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Fred

Fred

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Published by OwlKeller

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Published by: OwlKeller on Aug 14, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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08/14/2012

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When I pull up in front of my house, my neighbor, two doors down and across thestreet, is outside sitting on his steps, smoking a cigarette. I’ve never spoken to him. I getout of my car. An ambulance screams down the street a block or two away. I look acrossthe street. Our eyes meet. I nod at him. He nods back. We are not alone. Other peopleare restless like us, roaming around in the dark, being rescued or saving others, or justminding their own business, like the guys at the 24-hour convenience store half a mileaway or the black-and-white cat who jumps my garden wall. Scout never let cats into our yard. Now that he’s gone, every cat in the neighborhood wants to hang out at our place.I look back at my house. It’s dark except the TV that casts a dim light on Danielsitting behind it watching. I look back at my neighbor. He waves me over. I cross thestreet. I’ve never seen my neighbor up close like this. He is tall and has big brown eyes,magnified by the strength of his prescription glasses.“Nice night,” he says.“Very nice,” I say. “Is that your cat? The black and white one who just went intomy yard?”“No,” he says.“Do you know who it belongs to?” I say.“No,”“It’s making a mess in my yard.”“Cats don’t make messes, dogs do. All of that running around and digging and barking.”“My dog just died.”
 
“I know,” he says. “Mighty quiet night, don’t you think?” I narrow my eyes athim. Scout died of natural causes but it sad to think of anyone in the neighborhoodwishing him ill.“You don’t like dogs?” More sirens up the block, this time screaming in theopposite direction.“No,” he says, “I just like the sound of ambulances.” I have to smile at that.“Couldn’t hear them over your fool dog,” he says and smiles back. He’s right. Scoutwas loud. It made him very effective at what he did best. Protecting me.“What’s your name?” he asks.“I’m Jane,” I say.“Cigarette, Jane?”“No thanks.”“You don’t smoke?”I shake my head. He pats the place on his stoop next to him. I look back at myhouse. Daniel stands up and leaves the living room.“Are you going to sit down or not?” asks Fred.I shrug. I sit. I am not to sure what I am doing here. It is weird sitting across thestreet, looking at my house. If Scout was still alive, he would be at the front door barkinghis head off. He would have never have let me cross the street without him. He lookedforward to my coming home, to going out with me for a walk, and after that, to his kibbleand sitting next to me on the couch.“Whatcha doing out?” he says.“I was at work,” I say.
 
“Oh,” he says. “Late to be at work on a Friday night.”“And your name is?”“Fredrick, but call me Fred.”Fred takes a deep drag on his cigarette then sends a big lazy smoke ring outhovering in front of us. I don’t smoke, but I’ve kissed men who do. They taste bitter butyou get used to it. After a while it tastes good. You start to crave that small jolt of second-hand saliva.“What kind of fantasies you have?” Out of the blue, just like that, he asks me if Ihave fantasies.“I don’t have fantasies.”“What do you mean you don’t have fantasies?”“I have nightmares,” I say. “I don’t have fantasies.”“If you have nightmares, you can have fantasies.” I shrug. I’m shrugging a lot.Maybe I’m trying to shrug him off. Maybe I’m not. He keeps talking. “Everyone hasfantasies. Maybe you just don’t notice them. Maybe you just gotta let go, let yourself have them. They’re there. Everyone has them.”Across the street at our place another cat jumps the fence and goes into our yard.I hear a hiss and a yowl, then nothing. The cats piss and fuck all over my back yard. Isearch it for signs of cat life in the daylight. I can’t even tell they’ve been there. I missScout.“What do you do?” says Fred.“I don’t know what to do about them. I can’t go around killing everyone’s cats.”“I mean what do you do for a living? What’s your line of work?”

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