Writing, Photography, & Random Esoterica
Wherein the author will share some of his work with the adoring public. Call your friends, grab a drink, pull up a chair, and read some stories from a soon-to-be famous writer and international man of mystery. Now is your last chance to say you liked him before he was cool...he said humbly.
Articles by Chris
Photos by Chris
Author's note: Another early story. As I was putting this story onto the website, I got the impression that this was not the most recent version. I'm positive that I had re-written the ending, but for the life of me, I have no idea where else I would have saved it.
Jase had not seen the cat that was stuck in the tree before. The only cats that came into his yard was his next door neighbor's huge orange fur ball, a calico with a crooked tail that lived up the block somewhere, and a sleek miniature panther that kept the block mostly free of squirrels and swallows. The cat's meowing had woken him a few minutes earlier than his alarm would have, continued through his push-ups and sit-ups and lunges, came through the traffic updates and morning show banter on the radio as he got dressed and checked his email: some grumpy political rant from his friend Thatcher, no reply to messages he'd sent on the dating site the night before. Getting into his car to drive to work, he wondered if he should try to get it down. If it could get up there, it could get down, he decided.
When he come home at lunch that day, the cat was still there, mewing incessantly.
"Here, kitty kitty kitty," he called from the base of the tree, feeling terribly foolish. Cats, he was pretty certain, were like women; they rarely came when you asked them directly. At least in his experience. You had to lure them; he then went into the kitchen and ran the can opener. That had always brought the cats at his grandma's place running when he stayed with her while his parents divided their lives in half. There was no response from the cat. He tried again with the window open. He couldn't be sure, but he thought the cat's ears had twitched.
"Playing hard to get, huh?" From the cabinet, he took out a can of tuna and plopped it onto the can opener, scooped out a few forkfuls onto a paper plate and carried the plate out to the tree.
"Here you go, kitty," he said, holding the plate up as high as he could, hoping the smell would reach. He set the plate down at the base of the tree and went inside to have lunch before heading back to work. Sitting down at his computer with a bowl of cereal and a slice of pizza leftover from football night a couple days earlier, he found a reply from blueeyesss1981.
Thank you for the nice message. It is very good to wake up to compliments :)
No, I am not Russian. Actually am from ukraina. Similar but different, and my father family is from Russia, so my name sounds like Russian. I forgive you for making mistake about it. ;)
I live here in Tulsa for only 1 year. Moved from Virginia for work. I came to USA 3 years ago, long story.
Too much to say. Maybe I should take your offer of drinks later this week to tell you a whole story ;)
Jase thought for a moment before replying. Her message had come in at eight twenty-six; she'd probably read his message from the dating site right after getting to work. Was sending one back at lunch too fast? He wondered what his more experienced friends would do. Would Charles reply immediately after getting a message like that? Jase doubted he would. That guy really had a gift for getting women to throw themselves at him, Jase remembered well, like he was a rock star walking into the Tokyo airport.
Jase closed the browser and took his plate to the kitchen. The cat's mewing was just as loud as it had been, maybe even louder. He looked out the window. Another cat, it looked like Mrs. Rafferty's orange ball of fat, was hunched over the plate of tuna.
"Un-fucking-believable," he muttered, pulling the screen open on the window. "Shoo, scram. Get lost."
Neither cat replied. Looking around the kitchen for something to throw, he settled on the tin foil roll which was so comically long that it couldn't fit in any of the drawers. He made a ball of the stuff and tossed it out the window at the cat. It sliced to the right and landed several feet from the Rafferty interloper, who glanced up at the distraction, then went back to stealing the tuna. Jase made another foil ball and threw it. This one hit the orange cat in the rump. The cat leapt up a good foot, impressive for such a corpulent fur pile.
As happy as he was to get rid of the thief, he knew it was an impotent victory. Rafferty's cat or someone else's would be back as soon as he left. Or rats, possums, raccoons. He didn't actually know if possums or raccoons would eat tuna, but he suspected that the adage 'beggars can't be choosers' applied equally in the vermin community as it did among people.
"Screw Charles." Jase jogged back to the spare-room-slash-office and sent a reply to Katya Volskaya. Beautiful name, apologies for guessing the wrong country, very curious about why you came to the States; what did she think of Tulsa; drinks would be lovely, he knew a great, quiet place that had seriously excellent house red..
"You better be gone by the time I get home." The tabby in the tree looked down at him and stopped crying for a beat or two. Jase hoped that meant it was getting the idea.
The cat was still there when he got home. Checking his email every twenty minutes, the cat mewed. Watching a game he'd TiVo'ed, the cat's cries were worse than vuvuzelas. News, mews. Jon Stewart and The Cat Report. He considered Googling up some porn, but the desperate cries of the stupid tabby ruined the mood. Around eleven he went into the backyard and looked at the cat.
"Come on, kitty. You got up there. Surely you can get down. Please?" The cat looked at him, but the mew, mew, mew continued as shrilly as ever. He tried shaking the tree but the trunk was just too thick to really move much at all.
"Seriously, cat. You gotta be hungry, right? If you come down I'll give you the rest of the tuna. It's really good."
Mew, mew, mew.
With a heavy sigh, he went back into the house, took a couple of melatonin pills, crammed his head under a pillow and dreamt of Russian cats eating Mrs. Rafferty.
Katya replied again just before eight-thirty. Red wine was her favorite, but a bottle might be a better choice, or didn't he know that Eastern European women were expert drinkers? She would be free the next night, so it would be good if he were too.
Jase didn't go home for lunch, figuring the cat would just annoy him. When he got home that evening, the cat was still in the tree.
"Oh for fuck's sake."
Thirty minutes later, the crying of the cat drove him out of the house. He called a couple of old college buddies and talked them into some Thursday night beer and pool. Pulling out of the driveway, he noticed Mrs. Rafferty staring at him from her front window.
"Ukrainian chick, huh?" Thatcher shook his head as Jase racked the table for a game of cut-throat. He was alternating between long swigs of beer and nicotine gum. The kids at the next table were smoking some sort of acrid clove things. Every time the smoke wafted towards Thatcher, he'd blow it away and scowl aggressively.
"Better be careful, man. I heard this story on like Sixty Minutes or some shit, really successful dot-cot genius programmer dude bought a Russian bride on the internet. He ended up murdering her, allegedly," Will offered, coming back from the bar with a bucket of domestic bottles.
"In that scenario, shouldn't you be warning Katya to be careful of me?" Jase asked. Thatcher chimed in.
"Well, no, because one, she's not a mail-order bride. Two, you said she's Ukrainian, not Russian. And three, you are neither successful nor a genius. So really, that case doesn't apply here at all."
"Thanks for clearing that up, douche. You're up."
Jase scratched on his turn, lost a couple of his balls to Will and one to Thatcher, knocked one each of theirs in but scratched again and they returned their lost balls to the table.
"Christ on a stick, man. Get your head in the game," Thatcher barked after Jase table scratched, an impressive feat considering how many balls were still on the felt. A loud thwack: the cue ball from the next table over flew off and rolled between Thatcher's legs.
"Hey! Assholes! Watch what you're doing!" He grabbed the ball from the floor and raised it up like he was going the pitch it across the room. Will plucked the cue from Thatcher's hand and tossed it underhand back to one of the young men playing next to them.
Thatcher popped another piece of nicotine gum in his mouth and struck the cue so hard on his next play that it popped up and crashed into a clump of solids and stripes at the other end of the table, sinking nothing. Will put one of Thatcher's and two more of Jase's down before missing an easy shot, eliciting amusing if sharp mockery from Thatcher. Jase knocked Will's 12 in, but the cue betrayed him and bumped another of his own into the pocket. He was out on Will's turn.
"Dude, what's up? I think we can all agree that you suck donkey cock when it comes to pool, but tonight, that's a whole new level of suck you're working with" Thatcher commented after the game. Jase shrugged.
"Yeah, man. Something going on? You worried about the Russkie?" from Will.
"Nah, I'm not going to let myself get too excited about her," he said, barely trying to hide the lie. "It's this fucking cat."
"You got another girl?" Will asked, suddenly wide-eyed and leaning forward, his beard twitching as he chewed on a swizzle stick.
"What? No. People haven't referred to girls as cats in like three decades. A real cat. It's stuck in my tree."
"So, just shake the pussy out."
"You think I didn't try that?"
Thatcher tossed out some more ideas, all of which Jase had either tried or found ludicrous. Thatcher pushed his stool back from the table with a hard shove, popped another piece of nicotine gum in his mouth, and said that Jase was fucking impossible.
Will was still leaning forward, a serious look on his face.
"Show you what?" Jase asked while Thatcher shook his head.
"Show me the cat."
Back at Jase's house, the men took some beers from the fridge into the backyard despite the mid-autumn chill of the night. The cat's crying had grown hoarse and quieter. Jase, Will, and Thatcher stood a few feet from the tree and stared up at the pitiful animal without saying anything for several minutes.
"What is this, oak?" Will broke the silence, reaching out and running his fingers on the bark. Thatcher shook his head.
"Don't be dense, man. It's an elm."
Will nodded and seemed to consider this information carefully.
"So, why exactly did you want to see that cat?" Jase asked after another moment of somber beer sipping. Thatcher shrugged and tilted his head to Will.
"I don't, you know, I guess it just felt like we should do something." He scratched at his beard.
"So, then, any ideas?" Jase looked first at Will and then at Thatcher. Thatcher pulled out his smartphone and started typing. Will looked down at kicked his toe at a protruding tree root.
"He, she, it is starting to sound bad. I'm glad it's a little quieter, but I hope it doesn't..." Jase didn't really want to say die, but he wasn't sure why not. Will nodded knowingly. Thatcher grimaced at the bright screen bathing him in a sickly blue light.
"Well, it looks like putting food out is a pretty common idea. Idiots always say to call the fire department but in most cities they won't do it. A rain storm could work, if you could call in a favor from god," Thatcher told them, not looking up from the screen.
"Yeah, well, I already got God to cover the spread on the OU Nebraska game, so I don't think I can ask for anything else right now," Jase replied. Will's eyes suddenly brightened and he dashed off to the side of the house. He returned a moment later with the coil of garden hose Jase had not yet put in the garage for the season.
"Let's make a rain storm."
It sounded like a good idea to Thatcher; Jase found the idea a little unsettling but not enough to object. With the adjustable nozzle from the garage, they figured they could get a spray of water to reach the three stories or so up where the cat was perched. Will handed the nozzle to Thatcher – he was the best shot of the three of them at darts – and went back to turn the rusty wheel on the faucet. The hose filled and jerked like a snake choking on a fat mouse. Jase looked that the nozzle in Thatcher's hand and up to the cat in the tree.
"Do we really want to do this?" He asked.
"Yeah, we do," Thatcher said simply. "Why wouldn't we?"
"Well, I'm no PETA nut, but striking a cat forty feet up in the air with a hard blast of water seems a little cruel."
"By the time the water gets there, it won't be nearly as strong as it is out of the nozzle. And would you rather it starve or dehydrate up there?"
Jase shook his head.
"Good, then we're a go," he raised the nozzle towards the cat. "Stand back, gentlemen."
Jase and Will took several steps away from the tree.
"Three, two," Thatcher paused for a second. "One."
He pulled the trigger on the nozzle head. It made a sharp whishing sound, the branches and dead leaves hit by the water creaked and rustled. The cat hissed and growled at the unexpected attack, but Jase could see that Thatcher wasn't hitting the tabby.
"Up a little, and left like just a bit."
The stream of water cut through a clump of desiccated leaves that fluttered slowly to ground. The water was now hitting the branch the cat was clinging to. The cat made a loud, angry wail but did not move.
"Okay, maybe that's enough, Thatcher," Jase suggested. The water, though, continued to flow. Thatcher moved the stream in a small arc.
"Enough, Thatcher! The cat's not moving."
"Just gotta give the bastard a reason to come down."
"It's not working, Jesus. Stop it." Jase ordered.
"Yeah, man, it's like, not coming down," Will said quietly. He was rocking back and forth on his heels and tugging on his beard.
"It's pussies like you that didn't want us to go into Iraq. That made us lose Vietnam. You can't handle it when things get the least bit rough."
Jase looked at his buddy.
"Seriously? Iraq? Vietnam? This is your excuse for torturing a cat?"
Thatcher turned his gaze from the treetop to Jase. They locked eyes for a moment. Then, with a quick jerk, he swung the nozzle directly at Jase, striking him square in the chest.
"Fucking asshole!" Jase charged into the man, knocking the larger Thatcher back a few feet but not to the ground. Thatcher dropped the hose as the two men began scuffling. Will yelled at them to stop. Jase got in a blow or two, but Thatcher was stronger and had more experience fighting. Will grabbed Thatcher from behind, looping his arms under Thatcher's shoulders and clasping his finger behind the man's head. Jase, winded and dizzy, bent over with his hands on his knees. The light at Mrs. Rafferty's back door turned on and the screech of a sliding door in bad need of WD40 announced the widow's annoyance.
"What's going on over there?" The old woman yelled.
"Sorry, ma'am." Jase said swallowing a cough.
"Keep it down or I'm going to call the police!" Mrs. Rafferty punctuated her sentence with a loud hhmphf, and screeched the door closed. Jase took a few wheezy deep breaths and started to say something to the still-headlocked Thatcher. His phone began to ring. An unknown number.
"Hello?" He said after clearing his throat. He was freezing cold in wet clothes outside in early November.
"Oh, Jason, you not yet sleeping?" A woman's voice, an accent from a James Bond movie. It took a second or two for Jase to put together what that meant. He'd forgotten that he'd put his number in his last message to Katya.
"Yes, it is Katya." She replied. Jase wanted to lay his head of the chest of anyone that could make such beautiful words and sleep forever. "Is not a bad time to call?"
"Uh, no, not at all. I was just, um, doing some late night yard work."
The Ukrainian woman laughed the way he thought high class call girls might at their clients' stupid jokes, with shocking sincerity and a little condescension.
"You're silly. So, we can meet tomorrow night, no? Would be good for me. You too?"
It would indeed. They made the arrangements and said sweet dreams to each other.
By this time, Will had let his prisoner go. Thatcher was sitting with his back against the tree, smoking a cigarette.
"I thought you quit?" Jase asked as he put the phone back in his pocket. Thatcher looked off into the dark corners of the yard.
"I think I need to start again."
The next morning, Jase woke to the sound of the cat calling from the tree top, louder than ever. When he'd gone to bed, after looking up the warning signs of hypothermia, he had been pretty certain the cat would freeze to death, and had resigned himself to that fate Thatcher had soaked the poor thing thoroughly. But in morning, in the stunning clarity of November mornings in Oklahoma, it looked like the cat was as healthy as ever.
"I don't have time for this," he said to the cat. He ran through the house, tidying up as quickly as he could before showering and heading to work. He didn't think there was much chance Katya would end up back at his place, but stranger things had happened. He recalled that Charles had once told him that the more you prepare for a girl to come over, the less likely it was to occur. Call it Murphy's law, call it karma, maybe they can just sense your desperation or expectation: cleanliness is next to loneliness. Besides, women want a guy that needs mothering. If your place is too clean, there's less for them to fix.
In the afternoon, Jase's phone rang. So rarely did anyone call him on his extension at the office, he first grabbed his cell phone and stared at it for a second before his brain put together which one he needed.
"Hello?" He asked, then added more professionally "This is Jason Fuller."
"You got a cat in your tree!" A raspy woman's voice quavered on the phone line.
"Mrs. Rafferty?" That was the only person it could be. She must have remembered that he worked at McLellan and called the operator asking for him. Jase rolled his eyes and sighed softly.
"You got a cat in your tree!"
"Yes, Mrs. Rafferty. I know. I've been trying –"
"You got a cat in your tree! It's crying and upsetting my Mimi."
"I'm really sorry, I've tried to –"
"Get rid of it!" She cut him off again.
"I've tried to get –" He tried again.
"Get that cat down! Mimi can't even eat with all that noise, and I'm missing my stories!"
He held back a laugh – Mimi had never missed a meal – and attempted to promise several times to do just that, finally put the phone down for a moment with her grating shrieks still pouring from the receiver. When it became clear she wouldn't stop haranguing him, he picked it back up.
"I've got to go, Mrs. Rafferty," he talked over her. "My boss is here."
And with that he hung up the phone and started rubbing his temples. The phone rang again. He groaned and reached for the receiver, then realized it was actually his cell phone this time.
"Christ, I am losing it," he muttered and promptly knocked over his coffee directly onto his keyboard and indirectly onto his shirt and lap.
"Fuck!" He exclaimed as loudly as he could get away with in the cubicle farm. With one hand he turned the keyboard upside down and with the other grabbed his phone.
"Yes?" he snapped.
"Oh, it is bad time?" The breathy voice of Katya Volskaya. Yeah, really bad time, woman of my dreams.
"Oh, Katya! No, not bad time, just, you know." He paused. She didn't say anything.
"Just work stuff."
"Yes. I call now to ensure our engagement. It is okay tonight?"
Jase scraped his muffler coming into his driveway and didn't bother pulling into the garage. In a second he was in the kitchen, undoing his tie and unbuttoning his shirt as he ran to the bedroom to change. Now that a coffee stain had established a sizable colony on his best shirt, he had to resort to plan B. Maybe it was for the best; he'd been told the black and white pattern on his back-up shirt was funky, in a good way. He ditched his slacks for a pair of jeans Charles had recommended; they'd cost a little less than a car payment.
The mirror showed that his five o'clock shadow had come in nicely; Charles had taught him that it was usually best to shave the night before going out so he could have a solid, even growth. A couple of splashes of water, checked teeth, no rogue hairs around his eyebrows, nostrils, ears. He uncapped a bottle of cologne, spritzed a cloud of scent into the air in front of him and stepped into it. Another hint from the master, Charles. Much better distribution, not overwhelming, more like a constant hint.
A knock at the door. Charles jerked his head in the direction of the sound. The doorbell rang a second later. Then it rang again, and the knocking started up and did not stop. Jase was pretty certain who it was before he got to the front hall. For a fleeting second, he wished he had a shotgun.
"Mrs. Raf –"
"You got a cat in your tree." Mrs. Rafferty stood an inch from the door frame, at least a foot shorter than Jase, wagging a needle-y finger at him. Despite the chill in the air, she was wearing a thread-bare sweater she'd probably owned since the Nixon administration, he thought. And house slippers. That adage about people looking like their pets after awhile apparently didn't apply to his neighbor. Whereas her Mimi was a rotund ball of orange fur and larceny, the woman was thin to the point of worry, and almost dainty. If she wasn't so angry at him, and generally an unappealing human to spend time with from his few encounters with her, she'd be a cute little grandmother type.
"I know, but I can't do anything," he said plaintively. The woman pursed her lips together and narrowed her eyes at him. They locked gazes for a moment. Jase broke away first.
"I don't know what else I can do. I'm sure he'll come down as soon as he's hungry."
Mrs. Rafferty made a clucking sound, turned and stomped back to her property. He watched her depart for a few seconds, then closed the door and continued his rushed preparations. Something had changed. Jase stopped moving, looked around the bedroom. Nothing was amiss. The cat! It had stopped mewing.
"Finally!" He cheered, high-fiving nothing. He ran to the kitchen window to see if the cat had actually left. His smile fell into a flat line of exasperation. That turned into a scowl a second later. Thatcher was climbing the tree, a long pool-cleaning net strapped to his back. Jase slammed his fist on the kitchen sink and yelled an incomprehensible string of sounds before running outside.
"Thatcher! What the fuck?!"
The man was already up to where the three main branches diverged. He looked over at Jase, waved and smiled through his beard.
"Oh, hey Jase. I didn't want to bother you before your date. I'm getting that cat out of the tree!" A proud grin sliced across his face.
"You're going to get yourself killed, you crazy fuck!"
Thatcher laughed a single dismissive ha and started pulling himself up the branch that eventually tapered off to the cat's perch. Very quickly the net got caught on the smaller branches above him. He struggled with it for a moment, got it undone and then unthreaded it from the strap he'd buckled across his torso. Stretching as far as he could, he wedged the net into the branches and continued inching up the tree.
"I don't have time for this!" Jase yelled up at his ostensible friend.
"So go. This is a one man operation!"
"There's no way you don't fall out of the tree! Setting aside the fact that you'd probably be paralyzed or dead, think what that would do to my homeowner's insurance!" Jase couldn't keep a straight face; Thatcher made another single laugh.
"Take it out of my estate. That '69 Mustang should cover it."
Jase shook his head, sighed and left. One last check in the mirror and he was ready to go. Before he got into his car, he walked over to the fence and yelled to Thatcher.
"If you get the cat down without killing yourself, help yourself to some beer. But get the hell out of here by 10!"
Before Jase was out of the driveway, he saw Mrs. Rafferty coming out of her garage with an electric chainsaw in her hand, the thick orange extension cord trailing behind her like her stupid Mimi's tail. Comically oversized ear-protectors and safety goggles covered almost her entire head. An urge to laugh welled up in his chest. He threw the car back into park and stepped out. His phone started ringing.
"Hey! Hey!" He yelled at Mrs. Rafferty. She didn't even look over at him; because she couldn't hear him through the ear-muffs or because she was ignoring him, neither would have surprised him.
He pulled his phone out and ran in front of the old woman.
"Stop right there, Mrs. Rafferty!" He yelled loudly to overcome the sound barrier on her ears. She glowered at him and moved to go around him, he moved to intercept her.
"You're trespassing! Get off my property!"
She continued trying to get around him and he moved in front of her, giving a half foot or so with each move. The phone in his hand was still ringing, the caller ID read Katya.
"Oh come on!" He yelled at the sky and clicked the answer button.
"Hi, Katya," He said, trying to keep the stress out of his voice and still waltzing with his villainous neighbor.
"I arrived to the restaurant early. You will be here soon, yes?" Her breezy voice calmed the deluge of hormones pouring out of his amygdala for a second, time enough for Mrs. Rafferty to run – as fast as a sixty-something widow in house slipper could – past him.
"Well, Katya, I'm actually having a really weird problem here at my house right this second."
"Oh, you are having diarrhea?" She asked, concerned.
"What? No. No. It's, um -" Mrs. Rafferty turned the electric chainsaw on. Thatcher, startled by the sound, turned to see what was happening and slipped off the narrow web of branches high up in the tree. He fell halfway off those branches, managing to keep his leg hooked around one and grab on to a thicker one a foot or so lower. Mrs. Rafferty looked up at the man dangling twenty feet in the air then girded her stance and leveled the chainsaw parallel to the ground.
"It's hard to explain. My neighbor...there's a cat...an idiot...I don't know, just. Can you wait for me, please? I'll get there as fast as I can." He was walk-running to the unfolding debacle as he spoke. Even though the chainsaw was electric, she was still having a hard time pushing it into the thick tree bark. Her tiny frame was shaking violently, her arms vibrating into a blur.
On the phone, Katya made a clicking sound with her tongue, not exactly the kind of disapproval click moms and nuns make, but more of a processing information sound.
"Of course. I get a glass of house wine maybe wait for Jason." She said; he said thanks and promised to hurry. As he shoved the phone into his pocket, panic surged. Yeah, Thatcher was about to fall from the tree; Mrs. Rafferty was about to destroy his house and probably kill herself in the process. And perhaps worse, Katya's sentence... was she saying she will maybe wait for him, or will she maybe have a glass of wine? Staring at the scene before him, imaging the gorgeous, exotic Katya sipping a glass of merlot, deepening the already-luscious red of her czarina lips, some oilman or telecom exec catching her eye with his Italian suit and expensive watch, sorry, timepiece and forgetting that she'd ever considered slumming it with someone several integers lower than her on the hotness scale.
"Jase! Fucking stop her!" Thatcher screamed, ripping him away from these dark images. Jase grabbed Mrs. Rafferty by the shoulder. With a sharp jerk, she slammed her head back hard into his chest, hitting right into his sternum, knocking the wind out of him. He staggered back, caught his breath, and started to grab at her arm again, this time with both hands. Suddenly the chainsaw was between him and Mrs. Rafferty. Like a crazed fencer, she thrust and riposted the very-much-on chainsaw towards him.
"Holy shit!" Thatcher yelled, far too much excitement in his voice and too little alarm for Jase's preference.
"Are you fucking insane, lady!" Jase shouted, knowing she couldn't hear him over the chainsaw and the ear protectors. Mrs. Rafferty forced Jase to give ground with every jab. Come on, just have a goddamn heart attack and die, you crone! A gruesome, murderous snarl made the crazy woman that much scarier, her teeth whittled sharp after decades of coffee, tea, and brushing. An idea popped into his head and he turned, running out of the yard. Thatched yelled for him to get back there. From in her garage, he yanked the extension cord out of its socket. The whirr of the chainsaw died just in time to hear the inevitable crashing of branches and moist thump of Thatcher falling out of the tree.
Jase ran back into his yard, colliding squarely with Mrs. Rafferty. Even without power, the chainsaw's teeth hurt as he landed on them. Mrs. Rafferty started wailing and hitting him with her free arm.
"My hip! My shoulder!" She cried with the intensity and volume of a tornado siren. Jase rolled off the chainsaw and the old woman's right arm. Patting his chest, he found the shirt, his second best, torn in several places. Blood was on his fingers, just a little though, so no gushing wounds. Thank god for small miracles. He pushed himself into a seated position while Mrs. Rafferty rolled on the ground sobbing like a naughty toddler trying to make her parents feel sorry instead of angry. Behind him, Thatcher moaned. Thatcher! With several winces, he stood up. His buddy did not look good. He'd landed on a shoulder; that arm lay splayed out at a nauseating angle. Though his eyes were open, one was just a solid red orb and the other was widely dilated. The tree had taken its pound of flesh from his face, hands, belly, anywhere it could find open flesh.
Jase pulled his phone out of his pocket. A missed call from Katya. After dialing 911 and explaining that two crazy people had gotten badly hurt and might need psych evals, he tried to call Katya back. It went directly to voice mail. He typed a message: Accident at home; have to wait for ambulance. Please call.
Waiting for the paramedics to arrive, Jase noticed a silence that had descended on the yard. He looked up in the tree.
The cat was not there.