Franklin worked every single day of the week, even on Tuesdays.
You know that was a bitch. He never complained, even when things didn’t go according to routine. For example, today his shoes didn’t fit anymore. Franklin hadn’t grown for years, but it didn’t matter. They wouldn’t go on his feet, no matter what. In the end, the only footwear he owned that would fit turned out to be his loafers. They would have to do.
The seven o’ clock was late again. Franklin didn’t mind. It gave him more time to think. Thinking was one of Franklin’s preferred activities. Sometimes, he thought about where the train might be. Perhaps, mayhap, in possibility, it had derailed again. The train hadn’t actually ever derailed, even on the day back those months ago, when it seemed certain that it had, for how else would a train run two hours late? Of course, it hadn’t been so. The train operator’s wife had run off with another woman, and the operator had offed himself in the engine compartment. A nasty business, they hadn’t cleared him out of the various nooks and crannies until the sun was over the home for the grannies.
The truth was much more of a fanciful tale than the simple derailment Franklin always postulated to himself. The train dropped him off at a grey station, with columns of marble and pillars exalting the workingman to do his duty. The color of infinity, otherwise known as black, speckled the otherwise featureless floor. Once, Franklin had seen a man selling a newspaper, but he hadn’t been there the next day. On the street, it felt like rain. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and the ground was as bare as could be, but the day just gave him that peculiar feeling. It persisted in spite of his brain’s assurances that there was no rain, and in fact, there had not been a rainstorm for quite some time.
Turning around the boulevard, Franklin pulled his cap down over his eyes. With a not-quite-white coat, and crummy loafers, nice pair of slacks, and a briefcase, he was doing a very impressive impression of being just like everybody else.
The workplace approached him. He pushed open the great marble doors, and stuffed himself inside. A doorman greeted him just inside the door. “Morning, Mister Stauffer. Looks like somebody’s running late again.”
Franklin muttered something that, in his mind, he hoped sounded obscene, but in reality just came out as illegible. As he did so, he turned his head so as not to accidentally make eye contact with the doorman, and as he did so, he saw it.
It strutted past him, tail swishing proudly in the air, brushing past his leg before slipping out the door and back out onto the street. Franklin blinked. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen a tame animal, let alone a kitty cat. Without pausing to explain himself, he set his briefcase down upon the ground, and set off after the beast. The moment he stepped outside, something peculiar happened. Franklin’s loafers, which had previously enjoyed the luxury of being fixated on the earth, looked for the ground and missed. Before he knew it, Franklin found himself several feet above the surface, and gaining.
Franklin pondered this development. A few seconds ago, he might’ve flown into a panicked, but now the only thought that rushed through his head was “Gosh, I wonder if I’ll be able to spot that cat from up here?” A few feet later, he’d developed a nice, lazy drift heavenwards, high enough that he could peer into the window offices coveted by many and owned by few. The first one, on the second floor, wasn’t particularly interesting. Just a man wearing a suit much like Franklin’s, sitting and staring at the corner office’s front (and only) door.
The lucky officeholder apparently didn’t have the presence of mind turn to notice Franklin, not even once.
He must be enjoying himself, to have the space all to himself. I’m sure I’d bask in the importantness of it all too, if I were him. That was Franklin’s first thought. He changed his mind, though, when offices three through nineteen had men of much the same caliber doing much ado about nothing. The man in the twentieth office wasn’t wearing any pants. But aside from that, he wasn’t any different from the rest.
It was at this point that Franklin began to grow concerned. The ground was an awfully far way down, and he was running out of floors to peruse. There was absolutely no way he’d be able to see the cat from all the way up here. So, he tried to swim down. Franklin had never been a terribly strong swimmer, even when he was in water, so of course his first attempt to try and swim his way through the air ended in disaster. He squirmed and squatted and generally made a fool of himself, karate-chopping his way through nothingness to no avail.
This kept up for a solid eighteen seconds, until a slightly scratchy, somewhat light and most definitely feminine voice spoke up from behind him.
“You’re never going to get anywhere if you keep that up, you silly man.”
Twisting his head around, Franklin noticed two things. For one, they’d cleared the crest of the building, now he was well past the top and the cloud line looked an awful lot closer than he remembered. Secondly, the cat was floating, too. It looked like a tabby, or maybe a Calico. About the only thing Franklin had decided was that he didn’t know the first thing about the breeds, or species, or whatever you call it with cats, when it spoke up again.
“Are you quite alright, Franklin?”
Franklin narrowed his brow. “How on earth do you know my name?”
It did a little loop-de-loop, after which it swept around Franklin and met him face to face. “We’re not on Earth, silly. And that’s your opening gambit? Not the reasonable thing, like denying my existence, or pleading. Accusations. Very good way to get things off the ground.”
Franklin crossed his arms. “I don’t appreciate the tone. This is all very new to me. I’m sure you’re jaded, being a magical flying rodent.”
“I resent that!” declared the cat. “I am not a rodent. But if it makes you more comfortable, I’ll give you a name you can call me.”
“And what would that be?” asked Franklin, glancing down nonchalantly to watch his office disappear beneath the clouds.
“Renmar, of the cats,” said Renmar of the cats. “At your service, Franklin Stauffer.”
“Well, I appreciate that, but I don’t really need any sort of services right now. Unless you know how to get down.” Franklin looked down at the indescribable specks he called home, and then checked his watch. “I was already running late for work before all this happened. I’ll be lucky if I’m not fired.”
“About that…” Renmar sucked in some air, and shrugged, her arms bending at impossibly human angles. “This is actually sort of a one-way trip.”
Franklin frowned loudly.
“Don’t be mad!” cried Renmar. “I promise it isn’t so bad. Was what you’d already planned to do today really more interesting than this?”
“Well… not particularly,” Franklin admitted, before jabbing an accusing finger in Renmar’s general direction. “But it was a lot safer. I’m fairly certain we’re going to be running out of air here at some point, and god help us if this… whatever it is, stops, or what-have-you.”
Renmar cackled. “I like you! You’ve got your priorities in order, but you’re not a big pussy about it.”
“That isn’t a satisfactory explanation,” grumbled Franklin, as he glanced downwards again.
As he did, his hat slipped off, and slowly sailed down, down, down, and out of sight. Franklin watched it go.
“I liked that hat.”
“You promised this wouldn’t be bad. What’s ahead, other than suffocating to death in space?”
Renmar grinned, in a way that only a cat could. “Wouldn’t that be a great thing to put on a tombstone, though? Here lies Franklin Stauffer, he floated up into space and died, currently orbiting the earth.”
Franklin was not amused. He folded his arms, and his eyes shot metaphorical daggers towards Renmar. “I’m quite alright.”
“Fiiiiiiiine.” Renmar’s tail swished and slashed, lazily, as cats tend to do. The clouds began forming around, and around, and above and below and to the sides, until a dome of the stuff surrounded them completely and totally.
Franklin couldn’t see a thing. He groped his hands around in the foggy mess, struggling to lay an eye on Renmar. “Renmar? Where did you go?”
For a moment, there was nothing.
Then, a soft hand, a human hand, was laid upon Franklin’s cheek.
“I’m right here.”
As swiftly as it had come, the smoke blasted away, leaving nothing but the stars and the blue marble below them.
“Renmar?” Franklin looked at someone whom was most definitely not a cat. There was a woman, with hair down to her ankles, smiling at him four and a half inches from his face and his face alone.
“I like you, Mister Stauffer.”
Franklin’s heart skipped a beat.
“I like that you like me. But I don’t think you’re real.”
She rolled her eyes, and then draped her arms around him. “Then you better kiss me quick, before you find out for sure.”
Franklin couldn’t argue with that logic. And as he wrapped his arms around her, his eyes closed and the darkness turned to light, there was only one thought running through his head.
It’s good to be alive.