Fiction Friday- Kiss The Kitties Episode II, William The Orange

Welcome back to Fiction Friday. Each Friday I’ll be releasing another short episode introducing each of the characters. Once you’ve met each cast member, the story will unfold…

If you want to catch up, here’s the first episode: Kiss The Kitties Episode I

Tough, orange, and angry William roamed the Los Angeles city streets and ate out of dumpsters. He had his pick of the best. The dumpster behind In n’ Out burger on 3rd offered a five star feast. Humans swarmed In N’ Out, but its dumpster sat behind a tall, heavy, brown fence with spikes, so William was free to roam among the steaming meat patties piled high without the interference of human eyes. The Southern California sun kept the meat hot and fragrant throughout the night as he gorged himself by the glow of the red and yellow neon sign. Roaches didn’t bother him, but other tomcats did. When they came sniffing, he’d scratch their damn eyes out. Those fights were bloody. He lost his own eye in one, but you shoulda the other guy. Anyway, it was worth it. Every night he brought a new date and it was cool if she had some friends. He partied hard and slept all day. He ruled.

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But that all changed a few nights ago when a big white windowless van rolled up and stopped right in front of the dumpster.  Humans jumped out and caught the girls. William escaped, but only narrowly. Since then white vans patrolled the neighborhoods and dumpsters were traps. Whoever was in charge of this operation was more focused and better adept at catching cats than any human he’d ever seen. William wondered if maybe they were cats, bigger, faster, human cats. A whole battalion of them.  He’d heard of that, but everyone thought it was just legend.

He partied hard and slept all day. He ruled.

A week passed. William was starving. He hadn’t eaten much beyond what bugs he caught. One of the girls he used to hang with once told him there were some humans who fed the wanderers and freedom fighters (that’s what they called themselves on account of being free) in an apartment building nearby. He hated humans, hated their food, hated their big hands and their teeth. They looked like aliens with their round eyes and furless arms. What was that about? But his stomach groaned and his ribs jutted out like razors from his flanks. He’d just slink over to that there apartment complex and see what was up. Maybe, if there was some food around, he could grab some when no one was looking. Get in, get out. That was always his motto. He was the king of slink, which is why he hadn’t been caught, or poisoned. Oh yeah, that’s right. His hunger clouded his reason. Humans poisoned cats. He’d seen that horror more than once. He didn’t care for most cats, but it’s terrifying to come across corpses scattered within a 20 foot radius of human dwellings.

He’d have to hunt, a disgusting last resort. Rats carried diseases and tasted like butt. Nevertheless, as I said, he was starving. A horde of rats lived below the city and carried out their complex business pursuits in the subways. There were the Orange, Yellow, Red, and Blue lines that criss crossed the city, not with any kind of efficiency, mind you, but that was a human problem. The Orange line was a good place to start. As night fell, William descended the stained and dusty pavement steps that led down into the raging tunnels. The rush of the trains terrified him. His nerves were on edge. He trembled. But hunger drove him forward. Remember, king of slink. He told himself. You’re invisible.  But to who and to what exactly William did not know, and that was the problem. These walls had eyes. And fangs.

Rats carried diseases and tasted like butt.

A homeless human groaned out his sorrows. He hit is paws on a big black box with white teeth. It made such an awful howl he didn’t see the massive black Rottweiler sitting next to the man. The dog jumped up and barked wildly at William, his fangs dripped with starvation’s saliva. William leapt in the opposite direction without looking and flew down a tunnel. It brought him directly on top of a rat’s nest. Pandamonium. Screaming. Rat apocalypse. William scrambled to catch and grab. Rats ran and screeched. The babies. Go for the babies. They’re clean fresh and easy to carry.  He snatched up several at lightning speed, some died, some didn’t and as he turned to carry the bloody squirming mess out of the subway, he realized to his horror, he had no idea where to go. Fluorescent lights flickered overhead, but no whiff of fresh air, no scent from the outside came to greet his nostrils. The place smelled of rat feces and human filth.

tunnel-22198_1280And now he could hear the swarm. Legions upon legions of rats formed a wall behind him. Idiot. Amateur. His dumpster diving made him soft. He’d forgotten how to hunt. You don’t attack a rat on his territory. You hunt, identify your prey, stalk it and when it’s away from the group, you spring. He was surrounded. The rats hissed. They planned to tear him to shreds. He dropped his booty of dead and near dead babies and looked up, the only way out. Rats cannot jump. They could climb. Could he make it in time?  How high was that man hole grate? The rats advanced. He heard a drum beat in the distance, smelled wrath on their hot breath. He took what few feet he had left and sprang into he air just as the rats closed in. He strained toward the grate with every last molecule of his little being. There! Success, but barely. His claws saved him. Razor sharp and long he clung just by their strength. William hoisted his whole body up, but he couldn’t fit through the spaces in the grate. Despite how thin he was, it wasn’t enough. The rats streamed up the sides of the wall.

Just then, a voice. “Ah ha!” A white, hairless human arm yanked up the grate and pulled William by the scruff of the neck. “Got you! I’ve been looking for you for weeks, you little dumpster scum. Yeah, you. You used to eat from the In N’ Out over there on 3rd street. You didn’t think I’d forget you, did I?” The arm belonged to a massive human male with bulging eyes and bald head. His breath smelled like rancid fish (incidentally William hated fish.) “You’ve gotten skinny. Thought you mighta died out here.” He spit a gray splat of mucous on the ground. “Sure glad ya didn’t. I got plans for you, tough guy.” Then he laughed a wicked, joyless laugh and threw William into a cage in the back of his white van and slammed the door.

 

 

 

 

Fiction Friday-Kiss The Kitties

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Chapter 1–Santa Cruz, CA Present Day

I kiss kitties for a living. I once wanted to write, but found I was much better at kissing kitties. I have a large home and an even larger backyard with trees and kitty tree houses. All cats are neutered and spayed and their vaccines up to date. Over a hundred live here. I know each by name. If a cat is ill, I can sense it right away and herd her to the the vet, my sister, Lisa, who hates cats, which makes her brilliant when it comes to putting them to sleep and cutting them open. Cats hate her too.

That’s where I come in. I have no husband, or wife. Who wants to kiss a woman who kisses cats for a living? It’s pretty gross even when I think about it. Yet, kissing kitties is akin to kissing love itself, but better. Kittens are the easiest. I kiss their pink paws, their fuzzy bellies, their silken heads. I kiss and I kiss and I kiss and it’s never too much for them. I could charge a lot less than I do for them, but I charge more because of higher demand. Its supply side economics. After I’m done with them, you’ll have yourself quite a smashing kitty. Someone who loves you, greets you at the door, follows you from room to room, and will even sleep on your head. Most people don’t like that last bit. It’s a joke between the cats and I. I tell their humans it’s just part of their new kitty’s nature, but we both know better.

The older cats, the ones who’ve been abused, abandoned, ignored, and even never loved, well, they’re my specialty. I don’t charge much for them. They’ll be dumped again, or killed if someone doesn’t like my price. My sister would like nothing better.

That’s how I met William, an irascible orange fellow who’d lost an eye and part of his ear in a barroom brawl. William was mean. My sister was about to kill him, but because she enjoys it when I fail said, “Here, take him. Just try kissing him. He’ll scratch your damn face off. You’ll probably end up killing him sooner than I. I’ve got a backlog. Cancer. Incurable. They’re dropping like flies.” Then she laughed like the villain she was.

I took his cage and looked at him. What to do with William? We squared off. Don’t you dare, he said.

“Wouldn’t dream of it.” I said. Kissing kitties meant getting them to want to be kissed. And their psychology wasn’t too hard to pin down. Make them think you don’t want them. But William was used to that. I had to think about this one.


“I think you care more than you say you do.” I said. Lisa stood in the kitchen cutting steak into cubes.

“I think you care less than you say you do.” She said. She lifted a glass of expensive merlot to her lips. Johnson, her new whatever, was coming over. Both of them were meat eaters. Fresh blood dripped down her hand and dribbled down the glass.

“Blech,” I turned my head. “Prove it.”

“William,” she snarled

“What about William?” I spat.

“Exactly.”

“We love each other.” I paused. “He just doesn’t know it yet.”

“Hah! Ridiculous. Admit it. He’s just not that into you.”

“You’re cruel.”

“That’s correct.” She pierced a chunk of bloody flesh with a skewer.

“Has William told you something? Have you been talking to him?”

“He talks to me.”

“Why is he talking to you and not to me?”

“He’s begging me to put him down.”

“What? He’s suicidal and you didn’t tell me?”

“Don’t be dramatic.”

“You’re such a witch!”

“And you’re so boring.”

Tears streamed hot down my cheeks. “Why? Why do you hate me?”

She raised an eyebrow. “I don’t hate you, dear girl. Now go. Johnson is coming and he needs to think I’m a good person. I can’t be good when you’re around. You’re too irritating.”

“Where’s William? What have you done with him?”

“I don’t know.”

“Did you kill him?”

“Absurd. I don’t do anything for free.”

“You would if it hurt me.”

“True. But no. I actually haven’t seen him since last Tuesday.”

“That’s when I last saw him.”

“So go. Find him.”

“Do you think he’s dead?”

“You’d know.”

She was right. I would know. I always knew when one of my own died. I don’t know how I knew. I just knew. I ran from the house and let the screen door slam. Dear William, don’t give up on us, you jerk.

Chapter 2 Los Angeles, five years earlier. 

 

“I believe in you.” Chloe said. She was my first cat, a tiny calico with enormous grass green eyes. “I believe you can do anything because you’ve always done everything. You saved my life lots of times.”

“I did, didn’t I?” I was sobbing, again, because of all of the failures.

“I love you, mom. You always figure it out.” She stared at me. Charlie, her brother, an orange domestic, said nothing. Like most guys, he was useless in a crisis.

Chloe had three chronic illnesses. I’d been keeping her alive with love, the right food, and prescription medication. Now that I’d lost my car and my job, we were all about to be homeless. She’s right. We’d been destitute before, but I’d had hope. I’d always had my eye on the next thing. Always had one foot out the door. Always had the resources to get there. Credit. A car. A winning smile. My youth.

But Los Angeles had stolen all of that from me. Rent was too high. School loans were in the triple digits. I quit or was fired from every job I’d had in ten years. At the end I  worked, in sales at a for profit screenwriting school, peddling dreams like snake oil. The CEO charged thousands to cash-strapped writers and tacked on interest when they couldn’t pay. One day, because a writer didn’t make her payments, he ran her debit card three times consecutively.  She stood at the grocery store checkout line trying to pay for groceries for her three children and found that he’d emptied her account.  Los Angeles, land of the great con. I first came out to write movies, perhaps direct. Now, I was a cliché like the millions who preceded me and the millions on their way. Exhaustion plagued me day and night, as it does in poverty. He paid us $30,000 annually.

Writing was out of the question when getting out of bed was the major accomplishment everyday. In addition to shattered dreams, disastrous jobs, I’d left a string of empty, useless relationships behind me. I was incompetent in life, career, and love. But not at kissing kitties. Charlie and Chloe were the only reason I didn’t throw myself in front of a bus. Every earth-shatteringly terrible day when I returned from the seventh circle of hell that was my job, both greeted me with enthusiasm with loving eyes, and their little tails tucked around neat paws.

Yet, today was an exception. Today they weren’t at my door when I came home. The apartment echoed. Not soul stirred in the dark, dusty place.