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BackStory: Otto – by Daniel Weinshenker

STORYCENTER Blog

We are pleased to present posts by StoryCenter staff, storytellers, colleagues from partnering organizations, and thought leaders in Storywork and related fields.

BackStory: Otto – by Daniel Weinshenker

Emily Paulos

Here's how BackStory works:

Someone submits a photo, and we ask our readers to write and submit their 250-300 word BackStory – what they think the story behind the photo is... everything you can't see in the picture.

The owner of the photo – in this instance our very own Daniel Weinshenker – picked his favorite submission, "Spartacus" by Rod Thorn, and we're posting it, along with the real BackStory, "Otto."

If you have a photo that you'd like to submit to BackStory, please email it to blog@storycenter.org and we will consider it for a future posting.

Thanks!

– Storycenter Blog Team

Spartacus

by Rod Thorn

I am so pissed. Listen, Cat Scratch Fever was my song. I wrote it. I played it for that rat-bastard Ted Nugent and he stole it. Made shitloads of money. Bought guns. Lots of guns. And now he wants everybody else to have guns. Wants people to shoot animals. Shoot each other. That’s one sick son of a bitch, I tell you. And to think that it was my song that started it. . . that made it possible for him to do what he’s doing. . . well that just makes me want to throw up. And I can’t imagine hating anyone more than I hate him.

And now, as bad as he is. . . as cynical and opportunistic and devious as he is. . . you’re worse. And you know why. If you look at yourself. . . look really deep down inside where there’s no room for bullshit you’ll admit that you’re worse than Nugent. I mean, you call us “dumb animals.” And yet you’re the one who’s trying to cut my nuts off. Even Nugent’s not trying to do that. He may want to shoot me, but he’s leaving my nuts alone. No, you’re the one who’s trying to lure me into the car with that ridiculous fake kissing sound you make with your lips when you want me to come. I have a name, you idiot. It’s Spartacus. The least you could do is call me by my name. And be honest about what you’re up to. Give me the respect I deserve. Give me a chance to decide if I want my own nuts chopped off, thank you very much. What gives you the right to say what I do with my nuts? How about if I cut your nuts off? How’d you like that? Yeah, you call it “neuter” but that’s a clinical thing you say to divorce you from the violence of your actions.

You say you’re doing it to protect my health. That’s a lie. You’re doing it because you don’t like me running off for months at a time and coming back with half an ear. You’re doing it because you don’t like me sharpening my claws on your precious furniture. And you’re doing it because you don’t want me knocking up the neighbor’s cats anymore. Listen, I get it. And maybe what you want to do is actually good for my health. But for Christ’s sake don’t lie to me and don’t treat me like a kitten that doesn’t know any better. Don’t make me put you and Nugent in the same camp. Cat Scratch Fever my ass. I am Spartacus and I have a say.

Otto

by Daniel Weinshenker

I don’t have any bumperstickers on my car.

I noticed this a few years ago. Nothing… and justified it by saying that I didn’t need to share my views with anyone.

But I didn’t have any. Truth.

It was probably my dad, leaning against the oxidized green Volvo sedan, who took it. It can’t imagine it had been anyone else.

Strange, maybe, because while I remember the sound of the Volvo as the RPM needle rose, and my father driving it, I usually remember him on the other side, kneeling down by the flower beds.

He had planted a vegetable garden in the back yard the day they brought me home from the hospital. He grew zucchini as big as baseball bats that no one ate.

My brother had Jimmie Foxx and Christy Mathewson and Hank Greenberg from this old baseball dice game, or maybe Godzilla, and eventually Bowie.

But a hero… I didn’t have one of those. I’m not sure I knew that. I wasn’t looking for one.

Otto had always been good. A cat. A good cat. Nothing more. Later we would have ten more, but Otto was our first.

We had magnolia trees out front with their flowers that would go from crushed white velvet to brown rot and the neighbors whose son Todd had said he wished we’d died with the rest of the Jews once when we were on their trampoline, and there was Mr. Christmas, the mailman with greased-back, thinning hair and slanted front teeth and pit stains who’d come up the front walkway leaning sideways with his bag and, thumbing through the envelopes, say to my father who was usually kneeling down in the flower beds, "Shouldn’t your wife be doing that?"

I remember wanting to say something, but didn’t. I don’t remember my dad saying anything either, just taking the mail from him.

I don’t know how many times this happened.

And then one day he came up the walk again, this time bending down to pet Otto, who was getting old and sometimes cranky – a feline schizophrenia. There was a hiss maybe and then a scream. Otto tore a strip of flesh from his arm and ran away with it.

That night I remember me and my brother cheering at the dinner table with the corning ware and the red snapper.

And then I remember needing to say goodbye to Otto. Not that night or even the next one, but soon. How we would get sued unless we did it. And my brother crying all night.

My father buried Otto’s ashes in the backyard, next to the zucchini plant.

Look at him.

He died for us.

And maybe that’s what my bumper sticker should say.