by Paul Lubaczewski
Hans watched the little man come up from the subway again. He had come to hate the minuscule man in his overcoat who came by here every day, along with his wooden box that he always carried as well. Something about his pinched face seemed so smug like heaven had opened its doors and allowed this little pipsqueak a peek inside for a look around. Every day he would walk by the newsstand where Hans worked, and every day Hans would come to hate him a little more.
They had never spoken a word to each other, but despite their lack of communication, that hatred had reached a fever pitch. Hans had had enough, enough to take action. He knew the little man would turn down an alley half a block from here. An alley? A dark and dangerous place? At his size? The little cretin was worse than smug, he was a fool as well. Hans dropped the board over the front of the newsstand and locked it. It would be worth losing a few sales to pound the smug off the twerp’s face.
Hans fingered the cosh he kept in his pocket in case of unruly customers. He doubted he needed it. No, the man he was hurrying after would barely be able to bruise Han’s fists, even if the big man took his time with him.
He could see the slight figure ahead of him, traipsing happily down the darkened alley.
“Oi! You! Wait a second!” he bellowed down the enclosed space his massive lungs making the walls resound with his voice.
The pint-sized man turned. “Oh, yes, can I help you?” he asked with a smile.
For a brief moment, the question put Hans off balance. For some reason, he had pictured the little man as being rude in his mind. Like he would demand to know who Hans was to question him. The moment passed and he said gruffly, “Every day, I see you walking by with that box. What in the hell is in the thing that makes you so damned happy?”
The object of his ire grinned widely and used a finger to push his glasses back up his nose. “Oh, it is a cat, or maybe it isn’t?”
Hans was befuddled, “What in the hell does that mean? It’s either a cat, or not!”
The little man continued to grin, “No, not necessarily. It could be a live cat or even a dead one or even none at all. You don’t know for sure until you look!”
Hans had to stop himself from taking a step back from the man, who was clearly a lunatic.
“I don’t want to be looking at no dead cat,” he gruffed.
“Ah, but the cat could be perfectly fine, you won’t know until you look.”
Hans had had enough, he reared back his fist to put an end to this ridiculous conversation. As he did, suddenly the light that had been coming in from the end of the alley was blotted out.
“Of course, there is an additional state the cat could be in.”
“What’s that?” Hans gulped.
There was a low rumbling growl behind Hans, so powerful it caused Hans’ very skin to vibrate. It was followed by a hiss so strong it ruffled Hans’ hair.
“The cat, could be out of the box,” the little man said, right before Hans started screaming.
∼ Read July’s story, “Gone Fishin’” by Scott Craven ∼