The Burlap Cat.
A bolt of lightning split a tree in the field behind Shelly’s house. Joanne had just finished her ghost story and could never have expected such epic timing. Male and female voices were raised in high pitched squeals as the deafening crash shook the earth and rattled the windows of the living room. “Bwha ha!” cheered Joanne over the pounding rain, knowing that the ears of her three friends were still ringing, and that her cheesy, triumphant laughter would go unnoticed.
“Holy – ” Shelly remembered her parent’s were home and quickly changed the word to “Fudge.” It would be another minute before the others were up to speaking.
“Dude!” Eric let go of his head and opened his eyes. “That was awesome!”
“You know what else is awesome?” said David, reaching for his computer.
“No! Don’t!” Screamed Shelly. “It’s a thunder storm, lightening is attracted to electronic devices!”
David switched on the monitor and pointed it at Shelly “Pew! Pew!” Everyone laughed, except Shelly.
“Alright.” said David. They all gathered around the screen. “I found this website that sells ghosts!” “Those aren’t ghosts!” Laughed Joanne. “It’s just a bunch of random junk.” “Junk that’s haunted.” He whispered. A gleam in his eye. “Dude, you are the very definition of lame!” Crooned Eric, tossing back the long bangs of his mullet. “I know.” said David. “but you have to see this, it’s hilarious.” “Give it here.” said Eric. David was forced to let go, least his expensive Mac Book be damaged.
“Listen to this Idiot.” said Eric, always yearning to be the center of attention. “He calls himself ‘The Lord of Lancashire.’ and he is a selling a – ‘Very magic, rare warrior sword’ that is – ‘powerful spirit of Scottish Kilt King.’ I wonder if that’s Baron von Man dress? Dude, he can‘t even spell.” “I’m sure he meant Celt King.” said Shelly. “and Barons are German.” Joanne had warned Eric that Shelly was no fun, but Eric had a nasty habit of never saying no to blonds.
Shelly took the computer with intent to return it to David, shaking her head at the screen. “Voodoo doll, possessed painting, candle stick supposedly used to murder ancient Egyptian duchess, cursed ring that slowly kills its wearer – this is stupid.” Joanne intercepted Shelly and laid claim to the device. “Your doing it wrong.” Joanne cleared her throat. “Ahem – ‘Ancient, Pirate, Murder, Chest!’” She searched for another dubious pitch. “ ‘Medieval torture brush.’ How do you torture someone with a brush?” Joanne smiled at Eric, knowing he always had a come back ready. “First you’d have to make sure their hair was really badly tangled.” he said. “You speak as if from experience.” Observed David. “Is that extra long douche – do biting the hand that combs it?” Eric laughed hysterically, far too fond of jokes at his own expense. This drew the attention away from Joanne and she used the opportunity to try and top that last one.
Ugh, nothing else seemed to be worth mentioning. She scrolled down past the usual china dolls and clowns. Things that were understandably scary ghosts or no, and came upon an entry that was blank. Joanne was fairly sure that it was impossible to place an item for sale on this or any other site without at least some identifying code. She clicked on the empty space. Only a picture came up, a photograph of something propped in a dark corner covered in cobwebs.
A stuffed bear, made of, burlap? No, it was a cat. It’s one remaining ear was pointed. It appeared to have been hand made from an old sack, and repaired clumsily over many, many years. The smile had unraveled on one side. Two black threads hung like limp whiskers. One eye had gone missing, the other was a button, crudely glued to the side of it’s head. Surplus glue had leaked down it’s face.
All in all it looked like the thing would crumble if anyone so much as breathed on it. Let alone tried to ship it. It was all so perfect, this Madam Mumbo Jumbo, certainly knew what she was doing. She checked for the seller’s screen name. There was no name either, no price, and no way of contacting said seller. This was not the kind of funny Joanne had wanted to find.
“Let’s see what you’ve found.” Eric reclaimed the computer and snorted at what he saw. “Error message – ooooohh, scary. Hey Dave, looks like they might have sold you a lemon.” Joanne snatched it back, reset the page, and searched again for the Burlap Cat. The blank space she’d first clicked on no longer existed. She decided to just forget about it.
It was still raining three days later, when Joanne went home to the barn her father had converted into a two-story house. He was off on another construction project. There was a note on the refrigerator saying he’d be back by the weekend. Joanne’s mother occasionally weighted tables in the restaurant that was her pride and joy. Now that Christmas was on it’s way she’d be in her elf suit greeting the afternoon crowd. There was no school, no homework, and Joanne would have the place to herself.
She pulled out her box set of Unsolved Mysteries. She slipped a disk into the player and made herself a mug of hot chocolate. On her way back to the couch she turned on the tree. It was a jungle of angels and fairies, knights and fair maidens, topped by a gleaming golden griffin she had made herself. The wind howled outside, rattling the wreath attached to the door.
She carefully set down her mug, and the tray of snacks she figured wouldn’t contain too many calories, and threw herself across the couch. She stuffed a cookie into her mouth and raised the remote.
Something struck the door – hard.
Slowly, cautiously, she made her way to the window, peering out at the front porch. Her parents did a lot of shopping online, so she wasn’t surprised to see a damp cardboard box laying next to the mat.
She unlocked the door.
The box was open, laying on it’s side at an odd angle, as if someone had thrown it. No effort had been made to tape it closed. No markings indicated what company had sent it. She turned it over with her foot. Nothing was on the side facing the ground save a few water stains. It fell upright, so that the contents were exposed. Smiling up at her, was the burlap cat.