Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

  • Mood:

Poem: "Selected as Staff"

This poem was selected in an audience poll as the free epic for the May 5, 2020 Poetry Fishbowl meeting its $200 goal. It came out of the April 21, 2020 Poetry Fishbowl inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] siliconshaman. It also fills the "Nesting" square in my 4-1-20 card for the Spring Fest Bingo. It belongs to the Shiv thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

"Selected as Staff"

[Sunday, August 30, 2015]

"Fuck fuck fuck," Shiv chanted.
"Please pick up, please pick up."

"I'm here, Shiv, what's wrong?"
Mrs. Dr. G sounded worried.

"What do I do with a knocked-up cat?"
Shiv said, pacing in tight circles.
"I don't know what to do!"

"Is she having kittens
right now?" said Mrs. Dr. G.

Shiv turned around to check.
Palette was still crunching
her way through the cat food.
"No, she's eating," he said.

"Then she probably won't have
kittens today," said Mrs. Dr. G.
"Mother cats usually won't eat for
at least a few hours beforehand.
You should have some time."

"That's good, okay, I've got time ...
uh, time for what?" Shiv said.

"That depends," said Mrs. Dr. G.
"Does she belong to anyone?"

"Not anymore," Shiv said.
"First she showed up, she had
an old collar around her neck that
wore the skin raw, so I cut it off.
Been long enough it's mostly healed
except a few bare spots. I hadn't seen
her in a while, but now she's huge."

"Does she like people, or not?"
asked Mrs. Dr. G.

"Hell no," Shiv said,
laughing. "Anyone
other than me comes
around, Palette hisses
and spits at them."

"But she likes you?"
said Mrs. Dr. G.

"Yeah, I dunno why,"
Shiv said, shaking his head.
"All's I do is put food down
in the courtyard and walk away."

"That's probably why, then,"
said Mrs. Dr. G. "You feed her
and you don't try to grab her.
Is there a sheltered spot
where she can have kittens?"

Shiv walked around the courtyard.
It was just a tiny space inside
the storage building, its skylight
busted out years ago. Dead leaves
piled in the corners, but that was all.

"I think she's got kind of a flat spot
in the leaves here," he said.

"It's not ideal," said Mrs. Dr. G.
"You could make her a nest box?"

"Uh ... how?" Shiv said.

"Let me see," said Mrs. Dr. G.
"Okay, I found instructions,
sending the file now."

Shiv's phone pinged,
and he flicked the screen
to see what she'd sent him.

It was a collage of pictures with
just a few words each, showing
how to make a cat shelter from
a couple of plastic tubs.

"Normally, you should fill it
with straw, but for kittening you
want something cleaner, like rags
or a cat bed," said Mrs. Dr. G.

"We got plenty of rags," Shiv said.
"Might even have storage tubs."

"That's good," said Mrs. Dr. G.
"Most cats give birth with no trouble,
but if anything goes wrong, feel free
to call Heron, and he'll help if he can."

"He won't mind?" Shiv asked.

"He'll mind more if something
goes wrong and you don't call,"
Mrs. Dr. G said. "Especially
if it going wrong upsets you."

"I'll think about it," Shiv said.
He didn't want to bother Heron,
but he also didn't want to mess
with a mama cat and maybe
get his hand ripped off.

"Or you could call Molly,"
said Mrs. Dr. G. "She took
care of feral kittens as a project
for a couple of years in high school."

"Huh," Shiv said, suddenly wondering
if that was why he got along with Molly:
she fed him and didn't try to grab him.

"That reminds me, if you're dealing
with feral kittens, try to get them used
to you so you can find homes for
them later," said Mrs. Dr. G.

"Yeah, I'll do my -- ow ow ow!"
Shiv hopped on one foot. "Leggo,
I am not your scratching post!"

Palette meowed at him,
her claws piercing his jeans.

Mrs. Dr. G was trying not to laugh
at him, but he could hear it anyhow.

Shiv reached down with his free hand
and lifted the cat's paws enough
to unhook her needle-sharp claws.

His skin stung enough to know
that she'd left a few punctures.

Shiv shooed her gently toward
the corner with the leaf pile
that she was probably using.

"Go lie down, cat, I'll be back
in a few minutes," he said.

Then he returned his attention
to Mrs. Dr. G. "Sorry about that,
but Palette tried to climb me."

"Are you okay?" said Mrs. Dr. G.

"Other than a few pinholes,
yeah," said Shiv. "I'm gonna
go look for supplies. Thanks
for telling me what to do."

"I'm happy to help,"
said Mrs. Dr. G.

Shiv hung up and went
into the storage building
to see what he could find.

He turned up two tubs,
one with a broken latch, but
that was the smaller one
so it didn't really matter.

He checked the towels
and set aside all of them
that had some holes.

Today he could use
a couple to line the tub,
then after the kittens came,
he could put in fresh towels.

Then Shiv found a flower pot,
dumped out the old dirt, and
washed the pot in the sink.

It took a while to cut holes
in the tubs for an entrance,
fill the space with foam chips
since he didn't have any straw,
make the entrance tunnel, and
line the shelter with towels.

Shiv carried it outside
and put it in the corner.

Palette looked at it,
looked at him, and
licked her shoulder.

Shiv frowned at the tub,
wondering what was wrong.

Then he picked it up, turned it
to face the wall, and set it down
with just enough room to get in.

Palette waddled over, her belly
so big that it rocked from side
to side with every step, as if
she'd swallowed a softball.

She was mostly white,
with a few small patches
of brown and white tabby,
hence the name Palette.

Shiv watched as she
sniffed around the tub.

Then she oozed inside it.

"Shit, if you get any bigger,
you won't fit," Shiv said.

Maybe he should have used
a bigger pot, but that was
the biggest they had now,
and it was a damn gallon,
too, the deep kind.

Shiv took a picture
of the finished shelter,
scribbled, Cat inside!
and then sent that
to Mrs. Dr. G.

Mrs. Dr. G. sent back.
It looks like you have
been selected as staff

??? Shiv replied.

Dogs have owners;
cats have staff,

she explained.

Got it, Shiv sent.

"Maybe I should've
called you Boss Cat,"
Shiv said, looking at
the cat shelter.

He heard ...
something ..
from inside it.

Shiv crouched down,
carefully out of reach.

Palette was purring.

* * *


Palette -- She is a female cat, mostly white with a few small patches of orange and brown tabby. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska near Blues Moon and likes the courtyard of the storage building next door to it. She has chosen Shiv as her human staff.
Qualities: Good (+2) Alley Cat, Good (+2) Cadging Handouts, Good (+2) Fast
Poor (-2) Distrusts People (Except Shiv)

* * *

Here are visual instructions for making a feral cat shelter. For a pregnant cat, provide rags or a cat bed inside. In other cases, straw has more advantages.
Tags: crafts, cyberfunded creativity, family skills, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, safety, weblit, writing
  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.
  • 1 comment