“Wake up!” the grey striped cat licked at Zay’s face. Prodded to consciousness by a paw, Zay tried to understand the urgency.
“What?” he meowed loudly, but Sheldon covered his mouth.
“Shhhh,” the cat hissed, “someone is in the garden that doesn’t belong here….” He pointed with his head to an ugly specimen with long fur dangling from its lower chin.
“It’s only a human,” Zay did not really consider the species as a threat. “Not even a large one.” The man peeked around the back of the planter and was moving toward the rear of the house.
“Those ones are dangerous,” Sheldon pronounced judgment. “We should kill it!”
Zay looked askance of his feline friend. “Is that your answer for everything? First it was that big bug on the way up the hill, then the mouse near the road, and now this human?” They had not actually killed the other creatures. Zay decided that Sheldon just rather liked the expression. “Maybe we should try to reason with it…before we kill it. After all, that did work with the bug…”
Cold green eyes watched the man as he peered into Jane’s kitchen window. Zay could see the woman clearly from where he sat while she stood at the sink washing dishes. It appeared that she had not seen the garden intruder, although she looked out toward the plants several times. The man had something shiny in his right hand, shaped almost like a pointing finger and Zay began to wonder if it was a weapon.
“Are we just going to stand here?” Sheldon was nervously fidgeting with his tail.
“He hasn’t done anything wrong.” it was a difficult decision. If he interfered, Zay was choosing the human as one of his tribe. “Let’s wait…” the man took the choice out of Zay’s hands as he lifted the finger and pointed it toward Jane. The reaction was instantaneous. Zay changed forms…and roared.
The human’s reaction to his shift amused him. Its eyes got large and it threw up its arms losing control of its weapon, dropping the strange item to the concrete with a metallic clank. The man shook and Zay smelled the pungent odor of urine. Face turning a bright red the creature started to flee, jumping over the fence and running toward the road, as Zay transformed back into his small grey furry shape.
“I don’t think there’s any reason to chase it,” he yawned and turned to see Sheldon sprawled on the ground laughing.
Just then Jane poked her head out from the back door. “Here Kitty, Kitty…I thought I heard a noise. Sheldon? Sheldon? Are you all right?”
Hearing a strange noise on her back porch, Jane jumped up from her dinner of toast and soup, and opened the door. Sheldon and Zay were in plain sight, but there were no signs of what may have caused the clamor. Herding her cats indoors, she put her dishes in the sink and turned on the television.
Favorite living room chair beckoning, Jane perched a cup of tea on the arm and curled up near the center leaving room for Sheldon and Zay. The newscaster explained the meteor shower in detail and then skipped to weather conditions in the northern California coastal area. They made no mention of government interest in the rock she had recovered.
Taking a long sip of hot chamomile, Jane let her hand run absently over her cats’ thick fur and stopped to scratch behind Sheldon’s chin. The cat responded by moving his left hind leg as if scratching the area himself. “You boys are such a pair,” she fondled Zay’s cheeks and tugged gently at his tail.
When the telephone rang, interrupting the scratching, the woman was actually annoyed. She enjoyed the quiet time with her pets. “Hello?” Jane picked up the receiver and spoke. Her neighbor had chased a man out of his yard who said that he was looking for her, described her. It was a warning. “Fine, fine…thanks Mr. Anson,” she was uncertain if she had actually understood him.
The Ansons were good neighbors in that they minded their own business. Jane appreciated that. She liked her privacy. The people who had lived in that house before had been nosey, and had gone to great lengths to annoy her asking her to attend neighborhood functions and invading her home whenever the urge hit them. Jane smiled to herself at the thought of little Suzy Parker. She had been about seven years of age and was missing teeth. Who would have known that Jane Withers would actually miss the Parker’s interference?
A tapping at the front door cut her reverie short and Jane moved slowly to answer. Maybe this was the intruder that had bothered the Ansons. She opened her front door just a crack and peered out passed a heavy chain. “May I help you?”
Cyrus parked his van near the end of the driveway hoping that this was indeed ‘hat lady’s’ house. He had been surprised when a motorcycle had flown by him, leaving the drive just moments before. The cyclist’s face had reflected the abject fear one might expect to find in a very deadly situation. However, when he walked up the path, Cyrus saw nothing out of the ordinary…well except for the collections. He had passed ceramic shoes, seashells, bird baths and plaster frogs, everything one might actually expect at a lunatics house. The worst part was that he knew it was going to be very difficult to find his prize in all of the mess.
The woman who stared at him from the tiny crack in the entry had really not looked eccentric. “Excuse me,” Cyrus cleared his throat.
“May I help you?” it was a polite enough greeting.
“Jane withers?” he tried to maintain a jovial tone even though he felt a strange anxiety.
“What do you want?” he thought she had sniffed him…a rather disturbing notion knowing that he had been in the sun all day.
“I am interested in…” he was about to say meteors but then he thought better of a straight forward approach. “…your hat collection. I’m a reporter for Collections Magazine.” He could see a copy of the Collectors’ Daily poking its ugly nose out of the rack near the door. This woman seemed to be addicted. It should be easy to gain her confidence. “May I come in?”
“It’s late Mister…. What did you say your name was?” she squinted up her face in suspicion.
“Cyrus, please call me Cyrus,” he avoided any last name. “I’d really love to get a look at those hats.”
“Who said I have hats?” well, of course she had hats! He had seen one himself by the road.
“Your neighbor told me you have quite a collection and I’m always on the lookout for things my readers like,” this was not going according to plan. Cyrus should be inside by now.
“Come back tomorrow. I’m tired.” She yawned demonstrating the veracity of her words. “Oh, and Mr. Cyrus…. Bring some identification if you please.” The door was shut tight in his face and Cyrus heard the latch turn. Frustrated, he kicked the stone frog on the porch and hurt his foot. Maybe that man he saw running away had been the smart one.