“Paul, come quick, check this out!!” I exclaimed urgently with childlike enthusiasm in my voice. I stared out the window, giddily, watching an absolutely magical scene. Kittens! Several of them! Wobbling around Chloe’s backyard, rolling and frolicking in the sun. On one corner of the deck, one kitten booped another’s nose. On the stairs, one was pouncing onto two below him. Underneath a chair, a little fella was on his hind legs swatting at the dancing string from a green cushion above him. They looked so happy. It was like a scene out of Alice in Wonderland. Kittens in wonderland.

Paul joined me at the window and took in the wonderful scene. He smiled, “kittens! Let’s go get them!”

Chloe’s parents were out of town and Paul, Olivia, Brendan, Amy and I were sleeping over at Chloe’s house. The previous night, Chloe had told us she suspected there were kittens living under the large deck in her backyard. We’d put out some wet food, and the kittens mother, a larger stray cat that had been hanging around Chloe’s backyard a lot, had devoured it instantly.

We bounded down the stairs like children in a toy store. I announced excitedly, waking up my friends, as we headed toward the backyard, “the kittens are here! The kittens are here!”

Except, they weren’t. By the time we got outside, the kittens were gone again. They’d vanished. The sun had slipped behind the clouds and the backyard looked grey and bare, completely different than the blissful scene I’d witnessed just 10 minutes earlier. Sensing our disappointment, Paul crouched down to look under the deck. “I can see some of them. I can probably pull them put, if you want.”

We had to pull them out. It was late August and fall was just around the corner. The kittens would not survive beneath that deck on their own. They needed our help.

“Well, I’ve already found one,” Paul said scooping up a little grey kitten that was hiding in the bushes across from the deck. The poor little guy had been left behind by his littermates. He had a nail protruding from the back of his neck, but it didn’t seem to bother him much.

Chloe took the kitten from Paul instantly, snuggled her face against his and declared, “my little Pablo.”

Paul bravely thrust himself beneath the deck and began scouring for kittens. The first few came out easily. It was like Christmas time, kittens for everyone! The remaining kittens were tougher, though. They began yowling, hissing and biting. Paul began yelling, swearing and bleeding. Feisty little fluffs. Finally, he’d retrieved a total of seven kittens from under the deck and could not find any more.

The six of us sat on the porch admiring the seven of them, while they tried desperately to wriggle free. They climbed and trampled all over the deck. We decided to keep some for ourselves. Chloe and Amy claimed Pablo right away. He was a beautiful grey with darker tiger-like stripes. Olivia decided she wanted to keep a calm little kitten she’d bonded with that she’d named Kody. Paul decided to keep two of the kittens. Kittens were better in pairs, he reasoned. He chose Teddy, with a beautiful brown and white pattern, and I chose Zart for him, who looked like Teddy but with what looked like a splotch of bright white paint on his back. I liked his uniqueness.

But the kittens were unwanted. Everyone lived at home at that time, and all the original parents said no. Olivia’s dad made her give back Kody immediately, and he was sent to a shelter with his brothers and sisters. When Chloe’s dad returned from vacation, Pablo was sent out the door, but luckily Amy’s parents agreed that Pablo could stay with them. Teddy was given to Chloe’s cousin after tragedy arose. And Zart? Well, Zart…

A few days after finding the kittens Paul showed up at my house unexpectedly. When I got to his car, my eyes focused on a cardboard box in the passenger’s seat. Knowing in the pit of my stomach what was inside, I glanced into the box hesitantly. Sure enough, Zart’s tiny marble blue eyes looked up at me and hissed, a tiny inaudible baby hiss. Horrified, I asked, “what’s he doing here?”

“My mom said we can’t keep him,” Paul said, a sadness in his eyes that I could not handle. I sat down in the car with the box on my lap.

“Why!?” I demanded, irate, as I put on my seatbelt. Paul’s parents were totally cat people. They always had and loved cats. His dad fed all sorts of stray cats. In May, they had lost their family cat, Colin, after he’d been run-over by a car. This was the perfect opportunity to add a new fuzzy member to the family. They wanted to. His mother had been talking about getting a new kitten for weeks.

“She’s mad that she didn’t get to choose him,” Paul shrugged.

“So!?” I asked, reaching my arm into the box to pet Zart. He bit me hard. “He’s adorable! And so sweet.”

“She thinks he might be long hair. She doesn’t want a long-haired cat. She wants an orange tabby.”

“But who cares!” I exclaimed frustrated. “What does it matter what he looks like?! He’s here now. He needs a home. We ripped him out from under that deck, away from his mother and his siblings and now we’re going to send him to some random shelter?”

Tears filled my eyes. I couldn’t bare it. This poor kitten just needed a home. And there was a home, that was willing to take a kitten. Just not him. It wasn’t fair. I glanced into the box to see him nodding off. I wished I could take him myself, but with Burnsy now running my family’s household, I couldn’t. It wouldn’t be fair to Brunsy.

“We have to,” Paul said solemnly. He began to drive.

“No, we don’t have to!” I argued obstinately. There had to be another way. “Stand up for him. Stand up for yourself.”

Paul needed this cat in his life. He’d been the one to find Colin’s lifeless body on the road. That had really affected him. He’d been through so much already. If he wanted this cat, he should keep this cat. He sighed, “I wish I just had my own house. Then I could do whatever I wanted.”

That was it! Paul was a genius! “So do it! You can afford a house! Buy a house and tell your mom you and Zart are moving out. She can’t kick Zart out if he’s yours, and you’re moving out soon anyway.”

Paul had been talking about buying a house for months, but I knew he was too afraid. He was afraid to live alone, worried that what had happened would happen again. But it was time to face this. He glanced at me as he came to a red light and asked, “you think so? Should I?”

Within a few months, Paul and Zart moved to Tolbon to begin their new life.


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