Auschwitz for cats. Sparkles sat in her cell and cringed from the sounds and smells of the place. She had to remember to give the sides of her cage a margin or the feral witches on either side of her would reach through the bars with their stiletto claws and rip chunks of fur and flesh from her. Both of her ears had been notched by the psychos when she’d stretched out in sleep and had gotten too close. There were chunks of something in a food dish, but along with a faint hint of protein was the odor of rot and no sooner than the jailers would freshen her water, the bitch neighbors would spray it. There wasn’t any room for Sparkles to move around, her cell was the size of her bed back when she lived with the Elsie. She barely remembered the Elsie, the nice large animal that fed her good food, clean water, and stayed with her in a large den with many places to sleep unthreatened. Then the day came when the Elsie animal had lay down on the floor and took on the smell of longsleep. After that all sorts of large animals came, many trying to touch her, most of them trying to talk to her but spoke gibberish much like the Elsie did. Then one of the large animals trapped her and brought her to this prison. Sparkles didn’t know why she’d been jailed but she knew she hated it.
It was hard to sleep. During the night the dogs would whimper and howl in between their stupid discussions. They were always making plans, barking orders at one another without any complying. Sparkles was certain dogs were stupid. She’d thought so since birth, but she also knew that they posed great danger and tried to avoid them. Not a difficult feat here; they were locked up too. There were other cats like her and they mostly stayed quiet, but some of them would sing mate songs. Imagine! Singing mate songs in a place like this. During the day, big animals would come and change her bedding and bring the contaminated food and fetid water. Others, strangers, would come and peer at her as she lay in her cage. The word was that they were Elsie type animals, but Sparkles didn’t believe it. They were shaped a little like Elsie but didn’t look or smell like her at all. As time went by, Sparkles felt an ominous presence. It was like an invisible threat that seemed to grow the longer she was jailed. She also notices that her fellow prisoners disappeared from time to time with no explanation. They’d just be gone.
Sparkles had no idea how much time had passed. She only knew it had been a long, long time. She was losing weight and her fur was becoming matted or thin is spots. She was depressed all the time and tried to spend as much time sleeping as she could. The only part of her stay that held any interest for her was when they took her to mix place. This was where the big animals that gave them food and water would place them with other cats and dogs. She thought it was some sort of test, as if they wanted to see if the animals might get along. But everyone was too nervous to try to socialize. When they were taken to the mix room they passed through the big room. That was where the front door was and on some days the big door was wide open and Sparkles could see and smell the world the way it used to be as she was carried through the room. It made her long for her old home and the care of Elsie.
One day some of the large visiting animals stood outside her cell looking at her for a while. There was a male and a female, and what was obviously a kit. They looked at Sparkles and reached in to pet her, but Sparkles flinched away, unsure of what was happening. Then one of the big care animals came and took Sparkles from her cage and carried her into the big room. The visitor animals and their kit was there but Sparkles was more intent on the front door. It was wide open again, the attracting smells and sounds of the outside world beckoning. In a sudden move, Sparkles jumped from the arms of the care animal and dashed out through the big door to freedom. Exhilarated and terrified at the same time, Sparkles tore down the side of the street. She flinched as the big machines moved on the roads, noisy and belching a thin smoke that burned the cat’s eyes and nose, and overwhelmed her sense of smell. Ahead she saw a human animal coming her way and fearing it was a care animal, she darted to her right to cross the street. She heard the shriek of skidding rubber and caught a whiff of burning odor just before she felt a heavy blow to her body and head. The world went from brightness to dark in an instant.
Sparkles felt pain. She wakened and opened her eyes and peered around herself, at least as much as she could without getting up. Just swiveling her neck brought waves of pain atop her already aching body. Taking stock, she was in a kind of bed that cradled her. There was a lightweight blanket that covered her and made her feel snug, but she worried that it might get in the way if she had to run quickly to avoid a predator. As she came more awake she realized that she was not alone in the room. He whiskers vibrated with the fine air movements triggered by someone or something moving. Plus she could hear breathing and a repetitious noise.
Sitting in a rocking chair, Marge Connors sat with her knitting in hand. She was making a pot holder. Not for any great need, she didn’t cook much since her husband died five years earlier. She did it to pass the time while she sat and thought about the good old days of her youth. She looked up from her work. “Ah!” she said aloud. “I see that you’re awake.” Marge braced her hands on the arms of the rocking chair and hefted her slight body to her feet.
The cat eyed Marge warily. She sensed no malice in the person, but she’d be vigilant. The woman came over to where the cat lay, taking short and slow steps. Sparkles winced as the woman reached towards her, but relaxed as the woman gently pet her in slow strokes. Carefully, Sparkles collected herself the stand. The effort made her wince from the pain she felt all over, but she managed to get to her feet. Marge stayed till and watched her, making tsk-tsk noises as she saw the obvious pain in the cat’s movements. Marge stood erect and walked back to her rocker and retook her seat, Sparkles watched this with a growing sense of relief. Her confidence rising, the cat stepped from the soft little bed and began to investigate her surroundings. She found a lot of similarities between Marge’s home and the one the Ellie animal kept.
Marge occasionally looked up from her knitting to look at the cat. It seemed to be doing a lot better since, coming home from the store two days ago, she found it laying on the side of the road. The cat was unconscious and was having a hard time breathing, and Marge had carefully picked the cat up, bundled it in her scarf and set it in the two wheeled carrier she used to carry groceries from the store. She would have liked to call a vet and have the cat seen to, but she simply couldn’t afford it. She lived on Social Security and the tiny pension left behind by her late husband. If she was very careful, she could just squeeze by from month to month. At home she’d made a bed for the cat with an old cushion and a couple of old towels. Then she watched and wait to see if the cat improved. Optimistic, she placed a tin of water and a little bit of cooked hamburger in a dish next to the cat but so far the cat hadn’t wakened to eat or drink. Marge took pleasure that now the cat had looked around a bit and was gently lapping some of the water from the tin.
The cat finished drinking, and its body loosening as she moved around was beginning to feel better. Marge smiled widely when the cat, finished with her drink, came over to the chair and hopped into her lap. It purred as she stroked its fur. ”Everything always seems to work out.” said Marge.