“Fate for a Cat” by Allison Strange

2022 Winner | Rural Teen Writing Contest

Of course, no one can promise that your leaves will stay green and the frost doesn’t devastate your harvest. Of course, this is only speculation; fate has a grip on us that even the heartiest sun cannot unshackle. Eden learned this fast when her strawberries met their end on a cold December morning. Ever since she hated winter, she had no control over Gaia’s – Mother Nature’s – decisions. The cold would be enough to freeze springs and brooks, almost enough to freeze Eden’s heart.

“Don’t give me that look. You’re the one who decided to leave the barn.” Eden said, fastening a harness on an old brown and white cow.

The cow huffed at Eden and slowly followed Eden as she tugged and basically dragged her back to the barn. She took the harness off and smiled at the cow. She snorted at Eden and turned away.

“What? I’m not letting you go back outside silly.”

Eden stepped towards the cow and suddenly stopped when she heard a hiss.

“It’s November, you snakes usually go and hide around this time. Usually not in my barn because you saw what happened to that ugly black snake last time he got in here.” Eden laughed and looked around but no snakes were in sight.

“Hm.” she stepped forward again and the hissing came back, “Oh? Are you under this pile? Best find a new hiding place before I get ya. I need new snakeskin for my-”

Her rambling quickly got interrupted by a cat jumping from the ceiling in front of her. She screamed and fell backward. Slowly she raised up and met eyes with the Mainecoon.

“A-ah, an, uh, kitty. Um, cats don’t usually find themselves around here. Especially near my house.” Eden reached her hand out to the cat and it jumped back.

“Well, you’re lost but I’m not taking you in ya’ know that?” It meowed at her and licked its leg.
“I felt like that was sass. Hmm, it was deserved. I am being a bit mean.” Eden stood up and picked up the cat.

“I’ll take ya’ to Anne’s house and see if she recognizes you.”

The cat meowed back in response. Eden held the cat closer to her chest as she walked down to Anne’s home.

Anne was a 60-year-old baker who was known for her pies in the town next to their little 4-person neighborhood. It was hardly a neighborhood, maybe someone would talk to their neighbor once a month but it wasn’t unusual to be stuck with your wit and perhaps your spouse or an old dog. Eden had none of those, she had a cow but that was about it. She calls the cow “Mary-Belle” and no matter how much money a man could give her she would not let go of Mary-Belle. Anne knew everyone in this rural area, she even knew the animals. Eden knocked on Anne’s door and prayed she was home today. After 2 minutes there was still no answer, Eden looked down at the cat and back up at the door. She knocked more aggressively this time and looked through the window.

“Anne! It’s me, Eden! Come out, I got to ask you something!” Eden waited but she got no response.

Eden walked away from the home and down the dirt road, she looked at the cat and he meowed back at her.

“Well, I’ll take you home. Maybe you’ll like my old smelly cottage. But I don’t think I have anything to feed you.”

Eden walked down her driveway and opened the door. She sat down with the cat on the couch. She sighed, grabbed some yarn, and waved a string in front of her. The cat came over and meowed at the string, he tugged on it a bit and fell backwards.

“You’re so funny!” she laughed then her smile faded. “I can’t name you though, I’ll get too attached. Maybe I’ll find you an owner who will be able to take care of you. “

The cat gave her a sad and soft meow. She tilted her head at him and sighed, she didn’t want to admit the cuteness got to her. She knew she couldn’t handle another mouth to feed. A girl and a cow were already too much. Her crops died too fast and the stores were too far away to buy cat food every time she needed it. She went to wash her dishes and saw the little cat jump on the counter and paw at each dish she put in the dish rack. She laughed at him and patted his head. He jumped on her and climbed on her shoulder.

“I’ve never seen a cat want to climb on a human! I’m not a tree you know?” He meowed back at her. “Hm, I think I’m going to call you Oranges!”
He hissed at her.

“No? What about Toby?”

He meowed.

“Toby it is,” she frowned “But you’re not my cat. I don’t think you are anyone’s cat, are you?”

He broke his gaze with her.

“Poor kitty. Fine, I’ll try to get a way to the store to get you everything you need to be a new family member – how does that sound?”

He pawed at her and purred.

“Maybe I can try to get a job at Joey’s shop. Let’s hope Mary-Belle likes her new brother, then!” Eden hugged Toby close to her.

Allison Strange is a junior at Burns High School in Lawndale, NC and writer of horror and gothic fiction. “Fate for a Cat” is her first “rural heartfelt” story. Her Cat Roxy, pictured above, was the inspiration for her story. Of winning, Strange said, “winning this contest was more than a shock” to her and that she hopes her win “can set an example for anyone else like [her] and show others you can do so much more than what you think you can do”.

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