Author: Summer Bird

Yellow Cats

Dave frowned. There was just a muffin and a banana in his lunchbox. He hated the end of the month when money was tight.   Maybe if he ate slower he wouldn’t feel as hungry.

He put his books on the lunch table so no one would see how small his lunch was, and unpeeled the banana. He blinked. There wasn’t a banana inside the peel. Instead, there was a little yellow kitten with dark eyes. He pinched himself. Still there.

“Hello,” the kitten said. He looked around and looked back. It was still there. “No one else can see me,” it said. It turned its head and started licking its back.

“Where did my banana go?” Dave asked.

“There wasn’t one,” the kitten said. “Just me.”

“Oh,” Dave said. He started to peel his muffin. He really was hungry. The kitten watched him and leaned forward as he prepared to take a bite. “Did you want some?” Dave asked.

“Thank you,” the kitten said. It swallowed the entire muffin in one bite and then went back to licking its back. The muffin was bigger than its head, so Dave wasn’t really sure how that just happened.

“You’re welcome, I guess,” Dave said. “What’s your name?”

“I don’t want one,” the kitten said.

“Then what will I call you?”

The kitten turned around and stared at him. “Don’t say anything at all. People will think you’re crazy. If you only talk to me when we’re alone, who else would you be talking to?”

That made sense. Dave nodded and then looked around. Everyone else was eating. He sighed and began to pack his bag again. No lunch today. Maybe he could win some candy if Mr. Long was giving a pop quiz. He always studied hard just in case.

To his delight, there was a pop quiz. He quickly filled in his answers and waited for the others to finish writing. He could almost taste the chocolate. The kitten jumped off his shoulder and studied his paper. “This one is wrong,” it said. “And this one. And this one. You’re really bad at this.”

Dave looked at his answers again. He really wanted that chocolate. He was pretty sure they were right. But he was so hungry. He changed his answers.

The kitten was wrong. “Sorry,” it said and started licking its paws. Dave groaned and shoved the test in his bag. His stomach growled.

“Dave,” Mr. Long said. “You sound hungry.” The class laughed. Dave’s face burned.   Mr. Long waited until everyone settled down and then smiled. “I’ll give you a second chance to earn a treat. Come to the board and show us how to do this problem.”

Dave was willing to try. The kitten climbed up on his arm, and he went to the board.   The kitten kept yelling in his ear that he was doing it wrong. He ended up making a silly mistake and some of his classmates laughed. Mr. Long gave him the candy anyways.

The kitten yelled the opposite of whatever the teacher said for the rest of the day. Dave had an enormous headache. When he got home, no one was home. There was another banana and a package of ramen on the table with a note. Mom would be home late.

Dave was sure this was a bad idea, but he unpeeled the banana. There was another kitten.   “Where did mom get these?” he asked.   No one answered. Instead, the other kitten climbed on his other shoulder.   The cats began to sing opera loudly.   He groaned.

“I think it’s time you both got down,” he said.   They ignored him. He tried to pick them up and move them, but it was like trying to catch smoke. They darted away from his hands and scratched at him with little needle-like claws.

Dave sat down and the kittens perched on his shoulders. Cats hate water, right? “I think I might need to take a shower,” he said. “Right now.” The first kitten growled and its eyes grew large. It was kind of scary.

“Never mind, I give up. What do you want from me?” he asked.

“We want to go home to our mother,” the second kitten said. “I’m hungry.”

Dave made up the ramen. The kittens ate it all. He called his mom’s work. “This had better be important,” she said.

“Umm…I think I heard something outside in the bushes,” he said.

“Are the doors locked?” Mom sounded impatient.

“Uh, yes,” Dave said.

“Then turn out the lights and go to bed early. We have nothing to steal.”

Dave frowned. He still had homework to do. And he was hungry. “Mom, where did the bananas come from?”

“Aunt Jenny, when I was returning her umbrella.   I’ll see you in the morning Dave.   I’m sorry you have to be home alone.”   Mom hung up.

Dave called Aunt Jenny. “Hi, Aunt Jenny? Where did the bananas come from? Do you have the neighbor’s number? Thank you!”

He called the neighbor, and then a garden store, and then a bakery. The baker told him they were from an elderly lady who lived by the bakery. By now, the kittens were having a loud argument.   They kept swiping at each other and scratching Dave instead.

It wasn’t late yet, so Dave walked to the bakery.   He knocked at the door of the house next to it. A very tall man answered and said the old lady lived two doors down.

Dave trudged down the street and knocked on the door. The house was clean and well kept. And neon pink.

The old lady who answered had bright blue hair.   Her house was full of yellow cats.   The kittens climbed down and raced around the corner. The old lady smiled. “Thank you dear,” she said. “You look hungry. Would you like something to eat?”

“Not a banana?” Dave asked. Just in case.

“Of course not.” The old lady looked shocked. “Here, have a nice muffin from the bakery. Would you like to come by sometimes and help me with my sweet cats?”

“Probably not,” Dave said. “But thank you for the muffin.”

“I’ll pay you for your time, of course,” the lady said.

Dave looked down at where a yellow cat was chewing on his shoelaces. “Well, let me think about it. I’ll let you know.” The lady handed him another muffin and smiled. Dave sighed. He knew he’d probably say yes. He hated the end of the month when money was tight.

banana-kitten-10-27

Is Stan…Normal?

Awesome Guy came home from saving the world, happy to see that his wife, Dynamic Girl had already picked up their son Stan from daycare.   Dynamic Girl didn’t look as happy.   “Is everything okay, dear?” he asked.

She smiled a fake smile. “Stan honey, why don’t you go draw something for Mommy, alright?” she said, and sent Stan out of the room.   Once he was gone, she dropped the smile. “I’m worried about Stan.”

“Did something happen?” Awesome Guy asked.

“He’s not showing any superpowers. I think he might be normal,” she said.

“There’s nothing wrong with normal.”

Dynamic Girl flopped into a chair with less grace than usual. “I know,” she said. “But that’s not all. He’s so clumsy. He keeps tripping over his feet lately. I had his vision checked and his eyes are fine.”

Awesome Guy sat on the arm of her chair and put an arm around her shoulders. “Did you take him to the doctor?”

“Yes. He’s, well, normal.” Dynamic Girl frowned.

Awesome guy patted her back and stood up again.   “I’m sure it’s fine. A growth spurt, maybe?”

Just then, there was a loud thump in the next room.   Dynamic Girl sighed. “There, he just tripped again.” She raised her voice. “Stan dear, are you alright?   Come in and let me check on you.”

Stan came running in with his drawing and handed it to his mother with a grin. “I’m okay,” he said, and ran back out, darting around the coffee table with ease.

Dynamic Girl held up the drawing. “Look, he’s written ‘me’ at the bottom. It’s another self-portrait. Do you think he’s becoming a narcissist?” She gasped. “Maybe he’s really a supervillain?”

Awesome Guy laughed. “No son of mine is going to be a supervillain. I think you worry too much. Now let’s see what’s–“ He tripped.

“Honey?” His wife asked with a shaky voice.

He chuckled nervously. “I wasn’t expecting that.” He sat up and saw his son peeking around the door. “Come here, son. Did the noise scare you? I just somehow tripped over my own two feet. But look, I’m okay.”

Stan shuffled into the room and held out another picture. Awesome Guy smiled. “Oh, is this me? That’s great.” He stood and handed the picture to Dynamic Girl. “Look, honey, Stan just drew a picture of me.” She smiled and everything was right in the world. For a while.

A week later and Awesome Guy came home from saving the world, happy to see that his wife, Dynamic Girl had already picked up their son Stan from daycare. Unfortunately, once again, Dynamic Girl didn’t look as happy. “Is everything okay, dear?” he asked. He hoped that this wasn’t going to become a new routine.

She smiled and sent Stan from the room again. She frowned. “Stan seems to be alright, but now the kids and teachers in the daycare keep tripping. Do you think it’s something contagious? Perhaps it’s a symptom of some kind of weaponized virus?”

Awesome Guy sighed and sat in the nearest chair.   “Honey, if it is, it doesn’t seem to last long. And there aren’t any other symptoms, right?”

She nodded and her shoulders slumped a little. “That’s right. Maybe I do worry too much.”   She walked towards her usual chair and tripped.

“Honey, are you okay?” Awesome Guy asked. He hurried over and helped her up.

“Yes,” she said and brushed herself off, looking a little embarrassed. She glanced away and then smiled. Stan was peeking around the door. “Oh, Stan, is that you? Did you finish your picture?” She held out a hand and Stan shuffled over and handed her the picture. “Is this me? Thank you, sweetie!” She gave him a big hug.

“Ouch! Mom, that hurts!” Stan scowled. Awesome Guy laughed and everything was right in the world.   For a while.

A week later and Awesome Guy was on the superhero council organized to try to discover the source of the mysterious wave of tripping incidents. Celebrities from around the world were tripping, and there was no known connection or trigger for the incidents. There was a lot of arguing and posturing on the council, but nothing was resolved.

Awesome Guy went home, having not saved the world. The house was empty, so he left again and picked up Stan from daycare. One of the teachers handed Awesome Guy a stack of drawings. He flipped through them. “These are all people from the tripping case.” He looked at his son and felt proud. “Have you been keeping up with my work, son?” His son might not be a superhero, but maybe he would be a reporter instead. He couldn’t wait to tell Dynamic Girl! And everything was right in the world again. For a while.stan-10-26

Mrs. Frobisher’s Heir

“Roland, I have adopted an heir,” Mrs. Frobisher said one day. My name is actually Steven, but Mrs. F renames all her employees. She says it’s so she can remember all their names. She pays well and the economy is bad, so no one really complains.

“Congratulations, Ma’am,” I said.

“I want you to see to his education and such, Roland.   He just has so much potential. I look forward to seeing him bloom under your guidance.” She looked at me sternly and I understood that there had better be blooming or my job was over.

“I’ll do my best,” I said.

“Excellent.” Mrs. F opened the side door of her office that no one else is ever allowed to open and called out, “Harold, come meet your new friend Roland.”

There was a shuffling sound and I leaned forward. Out of the darkened room came a monkey dressed in a little three-piece suit. It looked at me and scratched its side absently. “Isn’t that—” I began.

“Yes, this is Harold,” she interrupted. “Harold, meet Roland.”

Was it a joke? It didn’t seem like it. I held out a hand. “It’s nice to meet you, Harold.   I look forward to working with you.”   Harold looked at my hand and then slapped it before wandering off.

“Children these days,” Mrs. Frobisher said. She chuckled. “He’s going to be a handful.   All the bright children are, of course.   Well, I’ll leave you two to get acquainted.” She sat at her desk and pulled out some paperwork. She was holding it upside down.

I turned to Harold. He was digging through the wastebasket. I wanted to cry. I was just barely making rent and not even the fast food places were hiring.   Monkey or not, Harold was going to bloom. I pulled out my phone and started texting.

Harold learned quickly. I found him a tutor and he mastered enough sign language to get by in his expensive private school. He was a whiz at multiple-choice tests. Between that and some over-helpful tutors, Harold managed to graduate and ace the college entrance exams. He was accepted at a small but prestigious university, helped along by a large well-timed donation from a proud Mrs. F.

Well, that’s that, I thought as I read the acceptance letter. He’s bloomed. I happily prepared to deliver the acceptance letter and go back to auditing accounts or something. Of course someone had been hired to take over my former duties, but surely something was available.

Mrs. Frobisher set down the letter with a happy sigh. “Roland, you’re doing so well for my Harold. I’ll arrange for an apartment for the both of you near the university so you can continue to advocate for my dear boy.”

I felt faint. “Mrs. F?”

“Oh, don’t worry. The company will partially reimburse you for any classes you wish to take to further your education while you’re there. Harold will still be your priority of course.” She gave me that look again. The economy was still pretty bad, too.

Oh well. I’d always wanted to get an MBA. And I’d become rather fond of the little guy too. How would he manage without me?

So, Harold and I went away and got degrees.   Harold’s talent for multiple-choice tests was as sharp as ever. Mrs. Frobisher cried at his graduation. Three months later, she passed away unexpectedly.

To my surprise, she’d changed her will years ago.   Harold was left in my care and everything was left to him. Yes, the company too. I know.

To my surprise, under Harold’s leadership, the company did better than ever. I’d prepare any decisions he needed to make as a multiple-choice test, and otherwise he was pretty hands off and let people do their jobs. He was very popular.

Far too soon, Harold grew old. He moved more slowly and was less interested in doodling on the reports from the department heads. He didn’t have any children (despite some awkward blind dates set up by Mrs. F), so I helped him to turn the company over to the employees.

Harold helped me narrow down the list of candidates for CEO and then we left it to a company-wide vote. I nearly spit my cocoa on Harold when I read the results.   I had won the election as a write-in candidate.

Harold was able to stay in the little apartment behind the door no one else is ever allowed to open. I did my best for the company. When Harold passed away, thousands came to his funeral.

I stood by the casket, shaking hands and trying not to cry. A child approached and wrinkled up his nose. “Mom,” he said, “It’s a monkey.”

“Hush, dear,” his mother said. “The funeral home just did a bad job. Poor man. They should have had it closed casket.”

They moved on. I felt lost. Maybe I should start renaming all the employees. Maybe I should find an heir.

monkey-10-25

Charlie’s Room: The Mural

Isaac stepped back from the wall, paintbrush in hand. He’d always wanted to paint a mural and see his doodles, larger than life, on permanent display. The cartoon jungle glowed vividly in the afternoon sunlight, even brighter than when he’d painted it. It was perfect. When Marianne and Charlie came home, they’d certainly be impressed.   Time to wash up.

Hours later, Isaac heard rumbling coming from Charlie’s room.   He set his book on Marianne’s empty pillow and pushed his toes into his slippers. As he neared the door, the rumbling sounded louder. He had left the window open a crack to let out the paint fumes — was the sound an idling motor? There were those bikers that roared down the street at all hours of the night…

Annoyed, he pulled his hand back from the knob and began to turn away. The back of his neck prickled with fear. It wasn’t rumbling, it was roaring. Instinct pushed him to pull the heavy hall table against the door moments before a dull thump shook it. Something like claws made a shrieking sound and the door rattled. There was a roar and a snuffling snort and the sound of canvas paint-cloth being shredded.

Isaac stopped in his room long enough to grab his keys and wallet and then fled in his slippers without pausing to turn off the lights.   He stayed in a hotel until mid-morning, reluctantly returning home only to sneak around the back and peek in Charlie’s window. The room was torn apart, but empty.

He entered the room cautiously. The spread of the claw marks was wider than his hand. The imprint from phantom jaws was enormous.   He looked up at the cheerful jungle scene and pried open the white paint he’d bought to touch up the baseboards.   With broad strokes, he painted over the mural.

 

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