Writer and editor displays her work and interests

Don’t Litter

Thursday 23 May 2013 - Filed under Penned by a Friend + Writing

Editor’s note: This story first appeared in Magnets and Ladders magazine, but my mysterious mind couldn’t leave it alone. With Sharon’s blessing, I altered some circumstances which changed history for the lady in her original story. Read what could have happened in my story which follows this one.

Don’t Litter
By Sharon King-Booker

Ginger regained consciousness slowly. Two of her cats were standing on her chest, nuzzling her face and patting her with their paws. She pushed them away gently and slowly sat up. She felt the place on the side of her head. It was already beginning to swell and she could feel it throb with each heartbeat. She was surprised that the blow had been hard enough to make her lose consciousness but thankful it hadn’t ended up being fatal. The heavy-duty flashlight lay on the floor. She’d always heard those things could be used as weapons, and now she knew it.

She glanced around the room; her husband, George, lay back in his recliner. His feet were up and his head back as if he were sleeping. Only the dime-sized hole in the center of his forehead, just above the bridge of his nose, indicated that this was a sleep from which he was not going to awaken. There was very little blood evident, but Ginger knew that were she to lean him forward, the back of his head would tell an entirely different story. She rose slowly to her feet, steadying herself as the room began to spin crazily around her. She touched the lump, now the size of an orange, on the side of her head and winced. After the room settled down, she made her way painfully to the phone.

The bored voice which initially answered the 911 call sharpened as the man listened to Ginger’s incoherent explanation of what had happened. “I’ve got officers on their way now,” he assured her. “Try to keep calm and please stay with me until they arrive.”

A police car, siren screaming and red lights flashing, slid to a stop in front of her house. “Okay,” she told the 911 operator, “they’re here, thank you.” She replaced the receiver on its cradle and began sobbing hysterically as she turned to face the two officers coming through the front door with their guns drawn.

“What’s this all about, Mrs. Carson?” the taller, younger of the two officers asked, trying to look in all directions at once. Then he suddenly stopped as he caught sight of George Carson seemingly peacefully sleeping. He put away his gun and checked the body briefly while his partner conducted a quick search through the house.

“We never lock our doors,” Ginger gulped, trying to control her sobs, “That’s why we moved here. Nothing bad is supposed to happen in a small town.” She collapsed on the couch. “We were just sitting here watching television when these two masked men burst through the front door.”

Between sobs, she watched as the older officer returned from his search, holstered his gun, talked briefly to the other man then came to sit beside her, absently brushing aside the several cats already gathered there. “Can you give me any kind of a description?” He asked, pulling a notebook and pen from his pocket. The first officer left through the front door to radio in a report.

Ginger tried to shake her head then grimaced at the pain as she looked imploringly at him. “Not really,” she said. “It all happened so fast. I jumped up to confront them and one of them hit me on the head with something very hard. After that, I didn’t know anything until I came to and saw they had killed George. Once again she broke into hysterical weeping, at the same time cuddling the large grey tabby cat that had jumped into her lap.

“Do you think you could look around and tell us if anything is missing?” the younger officer asked from the doorway, brushing at his dark blue uniform pants where several cats had been winding themselves about his legs.

“I’ll try,” Ginger said, getting shakily to her feet and preceding the two men out of the living room.

In the bedroom, drawers had been pulled from the dresser and chest of drawers and dumped on the floor. Clothes, pulled from hangers in the closet, lay in disordered heaps. Her large jewelry armoire stood with doors open, drawers pulled out and a jumble of bracelets, chains and rings had been thrown on the bed.

Ginger began looking through the items of jewelry and turned to the two waiting officers with eyes wide and tears once more streaming down her face. “Oh yes,” she wailed. “My emerald bracelet and necklace that George just bought me for our anniversary are missing!”

The officers exchanged a look. They wondered how she knew anything was missing in the jumble of jewelry lying there. To their unskilled eyes, most of what lay on the bed was no more than fairly good costume jewelry. “Did you have those valuable items insured?” the older policeman asked, watching as two fairly young kittens leaped onto the bed and began playing with the tangled chains.

Ginger had lowered herself to the side of the bed and now looked up imploringly. “Er… um… I didn’t get your names,” she began and absently picked up a bracelet and dangled it for the kittens to play with. “I think they were insured,” she said, brushing a tear from her cheek. “But George was such a procrastinator. You know, I really don’t know for sure.” Saying that, she stood up and again led the officers back to the living room.

“I’m Officer Anders,” the older of the two men said. “This is my partner, Officer White. The crime lab people and medical examiner are on their way so we will just wait with you until they get here. Can I get anything for you?”

Ginger seated herself once again on the couch where she was immediately surrounded by a number of cats. “My head is really throbbing. May I fix an ice pack?”

“Of course, just be careful what you touch in there, the lab guys are awfully grumpy about such things!” White smiled at her in an effort to make her feel better.

Ginger busied herself with ice and towel in the kitchen while the two officers made a second circuit of the house, this time together. “The intruders must have known what they were looking for,” White commented to his partner as they re-entered the living room and opened the door for the Medical Examiner and crime lab personnel.

“Why do you say that?”

“Because only the bedroom was ransacked,” White replied as he motioned to the Medical Examiner and directed his attention to the body. “The lady says intruders came in and knocked her unconscious and then killed her husband,” he explained as the Medical Examiner looked over the situation.

“Any way to verify that?” The Examiner asked, looking around the cluttered room with critical eyes.

“She’s got a knot on her head. There’s no denying that,” White said and glanced toward the kitchen where they had heard the sound of the refrigerator door slamming shut.

A moment later Ginger re-entered the room holding a plastic bag filled with ice wrapped in a towel to the side of her head. Again she seated herself on the couch where she was surrounded by cats. “I’m sorry I can’t be of more help, officers,” she said. “It all happened so fast but I did see the two men were wearing gloves as well as their stocking masks.”

“What about size?” Anders asked. “Were they short, tall, fat, thin?”

Ginger again began to cry softly, stroking a lean Siamese that was rubbing insistently against her legs. “As I said, it was all so fast… but… I think the one who hit me was short and kind of fat. It was all so quick… and… poor George!” She wailed.

“So you don’t know if they shot your husband immediately after hitting you? Is that right?” The medical examiner queried.

Ginger shook her head carefully and winced at the pain that accompanied her action. “I’m afraid George was napping as he usually does when we are watching television,” she explained. “He probably didn’t even have a chance to react.”

White and Anders exchanged glances. “Then I wonder why they felt it necessary to kill him,” Anders wondered aloud.

“Well, I suppose he woke up and demanded to know what was happening,” Ginger offered and accepted the tissue White handed her from the box on the end table at the side of the couch. She blew her nose noisily and once again began to sob. “George is… was… very protective of our home and our things. Maybe they were… er… afraid.” her voice trailed off and she looked up at the two officers.

“He does look startled,” White said thoughtfully, rubbing his chin. “I understand how it is when you come suddenly awake from a doze. I sometimes fall asleep watching television too.” He looked appreciatively at the bare leg showing outside her robe. He felt sorry for this lovely young woman who had obviously suffered both severe physical and emotional trauma. Her eyes were so beautiful, even puffy from the crying, and as soon as the swelling went down on her head… It might be worth coming back when he was off duty, maybe offer to help her clean up… if only she wasn’t surrounded by all those damned cats! On second thought, that litter box in the utility room had almost made him sick.

After what seemed like ages to Ginger, the lab people and Medical Examiner had completed their work and left with her husband’s body on a stretcher. She shuddered at the gore that was left where the bullet had exited the back of George’s head. “May I wipe that up?” she asked the two officers who remained. They were still involved with trying gently but firmly to remove the various cats attempting to sit on their laps or climb their pant legs. “The cats… er… you know,” Ginger tried to explain. “If you have all the evidence you need, that is.”

Both policemen were in a hurry to leave. “It will be okay,” White said, brushing at the cat hair clinging to his uniform. “Some detectives will probably call or come by tomorrow, but it looks like you are just another victim of the break-ins that have been happening around here lately. Up until now no one has been home and I’m so sorry you and your husband had to be the victims of such violence. You can tell the detectives about the insurance and whatever else you remember.”

“Thank you, you’ll excuse me if I don’t see you to the door?” She stroked a huge black cat with one hand, and adjusted her ice pack with the other. “I will definitely keep my doors locked from now on though and I’ll try to be able to answer all their questions tomorrow.”

After the policemen had left, Ginger got a basin of soapy water and began scrubbing George’s recliner with a brush, the water getting first pink then red as she worked. “This will have to go,” she told the cats. “I never could stand this clumsy old thing anyway.”

She’d heard stories about the police inefficiency in this “hole in the wall” town George chose for them. Their search, their questions? They didn’t even ask her what show they were watching to figure out the timing. In all the crime novels and television shows she would have been at the police station or at the hospital half the night.

She returned to the couch and took a big ginger tabby cat onto her lap. Stroking her along with the several other cats gathered around, she asked, “Did George really think when he gave me that necklace and bracelet as compensation for getting rid of you darling kitties that I would agree?” She rubbed her chin on the head of a beautiful long-haired white cat who had replaced the ginger tabby on her lap. “Then tonight when George actually had the nerve to tell me it was either him or you darling kitties that had to go, just which choice did he really think I would make?”

“Tomorrow we’ll take that bucket of dirty litter out to the garbage, darlings. It will be just another bucket, along with the other buckets of litter hauled to the landfill and no one will ever find the gun and jewelry or be able to prove anything. Maybe I’ll even throw in that awful flashlight. What if I’d given myself a concussion?” She sighed contentedly, slipped off her shoes and lay back in the midst of her furry family. “With the insurance money and in our new location you can each have your own litter box.”

2013-05-23  »  Marilyn Brandt Smith


  1. Abbie Taylor
    29 May 2013 @ 4:04 pm

    Wow, this is good. I don’t remember much about the original so I guess I’ll have to see if I can find it in Magnets and Ladders so I can compare the two. The title fits the piece. Keep writing, and keep blogging!