Since some people have expressed their intention to read more of this, I present to you, Burlap Cat – Part Two. SPOILER ALERT! – scroll down for part one. (You can also find it under short stories.) Please read part one first. As I am very proud of it. Oh, and Merry Christmas.
Burlap Cat – Part Two
Slanting rain drops beat the south side of the house. Wet leaves stuck to the windows. One episode of Unsolved Mysteries after another played on the living room television. Soon the disk menu reappeared but Joanne did not replace it. A tray of holiday goodies was left untouched on the couch.
Joanne sat with her eyes keenly focused. She tossed another peanut at the thing on the coffee table.
It had arrived in the mail only two hours ago. After she had only looked at it on a seedy, occult website three days before. Save for the strange manner in which it had come, the thing was nothing more then it appeared to be, that is, a burlap cat.
Joanne wasn’t sure if it was curiosity that prompted her to actually bring the thing into the house or her irrational fear that it would harm her in some way if she didn’t.
Her telephone hummed in her pocket.
“David!” she said, holding it to her ear.
“Hey Joanne, I was wondering if you have any of my games. Red Dead Redemption has gone AWOL.”
Joanne saw the title among the DVDs on the bookshelf and was quick to slip it out of it’s case. “I do indeed have it. I’ll be right there.”
She hung up before he could talk her out of biking over in the rain. David had been present the night she first caught site of the cat. He was the one who had shown her the website. It had been on his computer.
She unpacked her crinkly blue poncho and pulled it over her head, snapping it across her arms. She dropped the game into her back pack, hesitated, then stuffed the cat in there as well.
A soaking wet wind struck her as she opened the back door. She wrestled her bike out of the shed and struggled to build momentum.
Cars rushed by on the slick streets, spraying water and throwing mud. “What the heck am I doing.” She wondered. Joanne was afraid, but this was no time to admit it.
David’s house was by the *overpass. Joanne often teased him about living under a bridge, but his family was far from poor. Restoring their large Dutch Colonial had been her father’s crowning achievement.
She turned down a flagstone path into a garden darkened by the shadow of the highway, and the walls built to control the noise. David claimed he couldn’t sleep without it. Joanne was not so inclined. She flinched as an eighteen-wheeler blew its horn.
A light came on, revealing a sinister, if not familiar face. “You will have to pay the toll! Sayeth the troll!” “This is why you can’t get girlfriends.” She snapped. Driving the plastic bag containing David’s borrowed game into his chest. “Red Dead!” He laughed manically. “The lady hath good taste, she does.” He stroked it lovingly. “My preecioussssss . . .”
She ignored him, and made a bee-line for the house. David followed, his smile turning to a frown. “Joe what’s going on.” “Nothing. I’m cold and I’m wet, and I do believe you owe me.” “Owe you? I never said you had to return it right this instant, is something wrong?”
“I think your over-reacting.” said David twenty minutes later as they sipped cider and stared at the cat.
“Just tell me the truth.” Joanne insisted. “Are you, or are you not fooling with me.”
“Look Joe, you saw an ad.”
“On a website selling cursed knick-knacks.” She reminded him.
David sighed. “On a website selling haunted nick-knacks, supposedly haunted knick-knacks. Those things were far too cheap to be authentic. You clicked on a blank space and found an ad with a picture but no price, no name, and no contact, then it went to an error message. They were experiencing technical difficulties. Not surprising, considering most of them couldn’t spell. Someone probably thought you were trying to order when the site crashed.”
Joanne crossed her arms. “They would have thought you were trying to order, it was your account.”
David shrugged. “Perhaps you signed in out of force of habit.”
“I would have still needed a credit card number, or at least an address, then there’s the fact it came in an unmarked, open box.”
“A crappy website, a crappy delivery service. All you need to worry about is someone trying to charge you for it.”
“but what are the odds, that I would run into a problem like this on a website like that?”
“Because people who run websites like that still think the world is flat and are consequently, bad with technology, but hey, there’s no reason why we can’t make the best of it.”
He removed a small black box from his pocket and pointed it at the ancient stuffed animal. “I wouldn‘t do that.” said Joanne. David pressed his lips together. “Why?” “You could provoke it or something.” “You’ve explored haunted buildings with me before.” “When I was certain they weren‘t actually haunted.” “You read way too many ghost stories Joanne.” “I’m not the one with the EMF detector.”
David put away the Device. “Look, if it makes you feel better I’ll send an E-mail to the owners of the sight, asking them what happened. If you want, you can leave Marvin here with me.”
Joanne glared at the little brown face, the remaining button eye dripping hardened yellow glue, the black thread mouth seeming to smirk. “Marvin?” David picked up the cat and made it dance on his knee. “It just seems like a Marvin.”
The rain beat Joanne as she sped home. David had wanted her to wait it out, but she told him her family was eating at Sylvan’s tonight and that Sylvan’s was her favorite. It wasn’t a lie, but it would have taken more then great food to push her out into this. David’s casual treatment of the cat was making her nervous. He could do as he pleased with it, by himself. After all, it wasn’t like she didn’t warn him.
She passed the neighborhood mail box and decided she might as well. She parked her bike near one of the yellow concrete posts that sheltered it from the road. The box was covered by a tin awning, but the slant of the rain made it useless. She held an umbrella in one hand while she fished for the key to her family’s compartment.
The Christmas cards, bills and random junk, fell in an avalanche at her feet.
As there was no way to tell them apart she would have to collect all of it. She dropped her phone. There was a text from David.
“Hey, I thought you were going to leave Marvin with me.”
Joanne saw something out of the corner of her eye and snapped to attention.
Balanced atop the yellow post where she’d parked her bike was
- the burlap cat.
Forgetting everything else she screamed, and ran.
A loud squeal of tires was followed by a crash.
She turned to look, and saw a damaged pickup truck backing away from the crushed mailbox, swerving back on to the road and, speeding away. Her bike had been folded around the post, yanked free, and left with the front wheel bent skyward and spinning.
The cat lay at the base of the post, face down in the mud.
Joanne didn’t want to think about what almost happened. What would have happened, if the cat had decided to remain at David’s house like a good little inanimate object.
Joanne tucked it under her poncho, and began the long walk home.
*(Note – to my friends across the pond, an overpass is a flyover.)*