Sparkles the cat hated his name. He hated the view out the window, too. It made him feel all grumbly.
It taunted him with warm sunshine he wanted to lie in, and birds and squirrels he wanted to chase, and other cats that would come close and smirk at him with their tails. He wanted to push the flowerpots off the windowsill and scare the other cats, but the window was closed.
He lived with a little old lady with lots of allergies and no visitors. So, the doors and windows were mostly closed and the house stayed clean and quiet. It was terrible. The old lady liked to talk to him about the past. Mostly he didn’t listen.
One day, he’d had enough. He was going to do all the things the old lady hated. He’d drive her crazy enough to open the doors and let him out for the day. Maybe he’d even come back. Maybe.
He started with the toilet paper, that she always hung just so and fixed when he’d batted at it. He tangled his claws in it and ran around the house. When he felt the toilet paper jerk free of its cardboard roll, he paused to admire his handiwork. There, he’d made a big mess, and the toilet paper wasn’t hanging all neat and tidy.
The old lady came downstairs after her nap and looked around. “Oh my, Sparkles,” she said. “Isn’t this a mess?”
She sat down on the couch with a smile and reached a hand towards him. “Come here and let me untangle you,” she said. Sparkles turned his back and started to lick at his fur. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw her hand drop. She looked at the toilet paper that was wound around the living room furniture.
“When my Jamie was little, he was getting up every morning at two a.m. for crackers. I was so tired all the time. One day, while I was folding laundry, he wove two rolls of toilet paper all around the kitchen chairs. When I saw the mess, I cried.”
Sparkles paused and looked up. The old lady smiled again. “I miss those days.” She stood up. “Well, let me get you a treat and then I’ll get started on cleaning up the mess. It’s nice to have something different to do, isn’t it?” She got the treat and patted him briefly. “Good cat,” she said.
Sparkles ate his treat and grumbled. It might sound like purring, but he was certain it was meant to be grumbling. That hadn’t worked at all. What next?
He eyed the couch. The old lady sat there every day doing things with bits of paper or yarn or sticks. She always kept it carefully clean. It was her place. He’d chosen his next target.
He stood on his hind legs and extended his claws and began to rip at the arm of the couch. It made satisfying hissing sounds as his claws tore at the cloth. This should do it.
The old lady came running in from the kitchen. “Sparkles, are you attacking the couch?” she asked. The old lady laughed. “My Jamie used to attack the couch too. I just couldn’t convince him that he needed to draw on paper. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t get the pen and marker out, either.” She began petting Sparkles. He tolerated it.
She sighed and sat down. Sparkles jumped onto the couch. He just wanted to be closer to see the effects of his plan of course. He wasn’t looking for more cuddles. He bumped the old lady’s hand with his head and she started petting him again. It was a coincidence.
“I couldn’t afford a new couch then, and I was so embarrassed. I’d cover up the drawings with a big blanket I knitted. Sometimes Jamie would hide under the blanket, and I’d pretend I couldn’t find him.” She sighed and petted Sparkles some more. She didn’t say anything for a while, and the only sound in the room was Sparkles’ grumbling.
It was late afternoon, and the sun was reaching in through the window, taunting him. Sparkles decided to give it one more try. When the old lady went upstairs for her glasses, he climbed on the counter, where he wasn’t supposed to go. He pushed the heavy tin of flour onto the flour and ran through it, leaving tracks everywhere.
The old lady looked into the kitchen and smiled. “You do know this bit of mischief earned you a bath, right?” Sparkles prepared to bolt, but was picked up in firm but gentle arms and taken into the bathroom.
The old lady gently washed the flour off in shallow warm water. Sparkles hated it. He yowled in complaint. “I know,” the old lady said. “Baths aren’t fun for you. My Jamie hated them too. Once he poured flour on the floor. Then he poured milk onto the flour and broke eggs onto the mess. I caught him opening the sugar. He said he was making floor cake.”
The old lady carefully toweled him off. Sparkles yowled again, feeling sullen. “Yes, Jamie wasn’t happy to have a bath either. Then I insisted he help me clean up. He was so grumpy! He said I was ruining his cake.”
Sparkles jumped from the towel cocoon and stalked towards the door. “Does this mean you won’t help clean up?” the old lady asked. She chuckled and followed him to the door. Sparkles hurried to the sofa and sulked as he listened to the old lady hum as she swept up.
The old lady made no sense. She came back in with his favorite toy and sat by him on the couch. “Are you feeling lonely today, too?” she asked. “How about this time I pick the game?”
Sparkles couldn’t manage to ignore the tempting feathered thing. He chased it and batted it until he was ready to curl up and nap. The old lady patted him. He purred. He wasn’t feeling grumbly anymore. He still hated his name though.
“Thank you for being such a good friend,” the old lady said.