We do not remember falling asleep, but we must have because we did not end up where we began. We had curled around Kittenbrother's hand, our throat vibrating with the soft, tenuous, nervous purr we use to remind our self of nestling by Mother's chest. If we purr, we are safe. If we purr Kittenbrother is safe. We were going to stay up, keep vigil all night, but we did not.
It must have been Tripwire who moved us. Only Tripwire has such careful hands to be able to lift us and not wake us. We stretch slightly and look around, realizing that we are warm. There are blankets around, and when we turn we find we are in Tripwire's arms. This is not his lair, it is the main room, the crotchety couch that smells of age and pizza. Slowly we poke Tripwire's face with our nose. His cheek is warm and our nose is cold, so he grunts and shifts a bit. But he does not wake up. His fingers clench and unclench in his sleep as if he is reaching out for someone.
We pause a moment. Slowly we wriggle free of the blankets and look around, contemplating the stillness of the lair. Our stomach does not hurt, we do not need to be fed. We accept that Tripwire can sleep longer.
As we turn back to Tripwire, we sink back into his lap and place our head under his fingers. The clenching relaxes, and turns into a soft scratch as he draws the blanket around us into a nest. Slowly we purr. Mothercat is not here, but it is OK. The catfamily stays together. We assure Tripwire it will be ok because we are here. We purr for our self.
We purr for Tripwire.
Chicken with Rice
We love Chicken with Rice. It comes in an orange can, a mystical can, and there is a tiny, flat little othercat that looks like the brothercats we foggily remember. It is our favorite.
Long Whiskers is in the kitchen, and we roll off the couch as Tripwire blearily heads to the bathroom. He is making the can opener sing its magic song and we stretch to check it out. Long Whiskers knows which cans we fancy, and his choices are very wise. Cornerstone does not care which cans we fancy, he is very practical about the cans. He will check the little numbers on them and line them up in some academic fashion according to said numbers, dispensing them in order.
Kittenbrother is the best at the cans. He has the magic touch, just picking out what seems right. Sometimes luck is perfect with him.
We hope that it remains perfect now.
Long Whiskers, however understands that this time is tough, even for us. So he offers Chicken and Rice into our bowl, and we come over to sniff it. As always it smells delicious.
We are not hungry.
We cannot help it, but something in our stomach tells us that it does not want to eat. A slow creeping feeling of sickness that washes over us. We sniff once again and then turn away. Behind us, Long Whiskers frowns.
We turn to watch him, and we understand why he frowns so deeply. At one end of the table sits Cornerstone. His plate of eggs and toast has hardly been touched. At the other Mirror pushes bits of cereal across the surface of the milk they are floating in, staring into the bowl as if he could divine the future from it.
We understand that milk is wonderful, but we have never found any messages within it other than 'this wonderful white stuff makes us feel rather ill, and we think we should go vomit on Cornerstone's bed now.
We sincerely hope that Mirror is not going to go vomit on Cornerstone's bed. He gets rather cross as us when we do that, and we are much smaller than Mirror.
So we watch as Long Whiskers sits down and starts to talk, prodding the catfamily to eat. It is like watching an ant climb up a mountain of sand. As his feet keep moving upward the sand underneath keeps slipping downward so no matter how hard he tried, his goal always remains in the distance.
Such as it is with Long Whiskers and the breakfast.
Cracks in the Stone
We moved from the kitchen to the living room, hoping to make sure that there were no mice in the VCR, when we heard heavy footsteps. Our first thought was that they belonged to Mirror for his footfalls are usually loud and often angry, but we were surprised to see Cornerstone walk out of the kitchen, his hands clenched tightly by his sides.
Slowly we slunk under the couch, to spy on him from where he could not see us. His cheeks are red and his skin seems drawn tightly across his face, as if he was trying to hold something behind his eyes. He turns slowly to the locked door and his hands clench more tightly. There is a pause before he walks with heavy footsteps off towards his lair.
Silence fills the room, and Tripwire looks confused as he comes out of the bathroom, heading for the kitchen. We thought that Long Whiskers would follow Cornerstone, but it was not to be.
It is Mirror who enters the living room. We slink backwards, readying ourself for a fight, but we can see a small tone of softness in his eyes, something that says he is not going to argue. We are understandably curious, and we dare to follow him as he walks down the hallway.
We can hear voices as soon as Mirror crosses the threshold to Cornerstone's lair. They are loud at first, trailing off into softer tones as we peer around the corner.
Cornerstone sits, his shoulders drooped and his face falling downwards. We do not see him like this often: he is not stone. He is flesh.
Mirror's words are calm. Despite how rough they might seem, the make sense. Slowly Cornerstone raises his head and nods.
We could have told Cornerstone that it was not his fault, but something tells us that it would not work. Yet in the small lair, we watch as Mirror puts a hand on Cornerstone's shoulder and both members of the catfamily are strengthened.
Perhaps it takes a reprieve by your biggest challenger to make the situation bearable again?
Even since we can remember being called a name we held that it was, in fact, not our name. The hands have many theories of what our name might really be, but they can never truly know what it is.
So, for them, we have names that we tolerate and names that we do not. We tolerate our name, but it is not ours. This is why we never come when called. If the Hands really want us to come they must use our real name. And only we know our real name.
Our Hand name is only important in its context. Usually it is used for the magic time of the can opening, which we will come readily or it is used to express displeasure. We ignore this name at will. If we smell food we might not, but in most every other situation it is merely a word, which gives reassurance to the Hands that they have some sort of silly command over things. If they can name something, they believe they control it and we would like them to know that nothing could be further from the truth. So, in order to let them understand their place in the catfamily we do not listen to our name much. It is a trivial thing, it has never been important to us.
We Are the Klunk
We were sitting on the couch when we heard it. Barely more than a whisper, we sat up so fast that it felt like electricity had been shot through our body, coursing from the point of our nose to the tip of our tail. One word, one call.
That voice, unmistakable! We leapt from the couch and we did not even look to see if the door was open. We knew it would be, if only because we were trusting in Tripwire's accuracy. We sped through the house, our feet sounding like a herd of buffalo across the ratty carpet, past the threshold, into the room. It was a jungle of legs: green legs, brown legs, legs moving and Hands talking. We twisted through them, finding a perfect path through the obstacles and up to the table. We have honed this skill by twining through legs as our Hands tried to use the toilet. We are glad that we could put this skill to use.
We turned and mewed, hoping that the voices would stop. We waited patiently as blue eyes rose to meet our gaze, and one word was repeated.
An invitation! We leap from the table to the bed and warm hands catch us. We are petted! The hands are weak, and they shake, but it does not matter. We are in the hands of our beloved Kittenbrother and that is all we need to know. We look up at him and mew once more, as if pleading to him not to sleep on us again. It takes a while and we can see that his eyes are foggy, but he smiles.
Never before have we been so happy to hear that name. Never before have we come to it. We nestle in Kittenbrother's arms as the catfamily starts to speak again.
Here, in the warmth we realize something we never thought of before. Many things seemed so important to us. Our cans, our rounds about the lair. Chasing the shiny things under Tripwire's bed, sneaking into Mirror's lair.
Yet now we realize in hearing our name, a new thought. What matters most to us is not what we control, but what we are a part of. Our catfamily is as important to us as we are to them. Slowly we start a deep rumble in our belly, our best purr.
We have denied it since we heard the word, but in this moment we accept that we are Kittenbrother's and he is ours.
We are happy.
We are the Klunk.
Author's Notes: I was surprised to see the response this little story received, and I humbly and gratefully thank all of the reviewers who commented upon this piece. I didn't think I could pull off this story seriously when I started, but here it is! I had originally plotted it as a four chapter story, so it even grew beyond my own original thoughts.
Thank you all for your kindness and patience, and peace!