big hug.

“Oh, I don’t care,” she said. “I’m just glad you got here safe!”

“Really?”

“Of course, now give Your Son a hug.”

Your Son was the kitten we’d had together. He was right at her side, but when I went down to squeeze him he squirmed out of my arms and ran away. It made me remember cats only Love you when they want to.

“Aw,” Kat said. “He’s just shy today.”

She was looking at me totally like the LoveKat, the thing she was before she became the HateKat. I figured there must’ve been some kinda TimeWarp at play for her.

“Are you hungry?” she asked.

“Very,” I said.

“Well, it’s too late to go to The Golden Lion, but there’s lots of food here. I can make you something.”

“Alright!”

Kat was very good at the kitchen and knew how to make almost everything on The Great List of Food.

“What do you want?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“You had your mind set on General Tso’s Chicken, and now you can’t think of anything else, right?”

“Yes, that’s exactly what’s happening.”

“I know you.”

Then she smiled and gave me another hug.

“I can think of something else you like,” she said.

“What?”

“Apple pancakes.”

“You’re right, I do like those!”

“With the apples in the batter instead of that gross apple syrup on top like at the diner.”

“Yes, I like it that way!”

Then she went into the kitchen and started working on it. She gave me a package of fudge grams to snack on while I waited. And then she did all her mixing and griddling and things in her cute outfit, and I hadta keep coming up from behind and squeezing her.

“Haha, stop,” she said. “I’m doing things.”

“But when you’re doing things is when I like to squeeze you the most!” I said and squeezed her again hard.

When she was almost ready she told me to set the table with plates and silverware and maple syrup. Soon she came out with a big platter full of fat apple pancakes, and she scooped them onto my plate, and I covered them in the syrup.

“Oh, I almost forgot something,” she said.

Then she left and came back in a second with a cold can of Dr. Pepper.

“Alright!” I said.

Then I ate the pancakes and washed them down with Dr. Pepper.

“Do you like it?” she said.

“I love it all!” I said.

We smiled at each other as we ate. The TimeWarp was strong and I wondered if we’d even have Love again. I remembered everything was perfect when we were at her parents’ house. It was only when we lived together at Our Own Place that things started going bad.

4.6 – Track #12 of The Great Trip Mix – Foreigner’s “I Wanna Know What Love Is”

Kat was the only one I could trust at Artsy Lawless. Whenever I was at The Dorms the MeNotzies would get me. Like the time I put up the Mariah Carey poster on my wall. The poster would look over at me and smile, and sometimes at night when it was all quiet in Alone Reality she would sing lullabies. I thought it was safely hidden in my room, but the MeNotzies got in there somehow and saw it and told me it was “wrong” and “destroying music and Reality Travel” and made me take it down. Kat saw me rolling up the poster and stuffing it under my bed and felt bad.

“You don’t have to be at The Dorms all the time,” she said. “You can come hang out with me at my parents’ house. It’s really close by, and I can drive us there, and we can listen to Old Hits Radio on the way and then order Chinese Food and watch TV.”

“Yes,” I said. “I like all of those things.”

Kat’s house was just like my parents’ Nest, and it had a high fence around it, and when you were inside you didn’t even realize you were in Just-Outside-NewYorkCity County. It was even easy to MeToo Kat’s parents. They liked the same music and food and TV as me, and they let me stay overnight a lot.

One time we were in Kat’s bedroom, and she was showing me all her music mixes. She would take all her favorite Old Hits and arrange them by what the songs were about like Up n’ Down, Hot n’ Cold, Heaven n’ Hell, and Food Songs. She showed me a new one she’d just made called You n’ Me. Every song on it was about Love, and the first track was her favorite Foreigner song, “I Wanna Know What Love Is.”

“I Wanna Know What Love Is,” is a song about someone who doesn’t know what Love is and wants someone else to show them. Sometimes you think someone is showing you what Love is, but it turns out they’re actually showing you what Love isn’t. Then you still don’t know what Love is and have to find someone else to show you.

Kat liked the song cuz she’d always wanted to know what Love is, but no one had shown her correctly yet. I liked it for the same reason, and when we listened it made us start to kiss each other. It lasted for awhile, and Kat was purring the whole time, and it soon became obvious she wanted me to show her what Love is.

“I think it’s time for me to take my nightly shower,” she said.

“Oh,” I said.

“Do you wanna come with me?”

“Yes.”

Then we went to the bathroom and took our clothes off, and Kat’s naked body had everything I liked about naked bodies. We stepped into the tub and she turned on the water. There was only enough spray to cover one person completely, so to stay warm we had to stand together closely like we were just one person. We kissed some more, and then Kat got the soap and rubbed it all over both of us until our bodies were covered in suds, and they were very smooth and easily slid together.  Then she took one of my soapy parts and I took one of her soapy parts, and we combined them to show each other what Love is. We held each other up and showed each other over and over and over until Love came out all over our bodies. It was sticky for a second, but the shower quickly washed it all down the drain.

“I Love you,” she said.

“I Love you, too,” I said.

And then I didn’t care if I was a Reality Traveler or not anymore.

4.4 – Artsy Lawless College

I first heard about Artsy Lawless College from La Renarde. She always said college wouldn’t be Reality Travel enough for her, and as soon as HighSchool was over she was going to the far off and exciting Realities of Paris, France. But she did say if she was going to college she’d only go to Artsy Lawless in Just-Outside-NewYorkCity County, New York.

Artsy Lawless is a college about art and lawlessness. Most colleges are Future Adult Training Schools, and they have lotsa Rules to make sure you become one. Like you hafta  train to be a specific kind of Adult, like Lawyer-Adult or Doctor-Adult.  And you can’t take more than one Art Training class cuz no Adult job will ever need it.  And you hafta take a math class so you get used to how boring an Adult job will be. But at ALC they don’t care if their students ever become Adults, and there are almost no Rules. Students can take classes in whatever they want, even if it’s all art.

La Renarde said tons of Reality Travelers went there, and it was a big MeToo Party all the time. I also liked the idea of taking nothing but music classes and getting a real college degree just by writing papers on The Great List of Songs. So that’s where I went.

When I got there tho, nothing was like I thought it would be. Just-Outside-NewYorkCity County was like one endless Downtown OIC(R). It was full of huge and close together rundown buildings with tough-faced MeNotzie types hanging around. The ALC campus was a little island of trees and grass in the middle of it, but you hadta stay in The Dorms and live with a bunch of New Realities. They all came from different far off and exciting places, and looked like no animal I’d seen before. They all seemed like some kinduv ancient Greek mythological creature, half wing&talon bird and half monster-roar lion.

The first night there was a party in The Dorms so all the New Realities could start to MeToo. There was loud music and Alcohol Perception, and Realities gathered in small groups to talk. I joined one of the groups talking about songs. They went around with each Reality saying a song or band they liked, and then everyone else trying to MeToo them. They were all like La Renarde tho, and none of the things they said were Hits on The Radio, and I couldn’t MeToo any of them. When it got to me I knew saying something like Journey or Mariah Carey would be way too risky.

“I like Blondie,” I said.

No one said anything for a second. Then one half bird/half lion started laughing. Then all the others did too. They noticed I wasn’t laughing tho.

“Oh,” a mythological creature said, “he’s actually serious.”

“Old Hits Radio,” another one said, “ew.”

Then everyone started laughing again.

“But I only like the ones they don’t play on The Radio,” I lied, “like ‘Sunday Girl.’”

“But they play so many of their songs on The Radio none of their other songs count,” a classical monster explained.

“Gawd,” another one said, “Blondie’s like ‘Mom-Music.’”

Then everyone laughed the hardest, and I didn’t know what else to do but leave the group and the party and get to Alone Reality right away. It was all going on right outside my room tho, so I hadta go all the way outside. Even out there New Realities were all over the place laughing and drinking and MeNotting things, so I hadta go hide behind some trees so no one could see me at all.

“Ah, thank Gods, I’m back in Alone Reality,” I said to myself.

I was thinking about the horrible mistake I’d just made going to a MeNotzie college instead of a Reality Traveler college and wondering if I was allowed to drive back home to Ohio right away, when I heard a rustling in the trees next to me. It was bigger than a squirrel and heading right towards me. I ducked down so it couldn’t get me, but it did anyway.

“Hey,” it said, “What’s wrong?”

I looked up, and it was not a half bird/half lion but a whole cute-as-a-kitten girl. I didn’t know if she might still be a sneaky scratch-claw kinda cat, and I tried to ignore her, but she didn’t go away.

“It’s alright,” she said. “I’m one of the good ones. You can talk to me.”

Then she reached out her hand.

“I’m Kat,” she said.

I hesitantly shook it and told her my name.

“Nice to meet you,” she said. “You’re new, aren’t you?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, I’ve been at this place for three years and can tell you everything about it. First thing you need to know is everyone at this school is mean. They all think they’re this thing called a ‘Reality Traveler’ and that makes them better than everyone else. I only go here because I grew up like right next door, and they let you take more than one theatre class. I’m not a Reality Traveler at all.”

I didn’t tell her I was a Reality Traveler, cuz I was getting the sense that everything at the school was backwards, and the Reality Travelers were actually MeNotzies, and the MeNotzies were actually Reality Travelers. It seemed like Kat might be on my side even if she called herself the wrong thing.

“So what’s wrong?” she said. “Why are you out here by yourself?”

Then I told her what happened at the party.

“Yeah,” she said, “they don’t like the same songs as me either. My favorite band is Foreigner.”

Foreigner is a band about being the closest thing to Journey. They both had a lot of hits during the exact same years, and their lead singer Lou Gramm is nearly as high and powerful as Steve Perry.

“I like Foreigner,” I said. “And Journey is actually my favorite band.”

“I like Journey, too,” Kat said. “When I was a kid my dad would drive me places and play The Radio and teach me about all the Good Old Songs.”

“Hey, I would do the same thing with my Mom!” I said.

Then we ended up talking under the trees for a long time.