Found inspiration for this story while on a walk in December.
Estimated reading time: 2 minutes
Annika met Jack at the corner store when she stopped to pick up a pack and smoke one before continuing her walk.
White paint flaked along the top tube and fork, revealing what was once a black bike. Jack kicked the stand and soothed the mewing backpack he slipped off his shoulders. “It’s ok, babies. Daddy’s gonna get us some food.” He set the screened pack on the ground, and a black face peered at Annika through the mesh.
“Pretty kittens,” she said, smoke trickling out her nose and over her chin. “Cute.”
Jack grinned. “They look like cats. They do. But they’re rabbits.”
The kitten squeaked, green eyes bright.
“Oh yea?” Perhaps a rabbit rode in the pack too, although Annika couldn’t see further into the shadowed interior.
“Wanna look?” Jack unzipped the top. “This one’s a rabbit.” He pulled the kitten out and set it down on the pavement. It half-crouched as a car passed before scampering under the red pickup parked in front of the ice bin. “She’s not hopping now, but she usually does.”
Non-skid black shoes slick from old grease clomped as he followed her, and he scooped the kitten up from the other side of the pickup. “It’s ok, baby.” Cradling her against sun and sweat-stained T, Jack kissed the kitten’s head. “Don’t be afraid.” Once he settled her safely within the pack, he straightened.
“Very rare. Worth about six thousand. From China.” Jack scratched his beard. “Her mom is a ring-tailed Tibetan long-tailed short-tailed werecat.”
“Werecat?” Cigarette spent, Annika ground the nub against concrete and tossed it toward the ashtray on top of the trashcan. It bounced off and fell behind.
“Oh yea. They’re making all sorts of insane creatures in China. I’ve seen some of it on the Internet. They’ve brought back the dire wolf, you know. Freaky thing. These’re her brothers.” Unzipping another compartment, Jack brandished two more kittens, one the color of a Siamese without the profile, the other a light orange tabby. “Very rare. Worth six thousand apiece.”
Surely, he wasn’t going to release these ones just to chase—
Jack set them down, and they dashed behind the dumpster.
“Come here, boys.” Jack ran after them. “They’re trained. I’ve got them trained,” he called from the other side of the truck. “Come here, boys.”
The black kitten gave Annika a knowing look.
“They look like cats.” Jack reappeared, a kitten tucked under each arm, “but they’re rabbits.”
“Ring-tailed Tibetan long-tailed short-tails.”
“Interesting. But these ones do have long tails.”
“Right, right, because they’re long-tailed short-tails.”
Annika bit her tongue. “Hey, that’s really cool.” Should she retrieve the cigarette butt? But a quick glance behind the can told her she wouldn’t be able to tell which was hers. “They’re really pretty.”
“I love them.”
A mile farther, the wind turned cold. Annika tugged her sleeves over her hands, pinning them between fingertips and palms.
Jack and the werecats would be warmer together.
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