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The Cat Sitters
The homeowners hired me to look after their cats for two-and-a-half months while they were away in some exotic country or other. The job didn't require that I stay in their house, just that I check in on the animals twice a day to feed them and tend to their litter boxes.
When I got to their cute yellow and white house for my first visit, I spent a few minutes trying to find the cats. I eventually located one of them under the couch in the living room. He had eyes the size of pepperonis, and I could see his coat was mostly white with a few black splotches sprinkled here and there. The other—fat and all black with a white mustache—appeared just as I was studying the first and playfully fell over on her back, cutting me open a sliver when I got too close.
As I bent over to scoop a litter box in the hallway leading away from the front entrance of the home, I heard a key in the door. In walked a person I had never seen before.
The woman had long brown hair, and she wore it straight down her back. Her black t-shirt read “Metallica” in large silver letters.
She looked as startled to see me as I was to see her.
She introduced herself as “the cat sitter.”
That can't be right because I'm the cat sitter, I told her.
I wondered if she was an impostor, but I couldn't well do anything. In the spirit of good faith, I suggested that we share the assignment.
Right then, I heard another key in the entry, and in walked a second person I had not seen before.
This person introduced himself as the “the cat sitter” as well.
I looked at cat sitter #2, and we both shrugged.
Cat sitter #3 was short and fat with blonde hair and a neat mustache. He wore jeans and a white button-down shirt.
Before long, we were dividing the work up into thirds. It began friendly and with some laughter at our situation, but in time we started competing to see who could gain the affection of the cats.
Cat sitter #2 snuck the fatter of the two cats treats when we weren't looking. Cat sitter #3 spent hours running his hand over their coats.
I, myself, danced a string around for the entertainment of the white cat until my hand grew numb.
Even though the homeowners had only intended that we stop in twice a day, the three of us ended up staying through the first night and then again through the second night. Before long, a week had passed, and none of us had left.
There was too much at stake, we decided. All of us wanted to be the superior cat sitter. All of us wanted to be loved the best. All of us wanted to be invited back for subsequent jobs.
When one of the cats climbed onto cat sitter #3’s back while he was dozing and began a loving purr, cat sitter #2 and I nearly threw the man out the front door the next morning.
We ate whatever we could find in the kitchen. After a month, the proper food was gone, and we began consuming condiments and spices out of jars for sustenance.
When we had finished off every last bit of food in the cabinets, we became sad and edgy. We were so hungry that our thinking grew twisted. We stopped talking and began grunting and screaming to express ourselves. The world outside of the house faded like a cloud.
The food situation got so severe that we ended up holding our noses and experimenting with the cat food, which at that point was still rather plentiful. Cat sitter #2 and I gagged as we tried to get down small portions of salmon flavored mush.
Cat sitter #3 didn’t have as much trouble. He ate wet food straight out of the can and dry food by the handful.
I marveled at this, but of course, soon learned to do the same.
The cats whined and climbed onto the counters to beg for food when they saw what was going on.
Later, when cat sitter #2 caught the fat cat with her head inside one of the bags of food, she carried her to the front door and put her outside.
The skinnier, big-eyed cat remained. After some time, we all—cat included—became something of an unruly pack. We groomed each other. We cuddled in sleep. We began going to the bathroom wherever we felt like it. Occasionally, there were skirmishes over resources, one of us scratching and biting another into submission.
When a mouse sailed across the living room floor and under the couch, the four of us hunted the rodent, positioning ourselves so that we were all covering a portion of floor under the sofa. After twenty minutes of waiting, it made its run only to be caught by the cat. We watched with envy as he ate until he was through.
One day, a middle-aged couple walked through the front door. They began to scream when they saw the state of the place.
“What have you done to our house!” cried the woman.
“For Christ’s sake, what has happened here?” barked the man.
We couldn’t understand what they were saying at that point. When they continued to carry on like this, we became angry and volatile, hissing and spitting in their direction. Then cat sitters #2 and #3 lunged at them with their teeth showing. This scared the woman away, but the man didn’t budge. I jumped on him, using my fingernails as weapons until he ran off back through the door.
Ian Starttoday's work appears in Apocrypha and Abstractions, Eunoia Review, Foliate Oak, Thick Jam, and Treehouse. He also edits an online humor magazine called Back Hair Advocate. Sometimes he thinks he is more cat than human.
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