|Photo by Vavoom 09|
No More Mr. Bad Cat
An Orange Julius Adventure
By Katherine Tomlinson
Brian was sitting outside the principal's office when his mom got to the school. She gave him a worried look and a quick kiss on the head before Mrs. Shimura opened the door and said, "Won't you come in Ms. Oakley?" which is what she called Brian's mom instead of "mom."
Brian got up to follow his mom into the office but Mrs. Shimura looked down at him and said, "I need to talk to your mom alone just a moment," she said. "Why don't you wait out here?"
Brian looked at his mom. She mother nodded at him to let him know it was okay. "I'll be right back," she said and then closed the door behind her.
When the door opened again, Brian's mother looked upset. "Let's go home," she said to Brian, so he got up from where he was sitting.
"I'll see you tomorrow Brian," Mrs. Shimura said and Brian mumbled "Okay," even though his mom always told him not to mumble.
Brian's mom didn't say anything until she had started the car and driven out of the school parking lot. She didn't even wave at Mr. Jackson who was picking up his daughter Cilla even though Mr. Jackson was waving at her.
"Fighting in the cafeteria Brian," she finally said, looking over at him. "Why?"
"I dunno," he said, and his stomach hurt because that was a lie.
"Mrs. Shimura said you hit Jason. Is that true?"
Brian shrugged. His mother blew out an exasperated breath which is a grown up way of saying that she was mad at him.
"Was Jason being mean to you?" she asked.
"Yes," Brian finally said.
"And do you think hitting him was the thing to do?"
Brian didn't answer because he knew his mom wanted him to say "No it wasn't the thing to do" but Jason had been really, really mean to him.
"Did you even eat your lunch?" his mom asked finally.
"I told you I don't like chicken salad," Brian said miserably, which is a grown-up word for when you feel really sad.
His mother looked at him in surprise. "But you love chicken salad," she said, just as a scrawny orange cat streaked across the road.
"Mom," Brian yelled.
Brian's mom stomped her foot on the brake and threw out her right hand to make sure Brian didn't fall forward, even though he was wearing his seat belt.
"Did you hit it?" Brian asked.
"I don't think so," his mother said.
"We should check," Brian said, already unclicking his seat belt.
"Brian," his mother called, but Brian was already out of the car and walking toward the bush where the orange cat was crouched and hissing.
"Are you hurt?" Brian asked the cat.
"He's fine," Brian's mother said. "Get back into the car."
"But mom," Brian said. "I think he's hungry."
And before his mother could say anything else, Brian had run back to the car to get his lunchbag. He pulled out the tuna fish sandwich he hadn't eaten for lunch and knelt on the muddy ground to hold it out to the cat.
"It's chicken salad," he said. "It's good."
The cat crept forward and took a bite from the sandwich in the boy's hand as Brian sat very, very still.
Brian's mother looked at Brian and then at the cat hungrily snarfing down the sandwich.
"Will he let you pick him up?" Brian's mother asked.
"You mean it?" Brian asked. "We can keep him?"
"Let's take him to the doctor and see what he has to say."
Brian very gently picked up the cat, who batted at his face with his front paws but didn't scratch him.
Brian's mother drove to the animal hospital where they'd taken her cat Sox when he got sick.
"How old do you think he is?" Brian's mom asked the doctor as he weighed the cat on a scale like the one at the supermarket where you weigh bananas.
"I think he's about two," the doctor replied, which is a grown-up word that means he answered her question.
"He used to be somebody's pet," the doctor added, showing Brian's mom that the cat didn't have any front claws. "But I think he's been on his own for a while now."
"Do you think he got lost?" Brian asked.
"No," the doctor said. "Cats don't get lost. I think someone threw him away because they didn't want him anymore."
"Um," said Brian's mom.
"Sorry," the doctor said but Brian could tell he was still mad at the person who threw away a perfectly good cat.
The doctor looked into the cat's ears. "He's got mites," the doctor said and pulled out a big, long Q-tip to clean them. Brian squirmed, because his mom sometimes cleaned his ears with a Q-tip and he didn't like it very much.
"Why is he thumping his tail like that?" Brian asked as the cat thwacked his tail on the shiny metal table, trying to get away from the Q-tip.
"He's agitated," the doctor said, which is a grown-up word for when you are upset.
Brian reached out his hand to pet the cat.
"Careful," his mom said, but the cat leaned his big head into Brian's hand and his tail stopped thumping.
Brian's mom and the doctor looked at each other and she reached out to pet the cat too.
And just like that, the cat turned his head and chomped her hand hard.
Brian's mom said "Ow" and then she said a bad word as blood began to drip down onto the shiny table.
"He didn't mean it," Brian said. "He didn't mean to be a bad cat."
He put his hand on the cat again to calm him down. "You can't bite my mom, Julius," he said. "She loves us, even when we're bad."
The doctor looked over at Brian's mom, who had a peculiar look on her face, which is a grown-up way of saying she looked strange.
"Oh Bri," she said softly.
The doctor said, "Julius? Why do you want to name him Julius?"
Brian looked at the doctor as if he was the dumbest person in the room. "Because he's orange," he said. "Like an Orange Julius."
"That's a good name for a cat," Brian's mom said.
"I'll give you some medicine for the mites," the doctor said.
"Thank you Dr. Patel," Brian's mom said.
Julius fell asleep in Brian's lap on the way home.
Brian carried the cat into the house. Brian's mother found an old bag of cat litter under the sink and poured it into the bottom of a cardboard box.
The cat took one look at the box and jumped in to use it.
"Wow," he really needed to go to the bathroom," Brian said.
"I guess," his mom said as she opened up one of the kitchen cabinets and took out a can of tuna fish.
"I'll get him some crunchy food tomorrow," Brian's mother said as she put tuna fish on a plate and set it on the floor next to the cat.
"Okay," Brian said. "He likes the crunchies shaped like little fish."
Brian's mother looked at him. "Sox liked those best too," she said.
"I know," Brian said. "I think all cats like those best."
"Go hang up your coat," Brian's mom said, "and put your dirty clothes in the hamper."
"Okay," Brian said.
Later there were good smells coming from the kitchen. Brian's mom was making spaghetti, which was Brian's favorite.
"Dinner's ready," his mom called. "Wash your hands."
Brian went into the bathroom. Julius was sleeping in the sink.
He walked back out of the room and into the kitchen where his mother was putting plates of spaghetti on the table.
Brian's mother looked at his dirty hands. "Why didn't you wash your hands?" she asked him.
"I couldn't," he said. "There's a sink full of cat."
Brian's mother raised one of her eyebrows and looked at him skeptically, which is a grown-up word for when someone doesn't believe you.
"Come see," he said and Brian's mom followed him into the bathroom.
Julius was sleeping in the sink, curled up and comfortable, his head tucked into his fluffy tail.
"See," Brian said.
His mother laughed and reached out to touch the cat softly on his head.
Julius began to purr.
"Come on Brian," his mom said, putting her hand on the top of his head and stroking his hair like she had petted the cat. "Let's go wash your hands in the kitchen."