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"Everybody has a secret world inside of them. All of the people of the world, I mean everybody. No matter how dull and boring they are on the outside, inside them they've all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds. Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands maybe" ~ Neil Gaiman (A Game of You)

4.08.2011

Great Cats

Sophie Hedley opened the door to the cage and stepped inside. She was greeted by a half purr, half growl. Samson came forward and stretched at her feet, his giant paws spread, his front legs rigid, his rear in the air. His mouth gaped in a yawn that showed his razor sharp teeth.

"Good morning, baby," she said, reaching out to scratch behind his ears. Samson moved his head against her hand, arching in delight, encouraging more. He rolled to his back, and Sophie laughed.

"All right, all right. So you want a tummy rub, do you?"

She knelt beside the great cat and scratched his tummy, working up to his powerful chest, watching his head loll back and his legs go limp. When she finished, he rolled onto his stomach and sat up on his forearms. She wrapped her arms around his neck and buried her face in his orange and black fur. She felt his breath rise and fall, and her own breathing mimicked his rhythm. She slid her hands down his back, past his shoulders, over his haunches, feeling the sinewy muscles. She placed her cheek against his chest and listened to the strong beat of his heart. Her own heart quickened. She felt so alive.

After a few minutes, she reluctantly stood up and backed to the door of the cage. Samson swatted at her lightly, and she lost her balance, almost falling over.

"Hey, I'll be back. You know I will. I always do." She closed the door behind her and clicked the lock.

Every morning, Sophie had to get her Samson fix before heading off to her job at the Department of Motor Vehicles. It was the only way she could stand it. The place was a crypt of dead-end lives, both the people in the cubicles around her and those lined in front of them. The mindless waiting brought out the worst in people; they rarely smiled, and often raged about the smallest mistakes, never taking responsibility for the things they could have prevented themselves. The hours dragged until closing time, and then while her co-workers made their way to bars or warring spouses, she eagerly returned to her Samson.

She'd had him since he was a kitten. Fate had brought them together. One day, she'd seen a classified ad in the newspaper. A tiger from a traveling circus had given birth to two kittens, and the owner was selling them. Sophie's father had left the family to -- seriously -- join a circus when she was eight years old. She often thought of him working with the big cats, and she believed she inherited her love of animals from him. Finding the kitten seemed like a cosmic gift from her dad.

Samson loved her in a way that no one else could. He never disappointed her, never took her for granted, never demanded anything more than her time and tummy rubs. Sophie broke off her relationship with her boyfriend and stopped going out for drinks with her friends. She had few visitors; Samson made people uncomfortable, everyone but Sophie.

Sophie's mother worried about her, warned her that Samson was a wild animal at heart, and that something bad would happen. Sophie soothed her mother's concerns and promised her Samson would never do something like that.

***

David, the supervisor at the DMV, called Mrs. Hedley. Sophie hadn't been in to work for three days. It wasn't like her to not call. He had left several messages for her, but she wasn't returning his calls. He thought she should know. Mrs. Hedley hung up and dialed 911.

The police car pulled into the driveway and two uniformed officers got out. They walked to the front door and knocked, waited for an answer. When none came, they canvassed the perimeter of the home. They spotted the enclosure in the backyard and approached. A magnificent Bengal tiger paced back and forth, spitting and hissing when it saw them. It stopped and bared its teeth with a loud, menacing growl. There, underneath its protective feet, lay a woman's body, her neck twisted at an unnatural angle but otherwise untouched.

*****
Today's prompt:  "Looks can be deceiving."   My kids love watching the show Fatal Attractions, where crazy people keep dangerous animals and think nothing could possibly go wrong.  That was my inspiration for today.

To play along, visit Write Anything's [Fiction] Friday here.

And welcome, A to Zers!

19 comments:

Lauri L. Egan said...

Hi! I am new to your blog. Well done on your story today!

Bish Denham said...

Nice job. And thanks for stopping by my blog!

Carrie Dair said...

Wow Shelli! You have an amazing gift with words. Convincing me not to get a cat. Of any kind! lol Love your stories. Always a surprise and sometimes a little sad. :) Poor girl. He loved her to death.

K.C. Woolf said...

Intriguing!

Based on 'Looks can be deceiving', I'm expecting one of the following scenarios:

- the dead woman isn't Sophie
- it's Sophie, but it wasn't the tiger who killed her

Guilty as charged, I'm clearly on the side of the great cat here. :-)

Sam Pennington said...

That's a good story! I was genuinely expecting the tiger to have eaten her. Nice twist!

Nicole said...

Nice story. I've been shopping for cats for a few weeks now and cannot seem to find one. I'm hoping to come across my new kitty one of these days :)

The Madlab Post

Mauvekat said...

Man I am with others, I am hoping it was either someone or something else that killed her since the feeling is the cat was set up.

Shelli said...

Lauri, thank you and welcome to my blog! I hope you'll be back to visit more.

Bish -- Thank you, and my pleasure. I'm enjoying meeting new friends with this blog challenge!

Carrie -- Aw, you always say just the right thing just when I need it! And I love that, that he loved her to death. :)

K.C. -- That's what I love about flash fiction. You set something up, but it opens the imagination to all kinds of different stories. Intriguing ideas you have there. :)

Sam -- I'm thinking he accidentally killed her but still loved her.

Nicole, thanks. Are you thinking of getting an exotic cat? There are some interesting (and safe) domestic cats out there. You'll have to post pix when you get him/her.

Mauvekat -- It definitely wasn't his fault. Fun to imagine different scenarios for him. Thanks for dropping by!

flyingscribbler said...

I particularly enjoyed the description of the tiger arching his back and rolling over for a tummy rub. It was vivid and felt real, almost as if I was in the cage with them.

newtowritinggirl said...

I'm actually so sad he killed her, because I'm convinced he did. But I'm also convinced he didn't know what he was doing, as other people said loved her to death.
Another great story as I've now come to expect every time I visit your blog! Well done!

Lynda R Young said...

good story :) And great G day for the challenge :)

Shelli said...

Flying -- I've always wanted to wrestle a tiger. I just let my imagine go there.

Newt -- Thanks so much! I felt the same way about him. I couldn't make him just a killing machine.

Lynda -- Thanks! I plan on doing this for every Friday -- write the story, then find a title that fits with the letter of the day. :)

Monica said...

Awhh...I can't believe he killed her!! I guess we need to understand that tigers are wild animals and we would do well to remember that!! Loved the story!
Found you from the A-Z Challenge, I’m now following you on GFC and I hope you have a chance to check out my blog!
Monica
http://oldermommystillyummy.blogspot.com/

bellsbookspace said...

Shelli - I always expect a great twist to your story when I visit for Friday Fiction and as always I am not disappointed. I do hope it was someone else that killed her (or someone else that is dead) but this is a tiger we're talking about. Thanks for your comments on mine too :) Until next week...

Shelli said...

Thank you, Monica, and welcome! Your recipes look delicious, and I'll have to give some of them a try. :)

Shelli said...

Thank you, Tanya. I look forward to your story next week, too. :)

Annie said...

great twist! Masterfully written.. as usual!!

I always look forward to reading your stories

my FF for this week can be found here.
http://annieevett.blogspot.com/2011/04/decipio-lemures.html

Nate Wilson said...

Great story, Shelli. It's horrible that Sophie's ex-boyfriend would murder her out of jealousy and frame Samson for the crime. What a ruthless tiger-hater. (At least, that's how I choose to see it.)

I think I'll stick to tigers of the Hobbes variety, just to be safe.

Shelli said...

Thank you, Annie! I'll have to come by and read yours today.

Nate -- Hey, I totally set that up, didn't I? Oh, the possibilities. Except you'll already know the surprise ending. :/