Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Tale of the Interloper

By Betsy Love

This is the story I submitted to an online, 24 hour short story contest. I won't hear anything until the end of May. Wish me Luck.

The Tale of the Interloper

Everything changed the day he came into Roxie’s life. Mom carried a box of his belongings, much of which looked new, as if she’d purchased them for him. Although tanned and handsome, he looked like trouble to Roxie. She watched her mother put their picture in the scrapbook, as if he too, belonged there. Mom left it on the coffee table. Roxie sneaked it off into the other room and deliberately shredded it. Mom didn’t scold her. But then she never scolded her for anything. All she did was gather up the pieces and throw them in the trash. She never reprimanded him either when he did bad things. Shortly after moving in he knocked over Mom’s lamp—it went in the trash, too.

Roxie couldn’t bring herself to say his name. She refused to acknowledge his presence, except for the devious things she thought of to annoy him while Mom wasn’t looking, like hiding his belongings behind the couch, or sneaking food off his plate when he wasn’t looking. He never complained to Mom, but Roxie saw the scowl on his face when he caught her, the mean angry draw of his eyebrows, the dark mist that came over his eyes, and the wicked grin, practically baring his teeth. He was playing some kind of game with her, wasn’t he? Waiting, but for what?

Whenever Roxie came into a room where Mom was present, he spoke sweetly, kindly. “Give her some time. It’s a big adjustment. Just us two for ten years.” Mom toyed with his ear and kissed his ugly face.

But Roxie noted the change in him as soon as Mom left the room. Two-faced interloper. Roxie knew a matter of days existed before he convinced Mom to send her away.

His love affair with Mom grew thicker. Roxie’s stomach turned to lead every time she saw him snuggle up against her mother. Revolting, she murmured to herself when he kissed her, moving in with that tongue action. Since he moved in, Roxie secluded herself away from them so she wouldn’t have to witness their disgusting displays of affection.

One afternoon, while he was messing around in the back yard, Roxie surreptitiously watched her mother load a picnic basket, counting the number of plates, forks, napkins. Roxie began pacing around the kitchen, getting in Mom’s way until finally hands on hip, she glared at Roxie. “I suppose this means you want to go, too?”

She didn’t really, but said, “Yes.” Her future could be too easily decided with one cuddle from Mom’s new love.

Closing the lid of the basket, Mom put her hand under Roxie’s chin. “I guess I’ve been neglecting you a bit.”

Roxie didn’t pull away and allowed Mom to pat the top of her head. “You can come too.”

Not expecting to ride in the front seat, Roxie settled into her spot in the back so she could keep an eye on Mom. What Roxie didn’t expect was for him to join her in the back seat. Perhaps to fool mom with his goodwill, but she knew better. His large frame spilled over to her side and she shifted closer to the door. He sat gazing out the window; a sad expression came over his face. She’d never seen him look like that before, and a lump formed in her throat. Not because she felt sad for him, but because she remembered Sophie, her little sister. Sophie would still be with them if it hadn’t been for her wandering off like that. Maybe he’d lost someone and remembered that time. No! Roxie would not allow herself any kind of sympathy for him. He is the enemy.

Suddenly he looked over at Roxie, and she dipped her head so as not to meet his baleful eyes.

“Off we go.” Mom made the car roar to life and rolled the back windows down. Roxie placed a hand on the edge feeling the empty ridge where the glass had disappeared, willing the wind to calm her as it rushed across her face.

Once out of the car Roxie lifted her cheeks to the breeze blowing through her hair, and smelled the forest, the pines, the wildlife, everything that said outdoors.

Up the hill a few tents secluded themselves. The aroma of grilled steaks floated down to her, and Roxie’s stomach gave an audible growl. The smell of the meat seemed to draw out the savagery in him. She shivered at his fierce glare. He hadn’t brought her along for the picnic. She didn’t know how she knew it, but he’d wanted her along for his own sinister purpose. Her heart pounded in her throat. Hunger suddenly lost all meaning. By the greedy look on his face she knew he had other plans.

The moment Mom reached for the picnic basket, allowing Roxie to stray from her vigilant care, she bolted for the woods. She didn’t think about which way she ran, all she knew was she had to get away from him. Her mouth parched, she panted heavily, daring to rest only once when she thought she heard water trickling over rocks. Following the sounds, and ignoring the thorns slicing through her legs she headed toward the stream. That’s when she heard strangers calling her name, perhaps the campers, but how had they known?

She quickly stepped back and her hair got tangled on a low branch. How she wished Mom had let her cut it short. The forest canopy swallowed her as she sobbed, stumbled and repeatedly whispered to herself, “Why couldn’t I have been cat?” A tree would have been the perfect escape.

Abruptly he stepped out of the woods in front of her. He growled, barked, pounced on her and then wagged his tail. The game was up, and Roxie had lost. Next time she’d be ready.

3 comments:

  1. I actually submitted to the same contest - but made into a story about a cat. I'll post below. Hope you do well. I liked your story.
    Cassidy's Escape

    It had been two days since Cassidy escaped the bedlam of her person’s home. She had watched her person pack the boxes and suitcases for over a week. Soon the only thing left was her water and food dishes and litter box. Strangers marched in and out of the house and carried away all the boxes and furniture. All the cupboards she liked to hide in were bare – no soft blankets left to curl up and take a nap in. No balls of yarn to chase down the hall.

    Someone came to empty the refrigerator. Not even poor a bowl of milk was poured for her. They ignored her purrs and body caresses while yammering on phone. Then Cassidy saw the cage. Oh no. Not again. She wasn’t getting in that prison cell ever again. After the person hung up the phone she started calling her name.

    “Cassidy, come here Kitty, Kitty.” The person went from room to room. “We need to go bye, bye. Come here.”

    Cassidy squeezed in between the water pipes under the sink. She watched silently until she saw
    the door open and another stranger pushed something with wheels through the door. Cassidy dashed outside, down the steps and leapt over the back yard fence into the alley.

    Ah, freedom. She’d never been outdoors since she was a small black ball of furry sucking on her mother’s teats. Her person had picked her up and taken her to this place they had stayed in for longer than nine years. Frequently she crept behind the blinds on the windowsill and watched, listened and pined to be outdoors. There was a whole other world for her to explore, an adventure she’d never had before.

    The disgusting aromas from trash bins that lined the alley on both sides caused her to hack up a nasty fur ball. It was unthinkable that her person would abandon her after the nine years of devoted love she had given. Well, she’d have to find another source of food, this one stank.

    As Cassidy padded along she came to a street where cars dashed back and forth. She had seen some from her third story window, but up close they were bigger and louder. She turned to go back in the ally and think of another plan when suddenly a Tom Tabby hissed at her. Apparently those were his markings she’d sniffed along the way. Obviously this alley was out of bounds.

    She kept padding with no apparent plan in mind, but followed her nose to a Mexican restaurant down the street. Cassidy skirted the building and found the kitchen door propped ajar.

    “Black Cat! Get out! Black Cat.” This was punctuated by a swat from a broom and pitcher of cold water tossed over her fur. So Mexican cuisine wasn’t on the agenda today.

    She scurried down the sidewalk dodging between legs and strollers. A dog chained to the lamppost surprised her with a vicious growl. She jumped from the flower box into the street without thinking.

    Suddenly there were horns blaring breaks squealing and people yelling. She catapulted herself into the back of a moving truck and clung onto the canvas for life.

    She found a pile of rags, curled into a ball and fell asleep. The next thing she knew the truck had stopped and a new scent of fresh air wafted in through the back flaps.

    She tip toed to the edge and batted at the canvas cover that flapped in and out from the wind. She didn’t see any humans so she made a break for it and ran down the road.

    Her dry mouth started to bother her. “Meow.” No answer. Now what to do. She followed her ears around a butte and then her nose. Water. I want water.

    Cassidy crouched down at the side of the wash, drinking the muddy as fast as she could. Her long back tail waved back and forth in the tall dry grass, like a periscope checking out her surroundings. Green feline eyes scanned the desert fauna for something to eat. Apparently there would be no more canned tuna in her future. A coyote stealthily snuck up behind her and was about to pounce on her, jaws open when a skittering rock betrayed him.

    She turned and swiped his nose with her claws then climbed up a saguaro – the nearest tree she could find. Now she was at the top. Thorns pierced her pads and her pendulant belly. She tried to sit and gnaw them loose with her teeth and suffered more injuries to her behind.

    She gave up and flew down from her perch with a loud growl. The coyote had vacated the premises. She slunk down to the mud of the stream and rolled. “Now, that’s something I’ve never done before.” She found a culvert not too far from where she was and tiptoed to the hidden spot for shelter. There she started the laborious task of grooming herself and picking out the stickers that plagued her sore body.

    “Oh if only I had the chance to choose the cage again,” she whined to herself. “It would be better than this nightmare.”

    As nightfall came and crickets started to chirp she heard a car rumble over the top of her. She twitched her ears and craned her neck – the motor sounded just like the one her person used.

    “Cassidy. Where are you?”

    Tenderly she limped up the side of the road trying to avoid any sharp rocks. She curled her body around her persons left foot and opened the organ pipes.

    “Cassidy! There you are my pet.” Her person picked her up and caressed her as she climbed back into the car. She curled up in the open cage and closed her eyes in contentment.

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  2. Both stories are adorable. Since I have 3 such wonderful creatures to share my life with, I can totally relate. Good job. And good luck to you both.

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  3. Good luck to both of you!

    I enjoyed your stories immensely. Funny thing, I posted my blog about my cat before I had time to read yours...

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