It Rained Last Night
With 2019 quickly coming to an end, and this being the final year of my “Clean Up, Clean Out” personal growth campaign, I thought it fitting to continue purging, à la “out with the bad air in with the good” (which is a direct quote from one of my favorite Flintstones episodes. I was given a lovely surprise 3 weeks ago when I turned on my TV, got ready to delete recordings from my DVR (yes, that’s getting cleaned up, too), and, to my surprise, I saw 1 episode of Cutthroat Kitchen (yay!!!) and several episodes of the Flintstones had recorded, which hadn’t aired on TV in 3 years. Three years people. That’s a long drought.
So, to celebrate my good fortune and excellent mood, I want to share the entire story of a cat named Bea, of which I posted an excerpt in a previous post, 3 Winning Ways to Outsmart "Writer's Block" … feel free to click this title link to read that post in its entirety.
Go ahead, we’ll wait. :)
Back, now? Great. Let’s settle down for a good yarn, and cozy up to an interesting read. Enjoy!!!
It Rained Last Night
The air was crisp and clean, and so clear it guided her way tonight. The first rain of the year was always glorifyingly uplifting, washing and cleansing the earth, bringing growth and new beginnings. The night he left felt like that, too—the hurt and pain surfacing and struggling to overwhelm and then, like a wisp of wind, they dissolved into new life, new faith, and her last second chance.
The front yard was lush with leaves the color of forest nymphs, with purplish-red bougainvillea sprinkled throughout, bringing clouds of the rainbow to her doorstep. She’d carefully chosen the soil and the flowers, not red or orange, but this lovely shade of violet. Fringed with lively green leaves, they danced as they bowed in the wind.
She glanced at the flowers at her elbow and put her finger under the nearest leaf, gently plucking an open bud. All of the flowers had not yet bloomed and the petals were heavy with moisture. She watched as a single droplet rolled to one side of the petal then tilted and changed direction as she twirled the stem in her hand, ever so slowly, and continued the dance. The shadows moved and she felt the breeze on her cheeks, thinking how lovely it would be to bask in the sun, bathe in the rain and blow dry in the breeze.
“What a life you must lead,” she thought, as she stood up to stretch, her arms reaching overhead to touch the night sky.
Cara heard the floorboards shift through the screen door and thought about the days ahead. She thought about the steps she had taken and what was left to do, trying to organize everything in her mind so there’d be no surprises, no shocks, and no changes of heart.
She could feel the rise and fall of her chest as she breathed, and listened to the quiet on her block. The streetlamps cast golden shadows randomly across her lawn, except for the one with the busted lightbulb. It stood out, not because it was still visible, but because it couldn’t hide completely in the dark as it was caught in the cast shadows of its fellow lampposts.
“I can do this, it’s okay,” she told Bea, who was watching her from the bottom of the porch steps. Bea had emerged quietly from the shadows moments before, and was watching Cara, wondering when it would be time to open the door and go inside. Her eyes glowed a deep violet-blue and her face was framed by the flowers Cara’d planted last spring. Her fur was light tan, darkening to brown and caressed her face lightly in deep chocolate; only the tips of her paws were white. She had adopted the Stephens family 7 years ago, coming and going as she pleased, but she was there every night when Cara arrived home, waiting for her. She’d walk down the path to the gate and wait for Cara to open it. She’d stretch and look up at her mistress, turn, and walk her to the door. This neighborhood was too rough for Bea to have her own entry door: when she wanted to come in, she’d stand on her hind legs and literally bang on the screen door. For a cat—and a female cat at that—Bea was the best “dog” on the block.
“We belong here,” Cara whispered to Bea. They looked at each other and both understood what she hadn’t said. It was time—she had no choice—there was work to do.
Bea had witnessed many an argument and before the first, used to believe it did take two to do that. She now knew better. Experience does bring wisdom (or is it hurt pride goeth before a fall?), and she could almost feel the contact of flesh on flesh as the sounds of a truly vicious one echoed in her memory. She had just come in from a nice romp with Janie and Joe, the Siamese duo next door, and finished a lovely meal of chicken and rice when the drama began. She had learned to stay out of the way, during the last few, and felt a twinge of remembered pain in her midsection. Since that night, she stayed out of view, but kept a watchful eye, in case she was needed. This had happened to be such a night, but she just didn’t know it. Now, she backed up slowly, keeping her eyes on the action, but staying out of the way, her intended nap put aside with regret.
“Where were you last night?” Cara screamed raggedly, as she flung the broom across the room. Dishes spun like flying saucers as they skittered around on the counter, and crashed to the floor.
“I don’t have to answer to you,” Mickey drawled, flicking cigarette ashes in the general direction of a broken glass. He flung his cigarette butt at the kitchen sink. Cara watched the drizzle from the leaky faucet put out the flame, then turned as Mickey skulked from the room.
That’s my favorite set, Cara sighed, as she wiped her nose with the back of her hand, stooped down low and grabbed the biggest pieces of glass she could find.
If I didn’t have to look my kids in the eye, I swear I’d kill you and think nothing of it.
The door hit the wall and Cara felt a cold chill snake along her back. Slowly she turned her head and peeked through her lashes to see if she’d been dumb enough to say it out loud, again.
“Whew. That was clo—” She felt a momentary relief, as a diamond ring pierced her vision and the vicious sting of the slap was left ringing in her ears.
She would need to stop at Walgreens before work today, to stock up on CoverGirl TruBlend Whipped Foundation, Classic Tan, from the Queen Collection.
“Like I said, I don’t have to answer to you.” He stooped down to pick up a small piece of glass, and held it up to the light, examining the pattern. Half a semi-circle of broken petals was all that had survived, yet the sunlight gleamed through the glass that he held up to the light, throwing spheres of color across her swollen cheekbone.
“I don’t question you, so don’t question me. It doesn’t matter where I was. I’m here now.” He glanced down at the glass on the floor and then at her. His eyes were so dark they looked black, although he made sure everyone knew they were the deepest dark blue. Cara wished she could see her reflection in them, but her cheek was swelling so fast, it caused her eye to squint and she scrambled to bring him into focus. She hadn’t moved since his lecture began, and didn’t plan to, until he’d left the room. It was hard to keep quiet, but she had to—she knew it got under his skin so she stared at the floor and tried to tune him out altogether.
If she had a moment to think, she’d be able to get it together. If she could think, she’d be able to tell him exactly what she thought of him. If he let her open her mouth, she’d have that witty comment she could never think of at the moment, but they always came afterwards, just a hair too late.
She looked at Bea then turned her attention back to the floor. She bent down and continued to pick up the biggest pieces of broken glass. Mickey’s voice rose and fell in the back of the room: it dipped and turned, then rose and fell and dipped and turned again, like her old 45’s, the ones with the scratches at the best part, near the end.
He finished his tirade and abruptly stopped spitting words at her. Cara didn’t respond. She couldn’t afford to waste her energies on something so pointless. It wouldn’t shut him up. He had no concept of “give and take,” when it came to conversation. Too bad he never realized when it was time to “give” to the other half. He’d talk over you and spit more, thinking the louder he got, the more convinced you’d have to be. He was going to make you believe. And, for some reason, he was competing with her. She was losing in a game she didn’t know she’d signed up to play.
After 10 minutes of silence Mickey got antsy. He couldn’t stand it anymore. “If you weren’t so unaware, maybe you’d understand what was going on around you. You need to learn how to open your mouth and say something. You’re like a damn mute!” Satisfied, he leaned against the counter and continued to watch her clean. With a snort, he volleyed a small piece of glass in her direction and finally left the room.
Cara looked at Bea, then turned back to the floor. “If opportunity knocks, I don’t want to be around the corner and up the street. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to be on my knees scrubbing floors, either.” Bea meowed as if she understood what she’d said. Cara felt like she did, and that was all she cared about. “We’re going to see about making opportunity come to us.”
Cracked linoleum, peeling tiles and grease stains that rivaled the fiercest Van Gogh, painted a drab picture that coated her mornings like dew. The tap-tap-tap of the monotonous drip kept time with the squeaks and squeals from the doors with the rusty hinges. The first row of cabinets was dark gray, the second a pale, lemon yellow and the third and half of the fourth were shades of broken terracotta and warm golden brown, with an overlay of dingy, water-splotches and reddish-brown, congealed blobs of something she’d long forgotten. She preferred to remember them as the proud pale, creamy eggshell they once were.
Swiveling and turning to the right on one hip, she tiptoed to the door, then paused and stood there, squinting and rubbing the back of her neck.
“Damn, what did I come in here for?” Tapping her head, as if that would bring her memory back, she closed her eyes and tried to will her thoughts to the front of her brain.
She reached out to the handle, and pulled the door open, stepping quickly to one side to avoid another drip. “I’ll fix that next week,” she thought, hoping the mental note would stay with her long enough to write it down.
She grabbed a can from the rolling container on the top shelf and popped the top; the bubbles played their usual “snap-crackle-pop” as she pulled her vitamins from her robe pocket and took a quick sip before she forgot. Her 30-day supply could last 40-50 days because it was hard to remember if she’d taken them or not. She finished the soda as she peered through the clearest pane of the window, hoping it would be warm enough for a sweater day.
She reached up to adjust the crooked blinds. “I’ll fix that tomorrow,” she sighed, mentally reprioritizing her To-Do list. She sidestepped Bea on her way to her room to change for work. “Top of the morning to ya, Bea,” she sang. “Let’s go wake up the kids.”
They say animals and children are good judges of character, that they’ll take to those that are kind and steer clear of those who aren’t, but that’s not necessarily so. Cara knew that Bea had been fooled—taken in like everyone else—by the smooth lines, false bravado and shameless attempts to woo her. Oh, he was clever, really taking the time to show interest and concern, and trying so hard to appear humble. He was almost as intelligent as he tried to convince the world that he was.
She thought all those late nights with the remote had paid off: he actually sounded like he knew what he was talking about. The religious channels had become annoying—not the content—but the fact that that was all anyone ever saw, because he watched the nudie movies when he thought everyone was asleep. He could rattle off name, chapter and verse without thinking. “How impressive that used to seem, about a hundred years ago,” she sighed.
It’s truly amazing that someone can put so much effort into trying to make everyone think she wasn’t up to par, not good enough, not “a righteous woman,” as he’d once told her. Cara chuckled suddenly, and a huge grin spread across her face as she remembered the argument. “That was actually quite funny.”
She winked at Bea and patted her leg, and the cat snuggled next to Cara’s shins and curled herself around her. Soon enough she’d be ready. It was only timing, after all, and she knew Cara knew what she was doing. Bea lifted her neck as her ears were stroked, purred deep in her throat and meowed three times. Not yet, but the time was drawing closer.
Bea turned her head to the right and her gaze pierced through the darkness of the screen. She sniffed the air, looked at Cara, and turned her attention back to the inky blackness beyond the screen door. They both felt the restlessness, could sense the tense muscles and taut expression, but they knew it wasn’t time yet—they just needed to wait it out. Almost, not quite. But soon. Very soon.
She knew Mickey before she met Cara and, like everyone else, she’d fallen for him like he’d meant her to. He would whisper to her gently and leave treats for her on the porch, outside, so the neighbors could applaud his generosity. It had been 3 years, but she knew she’d never feel that warmth again. She knew he was to blame and she couldn’t wait to let him know just how much she missed them.
“Circle around to the back, and make sure they don’t get out!” he yelled as the kids took off running in three different directions.
“I’ve got one cornered by the fence,” Alex cried out, “but he’s too hard to hold. Come help me, Gracie! He’s getting away!” Bea watched Grace run to the far right while Alex stayed on the left, hopping back and forth to keep the kittens from running through her legs to freedom. She saw David grab his Spiderman toy and stand it on the ground, but he didn’t move to capture her babies, and she was grateful. David was young, but he understood.
“Why can’t we keep them, Mickey?” he said quietly, trying to find a reason. Then he tried to think of what they called a “good” reason and couldn’t come up with one of those either.
“Because we can’t.”
David knew that that was all he was going to get, as Mickey never really explained why they couldn’t keep the kittens.
“But I’ll take care of them, Mickey, I promise. Can we keep ‘em? Please? Please, Mickey?”
“Didn’t you hear me say ‘no’? What part of ‘no’ don’t you understand?”
“But Mommy said we could keep them if we take care of them, and that’s what we want to do.”
David inched back as fast as he was talking, trying to keep some space between them, while he tried his hardest to convince his father he could take care of three kittens. He was sharp for 5 years old, and he thought he could plead their case, and win. From the corner of his eye, he knew his sisters were still cornering one kitten, while Mickey stood guard near the other two. Feeling trapped himself, David thought maybe he’d better try another approach.
“Mommy, can we keep the kittens? Mickey said they had to go, but you said we could keep them. Mom—” suddenly his feet had left the ground and he started shaking as he turned his head, so he wouldn’t be eye to eye with Mickey.
“How you gonna tell on me! Your momma can’t tell me nothin’, boy! She might be your momma, but she ain’t mine! If you ever do that again, I’ll—”
“Mickey, put him down!” Cara stood at the back door and watched the rant, surprised he’d let loose outside. There was a slow motion effect in the air, as the girls turned to statues, David tried to disappear, and Mickey and Cara locked eyes, their anger vibrating like a strobe light on crack.
Mickey felt the stares and slowly lowered David to the ground, but he didn’t let go.
“Mommy,” David whispered, trying not to cry, as he rubbed his arms. “I want Mommy.” He tried to move toward Cara, but he was held fast as Mickey had yet to let him go.
“Remember what I said, boy, she can’t tell me what to do.”
Mickey let go of David’s arms but reached across his back to hold him by the shoulders. He was still staring at Cara as he stooped down to whisper in David’s ears.
“Remember,” he said, as he squeezed sharply. “I’m not your momma.”
“Ow-w-w.” Tears sprang instantly in David’s eyes as he felt the nerve pinch deep in his neck. It was like a huge charley horse and he knew it would hurt all night. He ran straight into Cara’s open arms, rubbing his neck to ease the knot, forgetting that his arms still hurt, too.
Cara picked up the bottom of her shirt to wipe his nose, while she rubbed his neck and arms, rocking him back and forth, raining kisses all over his face.
“I’m sorry, baby, I’m so sorry.” He squeezed her tighter and they just rocked a while, holding each other close.
“You know we can’t keep the kittens, and you have to stop doing that, David. You know how he gets. Now, stop crying. Let’s go wash your face, then you can help me finish dinner, okay?” David looked up with streaks down both cheeks and nodded, but his eyes told her he didn’t understand.
She turned slowly, favoring her hip, to walk him to the bathroom, nearly tripping over the girls, who’d quietly slid up behind her. They both held one kitten. Alex gave hers to David, who sniffed a few times and reached out for him, his arms and neck completely forgotten.
Cara smiled at Alex and Grace over David’s head and mouthed thank you. They all turned and walked toward the back door, kittens squirming and noses sniffing, trying to make it last before the babies were taken away.
Bea lifted her left paw and continued to groom the underside, her nose twitching and her eyes never leaving her kittens. She’d round up the other one and put them in a safe place so he’d never find them. All she had to do then was wait him out, and she was good at that. She’d been on this block for years. She knew her babies were safe with Cara’s, but she couldn’t trust him. Who in their right mind let their children call them by their first name? That’s like the grandmother who wants to be called “June” ‘cause she’s too young to be a grandmother.
Let’s rephrase that: she’d like to think everyone else thinks she’s too young. And as complicated as that sounds, Mickey was even worse. No wonder he wasn’t getting anywhere, he had such a long way to go to reach the surface. It was a blessing Cara had her help with the kids, ‘cause no telling what Mickey’d do with them. But chances are, he’d call in recruits ‘cause he could never do it alone.
Anyway, she had to get her babies out now, then they’d deal with Cara’s. At least, that was what she thought would happen.
Two days later, her babies were gone, and she’d never forgotten. Nor did she plan to forgive. And he was about to find out just how long a memory she had, in due time.
Inside, the stale scent of rank perspiration filled the dark room. It was quiet here too, and he could barely make out the stars shining through the hole in the screen door. She’d purposely left the door open. He felt it, but guessed he’d never really know for sure.
“She’ll pay for this,” Mickey thought, and groaned as his head struck up a new rhythm with each breath. He tried to ease the pain in his wrists but they were wrapped tight. He couldn’t shift—she’d left no wiggle room—and the ropes were steadily cutting, sinking deeper and deeper into his swollen flesh. Every movement hurt, so he tried to focus on the hole in the screen, to keep his spirits up, and wait her out.
“She doesn’t have the heart,” he thought, and jumped as the screen rattled on its hinges.
“Mickey,” she whispered softly, “want out?” She chuckled deep in her throat and lightly rapped on the door.
“Oh, M-i-i-i-c-c-k-e-y, what’s the matter now, cat got your tongue?”
Cara looked at Bea and winked and both slowly stood up and stretched. It was time; they had a lot to do. … Mickey felt the slow bang in the back of his brain as he slumped to the floor, and his last thoughts were of springtime in the mountains, Cara’s favorite time of year. And ain’t that just like spring: it rained last night.
AWBM Blog Post #019 | 25 October 2019