Bob had lived alone in the ranch house for near 30 years. Off the beaten path, on a side road in little Doylestown, Pennsylvania, he was well secluded from the outside world. He didn’t live near the city, because it was too noisy and had “too many damn kids”. He didn’t live in the country because of “all the damn geese”. Bob complained on a regular basis. He complained about the watery coffee from the local farmer’s market and their overpriced begonias. He complained about the main street’s changeable stores and fluctuating fashion sense. He complained about the few grey hairs left on his head, how they always stood up in all directions. How his kids never called. How the caretakers never looked after his wife’s grave quite the way he liked.
Bob didn’t need a lot to live on, despite his dissatisfaction with his life. He had moved from his comfortable flat in London, married for love, scrimped and saved for years, and when Mimi was still alive, they had planned on seeing the world. But as life goes, Mimi went on the greatest of life’s adventures without him, and Bob was left alone with two grown children and an empty house. He didn’t want to go back to London. It was ‘too bloody damp.”
Thursdays were weeding days. It was November though, and getting icy at night, so he decided he would just drop by the farmer’s market for a little while. He’d complain to the grocers about their cereal again, if for no other reason than to rile them up (and make his day more interesting.)
He wasn’t two feet out the door before he caught sight of it. Three little furballs, hiding under Mimi’s porch swing.
“Eh? What’s this?” he said, leaning over and peering under the seat, fearing rat infestations. Three sets of blue eyes blinked up at him. “Kittens?”
It was three kittens, one all black, one all white, and one white-and-grey, and they looked at him with the cautionary fear and curiosity that all young kittens shared. One of them started for his leg, and he stepped back, shaking his head and looking around the heavily forested neighborhood, as if he could peer into the houses around him and find answers there.
“You picked the wrong house to find yourselves in front of…” he muttered. “I wonder who left you here.”
Since the barely visible windows of his neighbors offered no answer, he turned, and the kitten that was almost at his foot tumbled to the porch on its little paws. He looked at it, and it got itself back up a moment later, letting out the tiniest of mews.
“Don’t make those noises at me,” he said, raising a scraggly eyebrow. “I’m no animal lover. You won’t get anything from me, you hear?”
Its sibling came forward too, hobbling towards him with small mewling noises.
He left for the store. When he came back, hours later, they were still there, curled around each other by a porch pillar in a small patch of sunlight. They ran to him the moment they realized he was there, meowing in their tinny voices.
He looked down at them, shouldering his market bag and sighing. “You bloody fools,” he said, opening his front door and waving a hand furiously at the inside, “Get in the house before you freeze to death. Where the blazes is your mother anyway?”
Over the next few days, he tried calling the few neighbor’s numbers he knew, gleaning more numbers from them as he went. No one knew where the kittens had come from, and no one wanted one. He was sure they were lying, and stupid. What little child didn’t want a kitten?
He got plenty of advice from the farm, though, on cat care. It was only temporary, he insisted, not wanting to buy the best food for them. They could eat the discount kibble and be happy with it.
His wife’s sister, Marjory, came to visit a week later. She lived in Philadelphia. He didn’t know how she could stand it. When she came in, she was surrounded by the kittens. He assured her it was only temporary, until one of the neighborhood children agreed to adopt them.
“That one’s Jack, and the one always on the counter is Nimble,” he said, jerking his thumb over his shoulder to indicate the cats as he fixed them tea.
“What’s this one, Quick?” Marjory asked with a little smile, scratching the white one under the chin.
“Don’t be an arse,” he snarled, pouring milk into a pitcher. “That’s Annie. Can’t rightly name a girl Quick.”
“You’re sure it’s a girl?” Marjory said, unfazed by his attitude. It was just part of Bob.
“I may have taken them to the vet,” he said, looking sullenly out the window. “Can’t give them away if they’ve got rabies or some other feline nonsense.”
Marjory just smiled behind the rim of her tea glass. “Bob?” she said finally, setting the glass down and folding her fingers on the tabletop.
“What?” he barked, carrying over the plate of biscuits and clattering it onto the table.
She spoke evenly. “You’re allowed to keep them, you know.”
He scoffed. “Isn’t for an old man to keep cats. I’m not some wrinkled old woman living on a hill. It’s just until the kids can take them,” he insisted, putting two lumps of sugar into his tea. “I don’t even like cats,” he added.
Three months later, Marjory returned. When she went to the back door of the ranch house that was always left open for her, a streak of white and grey ran past her before returning to entwine itself around her legs.
“Jack!” Bob’s voice boomed from inside the house. “Get back in here before the fox eats your innards for lunch! I won’t be held responsible for it!” She leaned to see inside. She could just see Bob in the room beyond, sitting on the worn green armchair. “I don’t even like cats,” she heard him mutter to Nimble, who was curled on his lap. “Damn cats.”
“Bob, you old softy,” Marjory whispered. She was glad she had convinced her niece to leave the kittens here. It was amazing what people would abandon in the city. The kittens had found a good home with Bob. She bent over to pick up Jack, who was very clearly used to affection, then closed the door behind them and went inside for tea.
For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, DimDom challenged me with “You open your door one morning and find three little kittens have been deposited there.” and I challenged Lance with “Your inspiration for the week:
“Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more.
Men were deceivers ever.
One foot in sea, and one on shore,
To one thing constant never…”
from “Much Ado About Nothing”, II:III by Shakespeare.”
I love kittens! Based roughly on some real people and situations I know, but entirely amalgamated until pretty unrecognizeable.
Except for my dad’s famous line in this: “I don’t even like cats!!!” as he pets one of our two lapcats.