Flash Fiction Challenge 100 – Day 42
My neighbor wakes me up. I look at my phone. Damn! It’s only 7:03 AM! And it’s my only day to sleep late. Still, he’s a nice guy, and I try to stay on good terms with all my neighbors.
I lean out of my bed, rest my elbows on the windowsill.
He’s got the ladder out, leaning against his somewhat older, dilapidated house.
“You having a roof issue, Mitchell?”
He startles, looks around. Finally, his eyes find me in my open window.
He says something incomprehensible. The only word I can make out is ‘kittens.’ But that can’t be right, can it? If kittens and ladders are involved, then surely the third element should be a tree, Right?
“Did you say kittens?” I ask. I get the feeling he probably doesn’t want to talk while on the ladder, which seems to cant a scary twenty degrees to the right, but I NEED to know about the kittens.
“Yeah! Kittens. A feral cat, probably one of Jimmy’s, you know?”
Jimmy is the elderly man with cancer that lives on the corner of our tiny, ‘No Outlet’ neighborhood. He’s constantly feeding the strays! He won’t take them to get them spayed, but he’s a kindhearted soul and feeds the dozens of cats that somehow find their way to his place. It’s no wonder we have an explosion of feral cats and kittens in our tiny burg.
“The cat got knocked up. Then I guess it wanted a decent place to give birth. So she scrambled up the wall, on some of the stuff here, and entered through this hole in the soffit is my guess. Sometime yesterday, she gave birth, and then the kittens began mewling up a storm. By the time I got home, Amber nearly bit my head off. She demanded action!”
Amber, his pregnant girlfriend. My guess is they’ll marry soon. Like young people do.
His ‘some of the stuff here,’ is a kind way of putting things. There’s a wall of crap in his backyard that seems to double in height every month, is how I would put it.
Mitchell reaches his judiciously gloved arms up into the soffit, begins feeling around. The sound of mama hissing comes floats across the narrow space between our two houses. I hope his gloves are thick leather.
Mitchell pulls his gloved hand out of the hole. In his palm is the tiniest kitten I’ve ever seen. It seems a tad overwhelmed. The kitten’s entire existence has been in a dusty, dark attic; this is its first exposure to humans and the outdoors; all things considered, I’d say it was doing a fine job with all the new stimuli!
Mitchell makes his shaky way down his leaning stepladder with just one hand. Once on the ground, he deposits the alarmed kitten in a tiny cage. I can tell Mitchell put a saucer of milk in the enclosure; once in the kennel, the kitten stops crying.
“You, working today?” he asks me.
Mitchell isn’t the best at small talk, and this is a staple in our repeating list of conversational topics. Am I working today, or how was work today followed by some innocuous comment on the weather is our big three.
“Sure am! Go in at two.” The same answer I give every time he asks this.
“Cool,” he says noncommittally as he extracts two more meowing kittens by their scruff.
Mitchell climbs down the ladder again to reunite these two with the first. Once in the cage, they fall quiet, but I think I can hear them lapping at the milk.
He makes two more up and down trips, bringing the kitten total to five. He wisely lets momma come down on her own. Any creature that could make her way into his attic while pregnant is probably not going to be an easy animal to wrestle into a cage. He will have to trap the mother in there, I guess.
“You going to take them to the shelter, Mitch?”
“No, they’d end up being put down there. My sister and her boyfriend just bought a tiny home just north of McKinney. She said she’d take the bunch of them.”
“That’s very kind of her,” I say.
He grunts some sign of acknowledgment that doubles as a ‘this conversation is now over’ signal as well.
I lay back in my bed, hoping I can get back to sleep before my alarm goes off in 48 minutes.
I’ve heard of lots of infestation problems before, but I smile when I realize this is the first time I’d heard of a kitten infestation!