Critique my little story: How I discovered the Holy Grail

A true story for your enjoyment – with pictures! I would be interested in hearing critiques of the writing too.

Some time ago I serendipitously discovered the mythical (or so it seemed at times) object that I had been seeking for so long – a sacred Vessel that my cat would deign to drink out of (other than the toilet, of course). I had tried plastic dishes, wooden bowls, wide ceramic platters…. nothing was good enough. I wondered how she even survived with drinking so little.

Tiring of my thick headedness, Fate intervened at last by bestowing upon me a series of injuries that I received during jiu-jitsu practice. First my elbow, then my shoulder in multiple places, then my bicep, then everything at once. Icing all my injuries separately was incredibly time consuming and arranging and securing all the ice bags at once with my free arm required the dexterity of Houdini. I began to develop a variety of strategies – icing my injuries was quickly becoming a hobby in of itself.

Then I had an idea: if I had a big bucket, I could ice everything at once! I secured a 5 gallon bucket, scooped up some snow, then filled it with water….and it worked! Much faster and MUCH colder – damn it was cold! Clearly an improvement, and it worked well enough for a while, but I soon found myself wanting more, yearning for the perfect icing container – one long enough and deep enough that I could submerge my entire arm all the way up to and including my shoulder.

Things quickly spiraled out of control. The five-gallon bucket was no longer enough. It was replaced with six gallon paint buckets…then a variety of plastic trash cans “borrowed” from the work place… buckets of all sizes filled with water began to accumulate in the living room. Finally I hit rock bottom. Feng shui be damned; I purchased a huge plastic trash container from Home Depot, positioned it squarely in the middle of the floor, and cemented its location by siphoning hundreds of pounds of water into it. I would scoop a bucket or two of water out, dump multiple buckets of snow in, turn the thermostat on high, then bare-chested and with a winter hat on I would plunge my arm into the ice water for 15 minutes. Friends looked at me strangely when I explained all this to them, but they just didn’t understand.

Weeks passed.

Then, as if awakening from a dream, I noticed several things: (1) My injuries were feeling a lot better; (2) I seemed to have deepened my pain threshold considerably (or done some lasting damage to temperature sensing nerves in my arm); and (3) the cat was drinking from the ice buckets!

She loved it! She would stand on two legs and lean against the 5-gallon plastic bucket and drink and drink, as if making up for years of thirst. And her favorite was to climb up on the chair that I kneeled on while icing in the giant Home Depot container, balance on two legs, and lap up the water from that mother of all icing containers. Once I discovered that, I got rid of all the smaller pails and we shared the giant one. Sometimes we even used it together. Not only was it incredibly cute, but I never had to worry about refilling her water. I mean, how quickly does it take a cat to make a dent in 50 gallons of water?

The injuries gradually recovered and I stopped icing, but I couldn’t bring myself to remove the container. She drank from it until her untimely death, several months ago, the result of an inexplicable hit and run on a rural road with virtually no traffic. The giant container remained for several days. I remember two things in particular from the period following her death – the feeling of anticipating lapping sounds that were never there and the heavy scrape of plastic on wood mingled with a soft sloshing cutting the silence as I slowly dragged the half empty bucket out of the house to the shed.

I still miss her.

Picture 1

Picture 2

A beautiful story, beautifully told.

Excuse me, I have some sand in my eye…

I was with you until the last paragraph, suddenly my allergies have kicked in and I can’t see so well.

Could a moderator change the title of this thread to:

Critique my little story: How I discovered the Holy Grail

I would like people to give suggestions on the writing and I think the thread as it stands will mostly be opened by other people who like cats. Thanks!

I have to say I’m surprised at the lack of response (thank you to both of you who commented). Every thread I’ve seen that put some material out there for a critique seemed to bring in everybody and their mother to offer their opinion on what was wrong with it. Hell, I’ve seen plenty of threads that were NOT asking for criticism of their work get pages and pages of the same treatment!

Can you point to parts that were done well? Not done well? Awkward sentences? Things I could have done better? Anything?

Should I have put this in IMHO?

Hey that’s really cool, we all love dead cat stories. Thank you.

Well, I was hoping for something a little more… in depth, but I suppose I have to start somewhere. Thanks. Also, I like the combination of tone in the reply and user name.

Thanks for the story! I liked it very much. I’m so sorry to hear of her untimely death. She was beautiful - dilute calico is one of my favorite colors.

I took the back off my toilet tank years ago and it was such a success with my cats I never replaced it.

First off - I’m sorry about your cat. She was beautiful.

It seems like you’re trying really hard to write both a whimsical, but ultimately fairly pointless story about your quest to find a method to ice your entire arm, and a touching, poignant tribute to your cat. What you ended up with reads, to me, like this: “My cat wouldn’t drink water out of anything but the toilet. Then because I’m so random and funny lol I filled up my living room with big garbage cans full of ice! And my friends thought I was crazy, because lol my living room looked like an industrial waste dumpsite, but then my cat drank from it! Isn’t that crazy! Anyway, then the cat died and I was sad when I got rid of the bucket.”

Tonally, it’s all over the place. Is the story of your quest to ice your arm inherently funny? No, not in my opinion, but it has potential to be amusing. To do that, though, you’d first need to commit more to it. Don’t just drop in ‘and then I got hurt at jiu-jiutsu and my arm was all bruised and sore’; give the reader some context. Tell us exactly how you got hurt. Who hurt you? Were you sparring with someone who just got carried away? Was it a new student who knew the basics, but didn’t have the right level of control? Did you trip over your own feet and hurt yourself that way? Why do you put yourself through this, presumably for fun, when it keeps resulting in injury? What got you into it in the first place? Obviously, there’s a story behind this cascade of injuries, so tell it. You want the reader to feel some sort of emotional connection, and you can’t do that just with, “Well I got hurt.”

Again, a little more detail about your early attempts. Talk about going out and buying six ice packs, or bags of frozen peas, or hoping cold showers would help. Again, context and detail. Don’t just tell us that you tried ice packs, show it.

And the same thing for the feline aspect of the story. As it is, this is what I know: You have a cat. The cat only drinks from the toilet. The cat suddenly starts drinking from the giant ice bucket. The cat dies.

That doesn’t resonate very well - again, it’s telling, not showing, and you want to show. Did you ever ask the vet about why the cat wouldn’t drink? Did the cat pay much interest to the smaller buckets? Hell, what’s the cats name, when and where did you get her? Same as with the other issues; there’s just not enough depth to produce any real emotional connection.

I think the brevity is working against you here. In order to tell a good story, you need to do everything you can to put the reader in your shoes, and you can’t do that by just dropping them into basically a recitation of facts. There’s a million tiny factors that go into every experience; you’ve given the audience the absolute bare minimum. That’s particularly jarring in the last paragraph. If you want to try to convey the emotional impact of your pet’s death, you need to talk about your emotions, not just what happened and what you did. How did you find out? Was the cat normally an outside cat? How did you decide when it was time to finally move the bucket?

I think you have the potential for a fairly good short story here, but it’s kind of like eating a can of condensed soup straight from the can. Technically, all the nutrients you’ll get from it are already there, but it can be so much better if you just add some things to it.

You’ve only had this up for one day.
It’s a holiday weekend.
It’s Valentine’s Day.
Therefore, people have other things to do.

You also can’t predict or force how people will answer.

I’d critique your story, but, frankly, I can’t stand cats and I’m disappointed that it didn’t fall in the water and drown because that’s where I thought your story was going… Ok, and it’s hard to see the container because it’s black and you didn’t show the entire size of it so the grand effect you hoped for is wasted. On me anyway.

I’m off now to do something else mundane and pointless.

Fair enough. I hadn’t given up. Still, in my experience, threads that I have started that receive a lot of replies tend to do so from the very beginning. In any case, my main concern was questioning if it was in the right forum.

I will concede you that.

It’s the SDMB.

Right again, which you amply demonstrate with your next sentence.

There was no grand effect planned. They were simply some random pics that my girlfriend happened to have taken that included the cat and the bucket. I thought some people might be interested in seeing them. Thanks for the kind thoughts though.

Thanks, she was really a great cat. And thank you for taking the time to read it and respond as much as you have. I have thought about your comments and here are my responses.

Right, I am trying to do both of those things. Perhaps I wouldn’t normally try to combine two such different stories, but they seemed linked in multiple and interesting ways. At that time I had two searches for the holy grail going on in my life (something for the cat to drink out of and pain relief for my arm) and I think it is interesting that they ended up leading to the same vessel. I also find the idea of a cat drinking out of a 50 gallon trash and the idea of keeping a 50 gallon trash can for icing in the middle of your living room to be fairly humorous.

I would have stopped there, but it so happened that the trash can was also very symbolic to me of the cat’s death.

I think your summary is fairly accurate, although the exclamations and lols that you insert for some reason make it seem pretty silly.

I was aware that there were two very different tones going on in the story when I was writing it. At first, I was a little bothered by the inconsistency, but then, is there something wrong with that series of emotions in a story? And aren’t pet stories by there very nature going to be lighthearted while the animal is alive and sad when it dies? Didn’t the great literary work, “Marley and Me,” follow that same trajectory? :slight_smile:

It seems your biggest criticism was the brevity of the story. I totally agree that fleshing it out with more details could create more of an emotional connection. And if I had intended to write a longer story I would have done most of the things you suggested. I started the thread as a followup to a question that I had posted a long time ago about my search for a drinking bowl for the cat; I figured others might want to know about the bucket approach (although probably not the 50 gallon one). As I wrote it, it occurred to me that I could make a little story out of it, so I did. So, I guess the question is, how much can you shorten a story like that and still have it be effective? I agree with you that it could probably be a lot more powerful in a longer form. But I think it is still more than an emotionless collection of facts as it is.

Thanks for the critique.


Something about deeper water, I think. The bucket thing worked for my girlfriend’s cat as well. Drinks very sparingly from shallow dishes; goes to town with a basin or bucket.

Write it again, try to make it more like how you talk, now like you think writers write. A pic of you and the cat together would be nice too.