Sunday, September 6, 2009

Cat People

I grew up in a suburb that grew up with me; we were one of the first houses on the block. A friend of mine grew up in a nearby rural community, the kind of place where you knew everyone on your block, knew your pharmacist, knew your grocer, etc.
His house was similar to mine. He had two brothers and sister, just like me. The similarities ended there, though. There was a lot of family quarrels in his house, sometimes ending in bloody fist-fights. When my family was routinely dull and predictable, his was energetic and dynamic; both are good in their own ways, of course, but adding elements of both made things more interesting for me and a nice break from the chaos for him.
There was an energy in his house that attracted the chaotic. Mostly, it was comical. Sometimes it was tragic. And there were the magical moments.
Whenever something unusual happened in that quiet little town, there could only be one of two reasons: my friend's family, or the gypsies. "Gypsies", it turns out, were any group of people who drifted into or near the town. They could be circus people. They could be a band. Heck, they could be a group of tourists travelling on the cheap. Whatever, they were all gypsies and whenever something went massively wrong, the gypsies were to blame.
We were trying to decide what trouble we could skirt that day. Just to the border of getting into trouble without really getting into trouble. I saw her through the window. She was skulking in the back yard. Which was odd because the back yard was fenced in. I looked at my friend and he had seen her too. Motioning for me to be quiet and to follow him, we headed for the side door. Whispering quickly, our plan was simple: go out the side door, circle around to the back gate, and surprise her. We really didn't know what would happen then but we were rushed.
She looked like a gypsy. That's the only way I can describe it. She had dark hair, sharp features, dark silky clothes with a black shawl draped over her shoulders and some dangling jewelry that stood out in sharp contrast to her dark clothes. I almost laughed: for once, I thought, the suspicious townies got it right.
She must have percieved us. She stopped looking into the windows, stood up, pulled her shawl over the top of her head, and quickly moved towards the other gate, which opened at the driveway. From there, she would be able to reach the street in no time. We started walking towards her, shouting "hey!" as we picked up the pace. She opened the gate and slipped through as we were half-way there. We broke out into a jog and opened the gate which had swung shut, my friend in the lead.
I only saw the after effect, my friend says he saw it happen. When I looked around, I couldn't see anyone, just a big black cat darting down the drive. My friend had stopped in his tracks and just stood, mouth agape. The gypsy woman was no where to be seen. He spun around, grabbed me by the shoulders, and pushed me back through the gate where he started walking in circles. He says he saw the gypsy turn into the cat as she was walking away.
On reflection, it completely makes sense as far as the disappearance of the gypsy woman. I would go so far as to say I saw the end of the transformation. The cat seemed bigger at first but I wasn't looking for the cat, I was looking for the woman, so it didn't really register.
I've walked back there plenty of times; there was no other place for the woman to have gone, nothing to hide behind. I trust my friend completely, there was no reason for him to make up a story like that. It happened so fast it had to have happened; a similar transformation in a Hollywood movie would have taken several minutes at least if not a whole scene.
I never saw that gypsy woman again. Nor that cat.

No comments:

Post a Comment