By: Asia Merrill, Plymouth Voices Editor
The house didn’t look like much on the outside. There was no garden, nor particularly carefully planned design. Over the backdrop of a warm, dry plateau, it nearly vanished into thin air after acertain distance. Castilla la Mancha’s vineyards and windmills were a tranquil promise that could not be seen from the man’s front door, as he’d settled in the most barren and arid part of even Spain’s most deserted county. Short and squat, the house’s roof was flat. There was a ladder leading to it from the side and a wooden chair gently pointed towards the silvery dull sky.
The inside could have won some kind of contest. The colors rivaled that of an Iranian mosque. Draped across every surface sat woven carpets, rugs, some as small as a bath mat, others large enough to cover a ballroom floor, though those were neatly folded and thoughtfully labeled. Towards the back, hunched over a worktable with one small desk lamp, there was an aging man knotting strips of cloth into a spiral. A tin mug of black coffee sat by his side, going cold, as he was too immersed in his work to pause even for that. The stool he rested on used to be stained rich brown, but time and use had begun to fade it and now it groaned with the man when he stood. The wrinkles on his forehead were too much for a man even of his age, set in place from a perpetually furrowed brow.
The quiet had settled on him and his home like the thin film of dust, and was equally dreary. Themuffled, shuffling sounds of his weaving were no longer a gentle rhythm, but a sad, compulsive musing he would tire of, if it was not marginally less terrible than the totality of silence. The wonders that made up his quaint nest of a home were no more amusing than a stain from red wine.
All at once he knew he was hungry. His bony fingers pulled the strands from his weaving into a loose knot and he gingerly rose from the desk, wincing at the sudden sound of the stool hitting the ground behind him. Hunching over had made him feel ten years older, and done nothing for his strength or posture. After a somewhat agonizing moment of stretching and the replacement of his seat on all four pegs, he made his way to the modest kitchen. It was his favorite room. There were a few moments each new day, where tiny flecks would dance a slow waltz in the rising sun coming through the window. He liked to watch them: hundreds of couples in a grand spotlight, shining in splendor to an audience of one. The food made the kitchen a worthwhile triptoo.
He gathered the necessary supplies and began frying eggs with peppers, ham, spinach, cilantroand cheese. He was getting lost in the smell when he thought he heard something, which he first ignored. It was probably the eggs frying… yes, that was all, he thought.
Wait, there it was again. Was that at the door?
He clicked off the stove and walked cautiously towards the door. Putting a hand to the chipping green paint, he placed his ear close. Nothing.
Pat pat pat pat.
Startled, he pulled back. An unsteady hand moved to the door knob and slowly, he pulled it open and peeked an eye outside. There was nothing; only the front steps and a long stretch of dirt road. Must have been my imagination. I’m picking up cabin fever… he thought.
From below, there was a ring, like an articulated ring of a bell. “Mrow.”
His eyes drifted to the ground, and there was a cat- a notably large one- sitting on his front step staring back with green saucer eyes. They blinked at each other for a moment. “Mrrrrrow,” said the cat, reminding him to do something about the creature. He thought about just closing the door. His mother had always warned him that feeding stray cats would only encourage them to return, but what was this cat doing in the middle of nowhere? He looked around; the cat was theonly sign of life. The man sighed and opened the door wide enough to appear welcoming.
“Well, come in then. You must be hungry.” It rose, and with notable grace paced past him. Almost immediately it leapt into the old emerald recliner by the desk and rolled onto its back.
“Well now. You’re a bit of a freeloader, aren’t you?” He watched it writhe in the chair and noticedthe beautiful earth-colored stripes and almost olive undertones of its fur. Its paws were massive even for this cat’s size, and appeared as though it were wearing mittens; it had extra appendages and a little thumb. Upside down, its face was somewhere between a grimace and asmile. The man smiled back, returning to the kitchen.
“What do cats like anyway?” He heard the cat thump to the ground, rounding the corner a moment later. It didn’t even hesitate hopping on the counter.
“Oh, no you don’t. Don’t get too comfortable, you-” He paused. The cat was looking at him so earnestly. It had been a while since he had something to look in the eyes.
“Fine,” he said. He reached out a hand to pet its head, and the two front paws lifted as it rose to meet him.
“Jeesh. Someone’s friendly.”