If you didn’t notice, I’m taking a little break from astrology. I’ll write more about this over the next few days. Don’t worry. . .it’s just me focusing on my PILE of fiction. I also have a couple of my latest articles that I’ll post soon. Be well. . .stay inside and we’ll meet again.
That damn thing was called Persephone and Beth treated her like she was the queen of Sheba. Beth persuaded her mother to buy a little flea collar, a bed more comfortable than his own and a covered litter box that he had to change because he was the only one in the household without an allergy to cat pee. The injustice of it! His eyes would water with the sting of cat pee as soon as he walked through the door. And how his flesh would crawl!! But he didn’t come out in gigantic hives from changing the litter. But he suffered in other ways. At one point, he had a good sized collection of flea bites that emerged in the flesh just above his socks—not even the flea collar kept the blighters out of the house. Once, one a cold night, the damn thing had burrowed under his own covers and wedged itself between himself and Lucy. He was so disgusted he had flown out of bed, grabbed the spare covers and slept on the couch. He was positively revolted that the cat had joined him. When he had awoken, it had sat on his hip, purring down at him and appearing to have been watching him as he slept. He could not recall having ever leapt out of bed so quickly in his life, so disturbed he had been by the cat’s uninvited friendliness.
Beth of course loved the stupid thing. She would dress Persephone up in her doll’s clothes, put her in a baby buggy and push the stupid thing up and down their street. Grown adults would actually stop her to admire the furry beast. She even had a milk bottle, the kind hamsters used, propped up so all the cat had to do when it got thirsty was lick the ball bearing at the tip of the bottle. It was the most disgusting thing Alfie had ever seen in his life. How he had wanted to go outside and kick the buggy—with the cat still in it—as hard as he could. He would have loved to see the cat fly ass over tit.
There was a giggle from somewhere and Alfie looked at Ivan, whose face remained grimly set.
“Something funny?”Alfie asked him.
“Wasn’t me,” said Ivan, jerking his head behind him. Beyond Ivan’s shoulder, the cat had paused on a fencepost and was licking its feet. And was looking directly at Alfie.
The penny dropped.
“You have got to be kidding!” Alfie looked to Ivan. “It’s a joke, isn’t it.”
“What?” Ivan turned to look at the cat.
The cat regarded Alfie with a wink.
It was Persephone, Goddess of the Underworld herself. There was no mistaking it. The damn thing had decided to come back and haunt Alfie. Not too long after the couch incident, Alfie had secretly poisoned Beth’s cat. The cat died of course but not after it threw up everywhere. Everywhere. There were finding little piles of cat vomit in the most unlikely of places for the next three years. In dresser drawers, in the basement, under the bed and under rugs, it had expired in the baby’s buggy, it gross tongue lolling pathetically out of its mouth when it had finally went to the great cat box in the sky. Of course, Beth had been inconsolable. She hadn’t known about the poisoning but had been so convinced it had died due to her lack of care that she stopped eating for a months. To take her mind off her sorrows, she began doing more and more aerobic exercises until she became so thin and fragile, Lucy forcibly checked her into hospital. Alfie had felt so bad, he nearly confessed his deed just so she would stop blaming herself but he knew this would only cause a whole load more problems. Like he would turn his back on his daughter one day and get a pitchfork shoved up where the sun doesn’t shine.
“Well?” Alfie said to Persephone.
The corners of the cat’s mouth twitched ruefully.
“I say a game won, is a score settled.”
“What are you talking about?” Alfie asked just before the lunacy of answering a talking cat occurred to me. “Oh no,” he said to Ivan. “Cats do not talk here.”
“Some do,” Ivan informed him. “Some are dead useful,” he added without irony.
“Watch where you’re going, dummy,” Persephone said to Alfie.
Just in a nick of time, Alfie was able to jump over what looked to be a deep mud puddle. He didn’t think he could take any more water. He looked back at the cat. “Ta,” he mumbled. He didn’t want to seem too grateful.
Persephone jumped off the post and rubbed herself against his leg affectionately. Purring loudly, she looked up at him and said: “You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting to do this.”
Alfie grimaced and resisted the urge to kick it away. After all, maybe he was a bit indebted to the damn thing. He was responsible for it being here and he was at least mildly glad he didn’t have to step on a mud puddle and re-experience that horrible stinging feeling.
“OK,” he said eventually. “That’s it. I need my leg back.” They began walking again.
“I used to come visit you when you were sleeping,” Persephone said to Alfie.
“Is that so?” Alfie said but he didn’t add that he hoped her fleas had died along with her.
Ivan stopped so suddenly in front of him that Alfie ran straight through him.
“We need to go there,” He pointed to a house to the left with a portal looking on the side. Quickly all three entered. Alfie flopped soundlessly onto the couch while Ivan and Persephone went straight to the television remote and Persephone stepped on what must have been the right buttons because the TV flickered to life with the volume off. Ivan and Persephone looked at the TV with concentration. To Alfie, the screen looked nothing more than blips of polka dots flicking off and on.
“Do we have a potential situation?” Persephone asked, pressing her furry butt into Alfie’s face. She stretched her front legs forward to stretch and flexed her tail so her anus almost touched his nose.
“Look, cat. . .” Alfie threatened. As if she understood, she jumped gracefully away from him and curled up on Ivan’s lap.
“There,” Ivan pointed to the screen. A polka dot alternated between green and red.
“It’s nearby,” Ivan stood up again. “We had better move quickly.” And they were on their way again.
It was on the tip of Alfie tongue to ask where they were headed but he was still feeling the shame of looking like an idiot in front of Ivan and he didn’t want to talk to Persephone.
So he followed Ivan and the cat straight into Mercy Hospital, up the stairs to the fourth floor, down the corridor, past busy doctors and nurses and into a delivery ward.
The room was in total pandemonium. Alfie was unable to discern what was being said but he saw three or four doctors bending over the barely conscious body of woman who quite frankly did not look long for this world. Her face was devoid of colour and worse, it was if a light had been switched off behind her eyes.
Another group of doctors were frantically working over the tiny body of something that only vaguely resembled a human. It was naked and limp but the doctors and nurses kept trying to pump air into its underdeveloped lungs. Alfie felt frightened. Would they have to carry this lifeless baby with them?
“Do it, Alfie,” Persephone urged.
“Come on, man,” Ivan went to grab Alfie but of course his arm went straight through him. Persephone too was trying to push him forward with her furry head but he could see that she had gone straight through him.
What did they want him to do?
Both Persephone and Ivan pushed themselves through Alfie again.
“What are you waiting for!?” Ivan asked desperately. “Scare the little bugger!”
Alfie got it. The baby opened its eyes but like its mother, there was no light. The baby’s eyes looked directly into Alfie’s. At that second, Alfie pulled the scariest face he could. The baby’s eyes opened wider and they saw his little tummy suck in and a weak cry like the mewling of a kitten escaped from him.
“We got him!” One of the doctors called to the team working on the woman. The baby’s mewls filled the room.
“He made it, he made it,” one of the nurses said to the mother as she brushed the hair from her ears. “He made it. C’mon! Fight!”
To Alfie’s amazement, the mother turned to look at her baby. There was a flicker in her eyes and a light blush came over her face.
“Watch the bleeding!” They could now see the woman was cut nearly in half from the Caesarean. She was stuffed with all sorts of gauze and harsh metal vice like objects held her open. The team worked quickly to close her up as she reached for her baby.
“Alfie,” she whispered. “Alfie,”
For a moment Alfie thought she was talking to him and he took a step forward.
“Don’t be knob end,” scolded Ivan. “That’s the baby’s name.”
Alfie stepped back.
“You did it!” Persephone said, pushing herself through his leg.
“I think that’s got to be worth at least two counts of physical force!” Ivan punched the air.
Alfie too felt elated. He had saved the lives of two babies in one evening plus saved countless people the grief of losing a loved one. Little Gage might suffered from nightmares but that would be so much better than suffering brain damage. And it was certainly better than the family falling apart in grief. And with this new little life, this new Little Alfie and its mother, who knew how many people he had spared from the trauma and pain of grief. Like Ivan, he punched the air. It was making sense. Alfie was astounded and never, ever in his life had he felt so good. Somehow the TV screen they had watched had shown them where this drama was unfolding. That was how they knew where to go. For saving someone’s life, they got to move something in the physical world. It was how he had opened the window when Ivan had farted after Alfie had saved the baby. To turn on the TV at that house, Ivan must have done something to save someone’s life. And Persephone? He looked down on the furry terror. She too must have done something to save someone.
Alfie couldn’t imagine how a cat had saved someone’s life.
Ivan led them down the corridor again and out into the street. The sun was just starting to come up. Where had all the time gone? Alfie could have sworn they had only been in the hospital for a few minutes.
They walked across the foggy street and into the park across from the hospital where summer crowds gathered to watch baseball games, eat junk food and watch the big ships move through the raging river. It was eerily quiet but Alfie’s ears rang with the roars of the crowd and the chatter of people who had come to the park to get away from their offices or classrooms and enjoy the scent of freshly cut grass, blue skies and fresh air. If it had been a Sunday, there would have been at least one open air concert to listen to.
Ivan parked himself on a bench and looked out across the river. Alfie’s bad experience at the swimming pool was too fresh a memory for him to be comfortable with being so close to so much water.
“So what do you want to do?” Ivan asked.
“I’m only sort of getting used to what I can do,” Alfie answered truthfully. Her had heard Ivan say something about ‘two counts of physical force’ but he had no idea what that meant. To him, physical force was a punch in the nose.