Cheetos, Kittens, and Paint Cans: Part Five (A Sam short story)

Ladies and Gentleman, I am sorry.

To be vague and unconvincing, life happened. And I moved. And made major life changes. I’ll explain later. But for now, here is the *Between gasps of exertion* fifth part of my Sam story.

It is almost over my friends. After the last part is published next week, we should all celebrate. Ice-cream anyone?

The grey ball of fluff was backed into a corner, its tiny kitten face crunched up in a snarl. I didn’t dare take another step. All illusions of grandeur had fled, and I was sure that small creature was threatening to kill me in its kitten language.

Jade crouched beside me, squirming with excited energy, silently cheering me on with her wide-eyed glances. Matt stood a little ways off, his slouching body the physical embodiment of a “harrumph”. I could almost feel him daring me to quit.

Timber hung back, having previously established that the cat would be scared of his tallness. I thought it was just an excuse, but I wasn’t about to call the six foot Goliath out on it. Jade was too excited to gently wrangle the small creature, though she still refused to leave without it, saying that the poor thing would get hit by a car.

I said, given the cat’s track record, the driver would likely swerve and crash instead. Timber admitted that wasn’t a better scenario.

So that left me and Matt the responsibility of catching it, and since Matt wasn’t making any move to help, the kitten’s capture was left up to me. It was funny how I suddenly became a trustworthy person when a task no one wanted to get done had to be accomplished.

Not really.

“Do you have it yet? We need to go!” Timber stood behind me at the far end of the alley, surveying the street.

“He’s almost got it!” Jade said.

I crouched low. The kitten hissed again, its little back arched as it made itself as big as possible.

I crept forward. We needed to go. King could be anywhere by now. But I really didn’t want to touch this demon. At the moment my goal was to graduate with all ten fingers, and I was positive this cat didn’t want to help me achieve it.

I reached forward, and it swiped at me. I jerked my hand back, Matt’s poorly concealed snickers turning my cheeks red. I growled and unzipped my jacket. All I had to do was throw this over the fluff ball and I’d be safe from its claws.

The cool air bit my sleeveless arms and I slowly leaned forward, trying to concentrate past the boom. boom. boom. of my growing headache.

The kitten hissed again, squishing itself against the wall. I shook out my sweater, then drew it back, ready to throw.

A car vroomed past the alley.

“Hey Sam, is that them?” Timber asked. I glanced back. A black blur of a car raced away from us. James’ Mustang.

“Yes! That’s–” The distraction was all the kitten needed. It scrambled to the left, quicker than me with King on my tail. I lunged after it. It shot toward the opening of the alley.

“Timber!” I said. He turned around, but with all his tallness, he was too slow. The kitten dashed past him.

I stumbled to my feet and crossed the street, completely oblivious to traffic.

“Sam, hold up. We have to catch King!” Timber yelled.

“I know!” I shot over my shoulder. The kitten dashed under a car. I ducked down and peered under it. The kitten was huddled against the inside of a tire, its sides heaving.

“Come here, fuzz ball. I’m trying to help you.” I ducked my head under the car and reached.

“Um…excuse me?” a voice said.

I jumped to my feet, or at least I tried. I ended up slamming my head against the car frame before realizing I was still under it. I moaned and pushed myself out.

A middle-class mom in one of those fashion scarves stared at me.

“This is your car, isn’t it?” I said, rubbing my head. She nodded. I eased myself to my feet. “I was just, uh….getting a thing, you see…”

She stared at me, her face as blank as King’s mind.

“One sec please.” I stumbled to the other side of the car and reached behind the tire.

Another hiss.

Stinging pain slashed at my finger as tiny teeth sunk into my pointer. I jerked my hand away .

and reached around with the other, my jacket protectively wrapped around the hand.

I grabbed something furry and wiggling.

I quickly pulled the kitten out and tucked it in the sweater. It struggled and snarled, but I held it tight. “Calm down, kitty.”

I stood up in time to see the red and pink karate van barreling toward me. I jumped as it skidded to a stop.

Timber stuck his head out the window. “Get in!”

I nodded and moved to the van’s side, pausing in front of the door, my hands a little too full to be used. It opened, but I hesitated, wondering if I should really get inside the car with three strangers. I mean, I’d met them an hour ago and they’d almost killed me (inadvertently). But as it stood, they needed me to identify King and his group, and that made me valuable, so they wouldn’t hurt me.

I know, not the best logic since they already knew what his car looked like thanks to two seconds ago, but thoughts like that don’t occur to you in the middle of action. War makes even the worst of frienemies allies.

Or two cans of glittery paint and a bully.

I jumped inside. Timber slammed on the gas pedal, and I was knocked back inside my seat as we shot forward.

“Did you catch her?” Jade asked. I shoved the kitten and my sweater in her general direction and Jade took it. Goosebumps traveled up my arms, and I shivered. Curse that kitten.

“Everyone put their seatbelts on!” Timber commanded as we squealed out of the parking lot. I fumbled with my seatbelt, picking the middle seat in the front bench so I had a clear view of the road.

Oh boy. Bad choice. If James was a crazy driver, Timber was a madman. He zipped in and out of lanes, flicking his blinker up and down with a passion. Matt leaned forward, caught up in the chase. Jade ignored everything, clinging to the kitten in her lap, trying to comfort it without getting herself killed.

I gripped the bottom of the seat, my desire to pray returning. “Where’d you see them?” I scanned the lanes for a black Mustang. There were plenty of Hondas, a Saab or two, and a Jeep here and there, but no Mustang. Timber didn’t slow to look.

If any police patrolled this area we were doomed.

“They were heading straight through town, last time I checked,” Timber hollered back, which was unnecessary since we could all hear him fine, but given the tense situation it seemed appropriate.

I scanned the lanes again but still didn’t see a black Mustang. Dang it. “I don’t see them.”

Timber didn’t answer. His face was set. As I watched him it was almost like a little bit of that determination seeped into me. We’d catch King. We’d make him stop before he messed with someone else’s car.

A flash of black, just up ahead. I tried to stand but the belt jerked me back. “There!” I pointed out the windshield. A black Mustang stalled just behind a semi, two intersections ahead.

“Where?” Timber asked.

I leaned forward as far the belt would let me. “Right…there!”

Timber ducked his head and peered out the window. “I still don’t see it.”

Ugg. I was this close to unbuckling my seatbelt when he shot straight up and slammed his foot on the gas, almost running into the car ahead of him. “I see them!”

I fell back a in my seat. “Careful, Timber. I’m going to get—”

“TIMBER, WE HAVE A CAT BACK HERE! BE CAREFUL!” Jade screeched. I flinched.

Timber hunched his tall shoulders. “Sorry.” He weaved around the Honda we had nearly leveled and drove on. James’ car, however, stayed where it was.

We might be able to catch them. We just might. A thrill ran under my skin like electricity. What is this strange thing called adrenaline? Traffic sped up and I leaned forward again, the fear gone.

Then I realized that we had to drive through an intersection. And what generally comes with intersections?

Oh yes. Traffic lights. And the light we were hurtling towards was green.

Green lights are the worst, my friends. You never know when they’ll turn, gasp, yellow!

I tensed and stopped breathing.

We were three hundred yards away. Now two fifty. Two hundred….

Then, horror, the green light disappeared, and yellow took its place.

Not a single car blocked us from the intersection. We had a clear path. If we stopped now, King would get away. The cars crossing his lane were already slowing down as their light turned red. But if we didn’t stop, we could run through a red light, get hit, and die.

No justice or Cheetos would be attained if we died.

“You can make it!” Matt said.

“No, don’t!” I countered. Timber slammed his foot on the pedal like my opinion didn’t exist. After a little buck the van sped toward the light.

Jade again shouted something about the cat. Matt scooted forward. I don’t think he was wearing his seat belt.

I ducked and braced for impact. Seconds stretched by and cars, trees, and buildings rushed past. Nothing happened.

Timber whooped, and so did Matt.

I glanced up, then back through the rear window. The intersection was behind us. I exhaled, melting in my chair. Timber slammed on the breaks, and we slowed.

We were now in the same section as King. All we had to do was stalk him like Secret Agents till he reached his next destination. Then…then I had no idea what we’d do. I mean, I sorta hoped we could just tell King to stop, and he would.

But there was no way it would go down like that. He not only had two minions to back him up, but he also had James. My James. King wouldn’t give up without a fight.
But that was the least of my worries.

As soon as we’d slid to a stop, inches from hitting another Honda, a flash of red, white, and blue lit up the mirror.

Oh snap. “Move over!” I said.

“I’ve got this, Sam.” Timber eased car into the middle lane where the yellow strips tapered into a turning lane.

I watched the police car through the rearview mirror as it drove through the lane we’d just occupied. Funny, he didn’t seem in too much of a hurry.

Then the cop car, in all its flashing glory, slipped into a spot behind our van. Weird. Was he trying to get around us? The lane was open.

The police car didn’t move.

Timber stared at the rearview mirror for a second. Then he dropped his forehead onto the steering wheel.

No way…..

The door of the cop car opened and an officer stepped out. The cop was here for us.

I’ve never been pulled over before. Well, except for the time my mom….(“Sam, we don’t talk about that,” Mother interjects.) Anyway, this was only the second time.

Timber kept his hands on the wheel as the cop approached. The flashing lights painting the officer’s face red, white, and blue like he was at a dance party with an America themed disco ball.

As an afterthought I tore off the karate belt that was somehow still wrapped around my head and brushed my hair over my cut. Hopefully the darkness would hide my pathetic, slightly bloody state.

Just before the officer reached us, I straightened and scanned the streets, determined to keep track of James’ Mustang.

Cars passed our van and zipped through the intersection, liberated by a green light.

James’ Mustang was nowhere to be seen.

I blinked and looked harder, my gut sinking. I willed a black car to appear.

Timber lowered the van window and the cop asked him if he knew how fast he’d been going. I vaguely registered their conversation.

James had already driven through the light. He was gone.

We’d lost them.

We’re almost there folks! Only one more part left!

Have a fantastic Labor Day Weekend!

-Gabrielle Pollack (A.K.A. The Great Rising Puzzlement)

3 thoughts on “Cheetos, Kittens, and Paint Cans: Part Five (A Sam short story)

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