Fiction

Pickled Onions

Don’t expect this to make any sense.

                “A generous donation has been made in your name to the Church of Scientology.”

***

I can barely make out the scrawl. The postcard, crumpled, has Bolivia written in carnival-colours above the picture of a llama. There is no name from the sender, but I pull out my phone and text the usual suspect. “Thanks for the llama.”
                “I didn’t send that.” He writes back immediately. “This is a forgery.”

                Pickles is a tabby cat. He taught me not to take myself too seriously. His stories, he says, are as true-to-life as life itself: absurd, charming, horrific, bizarre. His research leads him through rabbit-holes of newspaper clippings, diaries found in old storage lockers, and the personal anecdotes of the people he meets when he travels. He travels more often than not. He keeps his house not for him, but as sleeping quarters for his human, an American history expert. The human’s most recent book is actually written by Pickles, but Pickles doesn’t have any thumbs, so the human acts as amanuensis. Pickles is not a congenial cat. He is not affectionate, polite, or even friendly. He is intolerant of nonsense. But he’s quick to say “do whatever you want” and encourage exploration. A story can be gleaned from anywhere. The mode of being as echoed through his texts are shed of creature comforts, never troubled by silly little things such as deadlines or brushing his teeth. If we took the time to crouch low to the ground and view the world not with human eyes, but as something wholly inhuman—a cat, mouse, cricket, or a wackjob rolling around on the floor—we’d quickly believe in magic.

***

                  “May I have your current mailing address, Pickles? I’m on the train to Timbuktu.” I was in a coffee shop somewhere near Beaverlodge, Alberta, staring out at the highway from my wide-windowed booth.
                “That’s impossible, you can’t get to Timbuktu by train.”
A truck full of onions pulls into the parking lot a little too quickly. Papery white onion skins fly into the air and rain down the window, but nobody bats an eye. I duck under the table. Summer onions snowing, I take my coffee on the floor.