My short story challenge continues along its merry path with a little tale called Linda.
For anyone coming in fresh, I’ve challenged myself to write a new short story every week for a year. As the title of this one suggests, I’m nearly halfway through that particular challenge.
If you want to check out the other 23 stories I’ve already written (or if you’re reading this in the future, maybe more) click here to see all my short story efforts.
This isn’t my first short story rodeo either.
I’ve done this sort of challenge before, which led to a collection of short stories called Fifty Two.
Want to help out a struggling freelance writer? Buy an inexpensive eBook, available for most popular eBook readers and formats:
Buy Fifty Two through Amazon for your Kindle e-reader here.
Buy Fifty Two through Apple for your iPad or iOS devices/Macs here.
Buy Fifty Two through Smashwords for any other e-reader format here.
Want something notably different and considerably longer? There’s also my B-movie novel, Sharksplosion. It’s pretty much exactly what you’d think a book with that title might be like
Buy Sharksplosion for Amazon Kindle
Buy Sharksplosion for iBooks (iPhone, iPad, etc)
Buy Sharksplosion for all other e-readers through Smashwords
And now, on with this week’s story.
It was late at night, and, as usual, I had been up working for too long, hammering away at yet another spreadsheet that Mr Thompson insisted had to be ready to show to the directors in the morning.
As usual, it had been left to the last minute, and, as usual, he’d dropped in into my emails just before closing time.
That way, he knew I couldn’t ignore it. If I claimed to have “missed it” he’d be able to start up disciplinary proceedings against me and install one of his more favoured lackeys into my position.
I kept telling myself that I’d start looking for another job, because Thompson really did make work intolerable.
Somehow, I’d been telling myself that for around three years at the time, and yet, here I was again, late at night making figures balance and excel behave itself… or at least a reasonable facsimile of behaviour, anyway.
It had started to rain, first the little pitter patter of light raindrops but quickly into heavy, pelting drops that made the roof rumble on a constant basis.
The sound of the rain all but drowned out the sound of the Bowie LP I had spinning in the background. This late at night I didn’t dare crank up the volume, so I just struggled on.
That’s when I heard a curious sound over the Thin White Duke and the constant rain. At first, I thought it was a snare drum in the backing of the music, just a soft, repeating sibilant sound.
Then the record finished, but it was still there, constant and maybe even growing a little louder.
I remember thinking that it must have been rodents again. There was an inspection coming up, and the landlord loved nothing more than suggesting that I hadn’t been keeping the flat in spick and span order.
The last time this happened we’d argued at length; he was convinced I was somehow inviting the rats in, despite the small fortune I’d spent on poisons and traps that he could clearly see.
The odd thing was that when I had my rodent problems, they were typically in the walls or sometimes the kitchen cupboards, but this noise was coming from the back door.
I opened the door to check, not really wanting to peer out into the rain, only to see a small grey kitten pawing and mewling at my back door.
“Hello”, I said.
I don’t know why I felt the need to talk to the cat, but you do, don’t you?
They’re intelligent animals, even though there was no reasonable hope that it would understand me.
The kitten looked up at me with gloriously green eyes. She had very wet fur and a lot of it for such a small kitten, but thanks to her drenching I could see through it to a collar beneath.
Ah, I thought, she’s somebody’s new kitten that’s escaped.
I’d better bring her in… but how? I didn’t want to spook her trying to grab her, so we both stood there for a few minutes, the cold air and rain blowing into the entranceway.
“Do you… want to come in?” I asked, feeling stupid as I did so.
It turned out that she did, because she trotted in, shaking water off her fur as she went.
Once the door was shut, I figured I should work out whose kitten she was, so I scooped her up into my hands gently.
She let out a little squeak of surprise, then looked up into my eyes and started to gently rub her head against my knuckles while I looked at her collar.
It was a bright red, cheap plastic collar with a single silver tag at the bottom of it. There was a single inscription on the tag that clearly read “Linda”.
No phone number, no home address, no email, no social media… nothing. I was, I guessed, cradling Linda in my hands, unless Linda was the name of the kitten’s owner.
That would have to wait a while, I figured, because I had nothing else to go on. I dimly remembered that owned cats tended to be chipped these days, so I sat down at my laptop and looked up details for a local vet clinic.
Closed by that time, of course, but they opened before I had to head into work in the morning.
I figured this was a mystery I could solve pretty quickly, getting owner details or leaving Linda with the Vet tomorrow.
In the meantime, I laid out a bowl of milk for Linda and got back to my spreadsheets… or at least, I tried to. Linda lapped up the milk, and then sat and cried at the base of my chair for my attention.
“Not now, kitten… I have work to do.”
“No, really, work. Go… catch a rat or something, I don’t know. Do you even know how to do that yet? Or sleep, or something.”
“You’re not listening, are you?”
“Very well. I’ll give you a pat, but just one, and then I have to work, OK?”
Another couple of minutes, and she was back.
“Didn’t we just have this conversation?”
“What am I going to do with you? Look, you can sit on my lap, OK? But I need to get this done.”
I lifted the kitten up onto my lap, and she circled around a multitude of times, her tiny claws pricking softly into my legs as she did so. Eventually satisfied, she curled up into a ball, issuing tiny purrs.
Previously, I would have said that this would have been insanely distracting, but somehow it was calming and made the dull spreadsheet work fly by.
There was a lot of it, full of Thompson’s usual mistakes, and I honestly don’t even remember finishing it.
I just remember waking up the next morning to the sun rising and lighting up the living room. My neck ached thanks to sleeping in the chair, and the kitten felt like a little warm leaden lump on my legs.
Bleary, I got up and made some coffee, splashing a little more milk into the bowl for the kitten.
“Sorry, kitten, I don’t really have anything else I think you could eat. I wasn’t expecting visitors, you know? And usually, when I do, they eat human food.”
Suitably caffeinated, I found an old shoe box, cut a few holes in it and then picked up the kitten and dropped her in it, so I could more safely take her around to the vet surgery.
I seriously expected to be out of there very quickly sans kitten.
They were able to see me straight away, with some surprising news. The kitten was in good health, but it wasn’t chipped in any way, and they couldn’t take in stray animals as a matter of policy.
In other words, the kitten was my problem. I went home, put out some water and locked the kitten in, praying that it wouldn’t shred anything valuable while I was at work.
That evening once work was done, I returned home to discover Linda – pretty clearly the kitten’s name, not whoever it’s owner was – curled up content and asleep next to her milk bowl. I’d stopped off at the supermarket to buy some kitten food, wondering as I did so if I was wasting my money on a kitten that wasn’t mine.
But how would I solve this particular problem? I took to social media, thinking that there might be people with more information than me.
“Weird story… I seem to have ended up with a kitten. Not chipped, nametag says Linda, not sure what to do? Suggestions pls?”
“OMG PICS PLEASE!”
“Kittens are great! Pic maybe?”
“KITTEH! SEND PICS NAOW!”
“PICS OR IT DIDN’T HAPPEN #KITTENPICSPLEASE”
So with Linda happily asleep beside her milk bowl, I took a shot of her little face and posted it online… and that’s where it got seriously crazy.
Some may say that the Internet is for business, and others might insist that it’s built only for porn, but the reality is simpler than that.
There is nothing, and I mean nothing that the internet loves more than a cat picture.
Linda’s picture got shared once, then twice, and suddenly a dozen times within a matter of seconds.
Before I’d finished making my own dinner, more than 10,000 people had looked at Linda’s picture and dropped some kind of suggestion about what to do with her.
By the time I’d eaten and fed Linda a tiny sachet of soft kitten chow, it had hit 100,000, well beyond the point where I could take in the flow of comments, mostly about how cute she was.
I went to bed none the wiser, Linda napping at my feet with a full round belly and her typical contented purr.
The next morning, I got up early, barely glancing at my phone with a plan to post up a few flyers. A kitten that tiny can’t have gotten far, so maybe she belonged to one of my neighbours?
I returned and picked my phone up from the nightstand, to discover that Linda had now been sighted by more than a million folks, and many of them were busy sending me memes.
Linda asleep on the Eiffel Tower, Linda sleeping on top of a Beefeater’s hat… even Linda as the football in the Super Bowl. I’m still not sure what to make of that last one.
You probably know the rest from here, what with all the TV news interviews that followed, and the T-Shirts, coffee cups and the range of cat foods and other sponsorships and talk shows and everything else that’s happened since.
While a few chancers did come forth early on to try to “claim” Linda, none of them even knew vaguely where I lived, so their claims were easily ignored.
Linda’s a celebrity in her own right, ten years on and counting, and the only spreadsheets I have to manage are those that deal with her business affairs.
I still have no idea who left her on my doorstep or why – but I quite literally owe them everything that I have… and especially Linda.
Because while the fame has been an interesting and kind of wild ride, the fact of the matter is that the best part of my day is still returning home and having her sleep on my lap at night.