Saturday, 20 October 2012

173: On The Road

Katie almost ran it over as she pulled up at the kerb outside her flat.  It was darker than normal in the street with the lights outside the park out and waiting for repairs.  The headlights had picked up the dark shape but people were often dropping litter so she paid it no attention. 

Katie climbed out of the car and heard the faint squeaks coming from the kerb.  At first she thought it might be a rat and took a step backwards.  Then she decided a rat would be unlikely to sit in the gutter whilst a car pulled up.  Not unless it was injured perhaps.  As the squeaks grew more plaintive she stepped forward to investigate.

Just a few inches from her front wheel was a small box with the lid tucked in, damp from the evening air.  The box bore no writing, no indication where it came from or what it might contain.  The box continued to squeak.  Katie knelt down and loosened the flaps, opening them to show what was inside.

Curled on a dirty t-shirt wedged in the bottom of the box was a small grey kitten.  Its fur was long and tangled and dirty.  It looked skinny, probably from prolonged lack of food.  The creature looked up at Katie and gave the tiniest squeak, almost inaudible. 

She picked up the box and hid it beneath her jacked, surprised to find it weighed almost nothing.  The kitten slid about in the box as she walked to her flat.  She gripped the box tight and unlocked her front door, then took the kitten into her kitchen where she knew it would be warm.  She placed the box on the floor then sat next to it.  Then she opened the lid and looked in.

The kitten had worked itself half under the shirt, exposing a sheet of paper beneath it.  Katie reached in, brushing fur with her hand, and retrieved the paper.  It was a note which read,

“My name is Ralph and I need a new home.  My mummy has died and my sisters and me couldn’t stay where we were living.  We are all looking for lovely people like you to love us and I hope you will take care of me.  I am 6 weeks old and like chicken best.  Love Ralph xx”

Katie removed Ralph and the shirt from the box, and held him up to her face.  He looked back at her, eyes gleaming, and licked her nose.  His tongue was rough and warm and he licked her again.  She drew him closer to her, snuggling him into her neck.  He began to purr nuzzling back into her.  He stayed like that for some time and Katie wondered if he might fall asleep.

She made a decision.  “Ralph,” she said.  “You need a wash and a new bed, but that can wait until later.  And I haven’t got any chicken, so let’s see what you think about fish, shall we?”

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