D’Avina was feeing Doritos to the kitten. The kitten looked at her like she was batshit, but she daintily picked them up and crunch, crunch, crunch. The kitten’s face was orange but she was supposed to be grey.
“I always just feed her chips, ya know, like, cuz she like likes them,” D’Avina was twirling her greasy blonde hair vacuously round and round her hot pink manicure. She popped her gum like a champ. I was 9 years old and I knew this one would always be one shat short of a full pantsload. She must have been about 20, which seemed pretty old to me to be feeding chips to cats. I mean, I’d never had a cat but I was pretty sure I’d seen cat food at the store and it wasn’t in the same aisle as the chips.
Kitty Kitty finished her dinner and came to sit in my lap. She was a pretty smart kitty. I petted her and she purred and went to sleep. She had a tiny perfect face like a stuffed cat I’d had a few years back. That was before my brother had used it in the reenactment of a fiery car crash he’d seen on Dukes of Hazzard. (Not the General Lee, it never burned).
“You like Kitty don’t you sweetie? Well maybe when you’re big like me and you have a big strong man like Darrel he might buy you one for your birthday like Darrel did me. He’s just so sweet.” D’Avina popped her gum and got that faraway look in her eye. Wait, that was already there. Never mind.
Darrel was a big, ugly thug of a truck driver. He wore a belt buckle the size of Texas and had hair like a black fir tree. He wore a plaid shirt most of the time, and he had a mean look in his eye that made me avoid him the way I did my aunt that smelled like throw-up, but only when she was drinking sherry. Her name was Sherry.
“Uh huh,” I said because I’d been taught not to backtalk grown-ups unless I wanted a swift kick. Who wants one of those? All I knew was I hoped I never had a Darrel.
“Oh, there he is now!” D’Avina smiled her sticky lipgloss smile and showed her missing tooth. I always wondered what happened to it. Maybe a cavity.
I took Darrel’s big roaring truck noise outside as my cue to skedaddle. I’d be back that night to see if I could coax Kitty Kitty into coming outside to play with me. I had a ball of hair she might be interested in. My brother wasn’t anymore after I’d tied it to his shoe and told him to run because a spider was chasing him. I had about 3 good days of belly laughs out of that particular game. I still giggle every now and then when I remember the sheer terror in his round bulging eyes as that hair spider stayed exactly 5 inches away from him no matter how fast he ran. Man, I guess I was an asshole at 9.
About 10 pm when it was dark I snuck out of our Airstream trailer and slid through the dark like a ninja in pajamas. Darrel and D’Avina had a fire outside, and before I even got close enough to see them I heard Darrel yelling. He always sounded like a bullhorn, especially after he’d pounded enough Schlitz.
“You fuckin’ lil bitch!” He said, and tossed a beer can into the dark almost on my head. It was close enough to smell the piss-smell of the cheap brew. D’Avina wasn’t smiling now. She was turned mostly away from him and was staring out into the night. She did a lot of staring with those big blue cow-eyes. Kitty Kitty wasn’t into the yelling, I could tell. She cowered under D’Avina’s camp chair. She glared at Darrel like she wanted to kill him. I got to know her well over the next 18 years so I can safely say if she’d had a knife she’d have slit him dickhair to armpit in a second. If that cat had thumbs she would have ruled the world.”You listen to me you little CUNT!” Darrel spit, stumbling toward D’Avina. I didn’t move a muscle. I was good at ninja-ing and the nighttime never scared me. As long as it was dark I was safe.
Kitty Kitty hissed from under the chair, and D’Avina just cowered into a little ball like she knew what was coming. I don’t think she did this time, though, and Darrel snatched Kitty Kitty from under the chair and just chucked her right into the fire. I was already frozen but my breath stopped as she shrieked. She jumped so high she might have been a bird flying off into the night. D’Avina started sobbing and ran into their trailer, slamming the screen door after her, and Darrel took off after her like a drunk raging bull.Kitty Kitty found me in the dark, because cats can see better even than me. She had a couple of burns and no whiskers, but she was mostly ok. She was pissed off, though, and she growled her little growl the whole time as I cradled her in my arms and took her home with me. She slept with me that night, and next day Darrel and D’Avina were goners. They’d packed up and taken off in the night, and nothing could have made me happier. Me and Kitty Kitty always growled at dudes like that, from that point on.