The Imp

There was a dead cat in the washing machine.

One surprised emerald eye stared out of the mangled, inverted face. Matted black fur speckled with dirty dried suds covered its other eye, and its absurd pink tongue lolled heavily out of its mouth.

What the hell?

I stepped a little closer to the partially open door of the machine. So someone had already seen it and gone to get the laundromat’s owner, I assumed. But there were no other hampers waiting to be unloaded, or dryers humming their white noise in the yellow room. It was early Thursday morning, and no one else was here.

Poor thing, I thought, then spotted a strange blue mass beneath the twisted spine of the upturned creature. Turning my head, I thought it looked a bit…shiny. I’m a magpie, I can’t help it. I reached in, prodded the dead thing aside and gently pulled out a tiny suit jacket made of crumpled, royal blue velour with bright blue sequins adorning the sleeves and lapels. The jacket reminded me of a Spanish dancer’s bolero, if the man it fit was only a foot tall.

I glanced around. Still no-one was here. What was a dead cat and a doll’s jacket doing in the washing machine? Together? I looked again at the tiny clothes, and unexpectedly my ring finger slipped through a rip in the sleeve where some sequins were missing. A claw-shaped rip. O-kay.

Just then the door tinkled open and a tall blonde woman came staggering in with a loaded basket. She didn’t notice the contents of my washing machine until she dropped her burden heavily at the next machine over and turned to give me a rueful smile. Which immediately became a scream, and I thought for a moment she was going to drop too. I stepped in her line of vision, blocking the mangled, sudsy mess with my body, and the dwarf I knew was owner of the laundromat finally entered the scene from my left, drawn by the noise.

The blonde was still screaming, so I placed a supportive hand on her shoulder before glass began to crack. Then I turned to the dwarf with questioning eyebrows and held out the jacket. She took it in one gnarled hand, then reached around me to pull the limp feline from her machine with the other. It dropped absurdly close to the floor, scruffy limbs dangling like a hunter’s catch.

“Imp,” muttered the dwarf, and I didn’t know if she was referring to me, the cat, or the jacket’s previous owner. Then she stomped back away to her counter, leaned around and yelled thunderously, “Benedict!”

A head crowned with tight curls appeared from the back room.

“Here,” she said, tossing the cat. “Don’t bother defrosting the chicken for dinner.”

Image prompt from AWC

This 500-word story was a response to the Australian Writers’ Centre’s monthly competition, Furious Fiction. Here are the winners and shortlisters for March 2019. The theme was ‘Curiosity’ and the prompt was the image shown at the top of the post.

Do check out the other writers, the submissions are always awesome.

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