Throwback Fiction: Dashiell

This will be my first piece of fiction published here, and I will admit to cheating a bit. I wrote this for a college creative writing class, the place when I first thought I wanted to make this writing thing my future. Of course, I was halfway through my senior year at the time, too late to change majors. Oh well.

The only changes I made from when it was distributed to the class for review are grammar related. Anyways, here you go.



My life has become delightfully fulfilling and easy since I came to live with Dashiell. Before him, I had been nothing, one without a home.

I remember that day vividly. It was a beautiful day, but again I had nothing to eat. I had been hanging around a rest stop along the freeway and, the time of year being summer, had been trying to polish off the scraps left after people’s picnics. The sun was high in the sky, and the rays of light reflected brightly off the high, sparse clouds. It was the time of year when the grass baked itself into a dull, brownish color, the time of year when people are told to stop watering lawns to conserve water.

I saw this young man step out of his car with a large basket, and I knew that it must be full of food. He was alone, his only companion being a brand new novel he was reading. I followed him from a distance, trying to be sly. I was hoping to steal a bite of sandwich or some cheese without him noticing, but he saw me anyway. He turned, looked straight at me, and knew what I wanted. He put a piece of a sandwich on the table and asked me to come and sit down. Starving, I obliged. I sat down on the bench when I was finished, saying nothing, only looking at him expectantly. He gave me more food, and began to talk.

“My name is Dashiell, what is yours?” I looked at him blankly. I could not remember my name, since it had been so long since anybody had called me anything.

“Not much of a talker, eh? No problem, I will give you a name. If you don’t like it, tell me. Now, let’s see…how about...hmmm…Jasmine? Yeah, Jasmine, do you like that name?” I did not know how to respond, I was ecstatic!

“Cat got your tongue, huh? Okay, Jasmine it shall be. You don’t talk much do you, mind if I talk a little?” I waited patiently, wondering what it could possibly be that he would want me to know.

Dashiell talked all afternoon, about this and that, and then back to this again. He told me about his work in the city, about the girl who had just recently decided to be his ex-girlfriend, about his family who lived in the next state, and about his dreams and aspirations. Dashiell wanted to write, but so far no one had wanted to read. He told me some ideas and I voiced some opinions, finally.

He listened politely, and then after a little bit he decided he had to leave. The sun was turning the sky purple, the high clouds changing into a rainbow array of color.

“Maybe I will see you here again.” Dashiell smiled and walked to the parking lot, to his car. He turned, waved to me once, and was gone.

I thought I would never see him again, and for some reason that bothered me. There was nothing special about me, just another homeless statistic, why would I see him again? What could I possibly do for him?

Three days later, while I was searching for scraps after a family picnic, I saw his car pull into the parking lot again, and my heart jumped into my throat. I waited, watching from the underbrush in the shade. Dashiell left his car and walked to a nearby table, spread out his lunch and opened his laptop computer. As he popped the top to a can of Pepsi, I quietly walked out from the shade and sat down next to him at the table.

He turned to me, and almost jumped.

“You’re still here? I thought by now someone would have helped you out.”

Crestfallen, I got up to leave.

“Wait, don’t get me wrong, I am glad you are still here. I could use your company, not having anyone else to talk to.”

I turned back, looking at him expectantly. Dashiell cut me half of his ham sandwich, which I wolfed down, then proceeded to talk. He told me about his graduation from college three years ago. He told me about the party afterwards, about the drinking, and how things got out of hand. He told me about the fight, about his arrest, and his subsequent thirty days in jail.

“Do you think bad of me for that, Jasmine?”

I did not know what to say. This man I had not known for very long, wanted my opinion, and actually seemed to care what I think. I could not think of the right thing to say, so I moved closer to him on the bench.

Dashiell smiled warmly at me. “I don’t suppose you have any big plans do you? How would you like to come home with me? I could give you a bath, give you some food, put some meat on those bones of yours, whatta ya say?”

I looked at myself, and almost recoiled in horror. I had not done that in awhile, and I was shocked to see how skinny I had become. My ribs were visible beneath the surface, and my legs had lost all muscle tone. I looked back up into Dashiell’s face and nodded, I think.

“Well let’s go then. My car is that old blue Honda over there. You’ll just love my home, I’m sure!” Dashiell was almost giddy with excitement. I followed him to the car and he unlocked the door and held it open for me. I hesitated for a minute, looking back at the rest stop, saying goodbye. Times here had been hard, but I did not know what the future would hold. I turned my back, threw caution to the wind, and got into the car.

That was the best decision I have ever made. Dashiell brought me to his home and he was right, I immediately fell in love with it. It was a large house with high ceilings and many rooms to explore. Trees surrounded it, hundreds of feet high, the branches swinging in the light breeze of a summer night. There was a field in front of the house. Dashiell led me into the house and fixed me a warm meal. I had not eaten a warm meal in a very long time; so long I had forgotten warm meals could be eaten. He gave me milk, something I had not tasted in a long time as well. I ate until my sides hurt, until I could eat not more. Dashiell led me into the bathroom and gave me a bath. I hate water and fought every step of the way, but Dashiell insisted and, I must admit, I was pleased with the results.

I still am. Looking out the window I could see the sun falling towards the horizon, Dashiell should be home soon.

My days have become lazy. The summer days I spend outside while Dashiell is at work. I go exploring in the woods, looking for wild animals, seeing plants I have never seen before. I explore the field in front of the house, lying in the sun for hours and hours amidst the sweet smells of grass and flowers.

Today is not that kind of day though. The weather had turned bad, and it had not stopped raining for three days. Dashiell talked at meals about how the rivers were getting higher, and if that kept up he might have to find a different way home, a route which may take a much longer time. I hoped that would not happen, I looked forward to our dinner conversations. They were actually pretty one-sided, but I liked to hear the resonate sounds of his deep voice, it could captivate me for hours. Luckily we did not live near any water, Dashiell would say.

It was a little strange, Dashiell had completely accepted me into his home and his life. He gave me a bed, gave me food, and asked for little in return. It seemed to me that all he wanted was someone to listen to him, and I am too happy to provide that for him. Some nights he will put a warm, roaring fire in the fireplace and we curl up on the couch, me with my head in his lap, and we would watch videos. I watched anything he wanted, so it was a lot of action and comedy. The videos did not really interest me; I just loved the feeling of being needed.

The conversation at yesterday’s meal had been different though. Dashiell went on and on about the weather again, about how the rain was causing landslides all over the city and roads were being closed. I listened, letting my mind trail off and remember the days of sunshine and laziness of the past summer. Then Dashiell said something that caught me completely off guard, and I gave him my full attention.

“I met somebody, Jasmine.”

I looked at him, not knowing what he could mean by such a statement.

“Her name is Andrea. She is a beautiful woman, I think you would like her. She makes me feel special, reminds me what it is like to be wanted.”

What the hell did he mean by that?! Is that not what I was for?! For the first time since I had come to live with Dashiell, I looked upon him with an angry eye. How dare he talk of someone else in front of me? I hated him at that moment, and I left the room without saying a word, leaving to stew in my anger.

I have not spoken to him since dinner yesterday, and I hoped that when he returned he would have put all that Andrea stuff aside and remembered why I am here.

The opening of the door snapped me out of my flashbacks. I jumped off the couch that faced the south windows downstairs, and ran up to the entryway, excited to see Dashiell again, putting my past thoughts aside.

“Hi Jasmine!” he called with the usual loving voice. I started to respond but stopped when I saw another figure behind him in the doorway. It was not any of Dashiell’s friends that I recognized, but my heart skipped a beat: It was a woman. Not just any woman, but a very beautiful woman. She had long, dark hair and sapphire-blue eyes. She was tall and thin, almost like a runway model. I shrank back; not quite sure why I did so, whether it was fear or something else. Anger maybe?

“This is Andrea, Jasmine. She is the new friend of mine I told you about yesterday.” I did not like the way he said that.

Dashiell turned to Andrea. “Andrea, Jasmine.”

With those introductions Andrea turned to me. “Hi Jasmine!” Her voice was sweet, like honey dripping off of a sugarcube, almost sickeningly sweet. I started back down the stairs, then turned and ran. I ran down to my couch, back to my window. I could still hear them talking.

Dashiell was telling her about how we met, and that sometimes I was a little scared of people I did not know. I was hoping they would talk about me more, that he would tell Andrea she had to leave because I did not want her there, but nothing of the sort happened. Their conversation quickly turned to other subjects.

I could hear them up in the kitchen, preparing dinner. Confusion reigned inside my brain. How could he do this to me? Was it not true we had something special? How could he even think of bringing someone else home? I saw the sappy way Dashiell looked at her. My Dashiell! She must have done something to him, put some sort of spell on him, that was the only explanation. I made up my mind to get rid of her. I did not know how I am going to do this, but I will!

Dashiell called my name for dinner. “Jasmine! Your dinner is ready! Are you coming?”

I sat still.

He waited for a few minutes, then, “Fine, be that way. Do what you want.”

I heard him walk to the dinner table and sit down. Andrea started talking again, drawing Dashiell into conversation with no mention of me. I wanted to cry, but I knew that would solve nothing. Deciding to do something about this, I marched upstairs, as loudly as I could.

I walked into the kitchen, yelling at Dashiell. I asked how he could do this to me, I thought we had something special, all the stuff The Jilted One always throws in the face of The Jilter. I could not stop yelling, and my voice began to get hoarse. Dashiell got up from the table, very slowly. His face was red and it wore something I had never seen in him before: Anger. Dashiell was livid.

“Dammit Jasmine, would you just calm the hell down!? I am trying to have a nice dinner here and all you want to do is yell! You know what? I think you need to go outside and get a hold of yourself!”

With that, he grabbed me, pushed me out the front door, and closed the door behind me. I did not dare try to go back into the house, not after how Dashiell had reacted to me.

The weather had not let up, the rain still pouring down from the heavens. It was dark now, and the wind from the east made it very chilly. I walked over and sat down underneath a huge redwood, an ancient tree over two hundred years old. I cried and cried and cried. I cried for how ungrateful I could be to Dashiell. He had let me stay with him for so long, and I had given nothing back to him. I cried for my selfishness in the way I responded to him tonight. I had not even given him a chance to explain himself, just had broken in yelling and screaming. But mostly I cried for the hurt of his words, the hurt of his anger. I had never seen it before, and I was sure I did not want to see it again.

I do not know how long after that Andrea left, for I was lost in my own thoughts. I snapped out when I heard her car leave. Dashiell came out on the porch and called my name.

“Jasmine! Jasmine! Where are you?! Come back! Jasmine!”

I was too far away in the woods to respond fast enough, and he went back in the house before I could get there. I walked around the house, trying to find him. Finally, in his downstairs room with this computer, I found him writing. I tapped on the glass.

Dashiell looked up, and a smile broke out on his face. “Jasmine!”

I ran to the sliding glass door and he let me inside. I stepped in, not knowing what to do next.

“I was worried about you girl! Look at you, dripping and shivering! Come here, in the bathroom and I will dry you off.”

Dashiell pulled me into the bathroom, rubbing me with a thick towel. After I stopped dripping, he turned the hair dryer on me, until my hair was barely damp. I felt so bad; he still cared for me after all! I had been stupid to do what I did, and now I was going to be lucky to not catch a cold.

I tried to say I was sorry, but it came out as a squeak because my throat hurt so much.

“Don’t talk girl, there is nothing you have to say. Come upstairs, and I will explain a few things to you.”

I followed him up the stairs and watched as he put a few pieces of wood in the fireplace and started a fire. When the fire finally caught and began to warm the room, he motioned for me to come over and sit next to him.

“Jasmine, you know I want you to be happy. I brought you home here that day last summer because I knew I could give you a better life than anything else you could have had. You have really changed, and almost all of the changes have been for the better. You have put on weight and filled out nicely. You are beautiful. I have given you a chance at a new life, and you have responded well.”

Dashiell paused, and I looked at myself just as I had on that day at the rest stop. Indeed it was true. I could no longer see my ribs and I was very clean, no dirt or scraps stuck to my body where I could not reach them. I looked back into his eyes.

“But there is one thing you need to understand. I am a man and I need to find companionship. You are a companion, true, but there is more than that I need for a lifelong relationship. Andrea is a wonderful woman, and I think I love her. I need you to like her too, Jasmine. I need you to at least give her a chance. Will you do that for me? Please, Jasmine?”

I did not know what to say, but I knew he was right. I put my head in his lap.

“Thank you Jasmine, thank you. You have helped me through the last few months, as I have helped you. Now we need to work together.” He put his hand on my head, rubbing my ears. He scratched my back, rubbing my body all over, scritching on my lower back.

That night, in front of that fire, with Dashiell’s hands rubbing my body, with my head in his lap, I began to purr for the first time since I came into his life. For once in my life I was truly happy, and I purred for hours.
So, there you go. Now, dear reader, it's your turn. What did you hate about it? What did you like? Do you want to read more? Please leave comments below (and be helpful).

I do have some of my own thoughts I want to share - about where the story came from and some of my own critiques - but I'll wait a week or so before adding them to the comments below. I don't want to color anyone's own opinion with the author's thoughts, if that makes sense.

And if you like piece, share it with others - I love that.

Bring it on - I can take it!


  1. Hell yes I want more! Very good! I really liked Jasmine's thoughts and Dashiell's dialogue. It sounded like would when they were talking to a cat or dog. There was one line towards the end where he said "You have helped me through the last few months, as I have helped you" That sounded a bit stilted to me.

    I liked how you have her talking and such and him telling her at one point not to talk. I know with my dogs I'm always talking to them and taken their pants, yips, head cocks as answers.

    Well done! I can't wait for more!

  2. Thank you for the comments, I really appreciate that. :)

    And yes, I hold full on conversations with my pets too - one cat especially, we can talk back and forth for 5-10 minutes. I have no idea how the conversation is going, but he seems interested.

    I have a couple of my own thoughts to add:

    1 - My plan in writing this piece was to write it from the cat's POV, but I wanted to disguise the fact the narrator was a cat as long as possible. I know duping readers isn't the best idea, but I wanted to see if I COULD do it. No dice. People didn't buy the idea that a person would be living at a rest area or that Dashiell would take one home with him. I find that interesting, because it means my readers WANTED to believe the good in Dashiell's character. It's a truth - and one I didn't think of while writing - that had the main character been a person the whole story just gets crazy creepy. The fact no one bought that from the get-go is an interesting observation, I think, because it means people wanted positive, not weird. Intriguing.

    2 - Also, I had a cat named Jasmine at the time I wrote this, and many of her mannerisms in this story were just like the real thing's. I know, so original.

    3 - Who is Dashiell, you may ask? It's an odd name, admittedly. I wanted a unique name and Dad threw this out (wrote this at home one weekend from UOregon), from Dashiell Hammett. I had no idea who he was and had to look him up.

    4 - I'm not totally pleased with the ending. It's satisfactory, but not satisfying, if that makes any sense.

    5 - Also, as Sharon says, some of the dialogue is a tad bit stilted. I had to stop myself from making changes to this piece when I posted it on the blog. Why? Not sure. Just felt wrong to make the changes at this particular point. Perhaps I want to see if the reader feels I've grown (or regressed) from the point I was at as a college writer to now, when I finally post something new.

    Looking forward to more comments...and more writing. :)