Part of Fuega Fuega.
Life, some say, is too precious for mistakes. It can slip out of your paws so easily, yet mistakes keep happening. Some are small, and they are not life threatening. Others can potentially kill you, sometimes slowly and painfully, sometimes quickly and easily. But I’ve found out the hard way that the worst mistakes tear your heart and the hearts of your loved ones in the evilest of ways.
I’ve had so many of these mistakes in my life that, to some, it’s barely worth anything anymore. But there are some things in life that keep you holding on, no matter what happens. Like the feeling of blood rushing through your claws, the sound of another heart beating through warm, soft fur that belongs to the one you love most, or the sight of your family and friends looking up to you as the Second Fire. I have felt all these things and more, and it’s hard to imagine life without them. But that’s the way it once was.
Meet the Family
At first, I felt like I was drowning. There was something that was engulfing me, and I couldn’t escape from it. But it was warm, musty, the scent of life. It couldn’t be water.
I felt a pain on my back as something sharp as ice scratched and left a mark along my spine. I felt myself fall to the ground. A shadow leaped in the air and landed with a thud on my side, knocking the breath out of me.
It also woke me up.
Blinking my eyes open, I realized the furry thing was Vulture, my brother. I smelled his black, musty fur, and he was tackling me without warning…again. Quickly, I looked around, and sighed with relief when I saw that he hadn’t drawn any blood on me.
“C’mon, Fuega!” he growled playfully. “Fight me!”
I might as well give him what he wants, I thought. I tried to copy his growling, but it came out as more of a whine, which made him purr with laughter. As he was distracted, I bundled my haunches and leapt.
I thought it would come easy then. I would know what move to make, as Vulture seemed to always know. But it didn’t come so easily, and I wasn’t prepared. Instead, I awkwardly rammed into his side. Miraculously, that did the trick; he rolled over until he lay limp on the ground.
At once I became worried. Had I hurt him? But before I could take a single pawstep, Vulture was up again. Yet this time, his growling was not playful; it was in deadly earnest. His fur bristled, his claws unsheathed, and his eyes glowed with pure hatred. As he marched toward me, my paws seemed to automatically move backwards. But he was faster. When he was an inch away from my nose, he raised his paw and prepared to strike.
“Come here! Meal time!”
I turned around, and I saw my mother, Peach, standing to the entrance to the alley. In her mouth was a gruesome-looking sewer rat.
Vulture raced passed me, all signs of aggression gone. He leapt in the air, trying to catch the rat, but Peach had it way too high up for him. I followed slowly, confused by Vulture’s mood swing.
“Ella, come here!” yowled Peach. I looked behind me and saw my sister slowly stretching after her nap in her favorite corner of the alley, her ginger fur rustling. As always, she didn’t seem hungry at all, despite her thin appearance, though she looked thoroughly scared. Big surprise. She nervously glanced around her as she crawled over to us.
“Now,” meowed Peach, “not all of you may get food tonight. You’re going to have to fight for it.” With that, she threw the rat to the other side of the alley.
Ella, being the fastest of us all, ran toward the rat ahead of me and my brother, who followed close behind. But when she picked it up, Vulture slammed into her. Mewing in despair, she dropped the rat and ran to her corner.
As Vulture began to take a bite out of his prize, I swiped my paw under his own. He tripped over, falling flat on his face. Leaping up, he scratched me, and I scratched him back. Soon, we were in a full-out battle, a bundle of fur, teeth, and claws. We had never been evenly matched before—my brother always beat me in a fight—but now I could tell, from the way his muscles were all tense and his eyes had a desperate glint that I had never seen before, that he was really using effort to fight me. I didn’t stop to think why; my brain seemed to be only focused on the fight.
“That’s enough!” Peach ran over and shoved us both out of the way. She then split the rat into three parts. Vulture got a quarter of it, and I got an eighth. Peach ate the rest of it.
“D-don’t I get some?” came Ella’s soft squeal from her corner.
Peach stalked over to her and cuffed her on the ear. “Not until you fight for it.”
As I ate my meager, disgusting piece of rat, I began to wonder why I was suddenly so good at fighting Vulture. It made no sense. The only thing I knew for sure was that Peach favored Vulture, and I wanted to stop that.
Thoughts in My Head
We used a round, silvery thing that Twolegs put their trash in as our den. Peach, not wanting to coat her fur in garbage, had cleaned it mostly away, but there was still a bit of trash at the bottom, and it stank like rotten fish. By now, at a moon old, I had become used to it, but it still stank.
As I looked up to the sky that night, while my mother and siblings were sleeping, I thought about what I knew, didn’t know, or wasn’t sure about. I knew that I knew that Vulture’s, Ella’s, and my father was a housecat named Peanut. He had tortoiseshell fur that had been mixed with Peach’s ginger coat and then passed down to me, so that I had orange and brown fur; he also had yellow eyes that had been passed down to Vulture, and big, yet not super huge, muscles like me and my brother. I knew that I had gotten my green eyes from Peach, and my mother had passed her orange fur to Ella. Vulture’s thin, all-black pelt and Ella’s small, wary, aqua-blue eyes were unique to them both.
I also knew that after my mother found out that she was to bear Peanut’s kits, she ran away from his small Twolegplace and into the big Twolegplace, where the Twoleg nests reached as high as the sky and everything seemed to have an extra coating of muck. I knew that Peach had found a slightly suitable den just in time to give birth to six kits, but three died, though how one of those three wasn’t Ella, I didn’t know. And finally, I knew that Peach favored Vulture more than me and my sister because he fought better, though she at least acted like I was her own kit, instead of treating me like a speck of dirt like she did to Ella.
So I knew a lot of stuff. But the stuff I didn’t know and wasn’t sure about was nagging me. I didn’t know how I somehow managed to fight Vulture evenly over that rat, I didn’t know exactly where my father was, and I didn’t know how he, even if he had been the cruelest housecat, could love my mother.
What I didn’t know for sure bugged me the most of all. Peach had said that she had asked Peanut for help raising her kits, but he refused. I at first told myself to not believe it, but what if it was true? What if I had two abusive cats for parents? And what did that make me?
As I lay awake that night, I knew that, sooner or later, I would have to find out the answers to the questions. I suppose I would, eventually, but I would get a whole lot more than I bargained for.