They say a cat can steal a sleeping person’s breath. I don’t know about that, but I do know this: when I woke up this morning, I couldn’t breathe.
I couldn’t breathe, but that didn’t hold me back any. I got up and brushed my teeth. Pulled on shirt and pants. Drank a cup of joe, then walked out to the end of the driveway to get the newspaper. That’s when I saw the cat.
The last time that damn stray came by, it strolled up my front walk, proud as you please, a bloody mouse dangling from its teeth. The time before that, it sat on my back fence and howled. I threw an old sneaker and it ran off. The time before that…
This time the stray sat on the curb near my mailbox. Nothing else. Just sat. Stared. Watched, maybe. It looked pissed as all hell. But then, it always did. It might’ve been a cat, but it had a resting bitch face. It was an enormous tom, bigger than any I’d ever seen. Or at least, I assume it is. I could be wrong. Under that wild mess of black fur, behind those narrow yellow eyes, there might be nothing more than skull and bones.
Or there might be…nothing.
I opened my mouth to yell. No sound came out. Oh, yeah. Right. I still wasn’t breathing. I picked up the newspaper and pitched it at the tom. I’ve got a good arm—hit the blasted thing dead center. It screeched and shot into the bushes.
Good riddance. I picked up the paper and headed back to the house.
After I read the news, I checked my email. Inbox was full. A bunch of people asking me a lot of questions. I tried to answer, best I could, but the Internet was crap that morning. No matter how many times I clicked, my replies refused to send. Finally, exasperated, I looked away from the screen.
Bitch-face cat stared back at me.
How the hell did you get in here?
I tried to shout at it, but my voice box still wasn’t working. Fine time to come down with a case of laryngitis. But even though I couldn’t make a sound, the cat knew well enough it wasn’t welcome. It smirked and swished its tail. Rising on all fours, it stretched its butt in the air and then slipped out of the room.
I followed. I wanted that animal out of my home. But instead of leaving the way it came, it lingered in the foyer. When I tried to grab it, it streaked up the stairs.
Oh, no you don’t.
I ran up after it. At the top, I caught a glimpse of tail disappearing through my bedroom door. I stalked in after it. I didn’t get much past two steps into the room. The stray was there, all right. Seated on my bed like some damn Egyptian Sphinx.
Right on top of someone’s chest.
I looked closer.
Right on top of my chest.
I wasn’t up after all—I was still in bed.
And I wasn’t breathing.