Fiction by Alida Thacher
PawPaw died at the full moon in November, and I figured the cats were born that same day. People were all showing up with casseroles and flowers when I heard a mewling in the alley — four tiny black kittens with their eyes closed, no mother in sight.
I cried and cried when they got hurt. I’d put them in a box outside and been feeding them with eyedroppers full of milk. Then Bobby took all the kittens off to show his buddies.
Bobby lived in the apartment two doors down. He was the landlady’s son. He had fat cheeks and thick lips and a blonde buzz cut and a mean mouth.
He got the idea to stick the kittens up in a tree in front of his friends. Of course, all four fell out and three of them died. But the fourth one didn’t and I called him Bart.
When Bart finally got around to opening his eyes, they were the exact same shade of blue that PawPaw’s were, and I swear, Bart coughed and sneezed just like PawPaw did right at the end before he left us. And another thing — Bart couldn’t stand Bobby, always put his back up and hissed and spat whenever he came near, and that was just like PawPaw too. He didn’t like Bobby one bit.
PawPaw told me once that Bobby came from a different planet, one that was full of mixed-up boys. I think that Bart and PawPaw came from a planet full of Avengers, here to set our planet free of misdeeds and cruelty, and PawPaw had to leave early but Bart zapped down that very same day to take over.
A few months after PawPaw died, he came and sat on my bed and told me not to be sad about him and that he lived in a beautiful place now. Then he said, “Remy Sue, I need you to be a good girl.”
“Yes, sir,” I said.
“Summer’s coming and school will be out soon. Even though I’ll still be watching you, I can’t be here to take care of you like I used to. You’re a big girl now.”
“Yes, sir,” I said, “almost eleven,” even though I just turned ten the week before.
“I don’t want you worrying your mom just ’cause she can’t pay a babysitter. She’s got enough things on her mind. I told her you were big enough to take care of yourself.”
“You understand, don’t you?”
“Yes,” I said, and I meant it.
“I love you, Remy Sue.”
“I love you, too, PawPaw.” After that, he sort of faded away.
One day that summer, I don’t know what got into Bobby, but he knocked on the door right after Mom went to work. When I didn’t answer, he opened the door with his mother’s keys and busted in, carrying a roll of duct tape. He grabbed one of the kitchen chairs with one hand and me with the other and dragged me into the closet. He took that duct tape and strapped my ankles to the chair, wrapped my wrists behind my back, put tape across my mouth, and then just shut the closet door. I heard him walk out the front and close the door after him.
It was totally black and quiet, and right away I had to pee and there was nothing I could do. First I was mad and then I was scared, but then Bart came and sat in front of the closet and talked to me. Meow meow meow meow. Of course, he couldn’t let me out of the closet because cats can’t do that, but he told me all about the planet where he and PawPaw came from, how the people there were eight feet tall and a beautiful minty color, and everybody was really kind to everybody else. How you have to be kind to live there.
Bobby definitely knew when Mom came home from work, because it was right before then that I heard the front door open. Bart heard it too, and I know he scampered under my bed on account of how much he hated Bobby. The closet door opened. It was so bright I had to keep my eyes closed while he ripped the duct tape off me, which really hurt.
“Pee-yew. You wet yourself!” said Bobby. “Just like a little baby.” His eyes were like hard little rocks. “Now you better not say a word to your mom or I will come back and kill you,” and I knew he meant it.
So I changed my clothes and hid my wet underwear under the bed, and when Mom asked why I didn’t eat the lunch she’d left me, I told her I just wasn’t hungry and didn’t say nothing else.
Bobby came back the next day after Mom left for work, and he did it again. That day, Bart told me all about his brother and sister kittens who were of course all dead because of Bobby. They didn’t go to the same planet Bart and PawPaw were from because they weren’t as brave as them, but their planet was full of catnip and birds and fish to look at, although they could never hurt them because that was against the rules.
Mom said, “You still weren’t hungry for lunch?” when she got home that night, but all I said was, “No, but I’m hungry for dinner, thank you.”
The next morning Bobby came over and put me in the closet again right after Mom left for work, and Bart sat at the door and meowed again. Then I heard the front door open and I was scared Bobby was coming back to do something more to me. But Bart kept meowing, started yowling then, so I knew it wasn’t Bobby because otherwise Bart would have run away.
“What’s up, Bart?” It was Mom’s voice — it turned out that she had to come back because she forgot her bus pass — and Bart howled and scratched against the closet door. Then I heard the doorknob turn and I squeezed my eyes against the bright light. Mom gasped and said, “What the …” She flipped on the closet light and pulled the tape off my mouth and my legs and my hands. She cried and hugged me and pulled me out of the closet. “Baby, what happened? Are you all right, baby? I’m so sorry, baby.” And then she cried some more.
It wasn’t me that told on Bobby. It was Bart. But since Mom doesn’t speak cat language, I had to translate for him. Mom’s face got really white and her lips got all puckered and serious, and she said, “You just stay right here.” I could hear her in the other room talking on the phone to Bobby’s mom. Her voice was high and screechy.
I sat at the kitchen table while she fixed me a tuna sandwich. “Don’t you ever even look at that Bobby again. He is one dangerous kid,” she said.
Now that was all well and good and fine by me, but when Mom left for work, I peeked out the door to the hallway and Bobby barged right in yelling, “I am really going to kill you and your mom and your stupid cat.”
And this time, instead of Bart hiding under the bed, he became the brave warrior cat he was raised to be on his planet. He jumped off the table right on to Bobby’s face with his claws out. Bart’s claws were really sharp, like big old needles, and he went after Bobby like he was going to scratch his eyes out. Bobby screamed louder than anyone I ever heard because Bart was hurting him so bad. It took both of Bobby’s fat arms to twist Bart off his face, and Bart made sure to take a bunch of flesh with him.
“I’m going to kill that fucking cat,” Bobby screamed as he started chasing after Bart, so angry you could just see the smoke coming out of his ears. The door to the hallway was still cracked open, and Bart scooted out and dashed down the stairs, out the front door, with Bobby right behind him. I ran right after them, yelling, “No, no, no! You leave Bart alone!”
First Bart ran out in the street, and then Bobby, and then me. Of course none of us were looking as the big old truck came barreling down the road.
But just as I jumped off the curb, I felt these big strong arms like wings pick me up and pull me back to the sidewalk, and I heard PawPaw’s voice say, “You’re safe now, Remy Sue.”
Both Bart and Bobby died that day. PawPaw told me not to worry about Bobby. He went back to the evil planet where he came from, but he’d never be allowed to hurt any little kids anymore because it was like a prison and hurting kids was against the law there.
PawPaw promised that Bart was back with him on the planet with the minty green people and he was doing fine. He didn’t bring none of his injuries with him. PawPaw said that both he and Bart were watching over me from up there, and that my job now was to stay here on earth and be an Avenger too, helping them set the planet right. And I only miss Bart a little, since lots of nights he comes and visits. He’s invisible now, of course, but I can always feel him purring next to me.