Meredith and the Cheetah

Written with my Thursday night group with the prompts:  strange person in your bed again; driving a taxi; cat suit; interesting way to make a living; letter to human friend; faces of dead men filter through his brain like sunrise; first day of 3rd grade; write about what you don’t know about what you know; bruises and broken teeth; whipped cream; I am no longer pretty, I will be fierce and beautiful; whenever he was with his father he felt—; he sat there listening to the list of trees and wondered; they came back every year to lay flowers at this spot

Yet again Meredith awoke out of a deep sleep at midnight to find a strange person in her bed.  A man in a cat suit, his long arms wrapped around her from behind, his chin resting on her shoulder.  She jerked away in fear and the man growled.  “Oh,” Meredith murmured.  “Oh.”  It was her neighbor’s pet cheetah.  Okay then.

The cheetah named Amelia had come to Meredith, but Meredith thought it was a dream. The savannah cat wanted Meredith’s help to write a letter to a human friend, describing the haunting faces of the dead poachers that often filter through poor Amelia’s thoughts, their cheeks orange, their eyes as red as sunrise.  Amelia admitted she’d left the poachers with bruises and broken teeth, but she was not ashamed.  “Don’t be ashamed, Meredith,” the cheetah told her.  “We do what we need to do.”

Meredith couldn’t go back to sleep, so she got up to catch another shift driving Uber.  It was an interesting way to make a living.  She might drive half the night and most of tomorrow, charged up on glazed donuts and coffee sweetened with whipped cream.  At dawn she would ferry mourners back and forth from the airport to the crash site.  Twenty years and so many of them still making the annual pilgrimage, their arms filled with flowers—red poppies, blue forget-me-nots, often roses, usually white, for lost children, parents and siblings, but some brought roses in deep red, and Meredith wondered at their 20-year-old passion, how they could keep it fresh.

At noon, after the ceremony, after everyone else was gone, Meredith will sit in the memorial garden and listen to the list of the trees—or was it a list of victims?  No, the reading of those lost in the crash, that will happen in the morning.  The list of trees is an ethereal notion, a fantasy about a life that is deeply rooted.  Her father was an arborist, and he taught her the names of plants, which ones nurtured each other, which ones fight each other for room.  When she was with her father, Meredith felt a great expanse of time and space, as if she could grow into anything and everything, the options were limitless.  When he died in the crash, the sky contracted and the city became very small.  She was no longer young but she felt arrested in 3rd grade, at the mercy of a short nun with a shrill impatient voice.  Meredith feared she would never grow.  

Mid-afternoon, Amelia the Cheetah crawls out of the trunk, and joins her in the passenger’s seat.  “You need to write about what you don’t know about what you know,” Amelia councils.  

Meredith stares at the cheetah, allowing the car to drive itself.  “I know,” Amelia tells her, “you worry you are no longer pretty.  But I will teach you to be fierce.  I will teach you to be beautiful.”

Photo by Dean Bennett on Unsplash

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