Short Fiction: Play Date

The last day stuck in his memory.

Josh had left the meeting and work for the day. He needed to think. 

Coffee and avocado toast. He’d found a seat by the window. Four hours of negotiations on the acquisition. 

His phone dinged quietly with a text from his sister Kitty. She’d started the seedlings for her summer garden. It was only March but it was time for her. Every year he’d go to her house and help her can salsa and a myriad of other wonderful magical things she’d fit into Mason jars. Then they’d go on her deck where they’d drink beer and eat chips and salsa, and talk about everything, and nothing at all. She’d always pin her hair up and wear dangling earrings.  Her laugh was infectious. He had needed that laugh after all of his meetings that morning. Jake would call her later.

Right now it was an exhausting and shitty day.  Nobody was happy. Nobody would listen. He’d had an intelligent well thought out plan. It was a cluster fuck of already made ignorant opinions. Nothing was backed up with facts or experience. 

On the way home a ladder had fallen from a utility truck, hit a car a few places ahead of him on the freeway.  The next thing Jake knew a woman was holding his arm and they were both covered with blood. 

His arm was broken, his face was bruised and cut, his entire body felt like he’d been beaten with a baseball bat then thrown off of a cliff.  His car was totaled.  Stitches went from his left ear down his jawline to his chin.  Three pins or screws or something was now holding his arms together. The headaches lasted weeks. 

The woman went to the hospital with him. She held his hand. Her name was Scarlet. The last thing he said to her was, “make sure someone feeds my cat.”

It was the last day before everything shut down. 

At home he didn’t need a car. He couldn’t have driven anyway for the next few weeks. Using a keyboard was almost impossible with two hands. If he had to go out he could take an Uber or Lyft. Food could be delivered. Cat food and litter could be delivered. No problem. 

Zoomie the gray tabby kitten was delighted to keep him company.  Unfortunately his girlfriend had moved back in with her ex the day he got out of the hospital.

By April a new car had been delivered and now had almost eighty miles on it. He wasn’t going anywhere. All work was at home. At least work was going well and keeping him busy. He’d hired three people he’d yet to meet in person.  A woman named Emerald had been cleaning his house since he’d come home with the broken arm.

By June the depression rolled in so he would put Zoomie in a backpack or in his harness and go for long walks.  By July his sister was canning without him. His brother and parents had driven down to see him a few times. It was always great to see them. They begged him to come up and stay with them but he was too busy with work. He’d bake cookies for Emerald to bring home to her husband and kids. 

At the end of July he could pull his hair back in a ponytail. He’d started working out again. Zoomie was getting huge.  

One morning on Facebook he saw where a friend of a friend posted something about a dog. My brother passed away. His dog Daisy needs a home. Daisy is a sweet five-year-old German Shepard/Lab mix. She is well trained. We don’t want to take her to a shelter.

Without thinking more than five minutes about it Josh called the number. A man answered. He said his neighbor would drop off the dog.

A few hours later he got at text. I’m outside in your front yard with Daisy.

Daisy stood wagging her tail and wiggling with happiness. A pretty brown haired woman wearing a sundress held Daisy’s leash. At least he thought she was pretty. Her eyes were pretty above the mask.

She introduced Daisy to Josh, then said, “How are you Josh? Do you remember me?”

He couldn’t quite place her.

“I was in that accident when you broke your arm. I was in one of the other cars. I’m Scarlet. Do you remember me?”

“Oh, wow. Scarlet. It’s good to see you.”

“Good to see you too. You look good. Thank you for the nice letter and the flowers,” then she laughed, “and the toilet paper.”

In September Josh cleaned out the texts in his phone and found Scarlet’s message. I’m outside in your front yard with Daisy. Right now Daisy was at his feet snoring with Zoomie curled up at her side.

Outside the smoke from the fires made it unhealthy to walk. Josh put on music and danced while playing with Zoomie and Daisy. Then he pulled his hair back and attended Zoom meetings, trying to look like he was normal.  He noticed how the scar on his face showed up, not so much ugly or disturbing but interesting. 

There were Zoom calls with work and friends. His family stopped by once a month. A few friends came by. Josh talked to his neighbors. The world was opening up. It wasn’t the world where he’d stop for coffee and avocado toast when he wanted to think. This was a world of protests, and weirdness, hate, and mean politics. But in his own bubble it was a world of people who’d reached out. It was a world where he treasured each phone call and guarded visitor. It was a world where Zoomie and Daisy were his own tiny family with their own habits and secrets.

One Saturday right before Halloween he received a text. Hi. Do you mind if I bring my dog Crystal over? She and Daisy used to be great friends. In fact, they’re sisters from the same litter.  I thought it would be fun to have a play date.

Josh thoughtI could use a play date too. 

Then he texted back,That would be awesome. Bring Crystal over anytime.

Opening and closing his hand Josh still felt a little bit of numbness and a little ache.  He’d be fine. It would be more than fine.

~ end

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

Note: I’m just fooling around with some ideas for much larger and more detailed stories. As we all stay at home, worry about the election tomorrow, and think about the well being of those we care about we’re still side tracked by other challenges. Fortunately good things still happen. This might get worked into my 2020 NaNoWriMo project. You never know.

Have fun. Stay creative. Stay safe. Wear your mask. Vote. Check in on those who might need extra help both mentally and physically. Hug your kids. Kiss a Vampire. And keep checking back for more silly stuff.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Photo by Carlos Mossmann on Pexels.com

Short Story Sunday: Cousin Rachael

My cousin Rachael died last week. Her house was burning. She and her dog were found dead in her swimming pool. Her body was wracked with the effects of an advanced case of Covid-19.

The weird thing about is wasn’t the house burning, or the Covid-19, or even the fact that her hands were bound behind her back. The weirdest thing was that her dog was in the pool with her.

The fire wasn’t part of the wild fires that are blazing all over California. It was arson. Someone had poured gasoline all over her garage, lit a match, and left her alone coughing and barely able to function.

Rachael refused to go to a hospital. She’d rather be in her own bed in her own mansion. If she was going to die alone she said she wanted to be with her nasty little dog Chatsworth.

Chatsworth was a beautiful fluffy brown and white spotted animal of unknown heritage. He hated everyone except Rachael. He loved Rachael.

After Rachael died her attorney came to my house with a box. The box had holes in it. Inside of it was a cat with singed fur and whiskers. He was a large gray tabby with a white mask on his face and chest, and white paws. He’d belonged to Rachael’s ex who’d broken both of his legs in a car accident one night after they’d had a huge fight over Rachael’s callus attitudes over his place in her life. He never spoke to her again and moved out of the country.

The cat’s name was Zoomie. As soon as I let him out of the carrier he started to purr. I wondered how that cat could be so mellow and happy considering who he’d lived with.

Rachael wasn’t a nice person. In fact she was a first class raging bitch. The short list of words to describe Rachael were mean spirited, narcissistic, disingenuous, a first class liar, and a control freak. She hadn’t always been like that, well maybe she had, but it just got worse as she grew older, especially the past sixteen years.

Despite her faults (though she saw none) she was incredibly successful. Rachael lived one of those charmed lives where everything seemed to come easy. Fabulous opportunities seemed to come out of the blue. Men went crazy over her no matter how badly she treated them. People were fascinated by her. She rubbed shoulders (and more) with the rich, famous, and powerful. Rachael had done well and was fabulously rich herself. When she died she owned the home she’d died in, plus three vacation homes all free and clear. She was worth millions.

At one time Rachael and I were close. She thought so until the day she died. I’d been done with her for years.

So, back to Zoomie and my household.

I had no reason to ever be jealous of Rachael or her success. I had my own sort of charmed life. Sure it wasn’t perfect by we’d done very well. I was married to a rock star – yes a real rock star. Ben and I had met when I designed his first album cover. His band became a world wide success with hit after hit. My design career took off. After being friends for years, it turned into more than friends, then marriage, then two children.

Now the kids were in college and Ben was making cute “at home” videos with the kids and his band members. I was just hanging out and working on some illustrations projects. We were good. We had work. We had love.

We also had a new cat. Zoomie got along with the two cats and two dogs we already had. He was a wonderful animal.

So far so good, until my brother Jackie called in hysterics. He missed Rachael. He couldn’t get over the fact she was gone. The police had been by to question him to find out if he knew anyone who’d want her dead. He didn’t know anyone. He was freaked out. Completely freaked out.

I thought of a lot of people who would have wanted Rachael dead, starting with my husband.

At one time Rachael had tried to seduce Ben, then when he resisted her charms she moved on to his band members. Eventually the drummer Scotty spent a sex and drug laden weekend with Rachael. When it got too weird he went home. She spread dirt in the media about him and threatened to say she was raped. Then the nude photos started to show up. Yes, Rachael had hidden cameras in her bedroom. Of course she did.

But that was mild compared to her other bad deeds. She had a long trail of carnage she’d caused including broken marriages, ruined careers, public shame, and a list of horrible things that nobody would every want in their lives.

I told my brother that he’d be fine and decided to ignore him next time he called. I had three other siblings and a dozen cousins. All of them agreed with my take on things. She’d hurt all of them over the years in one way or the other. The only good thing about the pandemic is that nobody had to go to a funeral and tell lies about what a wonderful woman she was.

Ben was sitting at his piano working on a song with Zoomie sitting on the bench next to him. Suddenly Ben stopped and called me into the room.

He had such an odd look on his face. Then he said, “Zoomie talks.”

“Of course you do sweet boy,” I said to the cat and rubbed it under the chin.

Then Zoomie looked up and me and said in a high kind of strained whispery voice, “I can talk. If you sit down next to us I’ll tell you what happened to Rachael.”

I had to catch my breath. The cat talked. Zoomie REALLY talked.

“Sit down. I have to tell my story. Talking isn’t that easy for me so I’m not going to say it all twice. I mean, I love you guys and all more than I can say, but talking isn’t my thing. OK, where were we… sit… Rachael. I’m going to tell you about Rachael.

Rachael was doing good. She had a nice life but she wanted more. It was like she was tired of being at base camp forever and wanted to make it to the top. She’d do anything to get there.

When I met her was when her then live-in man Ian adopted me. I liked Ian. He was a great guy. Rachael had him around because he had this great English accent, a great body, and the sex was good. Ian was also successful so he didn’t expect anything material from her. He wasn’t no boy toy if you know what I mean. Anyway, Ian started to ask her to be nicer to him and everyone else. Rachael would have none of it. So one night Ian left. He left without me because he was moving to Brazil. Who the hell moves to Brazil? Anyway he couldn’t bring me with him.

Rachael wasn’t bad to me. I was fed. The staff gave me a lot of attention. I would wander around the house looking for a portrait like in that story about the Dorian Gray guy, you know where he stayed young and beautiful while the picture took on all of his ugly shit. Oscar Wilde wrote it. You know it?”

“You can read?” Ben asked.

“Sure I can read. I’m a smart cat. Anyway I never found the picture, but it was still so weird the way good things kept happening to Rachael. I mean, nothing bad ever happened to her. Then one day I was sitting on the balcony watching that fucking nasty little Chatsworth sitting by the pool licking his balls. Then he got up and stretched. These wings, like a leathery bat came out of his back, then his whole body transformed into some gosh awful humanoid demon form.

I’m not skittish so I jumped down by the way of a near by tree and went to investigate. The ugly little demon dog thing was still sitting by the pool scratching his leathery hide and sticking his feet in the water.

“Hey, Chats, what’s going on?” I said causally, just acting like the typical disinterested cat.

He looked shocked. I’d caught him in his real form.

“Don’t tell anyone what you see or I’ll fucking kill you,” he said.

“I’ve got seven lives left asshole,” I told him, “but I’m not going to waste any on you. What’s your story?”

“Rachael is my story. She sold her soul for success. It shocked me she didn’t go into politics, but she just wanted to be on the edge. She wanted a reality TV star life and she has it. Hey, I’m having fun.”

“She sold her soul to you?”

“No, to the Devil. I’m just here to make sure the contract isn’t broken. I’m her keeper.”

“No shit,” I said trying to sound like this thing happened all the time.

“No shit,” said Chatsworth the nasty little dog.

So when Chatsworth turned seventeen his dog days would be over. The contract for Rachael’s soul lasted as long as the life of a dog. When the dog died she’d die.

The wife of some guy Rachael was having a long term affair with came by and tossed her in the pool. She would have survived but the guy kicked Chatsworth and killed him. Threw the damn dog in the pool. With Chatsworth dead the contract was up along with Rachael’s good luck. Chatsworth was only ten but that didn’t matter. He was dead so the contract was over. That’s the story folks of how Rachael lost her soul.”

“Wow,” Ben and I said in unison.

“Hey,” said Zoomie, “mind getting me a drink of water. This taking stuff kind of makes me thirsty and make my throat hurt. It isn’t like meowing or even cat fight yowl. It takes a lot out of a guy.”

“Are you a demon?” Ben asked.

“No, I’m just a cat.”

“But you can talk,” I said.

Zoomie started to purr and make biscuits on Ben’s leg. “All cats can talk,” he said. “We just don’t like to. It isn’t easy. You know our vocal cords and lips aren’t really made for it.”

Then Zoomie said one last thing about it. “When a person sells their soul something is sent to watch them. It might be a dog, or a cat. It might be another person, but it is always something. You never know. You just never know. The good thing about being a cat is that nobody can buy our souls or steal them. That is the bad part of being a human. We feel sorry for you. We still love you for the most part because most of you are good. Most.”

I got Zoomie some water and cat treats, then looked over to my two other cats who were curled up on the big arm chair at the other end of the room.

After a few weeks Ian announced he was going to write a tell all book about Rachael. A lot of less than wonderful stories came out about her. I tried to ignore it all.

I did wonder about everyone else in the news these days, in politics, in the media, famous and rich for no real reason. How many of them had sold their souls? How many of them had a an animal or a close friend, a spouse, or advisor who was really a demon watching to make sure the contract wasn’t broken.

I guess we’ll never know, and I know now the cats won’t be talking.

~ end