6/05/2009

A Little Fiction, Cause It's Friday

The prompt this week, from Write Anything, is: "Don't sit there," she commanded, "that's the cat's chair."


I couldn't escape the cliche that flitted through my head as I peered through the madly flapping windshield wipers trying to see if I was at least managing to stay in the general area of the right side of the road. I'd given up on lanes twenty minutes, and a whopping quarter of a mile, ago. The headlights of my best junk yard find yet barely cut a two foot swatch of dark away from the front of the hood. I continued inching along hoping that no one else was crazy enough to brave the elements tonight as the steel gray paint blended perfectly with the road and rain and I doubted anyone would see in and glimpse the red velvet seats. I managed a self-deprecating chuckle at the memory of the yard owner's face when I asked if the '73 Impala still ran. It did, barely, but that's really all that mattered. And for the $20 he finally agreed to take for it, I could put up with the limited aesthetic appeal. Provided I didn't run it, and myself, into a tree, of course.

"Who goes out on a dark and stormy night? Seriously?" I muttered under my breath as I slowed even further and listened as the engine sputtered and begged for more gas, "Nobody, that's who. They're all smarter than this. Heroines in horror movies are smarter than this." I felt the rear tires slip on the pavement and carefully steered into the skid, trying not to over correct. When they regained purchase, I continued slipping my way, inch by inch, up the mountain road.

I was only vaguely aware of time passing, focused as intently as I was on the two feet of road in front of me that was marginally visible through the rain and dim light from the car. My hands were cramping I was squeezing the steering wheel so tightly and I felt the stirrings of a charlie horse in my right calf from maintaining that tense balance between too much and too little gas. Gradually I noticed that my gaze traveled farther as I squinted out the window and the wipers began to squeak noisily as they swished back and forth. I glanced around, the forest along the sides of the road seemed to be thinning as well. I increased my speed, letting out a whiff of relief as the last bits of rain dribbled across the car and the first tendrils of moonlight worked their way from behind the clouds.

It wasn't much of a moon, just the thinnest sliver, but still the light was welcome. With the clouds and rain gone, I could see the lights of what I hoped was my destination glowing in the distance. I sped up again, feeling the chugging of the engine ripple through the frame of the car and quashing an errant thought about gas mileage as my eyes flicked to the gauge that now rested just above the half-way mark.

I slowed to a crawl as I reached the gates and studied the, my mind groped for a word to describe it and I whispered, "Castle" that loomed at the end of the driveway beyond the iron gates. "At least they're open," I muttered and pulled through slowly listening to my tires crunch the gravel drive. "She must have every light on, I guess that's one way to avoid leaving an inheritance, spend it all on your electric bill." I rolled my eyes and parked at the foot of the steps leading to the imposing front door. Grabbing my leather attache case from the passenger seat, I ran a hand over my hair without bothering to look in the visor mirror. The rain had brought out the curls, I could feel that, so I knew my usually sleek, chin-length bob that I felt gave just the right hint of professionalism and "don't mess with me" vibe was now a riot of wave and curl that zigged and zagged across my head, creating the woebegone waif look that seemed determined to plague my entire adult life. Sighing, I stepped out and climbed the steps, "Don't fight the inevitable." I reminded myself, and plastered a "trust me, I'm here to help" smile on my face.

I was reaching for the knocker when the door swung open. I adjusted my gaze down and felt my smile stretch into something more genuine as I saw my new client. She looked just like she had when she visited my office last week, dainty was the only word you could use. Dressed completely in black, to the pillbox hat with short veil and lace gloves. Her silver hair was coiled tightly at the nape of her neck and I had to quash a shudder as I remembered my third grade librarian.

Before I could open my mouth, she gave me a stern look from head to toe and nodded sharply, "You're late." She gestured at the foyer impatiently and I quickly entered after carefully wiping my shoes on the mat.

"I'm sorry, the rain," I gestured at the now cloudless sky with the tiny sliver of moon and cleared my throat, "It was..,"

She cut me off, "Late is late. When you're old like me, perhaps you'll learn to appreciate the limited time some people have." She snapped the door shut and strode, briskly for someone just past their first century, into a small sitting room. She gestured to a chair as the grandfather clock in the hallway began to sound the hour.

I started to sit in the chair she'd indicated, snapping upright at her terse voice, "Don't sit there," she commanded, "that's the cat's chair."

I cleared my throat, "Sorry." I glanced around and settled in another chair, "What kind of cat is it?" I began sliding papers from my bag and looked up to find her staring at me quizzically.

"Cat? I hate cats. Always have. Allergic, you know." She shook her head and held out a hand imperiously for the papers.

I opened my mouth but thought better of it and handed her the papers, casting a glance at the cat chair again as she began to flip through. Curious, and punchy from the adrenaline of the drive that was now wearing off, I slipped my attache onto the chair.

She looked up and shook her head, "Don't put that there, that's the cat's chair. I told you."

Nodding contritely, I slid the bag to the floor and blinked as a huge calico cat strutted from the hallway, jumping into the chair. She sat, eyed me for a moment, then shot a leg into the air and began to lick herself.

I cleared my throat and my client looked up, "Ah, Mrs. Fillibee, so glad you could join us." She smiled and passed the sheaf of papers over to the cat who paused momentarily in her licking to eye them nonchalantly, "They're all in order as you see." The cat ignored both of us. My client seemed to take that as approval and gestured for a pen. She signed her name in an elegant scrawl and handed the pile back.

"It's been a pleasure doing business with you." I glanced at the cat, "And you, Mrs. Fillibee." My client eyed me curiously, and seemed to be considering taking the papers back.

"Do you make a habit of talking to furniture, dear? My sister had a bit of the dimentia...you might want to be careful of that."

My mouth dropped open, and I gestured at the cat, "But, the cat? You called her...?" I glanced between the two of them confused.

She shook her head, frowning, "Told you before, I hate cats. Can't stand them." At this, Mrs. Fillibee mrroowed quietly, "Now my sister," she gestured at the cat, "has always been fond of them, but we reached an agreement long ago. She had her favorite calico preserved when she passed, and that's been enough."

I cleared my throat, "Could...could I see it?" She looked at me quizzically, so I added hurriedly, "Since it's part of the estate, I might need to do some research ahead of time for a buyer for such a specialty item."

That seemed to satisfy. She nodded once and stood, gesturing to the cat, "Come along dear, let's show off your favorite possession." She led the way through an archway that I had assumed led to the dining room. It might have once served that purpose, but now it was clearly set up as a display for prized objects. Fine bone china hung carefully on the wall. Paintings that I was sure were oringial works of Cassat were hanging opposite. Featured prominently on the wall opposite the archway were four dressmakers manniquins holding amazingly well preserved gowns from the mid 1800s. In the center of these stood a young woman, forever frozen at twenty or twenty-five, dressed in a lovely calico dress.

2 comments:

Gwynne said...

Ha! Funny, scary, and very creative! I'm impressed.

Now maybe you can do something with this WV word: "poathed" ;-)

Princess Jami said...

HEE-HEE! That ending is fabulous!