Of course, it would be painful. My mother has often said that life is not a playground of fairness, and this has served to ground me at every turn. If I have ever wanted anything, especially as much as I want this, it has come at a cost. Discomfort is a fact of life.
Watching the girl across from me, hand in bowl and inattentive to the small pink cup next to her, I wait as her pudgy hands plunge in for another hollow round. Will this torture ever end? Just as I think she is about to pull out and slowly devour her last sweet smelling, pea sized circle and traipse away, then again, she finds another to savor with a cruel patience.
That cup at her side is defenseless against the warmth of this room. I like my milk cold. Soon, the summer heat will alter the perfect taste of chilled lactose and I will have suffered this sight for nothing. I give it five minutes, tops. After that, I know devastation will be inevitable. Mother did tell me to walk away while I had the chance.
My siblings, of those who remain, are a lazy bout. They care not to entertain the small creatures mother calls humungomani.
Humungomani can be fickle, she says. It is best not to get one's hopes up too often in their presence, especially when it comes to the petting. Just as soon as you start to purr, they will stop. They have the attention span of fish. It’s sad.
Though I have not been here for long, I am the wisest of my mother’s latest lot. I was indeed the first to emerge from the mysterious depths of the Unknown Place. It is from the Unknown Place that we kittens come, and it is to the Unknown Place, we as ancient cats – even older than my mother – will someday return. I know this, for the Unknown Place tells us this itself before we climb through the forest of a mother’s belly.
In the meantime, it is our duty to divine ways to crawl the earth in service of our desires, for they are our calling. They even dictate our names. You see, I am Milky, predestined to suckle and secure as many licks of cold lactose from the Black and White as my belly can hold over nine lifetimes. These shall eventually nourish the babes in the Unknown Place.
I cannot suffer this any longer. I will not!
Petulant little girl. While I have been called precocious a time or two, this miniature humungomani is a very slow learner. She has done it again. At this point, it is downright mean.
Over the past five-hundred-and-sixty-two days, she has learned practically nothing. If she can’t keep her milk in the cup, what can she do?
Oh, I know, mother has uttered it in our tongue, and I have even heard it in the clunky garble of the humungomani: “don’t cry over spilled milk.” But it's out of my control, truly you see that, right. And what a pity too. Tears coat my face in wet and this makes my whiskers feel heavy. I hate when my whiskers feel heavy. I’ll be forced to ask Spinach, my second in command, to sop it up for me and I am not a fan of the hint of green she almost always leaves behind.
“Perhaps you should eat the food in the bowl, brother?” Spinach says.
Who does she think she is? There is not a rule that my sister will veer from. It is quite annoying. The largest Humungomani who nurses the girl on occasion as my mother had once fed my siblings and I, is not a fan of my work and has forbid us all from my birthright. She thinks milk is bad for us, so she has said time and time again.
It is not. I am fine.
Nonetheless she devises to thwart my successful obtainment of milk at every turn. I understand her convoluted noises. “It’s bad for Milky’s digestion, John. We can get her alternatives, John. Stop filming, you’re making us look like ignorant cat owners, John.”
John, John, John. Do not get me started on my distaste of the largest humungomani in this household. He is careless.
Two words: Warm and milk.
Yesterday was a sorry day, and yet I wait here, again watching the babe, this time with pale brown rounds and a blue cup. The curls atop her head defy gravity a little more today and her eyes seem to have grown wider overnight.
“Kitty, mmm ‘ere kitty.”
If I am not mistaken, I think the girl is indeed summoning me. Will these senseless taunts ever cease? I am, after all, a cat. It is only natural that I should delay obeying, but I choose to instead entertain this little one for one of us in pain seems to be enough to satisfy the balance of the universe. A pound of flesh, you say? Sure.
I saunter over in unhurried steps that allow my paws to savor the chilly kiss of the smooth tile. The girls face seems to break open as she releases a high-pitched coo into the air, and it leaves me feeling . . . light. Like air. I am intrigued.
“Kitty,” she smiles.
My face, nudged into her dimpled knee, I allow her soft hands to sit then slide off my back. “Kitty. Milk?”
Can she mean it?
The little one’s hands leave my body, and they do a thing I did not think they were capable of. They lift the cup and sit it before me. “Kitty?”
Could this be an offering of the sweetest, coldest, nectar in the universe? Before thought, I have sipped a thick lap of cream and I buzz with delight. This is what happiness tastes like and this fellow babe has been the one to give it to me, willingly. Surely, she knows what a noble sacrifice this is.
Perhaps there is some pain-free fairness, after all.
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Really love the acidity and sharpness of Milky's narrative voice and especially love how it takes a while to reveal what exactly they are. I honestly thought they were some kind of powerful, primordial creature at the start - and hey, maybe that is what cats really think of themselves. Excellent work and well-deserved shortlist Sasha :)
Wow, Sav! Thank you, I really appreciate you taking time out of your day to read it and to leave feedback. I am glad you enjoyed it.
Fine work. I like it in any tone the animal decides to use. Congrats.
Thank you so much Philip!
Hi Sasha! Congratulations on the shortlist this week! This is such a creative take on the prompt. I think it'd be easy to write from a cat's perspective and make it feel very cliched or boring...but this is neither of those things. I was intrigued every step of the way. The voice is unique but suits a cat. You gave us so much imagery and backstory to the mother cat and the humans. It was really delightful to read. Hope your celebrating 🎉 Looking forward to reading more from you :)
Thank you for reading Marty!
This is a really creative take on the prompt. I like how the narrator's species is only slowly revealed. There's great world building going on here. Thank you for sharing!
Thank you for reading Katy and the thoughtful feedback.
Very fun and sweet story - loved it! :) Great take on the prompt!
Thank you so much Wendy! I am glad you liked it.