Reading Time: 5 minutes read

Gravel crunched under tires as Ben drove up to the yellow house. “You’ve arrived at your destination,” said the disembodied voice of his GPS. He pulled his phone off the velcroed stand and checked the texts between him and Susie. They’d met on Facebook Marketplace. Susie had a cat to get rid of, and Ben had a home that desperately needed a cat.

Susie (kitten)
Text Message
Yesterday 7:43 PM

Can I get your address? I can come by tomorrow afternoon. Around 4 if that works for you
164 Honors Ave
4 is a little late, can you do 2?
Sure, see you at 2

Ben’s eyes flicked to the time in the corner of his phone: 2:14pm—just a little late. Hopefully, Susie could forgive him. 

Beside Ben, in the passenger seat, sat a cat carrier. He didn’t know how big this kitten was, so he grabbed a carrier big enough for a small dog. Surely that’d be big enough? With the carrier in hand, Ben walked up the drive to the front door. 

The yard was full of gravel, not a blade of grass to be seen. Kids toys were scattered over the gravel, a Barbie here, a stack of toy cars there. At the center of the yard was a plastic playhouse, just big enough for two toddlers. A little boy sat in the window, food or dirt smeared all over his face. He licked his lips and watched Ben, silent and vigilant. Ben gave the child a half-hearted smile.

Then he knocked on the door. Two knocks followed by a late third one. He cleared his throat and waited, shifting the carrier from one hand to the next and back again. After a small wait, the door opened and a woman stood in the doorway with another toddler clinging to her leg. The woman looked him over, then said, “You’re late.”

“Fifteen minutes,” Ben said. “I got a little lost on my way here. Took a wrong turn on Barringer.”

The woman, Susie, pushed the toddler aside and opened the door wider. “She’s in the laundry room. If you’ll follow me—” 

Ben fell into Susie’s footsteps through the house. More toys scattered the carpet in the living room, and even more on the kitchen floor. Ben heard a snap! He lifted his foot and hopped away from a broken pile of Legos. “Ah! Sorry about that!”

Susie waved him off. “I always tell them not to leave their toys lying around. That’s what happens.”

The little girl’s eyes flew wide. She gasped and screamed, “Tony, the man broke your Legos!” as she took off.

“Angela!” Susie yelled, grabbing for the girl. But Angela was quick and made it out the front door.

Susie straightened up, pushing her hair out of her face. She looked tired. “I’ll have to deal with that later,” she said. “Let’s get your cat.”

Ben walked more carefully through the rest of the house, desperate not to step on anything else lest Angela spied him breaking more toys. 

Susie stood outside a closed door, her hand on the handle. “She’s in here,” Susie said, “You’ll want to catch her quick.” Ben laughed, but Susie shook her head and opened the door. 

The kitten laid on a blanket, patting a mouse toy between her two front paws. Ben knelt down and let the cat smell his hand. “Hey, kitty. You wanna come home with me?” he said. The cat sniffed his hand, then rubbed her face on it. 

“What a sweet thing.” Ben looked up at Susie. “Will she let me pick her up?”

Susie leaned against the doorway, crossed her arms, and shrugged.

Ben frowned, but he tried. He placed his hand under the cat, ready for the claws with his other hand. When they didn’t come, he reached for the carrier and tucked the kitty in there. 

“You can take the blanket, too,” Susie said, “And the toys. I don’t need them.”

“Oh, thanks,” Ben said. He pushed the blanket into the carrier, doing his best to get it under the kitty’s feet. Then he grabbed for the toys. There was a pop! and the kitten disappeared from inside the carrier. 

Ben’s jaw dropped and he stuck his head in the carrier. He ran his hand back and forth, but couldn’t find the cat. Leaning back, the cat popped back into existence beside him, licking her paw.

“Ah yeah, she does that. It’s why I can’t keep her. I have my hands full with two kids, you know?” Susie said. 

Ben watched the cat, mouth agape. He tried to get the cat in the carrier a second time, sure his eyes had played a trick on him. Again there was a pop! and the cat sat across from Ben. She mewed and rubbed against his knees. “Well,” he said, “I guess that’s not working.” Picking the carrier up with one hand, he grabbed the cat with the other. She popped again, coming back to sit on his shoulder. Her tail curled around the back of his neck and she laid her head against his. Ben reached his hand up to pet her. 

Susie stood in the doorway, arms crossed. “Now, don’t bring her back if you can’t take her in. I don’t have the time for a blinking cat,” she said.

Ben opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came. 

“You know the way out?” Susie asked, thumbing towards the front door. Ben nodded. “Ah, good. Then if you don’t mind—” Her words trailed off and Ben got the hint.

He braced the cat with his empty hand and hurried out of the house, lest other things started blinking onto his shoulders.

Prompt: Style Exercise #2

Ben arrives in an unexpected neighborhood to collect his new kitten, bought sight unseen.
The seller, Susie, lets him in.
The kitten is not as advertised.
It will not go in its kitty carrier.