the animals i saw, no. 1
(Short fiction in shorter increments.)
It was the time of year when the animals took over, though they were no trouble until later. I noticed the stray cats first. Carrying a tarp from Melch’s truck down the path by the lake, I saw a tabby sunning on the steps of the Petersons’ front porch. It was not theirs. When I stopped to look at it, I noticed another — fat and black, with a white belly — in the shadow of the juniper shrubs. Climbing the ladder in the back of the Johnsons’, I saw still a third — a mangy calico — sleeping under a chair on the deck next door.
The lake caught the afternoon sunlight, reflecting it with less intensity than just weeks previous, as if to finally collect some for itself. Save a dinghy bobbing at a distant dock, the water was devoid of boats. The quiet of the town in the off-season had shocked me at first.
During my first night in the Beckett house — Melch had given me the keys — I pulled the sheet from the upright piano. Depressing the sustain pedal, I tentatively played a chord. It spread through the house like an intruder. In bed, I could still hear it decaying, a vague hum now imprinted in the floorboards. I would have to leave a note apologizing, I thought. Unable to sleep, I sat at their kitchen table and ate stale saltines they’d left in the cupboard, trying to work up the nerve to enter the house that was rightfully mine.