It’s been a while since I flashed you. So here are a few of my contributions from Friday’s Word-a-Palooza and barn-raising also known as 2MinutesGo at JD Mader’s blog. As usual, only lightly edited for your protection. ‘Cause that’s the way we roll. If you’re in a writing mood, maybe you’ll come by next week and play. Or at least read the awesome, awesome writing going on there.
Spring Rhythm #9 in Footwear (inspired by Maggie Estep and JD Mader)
The other shoe hangs by a lace, by the sword of Damocles, by a thread, by the whisper of a scream, by the feathery remains of a dream; the other shoe blots out the sun, hovers like a cartoon spaceship and your dainty umbrella won’t save you from disaster. The other shoe doesn’t fit Cinderella’s evil stepsisters no matter how many toes they cut from their ugly feet. The other shoe hovers like a slap, like the flat of a hand caught before snapping down on the head of a drum. The other shoe, suspended, watches his brother, waiting, waiting, waiting for his turn, for his moment on the pavement, for his silent detonation.
A Good Home
Pressed a little smaller with humiliation from having to give up a few items from her grocery cart at the checkout, Betty trundled home. The plastic handles cut into her palms, her forearms, her elbows. As she was waiting for the light to change, arranging and rearranging the bundles to minimize circulation cutoff, she noticed a flyer taped to a utility pole: Kittens, free to good home. She smiled, imagining an energetic little creature happy to see her at the end of the day. A friend she could talk to who wouldn’t bark back, order her around, try to make her feel like shit. Okay, maybe her home wasn’t exactly good now, especially when Mr. Wonderful was in town, but it could be. With a kitten.
When she called the number on the little stub, a woman answered. Betty cleared her throat and stammered out the question.
“Yes, we have one left, a female calico with double paws, poor thing.” She asked Betty a few questions about her living arrangements, her work. “I don’t mean to be intrusive, you understand. “But I want to make sure you’ll be able to give her a good home.”
“Of course,” Betty lied.
They took to each other immediately, the kitten hopping after Betty when she did her chores around the apartment, her giant, funny paws like little boots. In fact, Betty named her Boots. And home did feel like a good place, a happier place. Until he returned.
“What the fuck?” he said when he stumbled in late one night, stinking like the road and half a distillery.
Betty snatched Boots up inches before his foot accidentally connected with her new friend. “I got a kitten.”
He mumbled something she couldn’t hear, his eyes squinching. “Ugly little thing.”
Betty’s shoulders sank.
“I ain’t paying for it.”
“I didn’t ask you to.”
Boots skittered out of her arms and hopped to his duffel bag, giving it a sniff and a few paw pats. “Hey.” He started for her. “Get the fuck away from there, ya little mutant.”
“Don’t, she’s just exploring, she…”
“Stupid bitch. Probably don’t even know how to train these things right. Here, I’ll show you. Hey.”
She reached for his arm, a second too late.
“No, goddammit, bad cat!” He backhanded Boots, and with a mewl that curdled Betty’s heart, the kitten darted across the room and under the couch.
Then he went into the bedroom and passed out. Betty stayed on the couch that night, unable to sleep. At some point, Boots poked her nose up and curled into the hollow of her belly.
By that morning, she decided her friend wasn’t the only one who needed a good home. She hoped he’d enjoy the going-away present Boots left for him in his duffel.
As if a silent signal had been passed, her brand-new fiancé and his father excused themselves from the table with some lame excuse about something to do with spark plugs, or fishing lures, or baseball collectibles. The story kept changing through dinner and finally, mouth pressed tight, Suzie’s brand-new future mother-in-law waved them free. Then brought more coffee to the table. The silence stretched; the clock ticked; the coffee grew as cold as did Suzie’s fascination with the oily film on the surface of her cup. “So,” Mrs. Steiner finally said. “You and my son, huh?”
Suzie shrugged; her stomach pinched the longer the woman stared, her eyes like the coldest of speculums. “I…um…well.” Her voice firmed. “He’s a great guy. When you know, you know. Right?”
Mrs. Steiner’s brows pushed together. It felt like the loudest sound in the universe. “You know. You know nothing. What’s his favorite meal, huh? You know that?”
Suzie rattled her mind for things she’d seen him enjoy eating. “He likes…spaghetti?”
“Pah.” She punched a hand out. “Meat loaf. My meat loaf.”
Meat loaf? He told her he hated it.
“You know you have to make him soup and toast when he’s sick? That you have to cut the crusts off and the butter needs to go all the way to the edges of the bread?”
“Should I be writing this down?”
The tines of the speculum widened. “You think this is funny? My son is a very special boy…”
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Steiner, but I think he stopped being a boy at about twelve or so.”
Mrs. Steiner leaned in close, a manicured fist closing around the collar of Suzie’s T-shirt. “Listen here, you little tramp. He will always be my boy and if you hurt one hair on his head, I know people. I know people who will cut you.” And then she released the fabric. Smiling sweetly, she said. “Now. Would you like some babka with your coffee?”