Mary Mills is a teacher of world languages and primarily a poet. Her version of an extended haiku is on as “Winter Solstice at Newgrange.” Her poetry has appeared in numerous literary magazines, both online and in print. Most recently, her poems have appeared on Literary Heist. Her fiction has appeared in SQ Magazine, and the Norma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop has placed her non-fiction piece, “Loaded,” on its blog.


Trigger Warning

“Either Jasper shows some serious behavior modification, or I take him for a long drive and drop him off in unfamiliar territory!” screeched Sara into her phone.

“But Sara…” begged Ewan.

“Don’t try to find excuses,” snapped Sara. “The carpet on the stairs is in shreds, and I almost slipped coming down them last Tuesday when we were still living together.”

“He’s just being a cat. The carpet is old and needs to be replaced,” explained Ewan.

“You know what Jaspar needs?” asked Sara with an exasperated laugh. “A new carpet that he can knead till it’s ready for the dumpster?! Remember Thanksgiving, when he left a load on the living room floor? Our living room has become one big litter box! The smell is disgusting!”

“I’ve got an appointment with the vet Thursday to discuss why Jasper is upset. What crashed? Sara? Are you ok, Sara?!”

Sara had smashed the phone against her bedroom wall and watched it crumble in an assortment of plastic and metal slivers. That damn cat! Ewan has to make a choice. Jasper or me, she muttered. With a nervous sigh, she slid into her pjs while trying to decide whether to read Cujo or Pet Sematary before she drifted off to sleep.

Glancing at the scattered remains of her smartphone, Sara rubbed her eyes, and blinked hard. Shards were spinning, hovering inches above the floor, rotating faster and faster. Instead of separating as they would in a centrifuge, the fragments bonded, creating an ever-increasing mass from whirling black and gray slivers.  Sara jumped out of bed and stared, mouth wide open. “What …,” she gasped. “J-A-S-P-E-R!?” The sound of his name caught in her throat. The black and gray image responded with a growl that could have come from a megaphone. She groaned, covering her ears.

Jasper was dazed but kept growing until he occupied most of her small bedroom. Fear fastened her feet to the floor. Claws extended, he sliced through the sheets and left deep slashes in the mattress. Sara crawled under the bed. Jasper flipped it over and swatted at her. She was a trapped mouse. Terror chilled her. Would her bones be bundled into crunchies while she wiggled, a morsel caught between Jasper’s pressing jaws?

But look! Over there under the dresser. One of Ewan’s big, old, dusty socks with crumbs scattered beside it. It looked like … Yes, Catnip! She grabbed the sock and stuffed the catnip crumbs in it. Then, she made a knot to close the open end and tossed the catnip grenade past Jasper’s glowering, green eyes. It hit the wall and landed at his feet. Sara pulled herself into a fetal ball and squeezed her eyes shut. “Choose the catnip, Jasper. I don’t want to be your Fancy Feast,” she whimpered.

Startled, the giant cat sniffed the catnip sock. After several whiffs, he caressed the sock and sucked the life out of it. When Jasper shut his eyes, Sara opened hers. She was alive! What was Jasper doing? Having happy dreams dozing by the overturned bed? The bedroom door was ajar just enough for her trim figure to squeeze through sideways. She made a quick, quiet dash across the living room and out her apartment. Touchdown! She was safe for now. But what would happen when Jasper awoke from his stupor?

Forget the elevator. Sara bolted down four flights of stairs to the security desk. Pudgy, short, middle-aged Horace was on duty. “You’ve got to help me,” she pleaded. “There’s a cat the size of an elephant in my bedroom.”

Horace looked up from a titillating Penthouse article and groaned. “And I have an anaconda the size of a whale in my bathtub. Maybe you drank too much wine, missy, before you went to bed.”

“I’m sober! Scared out of my wits but sober!”

Mr. Security looked at her and nodded. Maybe he could push her wild story off on someone else. This nonsense was beyond what he usually heard from the crazies.  As she dashed to the elevator, he labored to keep up. “Shouldn’t we contact animal control about your problem?” he panted.

“Animal control!” Sara cried. “How about a big game hunter or someone from the zoo with a tranquilizer gun?”

“Nah, I think this might be one for Animal Planet,” Horace replied with a forced smile.

Sara dashed to her apartment door and waited while Mr. Security took tiny steps that made him look like a caricature.  Her bed, wobbling on its side, was visible. “OK, where’s Monster Cat?” he demanded.

“Shush. I hear something,” breathed Sara. Increasingly louder screams and growls were coming from her bedroom.

“There’s a fight to the finish going on, so I think we should leave,” Horace whispered, pointing to a nearby fire escape.

When the animal noises stopped, a normal-sized Jasper hopped into the hallway, his ear bleeding. Sara carried him to the kitchen and held a damp paper towel to his ear. Jasper purred.

“It looks like your monster was this bobcat, and the kitty is a hero,” said Horace as he wrapped the dead animal in shredded sheets and dragged it away.

“But how could a bobcat…”

“Not so strange that a bobcat got in your place. I’ve heard of alligators, coyotes, even a mountain lion taking a stroll downtown. This is the Big Apple. Something for everybody. What’s weird is that your kitty was able to take out a cat over twice his size.”

While Jasper was chowing down some tuna, Sara’s landline rang. “Sara, I can’t find Jasper. He’s an indoor cat and has no street smarts, ” said a worried Ewan.

“Relax, Ewan, he’s with me. Let’s get Jasper a big scratch post, so he’ll let the new carpet we’ll be getting alone. I miss you and want to move back ASAP.”

“Sounds like a plan, Sara. Speaking of plans, there’s a cute Belgian restaurant in Midtown we could try tomorrow for lunch.  I’ll pick you up around 12:30, OK?”

“Sure, Ewan. I’ve got  a fascinating story to tell you over lunch.”

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