Short Story Wednesday

So today, I have for you a short story I’ve been working on a for a few days.  Inspired by our two cats, Chloe and Rex, and influenced a bit by Ruby, here it is.  Enjoy!

Chloe’s New Friend

 

Rex sat on the windowsill.

‘Wonder what I should do today,’ he thought.

‘I could chase birds.’  He flicked his tail, pensive, as he contemplated the tiny sparrow pecking at the grass right under his nose.  His eyes widened and his nostrils flared.  It was just on the other side of the glass…

‘Nah.’ Rex stretched, arching his back into a perfect ‘C’.  Too much effort.

Rex lowered his royal black bulk back down onto the warmth of the sill.  The sun made his fur gleam like polished ebony.  He was a glorious specimen, a full 20 lbs of feline perfection, and he knew it.  He gazed out at the summer day, his eyelids at half-mast.

‘Hi.’

Chloe jumped up next to him.  All long, black, messy fur to Rex’s sleekness, she contrasted perfectly.  She touched her nose to his, her yellow-green eyes taking in his reclining form.

‘Whatcha doing?’ she asked.

Rex sighed.  He lifted his round head and stared at her.  Little moron!

‘What does it look like I’m doing?’ he retorted.  He flicked her a withering gaze and squeezed his eyes closed again, the picture of repose.

‘Oh.’

Chloe, unfazed, curled her smaller body next to his.

‘What are YOU doing?!’ Rex yelled.

He sat up straight, annoyed now.

‘Well…I thought maybe we could snuggle…’ Chloe said.

‘Snuggle?!  I don’t snuggle.’ Rex marched to the end of the windowsill and jumped down.  He stalked across the carpet and out of the room.

Chloe sat alone on the sill.  She sighed.  She tried so hard to be friends with Rex.  She’d lived with the family for four years now and never seemed to make any headway.

Chloe recalled her first days with the family.  Her current owners had picked her up from the back of a car.

“Ooh!  She’s so cute!” a tiny voice said.

A little girl with big brown eyes looked at Chloe, resting in a cardboard box.  The girl had long brown hair ending in ringlets, held back with an enormous headband.

A woman whom Chloe later learned was ‘Mom’ carefully picked Chloe up and carried her to another car with a carrier inside.  Mom took Chloe to her new home and placed her in a room with her own water, food and litter box.  Chloe, still a tiny, black blue-eyed ball of fluff, had the run of the space.

Chloe spent those days racing up the underside of the box spring of the queen-sized bed.  She crept behind the enormous shelves of books.  She became an adept spider hunter – and eater – during this time.  She smiled at the memory.

However, Chloe was lonely.  She missed her mom, brothers, and sisters.  One by one, Chloe’s original owner gave each of them each away.  Finally, only Chloe remained.  She tried to be brave, but sometimes, in the deep heart of the night, Chloe cried for all she had lost.

Interrupting her reverie, Ruby, the little girl walked up.

“Hello, sweet girl!” Ruby cooed.  Ruby stroked Chloe’s head gently.  Chloe extended up into her hand and purred with appreciation.  Ruby loved her.  She snuggled Chloe every chance she got.  She loved Chloe so much she dressed her up in doll clothes and paraded her up and down the driveway in a hot-pink baby stroller.  That, along with the cardboard house Ruby made her, showed her love.  Every night when Ruby went to bed, Chloe did too.  She flopped down on Ruby’s cluttered bedroom floor.  As soon as Ruby’s breath became the stuff of dreaming, Chloe resumed her nightly guard post in the hallway, right outside Ruby’s door.

Unless Rex wanted to sleep there.  In the wintertime, it was the warmest place in the house.

Chloe frowned.  Her temporary home in the spare bedroom lasted 2 months.  Rex prowled around outside the door, trying to force his way in.  He did not want another cat in the house.  Especially not a kitten!  Alpha cats don’t cotton to competition in any form.

Ruby left Chloe’s side at the window, got a book from her pile and settled down on the couch.  Chloe, still lost in remembering, hardly noticed.

Chloe, while a kitten, played with Rex.  She hid behind corners and when he came into view – wham! – she pounced on him.  Rex hissed at her, bit and kicked her.  Surprised, she didn’t know how to react.  She meant no harm.  But Rex didn’t like it.  At all.

‘Why did you do that?’ he growled, fangs bared.

‘I – I – wanted to play with you,’ Chloe squeaked.  ‘Don’t you like to play?’

Rex pulled himself up to his full height.  His eyes glowed golden with contempt.

‘ I do not play,’ he said.  With a swish of his tail, he departed.

‘And that is how it is to this day,’ thought Chloe from her perch, squarely back in the present.  She slumped down on the ledge.

‘I wish I had a friend,’ she whispered to herself.

Overcome by drowsiness brought on by the glow of the sun and the power of her emotions, she dropped off to sleep.  A whistling snore escaped her lips.

Morning dawned clear. Chloe headed outside after breakfast.  The intoxicating morning smells beckoned to her.  She paced the perimeter of the driveway.  Hmm.  She smelled a raccoon, a deer and several mice.  She licked her lips at the thought of mice steaks.

Suddenly, she saw a rustling in the ivy.

Mouse!  Chloe bounded toward the waving plants.  She crouched down in anticipation, wiggling her backside in preparation.  Now!  She bounced into the greenery.

‘Hey!’ a voice yelled.  ‘Ouch!’

Chloe found herself on her back, legs in the air.  Something large rolled her.  She looked up into the furry face of another cat.

‘Who are you?’ she shrieked, jumping three feet straight up.

The other cat laughed.

‘If you could see your face!’ He chortled until tears rolled down his cheeks.

‘I’m Mario,’ he said, once he recovered.  ‘I almost caught a cool blue-striped snake.  Until you jumped me, that is.’

Chloe stared at him.  He was mostly Tabby, she decided.  His silver fur undulated with striking black stripes.  His big green eyes watched her expectantly.

Remembering her manners, Chloe said, ‘Pleased to meet you.  I’m Chloe.  This is my yard.  My people and I live there.’ She gestured toward the two-story yellow house behind her.

‘Awesome,’ he said.  ‘Mind if I play in your yard?’

Chloe shook her head.  Mind?  This was wonderful!

I don’t, she replied.  ‘But Rex might.’ She filled Mario in on the resident alpha feline.

‘Ooh,’ shivered Mario.  ‘I’ll steer clear of him.’

Silent for a moment, they listened to the ever-teasing chirping of the birds above them.

‘Hey,’ Chloe said.  ‘Wanna play?’

Mario grinned, showing his beautiful pointy whites.

‘Sure!’

They were off.  They chased each other up trees, birds squawking in their wake.  They played hide-and-pounce.  Mario found great big beetles and tossed them at Chloe, who sometimes tossed them back.  Other times she bit into their heads.  She liked the crunch!  Delicious.

The sprinkler made lazy arcs across the lawn.

‘Bet you can’t get as low as I can!’ Mario challenged.

He lowered himself into the grass.

‘Be the ground, be the ground,’ he said to himself.  He groveled in the dirt.

The sparkling water danced over his head.  Lower, lower, it came…and sprayed his ears.

‘Darn it!’ he howled and danced away.

Chloe laughed.

‘My turn!’

Mom had often said Chloe was the original boneless cat.  She showed it now.  Chloe made herself very small, like a mini shag rug.

The water came closer.

‘You’re gonna get we-et!’ Mario jeered.

Closer.

Rex!

Chloe sprang up, right through the pulsing water.  Aack!  She dashed off into the bushes, embarrassed and cold.

Rex surveyed the surroundings.

‘What have we here?’ he asked.  He circled Mario warily.  Mario trembled.

‘I don’t believe we’ve been introduced,’ Rex said, eyes hard.

‘I’m M-Mario.’

‘Ah.’ Rex took a step forward.  ‘You don’t belong here.’

Mario looked Rex in the eyes.

‘Maybe not.’  He paused. ‘But I like it here.  I’m not leaving.’ He glanced back to where Chloe entered the brush.  He didn’t want to see her terrorized anymore.

Rex’s handsome face twisted into a snarl.

‘Oh yes you are!’

With  a spring, Mario jumped Rex.  They rolled over and over in the grass. Rex clawed at Mario’s face. Mario dodged Rex’s small paw-daggers and jerked to the left. Mario landed on top, pinning Rex’s head down. Rex struggled to sit up.  Mario pushed down, harder. Rex huffed with anger and exertion.  Finally, Rex let out a guttural song of defeat and wrestled himself free.  He scampered off into the hole in the neighbor’s fence, tail hanging low.

‘You did it!’ Chloe shouted.  She bounded out from her hiding place.

‘I did, didn’t I?’ said Mario.  He couldn’t keep the grin from his striped face.

But it seemed a little hollow to Mario.  He felt guilty.

‘Hey, Chloe…’he began.

‘Yes?’

‘I think we should make friends with Rex.’

His words hung in the air.

‘What did you say?’ Chloe asked.

‘I said, I think we should apologize to Rex.  He was here first.  Maybe….maybe we can all get along, somehow.’ Mario didn’t like anyone being mad at him.  Besides, anything was possible, right?

Chloe considered this possibility.  She nodded her fuzzy head slowly.  She really did like Rex and had seen him be kind to their humans, purring in their laps contentedly, bringing them live mice.  He meant well.

‘Alright.  But we’ll have to think of a way to make it up to him.’

They sat together and brainstormed.  Mario suggested a dead mouse.  Chloe nixed it. Chloe brought up the idea of a catnip-stuffed sock, but then remembered Rex didn’t like catnip.  He preferred roses.

‘Aha!’ Mario said.  ‘How about a live mouse?  He could have the privilege of dispatching it himself but not having to expend the effort to catch it.’

‘Perfect!’ Chloe pronounced.

They watched for Rex without looking like they were waiting.  They lounged in the front yard, soaking up the afternoon sun leaching out of the cement.  The sun slipped lower and lower in the sky.  Finally, as the last rays faded, Rex slunk out of the hole in the fence.

He froze.

‘What are you two doing here?’ he rasped.

Mario sat up.  He reached a large paw into a small box he had been lying on.  He picked up the wriggling, squeaking mouse in his teeth.  He held it out to Rex.

Rex, stunned, didn’t move.

Chloe spoke up.

‘It’s for you.  Mario is sorry for beating you up. You belong here.  Mario and I are hoping we can all become friends.’

‘Why would you want to be friends with me?’ Rex wondered.  ‘I’ve never been…nice to you.’

Chloe had to agree, but she didn’t say so.  Her mama taught her you don’t have to spout everything that comes into your head.

‘But you can change that now.  Chloe told me you saved a baby bird last spring.  It almost got swallowed by another cat.  You drove the other cat away and you carried the chick back up to its nest before its mother returned. You are merciful.’ Mario still marveled at that story.  Looking at the menacing hulk of a cat in front of him, he had trouble believing it.

Rex’s eyes registered surprise.  Chloe saw that?  He had no idea.  He had forgotten all about it.

Rex hesitated, then took the peace offering.  He grabbed it by the neck and bit into its juicy center.  Yum!  He closed his eyes in ecstasy.

Mario and Chloe smiled at each other.

‘Thank you,’ Rex murmured.  ‘I would like to be friends.  I have been a bit lonely, myself.  I am… sorry for my bad behavior.’  He almost choked on “sorry”.  Pride is a tough master.

‘But I’ve never had any friends before, so you might need to teach me, ‘ Rex finished, bowing his head with the admission.

Chloe and Mario were only too glad to show Rex what being a real friend meant.  From that day on, the three cats were inseparable.  They hunted together.  They played together.  They shared whatever they caught and learned the synergistic heat value of snuggling.

“Mom!  Come look at this!” Ruby called.  “We have another cat now!”

The three friends looked up at her from the bottom of their eyes and smiled a secret smile.

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