Ricky Anderson and Joseph Craven just put together a Sudden Writing Challenge that I
foolishly joined before I knew what it was about. What was I thinking, ya’ll? Anyway, this time we were given a couple of days to write a caper. We had to include a rooftop, a custodian named Glenn and the line, “Well, that’s not how I would have planned it.” I fit the roof and the custodian in pretty clunkily, but they’re there. Anyway, this is the first fiction I’ve written (despite asking for topic suggestions so I could practice). It’s longer than I intended, but it’s done! I’ll link the other participant’s stories as soon as I can!
The little brown-haired boy stood looking at the gate. At the lock specifically. It was a standard kind of grown-ups only job, with a big ball at the top of a rod, and when you pull the ball and rod up, the latch releases. And then, freedom.
Now, under normal circumstances this particular child was not so inclined to seek freedom. The fenced-in portion of his parent’s back yard was a smorgasbord of delights for little boys just his age. Of course, he did not know what a smorgasbord was, but he knew what one looked like when it came in the form of swing sets and kiddie pools and sand boxes and, well…just…everything. Suffice it to say he was generally quite satisfied with his gated lot in life.
And in fact, that wasn’t what he was after on this particular day either. In fact, he was after something much more scrumptious than freedom. Of course, he did not know what scrumptious meant either, but he surely knew what it tasted like as it disappeared down his throat.
You see, on the other side of the gate was, on this particular day, a teen-aged boy. Asleep. He was not supposed to be asleep, as you can imagine, but he was. And beside the boy – on a low table as it happens, which is awesomely convenient if you are a little brown-haired boy – was a box of cookies. Chocolate, maybe, or maybe chocolate chip. It’s hard to tell from here, but it hardly matters anyway, does it? I mean oatmeal raisin may be oatmeal raisin, but in the end it’s still a cookie.
And so the boy stood, and looked, and thought.
Above his head – and if he’d taken a moment to look in that direction, he couldn’t have helped but see it – a large yellow cat lounged comfortably on the branch of a tree. It was a very old tree and it had been there ever so long, but we need not get into all that for this story. I will just take a moment to tell you that a certain squirrel-proof bird feeder, which naturally was not squirrel-proof at all, hangs from that tree, in fact from that very branch. I only tell you this because that bird feeder is why the cat was on a branch in that old tree, and it will almost come into the story a bit later.
Oh, and I forgot to tell you the child’s name is Alex. But, the cat persisted in calling him ‘the brown-haired boy’, and so shall we. His little blond consistent playmate was simply ‘the other one’. If you had lounged comfortably beside the cat that summer, you might have heard him say something like, “the brown-haired boy is pouring sand into the pool again…aaannnnd…there goes the other one,” his tone a mixture of bored humor and ‘well, what more can one expect from humans?’
And yet, whatever frolics and antics the boys partook of that summer, the cat was sure to have seen it happen. So we must forgive him if his grinning thoughts were ever tinged with a bit of condescension. One cannot, after all, blame a cat for being a cat. And truly, he was exceedingly fond of the boys, though he would never have deigned to show it.
And so the cat lounged, and watched the boy, and waited.
In the time it took to introduce you to the cat, the brown-haired boy had made a decision. And even a plan. It was an elaborate plan, to be sure, and nothing in life is guaranteed to work as you’d like, but maybe this probably would. Sure, there were several moving pieces to consider – quite literally, there was a trike with three wheels that would continually persist in moving – but he had his little blond consistent playmate already enlisted as aide, and so he was very confident they would overcome that obstacle at least mostly.
But he would do the intricate work himself. You see, the brown-haired boy was three and a half, but the other one was only two and three quarters. And every three and a half year old – and cat, too – understands that there is a world of difference between a three and a half year old boy and a boy who is only two and three quarters. There’s simply loads of difference, a world’s wealth of advanced comprehension and knowledge. And that’s besides the superior manual dexterity. Also, it was his plan, and so there.
The cat watched as the boys seemed to talk it over and then set out after their tools and implements. While they busily gathered equipment, he snuck a glance at the roof of the house to check on Jeremy. Jeremy is a squirrel and they had what might be called a standing engagement. About this time every afternoon, it was Jeremy’s aim to get to that bird feeder I told you about, and it was the cat’s aim not to let him. Looking down at the teen-aged boy (whose name is Glenn, though I don’t know why you’d care), still sound asleep in the chaise lounge, he made his decision to stick with the activity below. “Glenn. What a lousy custodian he is,” thought the cat. Jeremy could have his fun today.
Looking down again, he thought, “Yes, if things go as they’re likely to, the boys might need my help.” For what the cat lacked in hands, he surely made up for in aim. “Hmph, any half-way decent house cat could land on that teen-aged loaf’s head from here.” He said loaf, and you may think he meant “oaf”, but he didn’t. Glenn did look uncommonly like a bloated, doughy loaf of…well, dough…left to rise in the sun. The cat’s contempt for Glenn was complete, and I assure you that’s saying something.
By now the boys were fully at work. The other one sat on the trike, his feet on the peddles really almost keeping it steady. The brown-haired boy perched on the handle bars, one hand on the fence and the other full of chunky plastic dozer. He had the bucket of the dozer braced against the big ball on top of the rod that works the latch that opens the gate. And he was pushing up with everything his little three and half year old arm had in it. It was a sight to make a mother cringe, but the cat only crouched on his branch and waited to see which way the action went.
Things did not, in fact, go as they were likely to, but instead they went as the brown haired boy had planned. The ball lifted, the latch released, the gate opened and that was that. The bag of cookies was nicked lickety split, and the boys each had one in their hands by the time the gate swung shut again behind them.
The cat relaxed. Sitting back on his haunches, he sighed, “Well, that’s not how I would have planned it.” He spared a meaningful glance for the two-foot-tall plastic ladder and slide lying on its side out in the middle of the yard. He’d seen those two boys drag that thing back and forth between the kiddie pool and the sandbox all summer long. “Humans,” he thought.
However… Success can hardly be argued with, and he thought he might as well go on down there and, just this once, condescend to exhibit his approval.
And perhaps be persuaded to accept a share of the booty.
Just this once.