Ruth by Nancy Springer

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Poet T. S. Eliot once noted that when it came to cats, naming them was quite the difficult matter. At the Haven for Life Animal Rescue, worker Xenia knows this all to well. Glad to have a position, regardless of the fact that she suffers from paranoia, developmental retardation and depression, Xenia wants only to give the best care to the rescued cats that live in the shelter. When Xenia realizes that the kittens are being adopted shortly after she gives them new names, she discovers a new mission for her own life, and a realization about what it really means to take care of something that may not be able to take care of itself. A short story.


The moment Xenia stepped into her assigned room, a dozen of her babies met her with their tails up like flowers, flowing and eddying around her ankles, meowing and rubbing and purring, the fluffy yellow one starting to climb her like a tree. Through her jeans Xenia felt his claws in her leg. The pain drove the demons out of her chest for the moment, letting her feel warm and at peace. “Oh, you angels,” she said, sitting on the floor, stretching out arms pitted with scars and scabs. Her babies wrapped her in a blanket of their living fur, white gray tabby black tortie calico, some in her lap and some on her shoulders and the fluffy yellow one with his back feet on her chest and his little arms around her neck, rubbing his velvety head against her cheek.

“Oh, honey child,” Xenia said, hugging him back. Knowing that her babies loved her was what enabled her to drag herself out of bed in the morning after another long night of devils in the dark either keeping her awake or giving her evil dreams. God bless Portia for saving the babies and giving her this job. Quitting school because she couldn’t stand it anymore, Xenia had never expected to find work at Haven for Life Animal Rescue. Portia was as good to people as she was to animals, giving a job to a Special Needs Emotional Support kid fresh off the short bus.

Thinking of Portia made Xenia remember that she should be working, and despite the yellow cat rubbing his nose in her ear, the devils recommenced their usual dance clamor hurt inside her, making her claw at her face to transfer the pain. She picked at a scab on her chin till blood ran, scanning the room. More babies, nearly fifty more, sunned themselves in the windows or meowed from the cages or curled together on blankets or crouched under the daybed. The poor soul calico longhair with no claws sat in a corner crying as usual. Three skinny old babies huddled together on a quilt. The crippled baby dragged himself across the floor, leaving a snail-trail of urine. Cat puke, cat pee and cat poop mottled the linens and the linoleum like spots on a milk cow. Xenia needed to start cleaning it up but the devil didn’t want her to. In her mind some demon began nagging that she was useless alone lonely ugly motherless loveless and ought to kill herself. The noise and pain distracted her so much she couldn’t think. Sometimes it took her two hours to get herself collected and pointed in the right direction and moving.

  • Published by: Untreed Reads

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