In honor of Apocalypse month, here is an excerpt from my upcoming story, “A Cat Named Apocalypse.”
Does your Dad’s boss ever come over for dinner? Mine did last week. No wonder Dad’s always saying bad words about him. He didn’t say anything out loud, but he made that face. The one where his ears turn red and his lips squeeze real tight? That one. Dad even let Mr. Faison drink a lot of that smelly brown stuff he keeps locked behind the bar. Mommy’s puffed out her cheeks and shook her head a lot. I don’t think she liked him either.
“Hey there young Elliott,” Mr. Faison grabbed my arm when I tried to run past him. “Your father tells me you like to play baseball.”
“Yeah.” Paco turned the corner into the hallway running away. I heard Mom clear her throat from the kitchen. “I mean yes sir. I do.”
“What position do you play?” He shook the ice in his glass and lowered his eyebrows at Dad. Usually me or my brothers were the ones who filled Dads glass when it got empty. I don’t think I ever saw Dad do that before.
“Mostly second base.” Mr. Faison finally let go of my arm. I rubbed the spot to get rid of the cold feeling his fingers left there. “But I really want to play catcher.”
“Ah. You’re a tough guy are you?” Mr. Faison laughed and looked at Dad. “I bet you’re used to getting hit by those big brothers of yours.”
“Hey!” His big fist flew at my face. I ducked before I could tell he was only joking.
“Good reflexes kid.” He took a big swallow from his glass. “I used to be a pretty good pitcher you know. I’ll tell you the secret.” He leaned over to whisper in my ear. His teeth were kind of brown and yellow and my tummy rolled around when I smelled his breath. “I’ll tell you a secret. It’s all in the hips.”
He put his hand on my butt and pushed real hard. I bumped into the table and everything rattled around. Then he stuck his fingers in my back pocket and yanked so hard I fell down.
“Tim.” Mom came back to the table. “Please.”
“Sorry. Sorry.” He waved his hands in the air. “Just trying to teach the kid the secrets of my success. Are you hurt Elliott?”
“No sir.” I stood up and shook my head.
“See?” He messed up my hair. “No harm. No foul.”
“I don’t allow the boys to play rough in the house.” Mom picked up a glass that fell over and straightened out her butterfly shaped napkin holder. “That goes for adults to.”
“Boys will be boys.” Mr. Faison reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a long cigar. “Am I right Matt?”
“Sure.” Dad smiled but I could tell he wasn’t happy. “How about we go to the patio?”
“Why not?” Mr. Faison grunted when he stood up. He was much taller than Dad. But Dad had more hair.
She didn’t even ask, but I helped Mom clear the table. She kissed me on the head while I rinsed dishes in the sink. She watched Dad and Mr. Faison through the screen door. I don’t know what they were talking about. Mom crossed her arms and breathed heavy like she was mad about something.
“Can I go play with Paco now?” I asked after drying my hands off.
“Go check on your brothers first. Make sure they aren’t trying to kill each other.” She took dessert plates from the high shelf and then pushed the ON switch for the coffee machine.
“Okay.” Mickey and Nicky were playing X-Box in their room. I didn’t say anything so they would leave me alone. If I interrupted a good game, who knows what they would do to me.
Paco was curled up on my pillow. Her eyes were closed but she wasn’t sleeping. I could tell because the tip of her tail wagged back and forth when she heard me come in. I grabbed a book from my shelf and sat on the floor leaning on the side of the bed. Paco stretched. She walked next to me and chewed on my hair while I read about dragons and knights with magic swords.
At the end of the chapter, I needed to pee. Dad was sitting outside by himself next to the screen door smoking. I peed a lot. I turned off the light and walked down the hall to go back to my room.
Mom shouted something from the kitchen and then I heard a smacking sound. She turned the corner with her face all mad. One sleeve of her dress looked like it got caught on something and ripped. Then Mr. Faison came behind her. One side of his face was red and the zipper on his pants was open.
“You’re fly is down Mr. Faison.” I pointed it out.
“Shut up you little turd.” He shoved me into the wall. He went to the living room and reached for his coat on the back of Dad’s big chair. Mom slammed her bedroom door. Dad came back inside.
“What’s up?” He looked at Mr. Faison.
Mr. Faison turned to go to the front door but Paco slipped in between his feet making him fall down. I couldn’t help it. I laughed. His arms smacked into bottom of the door and then his cheek his the floor. It was funny.
“Damn cat.” He kicked at the air where Paco was standing a second before. She’d already moved to go back to my room.
“You alright Tim?” Dad tried to help him get up. “Paco’s always getting tangled in between. You know cats.”
“Get off me.” Mr. Faison pushed Dad’s hands away. “I hate cats. You need to get a hold of your wife Matt.”
“What?” Dad backed up. He made that face where his eyes squinted real tight behind his glasses. I could tell his face turned red even through his beard.
“Stubborn bitch.” I held my breath. Mr. Faison threw open the front door and stomped down the driveway. His big, black car roared and squealed its tires driving away.
“What the hell was that about?” Dad looked at me. I shrugged my shoulders and went to check on Paco.
I rubbed behind her ears and Paco purred between my legs. I tried to read some more but Mom and Dad were shouting. For once I wished Mickey and Nicky played their game louder. Paco turned around and nudged her nose into my belly. She meowed one time.
“Yeah. I don’t like it when they fight either.” She looked right into my eyes while I scratched her chin. I don’t remember putting my pj’s on or getting into bed. The light woke me up when Mom opened my curtains in the morning. Her eyes looked tired and puffy.
“’Morning mom.” I sat up and Paco shifted on the pillow.
“Good morning sunshine.” She smiled at me. I always thought she was so pretty. She didn’t look pretty that morning. Mostly sad and tired.
“I’m fine baby.” She squeezed my foot through the batman blanket. “Time to get ready for school. Did you sleep good?”
“I guess so. I gotta pee.” I left her to pick out some clothes for me and went to the bathroom. My brothers were in their room arguing about who got to wear their favorite Transformers shirt. They always argued about everything.
Dad was at the kitchen table drinking coffee. The way he stared at the wall gave me the heebies.
“Hi Dad.” I poured myself a glass of orange juice ad put it on the table.
“Good morning pal.” He blinked a lot like his eyes were real dry. “How’d you sleep?”
“Okay.” I made a bowl of cereal and sat in my chair. “What’s wrong?”
“Oh.” He slurped some coffee and it spilled a little on the table. I gave him a napkin to wipe it up. “Do you remember Mr. Faison?”
“Yeah.” I said. “He was here last night. He was kind of mean.” I caught myself before he could tell me to not be rude. “Right?”
“It’s okay Eli.” He wiped the napkin in circles over and over again. “Nobody really liked him very much.”
Mom came into the kitchen and sat down. She put her hand on top of his and they looked at each other.
“Mr. Faison was in an accident last night after he left our house.” Dad talked real quiet. They both looked confused.
“Oh.” I said and slurped at a spoon full of sugar covered corn flakes. “What happened?” Paco walked in and sat under my chair and started cleaning her ears like she did every morning while I ate breakfast. Mom and Dad looked at her, then looked at each other and kind of looked scared.
“Well honey,” Mom said. “The police found his car on the side of Route 6.”
“Is he hurt bad?” I read the back label of the cereal box not paying much attention.
“Yes. He was hurt very badly Eli.” He took the box out of my hand. I looked up and he was shaking. “He died.”
“Wow.” I didn’t know if that was a good thing to say or not. Other than when Grandma Lottie died when I was six, my parents never talked about death before. “Are you okay Dad?”
“Yeah.” He stopped wiping the table. “I’m fine buddy.”
“Why do you sound so sad?”
“We are sad.” Mom patted my hand.
“But I thought you guys didn’t like him?”
“That doesn’t make any difference.” Dad yelled.
“I don’t get it.” I took the rest of my cereal and put it in the sink.
“It’s sad when anybody dies baby.” Mom almost smiled. “Go get dressed. The bus will be here in a few minutes.” I walked out of the kitchen into the hall. “Tell your brothers to stop fighting and get ready for school already.” Her voice followed loudly behind me.
“Hey guys!” I shouted through the wall between our bedrooms. “Mom says to stop fighting and get ready for the bus.” Something heavy thudded into the wall followed by a cry of pain and words I wasn’t supposed to know.
School went by real slow that day. I had a math test and I think we planted bean seeds in foam cups. Marco and me played tetherball at lunch time. I remember because I beat him five to four. He’s taller than me so I never beat him. Paco watched us from her wall.
Her face was all bloody. Sometimes when she shows up she has a bird or a mouse with her. I couldn’t tell what she had on the ground, but she held something with fur under her front paws.
When the last bell rang I ran out to her spot. The only thing there was a dark brown spot where she sits. I yelled for her but she never came.
“Where’s Paco?” Marco ran next to me.
“I don’t know.” I looked in the bushes but she wasn’t there either.
“She’s always here waiting for you.”
“I know right?” I looked at the brown spot. When the sun shined on it it looked more red. Kind of like old blood.
“Let’s go home Eli.” Marco waved for me to go with him. “I’m sure she’ll be at your house man.”
“Okay.” I didn’t want to go without her. “I can’t believe I beat you today.”
“Don’t get used to it shorty.” Marco pushed me. I pushed him back.
“Stoppit you dick!”
“Sore loser.” We laughed and ran to the cross walk.
“There she is dude.” Marco pointed across the street. I followed his finger to a flash of orange under a brown bush with only a few leaves on it. Paco was laying in the dirt. Her head twisted back and forth while she chewed on something floppy and gross.
She saw me coming and rolled over. The thing fell out of her mouth. I scratched her cheek moving a couple branches out of the way.
“Ew dude. Don’t touch that.” Marco knelt down next to me. “That’s disgusto.”
Instead of grabbing it, I slipped it on to the sidewalk with the toe of my shoe. We both looked at each other and held out breath.
“It’s an ear.” Marco whispered. “Dude, I think it’s an ear. Where would she get an ear? Why does she have an ear?”
“Shut up.” I looked at Paco. She licked blood off her nose and cleaned her chin with a paw. Slowly, she cam out from under the bushes and sat down proudly next to the ear. Her tail end flicked showing off her latest trophy.
“Should we tell somebody? Like the Police or the Fire Department or Ms. G or my Mom or…”
“Shut up Marco.” I grabbed his arms and squeezed. “We don’t tell anybody.”
“Shut up. Stop talking.” I pulled him close so our noses were almost touching. “Listen to me. She found it. Okay? She found it.” He nodded. I could feel him shaking under my hands so I let go. “Cats don’t eat people Marco. How could they? I mean, she’s so small.”
He nodded again and I kicked the ear back under the bush. I heard it land somewhere deep in the shadows where I couldn’t see it anymore.
“I’m sure she found it while she was chasing squirrels or a bird or something like she always does.”
“But, where would she find a human ear Eli?” His eyes were watering now and I could feel the heat rise into my ears.
“It’s probably not even real” I thought quickly. “I bet it’s leftover from somebody’s Halloween costume. Right?”
“Yeah.” He whispered through a shaky breath. “Yeah. That’s got to be it. It’s from a costume.”
We agreed even though we both new we were lying to ourselves. Nobody made ears that realistic. Not with veins sticking out and the rough tear marks like that.
Paco huffed, turned around walking home. She stopped at the next corner to wait for me. We followed slowly behind not talking. Marco went to his house shutting the door behind him. I watched nervously, even though there was nothing we could get in trouble for.
I caught up with Paco at our front lawn. She rolled on the grass stretching her legs in the sun. I went inside dropping my backpack on the pile of shoes by the front door.
“Eli?” Mom called from the kitchen. “That you baby?”
“Yeah Mom. I’m home.”
“Be quiet.” She peeked her head around the end of the hallway. “Dad is taking a nap.”
“Yes. They shut down his office today because of the accident.” I walked over to her and she kissed my cheek. “Dad’s very upset so let’s try to keep the fighting with your brothers to a minimum okay?”
“They start it.”
“Just walk away.”
“Fine.” I went into my room and opened the window for Paco. A few minutes later jumped in from the low hanging tree branch. She sat next to me on the bed while I did my math homework.
Through my doorway I could see the TV was on in the living room. I sat next to Dad on the couch. He wrapped his arm over my shoulder giving me one good squeeze. I listened to his heart beating through his shirt.
A reporter with brown hair stood on the side of a road talking about a car accident. I saw a police car an ambulance and a tow truck behind her. The lights flashed and a bunch of people were walking around.
“…with no eyewitnesses to verify, all we can ascertain is Tim Faison lost control of his car sometime near eleven thirty last night. Gaging from the damage, it appears he was driving at speeds much higher than the posted limits for these dark, unlit back roads. The medical examiner has suggested that Mr. Faison did indeed have alcohol in his system but was not able to comment if this was the cause of the accident.
First responders found his body thrown from the car and were unable to resuscitate him. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
No official statement has been offered by the Pastor Police Department yet. But rumors have been circulating that a few small body parts were missing. Specifically one finger, two toes and his right ear…”