Stray Things by Kailey Blount

The cat had been following Maisy for about two and a half blocks, before she thought anything of it. Fur matted, eyes pressed closed, his missing paw reminded her of Captain Hook’s. She’d slowed down her pedals, matching the speed of his limp with that of her wheels. The bike had been a gift from Miss. Jones. So, had the shoes. When she looked down, which was more often than she should have, Maisy saw her reflection on the top of her Mary Janes. Mouse brown hair knotted in a loose braid, eyes bloodshot with unrest, the face she saw on her flats made her wonder what exactly Miss. Jones saw in her. She had this thought quite often and it was always accompanied by a poisonous taste that lingered on her tongue. 

Miss. Jones’ house was five blocks away from the elementary school. All sidewalks. When Maisy first arrived, Miss. Jones had driven her to and from school every day in her brown Cadillac. Windows up. This made Maisy’s head and heart spin, so they rolled the windows down, to see if that would help. When it didn’t, Miss. Jones bought the bike. Poison coated her throat for days after the purchase. But her heart stopped sputtering and her head stopped screaming, so she swallowed the taste and thanked God and Michael Greene for teaching her how to ride a bike before she left the last house. 

Miss. Jones had asked Maisy if she wanted company on her bike ride to school in the mornings. Maisy had started to nod her head yes, as she was beginning to like Miss Jones' silent presence, but then remembered she wasn’t too keen on bike riding and didn’t want Miss. Jones to see her struggle. After all, there were many kids her age who were much more coordinated than Miss. Jones could choose instead. So, she shook her head no, and rode to school alone. 

The cat was still following her when she’d turned onto Miss. Jones’ street. “Excuse me,” Maisy skidded to a halt. So did he. “You better leave now before Miss. Jones sees you.” 

Hook opened his eyes a bit and beneath hooded lids, familiar green peaked out. “Well, isn’t that strange. Our eyes match.” It didn’t matter. The cat would have to go. “I think you have the wrong idea about me, Hook. You see that house over there,” she pointed towards the blue shuttered castle. “It’s not really mine. I’m a guest and soon I will be gone. So, you will probably have better luck following somebody else home.” She said all of this without looking down. When the poison seeped in through her nose, she sneezed, and didn’t look back. In front of Miss. Jones’ driveway, Maisy parked her bike. Her borrowed bike. She had to keep reminding herself of that. She was beginning to use dangerous words, like hers and home, especially in the company of Miss. Jones, who despite Maisy’s better judgement, she found terribly comforting. 

The cat was sitting where she had left him. His missing paw more pronounced than when he was limping at her side. Maisy hadn’t yet built the bones to be cruel, so when his tail fell, so did her resolve. With the crook of her finger, she beckoned him over, and as if they were attached by a string of yarn, he came. 

“We will go in through the back, Hook. Be quiet now.” She scooped the cat into her arms, oil and dirt smearing her coat. His head found a place in the crook of her neck, not bothering with the nicks and scars, many questioned when they got close to her skin. Miss. Jones hadn’t mentioned anything of them, either. 

She crept through the garden on the tips of her toes, bare knees grazing tall grass. Hook stayed still in her arms, afraid for the bugs. Except, his green eyes roved, looking for the fairies Miss. Jones had warned Maisy of the day she arrived. He’d been watching her since that first hello. Waiting, patiently, for a time to say his own. 

“Alright, good. Now, she usually is in the kitchen when I get home, so we will have to be quick about getting you upstairs. You will stay in my room, okay?” 

He licked her shoulder. She turned the doorknob. And they were inside. 

He’d always imagined what inside might feel like. Had been dreaming of home for so long, that the whole notion seemed fantastical. Two pairs of green eyes lit up when Maisy’s feet hit the cool tile floor. On the inside, he realized, people from the outside lived in frames. Books, the ones they sometimes carried in their handbags, sat in lines on shelves. And their handbags laid on the floor. 

He noticed this all from his perch on Maisy’s shoulder, nearly missing the woman sitting before them. 

“Oh Maisy, dear, there you are. I was starting to get worried.” The woman sat up then, bringing with her a long cane. “Who is this?” 

“Hook.” Her voice sounded different then it had been outside. Softer. 

“Well, hello there Hook. Welcome to our home.” He realized then that Hook was his name. Stray things didn’t usually have names, he thought. Or homes. But now he had both. 

Published in Issue #19

No comments:

Post a Comment