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Snowflakes-Fiction by Randy Numann
The Moveable Feast-Fiction by Roy Dorman
The Baker Street Motel-Fiction by D. V. Bennett
Freddie's Back-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Gangsta Girl-Fiction by J. Brooke
The Black Beast of Fulham-Fiction by Alice Wickham
The Supermart...Special-Fiction by Michael D. Davis
Star of Vengeance-Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
The Watcher-Fiction by Jacqueline M. Moran
Royal Curse-Fiction by Donald D. Shore
Order Up. One Alibi to Go-Fiction by M. A. De Neve
The Man Under the Bed-Fiction by Sharon Frame Gay
Fly-Fiction by Doug Hawley
Spiral Face-Fiction by Willie Smith
Stegmann's Basement_Flash Fiction by Peter DiChellis
It's Just Me-Flash Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Kid's Games-Flash Fiction by Tim Frank
Converse Canvas Tennis Shoe Lying on the Road-Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
Solution #1-Poem by Abe Nore
boo!-Poem by Meg Baird
Childhood Effigies-Poem by Ron Torrence
Nocturne-Poem by Melissa Dobson
The Name-Poem by Melissa Dobson
Direction-Poem by Jonathan Butcher
The Escape-Poem by Jonathan Butcher
Rolly Pollies-Poem by Alex Salinas
Smoke Dream-Poem by Alex Salinas
Son of a Gun-Poem by Christopher Kenneth Hanson
Stand-Up-Poem by Christopher Kenneth Hanson
The Artificial Lighting-Poem by John D. Robinson
Free Doses-Poem by John D. Robinson
Here We Are, You & I-Poem by John D. Robinson
Wanderer-Poem by David Spicer
Raconteur-Poem by David Spicer
Desperado-Poem by David Spicer
Strange Days at Cafe Bizarro-Poem by Dr. Mel Waldman
Night Revelations in Bizarro Country-Poem by Dr. Mel Waldman
The Room with a No-Exit Sign-Poem by Dr. Mel Waldman
The Nameless-Poem by John Grey
The Time of the Spider-Poem by John Grey
Good Luck to Whoever Finds My Body-Poem by John Grey
Cartoons by Cartwright
Hail, Tiger!
Angel of Manslaughter
The Gazing Ball
Strange Gardens
Gutter Balls
Calpurnia's Window
No Place Like Home
ALAT
Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

freddie.jpg
Can you see Freddy? I can...

Freddie’s Back

 

Kenneth James Crist

 

Julie carefully set the pet carrier down on the floor of the bus and slid it under the seat, then sat with it behind her crossed ankles. The bus pulled out smoothly and rattled along toward its next stop.

Across the aisle from her, an elderly gent smiled and said, “What ya got there?”

“My cat,” Julie said.

“Well, that’s a really calm kitty,” the old guy said, “must not mind riding, huh?”

“No, he doesn’t mind much of anything these days. . . .” Julie wanted to scream at the nosy old fart, “He’s fuckin’ dead, ya goddamn moron!” But she just smiled, and cast her eyes down, and thought about Freddie and how much she loved him.

She was taking him on his final trip to the vet’s, this time for what they called “disposal.” Freddie was right at twenty years old and she’d known this was coming, but it was still a hard thing to do.

Freddie, or “Freddie the Gimp,” as Tucker had called him, had passed away in the night. She’d found the big tabby half-in, and half-out, of his bed, when she got up that morning. It looked like his stalwart heart had finally given up, and he had just gone on with little or no pain. And that was good, but now she had this final chore to take care of.

She and Tucker had been cat people for many years, so this was not the first time she’d had to deal with the death of a pet. As the bus clattered over potholes and the brakes hissed and wheezed, she thought about old Freddie. Thought about the good times.

Freddie had been just another lost, unwanted gutter cat, when she and Tucker came home one night from Lucky’s, their favorite watering hole, over on West 40th.

The cab let them out into the rain right in front of their building and, as Tucker was paying the cabbie, Julie thought she heard a tiny mewl from somewhere close by. She had dropped the hood on her raincoat to hear better, even though once her hair got wet, it took hours to dry and would be frizzy until she could shower and get conditioner on it.

As Tucker stepped up onto the sidewalk, they both heard it again. Tucker had never been a pet person, but that was about to change. He helped her look, and just inside the opening to the old, unused coal chute, hunkered in the only dry spot around, was the tiny, half-starved tabby that would soon become “Fightin’ Freddie,” and “Flying Freddie,” and eventually “Freddie the Gimp.”

“Oh, my God, look at you!” Julie had scooped up the kitten and, even though he was half-wild, he had no resistance left in him and allowed her to slip him inside her coat. He went almost immediately from shivering to purring, and in ten minutes, he was in Julie’s kitchen, enjoying warm milk and being lavished with attention.

Like just about all cats, Freddie was a cat that understood a cat box and a food bowl with no coaching, whatsoever. She and Tucker used to joke about Freddie being on his fifth or maybe sixth life. It was as if he’d done the whole pet/owner routine enough times, he had it down pat.

Over the years—Freddie had lived to be twenty—other cats had come and gone, Jezebel, killed by a car when she had gone into heat and escaped out the door, Tommyknocker, felled by feline leukemia in his fourth year, and Johnson, who somehow found his way out onto the fifth-floor ledge outside their window. Johnson had jumped when Julie tried to get him back inside. Tragic events, but sometimes pet ownership sucked. And through it all, Freddie was always the man, the stud, the top dog of cats. And now he was also gone.

If Tucker was still alive, Julie was sure he would have shed a tear for old Freddie, but Tucker had beaten Freddie to the punch, having succumbed to cancer, four years back. It had been just her and Freddie then, and now that was over.

She supposed she’d need to get another cat. Living without some kind of companionship certainly sucked much more than pet ownership. She reached up and pulled the cord, and the bus started slowing for her stop.

As she rose from her seat and slid out the carrier, the old guy said, “Take good care of that kitty, now, Miss.”

And Julie, to her own surprise, heard herself say, “I will, Sir. Have a good day

. . . . ”

And that was May the 9th. . . .

*     *     *     *     *

Julie got home a little after noon and set about fixing herself some lunch, even though she didn’t really feel hungry. As she got out bread, and lunch meat, and the Miracle Whip, and some cheese, she could almost feel old Flyin’ Freddie winding around her ankles, working her for some cheese, or a bite of ham.

Freddie earned his wings the way most cats do—by making those sometimes disastrous, sometimes hilarious, seemingly impossible jumps that cats do, much of the time with little or no thought towards what the landing was going to be like.

It was one of those jumps that eventually displaced his right hip, popping the femur bone out of the socket and, in spite of a skillful veterinary surgeon’s best work, leaving him with a permanent limp. It was slight, to be sure, and it never slowed him down much, but it earned him the title, “Freddie the Gimp.” Again, Tucker’s wry sense of humor kicking in.

Julie sat down with her sandwich and suddenly found herself bawling like a little kid, her tears wetting Wonder Bread, and totally unable to do anything about it. She spent the rest of the day moping around the apartment, too heartsick to go to work, even though she worked from home via computer link. Her concentration was shot, and finally she logged on just long enough to drop an email on her manager, letting him know she was sick.

At about four in the afternoon, she had another crying fit when she caught herself putting food down for Freddie. It was automatic. One of those things you do out of habit, and she was halfway through the routine, when she realized there was no big tabby anymore, to partake of the nasty-smelling tuna.

She started to dump it down the disposal, but then the word “disposal” crawled across her mind.

Disposal. Just like they had said when they took care of Freddie’s remains. . . .

. . . and she carefully set the bowl back down on the floor in its usual spot and fled the kitchen. . . .

 . . . and in the morning, the food was gone.

She had logged on about six minutes late, and had her coffee maker going, when she noticed the empty bowl.

I must have dumped it down the disposal after all. That was what she thought. And that was reasonable. But it nagged at her all day. Was she certain she’d set the bowl back on the floor, and left it? Not really.

Too much turmoil. Too much emotion churning her thoughts. Maybe there was a rat. Again. One of the hazards of city life. It had happened before. But that time, ol’ Fightin’ Freddie had scored some major points. Killed a nasty old rat about half the size he was and posted it right inside the doorway from the hall for all to admire. And he was admired, and feted, and celebrated, for a while, too. What a good kitty!

She took a break at lunchtime and, while she was drinking a diet Dr. Pepper and eating a sandwich, she looked at Freddie’s bowls. Water bowl: stainless steel and shaped so it couldn’t be turned over. Food bowl: plastic and translucent, like Tupperware. She should pick those up, wash them, and put them away.

But then, that would be admitting, once and for all, that he was gone. And she was alone. Really alone.

With a sigh, she got up and went back to the living room, where her computer workstation was set up. Took her Dr. Pepper with her.

In ten minutes, she was lost in her work, her concentration level blocking out traffic sounds, the upstairs neighbors bickering (The “Bickersons,” Tucker used to call them), and whatever other distractions there might be.

A half hour after lunch, she heard Freddie flipping his food bowl over in the kitchen. It took three times before it sank in. Damned cat needed fed. Or thought he did. The cat’s dead.

She froze at her keyboard and felt the little hairs on her arms trying to stand erect. Quietly, she rose from her chair and said, “Freddie?”

She stood very quietly and waited. Bonk! There went the bowl again. She eased slowly toward the kitchen doorway. Bonk! She tried to remember all the spots where the floor creaked. But then trying to sneak up on a cat . . . stupid.  

Finally, just as another Bonk! came from the kitchen, she stepped around the door frame and saw the bowl, still quietly spinning and then settling back into place.

She felt the blood draining from her head and thought, faint . . . I’m gonna faint. . . . She yanked out a chair and sat, getting her head down to touch her knees.

 She really felt her heart arrythmia then, more pronounced than it had ever been, before. She remembered the conversation with her doctor. Julie, people die from this, all the time. It’s nothing to fool with. We’ll need to get you on some meds and get them adjusted and monitor your progress. . . .

Slowly, everything came swimming back. The bowl didn’t move, and everything was quiet. So quiet, she could hear purring. Freddie always purred when he was about to get fed.

As soon as she felt a little better, she got up, stepped across the kitchen, ran the can opener and filled the food bowl. Then she left the kitchen and went back to her workstation. She was pretty sure if she stayed and watched the food disappear, seemingly into thin air, she might just quietly go mad. . . .

Because, well, she was starting to believe it, now. All her life she had been fascinated by tales of ghosts, spirits, and hauntings. Maybe it was the same hope that we all have, that there really is an afterlife, and that we really do move on to a better place. Of course, in most religions, it is taught that animals don’t have souls and that, therefore, they cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Julie, in her own personal belief system, felt that “was hoss-shit,” as Tucker would have said. She was quite sure that when she at last passed over, she would not only enjoy the company of Tucker again, the only man she had ever really loved, but she was sure all her cats would be there, too. That belief was what kept the fear of death at bay, much more than the pronouncements of any preacher.

And so, the months passed, and every day of every week, Freddie became more real to Julie. The food disappeared every day, but strangely, there was never anything in the cat box. She still kept it, though. She was pretty sure Freddie just came to her place to eat, and that he did his business, if any, on the other side. And at night, when she was ready for bed, she would often hear that lusty purr, as the big guy settled in for the night. Usually, just as she was about to drop off to sleep, she’d feel Freddie jump up on her bed and settle in, just like always. Freddie provided much comfort.

*     *     *     *     *

“9-1-1, what is your emergency?”

“Uh . . . yeah, my name is Danny Rodriguez, and I’m the super at 138 West Eleventh.”

“Yes, Danny, what’s goin’ on over there?”

“Well, I have a lady that lives alone up on the fifth floor, and nobody’s seen her in a couple days, and I was wonderin’ if you could send a couple officers over to contact me, so we can check on her?”

“Sure, Danny, we can do that. Be about ten minutes. Officers will contact you right out front, okay?”

“Yeah, okay, I appreciate it. Her cat’s drivin’ me nuts. Botherin’ the neighbors, too.”

“Her cats?”

“Naw, just one cat. Damn thing’s been yowlin’ and raisin’ hell better part-a two days, now. We need some relief. . . .”

“Okay, Danny, why don’t I just send an Animal Control officer, too?”

“Okay, thanks, that’d be great.”

 

Officers arrived at Julie’s apartment and contacted Danny, who was only too glad to use his passkey. From inside, the infernal yowling could be heard by one and all. But it stopped as soon as the key was turned in the lock.

Julie had passed on and was no doubt passing the time with Tucker and her cats. She was in bed, and it looked like natural causes. While the officers waited for the coroner, Animal Control arrived.

The older of the officers, Cal Worthy, told the Animal Control guy, “Sounded like a big ol’ damn cat, but we haven’t seen it. Glad it was raisin’ hell, though. Otherwise, she mighta been pretty ripe, time somebody found her.”

“Okay,” the animal guy said, “I’ll go find it. Don’t worry about it, I got a way with cats.”

In twenty minutes, the coroner’s van was pulling up out front, and the Animal Control guy (who had a way with cats), was back at the door.

“This shit is way weird, guys,” he said, “I keep hearin’ the damn thing, but I can’t find it.”

“Thought you had a way with cats,” Worthy said. His partner just stood back and grinned, keeping his opinion to himself.

“Yeah, well, I keep hearin’ it purrin’, and sometimes it sounds like it’s right behind me, but when I turn around, it’s not there. Pretty sure there ain’t no cat . . . or maybe it’s a fuggin’ ghost-cat. Anyway, I got another call. If it shows up, call me.”

As he headed for the elevator, Worthy said, “Yeah. Ghost-cat, my ass . . .”

The guys from the coroner’s office did their thing. Worthy and his partner stayed out near the door into the hall. When Julie was photographed, examined, bagged, and tagged, they came out, rolling their gurney.

“Well, it’s been real, and it’s been fun,” the older guy quipped, “it just hasn’t been real fun.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Worthy said, “did you guys see a cat in there?”

“Nah. No cat. Not that we saw.”

“Okay, thanks, guys. See ya next time.”

Worthy felt something brush against his ankle, as he reached for the door to swing it closed.

There was nothing there, but when they got to the car, he found cat hair stuck to his uniform trousers.



Kenneth James Crist is Editor Emeritus of Black Petals Magazine and is on staff at Yellow Mama ezine. He has been a published writer since 1998, having had almost two hundred short stories and poems in venues ranging from Skin and Bones and The Edge-Tales of Suspense to Kudzu Monthly. He is particularly fond of supernatural biker stories. He reads everything he can get his hands on, not just in horror or sci-fi, but in mystery, hardboiled, biographies, westerns and adventure tales. He retired from the Wichita, Kansas police department in 1992 and from the security department at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita in 2016. Now 75, he is an avid motorcyclist and handgun shooter. He is active in the American Legion Riders and the Patriot Guard, helping to honor and look after our military. He is also a volunteer driver for the American Red Cross, Midway Kansas Chapter. He is the owner of Fossil Publications, a desktop publishing venture that seems incapable of making any money at all. His zombie book, Groaning for Burial, has been released by Hekate Publishing in Kindle format and paperback late this year. On June the ninth, 2018, he did his first (and last) parachute jump and crossed that shit off his bucket list.



In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2019