birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.


She slept in my suitcase. She napped on my chest. She sniffed out cheese popcorn and would insist on tasting the cheese dust on my hands. She was the seal of approval on the relationship that brought L into my life. She was a kitty arbiter of differentiation and quality moments.

I didn't know how that would work. I'd been allergic to many animals since childhood, but especially cats. From earliest memories and into college, just walking into a room where a kitty had been even days ago would bring on the sneezes, overwhelm the sinuses and essentially put me on my back if I stuck around too long. Which is a harsh reality when pretty much every cat and dog I ever met largely wanted to sit on me or lick my face. Kitty aversion was ingrained in my DNA.

So when I met L, and she spoke of how much cats were part of her essence, and that Cricket — aka Cricket Louise, aka Chiquita, aka the Girl From the Mean Streets of Hinsdale — was her girl and that they'd shared many a move and many a chat together, I knew the stakes were high for the interlocking dynamic of our man-woman-kitty relationship. As L had put it, someone who couldn't deal with her cat, couldn't be part of her life.

There was no winning over, no coercion. You learn with cats that they choose you. You may attempt to woo them, but they are wise to your obvious enticements. They choose you.

And Cricket Louise chose me. And she became my gateway kitty, the first ever whose engagement didn't send my into sneezing fits or racing for the Zyrtec. Later, there was Theda Bara. And now Little Bean.

But first there was Cricket, and she was a fit for me and I for her. Her endorsement was a building block of trust and new avenues with L. She pined when I left L's house to return to L.A. after each weekend visit, looking to the door to see if I'd be coming back in a moment or two. And when I returned at each successive visit, she claimed my luggage as her favorite nesting place.

I grew up with dogs and my allergies could cope. I grew as a person with cats.

Thanks, Cricket Louise, for showing the way.

Blue Jay

An indifferent relationship