It’s Creative Writing Wednesday! Enjoy an original short story from Trope & Dagger! Today’s entry is 37 by Aaron Wilson.
It was a normal sidewalk, as plain as any other one might come across, consisting of concrete slabs with tufts of grass growing in between, some cracked, some not, and several bearing the mark of rambunctious children having carved their names into them. It truly was as unspectacular a sidewalk as any could come across. The sneakers that walked down the sidewalk were equally as unremarkable. They were slightly worn through, shoelaces sloppily tied, and most likely slipped on without being undone first, grinding down the quarter each time. The plain shoes that strolled down the very ordinary sidewalk belonged to Harold Rollins, an utterly uninterested human being, and he also currently happened to be occupying that same pair at the moment.
Harold was out this day because his cat had gotten out through the open window, and Commander Snuggles was most definitely not an outdoor cat, much like her owner. Harold was thin and unaccustomed to physical activity, much preferring his homemade microbrew and dalliances into watercolors. So he found himself sweating rather heavily as he hurried down the conventional pavement in his usual shoes, and dabbed his forehead on his sleeve. He called for his spotted grey cat as he hurried down the street, but encountered no movement or response of any kind from the quiet houses and yards on either side. He had now been out for the better part of an hour and was getting quite far from his home, eliciting no end of distress in his heart. Should his beloved pet be this far from home, certainly she would have encountered some form of trouble or danger by now!
Harold turned around a wall on the corner and had to stop short, almost knocking over a man standing there. Harold huffed for a moment, annoyed at being slowed down by this stranger, and stepped around him. He took a few steps before having the sudden realization that this person might be able to help him, and his annoyance turned inwards. He spun on his worn heel and turned back to the man. The man before Harold was slender and tall, with wavy brown hair and an impressive moustache. He wore a loose green shirt and muddy-colored shorts, finished on either end of his body with brown sandals and sunglasses, which struck Harold as too large for his face, and he stood with a walking stick tucked in the crook of his crossed arms. “Hipster,” thought Harold, disdainfully, but was desperate for assistance. He walked up to the man, who was staring into the intersection.
“Hi,” Harold began, dreading speaking to this person. “Sorry to bug you, man, but have you seen a cat around?” The tall man cocked his head to the side, as though thinking about the question. He stood like that for a moment, and Harold wondered just how much this particular man had smoked to today. “Hellooooo?” Harold asked, trying to get the man’s attention. He was about to give up and the word “Jackass” was on the cusp of escaping his lips when the mustachioed man finally responded.
“A cat?” the man said, as though speaking the words for the first time. “A cat a cat, I’ve seen many cats,” he continued.
“Right,” said Harold, already quite annoyed. “But have you seen my cat? Grey, with some black spots? Answers to Commander Snuggles?”
“How adorable!” laughed the man, turning towards Harold.. “Commander Snuggles, I love it! My name is not so adorable, though it is admirable, at least to some. I am Indigo, at your service! Though, I know how I may serve you, do I not? You are looking for your feline companion, isn’t that right?”
Harold was beginning to hate Indigo, but could use any help that he could get at this point. “Right, like I said, I’m looking for my cat, small grey one with black spots. It has a blue collar with his name on it.”
“It is such a sadness, that you have lost your pet,” said Indigo. “And I will help you find it, oh yes I will!” Indigo then thrust his walking stick into Harold’s arms, who was too taken by surprise to refuse, accepting it into his hands. “Now, this cat, what is it like?” Indigo asked, dropping to his knees and pressing his ear to the ground.
“Um…like I said, it’s grey with black spots,” Harold explained again.
“No no no,” said Indigo, popping back up, a small handful of grass in his clutches. “That is what she looks like, not what she is like. Tell me, does your pet have a favorite color?”
“What? No, she’s a cat.”
“And they do not have preferences? Does she not have a favorite toy? Or spot in the sun?”
“I mean, I guess she does, but I don’t think she has a favorite color or anything like that…”
Indigo tossed the grass in the air and smiled as it fell slowly to the ground. Harold’s impatience with this man was growing.
“Well, something else, then,” said Indigo. “A favorite movie or song. Or number?”
Harold thought that this was utterly ridiculous and was eager to get back to searching for his pet, so he blurted out an answer. “37,” he informed Indigo, with no real reason why.
“Perfect! Please, start counting,” Indigo instructed as he picked up a stick and shoved it into the ground.
“What?” said Harold. “I really don’t have time, man, I’ve gotta go.”
“All you need is 37 seconds, no more, no less, and I will help you find Commander Snuggles! Come come, get to counting!”
Harold rolled his eyes, half hoping that Indigo would notice the gesture and abandon the absurd insistence on counting. However he did not, and so Harold exhaled loudly and proceed to count. “One…two…three…”
Indigo grinned widely, licking his thumb and shoving it into the air. He then gave a whistle, high pitched and short, then pulled a small pouch from his pocket, sprinkling dust across the sidewalk and onto the road.
“Fourteen…is that anthrax or something?” asked Harold.
“Counting, counting!” answered Indigo, and Harold continued, reluctantly. What was this crazy person doing exactly? He watched Indigo murmuring, covering his mouth, and became worried that this man was in fact, touched. It was just Harold’s luck that he would find this sort of lunatic to help him search for his lost cat, rather than the useful kind. Indigo walked into the street and swept his hand in a wide circle around himself, Harold imagining the man to be making a “whoosh” sound in his mind.
“Twenty-two, that’s not really safe,” Harold said, noting that a car could come driving down the road any minute.
“Counting!” replied Indigo, crumbling something in his palm. “Twenty-two?! Twenty-two already!” His crumbling speed intensified, and Harold wondered if it would be bad form to drop the man’s walking stick and walk away. But he stayed and counted further as Indigo picked up a pinecone and moved it several feet, then laid it down ever so gently. He looked at it for a moment, scratched his chin, then gave it a swift kick, sending it hurtling down the road. He then rushed over to Harold and demanded to know the count.
“Thirty-three,” said Harold, startled. Indigo stared at him from behind his sunglasses and Harold stared back.
“Well don’t stop!” he commanded.
“Thirty-four,” said Harold, nervous now. Indigo grabbed Harold’s hands, still clutching the walking stick and put one end of it on the ground.
“Thirty-five,” said Harold as Indigo grit his teeth and very slowly moved Harold’s hands, pointing the stick forward.
“Thirty-six,” said Harold as he noticed the sweat pooling on Indigo’s brow, the walking stick still tilting further and further forward.
“Thirty-seven!” said Harold as Indigo inhaled sharply. Harold followed suit and shut his eyes.
He held his eyes shut for a moment, for some reason expecting something, anything, to happen. After no commotion descended around him, he ventured to open his eyes. Indigo stood before him, no longer holding Harold’s hands, facing away and surveying the tranquil scene. The intersection was exactly as it was when Harold first arrived, except for now he felt quite the fool, standing there holding Indigo’s stick as though it were of any significance whatsoever. He felt that Indigo must have thought him an incredible mark, someone whom he could have a laugh at. He patted his back pocket, making sure his wallet was still in place.
“What the hell was that, man?!” Harold demanded. Indigo spun and faced him, smiling widely.
“Homework,” he responded, strolling up to Harold and taking the stick back.
“Homework? It’s homework to be an asshole to a stranger?” Harold asked.
“No, my assignment was something else. Now, you had a missing cat, did you not? What do you say we begin the hunt? Ah, nevermind. There she is now, must have heard your voice,” Indigo said, nodding behind Harold.
Harold turned to find his cat, Commander Snuggles standing on a ledge not ten feet away, tail in the air, looking directly at him. Harold jogged over to where she was and scooped her up. She purred against his face as he held her, so glad to be reunited. He turned to Indigo, but the man was nowhere to be found. Harold looked all around until he finally spied him down the street on the other side of the block. Harold was about to shout after him, but Indigo turned a corner and was gone just as quickly as he had entered Harold’s life.
“Well, that’s all right,” Harold said to Commander Snuggles, scratching beneath the cat’s chin, “the crazy guy only got me yelling anyways, which is what you heard, isn’t it? Oh, yes it is.”
Harold began walking home, Commander Snuggles purring in his arms, when suddenly, a car’s tire popped next to him and the vehicle screeched to a halt at the corner. Just then, a massive pick-up truck barreled through the intersection, ignoring a stop sign, and flew through where the small car would have been, had it not stopped.
Harold stared at the intersection, realizing what he would have seen had the car not stopped. It dawned on Harold that the tire had exploded almost exactly where Indigo had been waving his hands about in the street not one minute before, and he had not the foggiest idea what to do what that information. So instead he stood on the corner, his mouth agape as the driver got out and surveyed the damage to his tire. In truth, Harold stood much longer than he should have before he declared that it was mere coincidence, it must have been, and made his way home with his pet. And even though he always told himself that Indigo was nothing special, he found himself venturing out more after that day, if for no other reason than the small chance that he might run into that strange man named after a color.