by Timmothy Merath

He called himself Theodore Birdwhistle.

His hands were strong.  Hands that reminded me of the wind, strength unknown until unleashed in a storm, tearing down the brick buildings so many other strong hands had built before once again becoming a calm breeze.

Theodore, never Teddy, sat very still while he talked, those hands receded into the caverns of his oversized, fur-lined coat.

He had taken my cat and I wasn't to get her back.

She had been wandering in the grass next to the sidewalk in front of my house when he walked by and picked her up, tucking her into his jacket.  A fair price he would get for the pelt, he told me.  That kind of color is popular in Paris right now.

The soul he didn't need and couldn't sell.  Theodore, never Teddy, he reminded me.  Theodore had to find me and negotiate.  The soul of my cat for a cup of hot coffee, that's the least I could do.  He would leave the soul in the cup after he'd finished.

I hadn't known my cat to be missing or dead.  He did not tell him how he knew I'd be here at this moment, having sat down with two cups of coffee, one for my mother who had yet to arrive to tell him poorly she thought of my decisions.

He raised his head, shuffled the last drops into the back of his throat and let out a raspy, prolonged sigh.  Theodore, never Teddy, stood up and stared into the cup for a few seconds.  He was already walking away as he set the cup before me.

I picked up the cup and slowly turned the opening towards me.

There it was, a tiny soul stuck to the bottom, barely holding on to this world.  I poured the rest of my coffee into the cup and drank quickly.

I felt his hands, now, around my heart.  The wind becoming stronger, ripping apart each piece of me.  Memories and emotions torn away and thrown into the distance, every last one of them.  The aftermath a lonely concrete foundation sitting in a field of dirt as vast as you can imagine.

I sat very still, ordered another cup of coffee and began to whistle.