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    The Meaning of Kittens [3752]

    Discussion in '10th Anniversary Contest' started by BookLover, Jun 24, 2016.

    The Meaning of Kittens
    [3752]​

    “Not Accepting Cats” read a freaking poster sized sign on both doors. No one could miss it. I could make out every single letter of it from the parking lot as I locked my hybrid, but right below the sign, sitting in the morning dew, was a cardboard box forked with holes.

    “Please don't be a cat. Please don't be a cat.” I'd volunteered at the Humane Society for the last six months, and twice a week a new cat was dropped off without permission. We couldn't put them down. We're the Humane Society. Yet we couldn't adopt them all out because there were more cats than there were people who wanted them.

    I sliced through the tape at the top of the box using my car keys.

    “Meow.”

    Damn.

    I lifted the top two cardboard flaps, then the other two. It wasn't a cat. It was kittens. A box full of kittens. If I was three, sure, this would be heaven. As a thirty three year old Humane Society volunteer, this was a nightmare.

    “One, two, three, four – wait, stop stepping on each other. Four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. Seriously?” All cuddled together, they appeared to be a giant, multicolored, moving fuzzball. One yawned, showing off it's delicate jaw and tiny teeth. Adorable, a fuzzball with teeth. I hoisted the box under my arm and carried it inside.

    #​

    After a full day of feeding, watering, cleaning, walking, and killing myself for the sake of abandoned animals, I came home to tell my boyfriend about the new litter.

    “Ten of them. They're more likely to be adopted than older cats, but there's so many of them! The last time we had this many kittens at once, they were half grown before we could find them all homes.”

    “We're not having a cat.” He cleaned his rifle, right there at the dinner table.

    “I didn't say for us. I - ”

    “They need put down. That's the problem with all these animals, they multiply and it gets out of control, and if you and those people were really humane, you'd put a bullet through every single one of those cats' heads.” He loaded his gun.

    “Charlie ...”

    “No, you think putting animals down with liquid shots is humane? You think they don't feel that? Stick a bullet in their head, and it's lights out. It's the most humane thing in the world. Now keep my dinner warm.” He stood up, rifle in hand.

    “Where are you going?”

    “Shoot strays. Don't give me that look. I'm doing what needs to be done. Think of this as a gift to you.”

    I cried every time I heard a shot.

    #​

    A week crawled by. The new kittens were up-to-date on their vaccinations and ready for homes, but no one was buying. Finally a young boy showed up with his mother. He wore a superman shirt and sported dirty knees and untied shoes. As part of the job, I must question every new possible owner.

    “I will feed, water, and walk the cat every day,” the boy said.

    “Cats don't need walked,” the mother said.

    “Okay. Feed, water, and … change the kitty litter every day because I'm responsible.”

    “We're teaching responsibility,” the mother mouthed.

    “I am responsible. Don't say you're teaching me because I already am. I make my bed.”

    “Good,” I said. “So what do cats need besides food, water, and kitty litter?”

    “Love.”

    My heart melted. “Go pick yourself out a kitten.”

    #​

    I called Charlie on my drive home. “We found a home for one of the ten! To this little boy, and he was so responsible. He was asking me what the right way to hold a kitten was and how to pet him. I mean, he was a sweetheart, and -”

    I pulled into the driveway, and there stood my boyfriend smashing a beer can under his foot right next to his battered truck. The truck was parked crooked and the entire side smashed. I rolled down my window.

    “What happened?”

    “Fucking hit something. I don't know, a mailbox maybe.” He swayed as he talked.

    “You're drunk. You shouldn't have been driving.”

    “Don't lecture me, Sara. I wouldn't had to go driving, if you would've had food in the kitchen. I'm watching the game, drinking some beers, and everything's good, and then we're out of chips. No chips. No meat. Nothing. And I ran out of beer. This is your fault.”

    “How am I responsible for buying you food?”

    “I have a real job to go to, that's how. I don't have time to shop like you, and you need to go get that shit now because I didn't make it to the store. I had to turn back because my truck's making noises.”

    He did work hard every day, and I felt bad about his truck. I drove to the store. I bought chips, dip, meat, and beer. When I carried it all in, I found Charlie passed out on the couch. He'd pissed himself again. I cleaned him up and put him to bed.

    #​

    Another week moseyed by. On Sunday, a priest from the nearby Catholic church came knocking. His body was covered from head to toe in what looked like a white gown with open sleeves. He praised our establishment, told us we were doing the work of God, and expressed his desire for a kitten.

    “You're in luck. We have nine.”

    “One more and you'd have a cat for every commandment.” He laughed at his own joke.

    I showed him the cat carrier full of kittens. “They all ended up on our doorstep one morning.”

    “You were blessed. May I have the white one?”

    “Why white?”

    “White is the color of purity, honesty, and that will be the kitten's name. Honesty.” He picked up Honesty and nestled her by his collar.

    “Why honesty?” I asked.

    “I listen to confessions all day, one after the other. I hear people's truths. Most of the time, the sin that was committed is some form of a lie. A lie to others. A lie to oneself. Releasing it, confessing, being honest, it's how one is forgiven. It's all about Honesty.”

    #​

    I Googled the ten commandments before I drove home that afternoon. I'm not religious, but there may very well be things I need to confess, be honest about, to my boyfriend. I rehearsed on the drive.

    “Charlie, I would like to have children one day. I wasn't honest to you about that. No. Um, Charlie, I would like to get married and start a family one day. No, God, it sounds like I'm proposing. And I just used God's name in vain. I'm so bad at holiness.” I pulled into the driveway to find a cute little pink bug car parked next to my boyfriend's damaged truck.

    “Charlie,” I called as I opened the front door.

    A giggling girl came bouncing down the hall.

    Charlie tagged along behind her. “Hey, you're home early.”

    “It's Sunday.”

    “Yeah, well, this is Denise. Denise, Sara. Denise was helping me fix my truck.”

    “Really, in the bedroom?”

    “You're right she is paranoid.” Denise rolled her eyes.

    “She had to call her dad's auto body shop about parts. Her phone didn't get good reception in any other room. You know how some people's phone plans are. I can't believe you're accusing me of shit.”

    “No, I'm sorry.”

    “You know what they say, people who accuse are usually doing it themselves. You think about that.” He walked Denise to her car.

    Here I was trying to confess my sins and be honest, and instead I was accusing other people of sins. I pleaded for Charlie's forgiveness all night long. He finally said he'd forgive me but it better not happen again. That night I climbed into bed and I could have swore my pillow smelled like perfume. I didn't dare say anything though.

    #​

    A week flew by. Two smiling college students fluttered through the doors. They wore matching school t-shirts and finished each other's sentences. The only difference I could see between the two was that one wore a C charm necklace and the other a K.

    “Well, it's our sophomore year,” C said. “And we have an apartment this year. No more -”

    “Dorm rooms. Last year was the worst,” K said. “You can't study. It's party, party, party. This year it's only the two of us, and we found out our new apartment allows -”

    “Pets,” C said. “So we looked at each other and we said -”

    “Cat!” both said.

    “Adult cat?” I asked.

    “Oh, no, we were thinking kitten. We want to raise her.”

    I presented them with the carrier of kittens.

    “Oh my God, too cute. Are they all related?”

    “Well … yes,” I said. “All brothers and sisters.”

    They began taking out kittens by the handful.

    “We can't separate them. They're related,” C said.

    “We're breaking up a family,” K said.

    “Oh, I'm sure they wouldn't mind,” I said.

    “I know,” C said. “Let's get -”

    “Two! You read my mind. That way they'll always have each other.”

    “Bonded forever, just like us.”

    The two friends took home two female kittens. I must admit, I found the girls slightly annoying, but admired their friendship. At home, I counted my own friends. Charlie. A total of one but it didn't matter how many friends I had. It's about the strength of the bond.

    “Charlie,” I said crawling into bed. “You're my best friend.”

    “That's just sad.”

    #​

    Another week marched by, and the kittens grew. A wheelchair bound young man clad in green and brown rolled through the front doors.

    “I'm looking for a kitten.” His voice rang loud and his words slurred.

    “A kitten?”

    “Yes.”

    He followed me down the hall to the cat room where I showed him the cage of kittens, now too big for their carrier. He said something more to me, but I couldn't understand it. I wondered if he was drunk, but then I saw the hearing aide in his ear. He looked too young to have a hearing aide.

    “I'm sorry, I didn't catch what you said.”

    “I will try to enunciate.” He tapped his ear. “Lost my hearing in the war and my legs. I want your calmest kitten. The one that never fights. Which one is that?”

    Most of the kittens were playing with each other, biting and pouncing, but the grey one in the back looked docile and sleepy. I had no memory of him ever being particularly playful.

    “That one.” I pointed.

    He leaned in and picked him up. He raised him above his head and looked into his eyes. “You're the start of a new life for me, little peacekeeper. No more fighting. No more death. Just peace and purrs.”

    The kitten purred.

    #​

    That night I walked in on my boyfriend playing Call of Duty with two of his friends. Beer cans covered every solid surface, and the TV was so loud, my ears hurt.

    “Can you turn it down?” I asked.

    “Nope. The terrorist win when you do that,” Charlie said.

    Half an hour of ear splitting game violence later all three of them were rolling on the floor, wrestling and fist fighting each other. Blood sprayed across the wall.

    “Do I need to call an ambulance? I don't even know if you guys are playing or not.”

    “God, Sara, just go away. You're so uptight.” Charlie waved me away right before being knocked in the jaw.

    I left the room and heard one of his friends comment, “You weren't lying about her. Total nag.”

    #​

    A week chased by. The kittens continued to mature, but I had other animals to care for, in particular, a pit bull that was found earlier in the week tied to a sign by a wire. He was half starved and bloody. No one knew where he came from. We created a Facebook post about him, and people showed interest. At least two people came a day interested in the poor, abused dog. The only problem was the dog wasn't friendly. He kept his tail between his legs and hid behind whatever he could find. No one wants a dog they can't touch. He was doomed to be a lifer.

    Then one of the feistier kittens escaped from his cage during cleaning. He ran down two different halls, and climbed in with the pit bull. It was a terrifying moment for the staff. We all thought the dog would rip the kitten to shreds. That kitten walked right up to him and pawed at his nose. I swung the cage door open, slipping on the cement floor in my hurry. By the time I made it to the kitten, the dog was growling.

    At me.

    He stood in front of the kitten and puffed himself up, barking and snarling. A co-worker told me to get out of there. I backed away, and as soon as I made it past the threshold the pit bull turned around. He wagged his tail. I couldn't believe it. He was sniffing and wagging and making cute little whimpering noises at the kitty.

    From then on they were best friends. The kitten brought out happiness and courage in the dog. He'd followed the kitten down the halls and anywhere else that curious little cat went. We'd pet them both in passing. Soon the pit bull realized we weren't foes, and more importantly, we weren't going to hurt his kitten.

    We posted that story along with a picture of the two snuggling on Facebook and in the local newspaper and the very next morning, three people showed up to buy the pair. Having to choose between all the interested parties, we picked the one that spent her weekends volunteering at a soup kitchen. She named her new pets Frisky and Altruism.

    #​

    I smiled my entire drive home that night. To know so many people exist who want to help one another, that even animals of different species can help and show love. It's beautiful. I pulled into my driveway, and my boyfriend asked for my keys.

    “Why? Where's your truck?”

    “I sold it, got a bigger truck, but before I can have it I have to trade in your hybrid.”

    “Are you kidding me?”

    “Come on Sara, you owe me. Who pays the bills around here?”

    “I pay half the bills.”

    “Yeah, with your inheritance. That's not real money. You're being a selfish, trust fund bitch. I need a truck. I actually have to work.”

    Selfish. The word rang out to me. Was I being selfish? After witnessing so much generosity in the last week, was I not charitable myself? I handed him the keys.

    #​

    A week trudged by. Walking to work proved exhausting, but Charlie said I could use the exercise . On a particularly hot and sweaty day, a woman in a van pulled over and asked if I needed a ride. I happily climbed in with her. She talked faster than an auctioneer about music and concerts and sunlight and moonlight and dream catchers and someone named Mary Jane.

    “Where do you live?” I asked, climbing out of her van.

    “Everywhere, baby. I'm free and independent. The world is my home. Hey, you don't kill animals here, do you?”

    “No, we save them. You want to look around?”

    She fell in love with every animal in the place. I'm pretty sure she would have taken them all, but when she found out she'd need to show proof of residence before adopting a pet, she stuck her hands inside the folds of her skirt, smiled, and showed herself out. A few minutes later I counted three kittens. After looking in every cage, nook, and cranny it dawned on me where the fourth one was. He was free and on the open road, liberated from the confines of his cage.

    That night, I thought about my own freedom. Without a car, I no longer had the freedom of the open road, but I was still an independent person capable of making my own choices.

    “Right?” I asked Charlie.

    Charlie crammed a hot dog down his throat and made me wait for an answer while he swallowed. “Men are better decision makers than women.”

    “What?”

    “Women are hormonal, especially when they're on the rag. Don't give me that look. Are you not moody when you're on the rag?”

    “Well … It doesn't effect my decision making.”

    “Of course it does. That's why women shouldn't be president. You get moody and you make stupid decisions.”

    “What? We are not talking about politics again. We're talking about my own personal freedom. I am free to make my own choices.”

    “As long as they're in line with the family.”

    “You mean as long as they're in line with what you want?”

    “Pretty much. Also, you know other countries are never going to respect a female President and women are sensitive. They can't do the tough stuff that needs to be -”

    I stood up from the table.

    “Where the hell are you going?”

    “I'm done eating.”

    “Like hell you are. I was talking. You sit down.”

    I sat down.

    #​

    A week blew by. Our friendly neighborhood veterinarian stopped in to do a quick check-up of all the animals. She never earns anything from her spontaneous visits. She does it out of a genuine love for all things four legged. She sang as we walked down the halls. She smiled and spoke to each animal in her bubbly voice. I'd say she's the happiest person I have ever met in my life, pear shaped and round faced, with dimples in the corners of each cheek. I've never seen anyone who loves what she does more than Sheila.

    “How are you kitties today, you little treasures? Only three of you left? Aw, but you're growing up fast. Sara, we need to find them homes before their cuteness runs out.”

    “Does cuteness run out?”

    “It does when you're an orphan. Oh no, this kitty has white gums. It's a sign of anemia. Has he been eating? Has he seemed tired lately?”

    “Well, it's hard for me to keep track. There are so many animals to look after.”

    “Oh, I understand. Why don't you let me take this one home with me. I can look after him around the clock. If he's anemic, which I suspect he is, he needs medical treatment.”

    “Sure, take him.”

    And she did. He was gone for a week. Then Sheila dropped in with money in hand.

    “I love him. I should've known this would happen.” She giggled.

    “No problem. I'm happy he found a good home. Is he all better?”

    “Absolutely. He's as happy as me.”

    Good Lord, we should all be so lucky.

    #​

    “I don't know how she became so, so ... fulfilled.” I later told Charlie. “I mean, I do what I love too, I think, but I'm not singing songs and jumping for joy like her. So what do you think causes that, that zest for life?”

    “Happy people are all fake. It's all a charade.” Charlie clicked on the TV.

    “Not Sheila, it's genuine. I can tell. She lights up a room, it's like magic, but it can't be magic. There's got to be something to it.”

    “You need money to be happy. She's a fucking vet. Case closed.”

    “Hmm, I don't know about that. There has to be something more ...”

    “I'm trying to watch this.”

    #​

    A week blurred by. The two kittens had grown too large for comfort. We had to separate them, put them in their own smaller cages, just like all the other cats. An old man ambled in one afternoon. He walked with a limp and a cane.

    “I just want something easy to take care of. Not a dog. They're too needy. A cat probably, but not one that'll die on me. I can't have any more things dying on me.”

    “Did you have a pet die recently?”

    “No, my wife. We were married for fifty-five years. That's a lifetime together. Are you married, darling?”

    “No.”

    “Then you don't understand what it's like, what it's like to see the same face every morning when you wake up. To see the same face every evening before you go to sleep. It's comforting. To have that person. To know that person. I miss her so.” He stared down at his loafers.

    “I'm so sorry. Are you trying to replace her with a cat?” My hand flew to my mouth. “Oh, I didn't mean that.”

    He chuckled. “No, not replace. I just want some company. No one can ever replace my Margaret. Nothing and no one can replace a love that deep. I just want someone to sit next to me in the chair.”

    He bought the ninth kitten, named her Marge.

    #​

    I walked home to the sound of a gun going off in our front yard.

    “Please don't be a cat. Please don't be a cat.”

    Charlie squatted next to his new truck, pointed his rifle at the bushes. Bang! Out staggered a grey cat with white stripes. Blood gushed from a gash in his head. Charlie stood, took two steps forward, and shot again.

    “Got you that time.”

    I threw up.

    #​

    A week skipped by. That week marked the most I had ever spent in a seven day period of time. New suitcases. A down payment on a new car. A lease on a new apartment.

    “Do you have any pets?” the apartment manager asked as I signed the last document.

    “A kitten.”

    “You'll have to pay an extra two hundred dollar deposit.”

    “No problem. I'd do anything for Happiness.”
     
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