99 Lives

“Hell, we all appear crazy when judged on our possessions.” An offering of flash fiction embracing life’s eccentricities that we cultivate as we age…

by: Jacob Schroeder

We added the last garbage bags to the pile on the lawn. The sharp odor of cat piss penetrated the bandanas tied around our faces. I noticed a trail of litter leading back into the house and figured I’d leave it for someone else, whoever that someone else would be.

“What do you think will happen to the house?” I asked.

“I don’t know. It’s not in our names or anything,” my brother said. “Maybe the bank takes it?”

I nodded.

“Why all the cats?” he asked.

I shrugged. It was the question everyone always asked. Ninety-nine cats in a single-story house with an old, solitary woman and then, for some time, no one knows for sure how long, a corpse.

“Jesus. What happened to them all? It’s a miracle they are all still alive,” my bother said.

“I think they were taken to a shelter. At least, the good ones.”

“Who would’ve thought Nana would become a crazy cat lady?”

“Men do it, too. There’s crazy animal men as well, I mean.”

“She grew crazier with each new cat. Just think about Christmas. Her gifts became more bizarre every year.”

“I thought they were fine, just those quirky things that one relative buys.”

“Quirky? Remember the embryos in jars of formaldehyde last year? The commemorative brick at that park in Cincinnati? Who the fuck in our family has been to Cincinnati? The pumpkin-spiced edible underwear?!”

“Okay. I suppose you’re right,” I said. “Think we’ll ever get like that?”

“Sure, we all do,” he said. “Hell, we all appear crazy when judged on our possessions.”

My brother spit, and although he’d denied it, I think he started to cry, too.

“No one said anything before, but us. And no one’s here to help clean up the mess now, but us.”

I put my hand on his shoulder to try to calm him down. He shook his head.

“Nah, we’ll be alright,” he said. “Always have.”

We got into the car. When we looked back at the house one last time, a marmalade cat was on the porch. It stared down at us as if expecting something.

“What should we do with it?” I asked.

“Nothing,” my brother said. “Let it be.”

As we pulled away, the cat turned and sauntered inside. We had left the doors and windows wide open to let the house breathe.

 

Jacob Schroeder is a writer living in Detroit, Michigan. His work has previously been published at Across the Margin, as well as a bevy of other publications including Lunch Ticket, Flash: The International Short Short Story Magazine, Rum Punch Press and Maudlin House.

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