Burlap Cat Part 3

Yes, I know that Christmas is still a-ways off. I started this serial last year, and mayhaps should have waited for a more appropriate time to post it. It is I feel, not a  Christmas story so much as a supernatural mystery that is currently occurring over the holiday season. I reference past installments so the reader need not start at the beginning . . . None the less – I hope you enjoy this very early present from me to you . . .  (Note – those who do want to start at the beginning will find the other 2 parts under “Short Stories” Just scroll through to find them –

Joanne relaxed in the quiet comfort of the crowded restaurant. Sylvan’s always managed to be noisy and yet somehow serene. There was nothing to do except make conversation and stare at the odd, vintage knick- knacks lined up on shelves nearly hidden by the shadows on the ceiling.

The menu offered every kind of food imaginable, from local favorites, to the exotic and trendy. Joanne always ordered vegan, not that she was a vegan. Saying the word just made her feel hip and sophisticated.

Her parents laughed and joked with each other. This was supposed to be family time but Joanne made no attempt to join the conversation.

Mere hours ago something had stepped – uninvited – into her life.

That something preoccupied her constantly.

Joanne feared her secret might slip if she answered too many of her father’s questions. He was just trying to seem interested in the affairs of an average teenage girl. Joanne could use some advice but hers wasn’t a problem an adult could understand. Heck, hers wasn’t a problem anyone could understand.

Right now she wanted to lose herself in the drone of happy people and the promise of great food, but the jingle bells ring of her mother’s phone brought it all back.

“Joanne?” Mother’s voice was full of concern. “Mr. Bellows says he found your bike smashed to pieces near his drive way. Honey, what happened?”

Joanne told her parents what they wanted to hear. The rain had caught her as she checked the mail. She had run home and forgotten her bike. A car must have struck it. She was given the usual lecture about not going out in rainstorms no matter how much you wanted those Christmas cards (and the cash they contained). Neither one of them seemed to care about the expensive bike she had ruined and were just glad their daughter wasn’t road kill.

Joanne’s problems would rest for the time being, allowing her to enjoy a truly spectacular plate of rice pilaf and the complementary bowl of fried bananas.

They were on their way home when Joanne’s good friend David decided to call. “What the hell Jo! We thought some pervert had gotten you. What were you thinking just leaving that bike in the road and not telling anyone?” Joanne sighed. “My parents already beat me over the head with that, it won’t happen again.” David snorted. “Understood. By the way I wrote to that website.”

Joanne kept a death grip on the phone.

Three days ago David had shown Joanne a website that sold Items reputed to be cursed.

An ancient stuffed cat made of burlap had caught Joanne’s attention. Joanne had made no attempt to buy the thing, yet four hours ago it arrived in a battered, unmarked box.

At first it seemed David was playing a prank. Joanne had forced him to take the creepy thing back, though he claimed the site had just made a mistake. David named it Marvin and had teased her with it until she left his house, hoping to never see the thing again.

Joanne had stopped at her neighbor hood mail box on the way home from David’s.

Joanne had been startled to see the cat resting on a post as if waiting for her.

She ran, just as a truck struck the mail box and smashed her bike.

Joanne had then tucked the cat under her coat and raced home, Not sure of what else to do with a thing that had apparently saved her life.

It was still resting on her bed as far as she knew, having thankfully not followed her to Sylvan’s.

David had promised to contact the site where Joanne had first seen the Burlap cat, if only to prove she was just being paranoid.

What David had to say now, however, did nothing to dismiss her fears.

“The site answered me almost right away. They swear they had nothing like that for sale. I told them what happened and they loved the story. They want the cat Joanne. They said they would give you fifty bucks for it.”

David sounded excited but Joanne was confused. Many thoughts raced through her mind. Would selling the cat really be the end of it? Would the thing be angered somehow? Was it right to simply get rid of a thing after it had seemingly prevented her death?”

Joanne still feared the cat greatly. She would do without hit and runs and burlap cats if she could.

David shouted. “Hello!” “Augh!” barked Joanne. He whispered. “Sorry, but you weren’t answering. So how about it? All the money can be yours. I’m reaping a small fortune this Christmas.” Joanne couldn’t answer. It had all come at her so fast. What she needed was time to think. She ended the call. There was a text but she ignored it. Joanne eventually had to turn off her phone.

David rang the doorbell later that night. Joanne was in her bedroom staring into the cats one black, button eye. Her mother answered the door saying, “Jo it’s David!” Joanne still contemplated the cat. There came a soft knock on her bedroom door. “JO!” said David. “We need to talk.”

Joanne reluctantly emerged from her place of safety. Like it or not, David was the only person who at least partly understood her situation. He turned on the television when she entered the living room, perhaps to mask the sounds of what would be a very odd conversation.

“Jo this thing was sent to your house not six hours ago and already your like a different person. First, you tell me you don’t want it – that your scared of it. You say your going to leave it at my house, but then you take it with you at the last-minute.”

“Dave” said Joanne. “First off, I’m pretty sure I did leave it at your house. Last I remember, It was sitting there on the coffee table. Since I was already out in the rain I stopped at the mail box. You know that yellow post that protects it from the road? Well, the cat was on top of it. Just like someone took it from you and left it there for me to find.”

David smiled at Joanne the way he smiled at old ladies who swore they had seen ghosts. He was preparing his “are you sure it wasn’t your dog” routine.

“Jo, suppose you did take the cat without realizing it. Suppose you took it out of your pack when you checked the mail. I once searched for hours for a pencil I was holding in my hand. It’s the holidays! Your not thinking about dumb things like reality. Your thinking about that twenty-four hour Skyrim binge you’ve been meaning to run for the past two and half months of school.” He winked. “I know I am.”

Joanne turned away from him. “It was a that.” David crossed his arms behind his head. “You were already keyed up over the way it got here, which I’ll admit, was a little weird, but there’s probably a logical explain – ” Joanne interrupted him. “I ran when I first saw it, that’s when a truck smashed my bike, had it not been for the cat I – I – I ”

There was a very long wait before either of them found words. David went first. “Had it not been for the cat you would not have been out there in the first place. Look Jo, regardless of what I believe, according to you it saved your life, which makes it good? Think Jo, your whole life you’ve never been involved in an accident until now?” Joanne was silent. David went on. “I didn’t know a person’s personality could change as quickly as yours has. The Jo I know would not be cowering in fear of a stuffed animal. If there is any proof something isn’t right with this thing, it’s in the fact the great Jo Jonson doesn’t like it. I say, sell the cat.”

Joanne smiled. “I’ll still have to sleep on it.” David headed for the door. “You are probably still shaken by that brush with the truck. I’d wait for the shock to wear off. I’m meeting some friends at the mall tomorrow. A local band is performing. Just throwing it out there in case you feel like you need to get out of the house. Please watch yourself Jo.”

David left and Joanne returned to her room. She threw herself across her bed, right beside the burlap beast that had her so worried. To think she could fall asleep in the same room with it, Joanne really was the great Jo Jonson.

Early the next morning Shelly and Eric arrived with David, David’s parents, and several small, annoying children who seemed to be even less enthused to be there then Joanne’s older friends. “All aboard the Polar Express!” Shouted David as Joanne shrugged into some fresh clothes.

He was waiting in the living room. Someone outside was furiously pounding a horn. “I thought you said we would be going to see a band!” whined Joanne as she trudged down the stairs. “I Did.” said David. “The Sweet Street Carolers!”

Joanne headed back up the stairs. David followed. “Please Jo, don’t throw me to the preschoolers!” David caught her coat. “There are six children out there who’s parents want keepsake photo’s with Santa. My own folks agreed to take them but plan to spend the whole time shopping. There’s a giant sand box full of real snow for the kids to play in. It’s our job to hang out at the food court and watch them. I know It’s going to be a chore but with you around I’m sure we’ll make the best of it.”

Joanne was a sucker for flattery. She left the house and squeezed into the large van waiting outside. A hyperactive two-year old smacked her with an elf doll until she took it away. David slid in beside her. “My cousin’s a handful so we’ll both be in charge of him.” David handed the doll back to the boy. “You like to run off, don’t you, Randy.” Randy smiled, now seeming to be the picture of innocence.

Shelly was present with a niece and two sisters, one of whom was six and absorbed in a video game.

Joanne didn’t know Shelly very well. She was a relative of David’s and a total buzz kill.

Eric was in charge of his siblings, twins that bickered constantly. He was mostly a fun guy, but his insistence on following Shelly around made him less so.

The mall, a monstrous, castle-like building, was every bit as crowded as Joanne expected it to be. They waited for what felt like hours for the stupid pictures with Santa, only to have Randy start crying at the last-minute. Joanne wondered if this was more about having the perfect Christmas card photo then any real fun for the kids.

The snow pit was a hit though, at least with Randy. The other kids complained of being cold and wet and opted to ride the carousel instead, leaving Jo and David to fend for themselves at the less popular end of the food court.

David raised his computer case to block a snowball. “I’ll forgive you if you don’t want to talk about it, but you didn’t happen to see who was driving the truck?” Joanne shook her head. “It was a white or gray pick up. The weather was bad so it was hard to tell the exact color. I didn’t get a license plate either. They probably lost control because of the slippery road. They probably didn’t even know I was there anyway.”

David’s eyes shot toward the snow pit, then he sighed and shook his head. “Jo now ya got me seeing that stupid thing.”

It sounded like a joke but Joanne took it seriously. “Where?” David caught her as she left her seat. “That kid over there, see? It’s just a Hello Kitty.” Joanne shook him off and headed for the snow pit.

It was not just a Hello Kitty.

A little girl sat at the entrance to the snow pit, playing with the burlap cat. Joanne used all of her strength to remain calm. “My, that’s a beautiful dolly.” Joanne said to the girl. “May I see it?”

The girl laughed at Joanne and tossed it to another kid.

Joanne had no intention of joining a game of keep away, so she waited at the entrance to the snow pit. Joanne wasn’t sure what would be the best way to handle this, but one thing was certain. She couldn’t let the burlap cat out of her sight.

The cat was eventually passed to Randy, who seemed to want to give it to Joanne. The boy climbed through the snow in his bulky blue coat, but veered past her at the last-minute, disappearing into the crowd.

“Crap” Said David as he appeared beside Joanne. They ran through the throngs of people desperately searching for the missing boy.

Jo soon caught sight of Randy’s red scarf. He was inching along the wall giggling to himself.

They both raced toward him. Randy squeezed under a partition as soon as he was discovered. David grabbed the large canvas wall (on to which a holiday scene had been painted) and dragged it sideways. Joanne secretly hoped security would come running. They could use extra help catching randy.

Behind the canvas wall was an empty space used for storage. Toward the back was a plastic curtain. Randy pushed past it.

David climbed over covered crates with Joanne close behind him. They emerged into the deserted right wing of the mall. The wing was currently under renovation. Thick sheets of plastic covered everything like ice. Dust hung like mist in the air. Randy’s shadow disappeared around a corner.

Joanne and David tried to keep up but by the time they rounded the bend he was gone.

Joanne caught her breath. “Is there a number we can call for security? Have them watch all the doors or something.” David ran into an empty store and emerged empty-handed. “I’ve got a number for the police – but by the time they – ” Joanne left when she heard a noise. David started to dial. Joanne heard the noise again. Both shouted “Randy!” at the top of their lungs. A small voice called, “Just a minute!” They flew toward the source of the sound.

Randy was standing on a tarp-covered bench, picking peeling, white paint off the wall behind it.

“I found a train.” he said, pointing to part of an old poster somewhat exposed by the paint.

“That you Did.” said David. “The painters couldn’t get it off so they painted over it.” David gripped the boy’s shirt. “Next time just ask Santa for a train, and don’t go wandering off!”

They started to walk back.

“Marvin!” Shouted Randy as he reached for the toy he’d left on the bench.

Joanne had completely forgotten, about the burlap cat.

David was frozen, both by the sight of the cat and the fact Randy had chosen the same name for it.

He handed the boy to Jo, and picked up the cat. “Randy where did you find this?” “In the snow.”said the boy, pointing back toward the lobby. Joanne gritted her teeth, hoping the boy wasn’t too attached to his new friend. “Randy someone lost their teddy. I think we should give it back.”

Randy ignored the tattered, stuffed toy in David’s hands, and started to fall asleep. “Okay.” said the boy, oblivious to the trauma he had caused.

David spoke gravely as they reentered the public section of the mall through the canvas partition, the sleeping Randy in tow. It wasn’t like him to be so serious. “Jo if this is some kind of game you are playing with me, confess now and I’ll forgive you. Face it, you are the only one who could have given this to Randy and told him I named it Marvin.”

Joanne didn’t know what to say.

David spoke for both of them.

“Joanne, I’m selling this crazy thing to the crazies, any objections?” Joanne shook her head, though she felt slightly guilty inflicting the cat on someone else. At least the people receiving it might know what they were dealing with. Perhaps it would be happier with some occult collector, so happy it would leave her, and those around her, alone.

Joanne expected to see the cat waiting on her bed when she arrived home. The weight of the world fell off her back when she saw that it wasn’t. David called that night to say that he had shipped it.

Joanne doubted this was the end of it, but a day passed, then another. The fifty dollars arrived and Joanne soon dared to hope.

Christmas morning however, was not as merry as it could have been, for sitting amongst the presents under the tree was – the burlap cat.

Advertisements

Red House Part 2

I carefully wrote this story so that it would be easy to understand without it’s earlier part. If you want to read part one, it’s under short stories. Thanks for reading and do tell me if there is something I can do to improve it.

         Lisa took a big bite of her Italian vegetable sandwich and patted the white, metal body of her Bobcat E32 Excavator. She’d never done demolition before and was looking forward to it.

        The ancient, brick mansion was mostly the work of much larger machines but daddy had promised there would be some left for her.

       “Hey you!” said one of the guys handling the beehive under the eave. “Who me?” “Yeah you, stop stuffing your face and knock that door in.” She swallowed. The sandwich was delicious. Ordinarily it peeved her to be distracted at lunch but today was special. There was building on the menu and she’d just been ordered to take the first bite.

       Her fellow workers scattered to an unnecessary distance as she eased the unit into position. They yelled things like – “Clear off! There’s a woman in this one!” She swore back at them as was expected. Lisa was willing to bet she had twice the experience of all of them. Such shouting matches were the required social niceties in this crowd.

      She studied the door in question. It appeared to have been beautifully decorated at one time. Now it was covered in the scratched names of children who had knocked at midnight to prove their courage. There were other scratches too; the usual occult symbols meant to keep bad stuff in or perhaps sick it on your enemies. Old houses just did that. People thought they were magic.

      She raised the arm of her machine and dragged it across the weathered wood, leaving the largest scratch of them all. This would be nothing. She placed the tines of the shovel near the top. She would either tear the door off its hinges or peel out a hole big enough for the bee wranglers to step through. She wondered if the floor would hold, and for a brief instant was thankful she wasen’t the one going in.

She eased the arm ever so slightly forward . . .

           The crew dropped their coffees as a loud crash shook the earth under their feet. A long column of opaque, white smoke billowed sideways from the south face of the old mansion. Quickly, they rushed to the aid of their friend.

        Her excavator looked to be covered with a coat of thick, gray paint.

       A rag was rubbed across the window. The glass was cracked but not broken.

       The woman inside was sitting up straight, eyes wide.

      She stumbled out when they opened the door. “What the hell!” She cried. Lisa turned to the door she’d been told to knock down, the frame was gone also, along with a significant portion of the wall around it.

        The bees were in a panic. The humans sought the safety of their vehicles. The swarm was not of that murderous breed and calmed down after only a short while. Lisa then made for the bee keeper’s truck, intending to make one thing clear. “That wasn’t me.” “We Know.” said a guy in a dark blue business suit. They told her his name was Dale Winter, THE Dale Winter. He raised a bullhorn to his mouth. “Everyone go home! That’s enough for today!”

           As soon as Lisa left, a man in a bee suit came forward. “We’ll have to call in a bomb squad. Something exploded in there.” “Don’t remind me.” Said Dale, curling his lip at the house. It had been an eyesore on the block and a thorn in his side since taking office.

   He did not consider himself to be the superstitious sort but upon pursuing what little records existed on the place he had noticed a pattern. It seemed that the Red House attracted trouble. More so the longer it remained in it’s owners possession. As a former lawyer Dale knew a liability when he saw one, and as a current mayor he knew it was his duty to take it down.

 

Burlap Cat – Part 2

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.)*

Fictions and Depictions: The Burlap Cat.

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.

Fictions and Depictions: The Red House

THE RED HOUSE

Old Slumpy – courtasy of Wikipedia.

The old house was boarded up tighter then a bank vault. Rumors abounded of water in the cellar and bodies under the floor.

A large beehive droned in the attic, driving all would be interlopers even further back.

No one, stood farther away then Dale Winter, latest executor of the town blight.

      The Red House had stood in Bismuth since before Bismuth was even a town. As there were no records of architects or owners, it had fallen under the jurisdiction of city hall. The condemned box of mildew was occasionally offered to various historical patrons, or bounced around Bismuth’s various families as way of writing “I never really liked you.” in a will.

      Two bulldozers rolled past him into the yard, crushing a jungle of ancient weeds. Two Bee-keepers pumped smoke into the attic, making the roof appear to be on fire. As soon as those bees were boxed up, Dale would use a friend’s tractor service to discreetly get this over with. That permit was taking forever, and he was tired of waiting. Volatile chemicals and asbestos be dammed – he doubted that anyone had set foot inside the friggin’ thing since the stone age.

   “Can I have a key Sir?” Dale looked up to see his bee enthusiast neighbor staring him down through a ridiculous mask. Dale laughed. “A key? In all the records we have on this place there has never even been mention of a key. If you need to get in we’ll have to remove the door, that’s all there is to it.”

* * *

    In the dim living room she sat waiting, as the demolition crews gathered outside. Today was the day her prison would be broken. Today was the day she’d be loosed upon the world.

    Leaves floated in her cracked cup, the only surviving member of a tea service smashed years ago at a party permanently interrupted. Something dripped in to it as she raised it to her lips – honey – oozing like blood through a crack in the ceiling. It tasted sweet. Sweet Like revenge.