The Books and Novels to Read.com Compendium of Short Stories compiled by Terry Callister on the Independent Author Index
This is an eclectic collection of short stories from authors associated with Books and Novels to Read.com. The stories cover a whole range of emotions, from love to revenge and just about everything in between. The short story, Favors by Wayne Zurl, appears in this compilation.
The Cat Nap by Joe Perrone Jr.
The hot sun beat down upon my exposed neck like a blast furnace. I wanted to move, but didn’t dare. Something deep inside, something primal, told me I had better remain where I was – or else. I pressed my body closer to the hot, steamy earth, and smelled the fetid aroma that permeated the soil, and clung to my flesh like a damp blanket. I knew that if I so much as twitched a muscle, took even the smallest breath, it would know, and it would find me.
I had been holed up in the shallow furrow of plowed earth for so long that I felt as if I had become part of the moist, loamy soil that lay black and rotting around me. Revolting, yet welcoming all the same, with its offer of safety. How long had I been here? It seemed like hours. I couldn’t recall when the nightmare had begun – or where, or how – it just was. I thought back to the beginning; when I had first felt its presence – the beast.
Was it in the bedroom? Or had it been on the porch, as I lay beneath the old chaise lounge, protected I thought by the irregular striped pattern cast upon me by the dank, rotting strips of canvas that covered the rain-swollen wooden frame, bent by years of exposure to the sun, wind, rain and snow. It had been the perfect retreat. I’d be safe there, I had thought. But, wait, maybe it had been the bedroom, after all; that was where I spent most of my time, curled up against the soft, down pillow, that smelled of geese, and reminded me of ancient times.
Never mind where the nightmare had begun, or when. It was real, and it was happening now. I trembled almost imperceptibly, and took shallow gulps of air, trying not to reveal myself to it – the beast. Slowly, cautiously, it began to move away, making low, rumbling noises that reverberated along the ground, as it crept silently toward the farmhouse, and away from me. With each passing second, I felt relief wash over me, like layers of an onion peeled slowly away from its core. My breathing became regular, and I almost felt like I wanted to pant, but couldn’t. In exaggerated slow motion I opened my eyes; first one, then the other, peering about with anxious anticipation. I didn’t dare to move. What if it had just moved away a short distance? Then what? It surely would return and tear me limb from limb, jaws stretching wide, teeth bared, gleaming fangs exposed, shiny white with saliva, with its huge, swollen, red tongue slashing wildly from side to side. I couldn’t risk it. I had to remain in place; but, for how long? My body ached from inactivity, my joints burned, and my fur felt like the shell of a roasted peanut.
I decided to take a chance. Like a turtle, I swiveled my head from side to side, half expecting the beast to appear, but praying that it wouldn’t. I gulped air furiously, straining to inflate the fleshy bellows that would fortify my blood, permitting me to make one last, furious rush to safety. This was it. With every ounce of strength I possessed, I launched myself from the ditch. My legs churned like pistons. My arms pumped furiously, slashing the air in a desperate attempt to maintain the delicate balance between running and falling. The farmhouse grew closer, and for a brief moment I permitted myself to think the unthinkable – that perhaps I would actually escape. I might make it back to the porch and the inside of the house – maybe even back to the safety of the bedroom, and my pillow.
That’s when I heard the unmistakable sound of its howling voice, screaming like a banshee, as it closed on me like a runaway freight train. I turned my head and gasped. It was almost upon me. I could hear it snarling, feel its hot breath enveloping me like a noxious cloud, and I forced myself not to inhale the smell of dead animals, liver, kidneys, chicken and pork bi-products, and all those natural ingredients that made up its diet – of canned dog food. It may have had a name, this canine monster, but to me it was just one thing – it was the beast. And it was snapping at my heels, its saliva spraying the back of my legs, as I sprinted headlong toward my goal.
Then, as if by magic, the farmhouse appeared. Had I willed it to be so? I couldn’t be sure. But, it was there. And, there too, was the little opening – designed just for me – with its small, transparent, plastic flap, hinged on top, beckoning like the open doors of a cathedral. Sanctuary! In a single bound, I leaped at the door, and felt my head smash against the acrylic surface of the flap. It gave, and swung inward, and I shot through, first my head, then my body, and finally, my tail. There was a violent crash, and the door shuddered, but held fast, as the beast slammed into the surface. It collapsed in a heap just outside, and for a moment was still. Then, I heard it sniffing around the opening, scratching at the impenetrable surface of the door, and I felt a shiver of fear run through me, then relief, when I realized that it couldn’t possibly gain entry. Finally, whining with frustration, and panting from exhaustion, the beast slinked away in defeat, and I felt myself relax at last. I trotted through the kitchen, and on into the bedroom in the back of the house. The door was open, and I peered inside, half expecting the beast, but realizing that that was impossible. With a sigh of relief, I lay down upon the bed, curled up against the safety of the ancient down pillow, and closed my eyes.
A moment later, it seemed, I awoke, and looked down at my companion, sandwiched peacefully between my legs. The little Calico purred, and rubbed insistently against me. I reached down, and patted her gently on the top her head. She purred louder, seemingly relieved of some unspeakable burden. Then I heard a noise at the bedroom door. It was my wife. She walked in, sat down next to me on the bed, and caressed my forehead.
“So, did you two have a nice little cat nap?”
I felt a stirring next to me, looked down at my furry companion, and our eyes met in mutual understanding. I smiled, started to speak; then stopped.
What’s the use, I thought, you’d never believe me anyway.
Copyright© Terry Callister. All rights reserved.