It’s Friday so I figured I’d better give Max something to do over the weekend. This time I actually managed to hit (exactly) the 750 words I was trying for. Critiques are appreciated, leave them in the comments. Enjoy!
Max shuddered as he watched the yellow canary flap it’s wings a few final times before falling to the bottom of a large clear-plastic cube. Dead.
Max chanced a glance at Ms. Pine, but if this was strange or out of the ordinary, he saw no shock or horror touch her expression. Her eyes remained green and sharp behind her plastic face shield.
Max was beginning to enjoy these cryptic notes from Ms. Pine, but he had to admit, this was the most mysterious yet. All it had said was:
Available to cat sit this weekend? Bring PPE.
Finally, a sandy brown and white cat emerged from a cardboard structure near the back of the large cube. A few balls of yarn, some mouse shaped stuffed animals, what appeared to be a scratching post summed up the cube’s remaining contents.
Max looked on in horror as the cat proceeded to spit a purple liquid onto the canary, wait a few seconds, and then pick it up in its mouth and carry it back into the cardboard structure.
“Sphinxy will get two of those a day.” Ms. Pine said, before rambling off a long list of particulars. “Always wear your respirator”, “he’s protective of the litter box” and “the slime is a dermatoxin” stood out as unusual but the rest seemed manageable.
“You can suit up over there,” she said, gesturing to the bathroom with a glove covered hand. “I’ll be on my way then. Thank you. And Max? Don’t forget to play with him a bit. It’ll all go much easier.”
And then Ms. Pine was gone.
Max fed Sphinxy the canaries in the morning. He read Ms. Pine’s magazines. Once, on the way back from relieving himself, he squatted down so he was level with Sphinxy. The cat made a noise that was more akin to a lion’s roar then a cat’s meow, and then left to lay within his cardboard structure. Max couldn’t help but notice he lay right next to the litter box.
The next day, when Max suited up – gown, gloves, face shield and respirator – he found himself loathe to enter the cube. What kind of animal spit dermatoxins anyway?
But Sphinxy seemed to show no interest in him whatsoever, instead content to drag his claws down the side of the scratching post. When Max picked up the cardboard structure, there was still no reaction from Sphinxy.
But as soon as he stretched his hand towards the litter box, the lion’s roar sounded again, and Max found his entire face shield covered in the purple mucous. Trying to wipe it off simply smeared it along the shield; he couldn’t see a thing.
Max took off the mask and turned to Sphinxy. The cat just licked its paws as if nothing were amiss. When Max reached for the litter box again, Sphinxy dove through the air heading straight for his face.
Thankfully, Max was wearing the respirator, otherwise he would have been literally up to his eyeballs in claw marks. However, when Max began to have trouble breathing, he knew that his face hadn’t been the target. The respirator was broken.
Max began to hyperventilate. What had Ms. Pine said to do if this happened? She hadn’t! What had she said? Somehow all that came to mind was “Don’t forget to play with him a bit. It’ll all go much easier.”
Max reached for one of the stuffed mice, struggling to get air inside his lungs. Suddenly he had Sphinxy’s attention again. Max waived the mouse up and down, pretending to hop it across the cube. Sphinxy pounced but it was different from before. It was playful.
Max kept at it a few more minutes, as long as he could, his lungs burning and his vision starting to spot. When he finally stopped, he reached one hand towards the litter box. Sphinxy’s eyes darted towards him, but then went back to playing with the mice.
Max emptied the litter, and put it back in its place. When Ms. Pine finally returned, Max was seated on the floor in front of the cube, playing with Sphinxy through the plastic.
Max waived goodbye to Ms. Pine and stowed a smaller version of the clear plastic cube under his gown and gloves. When he was well out of site, he dropped the PPE to the ground and opened the cube. A yellow canary beat its wings for the first time in months, and flew off into the sky. Alive.