Friday, November 27, 2015

Friday Flash: Dahlia's Doorstep

A month or so ago, the Wendig Challenge presented us with a whole lot of titles dreamed up by his followers. I wrote down a half a dozen I liked, just for times like this when I need a prompt. So, courtesy of s.c.kross (if I've read my own notes correctly), I present, in 792 words, my Thanksgiving tale, "Dahlia's Doorstep." Since I've used that name before, I tied this back to another story, from September of 2014, simply titled "Dahlia"

Dahlia’s Doorstep

The cat known to some as Dahlia sat on the doorstep and surveyed his world. Colorful leaves blew by, and a chill touched the air. It was fall. A general feeling of change ruffled his fur, as the scent of roasting fowls disturbed his magnificent complacency.

He did not, in fact, mind if the turkey was roasted or raw, nor did his friends.  But if The Woman wanted it roasted, that was fine with him. Even a cat known to his friends as James Dean could compromise for the sake of a big hunk of turkey.

Killer Instinct arrived first. The dog was looking a bit thin and seedy, and slunk out of the bushes with a wary look about him.

“Hey, Fluffy!” Dahlia/James Dean liked to tease his friend about the name his people had given him.

“Not flippin’ Fluffy any more, Dahlia,” KI growled. The cat ignored the jab at his own name, surveying his friend with a superior air.

“No, you aren’t looking so fluffy these days. What’s happened to you? Aren’t your people feeding you right?”

“They left.”

“Left? And what, you wouldn’t go? Had enough of being Fluffy?”

“They didn’t give me the chance to go, did they? Up and left me sitting on the doorstep watching. Didn’t even wave goodbye.”

James Dean’s world reeled. The way he saw it, an animal could leave his people any time. He’d done it, for a while, when he’d tired of being called by that silly flower name. He’d come back, and The Woman even tried to remember not to call him that. She didn’t call him James Dean, because she didn’t know. She called him John Travolta because he liked to hang out at a dance club downtown. Anyway, he’d come back, and she fed him, because people didn’t leave their animals. People were there to serve the  animals, right?

“Need a meal, then?” he asked, when he recovered from the shock.

“Yup. It’s killing me, JD. Everyone’s cooking meat today for some reason, and I got nothin’ but half a burger from the bin behind the Dairy Prince.”

“Stick around. It’s Turkey Day, you know. Some human ceremony that requires they roast a turkey. Burnt offering to the gods or some such.” JD spoke indifferently. He didn’t care what the offerings were for as long as he got his cut. The Woman was good that way.

The little dog, white fur matted instead of fluffed, flopped down on the doorstep next to the big marmalade cat. “I kind of liked being fluffy,” he admitted. “Not the name, but the rest. Warm, fed, and clean. I mean, it’s great being Killer Instinct all the time,” he hastened to add. “A dog should be fierce and all that. But really, you know, I’m kind of small for it.”

JD nodded. He massed more than the little dog. They sat together on the porch and watched the leaves blow by.

A scrawny black cat slunk out of the shrubbery and eased himself onto the porch.

“Heya Tom,” JD greeted him.

“Hey yerself,” growled the feral cat. “What’s with the good smells?”

“Turkey Day. Stick around; I’ll share.”

Tom settled himself with the skill of long practice, nabbing the sunniest spot on the doorstep. They all settled down to nap while the scents grew more alluring. Over the course of the afternoon the group on the doorstep grew. Two neighborhood dogs—Snuffy, who preferred to be called Growler, and Wobbles, who couldn’t shake the name his people gave him because it fit him to perfection, stretched out next to KI. Another feral cat introduced herself as Cat and settled in next to Tom.

The afternoon was growing old when the door opened.

“Dahlia, here’s your—oh!” The Woman stopped abruptly, looking from the small dish of sliced meat in her hand to the crowd on the doorstep. “Just a moment, John Travolta,” she said, correcting herself. She sighed and went back into the house.

James Dean followed, and supervised while she cut a few more slices from the large roasted fowl on the counter, laying them on a plate with vegetables. Then she took up the rest of the bird, set it on a tray, and carried it out to the front stoop, JD following her every move.

“Here you are. Happy Thanksgiving, all of you,” said the Woman, laying the turkey down on the doorstep.

Dahlia’s doorstep, Dahlia’s feast…The Woman watched the animals gather around and begin eating, then went back into the empty house, to emerge a moment later, plate in hand. Stepping carefully over the feasting dogs and cats, The Woman seated herself on the steps.

“No one should eat Thanksgiving dinner alone,” she said, and smiled.

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2015


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