One of These Days

The one-eyed cat hissed before pushing out the screen door. Salty Jack, the old shopkeeper, put down the obsidian paperweight he was fixing to hurl at the mangy puss. “Piece of shit cat,” he spat, his spittle scattering the gang of fruit flies that had descended on the week-old cherry pie on the counter. Jack swatted at the flies in front of his face and watched them settle back on the sugary crust.

“One of these days,” he said. “One of these days I’m gonna get that cat.”

The shopkeeper reached for his Bowie knife and eyed the door. Come to papa, he thought, running his arthritic thumb over the tip of the blade while fantasizing about what he’d do if he ever caught the scrawny feline. “Christ,” Jack swore when he absentmindedly nicked his thumb.

“Piece of shit cat,” he muttered again, wiping blood on his grimy jeans.

When the screen door creaked, Jack looked up to see the one-eyed cat slink back into the room. If he didn’t know better, he would have thought she was grinning.

“One of these days,” repeated the old man. “One of these days I’m gonna wring your flea-bitten neck.”

Instead of unleashing her usual asthmatic hiss, the cat reared back and howled. And before the dumbfounded shopkeeper could utter a curse or think about grabbing his paperweight or knife, the cat crouched low, shot across the room, and leapt straight for the man’s throat, burying her claws deep into his face and sinking her fangs into his leathery neck.

It didn’t take long for Salty Jack’s screams to turn into a muted gurgling noise. The cat continued to hold on to the shopkeeper’s face and throat even when he fell backwards off his stool and cracked the back of his head on the hardwood floor.

Across the street, an old hunchbacked woman shut the door of her battered camper van and limped toward the shop. For decades, she’d roamed the backroads, travelling from town to town earning a meager living from the sale of her exotic potions, tonics, and charms. Just last week, she’d visited Salty Jack’s shop looking for supplies when he rudely kicked her out, saying he didn’t want any toothless hags rummaging through his wares.

“Here kitty, kitty,” cooed the woman in the sing-song voice she used to summon and control her familiars. The cat answered with a loud, long, satisfied purr before releasing her death-grip on the shopkeeper and bolting out the door, leaving behind a trail of slick, red paw prints to mark her path.

Barely conscious, Salty Jack groaned as the woman entered the shop.

“Remember me?” she asked, emitting a raspy cackle when catching the flash of recognition in the man’s eyes.

Kneeling beside the shopkeeper, the hunchbacked woman murmured an ancient incantation while opening a satchel filled with empty Mason jars, a rubber suction hose, and other tools of her arcane craft.

“This won’t take long,” whispered the woman as she inserted the rubber hose into the old man’s neck and began to fill the first jar. “Not long at all.”