This is my Save the Cat (term defined under “origin of title“) for one of the MCs in my work-in-progress The Heap. I love these characters so much, and I’m proud of how distinct they are.
Leonard Scruggs, Ph.D, had not showered in seven days–at least. Scalp grease had unacceptably begun to leave streaky prints all over his equipment. At least great strides had been made in kicking the habit of combing his fingers through the self-cut mop on his head.
There was no time for personal hygiene. He was so close he could taste the shifting ions. He had to optimize every last second of his time. Time, time, time. He had to spend it to make it.
Besides, the water and power had been shut off at the apartment. If he returned, he’d only face a lurking landlord ready to evict him. He slept these days in a sleeping bag cartoonishly printed with the solar system. It had not been appropriately sized for him for about 15 years.
“Nope, nope, no! You tried that, Scruggs,” he cried, tossing away the wrench in his hand. It clanged dully against the rock floor. “If it didn’t work the 49th, it’s not going to work the 50th time. Try something else. Rearrange. Innovate. Evolve.” He sat back on his heels and bit his lip. He rubbed the one spot on his jaw where hair refused to grow. He cocked his head to the side and stared at the monster before him: Mismatched sheets of metal were welded together, overlapping to form a shape previously unknown to man. He leaned forward on hands and knees between the massive sawhorses that held it aloft. He studied its underbelly.
“Lunch break,” he proclaimed.
Hardboiled eggs, as per usual. Keeping Henrietta well-fed was priority one, and she rewarded him for it. Of course he had taken her with him when he left the apartment. No place for the two of them anyway: The landlord had complained about the smell and kept threatening to report him. Leo didn’t know what the fuss was all about. Cats and dogs didn’t smell much worst–plus, they messed in apartments all the time, and weren’t half as well behaved or as clean as his chicken was.
Scruggs dug out a few Messy Burger salt packets from the pocket of his discarded khakis, lying on the cave floor at the foot of his “bed.” He tapped the first egg along his knee and started to peel it. “Thanks, Henry,” he said as she waddled past, scratching a moment in the dirt before moving on. She pretended not to pay Scruggs any mind. “See?” He said aloud. “Just like a cat.”
The cave suddenly quivered. Machines began to rumble through the quarry a few layers of rock above his head. Scruggs shivered. It was only a matter of time. Every moment mattered.
Loose stones crumbled and fell across the machine with a series of small pings. Mouth full, he ran to his workbench and tossed a clean canvas across everything. Then, he hurried to the machine and did the same. “This is not a drill!” He shouted, pulling aside the canvas and ducking between the sawhorses. Henry skittered after him. From where he crouched, he could watch as his clothes, toiletries, and sleeping bag were showered with debris. He popped the rest of the cold, salted egg into his mouth and chewed.