Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Lucifer

by Anita Soupir

Bloody Mary 

Yesterday my neighbor, Gideon, knocked on the door and asked a favor.  Of course I said yes before hearing what the favor was.  Why wouldn’t I?  The man makes my knees go weak with one smoldering glance, and don’t even get me started on that perfect, gleaming smile.  His hair is the darkest coal, eyes so smoky gray they’re almost black, always the beginnings of a five o’clock shadow and that one dimple that appears when he flashes those pearly whites.  Needless to say, I’ve had a crush on him since he moved into the cottage across the alley.
   Later, I would look back on that moment as the last time my sanity was completely intact, but in that instant when I first opened my door and Gideon stood gazing at me, I would have sold my grandmother if he had asked me.  I love the woman more than anyone else, but I would have taken a cute picture, written a clever sales pitch and shipped her off to the highest bidder on Ebay if he needed the money.
   Instead, he caught me off guard, dazzled me with his smile and then asked if I would watch his cat since he was going to be out of town for the weekend.  I blame my lack of focus on the fact that he was standing entirely too close in my little entryway and his cologne was doing a number on my senses.  To make matters worse, he invited me over to his place so he could show me where he kept all of Lucifer’s things.
   The cat’s name should have been a dead giveaway for what was in store, but I admit, I wasn’t really paying attention.  I was too busy watching Gideon walking in front of me.  He had a great walk.  Yes, I really should have been paying closer attention to something other than how great his butt looked in those jeans.
   He opened his back door and motioned for me to go first.  “After you.”
   When I stepped over the threshold into his kitchen, I was surprised by how tidy it was; definitely not your typical bachelor pad.
   “Lucifer, here, Lucifer,” Gideon called.
   A rather large cat with an ebony coat and orange eyes came trotting into the room.  I wasn’t a huge cat fan, having always owned dogs, but this guy didn’t look so bad.
   Gideon knelt down to scratch behind his ears and I could hear the rumble of a purr.  “See, he’s a sweet boy.  He won’t be any problem at all.”
   I crouched down, reaching my hand out to stroke his back.  Before I laid a finger on him, Lucifer arched, hissed and took off for parts unknown.  Yes, that should have been another clue that this was a bad idea, but then Gideon opened his mouth and I forgot to pay attention to the signs.
   “Sorry about that.  He’s a little shy when it comes to new people.  In fact, you might not even see him for the next couple of days,” he said.
   I think I mumbled something along the lines of, “That’s okay, not a problem, we’ll be the best of friends.”  I’m not really sure, though.  Gideon was smiling at me again, and I tend to forget how to speak when I’m around him.
   He showed me where the food was, gave me all kinds of instructions for his special kitty and handed over a spare key.  I almost fainted from sheer joy.
   “Thanks, Bethany, I really appreciate this.  Hey, when I get back, I’ll take you out for dinner as a thank you.”
   My head was reeling!  I’m pretty sure he just said he would take me out on a date. 
   I managed to plaster my most winning smile on my lips and somehow found a way to answer without giggling like a schoolgirl, “That would be great.”
   I pranced back over to my house, hoping all the while that he noticed how cute I looked in my tee shirt and yoga pants or how shiny my blonde hair was as it bobbed in a ponytail.  When I looked across the alley, however, his door was already shut.  ‘Damn!’ I thought.

*****

Saturday dawned and after downing my first cup of coffee, I decided I should go give Lucifer his morning dish of cat food.  Still a little sleepy, I trundled over in my pajamas.  Who was I going to impress, anyway?  Gideon was already gone.
   As I opened the back door, I called for Lucifer but didn’t see him or hear so much as a soft patter of feet.  I mistakenly thought that Gideon had been right, I wouldn’t even see the cat while he was away.  When I began opening the can of food, I realized the folly of those thoughts. 
   Lucifer must be trained to hear the crackle of tin, because he came flying from the living room, and without a second’s pause, began clawing his way up my leg like a demon bent on escaping from hell.  I’m fairly certain I have never felt pain like that before.
   The next part was probably my fault, as I didn’t handle it very well.  The cat had gotten three quarters of the way up my leg when the pain registered and I started screaming like a banshee.  (On the news later that night, I think I remember hearing that several bodies had been raised from the dead and I’m positive it was from my shrieks.  On second thought, I could have heard wrong.  I might have been hallucinating from all the pain I was in.)  When I started causing such a commotion, apparently I offended the delicate sensibilities of this “sweet boy” because he dropped to the floor and bolted out of sight.  Next thing I knew, there was a crash and a tinkle of breaking glass.
   I limped into the living room, feeling faint from all the blood that I was probably losing out of the million little holes in my skin, courtesy of Lucifer.  Flipping on the light, I immediately see what had been a beautiful frame now smashed to bits.  As I bend down to retrieve the picture before it is ruined by the shards, I hear the growl of a beast from hell.  (I’m now believe that this cat is really the devil, disguised as an innocent creature, bent on tormenting me.)  I looked under the side table to see blazing orange eyes filled with hatred.  I jumped back putting my hands down to steady myself, forgetting the broken glass, which is now jammed into the heel of my hand.  Crying out and cursing, I decide to clean up the mess when I come back to give the monster its evening meal. 

*****

   Later, after dousing myself in hydrogen peroxide and a downing a couple of glasses of wine, (okay, maybe a whole bottle), I tried to convince myself that I had overreacted.  Perhaps Lucifer wasn’t that bad.  He was just shy, as Gideon had said, and feeling threatened by an unknown person being in his home.  It wasn’t as if he had anything against me in particular; he was a cat and unable to plot evil things.
   By the bottom of the second bottle, I was able to tell myself that Lucifer was only reacting to my behavior and things would be better this time.  Armed with liquid courage, I marched back across the alley for the next round.
   At first, I was lulled into thinking everything was going to be okay.  I was able to clean up the debris from the picture frame without incident.  That was a bonus, but the victory was short-lived.  I was almost to the garbage when I stepped in something large, slick and infinitely disgusting.  My foot slipped out from beneath me and I landed in the nastiest hairball I have ever seen.  It was the stuff of nightmares and I barely kept from getting sick myself. 
   It was at this point that two thoughts crossed my mind.  One, I wasn’t sure that the promise of dinner with Gideon was worth all of this torture.  And, two, this cat was far more clever and vile than I had thought even remotely possible.  It knew that I was going to have to throw away the glass and hacked up its revolting surprise right in front of the trash can.
   I had to put out of my mind the disgusting mess clinging to my clothes long enough to open that damn can of food and get the hell out of there.  This cat was obviously planning my demise.
   Quickly I grabbed the food from the cupboard and opened it.  Just as I had a big spoonful ready to go in his bowl, the creature leapt from an unknown hiding spot and landed on the counter mere inches from me, hissing and growling. Scared half to death, I jumped causing the food on the spoon and the can to go flying.  Of course, I was the magnet for all things smelly and offensive with this feline so why wouldn’t it go all over me? 
   That was it!  The cat could eat the food it found on the floor, for all I cared, because I needed a shower and another bottle of wine.
   I don’t know which was worse, the stench rolling off of me or how scary I must have looked, but when I came home and saw my dog, he took one look, whimpered and hid under the kitchen table.
   Half an hour later after scrubbing myself raw and washing my hair three times, I emerged from the bathroom defeated.  After all of that, I could still catch a whiff of the cat food scent in my hair every time I moved my head. 
   While trying to recuperate on the couch, it hit me that I still hadn’t cleaned the litter box out yet.  Gideon had asked that it be done both days, but he would be lucky if I went back tomorrow to feed the beast, let alone scoop its droppings into a little baggie.  Then, I pictured Gideon’s face when he came home to find cat food dried on the counter and floor and a box overflowing with kitty bon-bons.  I could kiss that dinner goodbye, and wasn’t that the reason I had endured the trauma so far?  Honestly, why did the man have to be so damned sexy?

*****
   I woke up the next morning, having dreamed about dinner with Gideon and how I would wow him with my wit and conversational skills.  He would think I was so cute and charming that he would want to spend the rest of his life with me.  The cherry on top was that Lucifer was noticeably absent.  The smile on my face soon vanished, however, when I remembered that I had to go back and deal with the fiend from hell.
   This time around I tried to be more prepared by wearing my heaviest jeans and a long sleeve shirt.  I got ready to leave, but thought I should say a proper goodbye to Gunner, just in case I never returned.
   I knelt down and held his big, black lab head between my hands, looking deep into his caring eyes.  “Gunner, you’ve been a good and faithful friend, but I have to tell you something.  This may be the end of our friendship.” 
   He looked at me with sorrow-filled eyes, as if he understood every word I was saying.
   “I’m not sure what fresh hell that cat across the street has in store for me, but I’ve come to accept that he may actually succeed in killing me this time.  If I don’t come back, remember that I love you.”
   I hugged him and gave him a kiss on top of his head before bracing myself for the task at hand.  I could tell by the look on his sweet face that he was worried about me.  His brown eyes seemed to be wishing me good luck.
   I couldn’t procrastinate any longer.  Taking a deep breath, I headed across the alley to face my impending doom. 
   I managed to get through the door without seeing Lucifer, but I could feel his eyes on me.  I knew he was watching and waiting for the perfect opportunity to attack.  I decided to deal with the litter box first.  Might as well get that unpleasant chore taken care of right away.
   I grabbed the scoop and a plastic bag, but was almost knocked off my feet by the sight and smell that greeted me.  Did the cat ever stop pooping?  How could people live with these disgusting creatures?  Who did this on a regular basis?  My brain was trying to focus my attention elsewhere by asking a million questions as I scooped away.  Finally, I reached the end, tied off the bag and ran it out to the garbage can.
   In my haste to get back and wash my hands, I didn’t bother to look around for Lucifer when I walked back through the door.  That was a grave mistake.
   Had I been more careful, I might have noticed him on top of the refrigerator, anticipating the moment when I came close enough for him to strike.  Instead, I bee lined for the sink intent on scrubbing a fresh layer of skin off.  Then I wiped up the little bit of food that was left from yesterday’s fiasco.  I have to give it to Lucifer, though, he had done most of the work for me.
   It was when I walked to the cupboard that Lucifer saw his opportunity and took it.  Without any warning, I heard his growl and looked up in time to see a ball of fur and claws coming at me.  He dropped effortlessly on my head and dug in for the long haul.
   I promptly started screaming and dancing around, trying to get him off.  I’m sure I looked a bit like Carmen Miranda, but instead of a fruit hat, I had a crazed animal atop my head.  My fingers grabbed at him, but only came away with little tufts of fur as he gripped my scalp even tighter.  The pain was blinding and I thought for a moment I was going to pass out, or perhaps even die.  After all, I did see a white light and what I thought were the wings of angels coming to greet me.  (It turned out to be the sun shining very brightly onto the gleaming surface of the toaster, and the angels were only a couple of birds fighting over the birdfeeder just outside the kitchen window, but I still think death was near.)
   With every ounce of strength I possessed, I ran toward the living room doorway where I bent my head to the side and tried to knock him off.  Unfortunately, I misjudged slightly and smacked by forehead against the frame.
   Several minutes, or maybe even hours later, I woke up minus my cat hat, but with a splitting headache from the claw marks and the oak framing.  I stumbled back to my house where I crawled into bed for the next two days, dozing fitfully while maniacal black cats tormented my nightmares.
   I think I may be mentally scarred for life, though, because anytime I see a cat on TV, I have to switch the channel immediately otherwise I find myself waking up from the fetal position with dried tear tracks on my cheeks.
   I’m also aware that my sanity has suffered irreparable damage.  Proof of that sits across the table from me in the form of Gideon.  Here we are, only one week past my horrific experience, having a wonderful dinner when he asks me to cat sit again next month.  As I get lost in his smoky eyes, I am certain of only two things:  One, if I owned a cat I would become an alcoholic.  And, two, I need to buy more wine, because when Gideon smiled at me, I couldn’t say no.

About the author

Anita Roberts Soupir was born in Missouri, but had a wandering soul.  She has lived in Connecticut and South Florida, but now calls rural North Dakota home, where she lives with her husband and two children.  She enjoys freelance writing and is currently polishing her first manuscript, The Dessert Club Series Book 1 -  Don’t Trifle With Me, as she searches for representation.
Her work can be seen in:  Crack the Spine Literary Magazine and Mused - the BellaOnline Literary Review Magazine, as well as Boston Literary Magazine, Literary Juice, 50 Haikus, 50 Word Stories, and SpeckLit.

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