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.

Advertisements

Thrills and Chills At The Old Snow Cone Stand

In the south Louisiana town of Gueydan, are a couple of vacant buildings few seem to notice.

The, now closed, Pioneer Hotel catered mainly to hunters, coming in for ’duck season’. The towns only claim to fame is for being the ‘Duck capital of America.’ (Yes there is a sign, and yes, It has been desecrated on many occasions)

Imagine these doors in various bright colors. So sorry I didden’t photograph it sooner.

 Originally the hotel’s eight rooms had color coated doors. An adjoining home office for the woman who ran it is off to the side, where a single trellis still passes for a garden.

I used to suggest the place when we planned our vacations, liking the colorful doors and being too young yet to realize the pointlessness of accommodations so far from the beach and not ten miles from home.

Though now that I think about it, the place may have been closed even back then. The lady who ran it lived out her life there, long after she stopped renting rooms, so it continued to look livable for quite awhile. It deteriorated after her death, so that now nearly all of the color has faded from the doors that sparked my interest.

 I could go on forever about that hotel, but It was the much smaller building next to it that led to one of the most harrowing experiences in my otherwise uneventful life.

This second building is red, but for some reason I remember it being rainbow. Those I’ve questioned insist it has always been simply red.

Small things amuse small minds I guess.
 

I have very clear memories of being held up by an older cousin while my first snow cone ever was handed to me through the single bay window that formed the little shack’s entire front.

It may have been a case of mistaken identity, as many such places had come and gone all over town, yet for much of my life it continued to be the old snow cone stand.

I would discuss it with friends at recess, who mostly had no idea what I was talking about, though it seemed some older kids had mentioned a place where small trinkets had come with snow cones in much the same spirit as Macdonald’s or Crackerjacks.

One evening, as I was falling asleep to my one-eyed Teddy Ruxpin’s rendition of “Come and discover the world with me.” I quietly concluded that it must have been the place, what with a building that cool, they had certainly gone all out.

I shot from my bed when it hit me. Surely some extra trinkets were left behind when they closed the joint. All those prizes could still be there, locked up in the stand, awaiting the child bold enough to brave the ghosts and claim the treasure. ( It was a proven fact that all old buildings had ghosts and treasure.)

I tossed and turned but couldn’t shake the thought that there was an endless pile of multicolored crap with my name on it. This thought followed me onto the porch where I found myself mounting my rickety, training-wheeled contraption and pedaling like mad across the wide open. Simply being alone at dusk was almost enough to make one die of fright but my eye was on the prize, and my brain was full of that awesome, idiotic reasoning one often encounters around bed time that makes even the dumbest ideas seem divinely inspired.

Soon those three black windows gaped at me out of the dark trees. I had second thoughts when there seemed to be blurry faces peering out of them. The faces never moved, and with all the courage and stupidity that could be mustered I snuck around to the back, where I discovered an even greater obstacle.

A rusty screen door was the only entrance. Those things were a pain to open. The handles would stick, and if you tried to force them, they would summon an army of angry adults. I attacked it anyway. The noise was deafening in the quiet.

Three dark figures eclipsed the light of the windows. They never moved so I turned on my light, and shrieked.

Someone had left some cardboard cutouts in front of the windows. Maybe the video rental place was using the building for storage? It didn’t matter. I was scared to death of cardboard cutouts; all those eerie, two-dimensional people with their staring eyes and obviously fake smiles. Oh, but what was that?

There were boxes of Mardi Gras beads and quarter-machine eggs littering the floor. I was in heaven. I propped the stubborn door open with a stick and was faced with enough beads and bracelets to make up a kiddy-king’s ransom. I thus filled my pockets with enough small rubber animals to make up a first class security force.

There was too much to carry, but I wasn’t worried. I only needed enough time to nab the pieces I wanted. Ooh a dinosaur! I reached for it just as the stick fell to the crabgrass and the door slowly started to close. I turned around to catch it, but the thing was tightly sealed. I tried the stuck handle again and again, then struggled against the screen, screaming for all the world to hear.

The wind moaned outside and one of the cut outs fell over. The pouting face of Julia Roberts wavered inches from my own. With superhuman strength borne of unholy terror, I burst through the screen. The next thing I remember was my butt hitting bike seat and my legs tearing out of there.

I awoke safely the next morning with three pink bracelets still safe on my arm. No one believed me when I showed them those bracelets. Father insisted I’d won them at a party the day before, and swore I’d never left my bed. Still It’s hard to believe I dreamed it, though I was never that impulsive in real life.

As for the old snow cone stand, knowing what I know now it is unlikely that it could have ever been used for that purpose. Mother always commented on how much it reminded her of a tug boat. It was only recently I questioned my uncle who insisted that it was indeed, part of a tug-boat. Namely, A disembodied wheelhouse left there by a man who used to fix them back in the fifties. He knew very little about the man and claimed my late grandfather had known him.

It was too bad I’d missed my chance, not that I never asked my grandfather about the past, but without specific questions there was never much to say. Perhaps if I’d known the right questions then, many of my favorite landmarks would have had even better stories.