By Nicole Angeleen
Emma was in the kitchen, painting the refrigerator and dishwasher with peanut butter and minding her own business, when she heard a soft scratching at the back door.
Curious, Emma abandoned her amazing art project and went to investigate. Beyond the storm door was absolutely the most awesome cat in the world. It had silver fur with black spots, like a glittery cheetah, and its yellow eyes sparkled in the sunlight. It was small, just a kitten, and it looked up at Emma with expectant hope as it pawed at the screen.
How could any three-year-old resist? She gleefully threw open the door and grabbed the kitten. It snuggled against Emma’s neck, purring like a car engine. Emma ran out of the kitchen, through the living room, down the hallway, and into the nursery where her mother was feeding her new baby sister.
“Mommy, Mommy, look!” Emma exclaimed. “The kitty came to live with us!”
Her mom said, “Oh, Em, no. Wait. What the-why are you and the cat covered in peanut butter?”
“I’M NAMING IT JUNIOR TINY FLUFFY AND YOU CAN’T TAKE IT AWAY!” Emma screamed.
Her mom buttoned her shirt and placed her new baby sister in the cradle. Then she shooed Emma and her new best friend out of the nursery, down the hall, through the living room, and into the kitchen. She took the kitten out of Emma’s hands and tossed it gently out the back door.
Emma threw herself on the floor. It was the only way. If she screeched loud enough and long enough, she usually got what she wanted. She began pounding her hands and feet against the tile and wailing so loud the pictures on the walls began to shake.
When her mother didn’t immediately react, she risked a peek and discovered her mom kneeling in front of the refrigerator, scrubbing away the peanut butter. She looked sad, so Emma stopped screaming. Normally her mom just rolled her eyes or sighed really loud, sometimes she put her in time-out, but she was hardly ever sad.
“Why can’t I have the kitty?”
Her mother carried her to the bathroom, where she stripped her out of the peanut buttered clothes and put her in the tub. “I know you want a pet, but your baby sister is allergic. Having cats or dogs around makes her very, very sick.”
Emma pouted for the rest of the day and all night long. Before Audrey arrived, she was so excited about getting a baby sister. She thought they’d be able to play dolls, go ice skating, dress up like superheroes, and tackle their dad while he was watching sports. She wanted a best friend. Instead, Audrey was just a baby who cried and pooped and didn’t do anything fun. She was all right, as far as babies went, but she was boring. On top of all that, her dumb baby sister was now the reason why she couldn’t keep Junior Tiny Fluffy, the raddest kitten on the planet.
The day after she met the kitty, Emma was in the kitchen again, this time conducting an important summit of her stuffed animals-a bunny, a raccoon, a puppy, a fawn, and a teddy bear-when she heard the familiar rattling of the door. She opened it, and sure enough, there was the pretty marbled kitty. This time, it brought an interesting gift.
Emma called for her mother and showed her what was on the back porch. Junior Tiny Fluffy had a dead mouse in its mouth. Her mother explained that the kitty was trying to show them what a good little hunter it was.
“If we kept it, maybe it would kill all the spiders in the basement,” Emma said. If anything would convince her mother to keep the cat, it was the eradication of spiders. Her mom did not like spiders, she said killing them was Daddy’s job. Once she even said (in an outdoor voice) The only reason I keep you around is because you kill the spiders!
“The kitten’s so pretty, I would love to keep it, but Audrey is allergic. I’m sorry, Em.”
Emma wasn’t even sure why the cat wanted to live with them. She was sick of being cooped up in the house with her mom and whiny baby sister, and it would be nice to have a friend.
The next day, Emma made sure she was playing in the kitchen in the afternoon, and she was thrilled when the kitten began pawing at the door again. Today, Junior Tiny Fluffy brought a dead rabbit. This was no ordinary bunny, it was a snowshoe hare twice the size of the cat. She dropped the jackrabbit onto the porch and gazed up at Emma.
As she stared out at the kitty in awe, her father walked into the kitchen and glanced out the door. “That cat is a psychopath.”
“It’s my friend,” Emma mumbled as her dad disposed of the hare. She squeezed her stuffed bunny and tried not to cry. She wanted Junior Tiny Fluffy to be hers worse than she’d ever wanted anything. “If we got rid of Audrey, we could keep the cat.”
Her dad said, “Being a big sister is a thankless job, fraught with sacrifice.”
He was so bizarre.
Emma was excited the following afternoon, she knew the kitty would come back. Sure enough, just after lunch, her mother was in the nursery feeding Audrey when the kitty began scratching at the door.
On the other side of the door, Junior Tiny Fluffy had a mischievous grin on its face. It was standing behind a disgusting dead opossum. Emma’s stuffed raccoon also stared out the door in shock. When her mom came into the kitchen, she gasped at the scene and shooed the cat away. Emma watched as she used paper towels to pick up the carcass of the opossum and toss it into the woods behind the house. When she came back, she mumbled, “That cat is a menace.”
That night, Audrey screamed all night long. She screamed into the morning, through lunch, and into the afternoon. Emma’s mom put earmuffs on her head and plugged her own ears, but there was no tuning out the insufferable howling of her baby sister. At one point, Emma sat down on the living room floor and just started screaming at the top of her own lungs. She didn’t know what else to do.
Her mother scolded her. “Audrey’s a baby, she can’t help it. You’re my big girl, and if you scream like that one more time, I’m taking away all your stuffed animals and Mommy’s going to lose her mind.”
Emma pulled her stuffed doggie over her head and yelled, “That baby is a menace!”
Early in the afternoon, Audrey finally fell asleep, and both Emma and her mother were thrilled at the silence. She asked if she could paint in the kitchen, so her mom set up her supplies then laid down on the kitchen floor with a cold towel across her forehead. It was a little strange, but Emma was glad to be painting and thankful for the quiet, so she didn’t ask her weirdo mom what was wrong.
As she was painting wide rays of sunshine over the canvas and across the glass topped table, there was a soft patter at the back door. Emma tossed the paintbrush onto the cabinet and went to investigate. She knew she would find Junior Tiny Fluffy, but what the kitty had with it made Emma yelp in horror.
Emma’s mom didn’t even open her eyes. “Sit down and paint, Em.”
“But Mommy, look.”
Her mother got up off the floor, walked to the door, and let out a shriek almost identical to Emma’s.
“It’s a doggie, but it doesn’t look like my puppy,” she said, holding her stuffed dog tightly. “It’s scary.”
“It’s a coyote,” her mom said. “I can’t tell if that cat is bringing us presents or holding us prisoner.”
The kitten stood atop the dead coyote, licking blood off its paws. It glanced at Emma and let out a plaintive mewl. It wanted to come inside, it wanted to be her kitty. It was bringing her all these presents, it just wanted a family.
Emma’s mom shut the door, her face was white as a sheet. She said, “I think we’ll pretend that’s a spider and let Daddy take care of it when he gets home.”
Another day came, another morning spent anticipating the kitty’s arrival. Emma was now certain Junior Tiny Fluffy would come every day, bringing her increasingly impressive gifts, until the family accepted it as one of their own. That was fine by Emma. She couldn’t wait to see what the cat brought next.
One day, Audrey fell asleep early, so Emma’s mother was coloring in the kitchen with her when the familiar pawing came at the back door. Emma sprinted to it, and over her mother’s loud objections, she flung open the door.
Unbelievably, there stood Junior Tiny Fluffy, its silver fur and black spots gleaming, yellow eyes wide and pleased, standing atop the body of a moose. The moose had antlers that were almost as big as the entire porch, it was about a billion times larger than the kitten, yet somehow it managed to bring the moose to their doorstep and present it to the family the kitty wanted to make its own.
For once, her mom was speechless. She stood there gawking, her mouth open wide, but no sound came out. Emma cradled her stuffed fawn, and she just knew Junior Tiny Fluffy was trying to bring all her favorite animals to her as best it could.
“Please, Mommy, puh-leaze can we keep her?”
Wordlessly, her mother shut the door. Emma decided the next time Junior Tiny Fluffy came, she would run away to live in the woods with the cat. The kitty seemed to be the only one who cared if she was happy, anyway.
The next day after lunch, Audrey was snoozing in a little seat on the floor as Emma explained to her teddy bear how desperate she was for the kitten. Her mother said, “Can you be a very good girl in here for three minutes while I go downstairs to put the clothes in the washing machine?”
Emma promised she would be good, and that was the plan, three minutes didn’t seem like a long time, but as soon as her mother left the room, she heard the kitty begin clamoring outside the door. Today, her begging was urgent, frantic, panicked. Emma flung open the door, and Junior Tiny Fluffy rushed inside.
Close behind, a bear was chasing after its marbled tail. The bear was growling, its head down, charging after the kitten, ready to tear through the kitchen and eat them all!
There was no time to lose. Emma knew she only had one weapon at her disposal that could possibly protect them from such a fearsome beast.
There was just one thing her baby sister was good for. She lifted Audrey over her head and pointed her at the bear. Then Emma opened her mouth and started screaming at the top of her lungs. Audrey loved to scream and looked for any old excuse to do it, so she quickly did the same, and soon the two of them were screaming so loud, the plates in the cabinet began shaking. Even Junior Tiny Fluffy, small as it was, added its own kitty-cat yowls.
The sounds of their screams were so bone-chilling, so deafening, so disturbing to the core, the bear stopped abruptly. It put its massive paws over its ears and whined in pain. Emma kept screaming, and her baby sister’s tireless lungs finally came in handy. Audrey got louder and louder, and the bear decided eating all of them for lunch wasn’t worth this much hassle. It stumbled backwards, down the stairs of the porch, and back into the woods.
Emma’s mom came barreling into the kitchen. She saw the bear just outside and slammed the door shut. She swept both her daughters into her arms and held them tight, saying soft Mommy words until they both stopped screaming. When they all calmed down, Emma’s mom looked down at the kitten.
Junior Tiny Fluffy stood patiently, the eager hope ever present in its eyes.
Emma’s mom said, “All right. I give. I’ll put a kitty door in the garage, and it can come in and out. Just into the garage, not the house. That’s the rule. Em, congratulations. Say hello to your new kitty.”
Emma’s heart soared! She took Junior Tiny Fluffy into her arms and twirled it around. Junior Tiny Fluffy licked her cheek and purred against her neck.
Emma said, “Don’t worry, Junior Tiny Fluffy. Next time, you’ll get that bear!”
The kitty licked its nose and smiled.