Like Jellybeans

Reads: 186  | Likes: 1  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 0

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
May and Arlen decide to take responsibility tonight. They pretend to accept an adventure, they imagine they've answered the hero's call as they delve into the nearby forest looking for a stray cat.

Submitted: December 18, 2018

A A A | A A A

Submitted: December 18, 2018

A A A

A A A


Like Jellybeans

Thaddeus Lenk

 

There was a cat perched outside my basement window well, its eyes wide and glowing in the dark night. I was too busy cleaning up the kitchen to notice. I was muttering to myself and getting irritated with the mess even though it was all my fault, I lived alone and had no one else to blame.

I hated doing the dishes. I wanted someone to come home and do them for me, or to at least help me. There was never enough time in the day to get everything done. I leaned on the sink feeling frazzled. I didn’t want to go into work tomorrow. Let’s go running away. If I had someone with me I’d ask them that and we’d go driving off into the night. I just knew it.

But I was alone and there was a dirty pan in the sink.

 

***

 

I looked up and noticed the glowing eyes. The cat hissed and I imagined it was hunting me, baring fangs and thinking about what I would taste like.

But it was almost the dead of winter. The cat was shivering. I wanted to meow and let the poor thing know it was going to be okay.

That was too childish so I just whispered a quiet hello.

The cat’s tail twitched back and forth.

“Are you—is it cold out?” I asked, feeling silly talking to a cat.

The cat licked its front paw, continuing to glare at me.

“Do you need shelter?” I asked the cat. “Maybe a place to stay?”

The cat didn’t reply and I thought it looked lovely, regal even as it stood perched in the half-pale moonlight. Royalty didn’t belong outside in the cold.

I put away the dishes and whispered, “Don’t worry, I’m coming to get you.”

I backed up slowly and the cat cocked its head, curious. In the moonlight I noticed its fur was white with black splotches, clean and well groomed. This wasn’t a stray, or if it was then it was only recently lost. The poor thing. It wasn’t used to a wild life. It didn’t belong wandering around in the cold.

“Do you want a treat?” I cooed, putting on my shoes and getting my jacket.

I was smiling, feeling giddy. This felt like the start of an adventure. At least I imagined it was the start of an adventure, but secretly I prepared myself for disappointment. Sometimes I got too lost in the idea of a fantasy.

A car passed down the street, its engine rattling and coughing. Its muffler let out a sharp bang! The cat gave a quick mraow and ran away from the window, shooting across the side lawn. I gave chase, rushing upstairs and leaving the front door unlocked as I burst outside. The cold air stung my face. I caught a glimpse of the cat retreating into the nearby bushes.

 

***

 

I stood hunched over the bushes, calling out to the cat, whispering “Here kitty kitty kitty,” as I paced back and forth. Behind the bushes was a small patch of forest where people walked their dogs. “Come on kitty kitty kitty,” I said.

There was no reply.

“Can you hear me? Maybe, umm. Meow?” I asked, embarrassed.

The cat didn’t answer. The night was quiet. Nothing stirred but a small breeze that wound its way through the trees, rustling the leaves and adding an eerie chorus to the air. I shivered in the cold.

I realized I was being an idiot. Who just goes running off after a stray cat? And I left my front door unlocked too. But I wanted an adventure, I needed a distraction. I felt trapped, chained by my work and confined by an unfulfilling social life. I’d hoped rescuing a cat would bring me meaning. But that was wishful thinking and I was being selfish. I let out a sigh. My shoulders slumped. I figured I should just go back inside and finish washing the dishes, but I lingered near the bushes. I couldn’t just give up. I secretly wanted an adventure, so badly did I want to feel extraordinary. Different, unusual and special. Please let me live in the fantasy for a while longer.

I almost wanted to laugh at how silly I was being. I was like a kid and it was about time I grew up.

A woman came walking down the sidewalk. I smiled at her, not for any particular reason, I was trying to be friendly. I didn’t expect a reply, I realized how crazy I must look standing out in the cold next to the bushes. But she smiled back at me.

“Are you okay?” she asked me from the sidewalk. Maybe she noticed the worry in my eyes.

“I’m fine,” I said.

“You’re sure?”

She stayed on the sidewalk and I didn’t blame her.

“Do you live here?” she asked, nodding to the apartment building.

“I’m apartment C in the basement.”

“Same. I’m on the third floor, apartment F.”

She stepped away from the sidewalk and joined me next to the bushes. “What’re you doing?”

“I’m looking for a, well it’s weird—I’m looking for a cat,” I said, fumbling with my words and pointing toward the forest. I felt my cheeks blush. “It went running off into the bushes.”

“Do you need help finding it? What’s its name?”

“I don’t know. I just saw it standing outside my window before darting off, and I figured it’s too cold outside. I was scared it was lost or something.”

“That’s sweet.”

“I guess so,” but to me it didn’t feel very sweet. It felt selfish.

“What’s your name?” she asked, extending a hand.

“I’m May.”

“Arlen.”

We shook hands, introducing each other.

“So May, off we go?” Arlen suggested, nodding to the bushes.

“You think it’s worth it?”

“Of course it’s worth it! It’s freezing outside and everyone needs a home, so come on.”

“Okay, sure. But it’s not my cat.”

She crouched down on the grass. “That’s fine.”

I crouched down next to her, both of us leaning toward the bushes.

“Why do you want to help me?” I asked.

 

***

 

She didn’t reply. She shrugged her shoulders and crawled through the bushes. I followed. The ground was dry under my hands and a soft musk embraced me. Twigs and thorns clung to my jacket as Arlen led us deeper into the bushes. It was an odd moment, it felt touching. I couldn’t help but feel excited. This was fun. Secretly this is what I’d always been hoping for.

“I don’t know why I want to help you,” Arlen said, glancing back at me as we crawled through the bushes. Her hair fell to one side of her face. “I guess it was that worried look in your eyes. I saw an adventure hiding somewhere in them. Or maybe not, but I was walking back from work about to go home and do nothing, and you looked so lost and forlorn, almost like a kid. I thought I’d try and distract myself with that adventure in your eyes—at least for a little while.”

She made me want to tear up. An adventure in my eyes? I wished.

 

***

 

In the distance I heard a soft, low yowl, like a cry for help. It had to be the cat, but the sound could’ve been anything: the wind, a dog-walker, the trees rustling overhead. But I knew it was the cat calling up to the night’s sky. And for what I didn’t know. Was the cat calling out in fear? Worry? Excitement? I felt as though I could call out for the same things.

 

***

 

We came to the end of the bushes and stood up in a small clearing. Trees loomed overhead, tight and dense as they blocked out the pale moon. Around us the forest’s sounds abounded as the trees swayed and rustling paws scrabbled over tree roots. In the distance a dead branch fell clattering to the forest floor. I stepped in close to Arlen, our shoulders almost touching. I felt like we were a long way from home. The sounds of the city had all but disappeared.

“Where do you think we are?” I asked.

She said she didn’t know.

 

***

 

Arlen turned and followed a nearby deer trail. She asked me what the cat looked like.

“I told you already, it’s not my cat.”

“That’s fine, but now it’s your cat. You’ve taken ownership of finding the poor thing and rescuing it. Whether you like it or not, you’re responsible now.”

She flashed me a sly grin, as if she were joking. She was barely visible in the forest’s half-dark light.

I nodded my head. “I guess you’re right.”

“Of course I am. So what’d it look like?”

“It was white, with black splotches. Clean fur with wide, bright eyes. It almost looked like royalty.”

“So it looks like a cat then?”

“I guess so, yeah. A cat.”

“I don’t like cats.”

“Really?”

“No,” she laughed and ducked under a low hanging branch. “I love cats, all animals really. Except for hedgehogs.”

“Why’s that?”

She didn’t answer. Instead we continued deeper into the forest. An unnatural tingle filled the air, like a low electricity. Discarded toys, baby rattles and dirty pacifiers and toddlers boots littered the deer trail. The toys were lost and tangled in the earth. I did my best to avoid stepping on them. Arlen did the same. It felt like the toys were grave markers, but that was only my imagination.

Still, I felt a very long way from home.

 

***

 

Arlen paused, raising her head. “Did you hear that?” she asked.

I stood quietly behind her, straining my ears. In the distance was that lonely yowling, a tired voice raised up to the heavens.

“I heard it earlier. I think it’s the cat.”

Arlen nodded her head as the yowling was carried along on the breeze, its mournful cry projected across the forest.

“This has gone on long enough, hasn’t it?” I asked, wanting to drown out the sound.

“Oh shush. It’s hardly even begun.”

 

***

 

We continued walking, creeping closer toward the sound of the mewling cat. I wanted to feel afraid, I wanted to go home and hide in my bed until the morning came, but it was too late now. We were committed. Secretly I never wanted this to end. This was fun. It was an adventure. And oddly enough the back of Arlen’s head, her hair and the narrow taper of her shoulders distracted me. I caught myself glancing at her as we walked through the forest.

“What do you think happens after we find the cat?” I asked, feeling shy. I wanted to act as if I had no intentions—I was embarrassed by the thought.

“How should I know? I’ve never gone chasing after a cat before.”

“Do we take it home? Adopt it? Set it free?”

“We?”

I nodded my head, falling into silence. Yes we. Or at least I hoped there would be a we one day.

We came out of the forest and into another clearing, this one wide and sweeping, perched on the top of a hill overlooking the city. From the forest the cat joined us, sitting on its haunches and looking out across the horizon. It occasionally mewled into the night sky.

Arlen and I shared a look of surprise. In the end the cat found us.

“Are you alright?” I asked the cat as I got down on my hands and knees.

The cat turned its head in curiosity.

“Do you remember me, from earlier?”

The cat nodded its head, intrigued, raising a paw up cautiously toward me.

“That’s right.” I said, inching my way closer to the cat. Behind me Arlen smiled.

“Do you need a place to stay?” I asked.

The cat crept forward, its tail swishing back and forth.

“That’s okay. Life can be tough sometimes, I know.”

I reached out a hand to pet the cat.

“But, if you want, we, Arlen and I,” I said, glancing back at Arlen before facing the cat. “We can take care of you. Feed you and brush your fur. Would you like that?”

The cat looked at me, its eyes curious, its head cocked to the side, its ears pointed up. I imagined it was happy to see me again. The moment was sweet, tender. But it was fleeting. The cat reared up on its hind legs and let out a fearsome Mraow! as it lunged toward me, scratching my face before darting off into the nearby bushes.

I let out a scream and fell onto my butt. My face was hot. A small trickle of blood ran down my chin.

“Are you okay?” Arlen asked, rushing over to me.

She reached out a hand, laughing and rubbing my shoulder as I stood up.

“I—yeah, I think I’ll be fine,” I said, touching my cheek.

She covered her mouth, still laughing. “The look on your face.”

“It was probably pretty stupid, huh?”

“Just priceless.”

“But did you see the cat’s paws?”

She nodded her head and said an enthusiastic yes. “They were like little jellybeans—so pink and lovely I can’t believe it.”

“And those tiny ears.”

“Absolutely adorable.”

We stood there awkwardly, half-smiling.

“I guess I scared it away,” I said.

“Guess so.”

We were bathed in the semi-charmed moonlight. In the distance the cat started yowling again, but now it sounded ordinary and comfortable in the dead of night.

“So, some adventure huh?” I asked.

“It was fun enough,” Arlen said. “I liked it.”

We held hands.

“Let’s go home, I can put on a pot of coffee.”

She nodded her head yes.

 


© Copyright 2020 Thaddeus Lenk. All rights reserved.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Add Your Comments: