Flash: The Secrets of Cats

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“The cat slunk by, eyeing me suggestively.” The woman shifted positions, foot to foot. “I’m not saying this right. The expression the cat had said it had a secret, one I would want to know, but it wasn’t going to tell me. But, it might lead me to it.

“That is how I got here.” Maribeth wrapped arms tightly around herself as she waited for the answer from the six people pointing weapons at her. Shivering from the cold as much as fright, she tried to make out faces under the scarfs and furs of the hooded parkas. Her flipflops inadequacies in the ankle-deep snow were matched by her bikini top and the shorts she pulled on to hit the boardwalk. She had spotted the cat going doing an alley behind a seafood restaurant when she went to grab lunch after surfing.

A muffled voice, either emanating from the person directly in front of her holding the old fashion machine gun or from the person to the right holding a crossbow strung with two arrows, one-right on top of the other, asked, “You followed a cat?”

“A cat, yes. About so big,” She took her hands out of her arm pits and gestured, before returning them to the warmest place on her body. She shifted her feet again; they felt more like slush than flesh. “Down an alley.”

She heard laughter behind her.

“Pad.” The voice, clearer this time, came from the crossbow holder and cut like an ice dagger. The laughter stopped instantly. “Girl, go back.”

“I tried. I came out of that tree.” Maribeth risked frostbite again for her fingers, waving at a nearby tree with footprints surrounding it. “I tried and tried. The cat disappeared, and I can’t go home.” She held back sobs, barely, but wasn’t sure how much longer before she broke down entirely.

“Then come.”

The group moved as one, some in high leather boots and others in snow shoes, barely making a sound. Not wanting to be alone, Maribeth followed. One of the group fell behind her.

“Should we mark the tree or something, so I can try later?” she asked.

“We won’t be back.” The one behind her reported.

The college student stopped until the person pushed her, forcing her to follow the trail the others were breaking. “But, how do I get home?”

“That is the cat’s secret.”

(words 398; first published 7/28/2019)