Original Fiction: Bad Kitty
Another story from my fiction workshop. This one is based on an incident that took place in my small town in 2011–an anti-government gun hoarder killed his family, set his house on fire, then had a shoot-out with the police. All of this took place blocks from my kids’ elementary school. I listened to the gunfire and watched the smoke from my yard about a mile away. It was intense.
Her grandmother considered black cats to be harbingers of doom, Julia Carlson recalled as she left for work. Otis, the local stray, zipped across her yard, his black tail disappearing under her porch. Silly cat, she thought. She skipped down the rickety stairs, digging through her purse for a stick of gum. Alex would be at work today–he had dreamy chocolate eyes.
A cobalt blue car idled empty in the middle of the street, coughing up exhaust. She looked around for a driver. A man dressed in a business suit scrambled away from Mr. Peterson’s front door as the window of the car exploded, peppering Julia with shards of safety glass. Someone screamed; she didn’t think it was her.
Pop, pop, pop. Pop, pop. Poppoppopoppop.
Something whirred through Julia’s blowing hair. Something ripped through the door of the car. Something kicked up dirt in the grass. Another window shattered. Her arm stung. The man in the suit slid across the hood of his car like the star of an action movie, landing on his back with a thud.
“Get down,” he shouted. Julia wasn’t sure who he was talking to.
She rubbed at the burning spot on her arm, her hand coming away crimson. Crimson–what a funny thing to think. Why not just red? Otis shot out from under the porch. The noise bounced between houses like a pinball, but everything played out in slow motion. Why crimson? The rear window of Julia’s car blew out, pelting her with more glass–the pieces sparkled in the rosy rising sun.
At that moment, the man in the suit grabbed her hand and dragged her to the ground. Something slammed into the porch post right behind her, sagging the roof at that corner. With each pop the car shuttered.
“Someone’s shooting at us,” she said flatly.
The man yanked off his tie and began wrapping Julia’s arm. “Are you okay? Are you hit anywhere else?”
Julia didn’t know. She shook her head. “I was shot.”
The man smirked. “Yeah, I noticed. How’s that?” He cinched the makeshift bandage tight causing Julia to wince.
“Bet it does.” He crouched next to her. “First time in a firefight?”
She stared blankly at him. He made little sense–his lips moved, but the sounds meant nothing.
His smile faded. “I think you’re going into shock.”
“It’s to be expected.”
“This isn’t my first,” he said while feeling for her pulse. “Firefight that is. Did two tours in Iraq–thought I left this shit behind.”
“They’re shooting at us.”
“That’s what I get for being a Good Samaritan. See a house on fire, stop to assist, and get shot at.”
The popping stopped. Otis darted past again. Julia’s arm hurt. “What’s going on? Why is someone shooting at us?”
The man peeked over the edge of the door. “Don’t know, don’t care, but we need to get out of here. Sounds like he’s out of ammo. We could make a break for it.”
“Or he’s reloading.” The fog in Julia’s head dissipated. She pushed away little pieces of glass pressing painfully into her palms.
“Good point.” The man bent over her. “I’m Mike, by the way.”
“That’s Mr. Peterson’s house. Is he shooting at us?”
Mike raised up to look through the broken window again. A bullet whizzed by. Then another. He dropped. “Guess he was reloading.”
Sheriff cars converged on their location. Men and women in uniform spilled from the vehicles, weapons already drawn. The popping intensified. Julia covered her ears despite how much it hurt to raise her arm. Mike sheltered her head with his body, his breath warm on her forehead. Sweat beaded at his hairline.
As the gunfire subsided, Julia became aware of Mike’s hand digging into her shoulder. She glanced up at him. He had emerald eyes. And a trickle of blood at the corner of his mouth.
He smirked. “Two tours in Iraq. Shit.” He toppled into Julia, his hand sliding away, before slumping against the car. A bloom of crimson soaked his white shirt. Why crimson? The silence was deafening.
Otis trotted over to rub against her injured arm. She patted his head. “Good kitty. You should go home before anything bad happens.”