Mrs. Bell’s Cat: A Short Tale for Halloween

GrayCat

Mrs. Bell’s Cat

One fall day, Mrs. Bell opened the bay windows in her sitting room as she was dusting. She didn’t notice the lithe little shadow that slipped in, slid through the doorway into the dining room and up the stairs to her guest bedroom on the second floor, where it found a nice dark closet to rest.

Mrs. Bell bustled about her Saturday cleaning, a kerchief over her soft white curls to keep them neat.  As always, the house was in perfect order, each item replaced where it belonged as soon as she was done with it.  Her husband, Harold, God rest his soul, had been a fastidious man but even he had felt Mrs. Bell’s wrath when he had carelessly left a newspaper on a chair.

No, now that she had the house to herself, Mrs. Bell kept everything just so. Therefore, Saturday cleaning did not take more than half the day. In the morning, she pulled out the glass cleaner, scouring powder, vacuum and mop to make sure the house positively sparkled.

She started by emptying all the waste baskets and then cleaning them before relining them with white plastic bags. Then she scoured the sinks and scrubbed the commodes. She replaced the cat litter and vacuumed the house from top to bottom before mopping all the floors that were not covered in carpeting.

Twice a year she took down the curtains and washed them while she cleaned the windows, washed the woodwork with oil soap and the wallpaper with a special cleaner.

After a modest lunch of soup and half a sandwich, she went out to the garage to get her car. As she stepped out the door in the breezeway and turned to pull it shut, her neighbor, who happened to be out walking her little Jack Russell Terrier, hailed her.

Mrs. Bell put on a reserved smile and walked down the little sidewalk, refusing to yell across the yard as her neighbor did, though she didn’t get too close to the yappy little dust mop her neighbor called a dog. “Good morning, Edith.”

“I see you finally got yourself some company?” her neighbor said, nodding toward the front window.

Mrs. Bell turned toward the house and followed her neighbor’s gaze to see the gray cat that she had brought home from the humane society, sunning itself in the window. She glared at the cat but smiled sweetly before turning back to her neighbor. “Yes, it’s so much company, I almost can’t stand it.”

Once she’d managed to extricate herself from the conversation with Edith, Mrs. Bell pulled her car out and drove down to the market to pick up a few provisions, then visited the library and, finally, drove her little gray Honda home again. Once everything was put away, she relaxed in the sitting room with a book until time to make dinner, some nice poached fish and peas. After dinner, she watched Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune.

That night, she was cleaned up and dressed in her long white nightgown, tucked up in bed, thinking of the lovely sermon to come in the morning, then the social hour after, where she would serve coffee and cookies with the other ladies of St. James Church.

Mrs. Bell’s houseguest, though, was just beginning to stir. It slipped out from under the door and puddled there for a moment. It slunk along the wall of the room, as if testing the confines. At the door into the hallway it hesitated then the whole shadow seemed to vibrate.

It flowed more surely now as it slid back down the stairs and under the door into the kitchen. It stopped and vibrated again.

The gray cat turned from its water bowl and hissed, standing on tip toe. The cat’s fur stood up in a ridge as it curled its back end around, trying to protect its flank.

It didn’t matter, it was over in a minute. The shadow flowed over the cat, thinning to slide in through the nostrils. The cat shook its head side to side and staggered a few steps. It shook its head then dropped to the floor. At last, the flanks did not rise. The cat’s green eyes stared blindly.

After a few minutes, the cat clumsily stood and shook itself. It put one paw in front of the other and staggered, as if it were drunk. With each movement across the room, though, it became more graceful and natural. Finally, it reached up and batted with one paw until it managed to turn the lock on the doorknob and shouldered the door open to escape the kitchen.

It was moving easily now and took a lap around the downstairs, looking and sniffing.

At last, it came to the stairs and climbed them, going directly to Mrs. Bell’s bedroom, where the door stood open. The cat padded silently into the room and leapt easily onto the bed.

Mrs. Bell woke with a start. She switched on the lamp to find the cat sitting serenely next to her.

She stared for a moment. “Howard? Is that you?”

The cat blinked slowly and then began to purr.  With a cry, she gathered him into her arms.  “Oh, Howard! I knew as soon as I heard about the cats turning up suffocated around town that you’d be back soon so I went right out and got this one from the humane society.”

She kissed the cat as it purred then wiped the fur from her mouth and wondered how long she’d be able to put up with that.

 

*I hope you enjoyed the story! ~ M.

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The Rise and Fall of the Phoenix: a flash fiction

Phoenix_detail_from_Aberdeen_Bestiary

 

A silly little 50 word flash fiction for Chuck Wendig’s challenge, but at least it’s something new. Feeling the need to write today.

The Rise and Fall of the Phoenix

The Phoenix rose into the air, shaking off ashes.

Gross.

Up and up it climbed until at last it could soar on zephyrs. It swallowed the urge to crow like a rooster.

How inappropriate.

The bird never knew what hit it. The 747 never realized either, as it went on its way.

The F in the Blue Box: a very short story

Happy Friday everyone! Here’s a little bit of humor to start the weekend off right.

CoffeeCup

 

Alex,

Your last roommate’s name was Mary, right? I found this note wedged behind the bathroom mirror. (It was a little crooked.) What exactly happened to her?

Alex – They’re here! In the hallway outside the apartment. They say they’re from the department of health and my coffee this morning may have been contaminated but I know who they really are… they’re from Facebook! This is all because I tried to close my Facebook account this afternoon – they’re trying to take over the world!

I have to write quietly or they’ll suspect and look for the note. I don’t think I have much time. I realized what was happening this morning on my way to work. There was this guy on the street corner outside the coffee shop and he was trying to warn people about Facebook. I didn’t believe it at first but when I came out of the coffee shop after I got my latte, he was gone! A limo was pulling away from the corner and, I swear, I think the license plate said Facebook!

Then I started seeing it – everywhere! It was on the coffee shop door, on my coffee cup, on the side of the bus!!! That little f in the blue box. It all means Facebook! When I got to work it was even on Jenna’s sneakers! She said they had a pedometer that sent the info to her Facebook account but I don’t know.

The boss said he thought I was running a fever and sent me home but I know the real reason – I was asking too many questions!

I tried to delete my Facebook account this afternoon – but it wouldn’t let me! So I tried deleting everything but it was taking too long so I had to smash my computer. (I’m sorry. I had to smash your computer too, but I couldn’t risk them watching me through your web cam. And the T.V. too!)

The phone kept ringing all afternoon. I’m sure it was Mark Zuckerberg. He’s the head of it all! You know, they eat lima beans for dinner, don’t you? Everybody knows but nobody says it! They want people’s brains. Maybe they’re zombies!

I’m running out of time. The super is here and he’s going to unlock the door! I’m going to hide this note. I hope you find it. Good luck! Don’t let them get you too!!!

Your friend,

Mary

Alex folded the note in half then tore it into strips. Some things were better left unanswered. He started the car and headed out to his first day on a new job at Facebook.

 

Tornado Run: A Flash Fiction

I wrote this as a 50 word flash fiction a couple years ago, a couple years after the event it is based on. I’ve written an essay on it and just fleshed this out for Chuck Wendig’s latest challenge.

Seymour_Texas_Tornado

 

Vibration, air pressure, a sound? Mama snatches baby up and runs for the cellar. A roar – the house lurches.

Through the kitchen door – toward the windows and cellar, or drop and cover baby with her own body? A moment’s hesitation then down the stone steps into an old coal bin.

Baby cries.

“Shhh… mama’s gotcha.”

Lightning flashes, water pours in the corner of the foundation, subsides. They venture upstairs and she opens the kitchen door. Smoke? No, plaster dust from falling ceiling. Grab car seat, purse and cell.

“Something’s happened. We can’t stay here.”

“We’re on our way.”

Biomalware: A Short Story

Here’s a very short Science Fiction story for a slow Friday afternoon. This is a story that I wrote several years ago which started me on the novel I am trying to finish now.  The story has gone through quite a bit of changes, but this is still the basis.

Potager_en_plate-bande

“Daddy,” Maddy whispered. Derek looked into the two year old’s dull eyes. “I hurt, owie.”

Derek’s stomach clenched. “I know, honey. The doctor’s going to give us something to make it better.”

“This should do it.” The doctor handed Derek the prescriptions. “One dose of each before a meal will help get her eating again and control the IBS symptoms.”

“Thanks, doc.”

The doctor nodded. “Wait here and Stephie will be in.”

Derek hugged Maddy tighter. This nightmare had to be at an end. Maddy always seemed to be in pain, either from hunger or from trying to digest the food.

The nurse, Stephie, came in. She had taken care of Maddy each time she’d been at the doctor’s since she was born. Despite the fact that she had to give Maddy shots, the little girl liked her. She took Maddy from Derek and bounced Maddy, cooing.

It took Derek a minute to realize that Stephie was waggling a note in the hand under his daughter.

“Wha?”

She gave a short emphatic shake of her head so Derek tucked the note in his pocket. Was she hitting on him?

“Let’s get you scheduled for an appointment, shall we?”

*****

In the car, Derek pulled out the note.

“Before you get the medicine, take her to John Garrett. Trust me, he can help you.”

There was a map below the instructions.

“What the heck?” The doctor had prescribed medicine. Wouldn’t that take care of it? He looked at Maddy’s listless face in the mirror. “What would your mother do?” And he knew, she would have gone to any lengths to care for Maddy and she would have trusted another woman.

Derek started the car and headed out of town, following the map into the hills.

It took about half an hour to reach an access road, which led to a farmyard. The house was plain but neat, with a flower box at the windowsill. Derek got out and opened the back door. As he unbuckled Maddy from her car seat, two kids came running around the barn. They stopped when they saw him but as he straightened up with Maddy in his arms they came forward.

“Is this where John Garrett lives?”

The older girl nodded. “Dad’s inside.”

She led the way. “Dad, somebody here to see you!”

Derek stayed on the front porch, unsure of his welcome. A bearded man in jeans and a flannel shirt came to the door. His face was impassive but as he took in Maddy, it softened.

“Stephie, at Dr. Cole’s, sent me.”

The other man nodded. “I’m John. You’d better come in. She having trouble eating?”

Derek nodded. “How’d you know?

“That’s who Stephie sends me. Have a seat.” John indicated the table near the kitchen area.

Derek stepped inside. The floor plan was open, with doors to the right, leading into the rest of the house, a kitchen area in front of him and a family area to the left.

John opened the fridge, pulled out a bottle of green juice and poured a little into a cup.

He put it in front of Derek. “Try to get her to drink some of this.”

Derek picked it up and sniffed. It smelled… green, but a little sweet, like juice.

“It’s just fruits and vegetables – apples, kale, lemon, some parsley, and the like.”

Derek offered it to Maddy. She was hungry enough to take a few sips but then she pushed it away and Derek set it down. “Thanks, but it’s hard to get her to eat.”

John nodded. “Because it hurts, I know, but this won’t. Just give her a few minutes.”

They watched for a minute and Derek was amazed when Maddy actually reached for the cup and picked it up. He laughed as she drank the cup down. “What’s in this? Chocolate?”

John smiled and shook his head. “Just fruits and vegetables grown from open-pollination or heirloom, non-gmo seeds.”

“Are you saying I just need to buy organic food?” Derek was incredulous.

John shook his head. “Not quite, your little girl’s having a reaction to the genetically modified food. It’s like lactose intolerance or inability to digest soy, but on a larger scale. Genetically modified seed has become ubiquitous in our farming. For the most part, you’re getting organically farmed food from genetically modified seed. Crops have been contaminated by pollen from GM foods.”

Derek tried to make sense of it. “Her mother died six months after she was born. Maddy seemed to do well when she was breast feeding but when we started formula it started and got worse as she started eating more solid food.”

John nodded. “Her mom’s body was filtering out a lot of the bad stuff, which helped your girl but overloaded her system. I lost my first wife the same way. That’s how I got started in this type of farming. One guess as to who holds the patent for the medication the doctor prescribed for your girl today.”

“The same people who hold the patent on the genetically modified crops?”

“Bingo.”

John excused himself and returned with a bag for Derek.

Derek opened the bag and found envelopes, hand labeled with tomato, corn, peas, etc.

“These are heirloom seeds. They’ll get you started and you’ll be able to grow more plants if you save some seeds from these guys. I’ll be able to supply you with safe food for her for a bit but we need to get you producing your own food.”

It was hard to take in but Derek looked down at Maddy. She smiled and held up the cup “More?”

He couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen her smile.

“Okay. What do I do?”

Senselessness in Suburbia: a flash fiction

(Note: This is a quick short story in response to Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenge on 5/12/14. Please let me know what you think!)

 Suburban_neighborhood,_Van_Nuys,_CA

 

Senselessness in Suburbia

Ellen opened her eyes and blinked until the chair rungs came into focus. Her head ached and she felt nauseous. She lifted her right hand to the painful spot on the top of her head and groaned softly.

She used her other hand to slowly push up into a sitting position. She was on the floor of her kitchen. How did I get here?

She looked around slowly. Her hand flew to her mouth. Jim was lying on the floor behind her. She moved to sit beside him and touched his face. It was bruised, one eye swollen shut, his lip split and bleeding. “Oh! The Borderlands expire thanks to the hundred violins.”

Wait. What? She had meant to ask if he was alright. She tried again, “A poetic pattern retains inertia.” What the heck? Something is very wrong. I’m not making any sense. She stroked Jim’s cheek but there was no response.

Using the chair beside her, Ellen climbed to her feet then sat as her vision threatened to short circuit and her stomach lurched. The kitchen was in disarray, drawers pulled out, and she could see into the next room that it was similarly trashed. What had happened? She couldn’t remember. “The expression of classification is connected to the culture of corporeality.” And something was seriously wrong with her though she seemed to be thinking clearly.

She needed help but she couldn’t call 911 if she couldn’t talk. Mark! The next door neighbor was a doctor.

Ellen made her way out the back door and staggered across the yard in her fluffy slippers and terry robe. She banged on the back door with the side of her fist until it hurt but there was no response.

Nick! Nick was halfway down the street and he was a podiatrist but surely he had gone through medical training. She looked back at her own house then turned and went along the side of the neighbor’s house to get to the sidewalk. Need to hurry but I can’t afford to pass out.

Along the front of houses, the well-manicured lawns were empty in the too bright mid-morning sun and the birds chirped too loudly. She could hear a lawn mower somewhere but couldn’t tell where. Which house was Nick’s? It was yellow with white trim, she remembered that. She walked along, pausing to put a hand on a tree trunk whenever her head swam too much. She found Nick and Marina’s house and went up the walk. There was no answer here either.

What now? Tears threatened as her head pounded so that she could hardly think. She snuffled and headed back toward her own house. Need to check on Jim. Maybe if she dialed 911 they would trace the call and come even if she couldn’t explain?

The hum of a car coming up the street behind her made Ellen stop and turn around, hope rising. It was a police cruiser! She stepped into the street and waved her arms. The car slowed to a stop in front of her.

The passenger door opened and a young female officer stepped out and came around the car. “What’s the problem, Ma’am?”

She clasped her hands together as if praying or pleading with the young officer to understand her. Please, you have to listen to me. “The criminal disappears after the inventor.” Her face crumpled. No! No! No! Why was she saying that? Those weren’t the words screaming in her mind to get out. Why couldn’t she say them? She forced her feelings under control. No! She would not give up.

The older male officer in the car leaned out. “What’s going on? Is she a bag lady?”

The younger officer looked at her then spoke over her shoulder. “No, I don’t think so, Sarge. Too well put together, good haircut and color. I think you better call an ambulance. She might be having a stroke.”

Ellen reached out and grasped the young officer’s arm. She tugged at her, trying to pull her toward the house.

“I’m sorry, ma’am,” the young officer said. “My name is Theresa. I don’t understand but I’m going to do everything I can to help you.”

Ellen tugged at Theresa’s arm, and turned to point to her own house, then grabbed the young woman’s hand and raised it to the top of her own head, tipping forward to show the bruise.

Theresa’s eyes went wide. “Okay, okay, I think I get it.” She called back over her shoulder. “Sarge, she’s got quite a wallop on her head. I think I better follow her. Somebody else might be hurt.”

“Okay, I’m right behind you.”

Ellen drew her down the sidewalk by the hand. She heard the Sargeant following. She led them around back but when she tried the doorknob, she realized the door had closed behind her and locked. She gave a wordless cry of frustration.

“Is this your house?” Theresa asked.

Tears welling in her eyes again, Ellen nodded and pointed to the gap between the curtains in the door’s window, one hand on the other woman’s shoulder to draw her closer.

Theresa leaned in and looked. “Sarge, I think I see someone’s legs on the floor.”

“Let’s get it open,” he agreed.

They stepped back. Theresa broke and cleared the window glass with her baton then reached in to turn the knob.

As soon as the door opened, Ellen rushed in and knelt beside Jim, crooning as she stroked his hair.

Theresa checked his vitals then turned to her partner. “He’s still alive.”

He nodded and spoke into his shoulder mounted walkie-talkie. “Dispatch, we have a man down inside the residence.”

“It’s going to be okay,” Theresa told Ellen. “Help is on the way.”

Ellen nodded and let the tears flow as she held Jim’s hand. It was going to be okay.