Dan Millstein

The Catnapper

He set one toe on the floor beneath the window. Then two, then five. The last three toes all moved together, but made no more sound than the two previous toes. And now he was inside.

The room was filled with shadow, and mewling cries came from every corner of the apartment. This would be an easy score. He tensed more and more with each step, taking care not to let a stray footfall startle a potential acquisition.

Helmar Rudhern was only known as the Catnapper to two people. Himself, and his former landlady, Lisa — and she was six feet under and tellin’ no one. It was indeed impressive that Helmar had kept his secret as long as he had, for he’d now filled Lisa’s former apartment with over two dozen feline companions. The smell alone should have been enough to alert any passers-by, but the cacophony caused by their fightin’ and fornicatin’ was downright thunderous. Still, somehow, the shroud of mystery surrounding the rash of missing pets had not yet been lifted.

But that wasn’t this, that, or the other, because the Catnapper was on the job, staring down a roomful of at least nine pristine specimens. This wasn’t just some ‘cat lady’s’ house. Helmar preferred to stay away from those. The cats found in such places were often in poor health, and rarely possessed the livelihood and physical capabilities that drew him to the species in the first place. But these cats were like none he’d ever seen before; lean but well-fed, with shining coats and claws filed to perfect points. These weren’t pets. They were family members.

“Who’s there? Who wakes me from my brief slumber?” The voice rang out from behind a door adorned with postcards and magazine clippings, bearing images of handsome felines lounging about on luxurious-looking pillows.

“No one! No one’s here!” Damn it. Why would he respond? After weeks of speaking to no one but nonverbal animals, the instinct to speak when spoken to proved too powerful for the Catnapper.

“I don’t believe you! It’s not very difficult to rouse me from my short, intermittent periods of rest, but your footsteps bang on my eardrums like so many felt-covered mallets in music class.” A figure slowly moved into place from behind the door, still swathed in the folds of darkness that filled the room. Backed into both a literal and figurative corner, Helmar had no choice but to reveal himself.

“It is I, the Catnapper!”

“No, it’s not.”

“Um, yes it is! I am fairly sure of who I am!”

“You, sir, are mistaken. And I am in a unique position to confirm the validity of my assertion. You see, I am the Catnapper. I sleep in periodic intervals throughout the day, never more than an hour at a time. I often nap in the company of my companions– I see you’ve already met them– further solidifying my right to the title of Catnapper.”

Helmar was stunned. Did Catnapper mean more than one thing? If so, did this prove that any word can have more than one meaning? He looked down at his brown velvet catsack. If this mysterious individual was right, then there was probably someone walking around out there with a Hello Kitty purse dangling from her arm, yammering on about how she had the most effective and well-named catsack in the land. Well, damned if that bitch’s catsack could hold two frisky toms and a molly in heat.

Before Helmar could even finish his own thought, the figure moved forward into the light.


the end

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