Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Tyranny of Owls

Yeah, it's a poem. Try not to gag....Not my usual thing. But at least I'm writing again...

The Tyranny of Owls
by A. A. Floyd

They raid our nests in the night
Taking not the weak and the infirm on the wing
But fledglings too young to fly
And mothers plump with those yet unhatched
This crime will not go unpunished
Too many have died
Come! Come! Now! Now!
The call resounds
Echoes through the trees
Sharp beaks rap against the bark
Clawed feet jostle to find better purchase
A deep breath and a pause
Before an explosion of black upon the night sky
Blotting out the stars and moon
As if to murder the night itself.
A flash of black and white
The battle is engaged
Many soldiers of the Black will fall before our foe is vanquished
But we are many
As common as the dandelion
As ubiquitous as blades of grass in the valley
As long as there have been shadows there have been crows
Feathers and forms fall from the sky
The battle won
But at great consequence
Their chick is flung from the nest to the hungry ground below
The hen’s eye is pierced by a Black warrior, who surrenders his life in the conquest
Winging away into the night, she will be lucky to survive the month,
Much less to find another mate to further harass our patch of sky.
The cock lies broken upon the battlefield,
His wing crumpled useless and dragging behind him.
Come! Come! Here! Here!
We call to the executioners
Shadows slip from nearby shrubs
Coyotes heed our call
They break the bodies of our enemies and our siblings
Shattering bones between strong teeth to release the souls of our mothers, lovers, sisters and children
And send them to Mother sky
White down released to the wind will be woven into our nests to warn future predators
That we will not abide
The tyranny of owls

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Hope part 1

I produced a lot of writing for Nanowrimo last November. After taking December off, I decided that I would try again at another novel. I will attempt to post my daily ramblings in the hope that eventually it will become a book which will entertain you as well as myself…

This is a work of fiction. No real people, places or events were used. Copyright ã 2012 Plot Roach.

Hope part 1

By Plot Roach

She shook the spray paint can with her right hand as she lined up the rocks with her left. She heard the clacking of the ball bearing in the can and imagined that she could feel the pressure building up in the metal beneath her fingers. When the river polished stones were lined up in front of her, she popped the top off of the can and tossed it over her shoulder, releasing a spray of bright biohazard orange over the waiting rocks. Chemicals were released upon the wind, finding the rocks, the pavement beneath them and the shoes of the woman who held the spray paint can.

"I don't know why you keep making those things." Darla said, watching as her friend’s shoes took on yet another spray painted hue. "It's a waste of time when you should be helping me."

"It looks like you have it covered," The painter said as she laid on another layer of paint.

"Ginny-"

"Sky," the woman corrected. "I'm calling myself 'Sky' now."

"It doesn't matter what you call yourself, you're gonna starve if you don't stop this nonsense and start looking for food instead of spray-paint."

"We have more than enough and you know that," the woman said. "What's really bugging you?"

There was a rumble in the distance and the gloomy morning took on an even more ominous tone. Both women looked off into the distance. "It's gonna rain." Darla said, pulling her jacket closed as if the coat could close off something more dangerous than the morning chill.

"You think?" The woman who called herself Sky asked with a teasing note in her voice. She chased after the plastic cap of the spray paint as it rolled in the wind and pulled on Darla's sleeve. "Let's go inside before the rain falls."

"I don't want to."

"They can't hurt you, you know."

Darla didn't know if the woman meant her memories or the dead bodies that they had left behind them. “Won’t the rain ruin your paintings?" Darla asked, raising an eyebrow at Sky. She remained where she stood despite the woman pulling on her sleeve.

"If anything, the rain might make a nice background pattern through the paint," Sky said, pushing a stray lock of dirty brown hair out of her eyes. "I'm going to go inside and stay dry. Feel free to keep my rocks company." She dashed off into the distance, stopping under the eves of the store to look back at Darla before she negotiated her way through the broken glass door and back into the dark building.

Darla spared one last look up into the brooding sky that matched her mood and sighed. She kicked a glowing orange rock and it smeared a little of the paint along one edge of her sneaker, she tried rubbing if off with a finger, but only succeeded in getting the stuff further along her shoe and covering the index finger of her hand. "It figures." she mumbled and ambled through the deserted parking lot and toward the store. As she walked, Darla wondered why Sky even bothered painting the rocks that she left behind. It’s not like she’s keeping them or making them to give to someone, she thought. Not that there’s anyone left to give things to.
Pausing at the broken front door, she steeled herself and stepped inside, picking her way through broken glass and bits of refuse. She picked up the electric lantern that she had left by the entrance that morning. Though the place was not completely dark, the clouds had choked away the sun's brilliance until a sickly light filtered through the murky shadows of the store. Windows, tinted to reduce the glare of a summer sun, only made the place look darker in the winter months.

She knew that she would find Sky in the crafting aisle, planning her next art project. And though the woman did not fear the dark as Darla had, she would take a flashlight, not to see her way through the tangle of aisles and downed goods abandoned by shoppers, but to see the color of the paints she would pick for the next day's work.

"Just once you could start up the stove and maybe get the water boiling for me," Darla whined into the darkness. She paused at the craft aisle and shined her lantern into the dark. She was met with a scattering of tools, broken wooden dowels and a few skeins of variegated yarn in a mess upon the floor. The rest of the racks were as pristine as when they had been faithfully stocked by the store's workers. When Ginny -no, Sky- she reminded herself, had gone down these aisles to seek her materials she had taken what she needed and left the rest as she had found it, as if afraid to wake the ghosts of the dead who once stocked these aisles.

No, Darla thought. She's not the one afraid of waking the dead. I am. She tried several other aisles and panicked. "Where are you?" she called into the darkness. Both her pulse and her feet picked up speed as her search of the dark spaces proved fruitless. There was no other sound than the drumming of her heart in her body and her feet upon the cold linoleum floor. "Ginny! -dammit- Sky?! Where the hell are you?"

She wandered from Crafts to House-wares to the Pharmacy department with no luck. She flashed her light down each dark corridor of forgotten goods until, at last, she thought she caught a familiar flash. She stood still, unable to move from the ice in her veins, as her lantern illuminated the floor of the aisle in front of her. There, amidst the wreckage that had been the automotive aisle, was Sky's zippered sweat shirt, crumpled on the ground like an abandoned husk. Darla's mind raced as she tried to calm herself. Why had Sky not answered her? Was someone in here with them? Someone who had been watching them as they made the abandoned store their home? Had he been following them for days? Months? What if this place had been his home before they had come? Was he angry that they had taken things without asking for his permission? What had he done with her friend and what would he do with her if Darla let her guard down enough to get caught herself?

The rattle of metal in metal made Darla jump. She turned and threw her lantern, though she was loath to lose the light. It was her only weapon.

"Hey!" Sky called out. "What was that for?"

"Where the hell were you and why didn't you answer me?" Darla asked, squinting into the near darkness.

"You scared me to death!"

"Me?" Sky asked, retrieving the lantern from the floor, dropping the spray paint can she had been shaking to the ground. She gave the plastic lantern a good thump on the side and checked the battery hatch before switching the lantern's light back on. "You damn near killed this thing." Sky said, handing back the lantern to Darla. "And me in the process."

"Well, I thought..."

"What? You thought that I was the boogeyman?" Sky asked.

"You didn't answer and..."

"There's no one here, Darla. And there's no going to be."

"Then, why?...." Darla began to ask. It was the rocks that bugged her. Why was Sky making the rocks and leaving them behind if she didn’t think that there was anyone alive to find them?

"Why what?" Sky asked.

"Nothing... never mind..." Darla said, she turned on her heel and headed for the camping section. They had a makeshift home there, in a display of lawn furniture and a dome tent. She turned on the propane tank and put a large pot onto the small ring of fire. She filled the pot with water and rummaged through the basket of goods she had scavenged earlier while she waited for the water to boil.

"You don't have to cook tonight," Sky said, dragging her zippered sweatshirt jacket behind her. She had piled it high with spray paint cans and bottles of varnish. "I'm sure we can just eat some of the prepackaged stuff out of the cans instead."

Darla looked at the sweatshirt and almost pointed out to Sky that she was going to get her jacket dirty and it would have been much easier to bring her supplies over by using a cart, but she held her tongue. It was sky’s way of doing things, always jumping in without planning and heedless of the consequences of her actions. "I'm saving that for when we leave," she told Sky.

"Why are we leaving?"

"We can't stay here forever."

"Why not?" Sky asked. She was busily setting out the cans of spray paint by color.

"Because we'll run out of food eventually."

"Are you blind?" Sky asked. "There's enough food here to last a year easily, even if we ate like pigs."

"It won't all last that long, Gin-"

"Sky" her friend corrected her.

"Why do you want to be called sky all of a sudden?"

"Why do you want to leave?"

"There might be other people out there." Darla said.

"Aren't you the one always telling me that we're better off by ourselves? That we should hide from strangers because they might be dangerous, especially now that the flu has wiped out most of humanity?"

"That was before."

"Before what?" Sky asked.

Darla rummaged in the pocked of the oversized hunting jacket she wore and pulled out a long white piece of plastic, brandishing it at Sky as she had the lantern, but not throwing it this time.

On the end of the plastic stick were two small windows, both colored pink. "I'm pregnant," she said.
 

Friday, December 2, 2011

On A Mountaintop

This is a work of fiction. No real people, places or events were used. Copyright ã 2011 Plot Roach.

On a Mountaintop

By Plot Roach

The air churned above the mountain, threatening to kill Henry with lightening or make him slip off the wet rock walls and fall to his doom.

“I shall have no fear,” he said to himself. “For my fate awaits me at the top!” He had only himself to talk to as all of his comrades had died en route to his mountain destination.

His girlfriend, Rue, had died when a group of trolls surprised them in the maze in King Lore’s dungeon. His lifelong friend, Phillip, died when a poisoned needle jabbed him while he picked the lock on the chest that held Henry’s magic wand. And even his dog, Pompsikuss, gave his life to defend his master when a group of zombie clowns surprised them while they slept at the base of the mountain.

Henry shuddered at the thought of the clowns, remembering the firelight glinting off their red noses just before the squeaky shoes shuffled forward and the clowns groaned “Haaaaaa…. Haaaaa.” There had even been a clown mime who pantomimed eating him before it lunged at Henry.

“I‘m ready!” Henry said, pulling himself to the plateau at the top of the mountain, and puffing out his chest in a way he believed would make him look manly and heroic.

The figure that had been waiting for him thought that the motion made young Henry look like a small child caught bragging. “Climbing the mountain is not the point of this exercise,” the figure said. “It’s defeating your enemy and traveling back down it, that is the real goal.”

“And you are?” Asked Henry, eyeing the boy standing across from him.

“Harold, your twin brother,” the boy said. Henry looked the boy over and was surprised by what he found.

“Why you can’t be,” he said. “You look nothing like me.”

“Not every set of twins are identical.”

"The oracle said that I would meet my greatest nemesis upon this very mountaintop and that the victor of this battle would go on to rule the world. But… you are a mere boy,” he said, almost spitting the words out at Harold. “You must be my evil twin, since I am the good one,” he reasoned. “Yet you wear no dark robe or black clothes to denote your status. And there are no warts or scars to mar your face so that all might know that evil dwells within your soul.”

Harold said nothing to these accusations, he merely hefted his weapon and took aim.

“And that horrendous excuse for a wand,” he said, pointing to the long shaft of metal and wood that Harold held in his hands. “You have no chance at beating me in a duel. I was raised in the most illustrious wizarding school in the world. My power is absolute and my aim is flawless. Bow before me and I might spare your pathetic life so that you may serve as a reminder to those who would dare question my authority-”

A noise like thunder pealed across the sky. Young Henry fell from the side of the mountain as Harold shouldered his “wand” and prepared himself to take the back path down the mountain. The same path that had an escalator past the troll village and a Sherpa to take him through King Lore’s dungeon.

“I was raised to shoot first and ask questions later,” Harold said, looking down at his dead twin. “And it’s called a shotgun, you idiot.”

Friday, November 18, 2011

Kitty 24

I am participating in NANOWRIMO this year. I will attempt to post my daily ramblings in the hopes that eventually it will become a book which will entertain you as well as myself…

This is a work of fiction. No real people, places or events were used. Copyright ã 2011 Plot Roach.

Kitty Part 24

By Plot Roach

They closed the doors behind them as they made their way backup to the apartment, not wanting any intruders to follow them. Though what intruders they expected, even Kitty did not know. While the raccoons and the rats skittered around in the dark, Kitty was filled with a foreboding feeling as if their stalker walked beside them in the daylight but could not be seen with the eye.

Once they were in the apartment, Kitty closed the door behind them until the slimmest of cracks betrayed the opening. We have to get out of here and fast, Kitty thought. She trusted her instincts which had been honed by her years of life on the streets. But would the cats?

Shakespeare was where they had left him, his steady breathing betrayed his slumber. Blue and Prue were still in the kitchen, arguing amongst themselves where the best place was to move their bowels. “But the litter box id full!” Prue whined. “I can’t go where I’ve already gone before.”

‘Well do you think that Craig is just going to come back from the dead long enough to cleanout the box for you?” Blue said. “I say go wherever you can find the room. Craig is not going to mind, and it’s not like we are going to stay here for the rest of our lives.”

“But I don’t want to leave!” Prue cried. “This has been my home since I was a kitten. This is where Craig made me better when I got sick. This is where I grew up.”

Kitty could feel her stomach twist with the little cat’s words. She longed for her old den under the human apartment complex. And it was all she could do not to run back there, pad in a circle across the dirt floor packed hard by the passing of many paws and curl up into a deep sleep, wishing that all of this had been just a bad dream brought on by old human scraps of food. But no amount of wishing in the world could ever bring her old world back to her. For if she did have that power, she would certainly put Shakespeare and the cats’ lives back on track by bringing back their dead human master.

How can one human mean so much? She asked herself as she paused at the water bowl to get a drink. Blue had not been lying earlier when he said that it needed to be refilled. But as she peeked into the living room she did not think that she could rouse Shakes from his slumber for something that was so important but that seemed so mundane. Instead, she jumped up to the kitchen sink herself, bracing her front paws against a cabinet while she pushed at the lever she had seen Shakes use the night before. But this time nothing had come out.

“The water is all dries up.” Blue said solemnly. “I checked the faucet that drips in the bathroom, but that one is also dry.”

“Then we need to get out of here now.” Kitty said, a determined tone in her voice.

“But I don’t want to go!” Prue wailed.

“Now Prue,” blue said. “We’ve been over this-”

“NO!” the little Siamese yowled. “I won’t go and you can’t make me!”

“You’re acting like a spoiled kitten!” Blue said, swatting at the other cat to break her out of her temper tantrum. But it only made things worse when Prue launched herself at blue, claws unsheathed and out for blood.

Great All Mother, Kitty prayed. What am I going to do?”

But is was not the doggie goddess that answered Kitty’s prayers, but a street smart calico cat. As the cream and grayish blue ball rolled around the kitchen floor, spitting and snarling, Lucy tossed the catnip mouse into the fray. Immediately both cats stopped to snatch at the fake herb stuffed rodent.

“Where did you get this?!’ Prue asked.

“It’s at our new home,” Lucy said, with a smug look on her face. “All the toys you could ever play with. And all sorts of good human food as well.” the calico cat looked over at Kitty and gave her a wink.

“There’s even a safe place for you bed,” Kitty said. “Lucy and I set it all up this afternoon so that it would be waiting for you when you were ready to leave.”

“Really?” Prue asked, snatching the catnip stuffed mouse away from Blue.

“You Won’t know for sue until you come with us to check it out,” Lucy teased. “But I for one am not going to spend another night here. I’m going to sleep in my own fleece lined bed, with catnip toys to play with and all the liverwurst I can eat.”

“Liverwurst?!” Blue exclaimed. “You did not happen to find my favorite while you were down there, did you?” In answer to his question, Lucy merely breathed upon his face and he inhaled the scent from her lips as if he could suck the meaty treat from the air in her lungs.

“Meet us by the door in a few minutes,” Lucy said. ”Take whatever you need with you. But know that once we are there, we won’t be coming back.”

“Not ever?” Prue said.

“It won’t be safe anymore,” Kitty explained.

“But why?”

“Because… “ Kitty began to say, trying to find the right words and yet still attempting to be delicate about it. He was their master, after all. Kitty reminded herself. “Because the body will be rotting and between the disease and the pests, it won’t be safe for you to come back.”

“Oh,” said Prue. “But who will watch over Craig?”

Kitty looked over to the dead human sitting on the couch and the dog who lay next to him. She spoke loudly, hoping that she could reach through the shell of sadness that the service dog had erected around himself when his master had died. “The humans will come for him after we leave,” she lied. “But they won’t come if we don’t leave the apartment.”

“Why is that?” Prue asked. “Don’t they like us?”

Who taught this cat to be so curious? Kitty asked herself, scrambling her brain for an answer when Lucy beat her to it. “Because they are afraid that we might be sick too.”

“Oh, okay,” the Siamese said and stalked off with the catnip mouse to wait by the front door.

“What about you, Blue?” Lucy asked. “Do you have any questions.”

“No,” he said, winking at the calico cat. “You have already taken care of that for me.” he leaped up to the kitchen counter and looked out the window. “I’ll never see this skyline again,” he said to the dog and the cat who waited patiently on the floor.

“No,” Lucy said. “You’ll see a better one.”

“You’ll be your own cat again,’ Kitty said, remembering Lucy’s words earlier that day, and thinking to inspire the Russian Blue.

“But I never really wanted to be my own cat,” Blue said. “I’ve been with Craig the longest, you know. And I’ll miss him fiercely. I think it’s wrong somehow when pets are forced to outlive their masters.”

Blue jumped down off the counter and walked up to Prue, rubbing his chin against her cheek as she played quietly with the catnip mouse. This left Lucy and kitty the hard task of trying to convince Shakespeare to leave Craig behind.

“Shakespeare,” Lucy whispered from the floor. ”It’s time to go now.”

“I won’t.“ he said.

“Didn’t you hear a word that we said to Lucy?” she asked.

“I don’t care, I won’t leave him here to be -eaten by those THINGS!” he snarled.

“He’s not there anymore, Shakes,” Kitty said, trying to convince her friend of the situation at hand. “His soul has moved on with his own Dark One. You need to let his body go and live your own life.”

“And what if I don’t want to?” he asked. “What if I just stay here and waste away with him?”

“His Dark One will not come to collect your soul, only the Black Dog will.”

“So I’ll never see him again?” Shakes howled. “All this time together and that’s it? That’s all we will ever have? It’s not fair.”

Kitty took a deep breath, trying to calm herself before she could attend to her friend and his needs. “Shakes,” she said. “I’ve seen the Afterlife. And I can tell you that it is a wonderful place. I never saw any humans there, but the place was filled with green plants and plenty of game. And when you run there, it’s like you never get tired and you never grow old.”

“Why are you telling me this?” Shakes asked.

“I think that the humans must have an Afterlife of their own. And that Craig is there now, with his own kind. And he can probably see again-”

“So he won’t need me.” he spat.

“Yes, but not in the way that you think,” Kitty said. “I think that wherever he is, he’s talking about you to the other humans that are there. And maybe they’ve all missed their animals too, be they pets or service animals. And maybe..?”

“Yes, Kitty?”

“Maybe there’s a place where the walls of those two worlds, the Afterlife of the humans and the dogs, are thin enough that if you really wanted to you could slip through or dig under and see him again.”

“Service dogs aren’t supposed to dig.” Shakespeare said, getting off of the couch.

“Well, I was just-”

“It’s okay, Kitty. I know what you were trying to say. Thank you.” Shakes leaned forward and licked her muzzle before she could pull away. This time she did not snarl or bite, and was relieved when she found that she actually enjoyed the sign of affection from the golden retriever. She smiled and looked down.
“Better be careful, Kitty,” Shakes said. ‘Or someone might mistake you for a civilized dog.’

The group of animals made once last farewell to the cold corps of their former master. They took a drink of water, ate what food they could and carried a piece of their former lives with them as they left the apartment for the last time.

Shakes closed the door tightly behind them, assuring himself that nothing would eat upon his master when they left. The two dogs and three cats made an awkward pilgrimage in the stairwell as they descended to the street. Shakes let the door close behind him, and sighed, a heaviness lifting from his heart. Though his master was gone, he would never truly be forgotten for his kind words, laughter and good deeds lived on in the mind of his canine companion.

“Do you think that the humans will always fear us?” Prue asked.

“No.” I think they’ll know we’re not sick when they see how much food we’ve eaten at the store.” Lucy said.

“Tell me again about the liverwurst.” Blue begged, though it seemed beneath him. “You know how much I love it so.”

“There’s mountains of the stuff,” Kitty said.

As the sun set on their final day in the apartment, it brought out bright new stars for their future. The world seemed new and clean, though it was littered with the remnants of human society. Lucy climbed the tree near the supermarket wall and let them in through the side emergency exit. Shakes shook his head at the feline’s talent.

‘Why didn’t you let us know that you could do that?” he asked Lucy. “I never would have thought to do that on my own.”

“What?” she asked, winking. “Then I’d have to do tricks all day to amuse you. And a cat has to have her standards, you know.”
 
* * *

This is, by no means, the end of the Kitty saga. Will the animals be happy living in the supermarket? What has happened to the humans that survived the illness? Will they reclaim the land form the animals? We still haven’t seen what happened to Grimy. And what of the circus animals that were shipped to the zoo? You’ll have to stay tuned while I work on the next installment of Kitty’s story. Though this time I may type a little slower.

Thanks to all who read and enjoyed my tale.

 
 
 
 
 

Kitty 23

I am participating in NANOWRIMO this year. I will attempt to post my daily ramblings in the hopes that eventually it will become a book which will entertain you as well as myself…

This is a work of fiction. No real people, places or events were used. Copyright ã 2011 Plot Roach.

Kitty Part 23

By Plot Roach

“I hate to admit this,” Kitty said. “But it feels good to get out of the apartment and run around in the fresh air.” The wind ruffled her coat and kitty could already tell that winter would soon be on its way. It’s a good thing that Shakes and I found the supermarket this morning, she said to herself. It will keep them all fed throughout the winter what with all the humans gone.

“I thought that I was the only one who felt like that,” the calico said. “Though I sometimes feel guilty about yearning for my freedom when the other two cats know of no other way of life. I wouldn’t wish homelessness on them, but it feels good to be my own cat again.”

“How do you think that they will take to life without Craig?” Kitty asked.

“I think that they are in shock now and that it will probably hit them when we leave the apartment and we can no longer smell him,” she said. “I think that’s why Shakes won’t leave Craig’s body, because it still smells like him.”

Kitty turned the corner of the building and faced the front of the supermarket. “Here is your new home, my lady.” she said, bowing to the cat as if she were a queen.

“The electricity is still running here.”

“Yeah, but we don’t know for how long,” Kitty said. ‘With the humans gone, it may shut off at any moment.”

“Why is it still running here when it is off at our home?!” The cat demanded. “If it had been working last night, then Craig would have been able to call for help. He would still be alive. How can it be this way? Why one block and not another?!” The cat yowled, her hair spiked along the edge of her back and she looked for all the world as if she were to attack an unseen foe.

“I don’t know,” Kitty said. “The things that humans do still baffle me. But think on this, Lucy, even if Craig managed to call for help, there would still have to be someone there to come and get him, someone to take him down all the stairs that we walked down this morning. We’re healthy animals, but Craig was not. Do you really think that he could have made it, even with help? And if they did manage to get him to a hospital, and there were people there to help and try and heal him, what if he had died anyway? You and your pack would never have known that he had passed. And he would have been surrounded by strangers when the Dark One came to claim him, not by his beloved pack.”

“I know,” the calico cat said in a soft tone, grooming her hair back into place along her spine. “But I don’t remember seeing him there, do you?"

“Who?” Kitty asked.

“The Dark One.”

“There were not black dogs,” Kitty said.

“Not a dog, silly.” Lucy said. “Do you really think that a dog comes to collect cats when they die?”

“I hadn’t really though about it“ Kitty said. “I just know that you never see the Dark One until it is your time to leave.”

“I saw him once,” Lucy said. “But he was a dark Manx with fur the color of ash."

“Did you die?”

“Almost,” the calico said, licking a paw to keep from looking into Kitty’s eyes least she laugh at her. “It was when I had eaten a dead mouse that I found near a trash dumpster. I was so hungry that I ate it without wondering why it was dead.”

“And?” Kitty asked.

“It had eaten poison and I had gotten very sick from it,” She said. “The Dark one visited me that night and told me that there was more for me to do here… But you probably think I’m crazy for talking about it. Both Blue and Prue do, that’s for sure.”

“They don’t know everything,” Kitty said. “I met a dog in the pound who saw the same thing. He said that he had a destiny to fulfill. So I trust you when you say that you saw the Dark One as a cat.”

“Really?”

“Yeah,” Kitty said. “Maybe you’re here to help take care of the others, what with Craig dead.”

“What will you do when we get the others out of the apartment?” the calico cat asked. “Will you stay with us?”

“I can’t, Lucy. There is something I was meant to do. And I can’t do it if I stay with you,” Kitty explained. “I don’t know what it is, exactly. But there is an urge in me to keep going until I find it. It’s like an itch in my bones and when I stay still too long in one place, it burns unbelievably hard.”

“Well, I’ll be sorry to see you go,” the calico said. “As I’m sure the others will as well.”

“I’m no so sure that Shakes will miss me, “ Kitty said. “But I think that this is the best place for you and your pack.” Kitty looked up at the bright colors of the neon sign. And sighed, hoping that it would be enough to keep them going until they could learn to fend for themselves or the humans came back to take care of them.

“I knew that you were one of us,” Lucy said.

“Well, of course I‘m one of you,” Kitty said. “Maria dragged me to the apartment after all.”

“That’s not what I meant,” Lucy said.

“What did you mean then?”

“That you are one of the god touched.”

“The what?” Kitty asked.

“The All Mother spoke to you, too. Didn’t she?” the calico cat asked.

“Yes, just like the Dark One did.”

“They both gave you gifts,” Lucy said.

“Gifts?” Kitty asked.

“Well you didn’t think that they would put you back out into the wild world without an edge, do you?” the calico cat laughed. “I knew that you were different when you mentioned seeing colors. Not one dog that I’ve met can see colors. And all the cats that I’ve spoken with have a similar problem, though they could see a few of the colors that humans can. But you can see things like a human can -and you can think like them can as well. I’ve seen you solve things in the apartment in seconds where it took Shakespeare months to learn -and that was when he was trained by a human. You are different from the rest of your kind, Kitty. Embrace your gifts and use them well on the path that has been set before you. They were given to you for a reason. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to see if I can climb that tree over there and get onto the roof of the building for a closer look.”

As Lucy went on about her task, she left Kitty thinking over what she had said.

Am I really that special? She asked herself. But while she tried to deny it, memories of the pound and living among the pack came back to prove her special skills to her. She knew how to open the cages, even if her paw could not manipulate the lock. And she had known how to get into the dumpster, a feat she had never even thought was possible, much less tried back in her old days as a common street dog. But what was it the All Mother and the Dark One had wanted her to do? Their words had evaporated from her mind like raindrops on hot pavement.

“Hey!” Lucy said from a rooftop overhang. I found a way in and I think I can get the side door open to let you in as well.”

“Just be careful,” Kitty called back to the calico cat. “We don’t know if anything else is already living there.”
A few minutes later, very uncomfortable minutes that felt like an eternity to Kitty because she did not know if her friend was in danger, the cat opened a side emergency exit. It had a lever handle like the doors to the apartment complex. Lucy had managed to knock it open with a shopping cart filled with dog food.
“How did you-?” Kitty began to ask.

“Did you think that you were the only one that the gods gave gifts to?” Lucy asked, purring playfully.
Kitty made sure that the door closed behind them, not wanting any intruders to find this paradise that she wanted to protect for her friends. “I don’t smell any rotting food, so I don’t think this place lost electricity at all.” Kitty said. “But one thing is for sure, it will go off eventually. If it’s something that I’ve learned while living amongst the humans, it’s that when humans leave an area, they take all the good stuff with them.”

“So what will we do?” Lucy asked.

“Eat all of the meat that you can while it’s still good. And get rid of the stuff when it starts to rot. Have Shakes take it out into the parking lot. You’ll want to set up a den in a corner… Or better yet, this place might have a separate room…” she said and loped off in the direction of one of the store’s walls. Along the back edge she found a staircase.

“Not more stairs,” the cat complained.

“No,” Kitty said. “This is a good thing.” She took to the stairs and found a room at the top. She clawed at the handle at the top and managed to pull it open a bit. She dashed back down the stairs and grabbed a can of food, then pulled the door open again. “Wedge it open,” she told the cat, who did as Kitty had told her. From there she was able to nudge the door open with the bulk of her body. Yes! She thought to herself. There was another of those tiny legs at the base that once pulled down would keep the door in place.

“That’s where I came in,” Lucy said, looking up at a skylight that had been left open. “But I made my way out of the window there instead of using the door like you did.” The window in question held a full view of the store’s floor below them. It will make a great lookout spot, Kitty thought.

“Can you close the roof’s window if you need to?” Kitty asked, doubting that she or Shakes could ever climb that high and keep their balance in order to close it.

“Probably, if I studied the lever attached to it a bit longer. Why?” the calico cat asked.

“Because this is going to be you new home.”

“It doesn’t look very comfortable,” Lucy said

‘It doesn’t have to be, for a human. they live elsewhere, remember?”

“But what about for us?” the cat asked “I can’t sleep on a stack of papers with a spike through it and I doubt that they others will look kindly upon me if I suggest it for their bed.”

“We’ll fix it. You’ll see. Should we bring the others here now, or fix it up ourselves?” Kitty asked.

“I think that we ought to do it ourselves. I don’t think that Shakes is ready to leave the apartment yet and the other two are notorious lazy bodies.”

“What do you want to start with first?” Kitty asked, excited to help the cat make this place into a home for her friends.

“How about we get all this human stuff out of the place?” Lucy asked. She started pushing things off of the desk and onto the floor where Kitty pawed them down the stairs and out of the way. By the time they were done, there was a sloppy pile of debris at the side of the stairs. They had kept the desk and the chair (at Lucy’s request), but managed to deposit the computer, keyboard and monitor into a broken heap which Kitty tugged at for nearly twenty minutes before freeing the electrical cords form the wall and dumping it onto the pile of human stuff below.

Then kitty dashed throughout the store looking for items that the calico cat had listed off of the top of her head.

First came the fleece lined overstuffed beds, including a larger style for the two dogs when they decided to bed down on the floor. And array of bowls ringed the floor. Kitty picked up an assortment of cat and dog toys to toss about the room. As kitty removed a rawhide bone from its packaging she stopped to laugh.

“What is it?” Lucy asked.

“All my life I’ve been fighting to find enough food to fill my belly,” Kitty said. “And now I have found enough to feed a pack for several seasons. These silly humans even made toys for their dogs to play with when they got bored -bored! No animal in the wild searching for its own food ever got bored.”

“I know how you feel,” the cat said. “I never knew true boredom as when I wad trapped up in the apartment with nothing to chase or stalk.”

“How are you going to get Prue and Blue to leave the safety of the apartment and follow you out into the street?” Kitty asked.

“With this,” Lucy said, tossing a catnip stuffed mouse at Kitty’s feet. Kitty sniffed at it, but other than a strong herbal scent could not understand Lucy’s fascination with it.

“I just don’t get it Lucy. What’s so great about that toy?”

“You’d feel differently if it were filled with beef gravy.”

“Yeah,” Kitty said. “But it’s not.”

“The herb inside makes us cats feel funny, like excited and relaxed at the same time,” she said. “Almost as if we were kittens again.”

“So what does it do to kittens?” Kitty asked.

“It doesn’t do anything,” Lucy said. “You have to be an adult cat to feel its effects.”

“Yet another thing that humans made that makes no sense. What should we do now?” Kitty asked, after they had filled the room to Lucy’s satisfaction.

“We’ll still need to drag up some food and water for an emergency, if we can’t get down the steps for some reason,“ the calico cat said. “But that will have to wait until Shakes can get here to help carry up the bags.”
Lucy looked around her at all of the trappings of a civilized life among the humans. “I think we should stop and eat something. We’ve worked hard and I think we need a treat.”

“Shouldn’t we bring the others here first?” Kitty asked.

“No, they have food enough to last them at the apartment. Besides, we did all the work and I think we deserve to eat first at the kill, so to speak.”

Kitty walked up and down the aisles, sniffing at packages and tasting bits and pieces of things.
“Kitty?” Lucy asked “Why don’t we get some of the food from the refrigerators before they go bad?”
Kitty nosed some of the packages in the open faced refrigerated sections, snatching down hotdogs and bologna. In the meantime, Lucy helped herself to a tube of liverwurst. They chewed daintily through the plastic packaging before gorging on the treasure that lay within.

“I’ve never eaten so well in my entire life,” Lucy said, licking buts of processed meat off of her whiskers.

“I’ve never had my food this fresh, either,” Kitty said. “And I didn’t have to beg fur it or test it for poisons or chemicals before eating it.

When they were thirsty, Kitty gnawed through a plastic bottle of water, like she had back at the apartment for Craig, and dumped it into a waiting bowl. When they had both rested enough they got back to their feet and left the building, letting the emergency exit slam closed and locked behind them, since Lucy was certain that she could repeat her trick with the filled shopping cat once again.

They traveled back to the apartment, their good mood spoiled by the thoughts of entering the apartment where Craig’s body lay and where the animals who had stayed there were unlikely to follow them to this new and wonderful place.

The walk up the stairs was just as grueling to Kitty as it had been the day before, but she kept up her pace next to the calico cat. “Do you think that they are ready to leave yet?” Kitty asked Lucy.

“They’ll have to be,” she said. “It’s not like someone is going to come and feed us. We’ve got to look out for ourselves now. Well, ourselves and each other.” Lucy smiled at her around the catnip mouse she had brought to tempt Prue and Blue into following her. “I could not have done this without you.”

“You can thank Shakes,” Kitty said. “He was the one who knew where the supermarket was.”
 

Kitty 22

I am participating in NANOWRIMO this year. I will attempt to post my daily ramblings in the hopes that eventually it will become a book which will entertain you as well as myself…

This is a work of fiction. No real people, places or events were used. Copyright ã 2011 Plot Roach.

Kitty Part 22

By Plot Roach

The animals slept late into the day, most had tossed and turning in their sleep due to grief. When the light from the nearby window woke Kitty, she lifted her head to find that Shakes was still sitting next to his dead master. She stretched as she stood up, the chill of the morning making old injuries ache. She longed to be away from this place of fear and death, but knew that the other residents saw this place as their safe home. She padded over to the sleeping dog and tried to wake him.

“We have to get going, “Kitty said, nudging the golden retriever.

“I’m not leaving.” Shakes said, a low growl in his voice. He shivered , but refused to leave his place. Kitty knew that sleeping side by side with her pack had kept her warm most nights, but also knew that sleeping next to a corpse would leach his body heat and make him vulnerable to disease.

“You can’t stay here guarding a dead body, you have to go on living.”

“You can’t tell me what I can and can’t do, you’re not my master,” he growled.

“No, your master is dead. It’s time fore you to be your own dog now.”

“And enjoy that ‘freedom’ you’ve been telling me about?” he snapped. “The same freedom that nearly got you killed by the jaws of your own pack or nearly starved you to death as you roamed the streets? No thank you. I choose to die here, with Craig.”

The cats looked to one another and then to Kitty. As if of one mind, they padded up to the couch and looked up to Shakes. “We’re leaving,” said Blue. “We can’t survive here and you know it.”

“Ungrateful cats…” Shakes murmured, he laid back down on the couch next to Craig’s body, his muzzle resting on the dead man’s leg. He shot them all a look that sent a chill down Kitty’s spine. It’s going to be hard to get him moving, if we can at all, she told herself.

The cats took another long look at their friend and then a quick glance at Kitty. “Can you help?” Blue whispered as he walked past her.

Whether it was to help them in their argument or help Shakes see the error in his logic, Kitty could only guess. She stepped around the mess of tuna that had been dropped on the floor in Shakes’ attempt to get the can open. The cats had not touched it in the night, though they had every opportunity to. They must have been grieving too deeply to even consider it, Kitty thought. Or else they chose to leave it alone out of respect for the dead. It was now just a dried mess on the floor, a lump that mixed in with the carpet, soon to be unmovable as cement.

Kitty paced the floor, trying to find the right words to comfort the service dog. “I think that Craig would have wanted you to go on and-”

“Don’t say another word,” Shakes growled. He looked away from Kitty and closed his eyes, his muzzle still resting on the dead man’s knee.

Everyone deals with grief in a different way, she reminded herself. And though she worried for her friend, she knew that she could not change his mind unless he was willing to listen to her arguments. Now is not the time for trying to talk logic into him, she told herself. He’s still too numb with grief. She went into the kitchen where the cats were eating dry kibble and drinking from the water bowl.

“We’ll have to refill the water soon if we are going to stay here,” Blue said. “Though we should probably leave before the body begins to smell worse than it already does.”

In the night Craig’s bowels had let go, soaking into the couch beneath him. The stench of his illness and death permeated the apartment, overwhelming their sensitive noses. Kitty knew from her experience on the street that parasites would soon begin their work upon the corpse and render it into a bloated and stinking mass within days.

“We’re not staying here,” Lucy said, here eyes daring Kitty to tell her otherwise.

“But we can’t leave without Shakespeare!” Prue said. “Who would take care of us and protect us from… the wild?”

“It’s not my decision to make,” Kitty said. “But you can’t stay here in the apartment forever. Eventually you will run out of food. The body will rot in earnest, and the smell will bring bugs and rodents to feast on it.” Or worse, Kitty thought to herself. There’s quite a few carrion eaters out there who would love nothing more than a side of cat steak to go with a well aged corpse. But Kitty decided to keep that little tidbit of information to herself and try her hardest to get them all to leave the apartment and head for safer ground.

“What do you suggest?” Blue asked.

“I think we can afford to give him another day to grieve. But after that we’ll either have to find a way to move him or else we’ll have to leave him behind and hope that he’ll leave on his own.”

“Where will we go?” Prue asked.

“Maybe we can find another human to take you in,” Kitty said, though she doubted that there were many healthy humans left living in the city who would be willing to take in more mouths to feed. She ate a few bites of dry kibble, forcing them down even though she had no hunger. She knew that she had to eat to keep up her strength. And with the one human in the world who would feed me gone, she thought, I need to stuff my belly while I still can.

She left the kitchen and moved to the front door where she paused by the open crack. She nosed it open so that she could look out into the hallway beyond and check for and intruders before leaving for the streets below the apartment. Shakes had left the door cracked open and Kitty wondered if he had done it on purpose to let her get out. Or maybe he wants me to leave now that Craig is dead, she thought.

“Are you going to leave us so soon?” Lucy asked, looking up at the dog with her wise golden eyes.

“Not yet,” Kitty said. “But I have a hunch that I want to check into.”

“What’s that?” Lucy asked.

“If there are no humans to be found to take you all in, I know of a place where you can spend a few months to hide until the weather gets better and you can learn to fend for yourselves.”

“You mean THEY can learn to fend for themselves,” Lucy corrected. “I don’t think that they have even caught more than five mice between them in all the years of their nine lives. I was a feral cat caught in a humane trap only five months ago, I still remember the thrill of the hunt and the taste of blood on my lips.”

“Very well then,” Kitty said. “Maybe you should come with me to check into this idea of mine.”

Lucy smiled in a very un-catlike manner, as cats usually keep their feelings to themselves unless the urge for anger or frustration needed to be vented in a hiss or a snarl. “Lead the way,” she said.

“Shakes,” Kitty called out to the service dog. “We’re going out to look for more humans again.”

“Go wherever you want, Kitty,” he mumbled, not bothering to look up as they left. Kitty’s heart sank with the apathetic words of the service dog. And though she had suffered her own losses in this world, she knew that he was suffering in a way that she could only imagine. To be tied that greatly to another being, she thought. It must have felt like half of him died with the human.

Kitty pushed the door to the apartment open a little farther and edged past the doorframe, making sure to nose it back into position as she and the calico left. Kitty watched in wonder and slight jealously as Lucy ran almost gracefully down the steps of the staircase where Kitty had to maneuver herself through an ungainly stride.

I’ll have to eat more food if I’m going to keep up with this routine, Kitty told herself, feeling the muscles along her legs burn from the effort. But at least it’s not as hard to keep up as it was yesterday.

At the base of the building, Kitty moved the little leg latch down and into position, keeping the door open for their return as Shakes had down the day earlier. They had left all the doors propped open and Kitty hoped that Shakes would defend the other, tamer cats should some stray animal find its way up and into the apartment while they were gone.

“I don’t see anyone,” Lucy said. “Where did all the humans go? And for that matter, the animals as well?”

“I think that the humans got sick and either died in their homes or were taken away to the hospitals,” Kitty said. “Maria was talking about it with Craig before she left.”

“Do you think that Maria is dead too?” Lucy asked.

“I think that she might be,” Kitty said. “Even if the city was evacuated, she would have come for Craig, wouldn’t she? And if there was a wide scale evacuation, wouldn’t the humans have come for all the sick and dying?”

“Maybe there weren’t enough healthy humans to do it?” Lucy asked. “Maybe all the rest of the humans ran away to keep themselves healthy.”

“I think that you might be right. But there are no bodies out in the street as there were with the city I was in before I came to live with your master.”

“But the bodies were taken away by humans later when the animals tried to eat them, right?”

“Yes.”

“I think that the humans where collecting to bodies to keep the rest of the humans free from the illness, like when a sick animals is spurned and abandoned by the pack,” The calico said. “Where did the animals go when the bodies were gone?”

“I think that those that were poisoned by the bait and died were taken to the same plave where they took the human bodies. Those that were alive and trapped must have been taken to the animal pound.”

“What about the pack that you joined up with?” Lucy asked.

“They were searching for food when they found me. And I have to admit that they weren’t very good at it,” Kitty said. “That’s why Max was so eager to let me join and keep me with them, I think. They must have all been pets that were abandoned at one time or another by their owners. When the humans left, there was no one to make garbage. And when there were no scraps of food to live off of anymore, they needed another way to survive.”

“And you were it.” Lucy said.

“Yes,” Kitty admitted. “I was it.”

“Why did you join up with them again?” the calico asked, washing a paw while she waited for Kitty’s answer.

“I was in a bad way,” Kitty admitted. “I had been living on my own on the streets before having been caught in a trap like yourself. But instead of being taken to a person like Craig, they took me to the dog pound. When the humans got sick, they left us alone and without food for a few days, once we finally escaped, a few of the dogs turned against me and threatened to kill me. I ran as far and as fast as I could, but I still worried that they would find me. So when Max and his pack showed up and offered to take me in I thought that I had someone to protect me, not to abuse me further.”

“Well I for one think that you were very strong to survive on your own,” said the cat. “And even stronger for deciding to leave such a bad situation as that pack.”

Kitty felt embarrassed by the cat’s compliment, knowing that her escape from the pack was not entirely her own. The poisoned food and being hit by Maria’s car had a big hand in that, she thought to herself. “We’d better get going,” she said to Lucy before heading off in the direction of the supermarket.

 

 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Kitty 21

I am participating in NANOWRIMO this year. I will attempt to post my daily ramblings in the hopes that eventually it will become a book which will entertain you as well as myself…

This is a work of fiction. No real people, places or events were used. Copyright ã 2011 Plot Roach.

Kitty Part 21

By Plot Roach

The walked the several streets down that Shakes remembered on his walks with Craig before coming to a stop before the brick wall that was the side of the supermarket. “Do you want to wait here?” Shakes asked Kitty. “I know that you hate being locked indoors and you are fearful of humans, so I could go in alone while you wait for me here -if you decide to wait here.”

“I think I can tolerate the conditions long enough to keep you company -and out of trouble,” Kitty said. It had been kind of him to consider her feelings in the matter, but if she wasn’t going to abandon him here and make a run for the open streets, she wasn’t going to let him walk into a human store that might hold a trap.
Both dogs walked around the side of the building and to the front of the store. Bright lights and a multicolored sign stood out among the gathering clouds, their colors clashing with the drab deep rust of the bricks the store was constructed from. Shakes walked up to the front of the two sliding glass doors and growled.

“What is it?” Kitty asked.

“The doors were supposed to open.”

“Maybe there is some human trick that needs to be done to open them?” Kitty suggested. For she knew that humans had many tricks that served them in their everyday affairs, making life more difficult for the rest of the creatures that shared the world.

“No,” Shakes said. “It always worked before. We would stand in front of the doors for a moment and they would swing open on their own.”

“Maybe it only works when there is a human present?”

“Maybe,” He said. “Or maybe it doesn’t work because there are no humans inside the place.”

“What makes you say that?” Kitty asked.

“The overhead lights are off,” he said. “Every time we were here before, the lights were always on and blazing away, even though I could see my way around and Craig doesn’t need them.”

“Maybe the other humans there needed it to see. I’ve always found that humans had such poor eyesight when they tried chasing me away from their houses -and garbage- at night. It’s a wonder that they have survived as a species at all.”

“Too bad Maria is not here,” said Shakes.

“Why? Could she open the door for us?”

“Maybe,” he said. “But I was thinking more along the lines of her helping us to bring more food home to Craig. With Maria not checking in with us that it might be some time before we can get more groceries from her. And I’m worried…”

“You should try living on the streets sometime when you don’t know if you’ll get fed from one day to another,” Kitty said.

“I think I’ll pass on that, thank you.”

“Where do we go now?”

“I think we should walk past some of the other buildings and see if we can find any humans out and about.”

So Kitty followed the service dog as they wandered across several blocks of a well lit, but seemingly abandoned city. She made a mental note, however, that building such as the one that they had just visited may contain an untapped source of food if the humans had left it behind. All she would have to do was find a way in.

They visited a few more buildings with the same results, not a human was around to help them in their quest to get Craig to a hospital. In their wanderings they passed not another living soul, human, dog or cat.

“That’s odd, isn’t it?” Kitty asked her companion as they turned back to the apartment complex. “You would think that with so many sick and dying that someone would come and check to see if the survivors needed help.”

“Maybe those that would help are off helping others and they haven’t gotten to us yet,” Shakes suggested.
And maybe there is no one left to help, Kitty thought soberly. Though she kept those thoughts to herself. They began the long climb up the stairs and Kitty thought that though it had been awkward coming down the four flights, it was torturous going up them again. But the doors had been left propped open and nothing seemed to have changed in their absence.

“I can’t help but think that there is something that I can do to help him,” Shakes told Kitty, once they returned to the apartment and found Craig still asleep upon the couch. He interrogated the cats as to whether Maria had shown up or if the power had flickered back on and off once they had left. But the cats had nothing to report to him with the exception of boredom, the cravings of canned human food and the hopes that they would not have to spend the next few days without electricity huddled together for warmth in the cold of the night.

Shakes took up his post beside his blind master, a worried look across his face as the man’s breathing remained labored. The cats sat on their usual spots, flanking the couch in their overstuffed chairs. Kitty returned to her sleeping spot beneath the living room table. She heard the man’s breath throughout the night as he had one coughing fit after another in the coldness of the apartment. And though Shakes slept near him to keep him warm, it was not enough.

The following morning, the cats barely stirred and Shakes watched his master’s breathing like a starved cat watches a mouse hole. Kitty paced the apartment, no longer scared of the human, but fearful of his passing. For the death of the man would render the service dog inconsolable.

Kitty had lost her home, her pack and even her unborn pups. But she felt that she never endured a loss of the same enormity as the service dog now faced. About midday the cats began to complain about their empty bellies. And though Kitty had been through far worse while living in the wild, she had to admit that her stomach complained at the lack of food. Her life among Maria and Craig had turned her soft and she was now used to regular meals.

“I need your help, Shakes.”

The dog lifted his head from the couch and merely watched as Kitty approached.

“I need you to show me where the food is so that I can try and feed everyone.”

“Craig will feed us when he gets up,” the service dog said.

“He hasn’t been awake for a while now, Shakes. And we need to eat,” Kitty said.

“He’ll get up in a few minutes. I know he will. He loves us. He won’t let us starve.”

“Shakes, either you help me do this or else I’ll leave,” she threatened.

“Go ahead, Kitty. Craig is going to get up any minute now. You’ll see.”

Kitty hung her head in grief. A growl grew in her throat and she was about ot unleash her venom on the golden retriever when the calm calico cat padded up to Shakes and pounced on his back, landing with her claws fully extended.

“What was that for?!” he howled in pain and with fury.

“Kitty says that it’s time to eat now and you need to help her,” Lucy said.

“And we’re taking orders from kitty now, are we?” Shakes growled at the small cat.

But Lucy merely stood her ground while she looked up at the big dog. “There’s no sense in all of us suffering while Craig is sick, and you know it. He wouldn’t want us to go without just because he couldn’t feed us.”
Shakes merely blinked at her as she padded away, her message having been received by his large shaggy ears. “I’ll be waiting in the kitchen with the others,” she said.

Shakes looked to Kitty who stood up and then followed the cat. He won’t listen to me, she thought. But maybe he’ll listen to the cat.

When all the animals had gathered in the kitchen, Shakes pulled out the bags of dried cat and dog food from under the kitchen cupboard. “I don’t know how I’ll fill the bowls though,” he said.

“You don’t need to,” Kitty said. ”We’ll rip open the bags and eat from the floor.”

“Craig will be mad when he sees the mess,” shakes said, a flatness to his voice.

“When Craig gets up an is well enough to punish us, I’ll step up and take all the blame, okay?” Kitty asked. Though she knew that the chances of that were slim to none.

“Why are you still here?” the service dog asked.

“I said that I was going to stay until I could help you and I intend to keep my promise.”

“What about water?” Blue asked.

“The faucet works on a lever,” Shakes said. “If Kitty holds the bowl in the sink, I can work the lever and fill the bowl.”

So using Blue’s guidance, Shakes’ skills with a lever and Kitty’s strength and dexterity, they managed to get themselves water, with a few droplets sinking into their fur, much to Blue’s chagrin.

They settled down to their meal in silence. The cats were quiet pleased at being able to fend for themselves, while Shakes worried about his sick master and Kitty contemplated the inevitable.

“Craig needs to eat something,” Shakes said.

“I don’t think-”

“You said that you would help us, Kitty,” the service dog said. “So help me with this.”

“I don’t-”

“Help me!”

“Okay!” Kitty barked. “But first we have to get him to wake up. It does no good to go through the trouble of it all if he won’t wake up enough to eat it.”

“What are we going to feed him, dog food?”

“No, his food comes in cans.”

“Oooo, like tuna,” Prue purred.

“Tuna! Perfect!” Shakes barked. “We won’t have to cook it and it’s already pre-chewed.”

“And we can have the leftovers,” Prue said. But Shakes shot her a dirty look that stopped her from further verbal ramblings regarding the canned fish.

“Do we know where the can is?” kitty asked. “And once we do get it, how to we open it?”

“The cans are kept in the top cabinet here,” Blue said, patting the area with a paw.

“Can you open the cabinet and knock one down to the floor?” Kitty asked.

“I can certainly try,” said Blue. The next few moments would have been funny to Kitty had Shakes not been so desperate to feed his sick human, with the two dogs trying to help the cat coordinate his movements enough to open the cabinet and knock down the right can, all while trying to keep from falling down himself in the process.

“This is tuna!” Prue said, swatting at the picture of the fish on the side of the can.

“Does all human food have a picture of the animal that is inside of it?” kitty asked.

“Not always,” Blue said. “The cat and dog food have pictures of the animals to be fed on the outside of them.”

Kitty decided not to share her theory on what happened to animals killed at the pound with them, lest she put them off of their food for good.

“Now what?” She asked the service dog.

“We need to open it.”

“That’s when Craig uses this thing over here,” said Lucy, her tail curled around the electric can opener.”

“Great, now we have to get the can back up on the counter,” Prue complained.

“No,” Shakes said. “It has a pop top, like the cans of stew that Craig opens for himself.

“So if we hand the can to him he should be able to open it, right?” asked Blue.

“We need to open it for him,” Shakes said. “We need to feed him like he would for us if we were this sick.”

“And what about water?” Prue asked. “He can’t lap it up out of the water bowl. I’ve seen his tongue and it’s far too short.”

“Get a bottle of water, Kitty.” the service dog said.” They are under the sink where the bags of cat and dog food were. He takes them with us when we go out on walks together.”

Kitty found the bottle of water that Shakes had told her about and followed the other animals out into the living room where Craig’s heavy breathing permeated the room. They gathered around him while Shakes opened the lid on the can, holding a portion of the tin down with one paw while he pulled at the top with his teeth. With much maneuvering of his head and paw, Shakes was able at least to get the tin open, spilling most of the can’s contents across the floor. As the cats rushed to remedy this error, Shakes stopped them with another glare.

Shakes nosed his master’s hand and received no response. He whimpered and tugged at the sleeve on the blind man’s arm. But the arm flopped limply back to the human’s side. Shakespeare barked, but the man did not even flinch at the noise.

“Chew on his hand,” Kitty suggested. “The pain will wake him even if little else can.”

Shakes nibbled on the edge of the man’s fingers.

“Harder,” Kitty said.

Shakes whined and looked at her, but her eyes were hard as stones. He leaned forward and tried again, this time taking the man’s index finder in his back teeth and worrying it like he would a bone.

The man gasped and struggled where he sat. “What? Shakes, where are you boy?”

Shakespeare barked and jumped up next to the man on the couch. “I must have been sleeping for a long time, huh?” Craig said. “How about getting me the phone?”

Shakes did as his master instructed, but knew that the man would not be able to call for help, as there was no ring tone when he lifted the receiver off of its base. But the old man tried anyway. “We’ll check back later, boy.” he said and set the phone back in the dog’s jaws.

Shakes picked up the can of tuna and dropped it into his master’s hands. “Now how did you do this?” he asked, between mouthfuls that he scooped up with his bare fingers. He coughed, and had to stop before he could catch his breath and finish off the rest of the can. “Boy that made me thirsty,” Craig said. And no sooner had the words come out of his mouth than Shakes had taken the bottle from Kitty and plopped it down next to the man. Craig tried to open it, but the lid proved to be too much in his weakened state.

Shakes whined and kitty leaped up onto the couch and took the bottle into her jaws and gnawed at the top, pricking holes in the neck of the bottle with her back teeth. The blind man took it from her jaws and rubbed her between the ears as he sipped the lukewarm water from the holes she had produced.

“This must be our princess, out from under the table at last,” he said. “Sorry it took me getting this sick to get you to come out of your shell there, missy.” He laughed and it set off another coughing fit.

“I wish I could have seen you with my own two eyes, girl,” he said to Kitty. “I bet you’re a damn fine sight. They told me that you were part coyote and part German Shepherd. And my guess is that you’re the best of both lines. What do you think, Shakes?”

The service dog barked excitedly beside him as if in agreement.

“I love all my children, no matter what fur they might be wearing.” He said. His hand reached out to each cat in turn, and ruffled the fur on their heads as if he could find the with their purrs.

“Blue, you’ve been with me fifteen years now, ever since my sister couldn’t keep you anymore. And Prudence, you always were my little darling, just as I knew that you would be when I saw you abandoned behind the local Wal-Mart.” His hand reached over to Lucy where it wavered in the air before her. She bumped it with her head and let out a thunderous purr. “Family at last,” he said. “Though I’m sorry it took this long to make it so.”

Kitty jumped down and the cats backed away, letting Shakespeare share this moment alone with his master.

“My best friend, my eyes and my hands, my dear Shakespeare. You’ve been closer to me than most friends and family. You never judged me or called me feeble, but always stood by my side. You deserve more than this,” the blind man said. “But it’s all I have left to give.”

Man and dog sat on the couch. Craig patted the dog on his head with the last of his strength as large silent tears escaped the golden retriever’s eyes. At last the man fell asleep and Shakespeare stayed by his side even as his master drew his last breath.

Shakespeare remained next to his fallen master as the cats took up their usual position in the overstuffed chairs that flanked the couch. Kitty did not hide beneath the table, for now there was no need. She lay at the foot of the man she realized she need not have feared, for his heart was bigger than she could have ever guessed. And it showed in those that he left behind.

Kitty knew better than to try and move Shakespeare away from the body. There would be time enough to get them all out of the apartment in the morning. The apartment was silent and it seemed to grow colder with the blind man’s passing. For now she let each morn in his or her own way as there was one less member of the pack.