Friday’s here again. Where has the time gone?
Oh, I know where it’s gone. I’ve been spending way too much time on the poem I want to submit to the anthology. I’m not used to poetry being this hard. Even that thrice-bedamned sestina wasn’t as stubborn as this poem. So far I’ve got three solid verses, and a whole slue of single lines. Good thing I have until the end of June to get it finished.
This week’s creative offering is a story I’ve been editing. Though short for a story, it makes for a rather long post. So without further ado, I give you:
Aunt Mae Gets A Cat
It was not that Aunt Mae didn’t like cats, when I was a child I never saw her without one,
it was just that she didn’t want to be thought of as one of those old women who spent their days watching soap operas and talking to their cats. Ridiculous notion really, though you couldn’t tell her that. My brothers and I knew she didn’t like the soaps, it was the game shows she was devoted to.
Aunt Mae and Uncle Sam raised my brothers and me, I was just a baby when our parents passed away. Despite that, and the fact that I was the only girl, Aunt Mae saw to it that I wasn’t spoiled in the least. Which is not to say she was overly harsh with me, I just didn’t get any extra favors.
Anyway, it was Thanksgiving. Jeff and Mike were home from college and I was taking a holiday from the insurance firm I worked for as a secretary. No sooner had we all arrived and taken our coats off than Jeff and Mike were sent outside to rake leaves and I was muffled in a large frilly apron and firmly ensconced in the kitchen.
I was just opening the oven door to check on the pies when there was a shriek behind me and the clatter of baking dishes being dropped.
“What is it?” I asked, whirling around so fast I barked my shin on the oven door.
“Close that door!” Aunt Mae demanded. She stooped down to pick up the pans she’d dropped.
“It was nothing but a mouse. Just startled me, that’s all.”
“A mouse?” I glance around the kitchen and edged closer to one of the chairs.
“A mouse. And in my kitchen too. Nervy little beggar.”
Suicidal little beggar, I thought.
The mouse wisely choose to stay hidden the rest of the day and supper went on the table with no further incidents.
“Aunt Mae has a mouse,” I announced after grace had been said and everyone had a full plate.
“A mouse?” Mike and Jeff asked at the same time.
“No fair, Aunt Mae,” Jeff said. “You wouldn’t let me have a mouse when I was a kid, how come you get one now?”
“We never had a problem with mice when Buttons was around,” Uncle Sam put in. Buttons was Aunt Mae’s tabby that died several years ago. She liked to pretend he hadn’t meant that much to her, but she refused to get another cat.
“Esther Holland has kittens,” I told her. “She stopped me on the street yesterday to see if I’d be interested in one.”
“That’s enough!” Aunt Mae never was much of one for teasing. “It’s just one pesky rodent that’s taking liberties in my kitchen.”
“You always said, where there’s one pest there’s bound to be more,” said Mike. “If the house is getting overrun with mice you’ll have to get a cat.”
“No I won’t, Sam will set a trap for it,” Aunt Mae said calmly.
My brothers and I stared at each other. Sam? As in Uncle Sam? The man who rewired a toaster and blew out the kitchen window? The man who cut the brake lines on the car when he was trying to change the oil? The man who was not let near a hedge or garden with the clippers?
Sam, at the head of the table, smiled slowly. “I’d be right happy to get rid of that critter for you, Mae. I have just the thing for it.”
Aunt Mae’s determined look faltered just a little, but she rallied. “You can get to it right after the dishes are done.”
Uncle Sam was true to his word. He did have just the thing for that mouse. A trap.
“Won’t that make a bit of a mess?” Mike asked. “I mean, that thing’s for a rat, and you’re only going after a mouse.”
“That’s the biggest rat trap I’ve ever seen.” said Jeff.
“Don’t know what you’re talking about boys, this here trap is just right.”
Uncle Sam set the rat trap on the counter and wouldn’t allow anyone else to help him. We stood outside the kitchen door, listening to him mutter to himself.
It took him two hours to set the trap. There’d be silence, then a rattle, then a sudden snap and a curse. When he finally came out he seemed surprised to see us all standing there.
“Uh, get the trap set, Uncle Sam?” Jeff asked.
“Course I did. No trouble at all.” He pushed by us. “I’m going to bed.”
We decided the best thing to do would be the same.
The next morning I made my way blearily to the kitchen for my morning coffee. Jeff and Mike were there already, which should have warned me.
“I wouldn’t go in there if I were you,” Jeff said.
“Why not?” I glared at them. “You two drink all the coffee again?”
“Aunt Mae isn’t up yet, there’s no coffee made,” said Mike.
“You been away at college so long you forgot how to make coffee?” I put my hand on the kitchen door, but Mike stopped me.
“You don’t want to go in there.”
I looked from one to the other, finally starting to understand. I lowered my voice. “Did Uncle Sam’s trap work?”
“And how!” Jeff said. I was spared the details as Aunt Mae came bustling down the hallway.
“I don’t know what possessed me to oversleep,” she was muttering. She stopped when she saw us standing there. “What’s the matter, forget how to make your own coffee?”
“I really don’t’ feel like coffee this morning,” I said.
“Aunt Mae,” said Jeff with his winning smile, “Maybe we should go out for breakfast this morning.”
Mike was a little less subtle. “You don’t want to go in there. Uncle Sam caught the mouse.”
“It’ll take more than a dead mouse to keep me out of my own kitchen,” she said, and pushed open the door.
I never did find out how bad it was in there. Aunt Mae couldn’t have been in there for more than a few seconds before she was back, white-faced and wild-eyed. She took a couple of deep breaths and then for the first time in my life I heard her raise her voice at Uncle Sam.
“Samuel Eugene Atkinson, get down here this minute!”
Uncle Sam rushed down the stairs, bathrobe askew and shaving cream over half his face. We backed away to give him room.
“I am going out,” said Aunt Mae in a firm tone of voice. “I want every trace of that mouse removed from my kitchen before I get back.”
She didn’t wait for an answer, just picked up her purse and coat, and slapped her hat on her head. She actually shuddered as she glanced at the kitchen door before leaving.
I decided that this would be a good morning to go shopping, and escaped before Uncle Sam could appeal to me for help. Even at the best of times I’m squeamish. Jeff told me later that it took the better part of the morning, with all three of them pitching in, to get Aunt Mae’s kitchen back in order. In fact, they finished just as I arrived home.
Aunt Mae didn’t arrive until lunch time. Sam greeted her cheerfully with a kiss on the cheek. We already had a pot of soup on and sandwiches made.
“Discovered a hole where that mouse of yours got into the kitchen,” Sam said. “Bet there’s more of the little critters. I’ll need to get me some more traps.”
A shudder went through Aunt Mae.
“That won’t be necessary, Sam.” She set the brown paper shopping bag she was carrying onto the floor. Out scampered a lively, orange-striped kitten. We watched as it explored every inch of the kitchen.
“What are you going to name him, Aunt Mae?” Jeff asked. He always was the brave one.
“His name is Killer.” You could see the dare in her eye as she said it.
No one even cracked a smile.