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The International Writers Magazine
: Dreamscapes Winter Story

An Interrupted Run
Marja Hagborg

The house was small, actually just a cottage, gray and fading into the white and gray winter landscape. The wind sighed in the tall old fir trees behind the house with its sad, dark windows. Snow had blown smoothly all over the meadow in the front of the house. The trees had been covered by heavy snow, but the wind kept blowing it away, soon leaving the branches bare and naked.

Frozen red berries in the rowan tree were the only color in the landscape. The ice covered shiny clusters automatically made me wonder if there were foxes living in the woods near by.
I stopped for a while and stood in the snow as if wondering whether to go farther. A sudden shiver went through my body. It wasn't because I was cold, it was the realization that I had finally reached this house, my father's house, my father whom I had hardly even known.
 
A dead hare was hanging by its hind legs on the wall next to the door. I stared at its cold and stiff body in sadness and almost horror. Noticing a spot of brownish dry blood close to its shoulder blades, I figured out that a single shot had killed the hare, interrupted its run forever.
I didn't know that my father had been a hunter. What did I actually know about him?
I moved my gaze from the dead hare to the window and my eyes met the curious yellow eyes of a gray cat who was sitting on the window sill, partly behind a white lace curtain.

My father had died suddenly, I was told, falling down on the kitchen floor losing consciousness, never waking up. I felt strange and numb. I thought I should mourn, but I only felt empty and oddly cold inside. We had never been close, our words had been polite and our phrases fumbling.
A crow cawed in the rowan tree. Its voice was mournful. I turned to looked at it, and it flapped its wings and cried as if it were aware of being watched. It cocked its head, and now it was I who was being observed. I was an intruder; I was a stranger here. I didn't belong.

A woman, my father's second wife, answered the door and invited me in. She was heavy and slow in her movements, and there was something awkward in her way of showing me in as if she were uncomfortable having me in the house. We had met before a few times, and there had been this uneasiness between us. I had always sensed that she didn't like me but was polite enough, for my father's sake, to treat me well.
This woman was big but quiet, her voice was thin and almost plaintive. There was something horribly empty in her pale blue eyes and her sad sagging face framed by long graying reddish hair. I felt pity for her.
She served me a cup of coffee. Her chubby hands were shaking slightly, and I saw tears in her eyes. I sat on the couch and felt obligated to say something comforting.
We drank coffee in silence. Only the clock was ticking on the wall. She sat in the chair next to the window wringing her hands.

The cat's silhouette showed behind the lace curtain. I remembered that the cat was the reason I came. She had called me and asked if I could take care of it because she really didn't like cats. If I couldn't take it, she was planning to let the neighbor shoot it.
She turned to me and sighed heavily, dabbed her eyes with a white and blue handkerchief. I put my cup down on the table and waited, holding my breath.
"Your father was lying on the kitchen floor. He was trying to say something but the words didn't want to come out right." She paused and dabbed her eyes again. It felt as if a boulder had rolled over my chest.
"His voice was so weak that I had a hard time hearing what he tried to say. Finally I understood that he wanted you to have the cat because you are an animal lover."

I was amazed and a little confused. How did he know about my love for animals? What else did he know about me? Did my father know that I had been looking for him, or someone like him, all my life?
I drank the second cup of the bitter tasting coffee in a hurry, almost burning my mouth. I told her I had to get going, I had a long drive, and I had heard on the radio that a snowstorm was coming. I wasn't a good driver, and driving these narrow roads was scary any case. She didn't seem to mind I was leaving. I actually think she was relieved that I would leave and take the cat with me.

I walked in the snow carrying the cat in a box with a few holes in it. She put her nose in one of the holes and sniffed the air. I felt her moist nose on my bare wrist. I had forgotten to ask what the cat's name was. I turned my head to see if the woman was in the window, but the windows were empty, black sad holes in the gray wall. No one was there. Only the dead hare hang on the wall.
A couple of crows flew over us and landed in the hedges behind the shed. They too sounded happy to get rid of me and the cat, who had certainly been a menace. They flapped their shiny black wings as if telling us to go away.
© Marja Hagborg May 2005
marja@pobox.com
See also Cat's Paw by Maja Hagborg

Marja is a Scandinavian born slacker/writer/artist living in Chicago.


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