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Rescue and Redemptioin
It is 8:30 am in Florence, Oregon. The sun is low in the sky, and the clouds smear the morning sky into a uniform bluish-grey, a few shades lighter than the ocean. Sitting with one arm around her legs and her head resting on her knees, Molly plays with a stick and a pebble that found their way onto the wooden porch of Molly’s family’s summer home. The wood’s dreary blue paint was once the color of the sky on the brightest summer day, but had faded to a dull grey similar to this morning’s cloudy sky. As Molly hits the pebble back and forth with the stick, flakes of chipping paint crumble and reveal the damp wood beneath. Molly drops the stick and flicks the pebble across the porch with her finger; the pebble falls into a hole in the wood two feet away, disappearing beneath the porch.
Molly’s parents are upstairs, asleep in bed. On vacation, they never get up before 10. They are both doctors, and they don’t often get the opportunity to sleep in, so every June during their one-month trip to the beach house, they catch up. This was never a problem for Molly and her siblings; they could always find something to do while their parents slept through the morning. But Jack now has a wife and kids, and Lisa is off at college, so Molly would have to find some way to entertain herself this year. She spent the first week reading the books she had brought from home, but they quickly ran out. She spent the next few days trying to find some neighbors her age to hang out with, but most of the other beach houses were either empty or inhabited by young wealthy couples who had taken an early retirement.
She decides to take a walk down the beach. As she passes the house three doors down from her own, she sees Mrs. McKinley, one of the few neighbors she had met before, picking cherry tomatoes from a plant in her lush green garden. Both Mr. and Mrs. McKinley were CEOs by they time they were 40; they met through a business deal, and two years later they got married. Six years later, in their early 50’s, they retired, sold their apartment in New York, and moved to their beach house in Oregon. Molly couldn’t tell exactly how old Mrs. McKinley was now, because in her yoga pants, Nike sneakers, and track jacket, she looked like she couldn’t possibly be any older than 45.
Molly hears the phone ringing through the porch’s screen door; she looks at Mrs. McKinley, and sees that she has ear phones in her ears, connected to a black iPod. Molly stops walking, and Mrs. McKinley looks up.
“Do you need something, dear?” she says, pulling out one of her ear phones.
“No, it’s just—your phone is ringing,” Molly replies, startled, realizing that she had been staring.
“Oh, thanks,” she says, setting down her basket of cherry tomatoes and jogging inside.
Molly continues down the beach, wondering what she would do for the next two and a half weeks. There are no TVs or computers at her house, so there weren’t any passive ways to pass the time. She didn’t mind being alone, but she was just so bored; I guess I could start rereading the books that I brought, she thinks. The sand starts to turn into pebbles and rocks, and up ahead, Molly sees giant boulders, so she turns around to head back home.
Passing by the McKinley’s house, Molly notices the basket of cherry tomatoes sitting exactly where Mrs. McKinley left them. She sees that the back door is shut. Huh, she must have forgotten them, she thinks and then forgets a moment later.
The sun is now a bit higher in the sky, but the sky remains the dull bluish grey. Molly walks into the kitchen through the porch door, and is surprised to see her mother up, scrambling eggs. Thinking that the clouds must have made her misjudge the time, Molly looks at the clock. Seeing that it was indeed 9:15, she asks,
“Well what are you doing up, Miss Early Bird?”
“You know our neighbor, Mrs. McKinley?” The image of the basket of cherry tomatoes blinks in Molly’s head. “She called. Her son got in a skiing accident in Colorado, so she and Mr. McKinley flew down to make sure he’s okay.”
“So… why did she call here?”
“Oh, right. She was actually calling for you. She found a cat a couple weeks ago, and she’s taking care of if while she looks for its owner. I told her you could look after it—you know, feed it, play with it—until she gets back. It should only be a few days. Oh, she was so grateful for it, too, she’s so worried about her son. She said that she would leave the key under the back doormat for you.”
Molly sighs. She has always hated cats; when she was younger, she would tell her friends that she was allergic, just so she wouldn’t have to go near their pet cats. But Mrs. McKinley was pretty nice and could use the help, so she didn’t argue.
That evening, Molly grudgingly walked down the beach to her neighbor’s backyard, and stepped onto the porch. She finds the key right where it was supposed to be, and walks into the house. She passes the gardening closet, which had been left open, and walks into the kitchen, where the lights had been left on. A bag of cat food sits on the kitchen counter, next to a note scribbled by Mrs. McKinley telling her where the bowls were, what times to feed the cat, and that she could help her self to some lemonade, which is in the fridge. Molly pulls a bowl out of the cabinet, pours some cat food into it, and then realizes that the cat was nowhere to be seen. As she searches the living room and dining room, she can hear the crickets beginning to chirp outside. Crap, the last thing this lady needs right now is to come home to a missing cat, or a starving one, for that matter, Molly thinks as she returns to the kitchen. Well, I’ll just leave the food out.
Molly accidentally kicks one of her sandals under a small bench as she attempts to slip it on with her foot, and the most unpleasant sound she had ever heard comes from underneath the bench.
“There you are,” Molly says, folded at the hip and looking straight into the cat’s glowing eyes. The kitten’s brown and black striped fur was clearly groomed by Mrs. McKinley, but to Molly, it still looked mangy. She begins to reach for the cat, but it hisses and backs further into the darkness beneath the bench.
“Fine, sheesh, you can find your food on your own.”
Molly puts on her sandals, careful not to accidentally attack the cat again. She locks the back door and walks towards the front door. As she grabs the silver door handle, she notices a half-open door leading to a green room with its lights still on, so she walks over to turn them off. She reaches in, but can’t find the switch, so she walks into the room.
The sound of the crickets disappears as Molly gapes at the three full walls of leather-bound books. Well I know what I’m doing until the McKinley’s get back, thought Molly, glowing. Just as she reached out to grab a red leather book with gold letters spelling ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ down its spine, she heard a meow. But this meow isn’t the angry, reproachful sound from before; this is a muffled, desperate cry. Molly runs over to see a coat, which had been hanging above the bench, in a wiggling pile. Molly laughs in relief as she lifts the heavy coat off the tiny cat.
“How did you knock this down?” Molly asks the little cat looking up at her with frightened green eyes.
“You’re okay now,” she chuckles as she scratches the cats head. “Go eat your food.”
For five days in a row, Molly came to the house, fed the cat, and stayed all day long, reading from the endless supply of the McKinley’s library. Every morning, Molly would blankly stare at the cat that would run to greet her at the door, as if to say, I haven’t forgotten that you’re a cat; but as she sat, legs stretched out across the swinging chair on the porch all day reading ‘The Odyssey’, ‘The Fountainhead’, or one of her other borrowed books, she allowed the cat to sleep between her ankles.
On the sixth day, in the afternoon, the sun was bright and there were only a few white clouds. Molly sat on the swinging chair, running the arch of her foot down the kitten’s sleeping head then across its back, when she heard the front door slam. The cat jumped awake, going from peacefully asleep to awake and alert in half a second. It followed Molly as she hopped off the chair and walked into the house to greet the McKinley’s. She found Mrs. McKinley setting down her purse on the kitchen counter.
“Oh! Molly, you startled me. I didn’t know you’d…” her glance fell to the book in Molly’s hand. “Ah, so you found the library. So, any problems?”
Molly was about to ask, ‘Problems with what?’ when she remembered the reason she had been there.
“Nope, none at all.” She looked around for the cat, and Mrs. McKinley chuckled, looking at Molly’s feet. Molly looked down, and saw the kitten hiding behind her ankles, with its head poking out from one side staring at Mrs. McKinley.
“Well, it looks like he found a friend!”
Molly looked slightly aghast at the idea of her being friendly with a cat. Mrs. McKinley laughed and said,
“How much longer are you staying?”
“A week and a half.”
“Why don’t you come over again tomorrow? He hasn’t really been very comfortable with anyone; it’s nice to see him feeling so affectionate.” Seeing Molly’s apprehension, she added,
“And those books really ought to be read by someone.”
“Right, the books,” replied Molly, not realizing that she was smiling, looking down into the green eyes.