Aaron Steinmetz

...be very still...the bird's angry...and I think he can see us.

Cocoa Tales: Episode Ten

Harold opted for barbecued chicken that night and gave Cocoa the tuna she requested. She turned in shortly thereafter, the planning and construction of several dozen kitty bombs apparently having taken quite a bit out of the poor little siamese. Harold himself wasn’t exactly awake either when I showed up, but that’s usually the case when Harold is at home. He works hard, you know?

Drifting in and out of sleep to the news on the television, he noticed I was seated in the recliner next to him. He muted the television. "I was starting to think," he said, "you stopped visiting me entirely."

I shrugged. I’m trying to stay in my own world as much as possible these days.

"Your muse’s advice?"


"And how are things going between you two?"

I shrugged again. They’re going well enough, I suppose. Wish they were going better. But she’s willing to stick around a bit longer.

"So why are you here?"

I just wanted to check in.

"Bull. You’re comfortable here."

With a sigh, I let my head fall against the back of the recliner as I said, You’re right. I like it here, it’s easy.

"Hey, look, I’m not going to pretend to know what life is like in your world," Harold said with a yawn. "But I know you have strong feelings for your muse and you were in here, what, seven months ago now? You were so worried you’d lose her and I told you then what I’m telling you now: stay out of this world. She wants you in the real world. Be there."

Pushing myself out of the recliner, I said, Fine. You don’t want me here, I get it.

"It’s not that I don’t want you here," Harold said. "Just, I’m sure you understand why I would want to keep you, of all people, happy."

I know, Harry, I know. Get some rest. Tomorrow’s gonna be a long day.

"Right. Will do."

No, seriously. It’s gonna be a long one. Like, really, really long.

And I was gone. Out as silently and as easily as I was in. Harold sat in his recliner briefly reflecting on my last statement and silently resigned to check his snares one more time should Cocoa decide to try to kill him again.

Maybe even check them twice. Just to be sure.

Not that checking the snares would matter. What Harold didn’t realize was Cocoa had a plan for all those kitty bombs, and the plan was going down that night. For when Harold had finished checking and rechecking his snares, two detectives and a chief of police were standing on a hill overlooking the newly completed Shasta High School.

"Wow," Floyd said. "That was fast."

"Ole’ man Shasta really came through for us," the chief said. "Donated a ton of money to make sure it was finished as soon as possible. The mayor was so happy with him he said he’d name the school after him again if it were possible."

"Yeah, that was nice of him," Faber said turning to the chief, "but don’t you think it’s a bit reckless considering we never found out who was bombing our city before?"

"That’s why you’re here," the chief said wrapping his arms around their shoulders. "You’re here to protect this school. Stay watch over it and protect it with your lives if necessary."

Faber stared at the school with a scowl. "Our lives are worth less than a high school?"

Stepping away from Faber the chief said, "Don’t get testy with me, Faber, or I’ll strip you down to black and blues. How would you like to have to trade your real gun for a radar gun?"

"Will chasing down speeders keep me alive?" Faber asked. "Because if it does–"

"We’ll protect it with our lives," Floyd said quickly shooting a nasty look at Faber.

"That’s what I like to hear," the chief said. "Now I’m going back to bed."

They watched as the chief hiked back to his car and, when he was out of earshot, Floyd said, "Why do you have to push him like that?"

"Why do you have to roll over like that!? We could die tonight!"

"We’re not gonna," Floyd said, "because at the first sign of trouble, we’ll run away and let the school get blown to hell." Shaking Faber by the shoulder, he added: "But the chief doesn’t need to know that."

"...to know that, right," Faber said in unison with Floyd. "What would I do without you, Floyd?"

Patting him on the shoulder, Floyd said, "Holding a radar gun, it would seem, which isn’t a bad thing."

"I know, right? We did almost nothing every day and got paid for it."

"Those were the days," Floyd said, his arms crossed at his chest as he scanned the high school.

Faber stood next to him in silence for a moment and then said, "So we going down there or what?"

"Let’s give it a few minutes," Floyd replied. "We got all night to sit and do nothing."

Within a drawer of Harold’s chest of drawers, his underwear was neatly stacked, folded and ready for use. The underwear bulged briefly, lifted and then lowered. On the floor surrounding the chest of drawers, a dozen kitty bombs were lined up in a semicircle around the piece of furniture.

One kitty bomb said in its gruff, soldier’s voice, "Should we be looking elsewhere sir?"

From between two different piles of underwear, Cocoa’s head appeared suddenly with a scowl. "What I want you to do," Cocoa hissed quietly, "is turn down the volume on your mouth and or shut up!"

The soldier’s mouth moved but no sound came out.

Well, no sound we can hear.

"Don’t look under the bed," Cocoa said, responding to the soldier, "I know it’s in here, just don’t move until I say."

The soldier nodded.

Cocoa disappeared back into the underwear drawer. "I know I found it in here a few days ago," she grumbled, "and there isn’t any snare in this drawer. Thanks again for finding that other one for me, by the way."

Dangling above the nightstand in a net, another soldier kitty bomb saluted her. It’s mouth moved in a subsonic register only the other kitty bombs and Cocoa could hear.

"No," Cocoa replied, "don’t blow this place up. It’s a good staging ground. Here it is!"

Cocoa burst from the underwear drawer triumphantly. In her mouth was a collar. On the collar was written the word "Nibbles."

She dropped to the floor, pressed her head against the collar and forced her head into the hole. Two kitty bombs approached from the side and bit the edges of the collar, holding it in place as the elastic stretched around her head and popped into place around her neck.

"This one’s for you, Nibbles," Cocoa whispered. And, addressing her soldiers, Cocoa said, "We’re leaving."