Summer Short Story #10
(Prompt: Use the Ugly Duckling story structure. Write of obstacles and your character never giving up. Arrange an experience of happiness/life changing moment following. End with a balance to the negative obstacles. Perhaps, deconstruct or negate them for resolution to obtain a seesaw effect. Use “jeopardize” per the Daily Post prompt.)
Penny was a bitty kitty, the kind of bitty kitty most people simply call a runt. She certainly was a diminutive thing, even for such small a creature–as newborn kittens tend to be. Her sire’s grandmother had supposedly been a champion specimen at the Supreme Cat Show or some similar feline pageantry. By the looks of Penny, though, such distinctions mattered little. Champion traits had been inherited haphazardly so it would seem.
Her litter mates thought little of her. The seething mass of suckling fur had no patience for its little sister. Indeed, she’d gone without many a meal. Penny couldn’t understand why their mother never interjected. She seemed content to merely lay there and sweep her tail in preoccupied fashion.
If mother cat had nothing to say, then the madam of the house was positively loquacious in comparison. She went on and on about Penny’s misfortunes… or rather, her misfortune having one less animal to display at the shows.
“She’ll not amount to much. What with her coloring… She’d jeopardize the reputation of our stock.”
Penny was not an ordinary black cat, you see. To add company to the misery of her size, she’d gone and had herself born with a patch near the left ear–marring her inky silhouette.
Finally, one morning, she heard, “George, she won’t do. Just take her away.”
… and Penny found herself plunged into a cloth sack and dumped in an alley quite far from what the madam called “home,” she was quite sure. Though tiny, she had quite the fierce cry. So Penny called to any and all who would hear. She was hungry and would dearly love a drop of milk. No one came, but rainwater gave her a little more strength to linger, just enough to pad away from the damp alley and into the street side.
Loud and large, everything loomed, making Penny huddle against a building facade. She stayed there the day, mewing and trailing the sides of the building.
“Little bird, where is mother?”
A great pair of soot stained eyes peered at Penny, but the kitten didn’t understand–since the language of cats and ravens differ greatly. The two birds hopped in agitation and spoke at length, but still the mystery of their oddly feathered discovery persisted.
Eventually, a third joined to form a trio and said, “That is a cat.” It peered even closer and exclaimed, “It needs mother.”
But there were no mother cats to be found, so the trio found the next best thing.
The wind had plucked the bowler from a man’s head. He had silver hair, and the ravens liked shiny things. They’d also liked the little cat, whom they’d thought an oddly feathered sister. So one of the great black birds swept the hat further–dropping it upon Penny’s own head. It cut the damp from the air considerably, and Penny tried to speak her thanks. Almost immediately, however, her newfound source of warmth was whisked away–and she bodily with it!
Penny cried. It was almost too much, nearly unbearable. She’d already been thrown away once before.
“Oh! What is this?”
The man–a well-kept, kindly sort of older gentleman–saw that his hat was occupied. Brushing a tentative finger over the fluff he spied, he whispered, “Aren’t you in a dreadful state, poor thing.”
Carrying his hat a bit more carefully and dispensing with the the notion that it would soon again adorn his head this trip, he walked the rest of the way to his home.
“You’ve been tossed or, perhaps, lost. Either way, you’ll now have a place with me.”
Finer words did not exist, and Penny mewed in delight. Being thrown away like so much garbage had been bewildering and unkind.
“What should I call you?”
He was silent for some time, cleaning her in the careful way of his profession. His hands were efficient and methodical, those of a doctor.
“You, my tiny dear, are an intriguing surprise. Look at this splash of color!”
Indeed, the doctor found her near-solid state enhanced by the tortoiseshell embellishment, and it caused the kitten to purr.
Drying the tiny blot of a cat, he said, “I bet you’ve some tales, in the streets with crows for companions… ah no, not crows. They were ravens. Of course, ravens–even more Gothic.”
Seating her upon his lap with a small towel and milk, he thought to see if she would drink. Certainly, she was yet too slight for a saucer, and his idea proved a great success. Penny drank her fill for once in her short life, thus far.
“I think you’ll be my penny dreadful. Would you like that?”
Penny did not answer, too sleepy and finally content.