The Black Cat
It was a late evening and outside, a light November rain was pouring down gently.
In a bar, three men were sitting next to an open door, making conversation. They spoke in English but their heavy accent sounded like they had originated from Italy.
The oldest in the bunch was very chubby and heavy, he wore overalls and smoked a big cigar. In front of his friends, he liked to present himself as if he was rich and friendly.
The second man was the same age as his friend but he was a lot skinnier. He was more like a listener than a speaker. The heavy and skinny man were both listening to their companion, Batista tell his tale.
Batista came back from fighting in Iraq. His duty there as an American soldier was to spy and battle. After the war he ended up in the hospital, because a piece of a bullet which had landed on his forehead. Now, the skin healed, but resulted in a mark on his forehead which surprisingly looked as if it were a question mark.
- I told you to not go to war - said the chubby man, laughing hard. - You see what war has done to you, it has left a question mark on your forehead! - He said pointing again to Batista's forehead and began to tease him, - With that question mark, nobody will recognize you as Batista.
At another table, not very far away sat a tanned man, with a mustache, who seemed to be in his forty's. He was a painter from Iraq, although he was muslim, he worked and painted at churches for a big American company. Drinking coffee in silence, he glanced past the door to the pouring rain where there was no sign of movement, his mind seemed to be wandering away while he was smoking.
When an unknown woman in a bathrobe came into the bar, the three Italians stopped talking and glanced at her suspiciously.
This seemed to be quite unusual, a woman in a third class bar...where men came to smoke and become drunk. This was unheard of!
This woman had the apearance of a Russian, which indeed she was, she had white skin and she seemed to be thirty five years of age. Her blonde hair seemed to be wet, and her eyes where a sparkling blue, as blue a the ocean. However, she looked very distressed, she seemed as if she was dreaming or imagining something frightful. Her face had scattered droplets of rain. She had just arrived from showering, she smelled like peach, possibly from the shampoo she could of used.
She came in, but stopped when a feeling came over her, she shuddered as if she was at the wrong place at the wrong time. She stood in shock, but soon began looking for a female bartender, - she was down, by the basement where other Italians were gambling, - turning to the three men who were sitting on the table beside her.
- Excuse me, - she said worryingly, - I know this sounds funny, but I am really worried, because in my apartment, a black cat has wandered in.
The three men began to look at each other.
- You say, in your apartment a black cat has came in? - Asked the chubby man, as he shook his cigar.
- Yes! - replied the woman, as she glanced worryingly at her apartment. - I think she came in from the window as I was showering, because as I came out, the back window was open.
- Grab it by the tail and swing it out, - said Batista, - It's just a cat .
- I can't do that, - she replied. - The cat went under the bed and when I tried to scare it so it would come out, jumped on me and almost clawed my eyes.
-You don't have anyone else with you at home? - Asked the chubby man.
- My husband got killed in Iraq, and I don't have any children.
As if she had given too much information, she added: - Maybe someone from you can help me throw out this bad luck creature.
- Where do you live? - Asked the chubby man.
- Right there, on the first floor, on the other side of the street, - she answer while she pointed to a building across the street.
- Wake up, Batista, - said the chubby man. - You know how to catch mice and cats.
Batista got up lazily and laughed. He was about to get his coat, but he changed his mind and headed for his cell phone. Then, he took a sip of cognac and started to go. Halfway there, the chubby man started to speak up in a loud voice:
- When you come back, we don't want to see another question mark on your body.
Once, outside they where to cross the street but waited as two cars past, then, they ran quickly, and got inside the building. Back in the bar, the chubby man mumbled about how women fear to much.
- Don't blame her, black cats are bad luck, - added the quiet man.
Then they referred back to where they had left talking: about war.
Meanwhile, the Iraqi painter at the other table took out his portfolio and started to sketch a black cat. Sometimes, he would stop and look outside to where the woman and the Italian man entered.
In her apartment, the lights were on, and the curtains of the windows were almost see-through one could see two dark shadows franticly searching for a cat.
When one of the shadows disappeared from view, he saw that Batista came out and was directed towards the bar. He raced coldly past the street because it was still raining and very cold. When he came into the bar, without sitting he looked as if he had nothing to tell because he did not find the black cat. He had searched everywhere in her apartment but found no trace of a cat anywhere.
- The cat must have crawled out the window and into the street when she came here to ask for our help, - Batista said, at last.
The chubby man began thinking that the strange woman was mental.
- I know a lonely woman,- he said, - who pretends that every night she sleeps with general Napoleon Bonaparte. She takes his sword and hangs it on the wall, then helps him take off his shoes and armor.
While they were talking about her, they were shocked to see the strange Russian woman appeared once again at the door. She straightened herself for them and as if she were shuddering, she said:
- That black monster is still there! - She said, then looked at Batista and added: - Right when you left, the cat crawled out from under the bed and went into the open closet!
They looked at her in doubt without saying anything.
- Have you had your medicine today?- Asked the chubby man jokingly.
The two other men started to laugh insanely.
Instead of looking offended she turned to the Iraqi artist and gestured, as if saying, is there something here that I don't understand.
When the three men saw her gesturing, it made them laugh even more
- We did everything we could, we gave Batista, a strong soldier, who has been in war, we don't know what to do now, - said the chubby man, trying to hold his laughter.
The Iraqi painter, drank the last sip of his coffee, took out two dollars, left it on top of the table, took his portfolio of paintings and stood up.
- I have painted hundreds of black cats, - the painter told the woman. Then he added - also, I have studied about their myth.
- If this is the case, then come with me, - said the woman curiously, - Maybe you can help me throw that monster away, because I am sure that it is in my apartment.
They got out, one after the other.
The three men watched them leave, while they continued to drink, smoke and continued to discuss stories of mentally sick women. They watched through the curtains their shadows which were facing each other talking for a few minutes.
Finnaly, they saw the woman's shadow begun to pull the curtains down, and when the lights in the apartment went off, a black cat raced out of the building, ran away and disappeared in the darkness of the night.
Translated from Albanian to English by