“Call Me Kitty,” a new Haunted Passages short story by Kelly Gray

Haunted Passages:
Kelly Gray

Call Me Kitty

I’m on my way to a party down the highway at one of the houses in town and I am feeling pretty good with three boys in the back of my car and my best friend riding shotgun. I have kissed two of the boys, but it is third boy that I really want to kiss, and I am wondering if he likes me or my best friend Violet more. Violet is tall with thick blonde hair that seems kind of ratty to me, but the way she moves it around her body like a horse gives her confidence that I notice. But I have a car and I have three boys in the back of it, and like I said, that is pretty good.

We are getting close to the house when I feel the back wheel raise just the slightest and something drags under the car. I can’t see anything in my rearview mirror. I try even though I want to keep driving. All I can see are highway reflectors. I know my foot is off the gas because the car is slowing down, but I am not on the brake yet. I can see the boys with their torsos twisted and they are looking out the back window, insisting I hit a raccoon. I look at Violet and she says yeah, it was just a raccoon, let’s keep going.

I park the car and ask everyone to wait for me because I have to put on lipstick. The mirror light shines on my face and it’s like I am on stage. Even though everyone is talking I am sure the boys are watching me drag red across both lips. I make my best face in the visor mirror before I snap it closed.

When we walk into the party, the host is standing in the middle of her living room with a cat in her arms. It is black and looks like it is sleeping except its mouth is open the wrong way. Its little teeth are showing too much gum and are bloodied. The host is crying while everyone else is quiet. We stand to the side by the door we just came through. The host is starting to wail. She is asking questions like who would hit a cat and not even tell the owner.

The host lives on a highway and I find it tacky that she is suggesting someone didn’t tell her on purpose. There is even a gas station across from her house. Why isn’t she asking herself why she lives on this highway or why she lets her cat out on streets. Plus, we know there is a lot of wildlife out there that will kill a cat, like owls and dogs that don’t belong to anyone. She’s starting to feel a little disingenuous.

The cat’s face is flat. I think that’s partially why no one is talking to the host or asking her to shut up. No one wants to take a chance on her. I look sideways at third boy and he’s not moving but he looks like maybe he feels sad for her. His head is tilted to one side and his bottom lip is kind of pouty. I don’t know this girl well, but I am starting to get over feeling terrible about killing her cat.

I suspect she’s enjoying the attention. I wouldn’t go so far as to think well, probably she has fantasies about her cat dying at one of her parties and everyone circling her like she is prettier than she is and making sad faces at her. But I do think she likes it and maybe didn’t even like her cat. If you’re going to let your cat be on a highway and you’re going to invite this many people to your house, you’re creating intersections that someone is going to have to cross.

We leave the party pretty quickly. Violet suggests that it is best not to tell the host that I ran over her cat, primarily for our own safety. The three boys agree and so do I. We are practically neighbors, only a long stretch of highway separates us. I keep saying we ran over her cat, but third boy tells me that is wrong. He says it was me. I guess there is no one else to implicate even though I had been ill advised by the passengers in my car. I killed her cat, and I didn’t tell her. But they didn’t tell her either and now we are drinking beer in the cypress grove. The boys are starting to build a bonfire, so everyone splits up to go look for moss and branches. I follow third boy and ask him if he wanted to stay at the party, because we can go back if that is more fun or maybe we can walk deeper into the swamp and stay the night under cottonwood trees. I have blankets in my car.

Third boy is one of those boys with arms that look like man-arms but his face will look like a boy-face for a long time. He always looks dusty without being dirty and even those dicks on the football team like him. He tells me he was excited about the party ever since the host girl had promised to show him her vinyl record collection. I just stare at him so he asks me if I am OK which I like. I don’t answer yet but I am OK because we are at the swamp and I can’t hear Violet or the two other boys, it’s like the night sucked them up and now I am on a very small planet with my favorite person. It’s just me and third boy and the stars are so bright you can see them doing shimmies in the water. I think maybe he will want to kiss me if I tell him something very sad instead of telling him I am OK, so I start to talk about the cat and how much I love cats.

I tell him about all the kittens I had growing up because my mother refused to have the female cat fixed and they really liked to fuck. Those were my dad’s words, “really liked to fuck.” I told third boy about how good it felt to be in bed when my dad would dump a pile of kittens all over me. Their little claws would snag on my skin and sometimes they would bite me. One time I held one in my hands and its little belly was so round and cute I bit it right back and it made a weird sound like I had betrayed it or maybe caused internal bleeding. I didn’t tell him that part. I did tell them they all died and that is true. I didn’t tell him how my dad would have me drown them one at a time swamp side, even when I was crying so hard I couldn’t see the work to be done. This is not the most romantic thing you can say so I don’t. I try to get my face in the star light and look slightly sad, but not all the way sad, and hope that third boy puts his pouty lips on me.

Oh wow, he says, and he starts walking back to the others. As I try to catch up, he says that must have been hard missing all those kittens, and now, to have killed that cat, I must feel terrible. I do feel terrible. This night is getting sideways away from me and now I can see Violet kissed at least one of the two other boys because her lipstick is smeared. I look at the two boys, but there isn’t enough light to see who has Violet’s smeared lipstick on his face.

I stand real close to third boy so that he can feel how sad I am. I tell him more and more about the kittens, but not about how light their bodies were in the bag. I start to whimper a little and lean into him, careful to avoid letting on that my dad dumped the kittens on the breakfast table so my mother would take the female cat to get fixed. Slut cat, my dad kept saying. One of the kittens fell across the sweet salty butter. Breakfast was ruined.

Third boy is listening because that is the type of person he is. I bet he can feel my pain. He offers to go back to the party with me so I can get square and let host girl know how sorry I am. This is probably a way to get alone with me. My nipples are getting hard as we move through the night back to my car.

In the car I leave my door open a little bit so he can see me in the light. I hold my knees together and hope he notices there is a space between my thighs. He asks me if I have everything I need which I do, so I close the door and start the car. I pull out onto the highway slow like, driving carefully so that he can see I am always cautious on the road.

Third boy is talking a lot which allows me to look at his profile. He has a strong face, his hair curling out in ringlets beneath his baseball hat. I can smell him even with the window down. He smells like cologne from the mall and he also smells like new T-shirt. I imagine his arms wrapped around me while I look into his eyes and he confesses his feelings for me. I imagine throwing my arms around his neck and we are dancing in the headlights across the highway, each of us smiling and full of promises and tongue. I feel like panting I am so happy. His voice says to my face, I have had a crush on her for two months, so I really appreciate us going back to the party.

I almost slam on the breaks. I work my ears to get his voice clear. Having just been ripped from his arms is difficult but I understand the gravity of the situation upon us. I listen more closely to his words. host girl is that pretty. She is that pretty and that sad and we are driving back. I am to apologize to her and after that he will take her into a back room. They will share secrets until it is time for him to kiss her. She will be chosen, and that gaudy dead cat will probably come back to life and purr and purr and purr.

As I am driving I am thinking about host girl. I bet I have seen his car at her house before. I thought maybe he was waiting for a friend at the gas station. Maybe once on a different night, I saw host girl outside in a pink dress holding that black cat when its face wasn’t flat, right by the sign that said Slow Down, Cat Crossing. I suppose that when I saw that sign tonight, I sped up. Just a little. I was excited to get there and kiss third boy. I was going to kiss him and when the cat ran out in front of my accelerating car, I was thinking about which room I would kiss him in. I’ve never kissed someone in a washroom before, sitting on a washing machine. I could turn it on and listen to the water start to fill up, our lips touching just as the machine begins to slosh. We would laugh with his hands around my waist, trying to keep me still and put his tongue in my mouth.

When I saw the black shape jet out across the highway, I let my right foot go down and the car lurched forward. I was so excited for the party. Now, we are getting closer to the party for the second time, just me and third boy, and I am not that excited. Back at the swamp under the cottonwood trees, Violet is probably showing the other boys how she can blow bubbles with her tongue and all I have is my dad’s car. Really likes to fuck, he says.

I see host girl stepping out of her yard, people are hugging her goodbye and she is leaning into a car window. Her dress blows up in the wind, she doesn’t look sad now. She looks like a vulgar girl who is standing in the highway and I have third boy riding shotgun and I start to feel pretty good again as I let my right foot go down a little harder.

Kelly Gray is a writer living on Coast Miwok land in a very small cabin among the tallest and quietest trees in the world. Her writing has recently appeared in Southern Humanities Review, Northwest Review, Passages North, and Newfound. She is the recipient of the Neutrino Short-Short Prize from Passages North and the ArtSurround Cohort Grant. Her collections include Instructions for an Animal Body (Moon Tide Press), Tiger Paw, Tiger Paw, Knife, Knife (Quarter Press), and My Fingers are Whales and Other Stories of Cetology (Moon Child Press). Her chapbook, Quag Daughter, is forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press. You can read more of her work at writekgray.com.

Image: pond5.com

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