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Around the Block - Devyn Gulickson

1st Place

Around the Block - Devyn Gulickson

Thump. Though muffled, the sound nonetheless filled the quiet room and marked the end to the scratching rhythm so common these recent years.

Kit’s right ear twitched. Opening his eyes, he twisted round to see his-girl push her chair back, and, paired with the familiar creak of the floor, knew she would be leaving the room momentarily. He stood and stretched with a quick yawn, letting his claws flash in the light of the late afternoon before they once again disappeared beneath his dutifully maintained red fur.

Sure enough, his-girl went to the doorway, her back to him and a small bag slung over her shoulder. Kit hopped down to the floor without a sound and stared up at her, the tip of his tail cockeyed, waiting for a sign of what would follow.

Faint music bled through the headphones atop his-girl’s head. Her hand went to the keys hanging on the wall. Their familiar jangle made his tail drop. She’d be gone for who knew how long. He mewled. The music played on.

With only the smallest glance back, his-girl exited the room and closed the door before Kit could follow. He half-heartedly grumbled as he turned in a tight circle, only to stop again to gaze at the closed door.

Faint sounds rose and fell on the other side: the clinking of keys against one another; a voice belonging to his-girl; the sound of music stopping and footsteps moving back and forth. Then they grew louder, closer.

The door swung open and his-girl closed the door again as if to keep him in, but Kit wanted to be nowhere else than with his-girl. She bent down and talked to him as she frequently did, and he asked her where she was going. He did it as simply as he could, though she didn’t understand. It wasn’t like he could understand her either, but still they spoke to one another.

He arched his back when she stroked him and purred, thanking her for coming back. Still, he heard the keys gently shifting within her sweater pocket. Did she come back only to leave again? However, when she reached inside, she pulled out something black and coiled like—

His lead! He couldn’t help but share his excitement, twisting around and rubbing his side against her legs, and his-girl showed her teeth and made happy noises, petting him and talking to him even more.

Once his-girl wrapped the black lead around his body, they were on their way out the door. Together. This was how it was supposed to be.

After travelling countless stairs, which his-girl was kind enough to carry him down, they were on the street with all kinds of sights and sounds greeting them: the sunlight glinting off the various windows, a windchime turning slowly in the breeze, car brakes up the road whining in protest, and doves and pigeons on rooftops cooing and nattering about their day.

Proceeding to the right, the car-lined brick road felt damp underneath Kit’s paws and the lingering musky scent of a recently wettened world calmed his senses. Rain was a good omen, and their surroundings sang their praises as remaining raindrops landed on anything and everything, creating a pleasant percussion of sounds as unique as a sunset.

His-girl’s footsteps followed him as they turned down the next street, this one a little busier. There were a few people about, all towering above him as all but the youngest of them always did, and all seemingly had a set destination they were off rushing to without a moment to spare.

A blur of motion rushed past with a whish of air and splattering Kit with water. A bike. His-girl made an urgent noise and picked him up, cleaning off his fur as much as she could. No matter—he’d get to it later.

Now at a higher elevation, he peaked into the glass-covered storefronts. One had tables full of books similar to his-girl’s. His-girl stopped at another storefront, rubbing Kit’s ears while he purred his approval. Then, with a turn, they continued down their way.

As they rounded another corner, an older person smiled at them and said something to his-girl. His-girl nodded and responded similarly. A wrinkled hand reached out and pet Kit’s coat, apparently not minding the dirt it had accumulated from his recent encounter with the bike. Then the hand retreated, and the woman said something to Kit, then to his-girl, before continuing on her way.

Then it happened again, and again. People on journeys calling for every second they had slowed down. They’d give Kit a smile or a pat on the head. Some would say something to his-girl beforehand; some wouldn’t.

Turning down a quieter road, his-girl let him jump down from her arms and back onto solid ground. The air shifted and its temperature dropped slightly. It’d be dark soon. The lead tugged at his body, a gentle reminder to not stray too far.

They made their final turn, returning to their street and to the same plinking tune of leftover rain and the shimmer of the windchime turning in the breeze. It was familiar but it wasn’t home, just as the vestiges of winter was not truly spring. It wasn’t home when they went into the building they left not so long ago. And it wasn’t home when his-girl carried Kit up the steps.

It wasn’t until they were back in their room that he felt at home. Alone at last. Alone together. Kit, taking up his usual position by the window, and his-girl, sitting and turning on the desk lamp as the sun set and the sky grew dark. It would be a late night. It always was.

The music from his-girl’s headphones started up again, marking the end to their adventure. Closing his eyes but not quite sleeping, Kit swung his tail back and forth, letting his-girl know he was up for another adventure when the time came. It couldn’t come soon enough.

 

(Voiceover by Maggie Ross)

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