The Ugly Kitten
The rain beat down in huge sheets, statically bouncing fat drops off sidewalks, pummeling, shoving wide bands of runoff to waterfall over gutters. Thick-bannered moving water raced from south northward, driving past rusty vertical bars tucked beneath well-worn curbs. The downpour crashed, floating sound upward from earth's bowels, magnifying warning cries of danger. Standing at its edge, this was music to a young child. Melodiously seeking rhythm, joy spontaneously danced under unseen clouds as she imitated a single raindrop, hopping on the balls of her feet.
Mother, waiting out the storm, shivered against biting winds, tugging gently to pull Candace from the spitting rains. Wearily the taller figure leaned back against the cold grocery store’s window, protectively nesting her squiggly daughter within her frayed jacket. Squinting to the darkened parking lot, light from slender poles eerily undulated, misdirecting flagged hints of where their old car waited. Anxiously Lisa peered out into the unknown, fighting back burning tears.
The storefront window vibrated, causing Mother to jump. Whipping her daughter around, both stumbled as she clutched at the nape of Candace’s coat. The child squealed with laughter, thinking it a game. Lisa lifted her chin, staring through the glass, into the face of a stern-faced clerk whom visually suggested that she not lean against the window. Embarrassed, she complied.
Kneeling to tie her daughter’s soggy, unruly pink-laced tennis shoe, Candace spread her arms wide, palm sides up. Grinning broadly, her eyes sparkled. Conspiratorially, she leaned down into her Mama, breathing warm words over her ear, tickling the tiny hairs of her neck. “Me LOVE’S rain!”
Swallowing back the truth, Lisa chose cheery optimism as a response. “Me too!” As she affectionately patted her daughter’s leg and struggled to stand, a small cry wove through the piercing rain. Mother and daughter froze.
There! Weak, yet still a cry.
Lisa, still kneeling, locked eyes with her child. Wide-eyed, Candace asked, “Did you hear that? It’s a kitty!”
“Yeah, think so Hon.”
“She is outside, in the rains.”
“Yes. But cats know how to take care of themselves, especially outside, even when it rains.”
“But she sounds like a baby kitty!”
“Honey, she’ll be ok. Really.”
“But what if she’s not?”
Worrying her eyes towards the sound, Candace jerked away from her Mother. “ Her’s over here!” Running after her daughter, she tried to grab onto her young charge. As fast and slick as the rain, her four-year-old stopped, squatted, kneeled, and then started to crawl underneath the bench that leaned against the building. Mom pulled the waist of her pink jeans, yanking her back, and prepared to follow through with consequences.
A slight movement at shadow's edge distracted both as a small dark-furred kitten, emboldened by sounds of human companionship tentatively toddled out. Shaking, it poofed to sit on its hindquarters. Blinking twice, she weakly mewed then yawned big, tiny teeth glistened, framing a softly pink tongue.
Lisa scowled, inventorying all manner of problems. Candace, bubbling, eased closer.
‘We cannot take it...it does not belong to us...it needs to stay here. See its mangled ear? It probably has fleas and worms...it might be sick...besides, it’s ugly and they won’t let us keep it in the shelter.’ These are what Lisa did not say aloud as her daughter scooped the complacent kitten into her arms.
Lisa and Candace lived at a church shelter with 10 other guests. Two weeks at this facility was a gift. Respectfully requesting help in contacting the animal shelter, Lisa was surprised when given permission to allow the kitten to stay in the protective kiosk of the church’s prayer garden. An anonymous donation sent kitty to the local veterinarian. Her ear was too badly damaged to repair and one of her back legs was broken, though healed. Blind in one eye, missing a chunk of fur (from a predator?), she was...interesting.
*Later that night, the three children in the shelter cuddled sleepily on a couch. Cast out from homes through complications not understood by their youth, they settled down waiting for parents to scoop them off to bed. Clinging to favorite blankies or stuffed animals, they snuggled, yawning. Curled in the center of the children was the kitten. Nodding off to the sounds of rain, a softly glowing single light dusted silver over all, kissing skin, gently caressing eyelashes and brows.
Breathing slowed, entwining dreamed innocence, and Lisa, daring to stroke the downy hair of all at rest, melted God’s beauty into the tips of her fingers.
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