Adventure Crime

The rain was relentless. A thick sheet of it draped the lip of the bridge. Below, the metal boxes containing humans whizzed by, spraying fractals against the concrete slope, leaking fresh puddles out along the sidewalk like blood.

The cat licked hard at the scabby head of her youngest, buttermilk like his father but for a diamond of black fur on his scalp, the only evidence he was hers. Something was not right about him—the skin hung loose from his twiggy frame in piles. If she let him wander, he’d rub against the wall and tear his flesh; it was delicate, no match for a shelter of stone and steel. His eyes were enormous, olive, rheumy; sometimes they’d roll back into his skull and become irritated, oozing fluid. She ought to have let him starve. The others would have more to eat.

That thought set her tummy rumbling. How long had it been since their last meal? Two days? Yes, before the first storm of spring arrived, she’d brought home that chubby rat she’d found under the rusty garbage bin. Didn’t matter she hadn’t killed it herself; they dined on its innards as a family, stripped it to its bones and sinewy joints, their mouths and forepaws drenched. Afterward they’d snoozed together in a warm heap, satisfied. But now her teats had run dry, and she’d have to endure the sopping wet world to rustle up breakfast. She roused and stretched, preparing for the journey. The weak one mewled and begged to tag along. She growled at him. He tucked back against his siblings in fright. Wouldn’t move again until she returned.

She darted out into a line of scarlet oak that buttressed the bridge, home to squirrels and chipmunks and that terrible owl she worried might swoop down on her babies in the night. The trees provided brief cover before she had to lope across an open hill. Cold, fat raindrops pelted her back. She reached the thoroughfare, beyond which lie the domiciles of humans in a spoon-shaped row. Hesitated. A glassy stream ran along the curb, shuttling leaves and debris to the storm drain. Her head spun at the memory of falling through an open hole as a kitten, the desperate contortion of her spine to find her feet again, only to splash into a shoulder-deep morass of red clay. The many days she’d spent cold and wet and hungry, navigating the tunnels, seeking the scent of home, of her clowder. But she was the mother now, hers was long gone. And though she’d given birth only a few weeks prior, a pouch-belly slung low between her legs, she was still a fiercesome hunter, muscles coiling beneath her jet black coat with quiet, pristine focus. She bounded to the other side with ease.

There was a yard here she’d happened upon last summer, when the phlox, honeysuckle, and petunias were in bloom and brimming with nectar, and the little birds with red throats and needle noses hovered everywhere, mating, preening, pecking. So many flying meals that—as with the rat—there’d been no need to catch one, because after observing for awhile, she saw one fly straight into the sliding reflective pane of the human habitat, then fall lifeless into the dirt. But before she could reach it, the pane opened and out stepped an old human with wispy white fur on its head. “Oh, you poor dear,” she’d said to the bird. Then, seeing the cat, hissed, “Shoo, cat! Don’t you bother my feathered friends. Go on, git!” When that didn’t work, she threw a tin can; it glanced the cat’s hindquarters and left her limping for days after.

Now, as she leapt up to the spade-topped fence, the yard was brown and limp, its shrubs gone dormant. A lone bird pecked at one of the feeders, tongue darting out from its beak thirteen times a second, emerald green tail feathers gleaming like a shattered rainbow in the mist. An adult male, lightweight from migration. His previous weeks, the cat knew, had been spent subsisting on insects and the sap from the holes made in hardwood trees by sapsuckers. He was accustomed to flowers that produced nectar every fifteen minutes, and so guzzled at the endless supply of the feeder, believing he’d found the greatest source of sugar in all the land.

Silently, she slithered into the garden, to the bird’s eye naught but a black smudge, and crept along the overgrown fescue to crouch below the feeder. She could hear the thing’s heartbeat whirring, a distressed beehive in miniature, two hundred and fifty beats per minute. She didn’t think she could reach it from the ground, and so hopped onto a wicker patio chair. Still the bird drank, unaware. One of its legs was banded in metal—she wondered why. Maybe it was a human instrument, meant to weigh down the prey to make it easier to catch. How pitiful. She waited for the perfect moment. The bird drank until engorged, full as a tick, his talons struggling for purchase on the plastic ledge. Quick as a striking cobra, she leapt forward, paws outstretched, claws extended.

The bird took flight. It flapped into the cat’s face and lifted away on a thermal, blinking out of sight in an instant.

She hit the bricks. Shook water and indignity from her mange. Not to worry; she’d find something else to feed her children. She was the master of this domain. A mistake like this changed nothing. She drew her paw across her whiskers and glanced at the sliding pane and the rivulets racing down it.

Inside, the corpse of the old human lie on the floor on her side. Eyes open, glossy as membrane, affixed to the dogwood tree in her neighbor’s yard. Skin gone the same pale blue as the patch of sky visible through the clouds. Throat as ruby red as the bird’s.

So no longer a threat, then.

On the way back, the rain reduced to a trickle. The cat tried not to despair at the gurgling twist of her stomach. Her litter would cry all the night through if she could not find something for them to eat, but she was fatigued already, soaked to the bone.

Then, an aroma that made her mouth water. She followed the trail to a clump of bushes at the end of the street, where sat a small contraption. It was open at one end; at the other, a can of tuna fish on a metal plate. Another careless human had forgotten their food—it was astonishing they’d manage to dominate the environment for so long, given how loud and declawed and hopelessly clumsy they were. She slipped inside and began to nibble at the fish. She’d enjoy some now, then bring home the remainder.

The metal plate depressed. A latch clicked. The opposite end of the box fell shut. The cat arched her spine, clawed the paper on the floor. Fear wracked her heart. She slammed her body against the mesh, cussing and spitting and throwing a fit. “Okay, Mama. Take it easy, girl.” A flash of a bald and brown-skinned human, before a marigold cloth draped over the cage, blocking her vision. But she carried on hissing like a lit fuse. “I know, I know. It’s gonna be okay. Been watching you awhile now, got your babies in the van already. Let’s get you snipped, tipped, and chipped.” The cage lifted into the air. The cat squalled. “Man, you are like…feral feral.” The human hauled her into the back of his big metal box on wheels, its guts rumbling and farting foul odors. Humans were forever placing one box inside another. The interior was dark and dry and smelled of chemical apricots. Beyond that, she smelled her babies, their damp fur and urine. The weak one called to her, tremulous and terrified. Hearing it, she quite thrashing. She’d need to stay composed for him and his siblings. To demonstrate fearlessness in the face of mortal danger. The human lifted the cloth, and she saw her children’s puny eyes and pink noses poking out from the air holes of another container. Involuntarily, she moaned at them, heartbroken to see them captured.

The human—muscular, shiny with rain, ink marks along his neck—held a gadget to his ear and spoke. “Hi, Trisha. Yeah, I’ve got the mama. All black, copper eyes, so probably a Bombay. One of her kittens has Ehlers-Danlos, skin is saggy and torn up pretty bad. He’ll need special care.” After listening for a moment, he replied, “Well, that’s why I’m calling. I can’t afford anything beyond spaying the mama. Do you think Atlanta Humane—? Okay. Okay, thanks.”

Something rapped hard against the open rear door. Another human’s face appeared, this one wearing a brilliant gold star on his chest. “Clayton County Sheriff. A word with you, please."

The trapper was startled; his pulse turned rapid-fire. “Trish, lemme call you right back. Certainly, what can I do for you, Officer?”

“Come out of the camper. Slowly. Hands where I can see ‘em.”

The trapper complied and stepped out into the fading gray light. “Did I do something wrong…?”

“You might’ve.” The star human’s right hand hovered over a block on his hip. “Let's see some ID.”

“Okay. I’m going to reach for my wallet.” The trapper retrieved a fold of cow skin from his back pocket and withdrew a piece of plastic. Handed it over. “I’m the Trap King. I’ve been working in this community a few years now. Trying to help prevent overpopulation and the spread of disease in feral cat colonies. One of the ways I do that is with TNR—”


“Trap, neuter, release. It’s the only alternative to euthanasia. Our mission is to make Atlanta no-kill by 2025.”

The star man sneered like he found something funny, or distasteful. “So you some kind of…renegade cat daddy?” Before the other could respond, he continued, “Have you seen anything suspicious or out of the ordinary on this street today?”


“I was performing a wellness check over there at Eleven Seventeen Winburn, and we found the owner deceased. Looks like foul play was definitely involved. Detectives are en route, but I need to secure the area. That includes you.”

“Oh my God. Can I ask what happened?”

The star human blinked. Made a slicing motion across his throat. “Anyway, you’re also not supposed to be parked here. I realize you’re idling, but…see that huge red line painted on the curb?

“Oh. My bad.”

“Any firearms or narcotics in the vehicle I should know about it?”

“No, sir. I have some medications, is all. For the cats.”

“You got the proper credentials for animal care?”

“I do.”

“Good. I’ll need to see them. Along with your registration and proof of insurance.” The trapper rounded the box to the cab, opened the door and leaned in, cheeks gone ashen. Rooted around in a compartment. The star man watched through the open doors at the rear, eyes trailing everywhere over the bedding, traps, and harnesses. He seemed jumpy. When the trapper found what he was after and returned, the cat sensed her opportunity. She began to thrust her skull into the cage, nudging it along the platform inch by inch. It screeched terribly, but the humans were too distracted to notice. “Okay, I need you to stay put while I run your info. Not gonna see any outstanding warrants, am I?”

“No, sir.”

The cage wobbled at the ledge. The cat reared back, then banged into it with all her might. It tumbled out and careened into the ground face-first, then fell over onto its back. The twin metal rings securing the door slid down and the door popped open.

In surprise, the star man drew the block from his hip and squeezed the trigger. Three shots rang out—pop pop pop—so loud they threatened to split the very air. Projectiles hit the cage, the dirt, the curb. “Holy shit!” the trapper cried, covering his head with his arms.

The cat was unscathed. She bolted for freedom.

Panting, the star man reaffirmed his grip on the block, collecting his wits. “Why wasn’t that thing secured?” He grasped another gadget on his shoulder with a wobbly black antenna and spoke to it. The object buzzed and spat back a bizarre string of human jargon.

“Ten Four on your Signal Eighteen. Pistol practice, Deputy? What’s your status?”

“Code Four, all clear. Spooked by a cat. What’s the ETA on A236? And the coroner? I don’t know his call sign.”

“Copy. Both ten minutes out.”

To the trapper, he growled, “You did that on purpose. Tried to distract me!”

“No, sir!”

“Turn around and place both hands on the vehicle. NOW. Spread your legs!” From the hedges, the cat watched the star man pat his hands up and down the trapper’s body, perhaps checking for lice or fleas. “I told you, I don’t carry any weapons.”

“Shut your mouth.”

The trapper spotted her, met her gaze, eyes wan and creased with a weary disappointment. His expression altered, softened. The buttermilk baby. Crying for her, his tiny whimpers audible against the ringing in the cat’s ears. But she could not rescue him, nor the others. They were lost to her now. They belonged to the trapper, to the box-life of the humans, angular and slick-surfaced and never broken, even when battered by explosions. But maybe he was a gentler human than most. He had gifted her with tuna fish, after all. Maybe he would see to it that her children were kept clean and well-fed and free of disease. Maybe the subtle nod of his head was more than mere acknowledgement; he was telling her to go on. Git.

For the cat’s part, she had only her own stomach to keep full now. A tremendous relief. She trotted off in the direction of the garbage bins, tail swishing the air, anus exposed to any enterprising onlookers. With any luck, the father was still about, and still in heat.

She could always start another litter.

(Please consider visiting the website of Sterling Davis, the inspiration for this story, at trapkinghumane.org.)

March 03, 2023 04:41

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


Mike Creese
00:59 Mar 09, 2023

Excellent feline understanding and an enjoyable tale. If I may, I will suggest not to get too bogged in descriptions, but hey, it works on the whole, so it's only a little one. eg "The cat tried not to despair at the gurgling twist of her stomach." You could make it easier by saying "The cat was close to despair, she badly needed a kill, needed food." I thought your ending was spot on. Bittersweet, and just the way a feral cat will take hardship on the chin, never asking for anything but happy to take what it can, when it can. I have raised...


Show 0 replies
Russell Mickler
23:35 Mar 06, 2023

Hi Nicholas - Great description here … “ Something was not right about him—the skin hung loose from his twiggy frame in piles” This tickled me “ Silently, she slithered into the garden, to the bird’s eye naught but a black smudge, and crept along the overgrown fescue to crouch below the feeder. ” Fun - I’ll visit the website :) R


16:16 Mar 07, 2023

Thank you!


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

Yes, you! Write. Format. Export for ebook and print. 100% free, always.