Here is my entry for Round 11 of NPR’s Three-Minute Fiction short story contest. The prompt was to write a story about someone finding something that they do not intend to give back. The title of my entry is “A Cat From the Field Next to a House.” It didn’t win.
A man knocked on my front door this evening. I saw him blurred through the lace blinds between the window glass and me. He stood there in his dark slacks and loose tie with his head down with light lining his edges by the sun behind him, and I stood looking at him through a small ripped slit in the floral blinds covering the window and the lace blinds and me. I knew he couldn’t see me because he didn’t know where to look.
He knocked on the door again. I didn’t answer again, and he looked back towards the street. He must have thought that no one was home and that he might as well go on and try to knock on the next house. There is no next house though. We are the last house before the field and its high wheat. The field will be more houses soon though, they say. The field is still a field now though. But he didn’t know any better either way, and so he turned and tried to leave. I thought about letting him, and I would have if Tom hadn’t have insisted I talk to him to let him know everything would be o.k.
“You be quiet, o.k. Tom? I’ll handle this.”
Tom didn’t respond, and I opened the door. The light outside was all the way out from the man’s sides and it hit my cheeks so that they felt warm and red, and there was no breeze to move the wheat. The man turned back towards the house when the door made the sound that it always has when it opens.
“Can I help you?”
“I didn’t think that anyone was home,” he said and stepped towards me, and I stayed where I was behind the screen door. “I’m hoping you can help me; my cat is missing. Well, actually, it’s my daughter’s.”
I had already known why he was at my door. I had seen the same papers he was holding in his hands on the light poles on the street corners I pass by on my walks. I couldn’t help him though. I knew that too. Not like he wanted or hoped I could. But I opened the screen door enough to grab a piece of paper from the man when he handed one to me, and I looked at it like I hadn’t seen one before.
“I don’t believe we’ve met,” I said, because we hadn’t. “My name is Sue, and I live here alone.”
He told me that it was nice to meet me and that he had just moved here with his wife and daughter and that his daughter’s cat must have gotten lost because it wasn’t yet used to the new house, and didn’t that just figure, what with all the other stresses and worries of moving into a new house in a new town. I said something about how nice it was to have a nice young family in the neighborhood and something about keeping my eyes open for it. “At least as best as I can at my age.”
The man left, and the light outside was gone enough to where there were no bright blurred lines around anything. The wind picked up and blew the wheat so that it swayed back and forth like it did every night, like it always had.