They say cats only have nine lives, but I'm sure Oscar's almost been hit by every car on my street at least twice. He's not agile, or slim, or particularly good at doing anything cat-related, besides being covered in silky, red fur, but he does seem rather good at finding ways to escape Mrs Perkins' house.
Today, my yard, which shares a fence with Mrs Perkins', is the destination of Oscar's adventure. His big, green eyes stare up at me, pleading for attention beside the patch of herbs I've just planted. I sigh, scoop him up and start walking towards the gate.
"Just gonna drop Oscar off," I say over my shoulder in Bree's direction. "You know how Mrs Perkins gets..."
I hear a sly, "The word's eccentric," uttered in Bree's voice from beside the tomato vines and smile. We're friendly with Mrs Perkins but she’s an unusual neighbour. She wears dark, drapey clothing all year round, and collects strange objects 'for fun'. I once walked into her living room and almost had a heart attack when I stumbled across her collection of preserved invertebrates. But worst of all is that she always links conversations back to her late husband, Hector, whom she divorced shortly before she adopted Oscar. He's an alright guy on paper, but he's one of those people who always need to be the centre of attention. He used to run his fingers through his fading ginger hair like a lion flexing its mane; proud and pretentious. When he would ask how you were going, it was only because he wanted to boast about something in his life, usually related to his achievements at the firm or his car, because what else is a middle-aged man with no kids to boast about?
The Perkins had multiple noise complaints over the years, mostly from when Hector would work on his car in the late hours. Besides the obvious clanging, he'd get angry and yell out the most unusual swear words at times; "Dogonne!" was one of his favourites. Nowadays, it's quiet at night. I haven't seen Hector since the divorce, and that's fine by me.
"Come on, buddy, back home you go," I say to Oscar as I carry him to the front door.
He struggles against me, as he always does, and lets out a distressed meow that sounds more like a human screaming "Noooo!" than anything feline.
Mrs Perkins answers the door on the second knock. Her greying hair is frizzled and sticking out in all directions. She's holding a giant steaming ladle in one hand, but reaches out towards Oscar with the other.
"Oh goodness - I turn my back for a second and he's straight out the door," she says in a mess.
"I think he just likes the attention," I say empathetically, passing Oscar over. Mrs Perkins scoops him into her chest, holding him like a baby with her non-ladle arm.
"I'll have to get a shock collar for him. Been meaning to for a while but I just feel so guilty about the idea," she says with a forced tone of tragedy.
"Well, better a shock than someone's front tyre, I guess..."
"Ain't that the truth."
The conversation trails off, and Oscar uses the opportunity to let out another stark "Nooooo!", this time with an added "Please!" in the mix as well.
"Oh quit whining, you grumpy bugger," Mrs Perkins snaps, throwing Oscar rather roughly into the house and closing the door behind her.
"He's a chatty guy, isn't he? Don't usually hear those sounds from cats," I say, trying to keep up the friendly-neighbour small talk.
"Well, when you live with a lonely old woman who talks to herself, even the cat starts talking back eventually." I laugh, she cackles back. "Hector was always chatty. Couldn't shut him up either."
There it is, I think to myself while consciously stopping my eyes rolling.
"Mouth ran like a motor that one." I don't say anything, but Mrs Perkins doesn't need any encouragement to continue. "Drove him all the way to his secretary's lips it did... And other places too, I'm sure."
I'm caught off guard by the bluntness of what should have been a shocking revelation, but wasn't. I already know about Hector's 'wandering eyes'. Everyone does. There's not much to gossip about in this small town, so when there's tea to be poured, the whole town gets a cup, and divorce is a popular flavour. I get the feeling Mrs Perkins knows that though. She's batty, but not stupid.
"Oh... I'm... sorry to hear that," I stumble awkwardly.
"Ah, well, he got what he deserved."
I don't ask her to clarify what that means.
I can hear Oscar's cries behind the door, which now sound like a pained "let me out!".
"So behave, is what I'm saying," she says sternly, waving the ladle at me like a wand. "Your wife - she's a gem that one. Be good to her." She ends the sentence there, but her tone gives the impression there’s an inferred 'or else' attached to the end. I flash a smile and nod, then divert my eyes. Through the window beside the door, I can see stacks of strange apparatuses piled in the sink, and a large cauldron-like pot bubbling away on the stovetop.
Snatching the opportunity, I announce my exit.
"Uh, well anyway, I won't keep you, I'll let you get back to cooking dinner."
"Dinner?" Mrs Perkins asks, bewildered.
We exchange confused stares for a moment, and then I wrap things up with a, "... Or whatever you're brewing," as I point to the ladle. "See you later. Bye, Oscar."
I don't wait to see Mrs Perkins' reaction, and turn to walk home abruptly. There's something eerie about that woman. As I step away from the house, I'm sure I hear Oscar cry out the most familiar word from behind the door in his shaky feline voice.
I hurry back home to my wife.
About the Creator
Very well written. Keep up the good work!
Compelling and original writing
Creative use of language & vocab