“There it is again,” Aaron whispered to his friend, Joey. “See it? The stupid thing’s just sitting there staring at us. Throw a rock at it, Joe.”
“No. You do it.” Joey was grateful that his voice didn’t betray his jitters. At least, he didn’t think so. Aaron probably wouldn’t notice in any case, intent as he was on the tabby parked across the street with its tail curled demurely around its feet.
“Gimme a rock from Mrs. Watkin’s yard, and I will,” Aaron instructed, his eyes never straying from the cat as he crouched behind the oak. He didn’t like that cat. There was something about it that gave him the willies. He saw it everywhere, like it was following him, staring at him like it knew.
“I’m not going anywhere,” the younger boy countered indignantly. “Besides, Ms. Watkins would tan our hides if she caught us stealing any more of those stupid white rocks. Jeez, they’re just rocks. I don’t know why she has to be like that.”
“She’s a bitch.” Aaron spat the word bravely, showing off. He wanted to glance behind him to get a load of the shocked look on Joey’s face, but he didn’t dare stop watching that cat. He had an icy feeling that if he looked away, even for a moment, that it would somehow be… closer.
Joey stood and peeked around the tree. “It can’t be the same one, can it? I mean, we were at school across town when we saw it at recess. Cats like to stay in the same place, right? Like their–their home or something?”
“Yeah. I think they’re territorial like tigers. Stupid, little, tabby like that’d be chewed up and spit out over by the school.” Aaron bared his teeth at it when he saw it casually lick a front paw while it continued to stare in their direction.
Aaron gathered his courage, stood, and stepped out from behind the oak. He cupped his hands over his mouth, and shouted, “Hey! Shoo, you stupid cat! Get outta here! You hear me?” He was sure it would run away, but it didn’t.
Instead, the tabby returned its paw to the ground and lifted its hindquarters, looking for all the world like a mountain lion about to pounce. Tail held low, ears laid flat, emerald eyes glittering darkly, the cat hissed, sending a spike of fear through both the boys. That was enough for Joey to abandon his friend for the safety of home. He took off running without a backward glance.
Aaron didn’t notice. He was frozen with fear. “It’s just a stupid cat,” he whispered, trying to calm his racing heart. “You’ve seen the insides of dozens of those fur bags. This one is no different.”
He was wrong. This one was very different. And Aaron was not nearly as fast as Joey.