The bumper sticker was simple, but striking. It was an outline of the shape of Maine, with a single word printed in the middle: home.
It was stuck on the back of a surprise. It was a Porsche Carrera convertible, a new one, the paint perfectly glossy like fresh nail polish. The car was a shimmering pale gold, almost silver. It had to be a custom color. Yet here was this bumper sticker, not even a magnet, but an actual sticker. The sticker was black and white, simple.
This is not the kind of situation that you walk right past in the Whole Foods parking lot and then just go on with your day. I was intrigued by the juxtaposition: cheap on pricey, homey on flashy. I nonchalantly cut through the aisle of cars, paused, looked inside.
On the passenger seat there was a worn flannel jacket. It was a dark blue and green plaid, spotlessly clean and neatly pressed but with the elbows and edges thinning in spots, showing the frayed white innards of each heavy thread. A pair of expensive sunglasses were folded neatly into the center console. Well, maybe not expensive the way that a Porsche is expensive, but at least expensive compared to my own drugstore pair. The composite-grey arms had that straight, pointy look, like the shaft of an arrow, and a swishy, sporty logo embossed on the temple. While these things also seemed out of place with one another, they were still not particularly notable. I shrugged and started to move on to purchase my nitrate-free salami and organic peaches, when a movement caught my eye. From the dark floor below the passenger seat emerged an enormous – I mean, ENORMOUS – ancient, decrepit black cat.
It looked at me through its one good eye and then arched all 30 or 40 lbs of its bulk into a fluffy imitation of a Halloween black cat silhouette the size of a baby elephant. I could hear its hiss from outside the car, and a tiny drop of spittle hit the inside of the window. While my heart and most of my other organs had already jumped ten feet backwards, my skin and feet were firmly planted on that patch of asphalt, surveying this heathen. Eye to eye, cat aficionado to cat demon thing.
The cat and I stayed like that for what seemed like a very, very long time. His fur settled, one follicle at a time, ever so slowly. He never blinked, that one pale gold eye staring unceasingly. The car window seemed sturdy enough, but I felt frozen, afraid to move and provoke a potentially glass-shattering attack from the baby elephant demon cat.
“Ayup, that’s Daisy.” Daisy. Who the eff names their demon cat DAISY? I looked up. The man using the quintessential Downeast euphemism looked like he just came straight from a Financial District summer party. Forty-something, only slightly graying, an expensive watch attached to one well-groomed hand. His shirt was a crisp Brooks Brothers number, the sleeves casually rolled up. Khaki shorts, docksiders. Blue eyes. BLUE eyes. So very blue. Sapphire blue. Some crinkles at the edges. Not an escaped refugee from Margaritaville, but a genuine Vineyard type…from Downeast?
“I inherited the cat. She’s nice enough when she gets to know you. She belonged to my mother. They were a lot like each other. I wanted to put the cat to sleep when my mother died, but she came to me in a dream and swore that she would haunt me if I did. I believed her. Here we are.”
People tell me things like this. I cock my head just a degree or two and they tell me the weird things that have happened to them. Strangers, mostly, though sometimes casual acquaintances, too, like the mailman or the oil change guy I see every three months. Ghosts, dreams, Ouija, fairies. Banshees, once. The demon cat kind of made sense now.
“Do you want to take a drive? We can put the top down. She’ll sit on your lap and hang her head out the window.”
I nodded, and climbed in. I knew we had a lot more still to talk about.