A Kat's (GOD AWFUL!!!) Blessing
The rest of the day was a slow and painful one for Kat as she watched the store. There were gaps of forty-five minutes to an hour between customers. Other than that, Kat was left to herself. Ludwig provided no company, which was to be expected. All he did was lounge around, get up momentarily to stretch his legs, then change spots so he could sunbathe beneath the window.
Kat would occasionally get up and walk around the store, and a few times found herself standing out front of the store doing jumping jacks or running in place just to let off some built-up energy. There was a moment where she laid her head down to rest, only to fall asleep. When she woke up, she found payment and a note from a neighbor saying that they had picked up their pants and that they wouldn’t tell her mom that she was sleeping on the job.
“Much appreciated,” she said aloud when she put the money in the register.
When six o’clock came around, Kat closed the blinds and locked the front of the store up.
“Whew! Another hard day at work over with,” she said, stretching her arms. “C’mon, Ludwig. Dinner.”
Ludwig perked up at the call for food. He followed Kat to the staircase in the back of the store, leading to the second floor where she and her mom lived.
Kat went to grab a can of cat food but came up empty. “Why does it always feel like we run out so quickly? You aren’t sneaking extra cans of food behind our backs, are you?” she asked.
Ludwig didn’t respond.
“What am I saying? Of course you didn’t. How would you even open the can? Guess you’re stuck with dry food tonight.”
Ludwig was disappointed by the dry food for dinner, but he also didn’t make a fuss either. Food was food, after all.
Kat wrote wet cat food on the shopping list stuck to the fridge and got to cooking dinner for herself. Cooking in the sense that she took out a bag of pizza rolls, threw a fistful onto a paper plate, and chucked it into the microwave for a few minutes. She then took her meal to the living room couch and plopped down to watch a movie as she ate.
It was nightfall by the time Kat’s mom returned.
“Kat!” she called out from the downstairs backdoor to the garden and carport. “Come help me unload the car!”
“‘Kay!” Kat answered, pausing the movie.
Kat had expected to grab her mom’s work supplies to put back into the shop. Instead, she was greeted by numerous boxes that seemed ready to burst from her mom’s tiny car.
“What’s all this?” Kat asked.
A total of thirteen cardboard boxes were pulled out from her mom’s car and plopped onto the kitchen counter. Each one a different combination of flavors and frosting types. Some of the boxes contained almost a complete cake with only a tiny slither of a slice taken out.
“Luanne wasn’t sure what kind of wedding cake she wanted, so she had a ton of examples baked for her. On top of that, most of the other women there didn’t want to eat any in fear of gaining weight before the big day. So, uh, yeah. I mentioned you wanted some when I got there, and Luanne didn’t want any to go to waste. Looks like we’ll be having cake three meals a day for a while!”
As much as Kat enjoyed cake, even this was a sickenly amount. She feared ruining her love for cake before she and her mom would get a third of the way through.
“We’re not seriously eating all of this, are we?”
“Pfft! Course not!” her mom laughed. “We’re only keeping one.”
Kat had a mixed reaction of relief and disappointment of only getting to keep one.
“Pick whichever one you want, then pick three boxes for Maria and her family. The rest I’m giving to the neighbors.”
Kat inspected each box of cake, immediately choosing one that appeared to have a whipped vanilla frosting with a hint of strawberry. Jackpot, she thought.
After picking which three she wanted to give to Maria, she stacked them on top of each other and prepared to head over. “I’m gonna go bring these over to Maria.”
“Right now?” her mom asked.
“It’s after dinner, so I’m sure her siblings will go crazy when I show up with a bunch of free cake.”
Her mom chuckled. “In that case, take my car. Just don’t let anyone see you driving it this time.”
“That’s okay. I can walk.”
“But it’s dark out, and it’ll take you an hour to get there.”
“It’ll be fine,” Kat assured her. “The moon’s out, so it’s not like it’ll be completely dark out. And I’ve got a bunch of pent-up energy I want to run off. Besides, I highly doubt there’ll be anyone lurking in the shadows to jump me or anything.”
“That’s not what I’m worried about,” her mom said. “I’ve heard there’s a pack of wild dogs running around the area at night recently.”
“Is that all? If I run into them I’ll just fight them off!” Kat did a high kick in the air similar to the ones she’s seen in fighting games.
Her mom shook her head. “No, you won’t fight them off. Wild dogs can be dangerous. Or worse, they could have rabies. If you run into any, I want you to stay clear of them, okay?”
“Alright, fine,” Kat answered. “But I could totally take them on.”
“I’m sure you could. But don’t.”
Kat picked up the cakes for Maria and her siblings. “Yeah.”
“I mean it,” her mom said.
“I got it,” Kat answered as she exited the back door.
“Don’t fight them!”
“You can stop now!” Kat yelled from down the street as her mom watched her leave.
The moon shone brightly that night, vanishing only when the stray cloud covered it up. But those moments were few and far between.
Kat followed the dirt road to Maria’s parent’s farm, walking along the edge next to a barbed-wire fence. Patches of wildflowers decorated the patch of ground between the road and the fence.
The temperature had dropped with the setting sun. When a gust of wind blew across the fields of grass, Kat cursed herself for forgetting to wear a jacket. Once she delivered the cake to Maria, she planned to dash home to warm herself up.
An hour later, Maria’s family home atop a small hill was in sight. Most of the windows in the house were illuminated. A large Granny Smith apple tree sat across the front yard. Kat recalled how years ago she’d climb up the tree and sit on its branches, plucking an apple and taking a few bites, only to chuck and grab another. Maria’s dog, a massive Great Pyrenees, would then devour whatever she dropped. In the fall, Maria’s grandmother would bake them into the best apple pies she ever had.
Maria’s dog was laid out inside his dog house by the porch. When Kat got closer to the house, she whistled a familiar tune, causing him to instantly look around for the source. When he spotted Kat, he let out a cheerful bark and dashed toward her.
“Hey, Charles Bark-ly!” Kat said, holding up the boxes of cake above her head in preparation for what was about to come.
Maria’s dog, named Charles Bark-ly by her father with his lame sense of humor, jumped and rammed into Kat’s chest, almost knocking her over. If she hadn’t positioned herself to prepare for his attack, she would have surely been knocked onto her butt.
Charles Bark-ly reached up and started slobbering Kat’s face. After showing his affection, he looked up at the boxes of cake, smelling the delicious treats within.
“No, these aren’t for you,” she told him. “They’re for Maria and the others.”
Hearing Kat’s whistle and Charles Bark-ly’s barking from inside, Maria walked out to the porch. She had changed into her pajamas, which matched the same elaborate gothic lolita look she wore during the day. She called out to Charles Bark-ly, who ran over to her on command.
“Hope I didn’t wake you,” Kat said, noting Maria’s pajamas.
“Not at all. I just got out of the bath. What brings you over this late at night?”
“Remember how my mom went out on that job this afternoon and said she’d try to bring back some cake? Well, she wound up coming home with a baker’s dozen.”
Maria’s eyes widened. “Wow. She hit the jackpot.”
“Yup! We decided to just keep one and spread the wealth, so I brought over a couple for your family to enjoy.”
“That was sweet of you and your mom,” Maria said. She opened the front door and looked inside. “Hey, guys! Kat came by with some cake!”
There was a loud unison “CAKE?!” yelled throughout the house, followed by the sound of an oncoming stampede. Again, Kat braced herself for impact.
Six kids between the ages of five to twelve dashed out the front door and tackled Kat, just as Charles Bark-ly did. There was Marco, the fraternal twins Gabriel and Gabriella, Veronica, Patricia, and Carlos, the youngest of the siblings. They all cheered as the crowded Kat, striving to reach for the boxes of cake that Kat held above her head.
Maria let out a loud “ahem!” to get their attention.
Liked trained dogs, her siblings immediately stopped and ran back to her. They lined from oldest to youngest on the porch.
“Thank you,” Maria said. She then took three boxes of cake and handed one to Marco, Gabriel, and Gabriella. “You can only have one slice. And no, no double-thick slice. Comprende?”
“Yes ma’am,” they said in unison.
“Now say thank you to Kat.”
“Thank you, Kat,” they said in unison again.
“Okay. Go enjoy the cake.”
The kids instantly broke and dashed to the kitchen to help themselves. Carlos, on the other hand, stayed for a moment and looked up at Kat with a blush. Kat smiled and waved to him.
“Go have some cake, Carlos,” Maria said.
Snapped out of his trance, Carlos turned and nodded to Maria, looked up at Kat again, then trotted inside.
“It’s always weird whenever I see you in ‘Madre’ mode,” Kat said.
“Someone has to when my mom’s busy.”
“Doesn’t it get tiring?”
Maria let out a warm smile. “It can, but I love the little devils. I wouldn’t trade them for the world.”
“They’re lucky to have as cool of a ‘madre’ like you.”
Maria smirked. “Would you like to join us for a slice of cake before you head back?”
“No thanks. I’ve got a cake of my own that I’ll be destroying when I get back.”
“See you tomorrow?” Kat asked.
Maria nodded. “Goodnight.”
Maria entered the house and closed the door behind her.
Kat turned to Charles Bark-ly, who had walked back over to her during the conversation. She gave him a quick belly rub, a couple of head pats, and then hopped off the porch before jogging back home.