Sixth Annual Wild Violet Writing Contest Winners (2008)

Fiction — Third Place

Nina Bayer, a graduate of Whidbey Writers Workshop, has published short works of fiction in Between the Lines, Paperbox, Pontoon, Binnacle, First Class, Clamor, Emptyheaded, and other undiscovered, yet excellent, literary magazines.

Boss Cat
By Nina Bayer

Mean cat and yuppie

I stepped quietly down the driveway and up onto my neighbor's front porch. The Boss Cat was there, licking his wounds but looking proud. I picked him up, carried him back up the driveway, and set him in the trunk of my car. He immediately sensed malevolent intentions and tried to escape, but I was determined. I shut him in.

It started a few hours before, around ten o'clock, when I let Jameson, my apricot tabby, out the front door. He was to find a clean place in the soil to dig, then cover up what he had dug and come right back inside. This was his nightly routine. But within a few minutes of turning him out, there was hissing and screeching and the swiping of claws, and I was forced to throw on the porch light and run outside in my nightgown. I found Jameson cowering in the shelter of the Japanese Maple, his trembling haunches nestled deep into the cool dirt and decaying leaves beneath the tree. A large gray tabby stared at him from the porch next door. Harley. The self-proclaimed Boss Cat of our neighborhood.

I'm usually a passive, non-confrontational person, known for being introverted, patient; one of the "nice" people in my neighborhood. But as I bent in the glow of the porch light and scooped Jameson into my arms — his coat dirty and torn, blood from the gash on his leg oozing over my yellow flannel — anger boiled up inside me. It was our yard after all, and Jameson had every right to perform his duties without incident. As he meowed and dug his claws into my shoulder, he extended his injured leg to me for healing, the same leg that had been gashed by the Boss Cat just one week before. My heart went out to him. Something had to be done… tonight.

The Boss Cat belonged to the man next door. I called him the "Yuppie Single Guy," even though he was divorced and had three kids who stayed with him on the weekends. He was also a man of toys, and had more money and ways to spend it than I could imagine. Every inch of his property was covered with plants and trellises, fountains and lawn ornaments. Huge ferns and flowering vines hung from baskets lined across his front porch, and his garage was filled to overflowing with jet skis, snow boards, camping equipment, and party supplies. On holidays, he draped tasteless oversized decorations across his house and yard, the worst being his Halloween decor, with glow-in-the-dark ghosts and massive Velcro spider webs. The Yuppie Single Guy irritated me. We shared a mutual driveway, but beyond that we had nothing in common.

I carried Jameson into the house and placed him on the kitchen counter, stroked his fur and comforted him, then reached into the refrigerator for his medicine: antibiotics and pain killer. The only saving grace was that I still had them on hand from the week before. I filled both syringes — a cc of this, half a cc of that — then pried open his mouth with my fingers and squirted the liquid into the back of his throat. He squirmed with fear and dislike, but soon resigned himself to the inevitable and swallowed, succumbing gracefully to my gentle care. I cleansed and bandaged his wound, then laid him out on a blanket at the foot of my bed.

I stayed with him for an hour, until the medicine had made him sleepy, then stepped into the bathroom to dress. I pulled on a warm pair of jeans and some tennis shoes, slid a sweatshirt over my head and grabbed my leather gloves. I left Jameson sleeping, backed the car out of the garage, and turned off the engine. I opened the trunk and left it ajar.

I stepped quietly down the driveway and up onto my neighbor's front porch. The Boss Cat was there, licking his wounds, but looking proud. I picked him up, carried him back up the driveway to my car, and set him in the trunk.

I drove with no plan for where I would go, but I knew what needed to be done. I allowed my emotions to lead me — I was livid; I was afraid; I was resolute. Neither Jameson nor I could endure another unprovoked attack, let alone an ongoing life of bullying. Living next door to the Yuppie Single Guy had been more than enough.

The Yuppie Guy liked to walk the length of our mutual driveway, smoking cigars and talking on his cell phone. When he wasn't doing that, he was drinking beer and filling his birdbath with water from my hose. Both his smoke and his loud conversations filtered into my house through the second-story windows, and the intrusion annoyed me like five extra pounds.

His children were equally obnoxious. On the weekends that they visited, they considered my yard an extension of their playground. They scraped colored chalk drawings onto my sidewalk and ran their bikes through my grass. To get to the community play area, they trampled a path through my garden and knocked the heads off my flowers. Sometimes I came home to find dead rodents on my doormat — Boss Cat leftovers.

At homeowner meetings, the Yuppie Single Guy was the first to complain about cars driving too fast down our street and grass growing two inches too tall in the park. "Not the best for baseball," he said. No one dared stand up to him, to remind him of his own offenses: his loud weekend parties, his annoying kids, his vicious roaming cat. I was the most reluctant to confront him, wanting to live beside him in peace. But on this night, I had finally had enough. The claws were coming out.


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