This is it, the finale, the big dramatic moment. It’s time for our hero to face Darth Vader, blow up the Death Star and return home triumphant, but changed. But hey, this is a story about a cat so cut me some slack. I was also in a rush to finish it because National Novel Writing Month is approaching. This means that you may have some questions. Like who is this veterinarian, where did he get Polly’s mystical metal plate, and is it really a good idea to experiment on the family pet? Tough. This isn’t the vet’s story.
To make her kittens strong, Polly started wolfing down her food. It wasn’t enough. To supplement, she ate anything that landed on the floor, gobbling down Cheetos or stray grapes with equal abandon. She put on weight. She no longer dashed for the door; she waddled. The family took her back to the vet. “She’s acting pregnant, but she’s spayed. Is she okay?”
The vet weighed her, listened to her heart and checked her eyes and teeth. Polly purred through the exam. He patted her head, noted the warm spot, and checked her temperature. Polly stopped purring and gave him an indignant look. “Something going on in that little head?” he asked the cat. Polly acknowledged the question with a single slow blink. The vet nodded, and scribbled ‘unusual reaction to emotio-psychic graft’ in her chart. To the family he said “This cat is fat and happy, but you may want to try a lower calorie kibble.”
Neither the new kibble nor the fact that she was spayed slowed Polly down. She knew that her kittens were coming and that they would be perfect —huge, ferocious and able to run in a straight line. To give them purpose, she vigilantly stared out the window and growled when she saw the neighbor boys. To give them a home, she built a nest in the laundry basket.
By January, the kittens or rather, a kitten finally appeared in the basket. It was just a small, blind thing that barely looked like a cat at all. Polly couldn’t understand what had gone wrong. She’d poured her mind (not to mention all that food) into building a pride of lions, three at least, one for each boy. Why hadn’t they materialized, full grown and ready to go? She was about to walk away in disgust, but his mews drew her back. ‘He’s not what I imagined,’ she thought ‘but he is adorable. And maybe he’ll grow.’ She licked her baby clean, nursed him and fell asleep.
Despite her early disappointment, Polly quickly fell in love with her son. His fur was black and fuzzy like her’s. His eyes, when they opened, were gold like her’s. He was so enchanting that Polly nearly forgot why she’d made him. That was until it came time to groom his perfect little ears. Polly’s ears were cartilaginous nubs. The memory made her head hot and whenever the plate burned, she’d hold her son down, lick his ears and whisper to him the story of the boy with the lawnmower.
Her kitten listened but so far refused to grow fangs. Instead, he just got fluffier and cuter. He was old enough to wobble about now and liked to follow Polly to the window. Oddly though, the family never saw him there. They did hear his tiny mews, but blamed the sounds on Polly. “You’re a weird, cat,” they’d say, “but at least you’ve stopped trying to get out and your weight’s back to normal.” Polly ignored them and went back to trying to teach her son to pounce.
He was exuberant, but easily distracted. If she told him to aim for center of mass, he’d just pounce on her tail. If she held it out of his way, he’d chase his own. He’d fallen off the window sill six times today, but was still bouncing. He was down on the floor again stalking her tail where it dangled off the sill. She gave it a lazy swish to encourage the kitten to try again. He pranced, wiggled and pounced but overshot. His tumbled across the sill, through the window and outside into the snow.
Polly wailed and pressed her head against the glass. It was solid, not a crack or a break in it. She pummeled it with her paws. Her baby was down there, but all she could see of him was a kitten-shaped hole in drift. She could also see the school bus pulling up at the curb and the kids coming out. Her heart nearly stopped. Her kitten was too little, only six weeks old. The cold or the boys would kill him, the falling snow cover him, and she’d never see him again.
The group of school kids dispersed leaving just the three neighbor boys standing there shoving each other as usual. Polly’s eyes grew big and black, she puffed up her tail and squalled. Then she wished she hadn’t. The boys were looking now and pointing. She’d gotten their attention just as her little kitten popped his head out of the drift. He was shaking snow out of his ears. He stood up, looked at the window and acknowledged Polly with a single slow blink. Then he turned and walked straight towards the boys.
“Didn’t I kill that cat?” the oldest boy asked.
“Doesn’t look dead to me,” the youngest one muttered. He’d seen Polly in the window before, even risked a wave or two, but the way she stared back made him uneasy. She was not as cute as he remembered.
“Did you dig her up, you little shit?”
“I did.” The young one straightened up trying to make himself look taller. “Not like you bothered checking.”
“It’s snowing like crazy out here. I’m going home.” The middle one edged away.
“Guess I need to show you that messing with black cats is serious bad luck.” The big one grinned, made a fist, but checked his swing. “Did you hear something?”
The younger boy risked opening an eye. “N..no. What?”
“Kitten.” The big one pushed passed his brother. “There.” The boy waved at the snow covered sidewalk. Then he bent down and clicked his tongue “Here kitty, kitty”. The thing was so tiny, fluffy, and vulnerable that the boy just had to kick it. He could have sworn that his boot connected but all that went flying was a clump of snow.
The younger boy scanned the sidewalk. “Ummm. There’s nothing there.”
“It’s fast. That’s all. I missed.” Missing made him mad. He lunged for the kitten, missed again, and then again. The kitten led him in a chase around the yard, skittering lightly across the snow, while the boy sank.
The youngest boy watched his brother floundering in the drifts snatching at nothing. He heard a faint mewing, but it was drowned out by the sound of Polly screeching in the window. The cat had gone berserk. She was scrabbling at the glass, and there was a bright red light shining like a star on her forehead. As the boy watched, the light turned blue and he heard a scraping sound followed by a ‘thunk’.
“Bro?” the boy said. There was no stomping, swearing, or yowling any more. All he could hear was the hissing sound of the falling snow and then the warning beep of a plow. That scrape and the blue and red lights must have come from the truck, but what about the’ thunk’? “Bro?” he said a little louder, but the plow’s head lights were shining in his face now and all he could see was white.
“Kid! Yo Kid!” The voice behind the light was tinged with panic. “You gotta call 911. Your friend jumped in front of my truck.”
“Did you see a kitten?” He called back. “He was chasing a kitten.”
“Kitten? Who cares about a kitten? I just ran over a kid. I frickin ran over a kid. Get me a god- damn phone!”
The boy pulled off his gloves, fished his phone out of his pocket and held it out in a shaky hand.
“Dial, you idiot!”
The boy did. The police arrived and demanded answers. The ambulance arrived and the crew lifted his brother off the street. His mother arrived and started crying. The boy told them they shouldn’t yell at the driver ‘cause his brother had just been chasing an invisible cat. They told him to shut up. He walked up to the window to find someone who might actually listen.
“Are you happy?” He asked Polly.
She didn’t look it. He eyes were black and the bare skin on her forehead looked puckered, almost burned. The boy tapped the glass. She didn’t move, didn’t even twitch a whisker. The next morning she was still there, sitting in the window staring blankly at the falling snow. Her family grabbed her and rushed her back to the vet for the third time in six months.
“Again?” The man said.
“She had some kind of seizure last night. The sirens and emergency lights must have set it off. She hasn’t moved since.”
The vet checked her over, gave her some fluids and bandaged the blisters on her head. In the chart, he jotted ‘complete emotio-psychic graft rejection.’ Polly mewed, a pitiful sound like a mama cat searching for a lost kitten. “Made it worse, did I?” The man sighed. “We’ll just turn it off then.”
Polly returned from the vet with a few more scars and a confused sense of triumph. She had avenged something, but didn’t recall what. She also missed someone, but couldn’t recall who. But with time and tuna, the memories started leaking back. She remembered a fuzzy little kitten growing into a fierce black cat. He had a beautiful long tail, perfect ears and golden yellow eyes. To make his mama proud, that cat conquered a great slavering beast, a Mastiff or a German Shepherd at least. Then he’d gone on to live his life. It was the way of cats but knowing he was out there helped Polly carry on. She ate, played, grew old, and died and her family missed her more than they expected for such a crazy, ugly, flat-headed little cat