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Author’s Note: This story is in response to this challenge and part of my Free-Range Fiction challenge to myself.
Penelope Carr was the sweetest old lady around. She baked cookies for the senior center’s charity events; she made donations to the school foundation, heck she even had promised her estate to the local animal shelter, which kept her in a steady supply of cats. The steady supply was necessary because her cats always seemed to disappear. In fact, the adoption coordinator from the shelter was headed to Mrs. Carr’s house. A courtesy call to make sure there wasn’t something inadvertent the little old lady was doing, which made her cats disappear.
“Be sure to check the attic and the basement,” Fred Johnson, the shelter director told Katie Edwards as she was leaving to head to the little ranch house on the eastside of town. Katie shivered at the thought of cats getting stuck in an attic access or drinking turpentine in the basement — the house would stink to high-heaven. In the car she put a small pet carrier with the latest adoptee of Mrs. Carr. Or rather, the next victim, as Fred had put it.
Katie found the house easily, at the end of a cul de sac which backed up to state land – a conservation forest. It was painted a muted yellow with white trim and cast iron accents. Mrs. Carr lived in a very safe part of town, but she had decorative cast-iron bars on her windows and doors. Katie scowled as she walked up towards the house, thinking the poor woman must be so afraid. Parked Mrs. Carr’s driveway was a “Larry’s Landscaping” truck. Katie touched the hood of the car in order to balance herself and stay on the paved driveway and not step in the grass. The hood was cold steel.
She knocked firmly. With a pause a moment longer than it would take an average person to reach the door, the sound of the click-clacking of several locks being undone greeted Katie before the round face and white hair of a woman a foot shorter than Katie cracked the door open, “Yes, dear? Are you with the shelter?”
“I’m Katie Edwards. We spoke on the phone yesterday.” Katie heard shuffling. The door opened all the way.”
“Come in, I have tea all ready for us,” and Mrs. Carr waved one shaking hand for Katie to come inside.
“Us? Just the two of us or is your landscaper here?” Kathie was a bit anxious, thinking surely that the missing cats were in this dark-paneled home somewhere. She grasped the handle of the cat carrier just a bit tighter.
“No,” Mrs. Carr got a peeved look on her face. “He’s had his truck here for two days – I don’t know where he is and he won’t answer my phone calls. I figured eventually he’ll come back for it – or I might have to call the authorities,” Mrs. Carr pulled out a teapot with cats around its middle. Each tea cup was in the shape of a cat, too. The shades on the windows which faced the back yard were pulled down. Katie looked up at them and sniffed a little. Inside its carrier, the kitten up for adoption to Mrs. Carr, hissed plainly and acutely.
“Oh you can let the little baby out,” Mrs. Carr said pointing one arthritis-jointed finger at the mini-cage. “My house has been cat-proof for some time.”
Katie set the carrier at her feet and undid the latch. An exotic short-hair cat with a patch of black melting on the side of his head bounded out. It swatted at nothing in the air and scampered towards the back of the house.
Katie got up in order to go after the kitten – she could hear its claws tearing at the fabric of Mrs. Carr’s hallway carpet. “Don’t worry about it, darling; like I said my house is cat-proof. There’s a litter box in the back bathroom; maybe he’ll sniff that out.”
Mrs. Carr poured tea and Katie let out a breath, just as an overly loud phone shrilled into the empty space of silence between Katie and Mrs. Carr. The old lady, with much pain on her face, arose and slowly answered the phone. Katie sipped her tea and listen to Mrs. Carr greet the caller.
“No, I haven’t seen him and I can’t get my Buick out to get to the grocery store, because his truck is blocking my garage. I’d like him to come back and move it now.”
Katie heard series of “I see’s” from Mrs. Carr, then, “Well, I guess I’ll ask a tow-truck to come and remove the vehicle and take it back to his house – but you’re getting the bill.”
Just as Mrs. Carr hung up Katie heard a howling screech come from the back yard, “Oh no! The kitten.” She raced to the back door and began to open the door.
“Ms. Edwards! Wait! Where do you think you’re going?”
Katie pointed, “The kitten! I think it’s hurt.” She didn’t wait for Mrs. Carr’s permission. She just dashed into the back yard heading past the covered patio and attached garage.
She saw a small mound in the center of the lawn, with a multi-colored tail sticking up like a periscope.
“Here, kitty,” Katie said. “Come on, you could get hurt out here. A crow could come and get you.”
Katie crept closer, trying not to frighten the kitten. At the moment she realized that the mound of grass was not just a grassy knoll, the creature’s mouth was around one Mary Jane and then her knee. She was terrified into silence until her pelvis crushed inside this Giant Grass Monster. Then, her screams shook through to the tiny blue kitchen and Mrs. Carr.
The old lady closed the door and went to the phone. She dialed and listened.
“Ted’s Towing,” said a lip-smacking, nasal tone.
“Yes, I need two vehicles towed, please,” Mrs. Carr’s hand shook as she sipped tea and waited to give her address.