Chapter 9:

A Kat's (GOD AWFUL!!!) Blessing (9)

A Kat's (GOD AWFUL!!!) Blessing

On the ride home from Maria’s farm, Kat rested her head on her hand while staring out the window. She had taken off the paper bag and dropped it by her feet. The AC hummed at full blast, shooting a constant stream of cool air against her face, rustling her whiskers. Her fur and dress were a very stifling combination, so the moment she had gotten in the car she directed all the air vents onto her.

When the car arrived on Mainstreet, Kat slumped into her seat as she saw the townsfolk going about their morning. The paper bag swiftly made its way back onto her head.

Her mom drove around behind her shop and parked the car.

“Aren’t you coming in?” her mom asked when she noticed Kat still ducking inside the car.

“Unlock the door first,” she said. “Then I’ll come running in.”

“Are you that scared of anyone seeing you?”

“Yes! I look stupid in this getup,” Kat argued.

“And who’s the one who’s self-conscious about the fact they’ve been transformed into a cat and wants to hide it from everyone?”

Kat never liked it when someone used logic against her in an argument.

“It’s only gonna take ten seconds to open the door,” her mom said, “so don’t worry about it.”

Kat looked around from inside the car. Satisfied there was nobody around, she quickly opened the passenger door and stepped out.

“Okay, Mom. Go go go!” she said, pushing her mom toward the shop’s back door. Any time wasted between exiting the car and going into the shop was that much more time for someone to see her.

But that anxiety can be a delicious aroma to some people. Those who cannot pass up the most inappropriate moment to get into someone’s business. They crave gossip. Passing it to others gave them a high that no other form of communication could give. Like ninjas waiting in the dark, they lurked in the shadows of the community. Waiting like a hunter, searching for their prey: the weird and unusual. Something that broke the boundaries of normal. Went outside of what was considered routine.

“Good Mooooorning, Mrs. Jones!”

Kat’s heart sank like a rock dropped in the ocean. Walking out of the back of the neighboring store was Mrs. Keensley. She was an elderly woman who Kat figured had long past three digits in her age judging by the valleys of wrinkles that littered her skin. Her thin, crystal white hair was tied up into a bun on the back of her head.

“Morning,” Kat’s mom answered with a smile. “Hot weather today, huh?”

“It sure is! I hear it’s going to be the hottest summer on record yet! Which begs me to wonder,” she said, her eyes widening. They focused on Kat’s attire, like a pair of snipers lining up their sights. “Has Maria’s taste in fashion sense rubbed off on you recently? And that bag. What is this about? Hmmm?”

The town gossip. If something was going on in the community, she was the first to know about it. It was her claim to fame, as said by herself. Being the store owner of a knick-knack novelty shop in a small town in the middle of nowhere, she had plenty of downtime. The store would get at most one, maybe two customers a month during a good year. Not that the business needed customers to begin with. Her husband owned the building outright, and the two lived comfortably on his pension from working as an engineer for over forty years. The only reason the shop existed was to give her something to do.

But her main hobby was to spy on her neighbors for gossip. She liked to wander around town, looking for anything to gossip about. Once she had something, she’d go from store to store, relaying what she found out. It didn’t matter if the recipient didn’t want to hear about it. They were going to have to listen to the entirety of what she had to say before moving on. Nobody was safe from her all-seeing eyes and teleporting abilities when juicy gossip was afoot.

Mrs. Keensley’s such a pain, Kat always thought. If she were to find out about how she had turned into a cat, the whole town would know by sundown. No, she would most likely go to the local papers to let them in on the word. Her only saving grace would be that its readership was only a handful of people who refused to give up on having a physical newspaper in their hands when drinking their morning coffee.

But that wasn’t the worst of it. Mrs. Keensley had a habit of doing something else that would get on Kat’s nerves.

“Would you like a sucker?” Mrs. Keensley asked, pulling out several lollipops from a pocket. “I’ve got cherry! Your favorite!”

She still treated Kat like a little kid. No matter how much older she got, or how mature she’d become as a person, Kat was still nothing but a child to that ancient mummy.

It didn’t help that Kat hadn’t grown an inch in years. Nor did it help that she’d always take the lollipops without hesitation, only to eat them in delicious displeasure later. That day was no exemption.

“Oh my! Your hands! They’re all swollen!” Mrs. Keensley said after Kat had taken the candy.

“I fell and hurt my hands last night when playing at Maria’s house,” Kat lied, shoving two of the lollipops under the bag and into her mouth as she talked. The taste brought joyous irritation as she sucked away. “AnywayIgottagokeyskeyskeys,” she slurred, poking her mom with a hand.

Her mom handed her the keys, which Kat quickly snatched away and ran to the door, holding the paper bag over her head so it wouldn’t accidentally fly off.

Once inside, she slammed the door shut, walked over to the staircase, and plopped her butt down. She then laid across the staircase with a sigh, her paper bag falling off her head and bouncing to the bottom of the staircase.

“Everyone’s going to think I’m a weirdo now,” she said, biting down on her candy.

She continued to lay in distress, chewing on the delicious candy she hated, while her mom continued speaking with Mrs. Keensley. After what felt like an eternity, the two said their goodbyes. “She just never stops talking,” her mom said in a hushed tone while entering the shop.

“It’s the end of the world,” Kat said in a deadpan tone.

“Because you’re a cat, or because Mrs. Keensley is about to run downtown and shout like a town squire?” She cleared her throat and began talking with an overly dramatic voice. “Hear ye! Hear ye! Katherine Lily Jones is wearing a dress for the first time in a decade, along with a paper bag over her head! Also something about hurting her hands?!”

Kat snorted a giggle, then went back to frowning from her depressed mood. “Definitely that, but also definitely me being a cat.”

“It’s not the end of the world,” Kat's mom assured her, scratching the top of Kat's head between her ears.

Kat squinted with joy, allowing her mom the privilege of giving her a head scratch.

“The world has endured for billions of years, and it will continue to do so for billions of years after until the sun becomes a red giant and swallows the Earth whole. Then it will burst into a powerful, fiery space explosion, taking out the entire solar system in a hellish death.” She added an explosion sound effect using her voice. She then patted Kat’s back and climbed up the stairs to enter her home. “Only your life has ended.”

“Moooom!” Kat whined. “It’s not funny!”

“I know, I know,” her mom laughed.

“I said it’s not funny!” Kat yelled again, stomping her foot, only to hit the edge of the step and slip. She quickly grabbed onto the rail to save herself, then ran up the stairs.

Kat’s mom went into the kitchen, where Ludwig was taking a nap as he waited for his breakfast. He opened one eye to see who had woken him, then stretched his front paws out while giving a long yawn.

“I was just teasing,” Kat’s mom said while passing by the fridge. “Oh, we’re out of wet cat food?”

“I’d appreciate it if you didn’t tease me while I’m in the midst of a life crisis!” Kat responded, marching into the kitchen as she went about trying to take the dress off.

Ludwig’s ears shot upward as his eyes opened in shock. “Wha?” he said. “Did you guys get a new cat without consulting me or something?”

“No,” Kat replied. “We did not get a new caaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA—”

Kat’s eyes grew wide as she pointed at Ludwig, who had just spoken perfectly understandable English.

When Ludwig saw Kat standing before him, he looked weirded out by her presence. “Yeesh! That’s the most grotesque-looking cat I’ve ever seen! Oh, wait. There I go saying the quiet part out loud again. Haha! No hard feelings, right?”

Kat continued pointing at Ludwig as her mind was still trying to gather itself after having been blown. “Ludwig…!” she stuttered. “He… he…!”

“Hm?” Kat’s mom said, looking at Kat in confusion.

Kat turned to her mom, tears running down her face. “Ludwig called me grotesque looking!!!”

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