The minutes on my bedside clock tick away.  It’s hopeless.  I’m doomed to deal with another sleepless night.

Garfield and OdiePerhaps the late-night iced coffee hadn’t helped much.  I couldn’t resist the crackled ice swirled with my favourite Irish cream coffee creamer.  Now, I was paying the piper.

The lull of ocean waves intermingled with a magical Indian flute played relentlessly.  I finally turned off the ‘promise-to-make-me-sleep’ music, and gazed at the dim ceiling. 

It was two-thirty in the morning on a work night.  Horrors.  No such luck for me having a sleepless night on a weekend. 

Perhaps a bit of fresh air on the porch might be the magic I needed to finally nod off.  If I had to, I’d drag a cot outside and listen to the gentle chirp of the invisible crickets that drifted across the fields.  I poked my head out and took a deep breath of the stilled night. 

On the bottom step, a tiny feral kitten sat alone, staring into the darkness.  It wasn’t surprising - I’d known for the last month or so its mother had done me the kindness of chewing a hole in the insulation beneath my house, in order to deposit her brood of kittens within.

I studied the lonely creature.  It scurried about trying to catch a lone bug in hopes of a late night snack.  Its hunger was glaringly obvious. The more I thought of it, the more I began to realize I hadn’t seen its mother race away when she noticed my presence forthcoming.  Perhaps it was weaning time. 

Seems the strays all seem to drift my way, like the Indian flute music drifts across the ocean waves.  The song seeps into my soul as the lost creatures do, spilling over into my heart, until I finally give in to the spell.  I could not go to bed and leave the lonely creature behind to be swallowed by eternal darkness. 

Ever-so-quietly, I snuck down the stairs and launched myself at it.  I was a soldier of the night on a mission of mercy.

Hindsight is indeed twenty-twenty.  I realized a bit too late that a wee little feral kitten could hiss and snap and squeal and scratch right along with the likes of a Tasmanian devil.  

We wrestled down the steps and into the rock garden alongside the porch.  My bare knee was naturally drawn to the newly-planted cactus like a tornado to a trailer park.  I fought the branches of the blasted evergreen shrub, trying to extract the psychotic feline until my body reeked of fresh pine on Christmas day.

Only ten minutes later, I finally had the pit viper by the scruff of his neck.  Gasping for breath, I kicked the front door open and whooped in victory, still fighting the orange-striped barracuda from a death-lock on my wrist.  It howled and spat as I begged for mercy.

Two hours later, the land shark was squeaky clean, flea free, and sported nicely-clipped nails.  His belly was full to the brim of my finest lunch meat. He showed his thanks by pinning his ears at me, and narrowing his eyes into mere slits.  The spitting-cobra and I were becoming fast friends.

I carefully removed the cactus quills from places I won’t mention, doctored my wounds, poured anti-itch cream on my swollen arms, and crawled back into bed just in time to see the orange glow in the eastern sky.  

The following day, to my un-ending joy, his little look-alike orange sidekick joined us in much the same way. 

They’ve now been dubbed Garfield and Odie.  How fitting.  My life will now be ruled by a pair of miniscule man-eaters, as I bow to their every beck and call.

Next time I find myself gazing at the ceiling in despair on a never-ending night, I’ll stay in bed, and read a book. 

A very, very boring book.

All Rights Reserved                                                                      

Copyright © 2012 Shelley Madden

Shelley Madden is an award-winning author who resides in Wise County, Texas, along with her ponies, poultry, dogs and cats. She enjoys writing, fishing, shooting her pink guns, and falling off her horse, Diamond. She writes a weekly column for an entertainment magazine, is a guest columnist for a local paper, and is a frequent contributor to Heartwarmers and Petwarmers. Her short stories have also been published on numerous websites and e-zines world-wide, and broadcast on radio.  She aspires one day to learn how to change the light bulb in her gun cabinet.

Also by Shelley: His Golden Eyes

One Cat is Company

"One cat is company.
Two cats are a conspiracy. 
Three cats is an attempted takeover.
Four or more cats is a complete coup!"

Shona Steele (Australia)

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