The closet’s darkness comforted me, and that saddle odor was gone. In its place was something much gentler: a powdery scent that seemed to soothe my hand.
The boy made bombing noises out there. I decided to wait it out.
Something brushed against my leg. I reached down. Fur. A head rubbed against the fingertips of my uninjured hand. Meowing. Loud meowing.
I cracked the door just enough to push out the cat. White straggly fur, like a polar bear’s. And only three legs. It hobbled out of view. I closed the door, leaving just a slit to scan the hallway. No boy.
A minute later, he appeared. He cradled the ball, and held a plastic bag filled with something colorful. He dropped to his knees, then started taking things out of the bag and positioning them on the floor. They were figurines. Then he got up and slapped the ball, which bounced out of sight. He followed.
More attack sounds.
The figurines included an Eskimo, a tribesman, a guy with a kilt and bagpipe, a woman in a kimono, a woman with a bonnet and clogs, an Australian outback kind of guy. The ball meteored into the figurines, bounced off the bed, and then rolled back into the hallway. He grabbed it, then ran out of view.
There was a scratching sound and the closet door rattled. That three-legged cat was sliding its paw on the closet door. Its eyes were the same light blue of Alaskan glaciers. I grabbed it, then returned to my hideaway.
The cat pulsated, its purrs churning like a distant lawn mower.
My bag. I slid my foot across the closet floor. Worry pounced on me. It wasn’t there.
I remembered. I’d left it next to the door, on the other side of the room. There it was. The apple juice tyrant couldn’t see it from the hallway. But all he had to do was step in the room, and he’d see it.
The wallpaper border seized me like a sneeze. It had that paprika baby shit plague victim color scheme. And it had that pattern. The threatening one? Lots of fragments with sharp angles. Like something sliced apart.
The tyrant howled and burst into view. He kicked the figurines and they clacked against the wall. I closed the closet door.
Another slap. My new friend purred and shoved her head into my hand. A smack on the closet door. It shook. The cat tensed. Then it was quiet.
When I cracked open the door, I discovered what happened: the ball had hit the closet. And now, it sat on the bed. A scoop of butter on a pile of paprika.
The tyrant walked into the room, then pulled himself onto the bed.
Mac was back at the doorway, sniffing the figurines.
The tyrant crawled to the ball, stood up, and then held it over his head. He snarled and hurled it. It slammed into the dog’s face, then bounced out of sight.
The tyrant started to back off the bed, then stopped. He saw the bag. It coaxed him like a giant dollop of whipped cream, but the things inside were anything but fluffy and sweet; they were my snakes.