This piece was written for write_aid (and other unnecessary pimpage 8D).
Richard Christopher Bundy was thirty-eight years old and had been working at Smythe & Sons Accounting for sixteen of the aforementioned years when the knock came.
One could say that it was a dark and stormy night, but it was more dim, really, with a finicky wind batting at the windows and a petulant rain floating down—the misty sort of drizzle that doesn’t quite seem to want to be there and makes you suspect that it has an old obligation to someone else at the party.
Richard had been to a few parties in his day, though he hated them. Lots of cheap wine and expensive clothes and prattle about things he didn’t understand—wives and children and fulfilling existences; things like that.
In any case, the knock came.
Richard Bundy, ushered unctuously into the hallway by the discordant commercial jingle belonging to a specimen of oatmeal that bore an alarmingly close resemblance to lumpy glue, went to the door and opened it.
On his doorstep stood a boy of about nine years, a boy with matted brown hair, wide gray eyes, and an opalescent trail of snot leading from his left nostril to the top of his lip, where—abruptly and terribly ominously—it ended. He cradled a tiny black kitten in both arms, its fur disheveled and its little button eyes shining in the porch light, and he was looking expectantly up at Richard.
“Um… hello,” Richard said, more awkwardly than he had ever said anything in his unremarkable life—which was quite a feat; he was awkward a rather sizeable portion of the time.
The boy shifted the kitten to his left arm and dragged his right sleeve across his face. Richard attempted not to cringe and didn’t have time to notice whether or not he succeeded.
“Your light was on,” the boy announced.
Stupidly, Richard looked up at the light in question, despite the fact that he was perfectly well aware of its state of luminescence. He always left the light on, because he was of the (somewhat dubious) opinion that it deterred unsavory types, and even the smallest and least threatening of unsavory things made Richard Bundy distinctly uncomfortable.
Which was part of the reason this boy concerned him greatly.
“So it is,” Richard said. He considered, feeling as though his inner antennae (which always coached him in moments of dire need) were quailing something awful, apparently to the point of complete incapacitation. Richard sighed inwardly. “What’s your name?” he asked.
The boy shrugged. Or perhaps it was the wind moving the ratty coat heaped over his shoulders; discerning the difference proved virtually impossible.
“Dunno,” he said.
Richard blinked. “What’s your cat’s name?” he asked, nodding to it.
The boy shrugged(?) again. The nameless kitten yawned hugely.
It seemed inconsequential to step back and let what could only be called an urchin (Richard thought of little poisoned spikes) shuffle over the threshold. In retrospect, however, it was everything.
“Are you hungry?” Richard asked cautiously.
Dunno’s pale eyes lit up like stained glass windows.
Richard plied his newfound charge with chicken noodle soup and chocolate milk, but Dunno, obliging as he was, had little insight to offer in terms of his origins. As far as Richard could tell from the snippets of information flung carelessly towards him between bites and sips of epic proportions—as far as he could assemble a disjointed story as threadbare as Dunno’s coat—the streets had birthed the boy, just as they’d nurtured and raised him. He’d found Nameless the Kitten just the week before, and when the furball started following him, Dunno had taken to watching his fuzzy companion’s tail. Eyes suddenly brighter again, Dunno launched into an animated narrative about the time Nameless had leapt out of his arms and clawed the living daylights out of some mean bum’s face as said mean bum had tried to take Dunno’s lunch, and about how most of the scary types had kept their distance after that. In
In the interest of ameliorating the appalling and monumental pong that had been radiating outward from Dunno’s fragile frame since the moment it sidled over the slightly hypocritical Welcome mat, Richard coaxed the boy up to the master bath. The child’s bewildered hesitation spoke volumes. Tomes. Libraries.
Richard felt like a game show host lifting various items and describing their respective functions. Soap was for everywhere; shampoo for the hair in particular; one ought close one’s eyes tight against the suds. Towel… toothbrush… comb…
Dunno nodded bravely, though he clutched Nameless just a little closer to his chest.
As Richard discovered twenty minutes later when Dunno, heralded by the clomping of little feet down the hall, emerged into the living room, the boy had flawless fair skin and rosy cheeks, and his hair was a lighter shade of brown than Richard had first thought.
The storm picked up not long after Richard had seen Dunno settled in a makeshift bed on the couch. He lay in his own bed, his hands folded on his comforter, and listened to the rain lash against the windowpane, wondering what in the world he’d gotten himself into. An hour slipped away, marked by the flicking progress of the red numbers on his digital alarm clock, and another skulked after the first, probably to mug it in a dark alley somewhere. Richard slid out of the bed, maneuvered his feet into his worn slippers, and padded out to the living room to peek around the doorframe, almost unsure of what he’d see.
His heart skipped like a stone over a lake when he saw the couch unoccupied, but then he followed the corner of a trailing sheet to the nest of blankets on the floor, and it was there that Dunno was curled, a considerably cleaner kitten nestled in under his chin.
Richard Bundy paused. He couldn’t quite say where this was going, or where it would end, or even what he was supposed to do tomorrow morning. But in a life like his, a life that had been scrawled out in the margin of a moderately important document from the beginning, there was something dreadfully promising about that.
“I dunno,” he whispered. Slightly tentatively, but quite undeniably, he smiled.
Yeah, orphan children and kittens is pretty much cheating as far as the Cute Factor goes. My bad. Or, rather, my strategy... :P