Realms Podcast
A Sweet Deal

A Sweet Deal

A Fictionista-inspired tale.

Before we begin, let me talk about a publication I really love:

Here’s some info about them:

The Storyletter is a community-driven publisher that seeks to platform emerging and independent creators. Join our growing Substack for prompts, contests, and paid publishing opportunities. We primarily publish speculative short fiction and poetry. If this interests you, check out our free catalog featuring original stories and interviews. Can't wait to meet you in the comments!

The Storyletter is a great place to connect with writers - even if you’re a bit of a lurker like me. I love reading and commenting on short stories and helpful posts. If you’re a writer, you gotta check them out.

The Storyletter

Realms of Roush gives you monthly short stories to new worlds. These stories are actually short AND come with an audio version, so you can do dishes or drive and simply escape.

This month’s story is a special one, it was prompted by the

and their amazing writing prompts, which were as follows:

The character: A slacker who steals cats.

Plot items: Something is wrong with the water. Something beautiful yet useless.

view of grass field

A Sweet Deal

A sprawling parking lot sits empty. Empty, except for a dumpster, a wayward grocery cart, and an old boxy Volvo with its lights off. It used to be her mother’s car. Joanna rolls down the window, the old handle squeaking. Inside, light flares briefly. She exhales the cherry-flavored smoke, coloring the dusk with haze. Easy, light, beautiful, Swisher Sweets.  


“Don’t you worry, Mullet Jim is always on time. Surprisingly.”


“I do like you, but times are the way times are. The water isn’t quite water and only your kind can tell the difference.”


A rusted, bumper-less Jeep bounces down the rough road on the other side of the lot, the abandoned department store doors catching the light in jagged reflections. 

“Here we go,” Joanna says, puffing.

The Jeep skids to a halt. Mullet Jim rolls down the window and puts his silver bug-eyed shades on his head. His partner spits into a cup. It smells like old beer and old rugs and aunties with beaded chains for their glasses. Is that what mullets smell like?

“Hey Jo, you all right?” Mullet Jim asks. She shrugs. “Where’d you get the gato?”

“Doesn’t matter where.” 

Mullet Jim’s friend, Buddy or something, says, “Don’t you like, feel bad about stealing them kitties?” 

“Better than working at Slappy Joe’s or Eggtopia.”

Jim clicks his tongue. “No doubt, girly. All right. We got five hundred bones for you…”

Joanna groans and replies, “I told you. I don’t want money. I asked for the other thing.”

Buddy says, “Is it cuz you ain’t paid taxes?”

“Quiet, idiot! And don’t get all fussy, girly. I’d honestly rather not part with this. It’s one of a kind. And with five hundred smackaroonies, you could buy one online easy.”

Joanna lets her head fall on the peeling faux leather steering wheel. “I don’t want to do that. I want the original.”

“Jee-sus, she’s a whiner.”

“Always been that way. Even at Sunday school. And, look, Joanna ain’t seem like much, but she gets them cats easy somehow. How you do it, Jo?”

“Don’t call me Jo, girly, or anything else. Give me what I want, I hand over your cat, and we both go home happy to a tall glass of water.”

Mullet Jim changes tack. He leans in and whispers, “What d’you reckon went wrong with the water?”

Joanna pauses, waiting for him to launch into his pre-loaded conspiracies. He doesn’t. Buddy does, though. 

“You know it’s them government lizards! Them goddamn elitists trying to take the very substance out us hard-working, proud Ameri—ouch!”

“Would you hush it! I’m trynna listen to someone intelligent.”

Joanna says, “I think what the scientists say is about right. Subatomic distortion, where something upsets the molecules. Makes it impossible for the water to work with the body. Or the body to work with water. Like twenty percent of water is hydrating now? Mighta been caused by a wave from space. Mighta been CERN, dicking around. Could well be the government.”

Jim smiles and nods. “And no one’s gonna claim they did it.”

“You two are just like the elitists,” Buddy mutters.


Mullet Jim slicks back his hair. “So, Jo, five hundred clams for that—“

Don’t call me Jo! And make some sort of negotiation, or I’m outta here.”

“Why’re you being such a hardass?” The last words get muffled as Jim rolls up his window. He and Buddy enter into a furious spate of arguing that makes the Jeep rock from time to time. Joanna lights another Swisher. Peach.

Meeeeeeeeeow! Meeeeow!

“I know, baby. I know. We’ll get you out of there soon.”

A tug on Joanna’s heartstrings. Had her mother said the same thing, long ago, when this was her car? Before you needed cats to tell the difference between wrong water and good. Before people started dying of undetected dehydration.

Jim’s window squeaks, his eyes shining. “We’ll play ball, Jo-anna. But only because we known each other forever. And on account of—“

“How dare you even—“

“Woah, woah, woah, gir—uh—I was saying you gotta promise not to tell my momma.” Joanna exhales her rage, and nods. “You ready?” Jim holds out his hand with Joanna’s prize. She opens hers up and catches it. Her phone light illuminates the figure. It’s better than she remembers. Better than nostalgia. “Now…where you steal them cats from?”

Joanna answers quickly, “I get ‘em at the dump in Bragg. Just feed ‘em a couple days and they come right to your hand.”

“Weeeell, shit. That’s sweet as pie. Thanks, Jo. And you can keep the cat, we’ll just go get our own!” 

The Jeep takes off into the night, leaning back dangerously, the mulleted, stinky men in ratty tank tops howling at the moon. 

Joanna applies an adhesive square to the bottom of the dashboard ornament and carefully places it. She doesn’t rightly know if it’s the original, though she knows Mullet Jim had a hand in stealing it years back. But this is the missing piece. The thing her memory longs for; the dancing, bobbling, toga-wearing, angelic Swisher Sweetie.

Joanna sits in the Volvo’s backseat watching the dawn rise over the dash, the cat purring beside her. She slouches, as her mother always told her not to, to get a better angle. 

It was the same as her childhood. The stale smell of sweetened tobacco and old cloth seats. The beautiful woman swaying slightly, holding a cigarillo up to the heavens.

“I miss you, momma. I miss our drives. I miss everything. But I know I got you with me. And now I think I’m ready…”


The cat looks out at the wide horizon from her perch on Joanna’s lap. It’s a flat and endless and beautiful world in the new light. Joanna puts the car in gear, lights another cigarillo, and drives off, hungry for more. And a bit thirsty, literally, too.

Thank you for reading and listening!

If you liked this story, drop your favorite cat emoji 🐱 in the comments.

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And share with someone who likes Swisher Sweets or Sci-Fi.


Until the next one, Realm Walkers.

- Zach

Realms Podcast
Escape the real world for a better one. Realms produces original sci-fi and fantasy short stories and reviews - releasing once a month. Follow this podcast to get updates or subscribe at to get episodes directly in your inbox.