Doris stared into his dark alien eyes, admiring the black like a helmet on his pumpkin head. He stared back, a serene grin on his face; one which said he knew everything about her. Shaking her head, she pulled herself away, turned and walked down the aisle, and was kneeling to play with a nice little calico when she heard him growling — when the thought came unbidden into her brain, Take him home.
She pushed through the shiny double-doors, clack-clack, and approached the fat volunteer chick puddled behind the stainless-steel counter. “I’d like to adopt number twenty-nine, please.”
Later, having stopped on the way home from the shelter to purchase a catbox and a bag of Old Mother Hubbard and a fuzzy mouse-shaped toy which he ignored completely, they sat together in her small crappy apartment, she cross-legged on her Salvation Army couch and he crouched on the cracked leather ottoman, staring at one another across the two wooden crates she jokingly called her coffee table to the few friends she allowed in.
She looked at his black helmet and wise face and said in a fair imitation of evil Senator Palpatine, “I shall name you… Darth… Vaaader,” and got up for a beer to celebrate. And as she walked to the kitchen, he watched her with his alien eyes, saw her skinny chest and wide jiggling ass, her rolling way of walking, and thought to himself, Pear Mom.
She swung the fridge door shut, unscrewed the bottle top and took a deep swig, and suddenly screamed at the fingers in her mind. Her beer crashed to the floor, bits of glass and foam spraying over the cracked linoleum, and she turned to stare at him, her mind swimming, grasping, “What in the hell?” She heard him again, Pear Mom. Blinking his eyes slowly, he growled and rolled over to his back. Come rub my tummy, Pear Mom.
Four beers later, the clock having swung round at last to twelve and her textbooks long since tumbled to the floor, she clicked off the re-run of ER and wandered off to bed. He followed close on her heels — watched her pee, grinned at the face she made while brushing her teeth, admired his Pear Mom’s pale skin as she wrestled the nightgown down around her head. And as she crawled into bed and turned off the light, he stationed himself like a sentry in the doorway.
Hours later, she woke to see him sitting on her chest, staring at her with his black, alien eyes and she screamed, wetting her nightgown. Grabbing him up like a sack of dirty laundry, she tossed him in the hallway and firmly shut the door, then stripped off her nightgown and climbed back into bed. It was a long time before she slept.
The next day, she rode the subway to the county hospital where she interned. In the break-room, she pulled her sometimes-friend Melinda aside to tell her about Darth Vader, explain what had happened last night. “I think he’s psychic,” she concluded, knowing as the words left her lips she sounded crazy.
Melinda stared at her with that maddening superior look. “You think your cat is psychic?”
“Yes! Weren’t you listening?” Pissed now. “He stares at me, he knows what I’m thinking, he can read my fucking mind, I tell you. I’m scared, Mel.”
Melinda shrugged. “You’re imagining things, girlfriend. Maybe you should get more sleep,” and went back to her rounds.
Doris changed into scrubs, thinking that Melinda was full of crap, the damn cat could talk for Christ’s sake, she wasn’t imagining it; she wasn’t imagining anything. She didn’t need this. Tomorrow she would bring Darth Vader back to the shelter, just be done with him and all this bullshit.
That night, she worked late, purposely avoiding him, and sometime after eleven she quietly cracked open the apartment door. She hoped he was asleep, but no, he was there waiting, a reproachful look on his face. Pear Mom, late. She ignored him, stepped around and went to her room to study. She could hear him out there, prowling the apartment, growling quietly in the hall. Pear Mom, want rub now, and he sneaked his paw beneath the door, reaching for her. Remembering what she would do in the morning, she cursed and shoved a bath towel underneath.
He woke her a few hours later. Pear Mom. Need to go now. Red flashing light flickered through the curtains, and Darth Vader was suddenly yowling, screaming in the hall. She smelled smoke and lurched out of bed, was reaching for the door when a vague warning impinged on her sleep-drugged brain, Hot. Laying her hands across the top, she felt the heat there. Pear Mom, help me, and she knew he was lost.
Turning away, she struggled with the window, the jamb frozen. She could hear him in the hall. Scared, Pear Mom, hot. The track finally squealed open and she jumped out the window and ran. He’d saved her, and in return she was leaving him. She could hear him in her head, pleading, Come back, please. Burning, Pear Mom.
In the grassy strip on the far side of the parking lot, she watched the fire trucks, the dripping hoses, the men rushing about, and fell to her knees, covering her ears to keep out the sound of his terror. Minutes passed and his cries had finally tapered off when she heard him faintly, Sleep now, Pear Mom. She jumped to her feet. “No, wait. I’m coming,” she screamed. And as she ran for the door, a jacketed fireman suddenly emerged, a limp charred form in his hands.
Two weeks later, she opened the door to the veterinary clinic and went to him lying bandaged within. He looked up at her, Pear Mom here, and she thought, Yes, I’m here. I’ll always be here. I love you, Darth Vader.
Kip lives in Tucson with his wife, kids, etc. He writes to keep the flying monkeys away.