It was terribly cold. Snow was falling, and it was almost dark. The last thing my mom told me was “wait here”. So, I did as I was told. Mommy was doing her usual afternoon run for my siblings and I - she’s never let them go hungry. I have been hungry a few times, but she says she doesn’t get me as much food because I’m “so little, I don’t need as much” as my siblings. She does the best she can. The afternoon sunlight was my favorite thing to roll around and bask in, so I decided to do that while waiting for mom. Stepping out of the alleyway and into the nearby street, I hear a familiar voice.
“Hey, Runt! The sun’s beautiful today, isn’t it?”
It’s my buddy and fellow alleymate, Creamsicle. She’s owned by the “big cats” in the nearby building. She’s fancy enough to have her own collar, plus she owns half the Downtown’s neighborhood. Humans and cats love her. I admire her honesty and liveliness. She’s quite a bit older than me, she’s almost 9. I plop and roll in place as a big “hello!”, and she does the same.
“All by yourself? Usually your mom’s here, too”, which she’s right about.
“Yeah, mom and my brothers are getting food.” I said in response. Creamsicle shoots me a concerning look, responding,
“Aren’t you too little to be all by yourself?”
I thought about what she said for a minute. I don’t think I’m “too little”. My body is small, my ears are big, my paws are too big for my body. But that doesn’t make me a less capable cat. In fact, I can hear the ants on the ground! I’m a natural predator, without being a grown up yet.
“No? I don’t think so. Mom said she had to get food for my big brothers and me.”
Creamsicle sighs, and walks closer to me.
“Well, I’m here if you need me. My human is a sucker - I bet I could get him to give you something to ea-”
“No! I told you already what mom thinks of ‘humans’. I don’t need their help.”
“Trust me, I know what your mom has said. She’s said a lot of things.”
Creamsicle slinks over to me, and gives me a lick on the head. She lifts her tail and starts grooming me for a moment, shortly before leaving to go back to her house. The sun had started going down, and Cream doesn’t stay out late.
Mommy told me all about “humans”. She told me that these “humans” (that she calls “big cats”) are known for not being horrid to our species. She told me that sometimes they’ll shave us for fun, or shoot us with pellet guns, and even have designated holiday’s to specifically torture us. I don’t trust them, not one bit. They could even be the reason mommy isn’t coming home.
I was starting to get frightened, the air was becoming thick and frigid. I went back to my alleyway home and decided to knead the blankets, which were now slightly damp due to the slushy snow falling on them. At that moment, I didn’t mind the slight discomfort - I just wanted my mom to come home. Amidst my kneading, I became a loaf, and fell asleep under the polar temperatures.
Waking up, all I felt was pure panic. The blanket was sopping wet, and I was too. I couldn’t believe how quickly everything got wet and nearly froze over. Plus, mom wasn’t home, and neither were any of my three brothers. I had no clue what to do, I was starving at this point, and nothing but food was on my mind. I needed something to eat. I did the only thing I could think to do.
I started howling outside of Creamsicle’s house. She came outside, with her human standing there with a bewildered look on his face, and realized shortly after Creamsicle bunting his leg that I needed something to eat. He went inside Creamsicle’s house, and we sat and talked for a moment. While we spoke, she cleaned my fur with her tongue.
“Are you doing okay? You’re so wet, Runt.” She looked disturbed at the sight of me. I was soggy.
“I know. I thought mom would be back”. Which is true. But I’m really starting to worry about her.
“Runt. You know she’s not nice to you, right?” At first, I didn’t understand what she was talking about, until I thought about it for a moment.
She often called me “runt”, but not in the nice way Creamsicle does - Cream calls me “runt” in a playful, endearing way a grandma would. Mom calls me “runt” because I am small and weirdly proportioned - and I know that. Mother was the first to ever call me that in the first place. Mom also told me that I couldn’t trust anyone else other than her, because she takes care of me best. She forgets to feed me a lot, and she doesn’t seem to like me that much. But, I know she cares. I think she does. I really don’t know right now.
Creamsicle could tell what she said hurt me, and suddenly stopped grooming me to say,
“Runt, you deserve the life I have. I know you don’t think much of humans, and I don’t blame you. But, I don’t think-”
Her human walked out with wet food in one bowl, and water in the other. Creamsicle continued.
“-they’re all bad. Mine’s pretty great. He listens to me, does everything I tell him to do. I never have to worry about where I’ll eat or where I’ll sleep. But you do. And none of the other alleycats deserve that, either - including your mom, too.”
I walked over to the big bowl of food. Despite Cream’s nice words about her human, I can’t help but feel immense fear. I felt it bubbling up inside of me, and I let out a loud hiss. Creamsicle’s human steps off the porch, and goes back inside Cream’s house.
She sat with me for a long time, while I nearly ate and drank myself into a coma. After my belly was sufficiently filled, Cream walked me back to my alleyway home, where my blanket from the night before was still wet.
“Think about it, Runt.”
It had been a couple days, and mom still didn’t show up. Luckily, I had been getting fed from Creamsicle’s human. I still don’t trust him, and what he did furthered these feelings. That morning, three days after mom disappeared, a gaggle of humans (including Creamsicles) appeared in the alleyway. I was positive they weren’t there to take out the big black bags, they only did that on Tuesdays. I realized after being cornered that I was being captured. I felt as if it were my last day on earth. I could hear my mother’s voice ringing in the back of my head.
“They’ll shave and skin us, too. It’s not rare! It happened to your grandfather.”
“October is the killing month of cats that look like us, Runt. They don’t like the way we look, so they kill us by the hordes.”
I was screaming and crying at the top of my lungs. I was hoping my mom would just jump out of the sky and take me away, slaying the humans and feeding me a big meal. These were only useless fantasies. Creamsicle was beside her human, swerving in between his legs. She looked up at me, who was being held in a human woman’s arms.
“Trust me, Runt. You’ll be okay. You’re gonna go where I went-”
“I DON’T WANT TO BE WITH THEM!”
Cream looked dismayed for a moment, and in the middle of my tantrum, I was put in a cage. Cream ran over to me, now on the sidewalk and out of her human’s legs.
“Runt. I know you’re scared. But you’re too young to be by yourself. Trust me. You will be happy. I was in the streets too, and I know you won’t survive alone. My human can’t afford another me. But he will make sure you’re safe, and I will too. So will these humans. Please trust me. I love you, Runt, I really do.”
I felt betrayed. I couldn’t even look at her. I just absorbed her words. I think she understood my feelings, because as I was being loaded into the human's car, she rolled on the sidewalk and showed me her belly. Her orange fur glistened in the sun, almost looking gold. For a moment, I felt calm - she was a physical representation of the ray of hope my future had for me.
At first, the humans really scared me. I didn’t know what it was like to be inside a building, much less living in one. The humans do care about me, more than I ever thought. I’ve been fed, they gave me a place to sleep. After a couple days, I didn’t think it could get any better.
I was finally allowed to be in what the humans call “the adoption room”. When I first got there, the first thing I saw were all the cats in cages. What confused me was how happy they looked. I even saw another black cat, which was surprising, considering what mom told me about how we’re treated. They all mewed in amusement when they saw me, and even tried talking to me and the humans carrying me into the nursing room. A lot of the cats up front just wanted attention from the humans. Now that I finally got my own cage up front, I waited.
I heard the bell of the front door chiming. My cage had just been set up, and I was happily kneading my new blankets. The adoption center had barely even opened when they walked in. The door to my new home had just been closed, when two eager humans waltzed up to me. One was the mom, one was her daughter. I could tell the daughter was excited and nervous - I often feel the same way. I feel like I understand her a little bit. The human’s mom asked the staff something, and I was taken out of my cage, with my claws still in the blankets. I released shortly after being handed to the daughter, who was laughing with delight. I started kneading her hair, which was long and brown - and almost felt like kneading my mom.
The mother and daughter duo left soon after that. I was really disappointed that I wasn’t taken home with them. I really want a human roommate. It wasn’t until later that day when they both came through the door with a new person, presumably the father and husband - he was tall and intimidating, but when he picked me up, I started buzzing with joy. I was really trying to sell how cute I was, and it worked. The humans did some paperwork with the staff, and off I went.
I ended up at a two story home, slightly outside of city limits. They had already gotten me toys, food, beds, everything I wanted. The human girl and I bonded instantly. I’ve spent every day with her since. I don’t go outside anymore, I don’t miss it one bit. The girl, who has since become my mommy, has lovingly dubbed me Norman.
Maybe Creamsicle was right. Humans aren’t bad, all the time. I really hope mom found one as loving as mine.