from an unpublished collection, Fireside Tales of Jamestown


An homage to the king of horror, Edgar Allen Poe


 I HAD A CAT ONCE, when I was young.  It was black as a moonless night in the country with snow white paws.  Sometimes, in the dark, you could only see it coming by the locomotion of its four little feet.  They would blur a white streak about an inch over the ground and if you squinted hard enough and the cat looked in your direction, you could see its discompassionate green eyes sizing you up.  Its eyes were evil.  It was evil.


Image      I don't remember when I first got it.  I just remember it being there.  My mom used to tell me it just showed up when I was born.  I used to think that was just a story.  I used to, anyways.

      Sometimes it felt as if the cat was protecting me, from what I don't know.  Other times, it was almost like it was stalking me, following me down to Billy's house, following me to aunt Bette's, showing up wherever I was.  All the time.

      Once, my mom and dad got me a dog for my birthday.  I was either seven or eight, sometime around then.  He looked like Benji and everyone said he was just as smart but I never got to find out.  The cat ran him off. 

      He growled whenever he saw the cat, and the cat would arch its back and spit and growl back with raised hackles.  The cat would remain motionless, only swiveling its head toward the dog, while the dog would prance around and lurch forward menacingly, growling and barking and champing at the evil beast.

      But the cat never backed down, it stood there in its lowercase "h" pose with its tail sticking straight up, all the fur on its body frizzed out like a teased seventies afro.  The dog never once touched the cat.

      I don't remember the dog's name, he ran off the first chance he got.  I took the leash off for some reason or another, probably to see if he could do tricks like the real Benji or something.  Fetch or roll over or beg.  He decided to play hide and seek but he was better at the game than me.  I wish I could remember his name.  The cat, I never named.

      My friends didn't like the cat either.  It didn't seem to care.  We would go bike riding and the cat would follow us.  We'd go to the movies and the cat would be outside waiting for us, even if we left by the back door.  It followed us to our baseball games down at the park.  It would sit watching the games and clean itself one leg at a time.  It would watch me when I went up to bat, I used to turn and look at it before I stepped in the batter's box and those same evil eyes would be staring back at me.

      When we went down to Grandma Ruth's pond and fished and swam, it followed.  We'd think we lost it in the tall meadow grass we had to trek through to get to the pond, but somehow it would always be right behind us.  One time we even took off running across the field away from the pond.  We ran as fast as we could, it was Billy's idea, and by the time we finally stopped, we could barely breathe.  Our chests hurt and we were scratched up pretty bad from all the briar bushes that hid in the tall grass.

      So there we were, hiding behind a thick copse of trees and bushes, struggling to catch our breaths while Billy fought the urge to puke all over himself.  And whaddya know, that cat strolls up lazily behind us and mews with satisfaction.  The vile little thing wasn't even breathing hard.  It was pure evil.

      Its mew wasn't a real meow.  It never once meowed, not that I heard anyway, and it was always around me so I think I would've heard it.  I don't even know if you could call it a mew, per se.  It was more of a dull scratchy noise with a lot of bass and no treble.  The sound got under your skin, like a saw being dragged across a cello's strings.  It was an evil sound.

      When my Great Grandpa Brackett died, I was eleven and we had the service at Lowe's funeral home.  And then he was buried at the First Methodist Church out in the graveyard.  I was young when he passed away and I don't remember much but I'll never forget that cat sitting there, perched atop a tall weathered gravestone watching my Great Grandfather's burial.  There were a lot of people there, mostly extended family and spouses.  There were some really old and wrinkly people with big noses and ears, sporting canes and walkers and dirty handkerchiefs.  There were a lot of flowers in vases and large wreaths as big as me made out of different-colored blooms with gaudy decorations.  Some of them were fake.  But there was only one cat, and it was real.  And evil.  It sat uncaring on that gravestone, licking it paws and occasionally looking up at me with its deep green eyes.  And smooth black fur.  And stark white paws.  It didn't care that my Great Grandpa Brackett had died, it was evil.

      Afterwards, when the family gathered at my grandparents' house the way southerners do, the cat was there.  My aunts and uncles and parents and grandparents and cousins and some people I didn't know but remembered from the funeral got together and it seemed like everyone brought food.  There were lots of hugs and smiles and sad faces with red splotchy eyes.  And laughs.  I remember that people laughed more and more as the day waged on and the cat sat on a windowsill outside looking in.  The cat didn't laugh, not that I saw, but I almost swear that it smiled a few times.  Smiled about death.  It was evil.

      It was right then that I decided the cat had to go.  It followed me everywhere, chased away my dog, freaked out my friends and now make a mockery of my Great Grandpa's death.  The cat had finally pushed me too far.

      So, later that day, I took my trusty Louisville slugger that served me with loyalty in many a little league games and hopped on my bike.  I grabbed my glove for show and it looked like I was off to play baseball somewhere.  But I wasn't.