He had met her at the park overlooking the river, and she had a bottle with her, he didn’t ask why, and while they passed the bottle back and forth the conversation fell to stories with surprise endings, scary, not-quite-believable urban myths from their childhoods. She told the one about the prank where a glove was filled with water and tied to the string that turned on the light in an unpopular girl's dorm room, and how when the unpopular girl reached to turn on the light she felt the hand and she went insane and her hair turned completely white. They laughed at how the wording of the last line was always exactly the same: her hair turned completely white.  He told the story about a boy and a girl on a date, and how he ran out of gas and went to get some more, and told her not to leave the car, and how she heard a strange scraping sound from the roof of the car while the boy was gone. He never got to the ending of the story because she kissed him, a playful kiss that quickly turned into something more serious.

“I’ve got a surprise for you,” she said, her fingers curling around his neck like jungle vines.

And he didn’t know or much care what the surprise would be, sex toys or good drugs or an open-minded roommate, he just tumbled into the taxi with her and finished off the bottle as they tangled and moaned in the back seat. The cab left them off at her brownstone and she opened the door and he saw all the glowing eyes studying him from the darkness.

“Cats,” she said. “I have fourteen.”

“Your surprise is that you have fourteen cats?” he asked.

“I didn’t say it was a good surprise,” she said, laughing, and he started to ask her where they had all come from, but the question was forgotten as they fell on the bed and the cats were mostly forgotten as well, except for the occasional whiff of urine, the hungry meow from the across the room in counterpoint to their drunken fumbling. She arched her back, scratched his neck, purred in his ear til the moon went down. Like making love in a fever dream. Only after the glow had faded did reality intrude and he begin to feel uncomfortable, all the eyes watching him, the flicking of tails against his skin, and the smell, oh Jesus, the smell, it seemed to have gotten much worse during the night. He considered getting dressed and sneaking out, but the bed was so comfortable, and she was so warm, next to him.

He fell asleep finally, dreaming of tall grass and struggling, wounded birds.
When he awoke he felt more comfortable with his surroundings. He reached out to her, and her eyelids fluttered as she gave him a sleepy kiss before rolling out of bed and into the kitchen. He stretched languidly, scratching absently behind his collar, then followed her in, padding expectantly toward her as she turned to offer him a saucer of milk.

“Good kitty,” she said, reaching down to pet him.


Jeff Wood  Jeff Wood's website is a writer living in Pueblo, Colorado with his wife, two daughters, and many cats. He’s had 20 short stories published in print anthologies and online publications such as Camas: The Nature of the West, Fiction at Work, Six Sentences, The Greyrock Review, Ark, Boston Phoenix, New York Press, Java Journal, and Clifton. He also has a children’s play included in the anthology CHILDSPLAY.

Other works by Jeff Wood