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Cat Campbell

Here, There

I started in the corner house in Bellflower. That was where we had citrus and plum trees and where my dad built the playhouse in the back and he bounced us on the eucalyptus limb in the front and I found a dead sparrow and we buried it after mommy told me about God. There our neighbors had an avocado tree and my parents were happy together and I felt the earthquake as I sat watching robot cartoons in the den and the walls started shaking and the white figurines on the shelf fell and shattered on the floor, like lovely plaster bombs detonating around me.

Then came the condo, where I called 911 just to see what would happen and hung up when the woman answered and I pretended to be lost in sleep when daddy came upstairs but really I was wondering how he knew what I’d done. I was there in my bedroom when another earthquake sloshed the fish bowl so hard that Teabag and Fleabag nearly spilled onto the carpet and I imagined their demise would be blamed on me and so I was relieved when the shaking stopped and the fish stayed put. It was where I tried to pee standing up just to see what it would be like and where I played doctor for the first time, with Shane, under his bed, because he had a skate board and hair so blond that it hurt to look at it.

Then we drove a long ways from the beach and all four of us squished in the front seat of the moving truck and I realized you could get so hot that it actually hurts and I lost my best friend, the stuffed cheetah, left him at a gas station in the desert. We came to the house on Cannock Lane which was my grandparent’s house and my daddy paid cash so we could live there, and that was where my sister and I raised ourselves after daddy went back to California and mommy’s new boyfriend was younger than I am now. There we walked to the lake and jumped off the docks, the last one down was the best, but we always watched the water for moccasins that glided on the surface like S-shaped Jesuses. That was where I believed my playmate, the woods, was alive and magical and once I saw a thick snake, midnight on top, cotton on the bottom, wrapped around the phone pole like a slick pile of licorice whips and it reminded me of French braids, in the yard where Jingle fell out of a very high tree and had to wear a neon pink cast on her paw.

Then, sadly, we lived with a friend so my mother (no longer mommy) could go back to college after she was let go, and that was the house where all shared one bedroom for years in the neighborhood where I fell in love with the boy down the street who is now married happily to someone else and living somewhere distant from our block where he liked to push my face into the snow. That was the unhappy house where I read an article in Seventeen about cutting and I got inspired and where I walked three blocks to middle school every morning and saw the cat in the road with its eyes bulging upward in total defiance of gravity.

Next came the new husband's house where I had my own room, so I tried out the new school for three months and decided that home schooling was for me, a bad decision, because of which I showered three times a day and still never felt clean. That was where I lived when I got my first job at Kisor's Grill & Bakery and went to the church where I learned to hate God. That was the house where my baby brother was conceived and then everywhere we went, people assumed I was a teenage mother and it made me proud in a way I never understood. That was where I fell in love with his big forehead and bigger smile, where I left at seventeen (because they couldn’t stop me) and never wanted to return.

I moved in with my boyfriend and his parents and I cranked the heat up to ninety degrees once when I was hung over and shaking and sitting in the bathtub with my clothes on. I’ll always remember that I had sex in the backyard beside their bedroom window and liked that it was risky but hated that the night could see us. That was the house where I was left in charge of ironing his father's shirts and Dockers and ties while his mother was at the Mayo and where I felt like a part of a real family for once, useful, but also like I was being tested.

Then we left for Stanley, where we lived in a heated yard shack for two months while I worked first as a housekeeper and then as a prep cook at the lodge and I talked to the does on my walk to the kitchen each morning where they stood along the narrow road, ears at attention. That was where I jumped off a boulder into the glacial lake and finally understood what “glacial lake” meant, where I got sun poisoning in the paddle boat and where I thought I was free for the very first time and I sailed on a rope swing out over a two-hundred-foot ravine and wasn't afraid on the same day that I drank a liter of vodka and wasn't hung over, which is how I knew that we had to leave.

Then we lived in a basement which is where I hosed his vomit off the driveway and gave him a bath without waking the family, where my nephews were born and where I broke down and cried at the dinner table because I missed a spot with the lawn mower and they thought it was funny. That is where I lived when I watched Teletubbies and learned to drive stick and I we could hear them making love through the ceiling.

At the apartment I paid all the bills by myself which set the precedent for paying all the bills by myself and I once I called the cops because I was drunk and somehow it made sense at the time and it was there where my boyfriend accused me of being a lesbian because I finally made a girl friend whom I met where I went to college for the first time. I worked as a waitress at the Mall of America and after my shift I rode the bus to the apartment, which is where I helped an old lady get up off the floor where I found her laying where she'd fallen by the laundry room on the third floor which overlooked the pool where the ducks lived.

I bought my first house three weeks after I turned twenty-one and it happened to be that I loved my neighbors as much as I loved to guess what type of crops would grow in the field behind us each spring. There, I took pride in my lawn, at least up until I got "the call,” then I lived alone with the dog for long months which is probably why I called the escort service, but only to talk. Then my sister came to live with me so that I wouldn’t be alone and it was later that I met my Jill who was there when my niece was born and came home wearing pink for the first time to that house where I fell in love for a third time and I told my husband I wanted a divorce. I never wanted to leave but couldn't afford to stay.

Then was the apartment where he and I moved in together, alone for the first time, and where it was tiny but we didn’t really notice because it had a dishwasher and we had each other. That was where we smoked, then quit, then started again until I got pregnant and we moved across the hall in pursuit of a second bedroom, which is where I lost the baby before we’d even turned in our key to the one bedroom place. But there I learned to bake wheat bread when I wanted to forget we were paying for an empty room and we hung the curtains from IKEA without any yelling at all.

And now we are in the new house where I can garden in the warm months and where we grill our dinner almost every night, even in the winter, dinners which we eat in a real a dining room that I can paint if I want to. Now he can mow the lawn with his IPod cranked to Pantera while I wash the windows and laugh at his sorry excuse for a voice, and we are one block from the Mississippi and I can step out the front door and run as far as the elementary school and then back, moving the air all around, until I get home.

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Cat Campbell works (as little as possible) as an accounts payable specialist and frequently suffers from third degree paper cuts. Cat spends most of her time blogging and watching reruns of Jon & Kate Plus 8 to remind herself that her life is empty and meaningless. Her greatest fear is that she won't be prepared when the zombies attack. Cat is undergoing treatment for cynicism, but doctors believe it's a terminal case. She has no ambition and is content to let opportunities pass her by. Her favorite things are bacon, vodka and monkeys, in that order. She is probably drunk right now. Trust us, it's better for everyone that way.