Mindy’s coming home again, and I’m excited!
Mindy is my twin sister, and my best friend in the whole world. We do everything together. We play together, dance together, and sometimes, when Mama and Daddy aren’t looking, we sneak down to the creek in the woods behind Grandpa’s house together to skip rocks on the water.
Mindy’s been gone for three whole months, now. An ETERNITY! I was so sad when they took her away. I begged and begged for Mama and Daddy to let her stay, but they said it was for her own good.
And my protection.
People used to tell us: “Mindy and Cindy go together like peas and carrots!” and we would laugh and smile and dance; Mindy swinging her dress in big circles, and Me stomping my feet and throwing my hands in the air like those crazy people at the weird church down the street. Daddy says to stay away from that church, but I like to peek through the windows in the back sometimes and watch them dance and sing. It makes me laugh.
Mindy and Me did go together, though. Better than stupid vegetables! We stuck to each other like glue. Leastwise until Old Mrs. Armitage’s cat came up missing.
Old Mrs. Armitage had lived in the brown house next door since forever. Uncle Jimmy said she was so old, when God made the world, he had to build it around her because she was already there. And he had to be careful, too, because the cat kept trying to get him with its claws whenever he got too close.
One day, Mrs. Armitage come over to talk to Mama and Daddy with tears in her eyes. Her stupid cat had snuck out the back door when she wasn’t looking and ran away. Mindy was upset. She kept saying things like “Poor Mrs. Armitage!” and “I feel bad for her” and “I hope he didn’t get run over by a car.”
Mindy was really worried.
Old Mrs. Armitage’s cat running away made perfect sense to me, though. Mrs. Armitage smelled like old medicine, covered her furniture in thick, dusty plastic, and she fell asleep in front of her tv every night, watching Wheel of Fortune at full volume. You could probably hear it from space! If I had to live with her, I’d have snuck out the back door, too.
But I didn’t say nothing to Mama and Daddy about it.
A little while later, they found the cat next to the brick wall just before the entrance to Beecher Street. Someone had cut its belly wide open, pulled out its insides, and spread it all over. The grass was all red like it was covered rose petals, the same colors as the ones Daddy gets Mama every year for their anniversary.
Mama thought it was a wild animal, but Daddy wasn’t so sure.
“Girls,” he asked us. “Do you know what happened to Mrs. Armitage’s cat?”
“No, Daddy,” I said, but Mindy got quiet.
“Mindy. Is there something you want to say?”
She crossed her arms and stuck out her lip.
“Mindy said she hated Old Mrs. Armitage’s cat,” I blurted. “She told me she’s glad it’s dead.”
My face got red as a beet after I spoke. Mindy punched me in the arm. Hard. Daddy stared at us for a long time, then left the room. The next day, Mama and Daddy took Mindy to see a doctor.
“They asked me all kinds of weird questions,” she told me.
“They asked me about my feelings. They made me look at these blobs of ink and tell them what I saw.”
“Cool!” I said. “What did you see?”
“I don’t know. Blobs of ink.” She paused. “They asked if I ever wanted to hurt animals. Or people.”
“What did you tell them?” I asked.
“I told them I only ever wanted to hurt you!” she said, and we fell over giggling. We ran down to the creek again to skip rocks on the water. Mindy was different this time, though. She got quiet. She spent a lot of time staring at the birds in the trees. Robins.
It happened again a few days later.
Mama and Daddy had just started to relax a bit after the thing with Mrs. Armitage’s cat, when we woke up one morning to find a box full of robins, their heads cut off, their legs tied to their bodies so tight, they’d almost snapped in half.
Mama and Daddy went to the living room to talk. Mindy and Me listened from behind the kitchen door.
“What do we do?” Mama said, pacing around the room.
“I don’t know,” Daddy said, sitting on the couch with his head in his hands.
“We can’t just ignore it!”
“There’s something wrong with her.”
Daddy lifted his head. “We don’t know that. It could have been some teenagers pulling a prank.”
“This is not a prank,” Mama said, shoving the box of dead robins into Daddy’s face so hard, one of the heads fell out of the box and bounced to the floor. Sparkles, the cat, batted it a few times before Daddy picked it up again and put it back into the box.
“I know,” Daddy said.
“We have to do something.”
“I know,” Daddy said, “but what?”
A wave of pet murders crashed over the neighborhood that week. Mr. Bingham found his beagle dog, Butkis, dead in the backyard. Someone had fed him antifreeze. Mrs. Hinken awoke to find her chicken coop empty, the bodies of her chickens were stripped; the broken bones and wings organized to spell the phrase “No More Clucking” in her backyard. And poor Amy McCabe, who had lost her favorite cat, Patches, hung from a tree in the woods near the creek. One of its claws was caught in the bark of the trunk, as if it had tried to escape but couldn’t quite make it.
On and on the stories continued.
Mama and Daddy sat Mindy down in the living room and asked her questions.
“Why are you doing this, Mindy?” they asked.
“I’m not doing this,” she said.
Daddy raised his eyebrow.
“You hung that little McCabe girl’s cat from a tree!” Mama yelled.
“No I didn’t.”
“Why do you want to hurt animals, baby?” Daddy said. “Do you want to hurt people, too?”
“No. No, I don’t.”
“Yes she does,” I said from the back. “She told me all she really wanted was to hurt me.”
“I did not!” Mindy said, her face growing the same color as the flowers Daddy sometimes gets Mama; the same color Old Mrs. Armitage’s dog turned. The same color of all the animals.
“Yes you did! Back when we was skipping rocks in the creek behind Grandpa’s house, you said they made you look at blobs of ink and all you ever wanted to do was hurt me.”
Mindy leapt out of her seat like a crazed animal, tackled me, and started bashing my head against the floor. Daddy pulled her back and held her tight in his arms. Mama screamed. The next day, they took Mindy off to live at a hospital.
“To get her mind right,” Daddy said. I cried when they took her away. We all did.
The pet killing pretty much stopped after that.
We went to visit Mindy last weekend. Daddy said they gave her some medicine to calm her down, and I think it worked because she just stared at the wall the whole time.
Mama and Daddy don’t talk much anymore. They pretty much leave me alone, and that’s give me time to think. All these opportunities. I was just getting started when I snuck out in the middle of the night and used Daddy’s fishing knife to kill Mrs. Armitage’s cat. The chickens got on my nerves one night, so I sent a message with their bones. And Amy McCabe’s cat? That was just fun.
Mrs. Armitage got a new cat to replace the old one. A new family moved into the ranch house down the street. They have a Chihuahua. People up and down the street have all kinds of pets. One goes away, another one replaces it.
It doesn’t matter how many of them I kill, they keep bringing their pets back. Little kids, too. Teenagers. Adults. Nobody notices. Pets and people go missing all the time. And there are always other people to blame.
The Doctor’s say Mindy is doing much better now. Daddy says he thinks Mindy’s coming home again real soon.
I can’t wait. We’re going to have so much fun together!
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Thanks for joining us with the Free Flash Fiction Halloween Spectacular from the Fondue Writer’s Club. That’s it for this Halloween season, but don’t worry. We’ll be back in a few weeks to share some Thanksgiving stories, and a few weeks after that to share some Christmas stories.
Check out some of the other authors in our tribe. Joseph Courtemanche, Jamie Greening, Kathy Kexel, Derek Elkins, Rob Cely, and Dr. Paul J Bennett.
If you like our stories, check out or COVID-19 themed short story collection, THE COVID QUARANTINE CANTINA, available now in Kindle and Print and soon in Audio.