It was a cat. A black cat.

My eyes teared as I was blinded by the six o’clock autumn sun. Navigating the maze of turns toward my house with a smoothie in one hand proved too great a challenge when the black cat darted across my path.

“Cheese and rice,” I cried, skidding to a stop as my cadet fingers lost hold of the 40-ounce cup launching its contents onto the dashboard and floor of my Honda Civic. At the same moment, the abrupt stop projected an empty travel mug from the back seat into my head. I grabbed the back of my head and stopped in the middle of the road unsure of how to proceed.


“Go, just go,” I cried. I looked up into my rear-view mirror and a large pickup truck was waiting on me. I couldn’t think. I wanted to scoop the smoothie back into the cup, but my hands were shaking, and it was just dripping everywhere. I stepped on the gas, but the smoothie came flying off the dashboard saturating my oversized black Irish sweater. So, I jammed on the brake again. Everything became blurry as my eyes welled up. I could feel my makeup starting to run down my face.  My long black hair felt heavy and stuck to the sweater.  I was in a haze as a languid Billie Eilish song played on the radio. I sank until the pickup blasted past, kicking pebbles onto my car, as the driver signed a hateful gesture.

I exhaled some depression and eased forward, trying to get the final block of my journey home without further incident. After slugging into the driveway and removing myself from the smoothie bath, I hobbled into the house to change and gather cleaning equipment. When I returned, the black cat was licking up some of the smoothie I’d dripped onto the porch.

“Go away!” I shooed, flapping an arm like I was swatting a fly. The cat jumped away, but recircled chanting a melody of meows. With my mind occupied cleaning the inside of the car, I let her stay and lick the smoothie off the driveway. When I finished, the cat rubbed my leg with its head, and I went inside thinking it’d be the last time I’d see her.

The next morning, as I was getting ready for work, I heard the sound of a cat outside my front door. I opened the door, and there she was - the same mangy cat. I eyed her looking up at me. She had missing patches of fur on her back and a bump on her head.  Where would a cat like this come from? No collar, just a wanderer, I guess. A loner like me.  “Hey, this isn’t your home. Come on, beat it!” but she didn’t move and just meowed at me. “Fine, I’ll see what I’ve got.” I went back inside, foraged the cupboards, and returned. “Here you go, fresh tuna straight from the can.” I let her be, but as I left for work thirty minutes later, I noticed the cat watching me from the neighbor’s yard.

That evening, I came home to my new friend. Now, I’ve done it. Looks like she thinks I’m her meal ticket.

“Great,” I sighed as she greeted me with a dance and a chorus of meows. She looked like she was happy to see me with the way she pranced back and forth from the door to the bench on the porch, rubbing up against both as she passed. “I guess we are at a crossroads,” I told her. “I feed you again, and I’m stuck. Otherwise, I need to lay down the law.” Like she could understand me, she rubbed her head on my shoe like she was snuggling. “Fine,” I looked at her and rubbed her belly with my foot. “One meal a day, and it’ll be the cheap stuff.”

I went inside and grabbed a Kraft singles slice of cheese. I didn’t want this feline to think it’d be tuna every day. All I knew about cats I’d learned from Sabrina the Teenage Witch TV show; cheese was only a guess, but she ate it.

The next morning, my pal was waiting for a meal. I was running late so I grabbed another piece of cheese and made a mental note to get cat food. As I approached the car, I screamed in frustration, “NO, NO, NO.” I couldn’t believe it. A bird left his business all over the wind shield of my car. I looked up, and sure enough, there was a fresh bird nest in the tree right above my car. “What is this place turning into - animal kingdom?”

“ Do you mind? Got a sleeping baby!” came a voice from across the fence. It was my neighbor Tom Phillips. I looked to the sky, closed my eyes, and let out a long breath.  I can’t believe I was ever attracted to him.  Without acknowledging Tom, I grabbed the hose from between my bushes that I used to water my lawn and hosed down the bird biscuits. Tom liked to remind me that watering the yard was a waste of our precious natural resources, so I squirted the grass as well.

Later that day, I returned home with fresh food for my new friend. She was waiting for me on the porch, but I was going to stick to my guns. “One meal a day,” I told the cat as I approached the porch.

The cat meowed at me and started its food dancing ritual. As I approached the door, I noticed something on the welcome mat. A dead bird.

“Gross, ahh, bad cat,” I gagged and shooed the cat away. After stowing my groceries, I went back outside to dispose of the bird with an old shoe box.

As I was putting the box into the trash can, I heard the all too familiar judgement from across the fence - “You really should recycle that.”  He stood on his porch leering at me.  I could feel his eyes admiring my figure.

“Oh, okay.” I waited until he turned to go inside, and then I threw the bird on his side of the fence. The empty box went into the recycling bin. I strutted back to my house with a smile.

That evening, as I watched a rerun of forensic files, I searched the internet on my iPad. I figured I’d see what I could do about discouraging this cat from leaving me dead birds. Turns out, it’s a good thing. The cat was thanking me for giving it food by presenting me a gift. I had a friend.

The next few days seemed to be the same old routine- feed the cat as I left for work, come home to a dancing cat that lightened up an otherwise mundane existence.

Then, one day, I came home to my neighbor’s dog standing in my flower bed peeing. I immediately got out of my car and slapped the hood, jolting the air. The dog scurried away, and I yelled, “get out of here, you mongrel!” I turned towards the Phillips house and yelled, “keep your flea bag on a leash or I’ll call the pound.” I immediately regretted the yell, so I floundered into my house. I was taking a nap before making dinner, when I was jolted up so abruptly that I bit my lip. I heard the terrifying squeal of a cat on attack, followed by a yelp and then a crying yowl. I looked out of the window and saw the Phillips’ dog run to their yard.

I returned to the front door and jumped back as I opened the door, for the cat had what was left of the dog’s ear in front of her. That scene, coupled with the iron taste of blood from my lip, was too much, so I ended up throwing up right there on my porch.

“ Gross,” I said stepping backwards and grabbing an umbrella to flick the ear piece into the bushes. After dumping some water on the mess I’d made, I dropped some food on the porch for the cat. I looked next door and saw Tom running to his car with the dog.

When he caught sight of me, he yelled, “I can’t believe you’d do this.” Then, he hopped into the car and sped away.

“Serves him right. “I felt bad for saying it, but there was a certain pleasure in their pain.

Later that evening, I was startled by three loud thumps on the door. I looked up and could see Tom Phillips glaring through my window.

“ What do you want?” I asked as I opened the door.

He was red and sweating through the sparse follicles that made up his hair. His yellow teeth and crystal blue eyes gave his gaunt skin a green tint. Spitting as he spoke, he told me, “here’s the bill for the vet.”

“ I’m not paying that,” I said, closing the door.

“ How could you do it?” he puffed, “he’s just a dog.”

I ran out to the porch as he was leaving. “You know Tom, you’re the only pain in the ass neighbor on this street. We’d be better off without you. I didn’t touch your dog, but I’m glad it was yours who got it.” I sped inside and slammed the door before he could respond. I stood in the hall huffing. God, that guy annoyed me. I tried to sit back down and watch a show, but I couldn’t concentrate with Tom on my mind. The nerve. Like I’m going to pay that bill. It felt good to tell him off. Really good.

The next morning, I knew Tom would be waiting for me. I opened the front door, spilled food onto the porch for the cat, and closed it all in one motion. I bounded toward my car staring towards Tom who said “I’m waiting.”

I raised my palm to him.  He stopped. “Don’t.”

“I’ll…” he started again.

I looked him dead pan in the eyes and said, “just don’t.” I got in my car and left Tom with his mouth open. I put the car in reverse and pulled out with a skid. It wasn’t my intention to make a scene with the skid, so I stopped, scoping the area. The cat was at the edge of the driveway staring like a statue at the Phillips’s property. Her frozen position freaked me out while entrancing me until a car trying to pass honked their horn. I snapped out of my spell, once again skidded out, and headed to work.

I had a bad day’s work, my mind distracted by the events of the last twenty-four hours. I returned home in a bad mood, unwilling to engage with Tom. As I opened the car door, I braced for a confrontation, but was relieved to find no foe. I charged towards the front door, looking over my shoulder, nearly tripping over the cat that was waiting for me on the stoop. I looked down to avoid the dancing cat and was frozen in my footsteps.

On the doormat next to the proudly posing feral cat was a crystal blue eyeball staring back at me.

“Well, that’s a nice story, Miss Roberts, but let’s hear the truth now,” said the detective as he leaned back and folded his arms.

“What do you mean? I just told you...”

“Save it. We have a video from the neighbor across the street- a Mr Muska. You probably didn’t know he keeps a video camera running. It’s for his plumbing truck, but there you are on the video biting the ear off the dog. What do you say we cut to the chase and you tell us about Tom.

October 28, 2022 20:58

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Helen A Smith
08:22 Dec 23, 2022

Enjoyed the story. There’s clearly a toxic history between the main character and Tom which comes across at the end. With neighbours like that, who needs enemies? Didn’t expect the ending.


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D.J. Lewis
10:51 Nov 03, 2022

Interesting piece - unexpected ending. Great job - had to read it a couple of times but glad I did!


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Tommy Goround
22:33 Nov 02, 2022

"Willie has hidden the gun. (What gun?) The quintessential style of Alfred Hitchcock. This story requires a dozen readings to fully see all of the brilliant details."


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