Charlie

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A large bumblebee fluttered lazily around the flowers below the window sill, buzzing softly like a lover serenading his girl. The flowers gently sway in the light morning breeze as their fragrance is born aloft on the warm air.

The lacy white curtain trembles slightly as a breeze gently slips through the mesh of the window screen, sending a faint patterned shadow dancing across the room. Wind chimes hanging outside the window tinkle merrily, playing as accompaniment to the love song of the Bee.

old-lady-with-catThe sunlight filtering through the semi-transparent curtains glows warmly on the wrinkled face lying in a cloud of grey-white hair. It is an old face, a spider web of age lines crisscrossing across it like an invisible veil. Beneath the surreal mask of wrinkles lies the real person, a sad and lonely woman who grew old before she was ready, ever yearning for the youth she still felt in her heart if not in her arthritic limbs.

A quiet gasp escapes past the age-chapped lips. Her eyelids flutter open as her mind gropes its way out of a deep sleep with a realization of the silence. To the old woman, it seems like an almost deathlike stillness. The silence is broken only by the soft purring drone of the bumble bee playing a duet with the tinkling chimes outside the window. The old woman is deaf to the subtle sounds drifting in through the window, her ears hoping desperately for other, more domestic, sounds. Sounds she knew would not be there.

She sighs depressingly, knowing all too well that this morning will be like all the others. Her life now is an endless stream of mornings greeted by gloomy silence; suffocating and still, like an ancient tomb where life hasn’t tread for centuries.

Her thoughts, still fuzzy with sleep, turn automatically to memories of the past, as they do every morning. Days when each morning was welcomed by the delicious smells of breakfast cooking, the unmistakable sounds of running feet and voices of children laughing, arguing. Most distinct of all to her lonely mind was the gentle voice of her beloved husband.

Those were the days when she was happy, fulfilled; a lifetime ago.

Now she lives alone. Her children are all grown up with children of their own, and her loving husband has been dead for five years now.

Wearily, she pulls herself into a sitting position, considering whether or not to bother getting out of bed today. There seems little point in it.

#

There is a light half-hearted scratch at the bedroom door, then a small meow, and then a Pause. After a brief moment a more determined scratch came, followed by a loud demanding “Mrraaoow!”

Lovingly, she looks to the closed bedroom door where Charlie is meowing loudly, demanding attention. He is her only relief from this suffering loneliness, but somehow not entirely fulfilling her need for companionship.

She slowly twists her body, swinging her legs over the edge of the bed, blue varicose veins weaving a rambling pattern down them like a live road map. Loose skinned and frail looking, her arm stretches out, reaching for her cane, her hand knobby with purple-blue vein bumps. She gripped the bed post with the other hand to steady herself. Her silver-white hair, the tangled mane of a banshee, falls across her pale creased face, half obscuring sunken brown eyes. She mutters incoherently to herself.

If you saw her, you would wonder if even she knew what she was saying.

#

Using her cane to pull herself unsteadily to her feet, the old woman slowly made her way to the door with an unsteady shuffling walk. It creaked slightly as she opened it. Looking down, she saw a large orange striped tomcat stretching stiffly on the weathered floor at her feet. The cat was mostly an indistinct blur of orange, a fuzzy blob at her feet.

He gazed up at her affectionately, meowing his good morning. An understanding look passed between them.

“Alright, let’s go and get you looked after,” the old woman said as Charlie rose painfully on stiff arthritic limbs and preceded her stiffly to the tiny kitchen.

As the old woman was finishing the daily morning ritual of dressing, cleaning, and feeding Charlie and herself, she wondered if she should call her son Dave and ask him to visit. Still sitting in her favorite chair in the living room, her plate holding a meager breakfast balanced precariously on her lap, she ate with arthritic numbed fingers. Each bite was an effort to hold with those fingers that couldn’t quite grasp as they should, a faint tremble in her hands. In this chair, she can look out the window and watch the people passing by on the street outside.

Just as she decided to wait until later to call her son the doorbell rang, its chime calling out urgently through her small home. Excited at the thought of company, she set her plate aside and pushed herself out of the chair with difficulty. She waddled like an anorexic penguin slowly to the door, peering through the peephole when she finally reached her destination.

On the other side a beautiful girl stood. She had the smoothly tanned complexion of youth and long curly dark brown hair. She is eight years old.

To the old woman’s rheumy eyes, the figure through the peephole is fuzzy and hard to see. Straining to reach high enough to see through the peephole, she can see only a blur in the shape of a human form. She can see no distinguishing features to tell her who her visitor is.

“Who’s there,” the old woman called through the door. Her voice is weak and cracked, an old crone’s voice, as ancient as the mountains.

“Grandma, it’s me, Sherry,” a soft melodically low voice replied through the door.

Cautiously the old woman opened the door. The face is still not clear enough to be recognizable.

“I don’t know you! What do you want?” the old woman complained to the girl standing in front of her.

The happy girl’s expression changed to a crushed one.

Feeling hurt, Sherry explained.

“It’s me, Sherry. You know; your granddaughter. My dad is your son, Dave. We visited you last month.”

“Oh,” the old woman exclaimed, “well don’t just stand there, come in, come in.” She moved her withered frame away from the door to allow her granddaughter to enter.

“No wonder I don’t know who you are, when I see you once a month,” the old woman muttered irritably. Adding as an afterthought, “Sorry, I didn’t recognize you dear. I can’t see a damn thing through these glasses anymore.”

“Um, Grandma,” Sherry said carefully, “you aren’t wearing your glasses.”

“That’s because they don’t work,” the old woman snapped.

Shrugging it off, Sherry suggested as she walked past the old woman into her house, “Well then why don’t you get new glasses?”

Ignoring this, the old woman turned and walked back to her chair, grumbling.

“I don’t like being called ‘Grandma,’ it makes me sound old. Call me Eve.” The chair protested as she settled her slight weight into it. She motioned Sherry to sit down.

#

As the ancient clock on the wall chimed its announcement that it is two o’clock, the old woman and Sherry were interrupted by the bing-bonging call of the doorbell. The old woman motioned for Sherry to answer it, complaining about how hard it is on her stiff joints when she has to keep getting up.

Her sprite narrow frame hopping up from the floor where she sat cross-legged in front of her Grandmother, Sherry strolled lightly to the door.

“Look through the hole before you answer the door,” her Grandmother warned. The rest was muttered incoherently under her breath, perhaps something about strangers lurking outside her door.

Grasping the handle she found that, although her grandmother is a short woman, she has to stand on tiptoes to see through the peephole.

#

On the other side of the peeling door is a tall, slightly chubby man with thin black hair, balding on top.

“It’s Dad,” she exclaimed, opening the door and eagerly standing aside to allow him to enter.

Seeing her son, who was a tall indistinct blur to her ill-working eyes, the old woman immediately started on a tirade, preaching about his cruelty to her in being too busy to come visiting more often.

“It’s been a month since I last saw you! Are you too busy to see your poor old mother, who raised you and cared for you!” she demanded. “Or are you just too good now to spare any time for me.” It was not a question, but a pronouncement.

Having only begun, she continued.

“I sit here alone day after day, waiting for someone to bother to find the time to visit me. I’m not safe here all alone, an old woman like me, strange people lurking out there, coming to the door and trying to trick me into letting them in and at me …”

Frustrated, Dave cut her off.

“I have a family to spend time with. I can’t spend all of it with you. Besides, why don’t you get out sometime and make some friends? Then you won’t feel so lonely.”

“Don’t I count as family anymore?” the old woman muttered under her breath. When Dave ignored this, she continued in a defeated whimper. “You’re just making excuses. You don’t want to waste your precious time on a useless old woman.”

Getting angry now, Dave raised his voice in protest.

“Stop it Mother! Stop being so miserable! If you didn’t complain so much about how nobody has time for you and whine so much about how hard on you we are, then maybe it would be easier to want to make time for you. You’re just being paranoid that nobody wants you!”

His anger flared further as he watched the old woman fumbling blindly through her knitting basket, pulling out a large print magazine, and holding it so close it touched her nose as she squinted and pretended to be trying to read it.

“And for God’s sake put on your glasses!” Dave fumed.

With a loud “Hhmph!” the old woman snatched her glasses off the little round corner table beside her chair with a surprising dexterity that didn’t match her decrepitness and put them on. As she did so everything suddenly jumped into clear focus. She squinted at her son angrily through the glasses, wrinkling the magazine noisily as she brought it back to her nose, holding it far away, and back to her nose again, making a show of being unable to read the magazine, proving her point that the glasses don’t work.

Breaking the uncomfortable silence that has fallen between them, the old woman quietly despaired.

“It’s true though, nobody wants me. I’m just a useless old woman,” she moaned.

Dave sighed with exasperation.

“We do love you,” he continued, “but you have to make a life of your own. We can’t all revolve our lives around you.”

“I did,” the old woman thinks to herself, remembering the years she spent revolving her life around her children, raising them.

Slouching with dejection and tired of it all, Dave added, “I don’t want to hear any more about how hard up and neglected you think you are.”

With a hurt look, the old woman retreated into silence.

#

Following an afternoon filled with tension, Dave noticed that Charlie hasn’t been in his usual spot, purring on his mother’s lap. Hoping to distract his two women from the angry moods they have both slipped into, he commented on the cat’s conspicuous absence.

“I haven’t seen Charlie today. He’s always the first to reach the door when he hears the bell,” Dave said. Thinking about it briefly, he continued,” I’ve never known him to miss out on company.”

“Maybe he’s taking a nap,” Sherry suggested, her slender arm snaking out to snatch another cookie off the plate sitting on the old age-worn coffee table.

Thoughtfully, Dave looked at her for a moment. He shook his head and replied, Beginning slowly, absent-mindedly, and almost slurring his words so deep was he in thought.

“I don’t think so,” Dave said. “I have never known that cat to nap through company and miss out on being the center of attention, no matter how tired he is.”

“Yeah,” Sherry agreed thoughtfully, “but he is pretty old. He must be tired a lot.”

Not about to miss a chance to suggest that his mother get rid of the ancient feline, whose limbs are now stiff and arthritic, Dave looked at his mother, trying to catch her eye.

“He is pretty old you know,” Dave said, “I mean, Charlie is already half blind with cataracts and almost crippled from arthritis. Half his organs are failing with age.”

Ignoring the shocked looks he was receiving from both his mother and daughter, he continued in a bored lecturing tone.

“You know, he really should have been put down when that car hit him two years ago. He never did quite recover from that,” Dave lectured.

Dave looked quite pleased with himself. His face suddenly lit up with excitement as he pretended to have just had a wonderful revelation. Eagerly, he made the suggestion he has tried to find the words for every time he came to visit.

“I know! Why don’t we take him to the vet and have him put out of his misery now? Today!” Dave’s eyes gleamed with triumph, as though he just offered them the fulfillment of their hearts’ every desire, looking at the two sets of eyes staring back at him in horrified shock,

It was very badly put.

The old woman’s mouth dropped open as a blank look of shock claimed her face. Her jaw opened and closed spastically a few times, the creases around the corners deepening. Her eyes widened with hollowed shock.

His daughter, Sherry, gaped at him in shock, disbelieving her own father could say something so cruel. Poor Charlie!

“H-How could you suggest a thing?!” the old lady exclaimed incredulously, her voice rising in pitch. Her shock turned to hurt, the expression of horrified amazement sinking into an injured look and then to a trembling anger.

“Charlie has been with me for sixteen years now! It would be MURDER to kill him!” She would have spit when she talked if her salivary glands weren’t so dried up with age. Her eyes began to shine with the threat of tears.

Her lower lip trembled, and a slight whimper entered her voice.

“He can’t even defend himself from you,” the old woman said, turning away from her son in angry despair. Her eyes looked about, desperate for a sign of her cat, feeling the urgent need to protect the feline from her murderous son.

“Oh how could I have birthed such a horrible monster,” she wondered to herself, “Cruel, cruel, cruel.”

“Besides, he’s all I have,” she finished admonishing her son, her voice cracking, not turning to look at him.

“But Mom,” Dave exclaimed, interrupting, “you have us!”

Angered by this the old woman spun around to face him, rising slowly and unsteadily from her chair, head low and menacing, her squinting eyes burning with anger. Her anger exploded from her.

“That is a LIE!” The old woman screamed. “I don’t have you! I have no one!” Finishing in a sarcastic tone, she continued, “You can’t even be bothered to spare any time from your precious schedule to come see me more than once a month.”

They stood there in a standoff, staring each other down. The old woman stood rock solid and breathed heavy. Dave trembled slightly, the little boy who broke the bad neighbor’s window having to fess up to his mother, who would be angry at having to spend their meager grocery money to repair the damage.

The old woman’s voice quavered as she continued.

“Is this what you’re going to do to me?” she demanded, staring down the little boy standing before her, making him shrink within himself, trying to hide from that stare, trying to disappear.

“Have me ‘put down’ when you’re sick of me? Is that your solution to anything that gets old and useless?” Her voice shook with rage and anger, dripping with hatred.

Dave just blinked back at her, still the little boy staring up at his all-powerful mother, protector, and punisher all in one, instead of the man who stood before his decrepit old mother.

Spent and exhausted from her angry outburst, she lost her determined fighters stance, shoulders slumping in defeat. The frail old woman suddenly looked much older. Her voice dropped to barely a whisper.

“I have no one but Charlie.”

Dave just stood there, voiceless, scuffing the toe of his shoe guiltily on the carpeted floor, toeing the frayed strings of the worn carpet. His slouching shoulders hunched up protectively like a turtle trying to hide its head, but for some reason can’t pull it inside its shell.

“You are heartless!” the old woman demanded, almost in tears now. Her voice stabbed at Dave like a knife. “You want to take away from me the only one who cares, the only company I have to get me through these lonely days.”

Dave visibly cringed with every word she emphasized.

With vehemence the old woman screamed at him again, her anger renewed.

“You stay away from my Charlie!” Her dried up salivary glands managed to let fly a loose spittle this time with the force of her words. She breathed heavily, glaring at her son with a baleful look comparable in potency to that of Medusa, who was notorious for her ability to turn most men to stone with just a gaze, or perhaps the mythical salamander.

Biting her lip so hard she almost drew blood in her effort not to cry, Sherry looked from her father to her grandmother.

“Please don’t say these things,” she pleaded quietly. “Don’t fight like this.” She begged them with her eyes.

Ignoring his daughter, Dave sighed exasperatedly. He did that a lot when he visited his mother.

“Fine,” Dave said in frustration, “you won’t have to be alone.” He paused and then continued. “I’ll get you a new kitten.” He regretted the words even as he said them. He knew his mother would have to go into a home soon if she didn’t die of a stroke or something before then. Either way, he’d have a whole new fight on his hands trying to get rid of the new cat against the protests of his wife, daughter, and his mother … if she was still alive by then. Damned cats!

The old woman turned her back on him stubbornly.

“I won’t let you take Charlie away from me,” she insisted, “I won’t let you murder him.” The hated word dripped with venom. “I don’t want a new kitten,” she added, “Charlie can NOT be replaced!”

Through most of this Sherry sat quietly, considering where Charlie might be. Surely he couldn’t have slept through all this shouting. She just couldn’t think of any place, and he never goes outside any more. Finally, she interrupted the two arguing adults.

“Where is Charlie, Grandma?” she asked.

#

Truly realizing for the first time that no one has seen Charlie all afternoon, they all looked around dumbfounded. Despite arguing about it, the reality hadn’t really sunk in until now, nor did the significance. The old woman fell back stiffly into her chair, eyes downcast.

After a few awkward moments of silence, the old woman pushed herself out of her chair with visible effort, grunting with the pain and stiffness. Her boney knuckles turned white as the dry papery skin pulled tight over the bones and cartilage of her hands. Grasping her cane tightly with the anger that still hasn’t left her, the old woman slowly shuffled out of the room, calling Charlie with a dry age-cracked voice.

“Charlie, here kitty,” she called out, “where are you, you lazy tom.”

Sherry jumped up, following the old woman to help in the search.

Dave watched them go, standing stiffly, slouching. His head hung low, and his hands were thrust into the pockets of his trousers like a rebellious boy who has just been scolded. He shifted uneasily, feeling bad now.

Finally, Dave moved into action with jerky movements, joining the search for the cat. He wasn’t really looking, just going through the motions mostly.

Dave searched the living room while his mother and Sherry explored the kitchen and bathroom.

“Lucky she moved into a small home after Dad died,” Dave thought to himself.

After they exhausted the searches in their individual rooms, they switched without comment or even really thinking about the fact that the rooms have already been checked.

Inside the kitchen, Dave shook his head in disgust at the shallow china bowl of drying canned cat food sitting on the floor in a corner. The edges of the food looked dried and cracked, darkened. It looked old and gross, an insult to the delicate pattern of the china that belonged behind glass doors. Beside it sat a chipped china bowl of a different pattern. The milk seemed chunky. A foul odor wafted up on the air from it. He looked around the kitchen dismally without really looking while Sherry and the old woman frantically searched the living room.

Still, they had no luck.

“I’m going outside to look,” Dave declared, giving up the search indoors.

“But Daddy, you know he never goes outside,” Sherry reminded him.

“I’ll look just in case,” he said, closing the door behind him. He didn’t really intend to look outside; he just needed to get out of there for a bit.

By now the old woman was back sitting in her chair, too upset and tired to continue the search. Sherry sank into another chair.

“Grandma,” Sherry exclaimed, her eyes lighting up, “we didn’t check your bedroom.”

A glimmer of hope sparked in the old woman’s eyes, blossoming into confidence.

“Well, that’s obviously where he is then,” she said. “Why don’t you go fetch him dear?” She remembered that the door to her bedroom had been closed. Poor Charlie simply couldn’t get out. His hearing wasn’t too good these days either; he probably didn’t hear the door and just curled up for a nap.

Eagerly, Sherry hopped up and skipped out of the room.

#

Sherry twisted the door knob slowly and swung open the bedroom door. The door hinges creaked quietly as metal ground against metal; their lubricating oil wearing down. Entering the room, her eyes darted about from one end to the other.

A faint sickly sweet odor hung in the air. The ‘old woman smell’ is present as always, but it seems somehow different, stronger, today.

“This room smells awful,” she whispered to herself, gasping slightly at the shock of the putrid odor. The breeze wafting in through the open window did little to stir the air.

Not seeing the cat, she crouched on her hands and knees to check under the bed, involuntarily holding her breath.

There is nothing there but a pair of worn pink fuzzy slippers. They are half bald.

Standing up, she crossed the room to the closet near the foot of the bed. Opening the door, she is hit with the overpowering stench of mothballs mingled with other unidentifiable scents. Sucking in her breath and holding it, she quickly shifted around the clothes hanging on the bar and the few items on the floor. Her eyes burn and water a little from the odor. When she didn’t find the cat she quickly closed the door, her eyes had turned a little red from the mothball fumes.

Turning toward the bed, she noticed the furry tip of a tail poking out from under the tangled bed sheets. She couldn’t have seen it from the doorway.

Her face burst into a triumphant grin, and she called out happily.

“So there you are! You silly cat, were you hiding from us?” She approached the bed, expecting the cat to sit up or roll over lazily at any moment.

“Is this a new game you learned?” she asked the silent cat.

Reaching out, she slowly pulled back the blanket and saw Charlie.

#

The orange cat is laying half curled, his tongue hanging out slightly as though he were too thirsty and weak to hold it in place. His eyes were open with a blank, glazed expression, dry and looking more like marbles than eyes.

He looks kind of flat, almost like he sank or caved into himself, his flesh sagging lifelessly into itself, shrunken. His once luxuriant fur dull and scraggly with age now looked more like cheap imitation fake fur that has been chewed up and spit out. He looked stiff, without even having to reach out to touch him and see.

A foul odor rose to Sherry’s nostrils, making them flare in disgust. Reaching out her hand tentatively to give the cat a gentle shake, disbelieving what her eyes clearly saw, she noticed the grayish pallor to the skin under the cat’s thin fur. She also noticed with her eyes and nose both that the feline’s bowels had emptied themselves as he lay there, the mess having oozed out onto the bed.

Shocked, knowing the truth but unable to readily accept it, she shook him anyway to be sure. Charlie rocked slightly at her gentle touch, stiffly, like a wooden carving of a cat. His stiffened joints and flesh didn’t even move.

Yes, he’d dead.

Gently picking him up, she cradled him in her arms and dejectedly stumbled out of the room in shock.

#

The old woman looked up as the young girl entered the room with her grisly cargo. The expression on the old woman’s face changed from confident expectancy to curious to disbelief, and finally to horror. Her eyes locked on the bundle cradled in the girl’s arms. Her head swiveled slowly, following the girl as she stumbled into the room with her terrible burden.

Seeing that her beloved Charlie seems limp and deflated, yet visibly stiffened, she immediately knew that her only relief from complete desolation and loneliness is now gone.

Paralyzed with the sudden ache of an intense loneliness that she hasn’t felt since the death of her husband, the old woman would have collapsed to the floor if she were not already sitting down. She seemed to have suddenly shriveled and shrunk into herself like the deceased feline had as his body sank into the long sleep of death.

A tremor gripped the old woman’s body. Shaking and feeling tremendously weak, she wished she could just drop into oblivion. She stared dully at the door as it slowly creaked open and her son, Dave, walked in shaking his head. He was about to say something, to say that he searched everywhere and could not find the cat. He started opening his mouth to talk.

The old woman glared at him, giving him a bitter “Are you happy now? You have what you wanted,” look.

He looked questioningly at her, then at his daughter. Seeing the cat grasped to the girl’s chest, he knew immediately from the stricken look on her face and the cat’s stiffly unreal appearance that the animal was dead. His stomach turned with revulsion at seeing his daughter clinging to the dead creature as though it were one of her baby dolls. He pounced on the girl, knocking the dead animal from her arms.

The old woman gasped in shock and horror, watching her beloved Charlie falling as if in slow motion, turning and bouncing slightly as he hit the floor.

Sherry stood numbly, staring into her father’s face, confused and stricken by his angry behavior, shocked as the poor animal tumbled from her grasp.

Dave sat down heavily on the couch and looked at his mother, making the effort not to stare with grisly fascination at the dead cat laying abandoned on the floor, feeling guilty now for the things he said.

#

They all sat in silence, trying to avoid each other’s eyes, not knowing what to say. Charlie lay on the floor, now wrapped discretely in an old towel.

Finally, Sherry voiced what nobody else wanted to.

“Charlie is gone now,” she said, looking questioningly at her father, then to her grandmother.

Timidly, Sherry asked the old woman, “Do you want a kitten now, Grandma?” Pausing awkwardly, she added, “You were worried about being alone. You’re alone now … a kitten would change that.”

“We could take a drive right now to pick one out,” Dave put in immediately, his voice raised eagerly. He had no intention earlier of doing so, despite making the offer. But now he was tied in knots with guilt. He’d do anything to buy his way out of it, even if it were only himself he had to pay off to be rid of the guilt.

“I don’t want a kitten,” the old woman spat, not pleased with the suggestion. Her temper flared, and she fought to control her voice as she continued, articulating slowly and deliberately.

“Charlie … can … not … be … replaced.” Her voice was firm despite its cracking with emotion. She crossed her arms over her chest in a gesture of stubbornness, refusing to give in.

“We’re not trying to replace him,” Dave replied, “We just don’t want to see you lonely.”

“Is that why you wanted to kill him?” she snapped back bitterly.

“Come on, Grandma,” Sherry said, desperate to comfort the old woman. “You don’t have to get a kitten. Just come for the ride.”

Finally, they broke through the old woman’s fierce determination to be bitter and sullen, convincing her to ‘just come for the ride.’

All the while looking at the kittens, the old woman continued to insist she doesn’t want one. She shuffled along stiffly, sullenly, shaking her head and muttering under her breath, casting angry glares at her son.

However, there was one tiny kitten whose cage she was a little hesitant to pass by.

Giving up the effort, the trio stalked off back to the car, Dave and the old woman both angry and stubborn. A wordless look passed between Dave and his daughter.

As Dave and the old woman walked to the car, Sherry made an excuse and ran back to buy the kitten. The old woman’s pause at the cage hadn’t passed unnoticed by her two escorts.

#

The old woman glared at the young girl as she climbed into the car with the tiny bundle of mewling fur.

“I said I don’t want a kitten!” the old woman yelled and lapsed into a sullen silence, staring straight ahead. Then she added more quietly, more muttered under her breath than directed to anyone in particular, “I won’t keep it.”

Sherry looked down at the shivering little bundle of bones and fur in her lap, pouting her disappointment.

“Well then just babysit her for me, ok?” She looked up at her grandmother hopefully, not quite hiding her hurt feelings. “Just for a few days Grandma, please?”

The car pulled up in front of the old woman’s home.

“Why don’t you just keep it for a few days,” Dave suggested, “we already paid for it anyway. If you don’t want it then, I’ll take it back to the shelter.”

The old woman glared at him, and then stiffly climbed out of the car.

“No!” she shouted angrily, eyes burning and teeth clenched.

Before she knew what was happening, the tiny mewling kitten was thrust into her arms and the car sped away.

Although upset at the attempt to replace Charlie, the old woman felt inexplicit relief that she won’t be entirely alone.

Entering her home, she plunked the kitten down on the living room floor and warned it sternly.

“I don’t want you! Just stay out of my way!” With that, the old woman shuffled out of the room to the kitchen.

Charlie still lay wrapped in the old towel on the floor before the old woman’s favorite chair, stiff, cold and forgotten. Dave was to bury the old cat in the small back yard of his mother’s tiny house when they returned but had forgotten.

#

Round green eyes, seemingly too large for their tiny head, stared in bewilderment at these strange surroundings.

Tentatively raising a clumsy little paw, the kitten moved to lick it, changed her mind, and lowered it again.

Confused and frightened, she mewed experimentally. It was a weak and pitiful sound, barely loud enough to hear. Nothing happened. She looked around, ruffled her fur, stretched her head out, and a loud wail expressing all the grief and anxiety she felt trapped inside her tiny shivering body escaped up her trembling throat.

#

On hearing the kitten’s cry, the old woman set down the small china bowl she was about to pour milk for the kitten into and shuffled in a hurry back to the living room. She shuffled to her favorite chair, turned around awkwardly, and sat down in her chair. She used her cane to brace herself with as she lowered her frail body shakily into the cushioned chair.

With a sigh of defeat and exhaustion, she watched as the kitten clumsily made its way towards her, lifting her paws gingerly and placing them carefully before her as though not sure where to step.

Feeling a twinge of emotion for this helpless little creature, the old woman leaned forward in her chair, reaching and spreading her fingers to touch the kitten. She froze suddenly as a paralyzing sharp pain tore through her body. Her muscles clenched, her eyes widened, her breath caught in her chest and rattled.

The kitten stretched its tiny pink nose, a little jumpy at the woman’s strange behavior, sniffing delicately at the tips of her fingers, its tiny pink tongue reaching out to delicately tap a fingertip.

A steady ache replaced the pain running through her chest and down both arms. A frightening numbness followed, creeping much more slowly, like a jungle cat closing in on the kill, consuming her body.

Somehow through the pain and numbness the old woman knows that, finally, she will be freed from waking ever again to the gloomy silence that has filled these past lonely years.

She’s not afraid.

She struggles to straighten up in her chair, wanting to meet her destiny sitting tall and proud.

Again, agony wreaks havoc through her body, freezing her in position, doubled over and leaning almost out of her chair as her heart clenches as if being squeezed in an iron hard fist.

She sees her dear lost husband, Charlie sitting at his side luxuriantly curling and uncurling his tail in a mix of pleasure and impatience.

I’m coming my love,” she gasps through pain clenched teeth, “I’m coming Charlie.”

I’m here, waiting,” her husband replies gently.

Charlie cocks his head then throws it back, his chin in the air. An expression that has always meant, “Well come on then, I’m waiting. But don’t make me wait too long.” The cat has always had a bit of an attitude about him.

A thin smile crosses her age chapped lips, a look of utter peace settles on her wrinkled time-worn face, the years seeming to melt magically away with the slackening of her flesh.

Suddenly all is blackness … nothingness.

#

The kitten looks up at the massive creature towering above her, this creature sitting on a strangely shaped mountain, leaning down with a strange large paw outstretched.

She takes a hesitant step and falters, afraid. Her eyes widen happily as she remembers the gentle fingers she has experienced before. It is not her mother, who already has begun to grow fuzzy in her tiny memory, but it will do.

Clumsily, the tiny kitten toddles over to her new protector.

The large creature made a strange gurgling noise, startling the jumpy little kitten. The kitten stretched its tiny pink nose, a little nervous at the woman’s strange behavior, sniffing delicately at the tips of her fingers, its tiny pink tongue reaching out to delicately tap a fingertip.

Startled, the kitten paused, crouching timidly, looking up as the woman sitting above her doubled over. The woman mumbled something unintelligible.

Slumping forward, the huge body is reflected in the bright green eyes looking up and seeking reassurance. The old woman slips from the chair, landing with a soft sound on top of the kitten.

#

A terrible crushing weight pins the helpless kitten to the floor. Her head and front shoulders barely poke out, front legs splayed out uncomfortably.

Squirming and fighting desperately to pull herself loose, the tiny kitten starts gasping as it becomes harder and harder to breath.

She mewls softly, plaintively, unable to do more. Fighting less and less, her strength diminishing, the breath slowly being squeezed out of her tiny body.

The tiny kitten wheezed out the last of her air and her beautiful green eyes bulge, mouth open as if to call out one more time, her eyes begin to glaze over.

#

A soft noise, like warm mud squishing between your toes, emits from the old woman’s body accompanied by an unpleasant smell as her bowels released their contents.

The smell assaulted the kitten’s tiny pink triangle nose, making her gag.

Her cries have become silent though her mouth still opens and closes, desperately trying to cry out. But her frail little body is no longer able to pull sweet air into her painful lungs. Her glazing eyes are having trouble focusing, turning everything into indistinct shapes and blurs.

Finally, she stops struggling and looks around hopefully, but no mother cat appears.

Her small bony frame shudders … blackness engulfs her … nothingness.

#

Only a few scant minutes have passed since the old woman sat in her chair and leaned over to comfort the little kitten.

On the floor at the foot of an old chair, an old woman’s body slowly cools. Beneath it the tiny frame of a kitten, too young to understand what death is, lays trapped and stiffening. The kitten’s head and shoulders are barely visible sticking out from beneath the old woman, showing bulging green eyes and a tiny blue tinted tongue, a pale bubbly froth at the corners of her mouth.

A few feet away lay the stiffened body of an ancient feline wrapped lovingly in an old towel.

A sickly sweet odor mingles with the foul scent of body excrement and ‘old woman’ smell, filling the air, permeating the small old house.

#

In death, Eve has more companionship than she did in the last years of her life.

Meow

(End)

Charlie was last modified: April 19th, 2015 by LV Gaudet

3 Responses to "Charlie"

  1. Dawna Stelzl  Friday, May 14, 2010 at 20:29

    Hi! Great post! I really enjoyed reading it. I will bookmark this site to return later. Looking forward to it. Thanks!

    Reply
  2. Teresa Kilter  Monday, May 17, 2010 at 7:39

    Oh, I like this story so much. It reminds me of experiences I had myself in a long forgotten past! Thank you for bringing my memories back!

    Reply
  3. Peggy Gravette  Sunday, May 23, 2010 at 11:34

    Hi there. Love this short story. Then again I can never resist stories with or about cats, eh, eh, eh…

    Reply

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