My First Life by Mollie Bailey
A small room with dimmed lighting and warm muted tones. A big, round, rug with frayed edges lies on the scraped hardwood floor. A loveseat with scratched and torn arm rests sits against the back wall. On the wall hangs several black and white photographs; the largest one frames an elderly couple in embrace, another frames a young man in military uniform. A rocking chair sits to the right.
I prefer to take things easy. When all you would ever need is handed to you, no effort is needed anyway. Some may call it “lazy.” I call it “living the life.” Sleep. Wake up. Bathe. Lay around until that old clock starts singing. Prance your way to the kitchen. Gobble up all that tuna or chicken in that metal can. Find your way back to the rug. Fall asleep again. Wake up. Maybe use that little box full of dirt. Bathe yourself again. Repeat.
My short life wasn’t always this easy. I used to live out there, where the trees lose their leaves and the wind ruffles my fur. I used to have friends. Well, one friend. We use to look for food and run from dogs together. I called him Shoo. I didn’t name him, but humans with brooms did. I don’t think they liked us very much. Giant metal boxes always had the best food, but they were too high for me to jump into. Shoo was a better jumper than I, so he always did most of the work. We used to sleep under a deck that would creek in the mornings. One time, I heard a creek, woke up, and Shoo was gone. He wasn’t curled up next to me, he wasn’t by the big metal box, he wasn’t… well, anywhere. I like to think someone found him, took him home, and gave him an endless supply of food. From then on, I had to find my own food, fight off mean dogs all on my own, and find my own place to sleep. As for food, rodents were the easier target. They were lower to the ground. They weren’t easy to catch, but I made it work. They also weren’t as tasty as stuff from those metal cans.
One day, I heard some rustling in the black plastic bags next to where I was napping. Squeak, squeak. It was a mouse! I sniffed around and there it was! We locked eyes for a moment and he scurried off faster than lightning in the sky. I could run faster. I bolted after him, using every muscle in all four legs. It had been a while since I’d eaten, but I was still strong. His little legs were so quick, it looked like he was sliding across the slick black pavement like a tiny penguin. I sped up, my legs propelling myself forward. My eyes were locked onto the little mouse, tracking his every move, every turn, every wince, every halt. Halt. He stopped! Now was my chance. My hind legs thrusted up and I was ready to lunge onto him and sink my teeth. Suddenly, the whiteness of his body against the black concrete disappeared, a bright, blinding light drowning him out. I turned, two bright circles shined through my eyes, getting bigger and bigger. A loud screech echoes through the alley, piercing my down turned ears. Then, darkness.
And that’s how I got here. I woke up with big blue eyes staring back at me, a smile growing under them. Then the woman placed her wrinkly hand on my head and I jumped back, backing myself into the wall behind me. “No, no, it’s okay.” She told me. She held her hand out, holding a small slice of meat. I licked her hand clean, then she stroked my fur. I couldn’t help but purr. I felt so warm. I remember it like yesterday, but that was a long time ago. Shortly after, she started calling me “Norman.” I thought it was strange at first, but I got used to it. All the humans in the houses near ours called their cats “whiskers,” “spot,” or even “fluffy,” and mine sounded a bit too sophisticated. It grew on me.
Dong. Dong. Dong. Welp, looks like it’s feeding time. The kitchen isn’t too far, just a little stroll down the hallway. I’ll let out a few meows to let my human know I’m ready for food. My stomach hasn’t been filled up for quite a while. This walk to the kitchen has always been my favorite. My mouth begins to fill with saliva until I finally get to chomp down on something tasty. Oh look, no food. Again. Just that same old empty can that I finished off last week. This time there’s a few flies lingering around it, one of them is all shriveled up and stuck in the corner. I’ll clean that up if I don’t get my food in the next hour or so. My human usually opens a new can of fresh food within minutes of me crying out for her. She hasn’t done that in a while. Oh well. I should take a nap, and when I wake, there will be something to eat waiting for me. Yeah. Good idea.
(The lights dim and turn off a moment, then slowly turn back on)
Good morning. Well, afternoon I guess. Still no food. That’s weird. My human still hasn’t fed me. Maybe she went out to buy more. I should check the room where she sleeps. I still don’t smell anything cooking. That’s also weird. Humans got to eat too, right?
Oh. I guess she’s still sleeping. That’s what she was doing last time I checked up on her. That was yesterday. She was doing the same thing many yesterday’s ago, too. Maybe humans are like bears, they have to sleep for a long time when it starts snowing. Except, I haven’t seen snow outside that window for ages. Hmm. Humans are weird.
Mollie Bailey is a current Freshman at Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah. She is majoring in English with an emphasis on creative writing. She grew up in Spanish Fork, Utah, has enjoyed writing short stories since her first years in Elementary School and is looking forward to a career in writing and editing. This is her first publication in a national journal.