I headed out of town down toward Garrett's store and turned onto the road beside it. I went out another half mile or so before I turned left onto an old dirt road with lots of holes. It ran between a field and a bunch of woods and a little ways further down the road, I turned into the woods and the trails behind the store.
The paths were cleared, except for the occasional spider web, and ran up and down a bunch of red dirt hills that seemed like they were dried up gullies from somewhere out west. I stopped once or twice on my journey and looked back and sure enough, each time I could see that cat.
I rode on, deep into the trails, until I felt I'd gone far enough. I couldn't see anything but trees and the blue sky above. My bike was one of those dirtbikes with big knobby wheels and a thick bar down the middle that punished you without hesitation if you slipped. The pedals had small metal spiky teeth for your Chucks to grab onto for a better foothold, even they got slicker than snot after it'd rained. That, I promise you, I know from very painful experience. This was one of those times.
I tried to hop off my bike and let it ride on for another few secs before falling to the ground, and that part succeeded. It did go on for a little ways before crashing quietly into a few saplings. But as I was jumping off, my foot slipped from the pedal, the dry pedal, and I fell backwards.
My foot caught a gnarled root hiding beneath the floor of multi-colored leaves and I threw my hands up in surprise frantically trying to regain my balance. I finally did get control but only after I was lying flat on my back with a severely twisted ankle and a pair of lungs devoid of air.
I laid there, gasping silently trying to suck in the smallest amount of oxygen, and that cat sat on its haunches licking a white paw and watching me suffer. Until that moment, I'd never heard the beast purr like normal cats do, but now it was there revving its mini cat engine like a Yamaha outboard. The whole world around me was silent but for the occasional chirp of a bird and that feline motor mocking my pain.
Did it know what I was planning? Did it somehow trip me up? The longer I laid there trying to catch my breath, the more that cat mocked me and the angrier I got.
By the time I'd fully recovered and was standing on my good foot with my other foot cocked awkwardly to the side, I was holding the wooden bat so tight my knuckles had turned a pale white. I was filled with hatred and rage and fully ready to unleash it toward the creature that had perpetually shadowed me for my entire life.
The black cat sat on a fallen tree rubbing its face and ears with one of its paws as I hobbled toward it clutching the bat angrily. This beast had plagued me for all eleven of my years on this earth and that day I meant it to end. That cat had reached the end of its evil little life and as I swung with the full brunt of all my strength, I felt the sweetest of releases. I was earning my freedom, however the method, and it felt immensely wonderful.
For the first time in my life I felt liberated. That day, I pedaled back home with one good ankle and my whole life in front of me. The evil beast was dead. I was free.
When I returned home, the cat was sitting on the front porch, intently watching the combination of genuine surprise and disgust on my face. Its speckled emerald eyes regarded me with disinterest as if nothing had ever happened. It had, hadn't it? I looked down and the maroon spatter marks on my shoes and bat told me it had.
But the cat was sitting on the stoop, right in front of me, and it looked completely unscathed. I knew I hadn't imagined the whole incident in the woods, my bat and shoes were unrefutable proof. As I went around the back of the house to wash off my bat, I thought I was going crazy.
Later that night after I had cleaned up and taken a nap, it almost felt as though it had all been a dream. I looked out my window and the cat was cleaning its tail. It licked it slowly, stopping every few seconds to gather the fur it had pulled off in its mouth and swallow. Then it looked at me with those eyes, those omniscient twinkling eyes that bore right through me. Those eyes were as evil as Hell itself.
Two summers later I built up the courage to try and destroy the loathsome creature again. I had had a particularly bad day. We'd lost to Julian 9-8 and I was the pitcher. I threw an easy change-up over the plate and their best hitter knocked the cover off the ball putting them ahead in the last inning. When we got in to bat, I was the sixth man up to the plate. It just so happens that Chris and Wes each hit a single, Barry hit into a pop-up out, Jamie lined out to the short stop, and Keith knocked himself a single between first and second.
The bases were loaded with two outs and the crowd was going wild, it felt like the whole town had turned out for the game. I took the first two pitches, both balls. I could breathe a little easier now, then came a sweet lob right down the center of the plate. It was a single-most beautiful pitch I'd ever seen, the kind I'd throw to a batter I wanted to tick off.
The next pitch was high and wide, I almost swung out of nervousness. I crowded the plate for the next pitch, hoping it would throw the pitcher off and get me a free base to tie the game up. But he threw a slick curve straight at me that floated right over the corner of the plate as I dove out of the way like a fraidy-cat.
And that was when I saw it, the black cat itself. It was sitting on its haunches glaring intently at me and my Louisville Slugger. It made me shudder, the irony of the moment and the memory of that day in the woods came flooding back like I'd been told to build an ark. I was almost paralyzed, lying there on the ground. The coach came running and everyone thought the curve had shook my nerves real bad but it wasn't that pitch.