by Elaine Faber
Enjoy this never before published cat short story, with a touch of mystery.
The first rays of sunrise streamed past posters taped to the butcher shop window, casting squares of shade onto the sunny linoleum floor. Beef Kidneys?$.39 a pound, Oxtails?$.15 a pound, Beef bones?$.10 a pound. No one complained about the poor cuts of meat because the best cuts were sent to feed the troops. Rationing and serving meatless meals was considered patriotic in the summer of 1942, following the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Kilcuddy Kitty stretched out in a spot of sun. He needed a rejuvenating nap before Shamus O’Reilly, the butcher, comes to open the shop around 7 a.m. Kilcuddy Kitty’s heart pattered as he recalled last night’s events after Shamus locked the doors and the bright moon slid beyond the horizon, leaving the shop in shadow.
Shattered glass had woken him from his slumber atop the roll of butcher paper in the corner. His ears pricked forward. His muscles tensed. His paws hit the floor without a sound. He levitated to the top of the meat counter where he had the advantage of height. He crouched, his gaze riveted on the doorway to the back room. Someone had come through the broken window! The faint light from a flashlight skittered up the front of the meat counter. Fear smell emanated from the masked figure.
Kilcuddy’s hair stood on end at the back of his neck. He waited…the thief moved closer. The pinprick of light played across the cash register.
Kilcuddy Kitty leaped from the top of the meat counter onto the unsuspecting intruder’s shoulders. Yow!!
The thief shrieked, jerking from left to right, trying to dislodge the sharp claws digging into his back. In his frenzy, he dropped his torch. Warm blood filled Kilcuddy’s mouth as he sank his teeth deep into the back of the man’s neck. The prowler screamed, reached back, grabbed Kilcuddy and flung him down.
Kilcuddy landed with a thud, momentarily stunned. He heard frantic mumbling and scuttling sounds as the intruder plunged through the back room and escaped out the window. Running footsteps pounded down the back alley and then faded away.
Kilcuddy lay on the floor, his ears ringing, and the taste of blood tickling his palate. Human blood tastes different than animal blood. Sweeter, somehow! Or was it the satisfaction of thwarting a burglar and protecting his person’s property that tasted so sweet? Without a doubt, the thief had come to rob the cash register and steal the best cuts of meat from the freezer…
Kilcuddy Kitty rolled over, presenting his tummy to the warm morning sunshine as he waited for Shamus to appear. What fine trimmings of beef or snippets of pork chops would Shamus spoon into his bowl as a reward for thwarting the burglar? Do cats receive awards for bravery? Maybe get his picture in the paper? Perhaps there would be a parade and he’d be the Grand Marshall and sit in the front seat with the mayor’s wife. If they lived in New York, it would be a ticker tape parade.
A click at the back door!
Shamus O’Reilly turned the key in the lock and shoved open the door. “Begorra, the window is shattered and there’s glass all over me clean floor!” Shamus shrieked as he dashed into the shop. He rushed to the cash register and punched in the proper key. The drawer popped open. Every dollar lay in a neat row, the cash from yesterday’s sales. “Sure and the saints above have blessed me. All the money’s here!”
Shamus glanced around the shop and seeing nothing else amiss, he grabbed the broom and returned to sweep up the broken glass by the back door.
Kilcuddy Kitty cruised against the cash register, his whiskers swept back, his back arched in sheer ecstasy, patiently waiting for Shamus to return and lavish him with praise and rewards. Maybe it would be a salmon steak that sold for a whopping $.62 a pound, like the mayor’s wife bought every Friday. Several times a week, the mayor’s wife came in to buy meat. Shamus always saved back the best cuts for her, though where she got all the ration coupons she needed was a mystery, when other ladies of the town rarely had the money or coupons to spend. It was enough to give one pause…
Shamus stalked back into the shop, shaking the broom and dustpan. “So there you are, Kilcuddy, just standing about as usual, while I clean up the mess. You probably slept while the scoundrel broke my window and scampered off. What luck he didn’t rifle me shop and steal me money! You’re a worthless cat. What I need is a good watch dog.”
What? What? The injustice! Kilcuddy Kitty arched his back, hissed and puffed up his fur. He sprang off the meat counter. How unreasonable the master! How unmerited the disparagement. Hadn’t he warded off the perpetrator, jeopardized life and limb to save his person’s cash, suffered a bonk on the noggin when he was so unceremoniously pitched to the floor? Where was his praise, his parade, or even a scrap of meat in his bowl? Oh, deliver me from the unjust man!
Kilcuddy Kitty shrieked, leaped through the broken window and bounded down the back alley. And fare thee well, Shamus O’Reilly, for I’ll never darken your door again!
Every Saturday night since the burglary, Shamus sits in the local pub, whining to all who will listen. “I found the bugger’s flashlight beside the cash register. Me cat, Kilcuddy Kitty, must have scared ‘im off before he stole me money. And, now I’ve driven him away and lost me good cat.” Whereupon, Shamus cries and orders another beer. Soon his buddies tire of his whining and turn away.
They say that Kilcuddy moved in with the mayor’s wife. Every Friday, she takes another ration book from her desk drawer, pulls out the salmon coupon and takes it to Shamus’s butcher shop. If you asked Kilcuddy Kitty what he thinks about it, he’d say, “I love the salmon, but where she gets the ration books is a mystery. If you ask me, there’s something fishy going on…”