Thank you, Story A Day, for getting me started on this story. I’ve been wanting to write about Rat-Trap even since I dreamed about it for the third time.
by Marian Allen
We settled at an outside table big enough for seven and waited for Mulligan to bring our order. I made the mistake of looking out at the ocean, and nearly got blinded by the sun on the waves. The raggedy old fishing net hanging over the outside area gave, like, no shade, but there was a great breeze off the water.
Something pushed on my leg. I cut a look at Steve-o to my left, thinking he was giving me a private signal to check somebody out, but he was talking to Lucas, so I looked down.
A cat was standing on its hind legs, one front paw on my thigh, one front paw tucked up against its furry chest.
My mom would have fussed at me for petting an animal when I was about to eat — like any of us had washed our hands after the drive — but my mom wasn’t there.
It was a big calico, bigger than a lot of dogs I’ve met.
A man at the next table said, real loud, “Would you look at that?” The people with him made those surprised noises people make. The man leaned toward me and said, “She doesn’t take to most people.”
You know how it puffs you up when anybody says that about an animal or a kid. I scratched the cat behind her ears.
“Is she yours?” I didn’t think so, because he had on a service station uniform, but he could live here and work in town.
“Nah. That’s Mulligan’s Cat.”
That made sense. A seafood restaurant was the perfect place for a cat, wasn’t it?
“I’m surprised there aren’t more.”
“There are, but not in the restaurant or out here. She won’t have it. Chases ’em off.”
I got pulled into some argument Luis and Tony were having, absentmindedly petting the cat and scratching behind her ears. If I stopped, she poked me until I started again.
Finally, Mulligan brought out our food, a tray the size of an extra-large pizza pan mounded with food.
“Nice cat you have,” I said.
“I don’t have a cat.”
I pointed to her. She was so big, standing on her hind feet, her nose was level with the table.
“That’s not my cat. What would I do with a cat?”
The next table had emptied Louis and Tony’s argument.
“A man at the next table said she was yours.”
“Everybody knows I don’t have a cat. She hangs out here, that’s all.”
“But he said–”
“He said what? Exactly?”
The guys were staring at the three of us: me, Mulligan, and the cat. They weren’t even digging into the food mountain, even though it smelled like Paradise for your mouth.
“He said, ‘That’s Mulligan’s Cat.'”
“She’s your cat, then?”
“I don’t have a cat.”
“And this is your cat.”
“And this is Mulligan’s Cat.”
“This is your cat.”
Luis reached across the table and smacked me on the head. “Stupid! Mulligan’s Cat is her name.”
A woman older than my mom, wearing jeans and a Hard Rock Cafe t-shirt, came out of the restaurant clutching the necks of seven bottles of beer, and all talk was over. Brent paid Mulligan, and we forgot about the cat.
~ * ~
MY PROMPT TODAY: restaurant, cat