So here comes Tabby, strutting towards me across the alley with all the posture of Her Royal Highness. "Hey, Tabby. Here kitty, kitty…."
As she strolls closer in her circumspect way, the fear rises in me. Her face bears no malice. I know she expects what's coming, demands it. Cats are like that. But every morning—once she's close enough that I can see her eyes are as orange as her coat—I start to sweat.
She saunters to the rear of my truck, lays in the gravel next to the garbage dumpster, rolls on her back and bares her furry belly. There's no denying her.
So I reach into the truck's cargo box. Most of the stuff is held in place by ropes and bungee cords: the mower, the big box of garbage bags, the weed-whacker, the rakes. All except the spade. The spade sits tight between the mower and the truck's cab. A long-handled spade given to me by my father. It's solid and heavy, a relic of decades-past craftsmanship.
I pull it with a metallic rustle from the truck, then hold it in two hands like a weapon. I look up and down the alley to confirm that no one's around, that no one will see.
Tabby's rolling around in the dust. She bats her fiery eyes at me. Her fluffy tail sweeps the gravel. She mews like a kitten.
I stand a few feet from her, glance around once more, then raise the spade high over my head. I hold it there—an executioner having second thoughts. Tabby never flinches. Just blinks at me, anticipating what comes next. . . .
The first time was an accident. Happened three weeks ago.
I've got a summer job working for Sherman's Lawn Maintenance. I met Sherman at the college. He fancies himself an entrepreneur. Not my idea of a great guy, but he gives me steady work. My morning routine had been set. Until I turned the key to start my truck. Usually the old F-150 fires right up, but this time there's a squeal and a whine. A meaty chopping. A soul-searing shriek.
I turn off the engine. It can't be a mechanical problem, not with a noise like that. I hurry out of the cab, go around to the front. There's something dripping from the radiator. Something thick and glistening.
A pitiful Meowl! tells me what it is.
"Oh no," I whisper as I pop open the hood.
There she is, kind of mashed up in the plastic cowling surrounding the fan. She must have crawled in there last night to keep warm. I'm feeling a chill myself—there's so much blood.
How to get her out?
She solves that problem on her own, lurches toward the engine block and falls to the ground with a wet-slap thud. She mews and then crawls toward me, pulling herself along with only her front paws.
She's all red and orange. Most of her fur is peeled off her back, like pants pulled half off. I notice her tail, so thick and bushy, striped like a raccoon.
And so much blood.
I look up and down the alley. There's no one out here this early. She struggles another inch forward, then lies still in a growing, red puddle.
What to do? I'm already late. Sherman will kill me—I've got the mower.
I pull a garbage bag out of my truck, wrap it over my hand like a plastic glove and grasp the cat, feeling her warmth. I fold the bag over her. She slips inside as I pick it up.
Is she dead?
She must be. So much blood.
Then I hear it. Mew. . . Mew. . . .
"Oh, no. . . ."
She couldn't possibly survive a wound like that. I tell myself she's dying.
Mew. . . .
She's suffering. I can't let her suffer.
I lay the bag at the foot of the dumpster. Nothing appropriate to the task within sight. In the back of the truck—the spade. I pull it out, hold it in my trembling hands. I tell myself this is something I can do.
Mew. . . .
I lift the spade over my head, sudden panic sweating cold rivulets down my back. Heavy steel hangs high. No more thought, only action. I pull the spade down in a wide arc. Air whistles. Whack!
I do it again and again and again, giving in to a sudden, hot pulse of maniac strength.
Whack! Whack! Whack!
I'm breathing hard. The bag lays there. No sound, no movement. The job is done.
I toss the spade in the truck, starting at the metallic clamor. Has anyone heard?
There's no one.
I reach to the garbage bag, try not to feel its soggy, limp weight as I toss it into the garbage dumpster. I'm back in the truck. It starts right up. I try not to imagine bloody gore drying on my engine block as I drive away.
And so a week flies by. Sherman works me hard.
Two weeks. I've forgotten about the orange cat.
The morning routine again. Except that someone else is up. She's at the dumpster heaving in a bulging bag of garbage. I probably would take no notice, but the bag splits and trash spills to the ground.
She curses. "Ah, shit."
Then she sees me standing there with my truck keys in hand. She flushes red, smiles and shrugs.
I return the smile and walk toward her. "Can I give you a hand?"
She nods. As I near her, I notice she wears a lot of makeup—most of it black, just like her clothes. But even under all that inky make-up, I can tell she's pretty. She's around my age. Dyed-magenta hair. Her right nostril is pierced. She's not my type. That's too bad. But I'm still flattered by the interested gleam in her eye as I bend to help pick her garbage off the ground.
"I just moved in," she tells me. "A few weeks ago." She points a black fingernail at the apartment block across the alley from mine. "My name's Kitty."
"How do you do, Kitty. I'm Ryan."
I give her hand a shake. She holds on to mine. Again, gleaming eyes. She cocks her head to one side, studying my face. She's wearing a tight, black T-shirt over braless breasts. I can't help glancing at her nipples, grown stiff from cool morning air.
She grins. She wears black lipstick.
"Well. . . I guess I'll see you later, Kitty," I say as I pull my hand away and walk to my truck.
"Bye." She waves at me. "And thank you, Ryan."
I don't see her again until the end of the week. Fridays mean a quick shower after work, and then off to the Den for beer and chicken wings—fifteen cents a wing. I usually meet Mike Harris there. Beer and three or four dozen wings, then the two of us decide where we'll go and what we'll do. But Mike doesn't show up tonight. Then I remember he had plans to visit his parents over the weekend.
So I'll eat by myself, maybe take in a movie. The waitress comes by.
Black mascara eyes light up when she recognizes me. "Ryan, right?"
"That's me. And you're Kitty."
"Right," she says, grinning white teeth.
She's still dressed all in black. And all of it form-fitting. I notice her form is very fine.
"How long have you worked here?" I ask.
"This is my third shift. I start courses at ACA in one week."
"An artist? I'm studying just up the hill at Fields Technical."
"Well, hey. . . maybe we should meet at the mezz one day and do lunch."
Maybe we should. A sliver chain runs from her pierced nostril to an earlobe stitched with at least eight silver hoops. I decide it doesn't bother me. I order a dozen hot and a dozen teriyaki wings. Kitty brings my beer and a smile. Then my wings and another smile. I take my time eating. Kitty stops by my table often. We talk, get to know each other.
By the time I've finished my chicken wings, the bar has filled with its standard bursting-at-the-seams Friday-night crowd. Kitty's busy now, and I notice with a sort of pride that she's an excellent waitress. I mix and mingle with the regulars, watch Kitty and smile and wink.
Closing time comes. Kitty needs a ride home and my F-150 awaits. I'm kind of drunk and invite her up to my apartment. She's says no. I'm disappointed, but try not to show it. Then she asks if I'd like to come up to hers.
"Sure!" I say.
I follow her across the alley, eyeballing her ass, wondering if I'm about to get laid. I could sure use it. I broke up for good with my five-years-girlfriend, Erica, two months ago. I figure the setup is perfect. I'm sure Kitty is a fox under all that black makeup. She's got a nice body. She lives right across the alley. And she's not the type I'll fall in love with. Not like Erica. Erica is a natural blond, all peaches and cream. A real Ivory girl.
Kitty's apartment is on the fourth floor. She unlocks the door, opens it, and I step inside. All is shadow until she switches on a light. She calls in a sing-song voice, "Tabby! Tabby! Come on precious!"
A cat strolls out from the kitchenette. An orange cat, fur rumpled and lumpy-looking, bushy tail striped like a raccoon. Orange eyes light on me and widen.
A stomachful of chicken wings and beer surges.
Kitty picks the cat up, cuddles her close, kisses her. "My precious," she tells me. "You wouldn't believe it. About a month ago, two kids from down the hall knock on my door. They say they watched me moving in and they know I own an orange cat. They show me what they found outside in the dumpster. It's Tabby. She's all cut up and bleeding, barely alive. I have no idea what happened to her."
I look at Tabby. Eyes accusing but somehow amused, Tabby looks back. She meows. I can hear her purring, low and steady, as she nuzzles Kitty.
Kitty walks into the living room. She lays Tabby on a couch. "The kids' mother was watching from her door. She said I should take Tabby to a vet, have her put down."
Kitty plucks a lighter off a coffee table littered with stumps of candles. Black candles. An incense burner sits on a CD player. Kitty lights a stick of incense, inhales the smoke and smiles.
She's going about the apartment touching orange fire to black candles; they're all over the place. "But I knew Tabby wouldn't die," she says. She switches off the lights—now it's only guttering candle flame. She settles on the couch lithe as any feline next to Tabby. She looks up at me where I'm still standing just inside the door. She pats the cushion next to her. "Come, sit down."
Incense smoke is thick and heady. Beer boils in my stomach. I feel dizzy.
Kitty doesn't seem to notice that I flop into the couch as far from her as I can. She shifts her position, sidling closer, pulling Tabby onto her lap. Candle flame flashing in her eyes, the cat looks up at me. Kitty has a black remote in hand. She presses a button and her CD player starts to spin. Music fills the room. Some new age stuff, reedy like the wind. Wolf howls echo from a distance.
Me, I'm into new country. Taylor Swift and Dallas Smith. But I find Kitty's music soothing. My heart's been racing ever since I set unbelieving eyes on Tabby; now my pulse starts to slow. It must be the half-dozen beers I quaffed.
Kitty says, "Tabby likes you." She's scratching behind the cat's ears. "I can tell. She usually runs from strangers."
I resist an urge to tell her we've already met. I ask, "How did you. . . how did she get better?"
Kitty lays a hand along my thigh. I squirm a little. Kitty doesn't move her hand. "Do you know of Wicca?" she asks.
I shake my head.
"The old arts," she says. "White magic. The power of the Earth Mother."
I stare at her.
"It really works," she says, smiling. "I've worshiped the Earth Mother ever since I was thirteen."
She starts running her hand up and down my thigh. Purring, Tabby's watching me. The music howls on. The candles and incense burn.
"But you know what? White magic just doesn't cut it. It was fun when I was a kid. But I'm a woman now; I find pleasure in darker devotions."
Tabby purrs louder. She squints at me; I swear she's smiling. Kitty has cuddled close. Her arm has gone around my shoulders.
A hand hot as fire stroking my thigh, running over my groin, squeezing.
I cry out.
"Does it hurt?" Kitty asks. She's smiling; Tabby's smiling.
"No," I mumble, my tongue thick with the smoky taste of incense and candle wax.
She squeezes again, harder.
Black lips kiss my neck. White teeth nip at my ear lobe. Tabby's in my lap; she lays hot, purring like a vibrator against my swollen crotch. Kitty's kissing my lips, driving an insistent tongue into my mouth. I taste her and arousal quickens my heartbeat.
And now Kitty's in my lap. Where's Tabby? I wonder.
"Don't you worry about her," Kitty growls into my ear; then she swallows my mouth with hers.
My hands have crawled up her shirt. She seizes them, leans back, forces them over her breasts. She's squeezing my hands, her breasts. She's ruthless. Knuckles pop. I must be bruising her. But she's smiling.
"Feels so good," she purrs.
Then her hand lashes out, across my cheek. The pain is quick, intense. I gape at her. She pulls my hands onto her breasts. Squeezing so hard. She strikes me again.
She presses her face close to my flaming cheek, whispers in my ear. "Do you like it?"
I realize yes, I do.
She leans back, laughing, stands before me and hikes off her shirt. I see my red hand prints all over her breasts. "Such a sweet boy," she taunts me. "But he likes it." She tugs at my hand. "Come with me."
I follow, into her bedroom. Candles flutter orange eyes. The shadows are cloudy, like my brain. Instinct tells me to run; I take perverse pleasure ignoring it. Kitty's behind me now. She pushes me. Something (Tabby!) trips me and I fall on her bed. The sheets are cold and crinkly beneath me. Satin? No! Plastic. Candlelight glistens. Plastic sheets cover the bed, the dresser, the walls.
Wha. . .?
And now Kitty is out of her clothes, white and naked. Tabby jumps up on the bed. My heart races. Kitty swings a leg over me, smothers me with her breasts, stifling any protest. "Bite me," she moans. "Bite me!"
She slaps my face when I don't respond, so I give her what she wants. Her flesh is warm and succulent.
All of my Christian upbringing—all my father's efforts to engender in me a respect for things decent—fizzles in a flaming tide of forbidden pleasure. Kitty has reached to my pants, has unzipped and pulled me out. She does things with her tongue and teeth that fill my head with images of studded black leather, of masked women with whips, cat-o'-nine-tails, sweating men in chains groaning out dark ecstasies. Kitty rakes sharp fingernails over my chest, pain like fire singeing flesh.
She tears my clothes from me, flings them away. Then she presses me back onto the bed, straddles me, takes my screaming hardness and impales herself on it.
"Love me," she moans, and reminds me how with a hard hand to my face.
I crush her breasts. I slap her and find it easy to do. I slap her again and again.
She drives her fingernails into my shoulders and I bite her wrists. She's riding me with a demon frenzy. All around us, candle fire burns.
Her tail swishing, Tabby lays at the foot of the bed watching.
Orgasm begins to swell within me. I can't resist. Tabby leaps onto my thigh, claws me, sinks fangs into me. The pain cools the pleasure burning in my groin. I'm simmering mid-orgasm. And still Kitty rides me, rides me. Bites at my neck. Sucks. There's something dribbling down my chest.
Is it. . . is it blood?
Kitty reaches under the pillow, pulls a flame-reflecting object out, thrusts it into my hand. Cold steel. She's given me an old-fashioned razor, a straight razor. I recall my childhood and my father at the barber shop. The barber sharpens his razor against a leather strop. Back and forth, back and forth. Polished stainless steel that makes a six-year-old boy shudder but want to touch it.
Kitty screeches in my ear, "Cut me!"
"Wha. . .?"
She punches me in the face. Rides me with renewed fury.
"Cut me!" she cries.
She grasps my wrist with two hands. The razor folds out of its handle, gleams candle fire. My cock burns. Stifled orgasm threatens incineration.
Kitty yanks my hand down. The razor kisses the flesh between her breasts. A thin, dark line grows, drips. The razor strikes again. A smeary black "X" painted on Kitty's chest.
The razor claws repeatedly. I realize through a black stupor that no hand guides mine now. Blood soaks my chest, pools in my abdomen and then rushes off.
Kitty is squealing, tearing at me, slapping bloody handprints on my cheeks.
The razor bites. Kitty's hissing through clenched teeth, gyrating a frenzy. She moans a rhythm that matches the bucking of her frantic hips. I'm lost to our molten-slippery dance A volcano heart flares in my balls. My passion erupts.
Kitty seizes my hand in hers, presses the razor against her throat, scores a jugular slice. Wet arterial heat sprays over me. Pumps over me. Pumps, pumps, pumps. Kitty envelops me with bloody fumes. We grind together like tectonic plates. The universe explodes in a red, blazing ball. . . .
I have no idea how long I lay lost to bloody oblivion. When time once again achieved forward momentum, I found Kitty sleeping contentedly, snuggled into the crook of my arm. One candle flame guttered in a puddle of melted wax. It showed me that I lay in a dark, sticky mess.
And in the middle of it all—Tabby.
She's calmly cleaning herself. Licking her fur. Lapping up tonguefuls of. . . blood.
I retch, fling Kitty off and dash to the sink in the kitchenette. When the heaves finally stop, I look down at myself.
There's so much blood.
Kitty made me shower before I left her apartment. She gave me Band-Aids for the scratches on my thigh, kissed my bruises. She said not to worry—I won't scar, and neither will she. I couldn't look her in the eye.
I went to my father's for the rest of the weekend, helped him pour a cement pad for the garage he's building. He asked me how my life was going. I told him fine, just fine.
Monday rolled around. I began the routine. Up early and out to my truck.
I saw her there, in the alley by the dumpster.
She strolled toward me, lay at my feet, purring. I looked into her orange eyes and knew what she wanted. Dark pleasure. Tabby's no kitten.
I reached into my truck, grasped the spade, checked up and down the alley. No one around.
I raised the spade. Brought it down.
And so it went every morning this week.
Today's Friday. I find a note under my door as I'm leaving for work. A short note from Kitty. She says she had a wonderful time last weekend. She misses me. Let's do it again. She says meet me at midnight.
My heart palpitates. Sweat cools my brow. But I'm already thinking up excuses to give my father; he wants me to stay over this weekend, help him frame his garage.
I feel sick to my stomach. But I've also got a hard-on.
Outside, into the alley. There's my truck. And there's Tabby.
What else can I do?
"Hey, Tabby. Here kitty, kitty. . . ."