“Mittens! Mittens come down, now!”
Two children stared up through the thick branches of the tree while a third, smaller child sat beside it, a bloody paper towel lodged in his mouth. He looked up to the other kids and watched them circle the tree, calling the cat’s name.
“It’s okay, Kyle,” the girl said, “She’ll come down eventually.”
The boy on the ground sniffed, nodded, and wiped some of the tears off of his cheek with the back of his sleeve. He only succeeded in smearing them across his face and leaving room for more tears.
“Roger is going to be sooo mad,” Ryan said, watching his little sister try to bribe the cat down with some of its catnip toys.
“He doesn’t have to know.”
“But Kyle –“
“I said he doesn’t have to know!” The girl shrieked, making the cat hiss and climb higher up the tree. “We just need to get it back, it’ll be fine!”
The thought of their teenage brother in a rage sent shivers down their backs and they tried all the more to lure the cat down and claim the treasure she now held between her paws.
“Marie, here, climb on my shoulders,” Ryan crouched so his sister could get her balance, then stood up to full height, wobbling a little. “See if you can reach.”
Marie stretched, but was far from reaching the cat. She looked to Kyle for help, but he sobbed and shook his head, adjusting the paper towel. Marie grasped the closest branch she could and pulled herself up, “Here kitty kitty.”
Still a safe distance away, Mittens watched, tail swishing, as Marie climbed clumsily from branch to branch. When she got close enough, she gingerly reached out her hand, speaking softly to the cat, and tried to grab the stolen treasure. She was still too far and barley managed to touch it. Before she could come any closer, Mittens yowled and lashed out at her, causing Marie to yank her hand back, lose her balance, and fall to the ground. All three children watched sadly as the cat picked up the treasure and climbed higher.
“I’m sorry, Kyle,” Ryan said, “It doesn’t look like she’ll give it up.”
Kyle nodded as if he’d known all along this would happen and was only trying in hopes his fears were wrong. He took the napkin out of his mouth now that the bleeding stopped and stood up.
Marie took the bloody paper from her little brother and tried to brighten the mood by saying, “Come on, we’ll go inside and get some cookie dough or something.”
Once they reached the house, they brought the tub of cookie dough into the living room and munched on it while watching TV. Kyle wasn’t too happy, but he didn’t complain. “Mom and dad won’t be home until late,” Ryan said, “but Roger will be home any minute.”
Kyle sniffed and wiped his eyes, fresh tears coming. Marie patted him on the shoulder. “It wasn’t your fault. Don’t worry, we’ll take the blame, alright?”
Their blood ran cold when they heard the sound of a key in the lock. They hid the cookie dough under the couch cushions and watched the front door open, revealing Roger.
“Hey,” Roger said.
Roger looked to Kyle who said nothing, but stared intently at him. Taking this as an insult, Roger scoffed, “What’s wrong with you? Cat got your tongue?”
Kyle immediately burst into tears and Marie and Ryan began yelling at Roger, calling him an insensitive jerk and a mean person for reasons Roger didn’t know.