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Short Story: Catboy
By Mlaz Corbier
When he was born, Catboy was an almost perfectly normal human being baby but his parents didn’t much like almost perfectly normal human being babies. What made Catboy a little less perfect than his folks had hoped for was a spine as flexible as a rubber chicken, a body completely covered in thick, black hair, and plaintive meows that ought to have been cries. After a few days, Dad couldn’t take it any longer and decided to put his boy in a bag and lob him into a lake, just like a real unwanted cat. Thoughts like these happen only on dark, dark nights, of course, and it was a particulary dark, dark night when the man set out with his son struggling in a sack. The thing with dark, dark nights is that many people are about and none of them with intentions they’d dare mention in front of their mums. The young father had barely swung the sack over his shoulder when fortune fell upon him.
“Top-o-the-evenin’ to yer, sir,” a dodgy type said as he tipped his bowler hat; there wasn’t anything in the ape’s appearance that justified him wearing such a gentleman’s garments. It turned out Catboy’s dad had walked into a dicey alley right in The Gent’s district, a good-for-nothing bounder that looked as squalid as any seven snakes. “Just leave them goodies on the ground an’ get lost, will yer?” The Gent said.
“Sorry, but am I being mugged?”
“I think not, sir. Looks to me as you’s voluntarily leavin’ that there sack behind in this here side street.”
“Fair enough,” replied Catboy’s father, relieved as he put his son carefully down and legged it. But The Gent proved to be only slightly better at parenting. Instead of giving the infant a real cat burial in a brook, he left it behind in the cold and wet that’s all too common in this dirty town’s back streets.
The rats had caught scent of the little lad as soon as he’d been put on the pavement, thinking they’d been given an easy tea. They scurried towards their defenceless prey only to find out it was neither defenceless nor, for that matter, prey. The tiny hands grabbed the bravest, fattest rat that had led the others to him by the throat; the boy simply didn’t let go after that, not when the fat rat was fighting and gnawing, biting and clawing, and not when it was strangled dead either. The rest of the rat posse hesitated and stared at the curious spectacle, trying to decide on how to tackle this unfortunate event, forgetting about their own defences for maybe a heartbeat. Long enough to let half a dozen street cats sneak up on them. The sight that followed was far from friendly even though it was over in a flash. But the adroit felines feastn’t on the child - they needn’t be told a rod is better than two fishes.
And the infant, he kept himself alive with rat blood and slept in the gunnysack wherein he was brought. The years came, the years went. Catboy grew and grew, died a couple of times in the process too.
The first time was when he found his parents’ house where he sang his caterwauling night after night on their roof, lamenting his loneliness and lack of love. Just like a real cat. On the ninth night, the former father got fed up and climbed onto the roof to rid the pesterer. The chase on the rooftop was as hilarious as a monkey-hanger to Catboy. He danced over the tiles with feathery feet while the simpleton stumbled and stalled over the clay slabs. The felinish fellow quickly became cocky, taunted his old man. The chap closed in ever so slowly, and after a while of shuffling and shambling, he made a dive for it, catching the creature. Right before breaking its feeble neck, the man stared into its eyes and saw it was his only son. The man felt ill, lost his balance and fell off the roof. The cruel cobbles caught Catboy first, caught him dead as a doornail. The father landed on his son a half-second after, but it didn’t save him from death either.
Mum fainted as mums tend to do when their children and husbands die. She had been looking at the scene, silent as a statue: a widow now, as well as an orphan’s mother. When she came by, she saw her dead son again, crawling from underneath her husband’s corpse. Another eight lives to go.
Just like any real cat.
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