This week’s theme is: Madness
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Mickey prowled the house. She paced from room to room, flicked through all 60 TV channels. Nothing interesting after another rotten day at work. I can go to the gym. No, don’t want to.
She hadn’t realized how graveyard still her house had become till her cell intoned the tinny version of a Rolling Stones top hit. Having wandered into the kitchen, she peered at the wall clock. Probably a telemarketer at 7:00 p.m.
An excited voice droned into her ear before she managed a hello. Yanking the cell away, she made a face and sighed. “I can’t understand a word. Can you slow down? Please” Working fingers through straight cinnamon hair, she prowled the length of the room.
A few words jumped out of the garbled rush, “…cruise…skill…question…”
“No thanks!” Her voice hung in the air, loud and ugly, as she flipped off the phone. “Why’d I pick up the darn thing?” She threw herself onto the sofa, limbs loose and sprawled like a rag doll.
She sat up. Attentive. What’s that? At first Mickey thought she’d imagined the faint sound. A baby crying? None of her neighbours were associated with any. She waited, then jumped up rushing to investigate outside the front and side doors and the windows open to the cooling May evening. The dead-end street remained silent. Empty. Lifeless. Waiting. Waiting for what? Stop it! Back and forth she strode down the hallway from the living-room to kitchen and back again. Listening between floor creaks.
“We do not have a cat.” A laugh simmered in her throat and she set it free till she cackled, beside herself. Wiping aside tears, she opened the front door again. Nothing on the porch or on the road. No cats anyway, which wasn’t unusual. The two old ladies with cats lived further up the short street and kept them housebound.
This is crazy. It’s as if a cat’s in the walls. She laughed again but didn’t sound merry at all. Ears plugged, head light, her heart bumped and ground.
Mickey yanked the broom out of the cleaning cupboard and poked about the kitchen beneath the chrome table and chairs and into all the empty corners. She continued through the bedroom, dining-room, living-room, and even the bathroom. She listened at the walls careful not to scape an ear on the white stuccoed living-room.
Where is the darn cat? Slashing her broom like a saber, she tore up the L-shaped stairs to the second floor. Inside empty closets, in half-decorated bedrooms, around and behind unpacked boxes she poked and crawled. Nothing. Down the stairs and two short flights more to the basement she raced. Lights on, she surveyed the rec room: burgundy carpet and orange couch. Bleh. No turning down free anything thanks to her husband.
A basement window stared half-lidded. The only one without a screen. Open. The only one not painted shut. Stupid. Stupid. Up on the milk crate beneath the window she’d last opened it, Mickey removed the supporting pole and latched the window shut. “All quiet on the subterranean front.” She giggled, a nervous vibration. A cleansing breath in and another one out, then another; her heart slowed to a steadier beat. Laundry-room. Check. Furnace room. Check. Closet. Check. Behind the bar. Check. “No cats and no mice. All is quiet. ”
The broom back in the cupboard, she realized night had fallen. A glance at the clock announced 10:15. Wow, over three hours gone. Is this place haunted or what? Work tomorrow. Bedtime calls. I’m talking to myself now?
Wide awake, Mickey had no idea if she was dreaming or not. Heart thrashing like a revving rocket, her eyes shot open. She couldn’t breathe. Where are you? What are you? Lightheaded and limb-rigid, she drew in air a silent gasp at a time.
“Meow.” The tone sounded angry and much too loud and close.
If it’s real, I bet the darn cat’s on the window’s ledge. Almost confident the cat yowled on the other side of the screen, she leaped out of bed. Hands swift behind the curtain, she wrenched the window pane down.
Hands over ears, Mickey shut her eyes and clenched her teeth. “You’re driving me crazy.” She grabbed her alarm clock-radio, pillow and blanket and slammed the bedroom door headed for the sofa. Sleep did not come. The plaintive meow persisted although weaker. She tossed and turned until the alarm jarred her into consciousness and onto the floor.
Tony sauntered in after his night shift as she finished applying mascara. “I’ve never been so happy to go to work as today.”
“Uh-huh.” He appeared tired as he kissed her on the cheek and headed towards the kitchen.
“Wait. I have to tell you— This house is haunted or something.” She rushed through the details until breathless.
Brow furrowed, her husband stared at her long and hard from the door jamb he leaned against.
“What? It’s madness, isn’t it. You think I’m crazy?”
”I hear it too. Wait here.” He flung the bedroom door aside. Mickey watched one-eyed around the corner as he pushed back the curtain. He roared with laughter, a belly laugh so deep he almost growled.
He called over his shoulder. “Come here.”
“Come here. You’re going to pee yourself.”
“Like I didn’t all last night?”
Tony stretched out a hand towards her. “Come on,” he said shaking with mirth.
“Ta-da.” His eyes grew large and he rushed to catch her as Mickey folded into the floor.
A cat pinned between the inside window pane and the screen glared back with dark, curse-hungry eyes. “Miaow!”