The calming tones of bosso nova music wafted up the stairs from the living room until they reached my ears and had begun to dance around inside my little brain. My soul listened with such intense pleasure to the point where I couldn’t resist the urge to shake my head to the music of Tom Jobin. I was definitely in my own world, that is until I heard the unmistakable squeak of stairs protesting the weight of someone climbing up them.
It wasn’t a pitter patter sound, which could only mean one thing. Before I could say a word a brown head adorned with floppy ears and a tongue hanging out the side of its mouth crept around the corner to peak into the room.
“Hi Cindee,” I greeted the big brown dog.
Even though the labrador mix and I didn’t always have the best relationship, there were those fleeting moments where we got along just fine. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that we didn’t get along, it’s just that Cindee can be a little rambunctious when it comes to play time. Truth be told, she is so big that I find myself being a little nervous that she will forget we are playing and try to eat me.
“Hi Bella, what are you up to?” the dog asked in a calm even tone. I could not certain, but I think the music was putting her into a relaxed mood as well.
“Not too much, just thinking,” I answered.
“What are you thinking about?”
We were interrupted by a big orange cat with a deep Cuban accent and mellow sing song kind of tone? The big cat’s eyes were all aglow as both he and Cindee hopped up on the bed next to me.
“Hey Rapi,” I purred.
The ginger haired feline looked at me, letting his lips curl into a smile, which only further emphasized his chubby cheeks and white whiskers.
“Yeah what?” a nasally voice cut through the air and stifled the mood. We all turned to see a small tuxedo cat standing in the doorway. I shook my head. So much for a relaxing evening of music and memories I thought to myself.
“Actually Yehudi,” I said looking into the black cats deep green eyes, “ I was just thinking about my family. My cat family, I mean,” I added, for clarification, after all, these guys were my family now.
“Next week will be my tenth anniversary here and I was just wondering what happened to my brothers,” I said, baring my heart a little to them. I tried to remain upbeat, but it was obvious that they were able to read my body language. There was no way to hide my sorrow.
“Don’t you know what happened to them? I mean, weren’t they adopted too?” Cindee asked. She wore a perplexed look on her face and I could tell she had a million questions but her good manners forced her to keep them to herself.
“No,” I said, shaking my head.
“It was the Kitty Keeper,” I told them.
“The Kitty Keeper?” the big orange cat asked, a look of horror crept into his features as he pondered my confession.
“What is the Kitty Keeper?” Cindee asked.
“You don’t know? Sit down, and I will tell you!”
Once upon a time, in a land far far away, called Miami. I was third childe born to a grey and white cat and her calico husband. We lived modestly in a field of tall grass near an office park.
I had two brothers named Iggy and Jerome, who both looked more like papa, at least that is what mamma said. I don’t really know for sure, because papa was almost always away on business, and honestly, I can’t remember what he looked like. I, on the other hand, was a spitting image of my momma.
Those were good times, and one day was always like the next. The sun would would rise and people would come and crowd into the buildings. It would be noisy for fifteen minutes then quite for the rest of the day. My brothers and I would spend the day running around playing in the grass, while Momma would go out hunting for food. Every afternoon, the rains would come and we would go to a hiding spot under a set of bushes to keep dry. As soon as the rain would stop the people would come out making a lot of noise on their way home for the day.
One day, Momma gathered us together under the trees and sat us down and told us all about humans.
“Be very careful around them,” she started to tell us. I listened intently, but my brothers not so much. They kept goofing around, Iggy would poke Jerome then they would both break out into the giggles.
“Listen to me boys!” Momma would yell at them to get their attention, and it seemed to work, but only temporarily.
“The humans will try to be your friend. They will bring you food and try to touch you. ‘Trust me’ they will say, but don’t trust them. They are just trying to trick you. Sooner or later, they will turn you into the Kitty Keeper.” She said, with a serious scowl on her face.
“Who is the Kitty Keeper?” I asked with a gulp.
“The Kitty Keeper is the monster that the humans call after they have tricked you. The Kitty Keeper will come when you least expect it. The Keeper will convince you that he is your friend. It starts with food, then it turns to petting, and just when you trust the Kitty Keeper, pow! He will snatch you and take you away from your family and friends.” Momma said with a threateningly serious tone to her voice.
“What happens when the Kitty Keeper gets you?” I squeaked.
“Your Uncle Greyson is the only cat that I know of that was caught by the Kitty Keeper and escaped. He was never the same when he came back,” Momma said with a far off look on her face.
“Momma, I am scared” I squealed.
“You should be. They cut off the tip of his ear and did other things to him. He was distant and lost all interest in having a social life. Poor cat,” Mamma tsked.
A raindrop fell from the sky and landed right on the tip of my nose.
“Take cover kids,” Momma yelled, just as the sky opened and the afternoon deluge of rain began.
“Yikes! That sounds pretty painful,” Rapi said with a half groan, sweat formed on his brow. I couldn’t help but giggle at him.
“This Kitty Keeper person sounds like a real jerk!” Cindee growled.
“He is,” I found myself agreeing with the dog.
“If he comes near any of you, I will bite him,” CIndee promised. I felt relief, and for a moment, a little surprised. I didn’t know that the big brown dog cared about me enough to protect me. Rapi stood and ambled over to Cindee and gently mashed his body against hers in gratitude.
I glanced over at Yehudi who was sitting still and staring back at me with a bewildered expression on her visage. I studied her a moment longer before questioning her.
“What’s wrong Yehudi?” I asked.
“I don’t really know,” the black cat replied.
“There is something about this Kitty Keeper that is bothering me,” Yehudi added thoughtfully.
“Maybe it’s that he is a catnapper,” the orange cat added, slightly irritated by the thought of the Kitty Keeper.
“Maybe,” Yehudi agreed.
Everyone fell silent, and looked to me, waiting for me to continue my tale.
The rain had subsided, and the sun was peeking out from behind a big white puffy cloud that had slowly been swimming across the sky. A rainbow stretched across the blue dome overhead. It was one of the prettiest things I had ever seen.
I curled up to Momma. who looked down into my face and smiled. Oh my, she had the most wonderful look in her eyes. A moment later, she began to groom me. I must admit, I simply loved the feel of her rough tongue running through my hairs. It was so relaxing and calming. I swear, it was a feeling that I would never forget for as long as I lived.
It didn’t take long before I found myself heavy lidded and on the verge of sleep. My muscles had just relaxed when a rustling in the grass stirred me back to wakefulness. My eyes popped open in time to see a giant metal box fall from the sky, landing gently on the ground less than ten feet in front of us.
“Scatter!” Momma yelled. We all ran in different directions to find little hiding places that we could duck in for cover.
I hid behind a tall palm tree with my eyes closed and willed myself to keep still. Time passed, but at a crawl. Minutes seemed like hours. Unable to tame my curiosity I opened my eyes and peered around the base of the tree, hoping to catch a glimpse of what was happening.
The metal box was still sitting there. The most delicious smell of tuna was coming from it. My tummy grumbled loudly and for a second, I was afraid the noise had given me away. I inched forward so I could get a better look at the box and was surprised to see Momma sniffing around the opening.
I watched wide eyed as she put a paw inside. Nothing happened. I took a deep breath and held it while she tiptoed into the box. She stopped and looked around, then put her nose to the ground and slowly edged forward. At the end was a tissue with mouthwatering morsels of yumminess piled on it. Momma was just about there. She must be going to grab it and bring it back home for us for dinner.
The mouth on the metal box slammed shut swallowing Momma up. She was trapped inside, unable to escape.
A big blanket fell over the box, then both the blanket and box began to rise off the ground. Momma was yelling. The last words she would ever say to us were …
“It’s the Kitty Keeper! Stay safe my little ones! I love you!”
A silent hush fell over the field. Momma was gone. The world went blurry. I whimpered quietly. I was just about to come out of hiding to find my brothers when another giant box fell from the sky.
“That son of a …”
“Don’t say it,” Cindee warned the orange cat.
“Sorry, but that Kitty Keeper makes me so mad!” he grumbled, obviously shaken.
“Yeah,” Yehudi agreed, her voice trailing off, one eye bigger than the other and one brow up. She looked a little deranged.
“I am so glad there is no Doggy Keeper,” Cindee said, her eyes taking on a sad quality.
“It’s just not right,” Rapi said.
“I am afraid to ask about that second box,” Cindee said, fighting back tears. I forced a smile and continued.
‘They goof around too much, and in the end, they paid for it. Less than fifteen minutes after that second box landed on the ground my two misfit brothers wandered inside and suffered the same fate that Momma had.
I watched in terror as the box rose into the sky, the sound of their cries faded into the air. Just like Momma, they were gone from my life. I was an orphan, left all alone to hide behind my tree.
I fell to the ground and started wailing loudly. My whole family was gone, and I no longer cared if the Kitty Keeper came back for me too. My life was over.
Sometimes, you need to be careful what you wish for. My Momma never taught me that. Just a few minutes later the tall grass I was hiding in started to bend and sway. I tried to stop crying but couldn’t.
I heard it before I saw it.
“Mio Dios, poor thing!” the woman’s voice said. I couldn’t bear to open my eyes to look. I felt her warm hand gently close around my tiny body. I opened my eyes and panicked as the ground moved farther and father away.
The woman pulled me close to her body and snuggled me. Her skin was the color of caramel and her hair, long and black cascaded over her shoulders and down her back. She held me so that I was face to face with her, with nothing to do but look into her warm honey brown eyes until she decided to kiss me on my nose.
“Don’t cry baby, you are safe with me,” she cooed with a smile.
“You can’t trust a human,” Momma’s words came back to me. It was hard though because this woman was so nice to me. We went inside the office building where I met many humans that day. They all looked at me and took turns holding me. Fortunately, nobody tried to eat me, but at the same time, nobody was able to give me a home. They were just about to take me to the local University and set me free there when someone brought a bald man to meet me. Lucky for me, he turned out to be Daddy, and he took me home to meet Mommy.
“Holy Cow, I got it!” Yehudi yelled. We all turned to stare at the crazy little black cat sitting on the edge of the bed.
“I know who the Kitty Keeper is!” she exclaimed.
“How could you know that” Rapi asked.
“Because I was Kitty Kept,” she said, not really making much sense. She sat there, her whiskers twitching and her eyes blinking rapidly.
“What are you talking about?” I asked. She huffed out a sigh, as if it should have been plain as day to all of us.
“I know all about the metal box, because I was trapped in one.” Yehudi explained.
“You are mistaken you silly cat, Mommy and Daddy brought you home,” Rapi corrected her.
“I know Mommy and Daddy brought me home, and I am not silly. Don’t you get it? Mommy and Daddy are the Kitty Keeper,” Yehudi dropped the bomb shell on us.
“What?” I said.
“You are crazy,” Rapi scolded her.
“I can prove it. Follow me!” the little black cati shouted. She jumped off the bed and sprinted for the guest room. We looked at each other quizzically.
“Well, let’s follow her,” Cindee said rising to her feet and happing from the bed. The rest of us followed quickly behind. We chased Yehuci to the guest room and found her pawing at the closet door.
“Let me help you,” Cindee said. The big brown dog leaned forward and nudged the door open. Inside Yehudi pulled frantically at a pile of blankets.
“Help me Cindee,” she pleaded. The dog leaned forward and grabbed hold of the blankets and moved them out of the way one at a time. Once the last of the covers had been removed a long rectangular metal box came into view. My mouth dropped open and my eyes glazed over.
“Is that the box,” Yehudi asked. Rapi and Cindee stared at me waiting for an answer.
“It is,” I replied dumbfounded.
“I can’t believe it. Mommy and Daddy are the Kitty Keeper,” Rapi said stunned.
“Hold on a second, I can explain the box,” Cindee said.
“I was with Mommy and Daddy when they used it,” she explained. Rapi and I gasped.
“It is true they use the box to catch kitties. But there is a reason for it. I have seen them catch sick kitties and take them to the doctors. I have also been with them when they catch Mommy and Daddy cats like yours Bella. They take the parents to the doctor so they can have a surgery done so they don’t make so many babies. Sometimes, they even catch babies to help them find forever homes because it is not safe for them to grow up on the streets.”
“But my brothers,” I asked.
“They probably have a forever home just like you,” the lab mix said with a smile.
“and you … and you,” she continued nodding at Rapi and Yehudi.
“and me too,” she added.
“Wow, that’s pretty cool,” Yehudi said, realizing being kitty kept was a good thing. I nodded in agreement.
“What is that noise,” Yehudi asked. The rest of us looked at each other.
“That’s beautiful music, Yehudi,” I answered.
“Yuck,” Yehudi said before standing up and wandering off. As for the rest of us, we stretched out on the bed and listened peacefully to the sounds of bossa nova dance through the house, content in knowing the truth behind the secret of the Kitty Keeper!