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“It’s pouring rain out there. Do you mind if we let this guy in?” the driver asked us, looking over his shoulder.
I looked at Death, who made a complicated hand gesture that meant whatever.
“Let the poor bastard in,” I said.
So the cab squealed faintly to a halt as the gray rain poured down the windows and onto the gray road where it made gray puddles punctuated by the reflections of car lights.
The door opened, water dripping along the edge of the roof, and I slid closer to Death to allow the new passenger room.
“Thank you,” the cat said, and got inside, setting his attaché case on the floor. He leaned one black paw on the seat in front of him and said to the driver, “14 Maydon, please.”
“Why, that’s where we’re going!” I said. “How positively coincidental.”
Death gave me a black look and the cat frowned and rubbed some rainwater out of his whiskers.
“Excuse me,” the cat said politely, and moved his tail from where it had been resting against my leg. He curled it around his own legs and looked out the window. I pursed my lips and got my pink bag off the floor, dragging the strap across the cat’s paws as I did.
“Excuse me,” I said. Death made a growling noise to show that he’d noticed my bid for attention, but the cat pretended I hadn’t done anything. Silence prevailed, only punctuated by the rhythmic thumping of the wipers. This was possibly the most boring tax cab ride of my life. I leaned forward and tapped on the glass between us and the cabbie. “Hello, do you have chest pain?”
Death’s head snapped up. “Love!” he warned.
“What?” said the driver, and then looked down at his hand on his chest. His eyes smiled at me warmly in the rear view mirror. “No, ma’am. I was just rubbing my itchy zipper.”
I puckered my pink lips. “So you’re sure you feel all right?”
“Love!” Death said. “Are you even stupider than usual?”
I leaned back in the seat and rested my head on Death’s shoulder. “I’m bored, dear. I wanted to know if he was the one. You know. That you’re going to—“ I twirled my finger in the air.
“You are a positively ludicrous example of a human being,” Death told me.
“Am I still a human?” I asked. “Or merely a concept?”
The cat cleared his throat. He made a motion to close the divider between us and the front seat, which I did. “If you’re going to kill our driver,” the cat said, “Do you mind letting me get out first?”
Death smashed his hand into his face and smushed his facial features around. “Love, this is why they’ve invented muzzles. Why do I answer your phone calls? Why do I bring you? Why do I let you open your—”
The cat held up a paw. “I knew who you were when I got in.”
“How did you—” Death started.
“Please,” replied the cat, diffident. “I’m a cat.”
“Of course,” Death said, tragically. “Of course you are. Why wouldn’t you be?”
A few more moments of silence passed, punctuated now with Death’s meaningful sighs and the cat’s purring as he cleaned his right back leg.
Finally, the cat said, “If you were the sort to listen to rumors, which I am not, there are things to hear about you. Things about people dying without any of your . . .” The cat twirled a toe around in the air. “All by themselves. And falling in love without you.” He turned his topaz eyes on me.
“Free will terrifies me,” I lied brightly. Actually, centipedes terrified me. They had all those legs, they bit, they undulated, and they got into my panties in my underwear drawer. When free will got into my underwear drawer and started undulating, I’d start worrying about it.
Death glowered at the cat. “What is your point, Cat?”
The cat shrugged. “Is it true?”
“We found a dead guy in Death’s apartment,” I said, “that ruined his rug with its death-juices. He’s been in a bad mood since. But, let’s be serious here, it was only one little cadaver. There are still millions waiting to kick the bucket. Everything will be fine, dear.” I shook Death’s shoulder bracingly.
Death looked at the ceiling. “Oh that things were ever fine.”
The cat reached towards his satchel and then paused again. “Did you tell me when you were going to kill the driver?”
“Lobby, 14 Maydon,” Death said, looking bleak. He glared at me. “And yes, it is a heart attack.”
“He follows them to their deaths. For a quality, personalized experience and the maximum amount of personal torment on his part,” I explained to the cat, who was a good listener. “Death, my sweet, my pet, you could’ve just waited for him at the building. He wouldn’t have known any different.”
Death said, “Love, shut. Up. You are a tumor on my lifeline.”
The cat picked up his satchel and held it tightly to his chest. His ears went back slightly. I fought the desire to pull the cat into my lap and cuddle it.
And then there was a dissonant symphony of sound; a crash of thunder, a squeal of metal, a hum of rubber scrubbing against asphalt. And vertigo: spinning, weightless, flying, watching the gray day fly by the windows. My breath and my purse had vanished, thrown against the ceiling and the windows.
When it all settled, there was blood smeared up the divider, the color of magic marker, and the cat was in my lap, still clutching his attaché case. His tail was puffed out.
“Are you alive, sweet?” I asked him, breathless.
The cat growled.
I turned to Death, who had a very sexy bruise growing over his cheek. He was listing in ceaseless monotone every four-letter-word that had ever been invented,
staring at the shape of the driver’s split head pressed against the dividing glass. Finally, he said, “He wasn’t supposed to die here. Why did he die here?”
The cat climbed daintily out of my lap to look at the dumptruck that had hit the taxi. “Maybe they weren’t trying to kill him.”
“What did they think would happen when a dump truck hit a taxi!?” Death demanded.
“Maybe they were trying to kill you,” the Cat said.
Free will had just climbed into my underwear drawer.
Author’s Note: the continuing saga of emo-death. Previous installments can be found by clicking on the "death" tag in the left sidebar.
Image courtesy of digiart2001.