Kiki shuffled through a horde of felines to the front door and knocked, twice, before someone answered.
A couple of cats and an old man answered, not so old that he was decrepit, but old enough to be her father. “Can I help you,” he offered.
“My car broke down. Can I use your phone please?” Several cats rubbed against her legs and mewed softly.
“I’m sorry, honey,” the old man offered. “I don’t have a phone. No one calls and I don’t call anyone. Seemed a waste to pay for it every month.”
“Oh.” She gently kicked at the brood at her feet. She felt her allergies coming on already and she had left her medicine in the car’s glove box. “Could I get a drink of water then, and I’ll get out of your hair.”
The old man patted the bald spot on top of his head. “Don’t worry about that honey.” He smiled and Kiki couldn’t help but feign a smile back. “Come on in. We’d love the company.” He took her gently by the arm and took a step back in the door.
Kiki held back but walked into the small house. The cats followed her in and the old man closed the door behind them. Her nose started to itch but she put her finger under and stifled the sneeze that she knew would probably come anyway.
“Would you like a cookie,” the old man said. He shuffled through the cats, which moved like a living carpet around his feet, on his way to the tiny galley kitchen.
“Oh, no thank you.”
“They are store-bought but very tasty,” he said. He took a plate of crème filled cookies from the counter and held them in front of her. Wisps of fur lay scattered on the tops of the chocolate wafers as he picked one up and took a bite from it. He chewed noisily as he offered the plate to her.
“No, thank you,” Kiki said and held her hand in front of her.
“I just love these things,” he said and took another one before he put the plate back on the counter. “Let me get you your water.”
He took a glass from the sink and blew on it. Black fur went airborne and moist chocolate wafer bits landed on the surface. He wiped it clean on the tail of his shirt.
Kiki took a step back. “That’s okay,” she said. “I’m not really that thirsty.” She started to back out of the kitchen. The cats crowded around her feet. They rubbed their bodies across her legs and jumped on chairs in front of her to get a touch of her hands as she passed by them. “How far is it to the nearest town?”
Kiki didn’t think that it was that odd a question at all and certainly not entertaining. “I just want to get my car fixed.”
“So I can get home.”
She grasped for the screen door. “No. This is not home.”
“It should be,” the old man offered. He drew closer as Kiki fumbled with the handle on the screen door.
“Come on,” she cried out, rattling the door on the hinges. The cats seemed to pull at her feet and drag her further from the door. She grasped the handle but all she could hold on to was the air between her fingers.
“Why would you want to leave. I have more cookies if you would like some.”
“I don’t want your cookies. I don’t like cats. I just want to go home.”
The old man put a withered hand on her shoulder. He looked at her with pale unblinking eyes. “I would really hate for anything to happen to you on your way out. It would be a shame. I mean, you only have one life. You could have nine.”
Jamie Eyberg is a full-time father and a part-time writer, although in the past he has been a preschool teacher, a pool hall manager and a carpenter. You can keep up with him at his blog, http://acontinuityofparks.blogspot.com/. He'd love to have you stop by for a visit and maybe have a cookie.