Happy Caturday, Furriends!
Here’s an excerpt from my new purrject, “Il Gatti,” a novel about feral cats in Rome!
Hope you like it! Thanks everypawdy for a great Salon!
– 1 –
“One blubber gelato, please.”
Niccolo looked down from his gelato stand at the penguin holding out an American dollar for him.
“A couple things,” said the gelato vendor. “We use the euro in Rome, and we don’t have blubber flavoring today.”
The penguin dug deep into his purse, withdrawing a stack of Ben Franklins. Niccolo choked with excitement.
“Matteo!” he called, beckoning his chubby assistant/son. “Go fetch the blubber tub.”
“We don’t have any,” said the portly tot.
Panicked, Niccolo packed a scoop of vanilla gelato into a cup and wrote “BLUBBER” in magic maker across the frozen product. He handed the cup over the penguin, who would have gleefully paid over 500x the price of the already overpriced dessert if it were not for a sharp, biting sensation in his side.
He looked down to find a kitten nibbling at his delicious penguin side. Cute, since the kitten was just getting his cat teeth. Painful, because the kitten had already gotten a few healthy bitefuls of the penguin. After a loud squawk, the penguin ran around in circles, half in an attempt to flee the cat, 40% recovering the American currency as it sprinkled the air, and 10% miscellaneous penguin chaos.
Niccolo scrambled to catch the money as Matteo pried the kitten apart from the penguin’s side, a little too late to rescue their prospective customer. What to do with the money? That was a concern for his papa. Matteo’s concern now was the kitten, a feral kitten. Resistant to humans, but hungry for Antarctican bird meat, the kitten made a daring dash into heavily-frequented Trevi Fountain.
The fountain was beautiful from a distance, as the perfect combination of artificial and natural art, but not so much as a kitty-dunking station. The kitten struggled to break free, but 2 years of gelato-scooping rendered Matteo’s hands fierce. He tossed the kitten in the fountain, leaving some nearby tourists uncomfortable and others amused, while another feral kitten just ran circles around the boy. The dunked kitten managed to climb out of the fountain. Toss a penny in the Trevi if you want to wish for love. Matteo spent his whole life at that terrible gelato kiosk, so he didn’t even bother for a wish. What a waste of a kitten.
There he goes again. This couldn’t possibly be good for the kitten, but what could the baby kitty do? What would the tourists do? They didn’t come to spend their Halloween in Rome to be a hero. Luckily, they didn’t have to. Remember that kitten who was running circles around Matteo? His name was Pepito, an orange feral kitten. His fur was short, but well-maintained, and orange, with dark brown stripes. His eyes were deep and green like the emeralds of Ireland. In his mouth he carried a piece of mauve yarn from an infinite ball of yarn tucked underneath a cheap scarf shack next to the Trevi.
That should do it, thought Pepito. Yarn was weak, so he needed a good anchor. He dislodged the yarn ball and batted it over to the carriage of a young couple enjoying a romantic detour at the fountain. He tossed the ball around the horse’s leg and took a swipe for the tail, partially just because it was fun. Startled, the horse blasted away through the crowd, taking the ball of yarn with it.
Pepito ideally would have liked to see Matteo dragged along behind the horse, humiliated and wet from the autumn-soaked cobblestone streets of the Eternal City. Instead, the sudden movement knocked Matteo off his feet, landing face first into the hard floor. That’s gotta hurt, but it wasn’t enough. Pepito had to protect the little guy, even though he was a pretty little guy himself. That meant finding a way to keep Matteo away from kittens, permanently.
He approached the chubby boy, back arched, ready to attack. Before he could take the chance to exact his revenge, he felt a brisk upheaval into the arms and clutches of Niccolo, the angry gelato-scooper who would have saved his son sooner had it not been for a line of high-paying tourists.
“Nobody bites my boy,” growled Niccolo, arming himself with a scooper as if he was going to scoop out Pepito’s little brains or something.
He didn’t have to. A deafening roar from below scared the wits out of Niccolo, Matteo, and every Italian and tourist around. Who could make that sound?
Or more importantly, who could protect the second projectile kitten of the day? The same lion who made the noise was a cat so big that his species was in question. Was he a feral cat? Maybe, those certainly weren’t scarce in the Italian capital. But what was that mane around his neck? Gold, thick, and impeccably groomed, only a lion could boast such a decadent costume. If so, he was a mini-lion. Either way, he fished one kitten out of the water, another out of the air, and for a moment believed the two had learned their lesson.