John didn’t think that the little yellow fluffy was going to try to jump off the counter. He wasn’t worried about her falling since she was trying her hardest to disappear into the depths of the bath towel. His attention turned to Sasha, who was sitting on the floor behind him. She kept looking between her food and the sobbing fluffy.
“Sasha,” John said as he took a step toward her food bowl. “Don’t do it.”
Sasha stared at him, but there wasn’t hunger in her eyes. Her tail wasn’t swishing. She didn’t look like she was in hunting mode or like she was thinking about pouncing. More than anything she looked…curious.
He quickly stepped over to her food bowl and dumped the entire scoop of food on top of the scattered bits of kibble that were already there. “Here, girl,” he said, nudging her toward the bowl. “Eat this, don’t worry about the fluffy.”
The cat’s curiosity passed quickly in the presence of food, and she trotted over to her bowl and started crunching on the kibble. John breathed a sigh of relief, then turned his attention to the little fluffy.
She had turned around and managed to burrow completely into the towel, concealing herself. All potential for stealth had been lost through multiple failures, though. First, the fluffy was sobbing and muttering to herself. It was muffled but audible. Second, she was shivering in fear, which was causing the towel to vibrate slightly around a fluffy-sized lump. And third, she had shit and pissed herself again, leaving a trail that extended out to the kitchen counter.
“Oh, come ON,” John growled. “You fucking shit yourself AGAIN? On the kitchen COUNTER? What the hell is wrong with you?”
“HOOMIN MISTAH MAD, NU AM WUV FWUFFY NU MOWE! HUUU HUUU HUUUUUU!”
“I never said I loved you. But at least you’re not trying to say I’m your daddy, so that’s a start. Looks like we’re making progress.” He peeled back the towel and looked down at the shivering, soiled lump of anxiety. She rolled over on her back and tucked her tail between her back legs, eyes wide and brimming with tears.
“PWEASE NU HUWT FWUFFY,” she screamed between sobs. “NU AM BAD FWUFFY. NU MEAN MAKE SCAWEDY POOPIES AN PEEPEES! FWUFFY SOWWY!”
“Jesus,” he sighed. “You’re just a little ball of fear and cowardice, huh? I’m not going to hurt you. In fact, I’m going to have to clean you up again and then clean off this counter. I can’t have you shitting where I eat, so I guess we’re going to have to set up in the bathroom for now. C’mere.”
“Hoomin…mistah nu huwt?”
“Gotta get out of that cycle, girl. I’m not gonna hurt you, not unless you deserve it. So far all you’re doing is testing my patience.” He bundled her back up in the towel and carried her back to the bathroom, setting her beside the sink. “Now don’t move.”
“Fwuffy wiww stay wight hewe. Be gud fwuffy. Best fwuffy.”
“Yeah, I’m sure you will.” John headed back to the kitchen and grabbed the small bowl, pouring out the now-cold water and adding a little bit of Sasha’s dry food to it. He grabbed the saucer and the dish liquid and hurried back to the bathroom. Surprisingly the fluffy was still where he’d left her. Her eyes were still brimming with tears, but she wasn’t openly sobbing. Yet.
“See, nice mistah? Fwuffy nu move, be gud fwuffy fo nice mistah.” She stood up and beamed at him, looking incredibly proud of her seemingly limited self-control. Was she…smiling? He’d never seen an animal actually smile before, but this little fluffy was grinning at him.
“Good job, fluffy! Your reward is another bath so you can smell pretty again.”
“YAAAAAAY! FWUFFY WUV SMEWW PWETTY!” She pranced around on the countertop, not freaking out as John ran the water this time. “FWUFFY GON SMEWW PWETTY! PWETTY, PWETTY, PWETTY!”
The bath went a little more quickly this time, seeing as she wasn’t entirely covered in filth. After he dried her off as best he could with a new towel, he bundled her up and set her on the counter. The fluffy cooed and sang nonsense songs to herself while he was in the laundry room, tossing the soiled towels in the washing machine for later. When he walked back into the bathroom she was cradled in the towel, laying on her back, sucking on one of her front hooves. She looked up at him, her eyes filled with joy.
“Hewwo, nice mistah. Wan pway wif fwuffy? Gif bewwy tickwes?”
“What the hell? Sure, why not?” He reached down and gently stroked her belly fluff. She giggled and thrashed and waved her legs around. She kept giggling as he stopped, but she did something new - she wrapped her legs around his index finger and rubbed her face against him, cooing very softly. She closed her eyes and muttered quietly to herself.
“Wuv nice mistah. Nice mistah nu wuv fwuffy. Am otay. Fwuffy stiww wuv nice mistah. Fwuffy gif bestest huggies an wuv tu nice mistah.”
Oh goddammit, son of a bitch.
“Hey, look. I’ve got some food for you,” he said, trying to keep her from further melting his heart.
“Yaaaaaay! Fwuffy am hungwy! Haf tummy owwies!”
“Okay, we’ve got to let it soften up a little first, though. I don’t know how long you’ve had teeth, and I’m betting you’re not really good at math. I don’t want you breaking your teeth on this stuff.” John ran warm water into the food bowl and stirred it into the food with his finger.
“Fwuffy am haf teefies fo, fo, fo fo…ummmm. Bwight-times.”
“Right, you’re shit at math. Got it. Soft food it is.” Once the water had soaked in, he placed the bowl in front of the fluffy and watched as she scarfed it down eagerly. She drank all the water in the saucer, too, then stood up to her full height of maybe five inches and beamed at him again.
“See, nice mistah? Fwuffy am good fwuffy. Eat aww nummies, dwink all wawa. Fank yu, nice mistah!”
“Good job!” He moved the towel into the sink and bundled her up, turning it into a makeshift bed. He carried her over and placed her in the tub; he was sure she couldn’t hurt herself in there. “Now do me a favor and take a nap in here, okay? I’ve got to figure out where you’re going to sleep tonight, I’ve got to prepare some things.”
“Otay, nice mistah! Fwuffy am du sweepies. Nice mistah huwwy back?”
“I sure will, little fluffy. Sleep well.”
She was exhausted and was asleep before he was even out of the bathroom. He closed the door behind him, making sure that Sasha couldn’t do anything stupid.
First, John had to check to make sure that the fluffy’s family was actually dead. He had no reason to doubt her story, but deep down he was hoping that at least one of her siblings had survived.
They hadn’t. It didn’t take long to locate the scene of the murder. The mare had dug out a burrow maybe fifty feet into the woods behind his house, right beside a wild rosemary bush. She was a red earthie with a blue mane, and her throat had been torn out. Her babies were scattered around her, all of them clearly dead. A blue unicorn with a yellow mane, his head town off. A pink pegasus with a light blue mane, bitten clean in half. And a green earthie with a darker green mane, her stomach torn open, her guts spilling out.
The little fluffy really had barely escaped with her life. It was absolute overkill, and it made John feel even worse for the little yellow filly. He didn’t know what her whole story was, but this was an ugly end for her whole family. At least she’d wind up in a shelter. She’d find a family, he knew it.
John grabbed some gloves and a garbage bag from the garage and bagged up the corpses. Part of him wanted to bury them, but it was starting to get dark and there was no way he was getting it done tonight. It was either toss them in the garbage, which was easiest, or leave them for scavengers. No contest - it was going to be the garbage.
It was time to cobble together a bed, something that could keep the little fluffy contained until John could take her to the shelter tomorrow. He grabbed a large, empty cardboard box and took it into his spare bedroom. He took an old blanket from the linen closet - it was a blanket that he’d bought for Sasha to sleep on a couple of years back, but she’d refused to touch it. Typical cat. The blanket was big enough to make a sizable bed, perfect for the fluffy. What else? Oh, yeah. She needed a place to shit.
He dug through the closet and found an old shoebox - perfect. A few shop towels to line the bottom, just in case any liquid made it through. He filled it with some of Sasha’s litter and placed it on the opposite end of the box, as far away from the bed as he could put it. She wouldn’t need any food overnight, but he put in another small saucer of water for her, just in case.
With the sleeping situation settled, he went to check on the sleeping fluffy.
“Fwuffy haf gud sweepies,” she muttered after a long yawn. “Fank yu, nice mistah.”
“You’re welcome. Are you ready to go to sleep for the night, or…?”
“Nu, nu am wan dawk-time sweepies. Nu time. Fwuffy pwease haf mo nummies, den fwuffy pway? Wun and pway, gif huggies an wuv?”
“The food, I can do. I don’t really have any fluffy-friendly toys.” He knew that some of Sasha’s toys would probably be a good stand-in, but he didn’t want to say that. Playtime would just make the fluffy love him even more, which would lead to more talk about him being her new daddy, which would just make the shelter trip even more heartbreaking for her tomorrow. “You could sit next to me on the couch and watch TV. How about that?”
“Huh? Wha tee-bee?”
“Oh, right. You’re a feral. Let’s get you some dinner, then we’ll see if you like TV.”
She liked the TV very much, as it turned out. Cartoons seemed like a safe bet considering how childlike her mind was. There was no way she actually understood what was going on, but she laughed whenever something crazy happened onscreen. Every now and then she’d try to crawl out of the towel and sneak into his lap, and the first few times he picked her up and gently placed her back in the temporary nest. He gave up after the seventh time. It was clear that she wasn’t going to stop, and he didn’t have the heart to yell at her. Not after seeing the ravaged corpses of her family. She curled up, cooed, and stared intently at the TV.
After a couple of hours he turned off the TV and scooped the fluffy up, much to her dismay.
“Nuuuu, nice mistah! Wan watch tee-bee! Why nu wet babbeh fwuffy snuggies an’ watch tee-bee?”
“Because it’s bedtime, girl. I’ve got a nice little nest for you in the spare bedroom.”
“Fwuffy sweep wit nice mistah?”
“No, I sleep alone. You have a nice, safe nest set up.” As he carried her into the spare bedroom, he assured her that it was a nice nest and that she would absolutely love it.
She did love it, but the litter confused her. “Wat dis, nice mistah?”
“You can’t just shit and piss anywhere, especially not where you sleep. So this is a litterbox.”
“This is where you shit and piss.”
“Wat am sit an piss?”
“Oh, Jesus.” He sighed, rubbing his forehead. “I can’t believe I’m going to have to say this. Fine, whatever. The litterbox there, that’s where you make your poopies and pee-pees.”
“Awww! Fwuffy know dat! Mummah haf song bout witta-box!” She launched into a high-pitched, terrible song. “Gud babbehs make poopies in da wittah-box, mummah gif gud babbehs huggies an wuv, bad poopies no smeww pwetty on daddeh’s fwoow…”
“Okay, I’ve got the gist. Yeah, good poopies and peepees go there. Can you do that?”
“Fwuffy can make gud poopies an peepees fo nice mistah.”
“If you manage to not make bad poopies and peepees ALL night, I’ll give you a treat tomorrow morning, okay?”
“YAAAAAY, NICE MISTAH! Fwuffy be gud fwuffy! Wan tweat!”
“Okay, good. You sleep well and I’ll see you in the morning, okay?”
“Otay, nice mistah! Swee dweams fo nice mistah!”
John turned the light out. The fluffy didn’t complain, which he’d worried about. He figured as a feral she was probably used to sleeping in mostly darkness, but he’d also opened the blinds to allow the moonlight to shine in. As he closed the bedroom door, he heard the fluffy talking to herself quietly.
“Make bestest poopies and peepees fo nice mistah, get tweat. Fwuffy be bestest fwuffy, make nice mistah pwoud. Fwuffy wuv nice mistah.”
Again with the love. He sighed. Tomorrow was going to be a huge pain in the ass.
As he curled up in bed, Sasha leaped up and took up her usual spot next to his pillow. She purred, and he scratched behind her ears. She didn’t seem upset that there was a guest in the house, which kind of surprised him. Sasha had always been an incredibly sweet cat. There had never been a trace of meanness in her at all. No violence. She never hissed, never scratched, never bit him. But most animals were at least a little uneasy when a new animal was brought into their territory. Not Sasha.
“I’ll have her gone tomorrow. Thanks for not hurting her, girl.”
Sasha responded with a headbutt and more purring. As John fell asleep, he wondered just how much the little fluffy was going to cry tomorrow. He wasn’t looking forward to it, not one bit. But it had to be done.
It had to be done.