The cat was doing some slick moves, I had to admit, some kind of soft-shoe dance with his tail adding a shimmy no human would ever be able to match. He ended with that ridiculous top hat rolling down his arm, popping off his paw, and coming right at me. I caught it reflexively, and he grinned, white fangs flashing pearl in the smoky gloom. The music trailed off, and he strutted in my direction. I looked down at his suede shoes. They weren’t blue.
“Good catch.” He told me, reaching for the hat.
I held it out, realizing it was heavier than you might have expected, and the surface was catching my fingers. I wondered what it was made of.
He donned it at a jaunty angle, his ears cocked to the sides of the curly brim. “So, first time?”
“Does it show?”
The fangs popped out again as he laughed. “Very much. Glad you came?”
“Sure. I was supposed to meet someone, but… Enjoyed the show.”
“Good, good. Come back again sometime.”
He tipped the topper to me and bounced off, his tail low and twitching behind him. I watched him go, then looked down at my empty glass. Least I could do was have another before leaving, to pay for the entertainment in part. I headed for the bar.
“Good thing you didn’t drop the hat.” The barmaid cocked her head, long feathery ears twitching. “You don’t want to see what he does when someone drops it.”
“How often does that happen?” I set my glass down. “Another, please.”
“Not too often. He has a good sense for reflexes.” She made the dirty glass go away, and a full one appeared again. “So what brings you to the Mad Hatter?”
“Catching the show, evidently. Was supposed to meet someone, but…” I shrugged. “Can’t say I’m disappointed.”
The band, which had been quiet, struck up again, and I turned around.
“Oh, he won’t be back. One set a night, that’s the deal. But there’s dancing.” She wiped down the bar, lingering to chat for some reason I didn’t guess at.
“I don’t dance.” I didn’t look down, an effort of willpower. The leg hadn’t been gone long enough for me to be used to it. To miss it. “I didn’t dance, even before.”
“Cruelty to women, huh?” She wrinkled her snub nose, an adorable expression. “There are some things tall dark and handsome should have. Like a flaw.”
“That’s not the only one, honey.” I jerked my chin at the other end of the bar. “You’ve got business. I’m going to gracefully beat a retreat.”
She chuckled, and went. I watched for a moment, enjoying her sashay much more than I had the cat’s swagger, then peeled myself off the bar and headed for my table before I lost it. The club had been filling up since I got there, and while it had thinned out when the dancer was done, now it was surging again. Some folks wanted to dance, themselves, I could see.
I sat at the two-top by myself, angling my chair so I could see the door better than I could the dancefloor, and sipped my drink, feeling the warmth take the chill off my soul. The night had turned out better than I planned.
My prompt this week came from ‘Nother Mike, with “The cat in the hat was dancing a soft shoe routine.”
I prompted Padre with “She knew who was coming from the sound of their walk.”
You can read all of the prompt responses, and play along with the prompt challenge, over at More Odds Than Ends. We’re starting the fourth year of this, and it’s been a fun ride. If you’re looking for a low-key way to perk up the creativity, writing, or art, come check it out.