The dim lights of the truck pass over the walls of the apartment building, passing over alternating reflections in windows with blinds drawn and brick wall. The clock in the car’s radio reads 10:40 p.m. as Carly pulls into one of the few empty parking spaces left.
“You stay here while I get your stuff upstairs, okay?” she says as she gets out, the cat still seated, tail wrapped tight around it. She goes up the concrete steps to the second floor, wincing and pausing her ascent each time one of the steps results in an booming echo. She walks past three of the maroon metal doors before crouching and placing her purchases to the left of the fourth door at the far corner of the building. She inserts the key and jiggles it back and forth before the deadbolt yields and the door can be opened.
There’s not really enough room for the belongings within, but what room there is is taken up by books and knick-knacks, short story collections and little sculptures of animals both natural and mythological. The walls not covered by shelving are an off-tan color, patchwork chunks peeled off in places. The coffee table is in a similar state, though its flaws are less noticeable due to its dark brown patina. It rests in front of the couch, not quite aligned with the brown faux-leather seat that is positioned such that its residents are facing the small flat screen tv perched on a sturdy cardboard box. As she walks in and puts down the cat supplies she moves from window to window, rotating the plastic rods until the slats of the blinds are closed. She takes off her shoes and socks and then turns and jogs back out of the apartment, bare feet making nary a noise as she goes back down to the truck.
“Here we are!” She places the cat in the entryway of the apartment and it looks around, neck craning and tail held high. It walks a ways into the room and then turns and sits, staring at Carly. She closes the door, turns the deadbolt, and then joins the cat on the floor, kneeling by it with her hands resting on her knees.
“So what am I going to name you?” The cat squeaks its response. “So manly. How about Fluffy?” The cat stares at her, then turns away, tail whipping once. “I was just joking! ‘Pet’ names are boring. Let’s see… and the first name that comes to mind is,” she draws out the ‘is,’ eyes closed in concentration, “Chuck! Chuck? Really? Well, I guess that’s it! Welcome home, Chuck.” Chuck looks over his shoulder and slowly blinks at her. “I know you’re well rested, but I need some sleep. Gotta work to feed your furry butt now as well as mine.” She frowns. “That didn’t come out right. Anyways, goodnight.”
The clock reads 1:14 a.m. as Chuck walks around in the shade shrouded apartment, rubbing his cheeks on the various corners he passes by, knocking some of the books off the coffee table. They thump onto the carpet below. Green eyes glow in the slivers of light that shine through the blinds from the street lamps outside. The light sounds of Carly sleeping come from the bedroom, with the occasional quick snort as her breath catches. A small scratching noise comes from the door, and Chuck’s head whips around to look at it. The scratching continues for a few minutes, Chuck sitting and staring at the door. And then the knob turns, the door opening, inch by inch.
( ©2015 Sean Dorsey )