Boots

by Angel Martinez

Willem’s father never approved of his artistic talents, his choices in life, or the fact that he’s gay. When the only thing Horst leaves to Willem is the family cat, he thinks it’s his father’s last insult from the grave. That is, until the cat starts talking to him.

Though Willem’s lost his boyfriend, his home, and his job, Kasha, who claims to be a magic cat, reassures him that all will be well. All he needs is Willem’s trust and a good pair of boots. But giving boots to a talking cat has unexpected consequences when odd events ambush Willem at every turn, such as the appearance of a handsome stranger in his arms at night. While he begins to suspect Kasha’s plans might be dangerous for all involved, how can he distrust such a charming kitty in cowboy boots?

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Excerpt:

“The cat?” Willem sputtered. “That’s what he left me?”

“Settle down, Will.” Gunther pursed his lips and pointed to the stool beside his desk. “Yes, and three hundred dollars. Wasn’t much to divide between us.”

“But he left you the whole brewery!” Willem flung his arms in the air. Dear old Dad’s parting shot from the grave. “And at least he left Kurt the truck!”

“What would you do with a truck and no license?” Kurt drawled from where he leaned in the doorway.

“Could’ve sold it!”

Gunther ran a hand back through his hair. “Will, it’s not like I’d kick you out on the street. You’re welcome to stay with Linda and me as long as you need. You can always work on the line, or the loading dock.” He glanced up at Willem, his eyes tired. “It’s not like Dad left me a lot either. A floundering brewery and a hell of a lot of debt.”

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Shame flushed Willem’s face. “I’m sorry, Gun. I know.”

Five years, it had been five years since he had spoken to their father, and it had been a shouting match about Willem being a ‘sissy fag’. When his father had called him the week before, it had been a surprise. He hadn’t been able to get hold of Gunther and Kurt was out of town, he’d said. Someone needed to help him get to the hospital. The shock of seeing his strong, blustering father gaunt and unsteady had shaken Willem to the core.

In the ambulance Willem had thought he and his father had mended fences, and now this.

“I appreciate the offer.” Willem blew out a slow breath. “But I can’t mooch off you. And working at the brewery would be too much like charity.”

“It’s not charity, Will. We’re family.”

“Hate to break up this love fest, but I’m out. Have to get back to Pittsburgh tonight.” Kurt pushed off from the wall and gave them an unenthusiastic wave. “Later, bros. Have fun with your cat, Will.”

Gunther snorted when he walked out of sight. “Such a warm, caring person.”

“Yeah, well, Dad made us all what we are,” Willem muttered.

A long hesitation hung between them.

“Did he make you gay, Will?” Gunther asked softly.

From anyone else, the question would have made him furious, but Gunther, solid, backwater Gunther, really wanted to know. “No, Gun. Either you are or you aren’t. Dad made me crazy, but he didn’t make me gay.”

Gunther nodded, tapping a pencil on the desk. “So what’re you going to do? No job, no place to stay. Will, I worry about you.”

“I’ll manage.” Jaw tight, the backs of his eyes burning, Willem had no idea how he would.

Three months prior, he’d had a good job as a welder at the auto plant, a live-in boyfriend, and a decent apartment. Now the plant had shut down, the aforementioned boyfriend had ditched him for some damn hairstylist, and cheating boyfriend and said hairstylist now inhabited the apartment. The drunken binge after finding Joey in bed with his new lover had been the final blow. He didn’t recall driving drunk, but since that night had cost him his license, he must have. Not such a terrible thing, he supposed, since the week after, the bank had repossessed his car.

Joey… He wished he could recall good moments. There had been happy times, when they’d had fun together, when it had felt like Joey loved him. The only image that would come, the one seared into his brain, was Joey on his knees, head and shoulders on the mattress, ass in the air, crying out while hair-boy pounded into him with wild abandon. God. How long had it been going on, right in his own bed?

He heaved a sigh and glanced down at the black tomcat sleeping on his cushion in the corner of the office. “It was a good joke. About the cat. But I can’t take poor Puss out of here. He’s comfortable where he is.”

“Don’t mind keeping him for you,” Gunther said. “He keeps the mice from the grain. You just let me know if you ever want him.”

“Thanks, Gun.” He rose and shook his brother’s hand. “Really. I know it’s—” He broke off when something butted against his ankle. Puss wound his way around Willem’s legs, purring.

Gunther chuckled. “He doesn’t want you to go.”

“You stay with, Gun, Puss.” Willem reached down to scratch the tom behind his ears. “Stay here where you’ve got your food dish and your pillow.”

Puss looked up at him with bright green eyes and mewed. Willem hoped that was agreement.

He had walked out onto the street, long strides eating up half a block in no time, before he stumbled on something and nearly fell. The damn cat had run right between his feet.

“Go home, Puss.”

Puss just stared at him with those shining, enigmatic eyes. Not like you can tell a cat where to go. When he started walking again, Puss padded right beside him. Willem went on to the memorial park in the center of town and sat on one of the creaky benches with the fewest slats missing. He pulled his jacket closer against the late autumn chill, set his backpack by his feet, and tried to jumpstart his tired brain.

What was there really left to do? Here he was, in a town where the recession had begun long before Dubya had taken office. The coal companies, having ripped the hearts from the hills and left their mess behind, had long moved on. The last factories had shut down. Half the stores on Market Street were empty or boarded up. He had no prospects, no transportation, just enough money to get him in trouble, and no dreams that hadn’t died. What was the point—?

“Are you going to sit there feeling sorry for yourself all night?”

Willem looked around to find the velvet-smooth voice. “What? Who said that?”

“Down here, nitwit.”

But there was no one, just Puss sitting beside him on the bench with his thick, black tail twitching.

“Where?”

“For Raiju’s sake, Willem, open your eyes.”

They were open all right, but that didn’t guarantee his sanity. He could have sworn the damn cat had spoken.

“Puss?”

“Yes. And while I have your attention, what sort of stupid name is Puss, anyway? Couldn’t you and your halfwit brothers have come up with something slightly more imaginative? You may as well have called me Cat.”

“Um…”

“Close your mouth. You waste precious heat that way.”

COLLAPSE

About the Author

The unlikely black sheep of an ivory tower intellectual family, Angel Martinez has managed to make her way through life reasonably unscathed. Despite a wildly misspent youth, she snagged a degree in English Lit, married once and did it right the first time, gave birth to one amazing son, and realized at some point that she could get paid for writing.

Published since 2006, Angel’s cynical heart cloaks a desperate romantic. You’ll find drama and humor given equal weight in her writing and don’t expect sad endings. Life is sad enough.

She currently lives in Delaware in a drinking town with a college problem and writes Science Fiction and Fantasy centered around gay heroes.


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