By: Nicholas Palmeri
Ten summers ago, Cass witnessed the destructive demise of her grandmother beneath the crushed metal framework of her Toyota Camry. The asphalt was boiling when Cass pushed open the backseat window after her grandmother swerved onto an uplifted road-shoulder at the sight of a stationary, ocean-colored cat in the middle of the road. Cass remembers it clear as crystal, her grandmother’s car traipsing across three lanes of congestion.
The childhood memory fries her brain and brings her eyes close to waterfalls. She misses her grandmother, misses her fine Sunday cooking, and the calmness she radiated to those within a mile radius. Cass could tell her anything, even the most precious of secrets like . . . the boy she adored in the middle of middle school. What was his name? Frank? Fred? Now, all these years later, it makes no difference, but what means the world is the very fact that Cass spoke an innermost secret to her grandmother. The bond between them never broke until the day the neighborhood kitten came meowing across the blacktop.
The same, blue-furred cat haunted Cass now, like a home-invader from a traumatic childhood. It was etched into her mind like stone hieroglyphics.
Now, long after the car accident, Cass awakens to light, hammering her eyes. It is flooding through her rectangular, yellow-framed window and for some reason or another, Cass has a startling feeling that today will be different from all the rest. She trots down the maroon-carpeted steps in her pink striped pajamas, rips open a plastic carton of OJ and gulps a glassful. The green-colored digital clock reads 8:00 AM. She has an interview scheduled for a secondary school teaching position in two, very quick, hours.
Still, an unknown feeling hangs in the air. It is difficult for Cass to decipher without replenishing her brainpower. It gnaws at her prickly skin, the unknown feeling puts her curiosity on a pedestal.
She whips a bowl of cereal and finishes it quickly since she must wash up, comb, and dress before the interview. Flicks and flashes of her grandmother surfaces, her wrinkled lips lifting. Cass remembers the final conversation she and her grandmother shared. It was a week before Christmas, and they were pleasantly discussing the red and green wrapped gifts Santa would bring her. ‘If,” her grandmother insisted, she was being a “good girl.” Cass, at ten years old, grinned and bit her fingernails in a jittery, hopeful sort of way.
After an hour of the utmost fashion procedures, Cass leaves her home to find the mailman approaching. He has a tan from too much sun, bald, and he has a mountain of letters scrunched between his wrist and elbow.
“How’re you? A lot of mail this friday?” Cass said.
He shakes his hairless head, listening more to his Bluetooth headphones than he does to anything Cass says. “Sorry. Not interested,” he replies, and he tosses the mail on a black bench outside on her porch and strolls to the next home, grabbing their mail and placing it in the front-lawn dome-like box.
With the taste of bitterness in her mouth, Cass gets into her sunbaked black Ford and starts the ignition. It rumbles beneath her and somewhere the engine juts and jumps. The rudeness from the mailman washes through her like water, now her attention is tuned to the interview Cass has been pulling her hair out over. After four years of dedicated work, I better ace this thing. Cass poked her chin out and pushed her shoulders back as she pressed the accelerator and sped off down Cotting avenue, the street she happily called home.
Cass rolled down the smooth street, her hands draped over the steering wheel. She could feel herself shaking like she was being chased by a hungry cannibal. The interview weighed upon her thin shoulders. The double yellow line wavered in her teary vision as she prepared for the final hurdle before securing her dream job since kindergarten.
Then, as her foot pressed heavily upon the acceleration, in the middle of the long street, a blue object sparkled, catching the corner of Cass’s vision.
No. After ten years, it’d be dead and buried or in an urn at this point.
As the Ford funneled onward, the blue spec became a turquoise bubble, and then its vague form solidified into a shaped four-legged familiar creature that caused her grandmother’s car to ram off the road. Due to it, her grandmother and she became trapped under the car’s two-ton framework.
Cass jerked the wheel, her eyes swerving from mirror to mirror. Car horns erupted as angry gestures were thrown out of windows; mustached men cursed within their tiny compartments. The Ford took out a stop sign with such momentum that the vehicle fell onto its side, the left side mirror pointing up toward the overcast, muggy sky. Her body shook uncontrollably and for a moment Cass knew that the eerie feeling contained within the air had panned out, that today was truly not like any other. She took a determined look at the tire streaks, looking for the blue kitten. She found the asphalt bare of any four-legged creature. Cass’s makeup was skewered and her hair was in rough tangles. She had no idea what this cat wanted or how it was still alive, let alone how it seemed to have moved at the same, quick pace as it had a decade ago.
Categories: Creative Writing