Here’s my short story from the Flashtag writing contest, in case anyone wants to read it:
This Kitten I Knew
My heartbeat rings a funeral:
The tramp of feet, the pulse a memo: dumb, dumb, dumb, building from the distance, seeping closer, clinging to the timber frames and oozing in the cobbles.
You’ll love it, he said. The architecture. The history. The food.
In the rough-hewn gutter, a mottled kitten bats a leaf. Not even a kitten, but a scrawny juvenile, gawky and underfed. In the car, his hand rests on my knee, pulling it towards him, easing my legs apart. Gently, barely a suggestion: open up. A wedding band on his ring finger, and I taste of someone else’s toothpaste.
You’ll love it, he said. The music. The landscape.
I’d asked a neighbour to feed my cat. She’s younger than me, but we wear the same clothes.
Dumb, dumb, a bass drum. A marching beat. A cymbal, hissing wind through trees and tiles.
You’ll love it, he said. Just us two. A business trip. All expenses. Even Duty Free.
I put his fingers in my mouth. The wedding ring licked salty sharp.
The procession rounds a corner into view. Accordion and trumpet, clarinet and drum, and they sound the dirge as one: dumb, dumb, dumb. The coffin rolls haphazardly on a sea of bodies, the mourners packed too close together. They reach out to touch the box, shuffling and catching ankles. They wear black that is not black, grained with dust, and patches on the patches. The coffin is too big for a child, too small for an adult.
You’ll love it, he said. The people. The paisans. They’re such characters.
A mute hand on my knee; more than a suggestion. I let it fall, open wide. He bought me a necklace that costs more than some old ring.
We watch the procession from the rental car. Ragtag men, walnut women, carrying their coffin and looking in the window. They know every inch of us, now and in the days to come. The hem of my skirt, our breath in trickles on the glass. Rituals for peasants. A hand on my knee. A smirk on his lips. A kitten batting leaves along the gutter, skipping blind towards the graveyard. There’s nothing on my finger.
Listen, he said. This time, I’m going to leave my wife.
Dumb, dumb, dumb.