Up the Tree

Submitted into Contest #30 in response to: Write a story about someone who loses their cat.... view prompt

1 comment


           Ever since I was a kid, I’ve had a kinship with cats. It isn’t just my need for alone time contrasted with my desire to be so close to people cuddling in the couch that I’m practically on top of them. Or the desire to climb trees (luckily I can get down easier than most cats). Or even the need to have dinner now, it’s 7PM, you said it was dinner time, where is the food?

           It’s just love. I’ve always loved them, and Cat Person does not describe me well enough. So I was devastated when Tabitha went missing. She was always coming in and out of the house, but it was two weeks since I’d last seen her and was convinced by that point that she’d been hit by a car, or eaten by a coyote, or had befallen a similar horrible fate.

Not to mention, it was the week before Halloween. Even if she had been just wandering about, clueless to my paranoia and concern, I never let my black cats, of which I had two, outside the last week of October. It was a horrible fact, but one that I couldn’t deny: people who saw one this close to Halloween were not unlikely to lash out, even kill them. They were associated with superstitions and witchcraft, sometimes even thought to be familiars or shapeshifters. You would think this would scare people away, but no; when they saw one, they would hurt it. Humankind baffles me sometimes.

So when I spotted her up a tree one evening as I walked home from the store, having recognized the sound of her meowing and following it to the source, I was over the moon.

“Tabitha! Oh my god, you look like you’ve lost five pounds.” I put down my bags, staring up at her, hands on my hips.

           Making pitiful sounds to ensure she didn’t lose my attention, she stared down at me, as if to say, “What are you waiting for? Come get me!”

           “You are inexplicable, you know that?” I spoke, my head tilted up at her. “Why on Earth would you go up that tree, much less go up that high?”

           Tabitha’s only response was more pathetic meowling as she gazed down at me. I put down my grocery bags and took off my purse and started to climb. It didn’t take me long to reach her and, graciously, she didn’t bolt out further onto the branch.

           I had five cats altogether, which friends of mine said did officially make me a crazy cat lady. It was cat number five that made it official, they’d told me. It was an affectionate nickname, though, and more often than not resulted in cat memes and rescue stories being sent my way on Facebook. Also one of my friends had a neighbor who at one point discovered a few kittens nearby, and had needed some assistance with a rescue attempt. Of course, it was my pleasure to help out with that.

           It had taken everything I had not to adopt all three kittens.

“You are trouble. You know that?” I asked her. She stared at me with her big brown eyes, satisfied to let me pick her up with one hand, perch her against my shoulder, and slowly start to descend back toward the ground.

“What the hell are you doing?”

I froze at the sneering voice below me and looked down to see several teenage boys staring up at me. “She was stuck,” I told them after a hesitation.

“She’s yours? What, you a witch?” one of them snapped.

Swallowing hard, I held tightly to her with one hand, my other hand on a branch beside me. “Just leave us alone,” I managed.

“What’ve you got?” another asked, picking up one of my reusable bags.

“Just leave it,” I told him. “I’m just going home from the store-”

“What the hell is this?” the second asked, pulling out a package of milk thistle. I swallowed hard. “Holy shit,” he exclaimed, looking up at me, “you are, aren’t you? You’re a freaking witch!”

“No way,” said the first boy. “She’s, like, walking home. She lives around here. You think a witch really lives in this neighborhood?”

“Some of them are pùcas,” the second told his friend, and the two others staring warily. “They can blend in anywhere, look like whatever they want, whoever they want.” He glared up at me. “Even a pretty girl.”

“Of course she’s a witch, look at the black cat!” the first one said, pointing.

“There’s been some missing pets around here lately,” the second boy growled. “What do you want to bet she’s behind that? Using their eyes and guts for spells and shit.”

“That’s horrific!” I cried. “I’d never do that!”

“So you are a witch!” he shouted. “Get the hell down here. I’ve got two little brothers and there ain’t no way I’m letting a witch live anywhere near us.”

“Is that a cat or one of those pets witches have that turns into a person?” the first boy spoke up angrily. “Is that a real cat?”

“Let’s find out,” the second chimed in. “Get down here or we’re coming up!”

My upper lip twitched in anger and I clenched my fists. After a moment of hesitation, I took Tabitha from my shoulder and, probably puzzling her quite a bit, put her back on a branch beside me. Glaring down at them, I took a step along the branch I was on. And then dropped.

And by the time I hit the ground, I’d shifted to a cheetah.

“What the hell?” one of the boys shouted as they backpedaled.

I growled loudly and let out a snarl, taking slow steps forward. The boys didn’t hesitate another moment. They bolted.

As soon as they were out of sight, I shifted back to my normal form, tears in my eyes. It wasn’t exactly a smart move, threatening someone with another form, but I wasn’t willing to risk them hurting Tabitha. If the police showed up at my front door later that night, so be it.

Sniffling, I headed back up the tree.

February 21, 2020 22:46

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

1 comment

Zaslow Crane
21:52 Mar 04, 2020

Entertaining! I liked the conversational tone as well...Although, as I was enjoying the tone, I didn't relize that I was being lulled into a false sense of normalcy. The ending was a complete surprise though I was unclear to me as to why there were tears in her eyes as she shifted back to normal.


Show 0 replies
RBE | Illustrated Short Stories | 2024-06

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in Reedsy Studio. 100% free.