February Flash ’24: Adult Division

Adult Division Winner

Note: this story contains adult language

“Six Kittens” by Chris Keefer

There were six kittens. He didn’t know what to do with them. Who leaves kittens on a doorstep these days? Especially his doorstep, so far off the main road. The loser must have parked the car, sneaked to his porch in the early morning hours, dropped this little basket of surprise, then slunk off like a coward.

Why his house? This isn’t a cat orphanage. He had no time to nurture a single kitten, much less a whole litter. He had a job to go to everyday; sometimes the work went on all night. It was what drove his wife to divorce court; why he had no kids, no pets, not even a houseplant. I’m a game warden, not a goddamn foster parent. The gripe came out in Doc McCoy’s voice.

One of them mewled, a sickening sound that scratched his eardrums like a malicious teacher’s nails on a chalkboard. If the rest of them started in like that, he’d drop them in the creek for sure, with a brick in the bag. One of them reached for him with a miniature paw. Did those tiny claws have to be clipped? How old do kittens have to be before they could be adopted? What about the cat hair? He wasn’t going to find out if he was allergic or not. They weren’t coming in the house.

One of them looked up at him. Damn, what a cute face. They all looked up. Wide, imploring eyes, bright whiskers. Appealing their innocence.

Why not leave them at the animal shelter, where they belong? It must have been a shorter trip to his place. Way to take responsibility, Kitten Dropper. Now he had to deal with the heartbreak of walking away from that basket of lives and never knowing what happened to them, who would adopt them; who would abuse them.

Suddenly they all had names. Ginger-striped Frodo clawed his way to the rim of the basket, exposing his tender pot belly, squeaking in desperation like he needed rescuing from a Mordor abyss.

Rorschach twins Lewis and Clark, dressed in buckskin tortoiseshell, took to sniffing and wandering the perimeter, climbing over their siblings, exploring with their little noses and pointy ears.

Hellion crouched and glared up at him, spitting and hissing. He could fit all of her in the palm of his hand. She meant for her bottle-brush, jet black fur and intense green eyes to be intimidating as a hellhound, but it came off as achingly adorable.

Orange Kitty dismissed the hubbub and licked herself, giving everyone the cold shoulder, and Derp sat there with the tip of his tongue poking out. His eyes were crossed as if he’d gone barmy trying to follow his gray stripes too many times.

What do they need? To eat? To pee? Were they weaned? The people at the shelter would handle that, right? Before or after the vet check and the individual cage assignments. They’d get their own dishes and water and crap in the communal litter boxes. They’d get adopted immediately. Kittens were always adopted immediately. Giant, over-excited children would squeeze them. Sloppy, drooling dogs would chase them. They could expect to have their claws ripped out so they couldn’t scratch the furniture or defend themselves.

They’d be expected to adjust to their circumstances, alone, severed from their siblings. Hellion might be the best one to survive the ordeal; Derp was doomed. Lewis and Clark would be forever looking for 14 each other, and Orange Kitty would have to outsmart her new family if she wanted to establish her realm.

Ah, fuck he thought and this time the voice was his own. He picked up the basket and went inside.

six kittens of different colors sitting in a row