The Porcelain Cat

It was recess. I was standing under the sycamore tree, feeling woozy. I’d spent too long hanging upside down on the monkey bars. I was just about sure I wasn’t going to ralph when she walked by.

New kid, I didn’t know her name. Parents just moved here from out-of-state. Seemed a friendly, girl. Today she was all sniffles and tears. I hated seeing a girl cry, it took the fun out of recess

“What’s wrong, kid?”

“I lost my cat.”

“It ran away?”

“No,” she sobbed, “not a real cat. A statue, made of porcelain. All white with a little pink bow, playing with a ball of yarn. It was my grandma’s. My parents told me I couldn’t bring it to school but I did anyway ‘cause I wanted to show someone. Only now it’s gone.”

That’s when the water works really got going. I didn’t know what to do, so I tried to sound helpful. “Hold on now… what’s your name anyway?”

“Matilda.”

“Alright Matilda, I know my way around the schoolyard. Where’d you see it last?”

“Miss Marshall’s class, she made me put it in my cubby. I was gonna get it out to bring it to recess to show it to Jenny. I told her about how cute it was and she begged me to bring it in so she could see it.” She wiped her nose with a sleeve and snorted hard trying to get a hold of herself.

“Which Jenny are you talking about?” There were three Jenny’s in our grade but I was pretty sure I knew which one she was going to say.

***

Jenny Billings. Everyone in our grade called her Miss Kitty, and she didn’t mind it either. Everything she owned had cats on it. From her Hello Kitty back pack to the homework folder printed with glossy pictures of kittens all over it. Kids said she even brought her own bandaids from home. So she didn’t have to wear the plain ones the nurse handed out when she scraped a knee. We never really got to be friends, mostly because I liked dogs.

I found her by the slide. She got all snooty when I asked he about the cat.

“Matilda told me about her kitty statue. It sounded so cute. I asked her to bring it in for me to see. She never showed it to me though. She said she couldn’t find it, that it got lost or something. I couldn’t tell she was too busy crying. I don’t even think she really brought it in. Maybe she just made it up so I’d be friends with her,. New kids are always telling lies so people will like them, but I don’t make friends with just anyone you know. They have to love kitties as much as I do.”

“C’mon Jenny, you sure you ain’t seen it. I bet you’d do anything to get your hands on a thing like that. Matilda says you begged her to bring it in.”

“I never begged.” she put her fists on her hips and huffed. “She said she’d show it to me and that’s all. Besides, I haven’t been anywhere near Miss Marshall’s class today.”

***

I could tell I wasn’t getting anywhere with Miss Kitty, so I headed off back to the shade tree where Matilda was waiting. She looked so hopeful when she saw me coming. That look went away when I told her that Jenny was a dead end. I even check with my friend Jimmy, the hall monitor. He hadn’t seen Jenny on that side of the school all morning.

“So it’s gone, forever?” The tears welled up again and she started to wail.

I never could stand to watch another kid go all rubbery. So, I made faces at her till she couldn’t help but laugh, and she slugged me in the arm to get me to stop.

“Look, Matty, it that bad yet. Think, when did you check on it last?”

“Just before reading.”

“Do you stay in Miss Marshall’s for that?”

“No, I have reading in Mrs. Dillard’s room.”

“And, that’s right before lunch right? So now all we got to do is think of someone who stays in Miss Marshall’s for reading. They might have seen if someone took it.”

“You really think someone stole my porcelain cat?”

“I doubt it walked away. Now who do you think might have seen something?”

“Jeremy,” she said excitedly, “and his desk is towards the back. You can see the cubbies from there.”

***

Jeremy Reynolds, was the type of kid that would eat just about anything if you promised him whatever you had lying around in your pocket. Especially if it meant grossing out a few of the other kids. He always drew a crowd. I waited for him to stop chewing before I walked up.

“You’ve got reading with Miss Marshall. You see anyone messing around over by the cubbies today?”

“Why should I tell you?” A smile crept across his face “I mean, what’s it worth?”

I didn’t like some schoolyard sideshow trying to get smart, so I got mean with him.

“Listen doofus, I ain’t got all recess. If you know something helpful, there’s a couple of Garbage Pail Kid cards in it. But, if you keep messin’ around the next thing this playground is gonna watch you eat is a knuckle sandwich.”

Jeremy swallowed hard. “Mickey, Mickey Donnelly. I don’t know about cubbies but, he kept getting up to sharpen his pencil, three or four times. Teacher fussed at him.”

“That’s it? That’s all you saw?” I turned to walk away, “Thanks for nothing.”

“What about those cards.”

“I said two cards if you could help, and you can’t. You’re lucky I don’t give you a wedgie for wasting my time. Tell you what here’s one for your trouble, now scram.”

***

I found Matilda over by the merry-go-round. Poor thing, she thought that if she got dizzy enough her problems would just fly away. I couldn’t blame her. We’ve all taken a few extra spins when the chips were down. I sat on the edge of it with her as it spun to a stop, and told her that Jeremy didn’t know anything.

“Maybe he took it?”

“Nah, he might be a greedy, bug-eating creep but, he’s too much of a fraidy cat to steal something.”

“So, there’s nothing else we can do?”

“We can not use the same pencils as Mickey Donnelly.”

“What?”

“Jeremy said he kept getting up to sharpen his.” That’s when it hit me. The thing that didn’t add up. “Wait a minute who needs to sharpen a pencil three times when you’re just reading?”

“My cubby is right under the pencil sharpener” Her eyes widened with hope.

“Come on Matty, Recess is almost over.”

***

We bolted across the playground. Mickey was the tallest kid in our grade, it wasn’t had to spot him at the sandpit, hanging out with his knuckle head friends. They liked to act like they owned that place. Jenny Billings was there too. The sandbox seemed a rough place for little Miss Kitty .

“Fancy seeing you here Jenny”

Jenny stuck her nose in the air and looked away. “Mickey and I are old friends.”

“Friends? Sure, you both like cats. Maybe porcelain ones?”

“Go away before I pound you runt” Mickey slammed his fist into his own open hand.

“You’re not pounding anyone. Give me the cat. We can all walk away. No one gets in trouble. You don’t want to get into trouble do you Mickey?”

Mickey lunged forward swinging. I was used to dealing with angry oafs from being punched on by older brothers. I stepped aside and stuck my foot out. Mickey tripped and fell over catching a mouthful of sand.

Something white tumbled out of his pocket, the soft ground breaking its fall.

Jenny grabbed it and started to back away..

“Give it here Jenny, we can all just go back to class.”

“No,” She screamed. “The kitty is mine now.”

I started to move towards her but Mickey had got back to his feet. He grabbed me, throwing me to the ground. I tried to roll away but he landed his knee on top of me. This is where I get clobbered, I thought, shutting my eyes.

There was a shrill sound and everything stopped. Hall monitor Jimmy came running up with Coach Davis waddling behind him tweeting on his whistle. Mickey got off me and just sat in the sand. He knew the drill. Jenny didn’t, she turned and ran.

Straight into Miss Marshall.

First they tried to blame me. When they couldn’t keep the story straight they blamed each other. It didn’t matter.

Jimmy already told the teachers what was going on, like I asked him.

When the day was over, Matty got her porcelain cat, and the two of them got a trip to the principal’s office.

This story was written in response to a Flash Fiction Challenge issued by Chuck Wendig at his blog Terrible Minds. You can check out the other entries in the comments there
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The Damned Cat

How am I doing? I’ll tell you Marty, I’ve had a hell of a day already.

Pulled myself outta bed to take the kiddo to school. I’m trying to get him up but he’s being an absolute ball buster this morning. You know I’ve had this god awful cold all week, so my head is just freaking pounding. I’m trying to be in a good mood, I’m really trying here but, here’s all this whining and pouting about getting out of bed, and for once it’s not me. You know what I’m saying Marty?

Anyway, I’m practically begging the kid to get dressed now. I’m hoping to god that I can get him out the door in time to just stick him on the bus, but the clock’s ticking. Instead he’s just pissing and moaning about how he can’t find his freaking monkey socks. I don’t even know what a fucking monkey sock is. So I’m helping him look for these god damned socks but everytime I bend over all the snot in my head goes sliding forward, I get all dizzy. It feels like I’m gonna go over like a stack of dimes. Anyway, we find the socks, he gets the left one on but as soon as I try handing him the right one the whole freaking thing falls apart, and he starts yelling at me and pushing me away. Finally, I get him to out of the bedroom by promising I’ll put his shoes on for him while he eats his damned oatmeal.

This whole time Marty, the whole time I’m being nice about it. I’m acting all smiles and god damned sunshine, I swear.

So, then we go to the kitchen, I set the kid up on a stool the wife puts the bowl of oatmeal on the counter. I ask my wife if she’s seen the cat.

Now that damned cat is the whole reason I even dragged my sick ass out of bed this early I’m getting the kid to school, so that my wife can take that murderous little turd to the veterinary clinic for it’s shots this morning.

Of course the answer is no, she aint seen the cat. Because, it’s a cat.

They’re completely unreliable. That’s why I’m a dog guy. You want reliability you, get a dog. I’ve always said that. You know I’ve always been a dog guy.

So, There I am, struggling to put canvas high tops on the dead weight that is my child. He’s not cooperating. He’s just complaining about how I’m doing it wrong between shoving spoonfuls of apples and brown sugar in his face. Meanwhile the wife’s outside calling for the freaking cat. I’m sucking snot back up into my nose, trying not to get any to the kids sneakers, ‘cause that’s gonna open up a whole new can of worms with him. I’m looking at the clock, just watching time melt away from me here, and I know, I just know there’s not a chance in hell of making it to that bus stop, not today.

So anyway Marty, you know the car’s not running right. That’s why I needed you to come pick me up this morning, right. By the way thank you. So, that means I got to get him to school on his bicycle.

I take out my phone to find out what the weather’s doing, ‘cause the radio ain’t being no help. They’re too busy yammering about what this dipshit we put in office is screwing up today. So, I look at my phone and it’s thirty-four degrees out. Now I’m like are you shitting me? Two degrees above freezing and I gotta get this kid on a bike? I tell the kid to get his helmet and, there’s suddenly all this shock and amazement. He starts whining all over again, about how it’s too cold and that he want’s to ride the bus. At this point I sort of lose it a little bit. I start telling him all of the problems I’ve had this morning. The wicked sinus headache, the blocked nasal passages, the constant whining from him. I tell him how, despite all of it, I’ve been very nice to everyone so far, and if he had just gotten up when I asked him the first time he could’ve rode the bus. So, if he didn’t mind, could he please just go get his god damned helmet so we can get on our way.

To be clear Marty, I never raised my voice. Not once you know, not really.

I go outside, I walk past my wife. She’s shaking a god damned bowl full of food for the cat all over the place, trying to get him to show up. I go back to the shed to get the bikes. Of course mines buried all the way in the back behind all the Christmas ornaments. I wrestle the damned thing out. The tires are fucking flat. I gotta pump them up. Which means I gotta dig around for the damned pump.

I do that. I bring the bikes back around to the front of the house. I go back inside.

There’s my wife, staring at me. Giving me that look. You know, that look. Apparently I upset our little angel.

I didn’t even yell at him Marty. I mean here I am. Sick as a dog, getting up early. Being nice to everyone, not complaining once. I’m being the loving husband, the dutiful father here. All so she can take this freaking cat to the vet. Now I’m all of a sudden the bad guy again.

She tells me don’t worry about it. She’ll take him to school. She can’t find the cat anyway, so she’ll just call and reschedule the appointment for later in the day. She’s not raising he voice, not making a fuss, but I know I’m gonna hear about it later, believe me.

They walk out the door.

I sit down on one of the kitchen stools.  Finally, I take a sip of my freaking coffee that I poured myself forty-five minutes ago. It’s ice fucking cold. I look down. There’s the cat. Crawling out if the fucking pet carrier. It’s been asleep in there this whole time.

Jesus, I tell you Marty, I hate that damned cat.

So anyway, let’s talk about how you want to do this bank heist.

Old Cat

The old cat lay in its warm spot on the grass.

Its fur tattered and patched, teeth mostly broken or gone.

It rarely bothered to get up anymore. Its spine hurt with age. Its back legs barely worked through the pain of old injuries.

The others would go and rub against the small girl that stopped by everyday to pet the strays on the lot. 

It just ignored her through its crusted eye.

Wondering if the old woman was going to come by to feed them today.

Laying there, waiting out the remaining days in its little patch of sunshine.

Portal Dread

He stared at the open door with sickening dread. Had he been robbed? Had the landlord shown up?  He nervously approached the yawning frame. No, he had been careless, left it open. Peering inside there was only darkness. He had let it out.  A wren lay, pristine and bloodless, one wing spread open across the threshold. A sign, he knew what it meant.  The bird was just the first. Now it was loose in the world.  It was his fault. He went next door and knocked gingerly.

“Hey Tom.”

“Hi Sarah, have you seen my cat? She’s gotten loose again.”

Cake Plate

If ever I should want to revisit anger all I have to do is lean over the table in the kitchen that holds the toaster and the all important coffee maker, and look past the rack full of dishes to peer behind the fridge. That’s where the cake plate lives. At least that’s where it lives now. Wallowing upside down and all but forgotten.

Sometime next year, in mid-March, I’ll be forced to crawl under the table, squeezing past the microwave that rests beneath it supported by the milk crates where we keep our canned goods; then, with much groaning and straining, stretch my arm until I think my shoulder is going to dislocate, back behind the appliance in hopes of reaching the shiny metal platter with the very tips of my fingers, it’s lid hopefully locked firmly in place so it can be inched towards me and passed upwards to my wife. It will then be washed in preparations for the only purpose for it’s existence; to transport my daughter’s birthday cake  from our tiny two bedroom apartment to whatever park we have decided to hold her party at. When the complaining, sweaty children have devoured their fill of chocolate coated sugar sponge, that will probably also involve strawberries. It then will be carried back home without ceremony by my exhausted wife and I, so that it can shuffled about our tiny kitchen for a few days while we struggle to dispose of the inevitable leftovers; without either gorging ourselves on sugar, or actually throwing away potentially edible cake. This latter condition serves mainly to avoid the wrath of the small child who keeps careful track of how many theoretical slices are left beneath that sacred metal dome.

Once this is accomplished it will be cleaned and dried then put back together, making sure the lid is firmly locked into place. The freshly polished vessel will be returned to its proper and prominent place, on top of the fridge, because it is too big and its shape to awkward to be stored anywhere else.

And there is will rest…

For about two days…

Until I am trying to take a nap in the living room…

And the god damned cat climbs up there for no reason and knocks the useless thing behind the refrigerator again.

Cats are jerkfaces.

Meesa and the Gremlin

Meesa knew that smell anywhere.

That mixture of machine oil, curiosity and, corruption. It was a gremlin, a kind of gnome gone horribly wrong. They constantly take things apart to see how to make them break down more efficiently. This was going to be tricky. Anything that spends its afternoons contemplating the best way to blow things up does not tend to have a well-developed sense of fear.

She crept into the dimly lit garage. The ability to see in the dark might not be the best of her abilities but, right now Meesa thought it was pretty close to the top of the list. She was hoping her amazing agility and experience as a hunter would be tipping points. The gremlin was cornered as planned, the problem being it was cornered near an array of power tools. Inch by inch she snuck toward the impish thing. Occupied by its tinkering, it seemed unaware of her. Meesa readied herself, crouched low, and leapt. She unsheathed her blades as she sailed through the air, ready for the kill.

Suddenly, the gremlin whirled aiming a cordless drill and a maniacal grin at her. Meesa twisted her body at the last second to avoid its thrust. Landing awkwardly on her feet, spun and swept him to the ground. The weapon flew from its hands and into a shelf, sending paint cans clattering downwards and tools sprawling everywhere. A quick punching stab to its throat and it was over. Meesa licked her lips, now for the fun part.

The door flew open.

“Damn it cat! What the hell are you doing in here?” screamed the voice.

Meesa slunk away miserably from the wreckage. Stupid human, she thought, I probably just saved your life. After all it isn’t her fault gremlins are invisible.

This story inspired by a Weekly Challenge, and by a character invented by my daughter.

Around the Garden

Darkness and moonlight are our time. Eyes wide, I see you trembling in the garden.

You know I am here, you are excited.

I worry you, don’t I.

A smile.

A quick step.

We have our dance and then a kiss.

I leave you a gift, she will like you.

Photo courtesy of  my cat.

Photo courtesy of my cat.

This story inspired by a Weekly Challenge, and my cat.