Act 1 Scenes

Scene : Going… Going… Gone.
(1st scene of act 1)

Mia glares at me one last time before leaving and slamming the door.
I hear the angry stomping of her footsteps fade, and realize…
This may be the last time I ever see her my girlfriend again.
Well, x-girlfriend that’s for sure.

I sit down on the sofa trying to retrace the steps that caused the fight, and all the terrible things that were just said, but all I can think is
“Wow, all her stuff fit in 2 suitcases.”
She was always very practical, so this should not surprise me. But it does.
Everything. After six months of living together here. Two suitcases.

I understand that Mia’s upset about a lot of things.
Yes, she just got the car.
Yes, she saved a long time to buy it.
Hitting a humanoid must be as traumatic as hitting a human – nekos are extremely clever and intelligent, but they just lose it when it comes to crossing roads for some reason.
Yes it sucks her car is totaled and insurance won’t cover getting a new car.

But this is crap.
Mia comes here demanding I get rid of Clawdia?
Why?
Clawdia had absolutely nothing to do with the accident.
Even if I wanted to get rid of Clawdia, which I don’t, I can’t.
Clawdia was my mom’s neko, and I promised both my mom and Clawdia that I would care for her.
It was kind of the agreement in me getting to live in the house when mom moved.
Hell, Clawdia’s lived here since before I was even born.

MC: “Bullshit.”

I vent aloud to the room.

And then I notice a concerned pair of eyes peeking from around the hall.
As if reading my mind, Clawdia peers at me.
She clearly hid from the fight that Mia and I had, and now has come out to assess the situation.
And to check on me.

With slow deliberate steps, she gracefully crosses the room and sits on the other end of the sofa, looking at me with grave concern.

MC : “Clawdia, this is where you live. I will never send you away.
You live here as long as you want to.”

Clawdia’s expression of unease softens, and her large ears perk up a bit as her tail noticeably relaxes.
Regardless her brow still shows traces of sadness – likely at how she can tell my deep upset at the fight and breakup with Mia.
Clawdia slides over to me and puts a hand on my thigh and lets out a soft sound…

Clawdia : “Sad.”

MC : “Yeah. I’m sad.”

I reach up and begin patting her head. It’s what she was hoping for. She presses her head into my hand, twisting so that I’m now rubbing the spot where the base of the back of her ear where it meets her neck. The spot that she so enjoys being scratched. Her eyes close and a large grin appears on her face as she blurts out a purr-like hum. In a moment, my anger and sadness at the event with Mia subside more than I would have expected. Clawdia continues to turn, and rolls onto her side placing her head on my lap. She lets out another short purr-like hum as I continue scratching behind her ear.

Clawdia’s presence at this moment gives me surprising peace. It’s strangely intimate. She final stops rolling as she ends up laying on her back with her head on my lap, and big smile on her face. It means that for me to reach her hear and scratch, I have to reach around her face – and I can feel her soft warm breath on my arm.

The level of trust she has with me has always amazed me. A complete vulnerability and comfort.
Growing up with Clawdia, who was for all purposes my mom’s pal, we were not really very close.
Mom would dress her up and do girly things with her, and they would pretty much be together all the time.
When not with mom, Clawdia would hang out alone on the sun-porch watching the birds.
I always thought she was pretty to look at, but other than seeing her at dinner and an occasional out of nowhere hug from her, I was engrossed in school and my own life outside of the house, and didn’t have much contact with her

When mom had to move and couldn’t take Clawdia, she offered me the house on the provision that I care for her neko. Mia and I moved in, and for the past 6 months my focus was on Mia. And again, Clawdia would have dinner with us but other than that I didn’t see her much, as she’s largely been self sufficient.

Now, suddenly tonight, after the fight with Mia, here’s Clawdia to comfort me. Selflessly affectionate. Reminding me of back when I’d come home from a hard day at school, and Clawdia would come out of the sun room and give me a big hug and a smile – like she knew it was what I needed at that moment. My neko.
She really is my neko now.

I hate that Mia would put me into a position where I’m expected to choose between my girlfriend and my neko.
It’s bullshit that Mia would vent on Clawdia like this…
As the twisted anger and sadness start to well up in me again, Clawdia pops her head up.

Clawdia : “Tea?”

MC : “Yeah, good idea.”

We head into the kitchen and start to make our “tea”. I prepare the kettle as Clawdia fetches 2 cups and the milk.
For me: a cup of tea with a splash of milk.
For Clawdia: a cup of milk with a splash of tea.
We head over to the table and sit.
In one gulp, Clawdia swallows half her “tea” and sits grinning at me and licking her lips.

I smile and realize how grateful I am to have Clawdia. She is intelligent, capable, and complex – with such alien motivations and concerns compared to those of humans. She could have, at any time in her life, opened the door and left us – never to be seen again. But this creature has chosen to stay here and be a part of the domesticated human world, and away from the more wild world of her feral neko kin.

But it’s the way she so deeply embraces the simplest joys of life that I find so Zen.
As if reading my thoughts, Clawdia, still grinning and licking her lips, looks up from her tea and at me.

Clawdia: “Good!”

As always, I’m not 100% sure what she’s referring to, but likely much more than just the tea.

MC: “Yes Clawdia. It is good.”

MC: “Yes Clawdia. It is good.”

Scene: Hello Pepper

I pull the handle to open the door, but it doesn’t open…
It’s… stuck?

MC: “…”

Why is my door stuck?
I grab the handle and give a firm tug.
The door slightly moves, then closes tight again…
It feels like someone is holding the handle from the other side and keeping it shut.

MC: “What tha…

Finding my frustration taking over, I grab the handle with both hands and place my foot on the wall next to the door.
Yanking the handle with all of my might does the trick!

…too well…

The door flies open and I fall backwards, landing hard on my back.
The moment of surprise is replaced by a moment of shock as something…
no, someone…
lands on top of me!

The next moment lasts only an instant, but feels like much longer as my brain works to piece together what is happening.
Someone is on top of me – a woman, guessing by the smell of perfumed shampoo
and unmistakable feel of breast through fabric that is pressed to my face.
The sound she makes zaps me back into reality, she sounds injured, or angry…
What is happening??

With surprising quickness she rolls off of me and turns towards the still open door. It’s then I notice the ears and tail.
It’s a neko, wearing a collar, with a leash, that is tied to my door handle!

MC: “What tha…

At the sound of my voice the neko spins, so quickly that it freezes me in place, and in one sharp movement turns towards me and leans in uncomfortably close so that we’re face to face – close enough to kiss.
Her unblinking eyes hold my gaze. Her warm breath on my face as sniffs and assesses.

After a moment she lets out a huff, and makes a quiet vocal whine that I a moment ago mistook for pain or anger.
In her obvious frustration, she sits back on her butt, looking out the open door.

As I remember to breathe again, my mind puts the final pieces of the puzzle together…

MC: “Pepper.”

At the sound of her name, Pepper twitches one ear in my direction but keeps her focus towards the open door and outside.

MC: “Pepper why are you here?

MC: “And where is Goro…

As my eyes focus on Pepper’s leash tied to my door handle, I ask the last question already knowing the answer…
but my addled brain not understanding it.

Pepper: “Goro gone.


Scene: Goro WTF

Getting up, I step around Pepper and untie her leash from the door, and close it.

Pepper is Goro’s Neko. He’s had Pepper since he was a kid and she was a kitten. Apparently, at one point rats – normal ones the size of your arm, not the big scary bastards the size of your leg – had found a way into their basement. So they got Pepper to take care of the problem. And oh-boy did she. Pepper turned out to be a rat murdering machine. Almost immediately and instinctually, she fashioned a spear from a carving knife and a pipe. And went monkey-stomping-wild on the basement rat population. I’m told she would wait for hours in ambush for them, often letting them wander around the basement for a while before unleashing her special cold-calculated hell upon them. Goro’s family would reward her by grilling the rats she caught on their porch grill for her.

Pepper bonded to Goro and so it was natural for him to take her when he got his own place. I’ve known Pepper as long as I’ve known Goro. But what is going on and why was she tied to my front door?

…and now sitting, trying to hide her anxiety and look dignified, on my foyer floor?
The tip of Peppers tail flips angrily betraying her calm exterior, and confirming my take on her state of mind.

I step around Pepper, heading towards my phone and automatically touch her head as I pass in a reassuringly friendly gesture, which she largely ignores. It’s then I notice a narrow pair of eyes peeking over the back of the sofa from the other room. Clawdia, naturally drawn by the recent commotion, has decided to see what the fuss is about, but only from a distance. A wary concern enters my mind as I retrieve my phone from the counter: I don’t think Clawdia has ever met another neko. Not close up. I hope this doesn’t suddenly get violent.

For a moment, the perverted slice of my brain envisions a “cat-fight” between Clawdia and Pepper that is way too pornographic. Fortunately, my anger at Goro pushes it aside.

I’m startled for the third time this morning as, as soon as I pick up my phone – it rings!

Caller ID: (Goro)

MC: “GORO WHAT THE FK?”

At the sound of Goro’s name, Pepper turns towards me a looks intently at the phone.

Goro: “Hey buddy, how’s things?

Goro sounds way to chipper. I feel way too played.
I can hear the engine of his car through the echo of the speakerphone, so he’s driving at the moment.

Goro: “Hey I hope you and Pepper are ok, that looked rough when you two tumbled.”

MC: “Wha… you saw that?”

Goro: “Yeah, I wasn’t just gonna leave her tied to your door and drive off. I waited till you opened the door first.”

I’m absolutely speechless.
I also notice that Pepper has seen Clawdia peering over the back of the sofa. After a moment of glaring, they start to do the “neko dance” where they pretend to ignore each other, and steal glances when they think the other won’t notice.

Goro: “Look man here’s the deal… I joined the Army. I’m out of my apartment today and crashing at my aunt’s before heading to boot-camp. I can’t take Pepper, and my parents have a new neko so they can’t afford another one. It’s not like there’s a shelter… and I can’t bear releasing her into the wild. You’re the only option. Besides she like you.”

I feel my blood boiling and at the same time, the fresh emotional wounds from Mia start to open. I hear her voice telling me to get rid of Clawdia, and my outright rejection at the absurd idea.
I’m finding myself in Goro’s shoes and hating that he’s making sense.

Wait, the Army??

MC: “But you’re an Emergency Medical Technician, and you’re working towards becoming a Paramedic, you…”

Goro: “The Army is gonna make me a medic! I’ve got it in writing, all signed by a Colonel!
Who knows, if I play my cards right down the road I may get the Army pay for medical school!”

My feeble protests carry no weight.
His points sway me in a manner that makes me hate myself. He’s practiced this conversation already, where I’m fumbling to catch up.
But mostly, I can’t help but feel bad for Pepper. The most sassy and self-assured neko I’ve ever seen, looks lost and meek as her keen hearing picks up every word from Goro’s end of the conversation. How much Pepper comprehends can’t be known, but Goro’s voice clearly isn’t reassuring her.

Goro then drops the happy act and gets very serious.

Goro: “Look man, I… this is hard for me. You are the only one I the world that I trust her with.
Anywhere else and all I’m gonna do is worry.
I’m… sorry… that I did this…
but I’m not sorry that you’re someone I know will treat her well and make her happy.
She deserves you.”

Goddammit.

Goro asks to speak to Pepper. I hold the phone out and she takes it like she’s receiving a fragile gift. I hear Goro tell her that she is a ‘good girl’, and that I’m going to take very good care of her, so she should stay out of trouble. Pepper doesn’t move the whole time, just listening to Goro’s voice. I notice Clawdia has risen a bit from the sofa, and her expression has softened. Knowing Clawdia as long as I have I can read her better than I can Pepper. Clawdia may not get the details – or maybe she does, who knows – but she can sense the sadness and distress that Pepper is hiding.

Pepper puts down the phone and adjusts her position so that her legs are under her and her tail wrapped around them. Her eyes stare flatly at a blank spot on the wall.

A somber hush fills the house.
I pick up the phone.

Goro: “Oh she may try to climb into the shower with you.”

MC: “dude… WHAT?!?”

Goro: “Yeah, she loves showers. So when she hears the water, she gets excited and tries to get in.
She’s harmless but will use too much shampoo. Oh and she may forget to dry off after.”

MC: “…?!?”

Goro: “Just lock the door is you don’t want her in there with you.
Of course Pepper will bang on the door and whine if you do.
Look, I’m sorry about this but you are the only option.
I promise I’ll make it up to you… one day.”

Goro hangs up and I’m left trying to not think of Pepper naked in the shower with me.

After an awkward moment…

Clawdia: “Tea?”


Scene: “Goro buys dinner, what a swell guy”

I turn the TV on and change the channel to a nature program that shows different animals in the wild, especially birds. It’s something Clawdia really enjoys – and Pepper has also started getting into it too. The best part is with them focused on the ‘quality programming’, I won’t have to worry about the two of them trying to establish dominance over each other while I’m out.  At the sound of the show, both my Nekos come into the room…

Wow, I said “My Nekos”.

I guess I’m coming to the reality that I’m now going to be responsible for not just Clawdia, but Pepper too.

This is a huge deal as it’s expensive to have a domesticated neko, with the feeding and extra laundry, and care, and attention – and now I have two.

I look up and I’m surprised to see them so relaxed and in close proximity to each other after the events of earlier this week. Clawdia is on her spot at the end of the sofa, and Pepper squatting on the floor – both their eyes wide and focused on the TV. As the picture switches to a scene of penguins, Pepper blurts out a quick but quiet “Get em Pepper!” while biting at the air.

Yeah, they be fine for the next few hours.

The restaurant is a short walk from my place, and I get there to find Goro seated and waiting for me.

Goro: “There he is!”

MC: “You’re buying.”

Goro: “What?? I gotta buy my own going away dinner? You people who keep Nekos sure are a stingy bunch of tight-wads”.

He jokes quite pleased with himself.

Goro: “Yeah man, my treat. As a way to thank you for ‘volunteering’ to take Pepper. Hehehe.”

MC: “So tell me about all the naked shower time you and Pepper had together?”

Goro: “Oh, ouch!

Hah, ok, I deserved that one.
Look you know I consider her like a sister. Never had any hanky-panky, but there were times I was tempted…”

MC: “Jesus Goro… you’re a perv.”

He gets defensive and smiles:

Goro: “Really? This coming from the guy who told me his first ever sexual experience was with Clawdia?”

I get defensive, and don’t smile.

MC: “What the f~”

Goro: “You told me when you were younger and living with your mom, Clawdia had climbed into your bed while you were sleeping and curled up with you. You woke up spooning her, with your hand on her boob. I remember you telling me that it felt great but you were terrified that your mom would walk in any moment and murder you for fondling her neko.”

Oh my God.
I had forgotten about that, and forgotten I told Goro about it!

It happened on a weekend so I got to sleep in a bit, but my mom always came in a woke me up on days like that.

I was terrified, but her warmth pressed tightly against me…
the feel of her body, and sent of her so close to me…
it was intoxicating holding her so close and…

He busts out laughing.

Goro: “Dude your face is so red right now.

I laugh to hide my embarrassment.
Goro raises his glass…

Goro: “To perverts!”

I can’t help smile as I raise my glass as well.

MC: I’m going to miss you, but I’m not sure why. You’re such an ass.

Dinner conversation relaxes after that, and we slip into our old habits of jokes and finishing each other’s sentences. At one point Goro goads me to get a phone number from our cute wait-trix, but the Mia breakup is still too fresh for me to even consider.

Besides, it can be awkward telling someone “Oh by the way, I’m one of those people that keep a neko…”

And now I have two.

So instead, I ask if they have any “turnover”. A phrase that means meat or fish that’s about to get tossed out, and that people take and either leave out for a neighborhood wild neko, or take home to give to their domestic one.

The wait-trix returns shorty with a bigger than I expected takeout bag with enough shrimp, chicken, and sashimi to keep Clawdia and Pepper happy for 2 meals each.

MC: “WOW!”

Goro grins like a shark.

Goro: “Told you she liked you!”

As Goro gets in his car and drives off, I wave and ponder how radically different my life has gotten in just a week.
Mia and Goro who I saw almost daily now both out of my future.
Pepper now a part of my and Clawdia’s life.
Feeling dower and distracted, I start the short walk home.


Scene: “I pooped myself”

{It’s been 1 week since Pepper moved in. Pepper and Clawdia have been uncomfortably getting adjusted to each other… with some hiccups and jealousy over MC’s attention. It’s the day before Goro goes to Army boot-camp. MC and Goro have dinner. MC comes home and…}

The sudden and shrill sound stops me in my tracks, causing a flash of adrenaline to rush through me.

There is something in the bushes, and it had just cried out in a torturous piercing sound that froze me in quiet panic.

I stand motionless.
My mouth slightly open and my eyes wide.
The sound of my quick heartbeat thumping through my ears.

My brain is unable to place what could be back there.

It was not a sound I’d ever heard before, and the only thought I could muster was:
a giant rat was about to pounce on me and tear my guts out just steps from my front door.

The “something” that made the shriek was now making a noise like a quiet bubbling.

Then, the sound of my door being unlocked brings me back to my senses; Clawdia is opening the door.
I turn and rush inside, happy that Clawdia was there for me.

But Clawdia rushes passed me – going outside to investigate the sound, with Pepper right behind her. They had clearly heard the shriek, and their instincts must have gotten the best of them.

MC: “Clawdia, Pepper, stop…!”

They totally ignores me as if I wasn’t even there, ears perked up and tails low.

It wasn’t often that I saw Clawdia in this much of an animalistic pose, her placid demeanor gone and her predatory ancestry suddenly forefront.

Pepper seems much more natural in the role, the huntrix in her taking over, her head darting back and forth working to identify exactly where and what is in the bushes, and determining if it’s friend or foe.

But what most surprised me was Clawdia.

In an instant she had deftly snaked past me and stopped right in front of me, placing herself between me and whatever was in the bushes, and she was making a low and almost inaudible growling sound, the tip of her tail wrapped around my calf .

MC: “Clawdia! Pepper! Let’s go inside now!”

At the sound of my voice, Clawdia’s ears momentarily twist in my direction, at least acknowledging me, but neither neko breaks their focus on the bush. The thing there makes another startling shout, but this one is softer and more desperate sounding.

At the noise both Clawdia and Pepper change posture from that of a crouching fight pose, to a more upright and piqued posture – focusing directly at a spot even closer to us than I thought.

Clawdia glances briefly to Pepper then back to the bush, but Pepper doesn’t move or react.

It’s known that nekos can make sounds outside of the range of human hearing, and it’s theorized that what communication they have with each other happen is this range.

Clawdia turns towards Pepper again, clearly annoyed. She turns and looks me in the eye, gently takes my hand, and begins to pull me inside the house.

I follow her and she leads me into the bathroom, looks at me, and softly states a command:

Clawdia: “Stay.”

Then leaves me there, closing the bathroom door.

MC: “What tha…”

I didn’t know what was weirder at this moment: Clawdia had given me a direct command to stay here, or that I was obeying it.

Could what was out there be so dangerous that she put me in here for my safety? But then why would she and Pepper stay outside?

I should:

[1. Trust Claudia: wait here]

[2. Crack open the door and peek]

[3. Go see what is happening]

[4. Maybe I can help]

{The “thing” in the bushes is Shimi. She was hit by a car about a week ago, is injured and in pain. Clawdia has identified Shimi as an injured neko, but is wary. She put MC into the bathroom as Shimi is feral and a humans presence will make this more difficult. MC will come out of the bathroom at some point. Choice 1 + 2 have Pepper come get MC and bring him outside. Choice 3 &4 have MC go out on his own. Divergent paths rejoin at:}

I gingerly approach the bush Clawdia and Pepper on either side of me but a bit back. Clawdia clearly still overwhelmed with curiosity and still as a statue. Pepper seems a bit more agitated, her tail appearing to be trying to jump off her body the way it’s swishing – her face conversely wears an expression of wary concern.

Peeking around the bush, I see a very wide and wild eye looking back at me.

I slightly sigh in relief. It’s a neko – a feral one at first appearance – curled up on the ground in a half-sitting, half-laying position.

For a moment the two of us just stare at each other. I’m about to retreat back into the house and leave it alone when I notice there seems to be caked blood on the side of its face, and it’s holding its arm too closely to its body. It lets out a pained feeble cry, confirming my suspicion that it’s injured.


Scene: “Saving Shimi”

[1. Leave it alone]

[2. Try and help it]

{Choice 1 has MC go back inside with Clawdia and Pepper. Shimi will continue to howl in distress and Clawdia and Pepper will be high-strung and not sleep until MC goes outside and coaxes Shimi into the house. Choice 2 has MC trying to coax the wild Shimi inside right away. She doesn’t want to, but at this point is too weak and pained to flee. }

Either way, she curls into a ball with her good hand covering her face. With great care MC carries her inside places her on the floor in the living room. Pepper brings a blanket to MC and Clawdia brings a bowl of ~~tea~~ milk. MC gently covers her with the blanket and leaves the bowl nearby.}

The feral Neko is laying on the floor of my living room. She’s practically naked, and filthy – covered in dirt and dried blood. Torn clothes hang off it in a sad and troubling way. One arm held close to her body, and her tail is bent and limp. Her eyes are closed tightly and she’s curled up in the blanket. What ever happened to it was serious, that much I can tell.

Clawdia seems agitated at the situation as the tip of her tail to swishes back and forth.

Meanwhile Pepper seems unable to decide if she wants to ignore what’s going on, or be more involved. She keep coming into the living room, and then leaving again, only to return a moment later. The whole house if filled with nervous energy.

I pick up my phone and dial…

Goro (on phone): “LOL, you miss me that much alr…”

MC: “Goro, can you come over? Like now?”

My tone gets Goro instantly serious. I tell him the situation and he says he’ll be right over. The 15 min it takes him to get here feel like much longer. The feral neko continues to tremble and hide in the blanket the best it can. I have no idea about treating an injured human, let alone an injured neko, and it makes me feel useless. All I can figure out to do is dim the lights and take Clawdia and Pepper into the bedroom so all 3 will hopefully be more relaxed.


Scene: “3, 3 Nekos, Ah, Ah, Ah!”

Goro reaches in to the medical bag and pulls out a syringe and a small bottle.

MC: “What’s that?”

Goro: “diphenhydramine hydrochloride.

My look of concern causes him to continue.

Goro: Relax, it’s just Benedryl.

Antihistamines make nekos sleep. Even I know that. It’s pretty much the way most people use to get one into a car if you need to take it somewhere. Pepper is the only Neko I’ve know that doesn’t mind the car, which is why Goro was able to get her over here so easily. Clawdia is not bad but even she got a bit anxious the few times we needed to take her anywhere. Most nekos won’t go near a car without some sedation.

Goro: “I need to relax her if I’m going to check out how injured she is.

He injects the feral neko, and after a moment, she stops trembling and her body completely relaxes.
Her quick shallow nervous breathing becomes slow and deep.
Pepper has been hiding in my bedroom since Goro arrived, pouting and intentionally ignoring him.
I make Clawdia and Pepper some ‘tea’ to distract them, which I give to them in the bedroom, and return to Goro who’s cleaning and applying bandages to the feral neko. After a while, he finishes up and we go into the kitchen.

Goro: “She’s blind in an eye, but it isn’t new, that’s an old injury.
So… I’m guessing cat versus car.
I don’t think the arm is broken but it had a nasty cut that I cleaned up. Probably some soft-tissue damage too, but should heal over time.
She’s missing a fang. That looks new, but not a big deal.”

Goro: “Her tail is messed up.
I did what I can, but you’ll need to watch it as… “

MC: “Wait what do you mean watch it?
You want me to keep her??”

Goro: “She has broken ribs… I was getting to that. And she’s half starved. If you release her before the ribs heal, she’ll die out there. So…”

MC: “Goddammit Goro!”

Goro: “Yeah buddy, you’re becoming a regular cat-lady. HAH
Anyway I did what I can do. Keep her fed and crush a Benedryl in the food to keep her calm till those ribs heal. Otherwise she could puncture a lung.
Watch the tail.
It will either heal or won’t.
If it doesn’t, a doc will need to chop off the bad bit.”

Goro: “I gotta go man, tomorrows the day – boot-camp.
Wish me luck!”

Goro spends a few minutes with Pepper, who tolerates him but doesn’t react much.
I do hear her say:

Pepper: “Pepper live here now.”

At one point.

Then Goro says good-by to us and heads off.
I’m left with 3 nekos, no girlfriend, and a best friend I won’t see for a while.
FML.

It’s late but I should probably check on them. I’ll first…

[Check on Clawdia]

[Check on Pepper]

[Check on the Feral Neko]

[Just Go To Bed]


Scene: “Checking on Shimi”

Goro left me his med bag as he won’t be needing it where he’s going, and I will.

Amongst the creams, bandages, over-the-counter medicines, and other first-aid stuff, I discover a container of baby wipes, which I find odd but useful at this moment.

Gently approaching the feral neko, who I find her semi awake and still dosed from the antihistamine.

Approaching slowly and in a soft reassuring voice I gently speak to her.

MC: “Hey there… you’re ok…. I won’t hurt you.”

She just stares at me with her one blue eye, her lips slightly parted and soft steady breathing. Her hand no longer covering her face, and now under her head as a makeshift pillow.

MC: “I’m going to clean you up a little more if that’s okay? I’ll stop if you want me to.”

I have no idea if the feral neko understands me, but my gentle talking seems to be acting almost as a lullaby as her eye closes somewhat so that it’s only half open now. Using the baby-wipes, I start to lightly clean her face and arms, the whole time speaking in a soft drone and telling her

MC: “…its okay… you’re okay…”.

At some point during the ‘bath’ she falls asleep.

She’s really dirty, more than I’ve ever seen a neko. It gets me thinking about what Goro said about her “dying out there”.

She is skinny even for a feral neko and I can’t help feel pity at her situation.

I get her face arms and legs clean with little problem, but avoid her ribs, belly, and private areas, as I don’t want to end up bit. After a while, she looks better. Well – cleaner at least – somewhat better if you ignore the bandaged tail and arm .

As I’m collecting the used baby-wipes I notice that she’s awake again. It’s been several hours since Goro gave her the antihistamine, so I figure time to get her another. I grab the used wipes and the bowl of milk that Clawdia had brought earlier, and head into the kitchen where I crush up an antihistamine. Also I crush a big neko-friendly pain-reliever that I keep on hand in case I ever needed it for Clawdia. I mix them into the milk and bring it back to the feral neko. Her eye widens as I approach, so again I start speaking in a soft monotone and offer her the bowl of milk. She sniffs once and then turns away placing her hand over her face and eye – almost as if ‘if she can’t see me, I’m not here’ kind of way.

MC: “Okay, no milk right now then… that’s alright. We’ll try something else?”

I bring the bowl of milk back to the kitchen and put it in the fridge for a later attempt, when I notice the ‘turnover’ bag from the restaurant with the shrimp, chicken, and sashimi.

Opening the bag near instantly brings Clawdia and Pepper out of the bedroom and into the kitchen. They overly affectionately press against me and start pawing at the food. I manage to keep them from it by using my body as a shield – but I’m way out matched here… as Pepper grabs at back and shoulders and Clawdia rubs her head on me, both pressing against me trying to get at the food.

Clawdia & Pepper: “Yum! Eat it? Please now?~ ”

I have to bribe them back into the bedroom with most of the shrimp. Just as well, as once I have them back and out of the way, I have no success offering the shrimp or chicken to the feral neko. Again she turns away covering her face. The last time she lets out a pained whimper.

The meds are wearing off.

As I open the plastic on the sashimi, I hear a ‘pleady coo’ come from the feral neko. The smell of the tuna and salmon have piqued her interest. I bring a small piece of sashimi on a plate over to her and set it nearby. As I step back she timidly reaches forward and takes it, swallowing without chewing. Then eagerly looks at the empty plate and then back to me. A warm rush of relief floods through me and I’m a bit surprised with myself at my reaction. Apparently, I was more worried then I realized, and really pleased about this sudden connection.

MC: “Oh, you like the Sashimi? It’s good isn’t it.?”

Feral Neko: “…shimi”.

MC: “…!”

I’m floored.

Did she know how to speak already?

Or did she pick that up that fast? 

MC: “That’s right…sashimi… I’ll get you some more, okay?”

I gingerly take back the plate then rush into the kitchen.

I place several pieces of sashimi on the plate and sprinkle the crushed medicines onto the pieces.

Coming back to my new friend, she looks eagerly at the plate of fish.

MC: “Sashimi?”

Feral Neko: “…shimi”.

I smile as she eats.

MC: “Shimi. Yeah.”

—–


Scene: “Checking on Pepper”

I have to look around to find Pepper, and eventually I do.

Sitting in the dark – in what’s now the study, my old bedroom – she’s on the window seat.

With the lights off it took me a moment to realize she was in here.

She’s twisted so that she can see out the window into the darkness.

MC: “Hey Pepper.”

She acts as if she doesn’t hear me and keeps looking out the window.

The bowl I gave her with the shrimp is here, but it looks like she only ate half of it.

I deduce that seeing Goro again made her remember all that’s happened recently, and it’s weighing so heavily on her that it affected her appetite?

Hrmmm…

I’ve known Pepper as long as I have known Goro, but this week is the 1st we’ve spent any time interacting.

She’s always been aloof and independent.

At Goro’s she would always just be doing her own thing when I hung out there.

But now, being here and not having a “her own thing” to be doing, and after so the very unceremonious delivery by her former master…

then seeing him again…

And I realize I’m not really sure how to console her.

I walk up to her and join her on the window seat.

She doesn’t react to me at all.

[Tease her]

[Give her time]

We sit for a little while and I feel totally useless.

Maybe it would be better if I leave her alone, as I’m not being helpful in any way at the moment.

I start to get up to go, and she turns and looks at me with a near pleading expression.

But when I sit back down, her face changes to one of almost annoyance.

It’s like she can’t decide which is worse, me staying or going.

I’m really out of my league here.

Pepper is so different from Clawdia.

Maybe I’m just so close with Clawdia that I can discern her moods and needs, or Pepper is almost like trying to reading a book written in a foreign language.

Probably both.

Finally I say

MC: “Pepper, you know Goro would have taken you with him if he could…”

Pepper keeps looking out the window, and flatly states

Pepper: “Pepper doesn’t care. Pepper lives here now.”

It’s a mix of resignation and grim reality.

Like a sentence of “life in jail” being read by an emotionless judge.

I can’t tell if she really doesn’t care, or if she knows there’s simply nothing she can do about it.

Shit.

I reach out and stroke the back of her head between her ears.

The touching slightly startles her, but she doesn’t move away or try to stop me.

Nor does she press into my hand like Clawdia would.

She might just be tolerating me.

I genuinely have no idea.

But, she hasn’t bitten me yet, so I keep it up.

Gently stroking her hair, I try to give what reassurance I can.

Pepper quietly stares out the window.

A short time later, the soothing affection I offer seems to reach her a little, I think.

Maybe I just bored her.

But Pepper’s posture relaxes softly, and she curls up on the window seat and closes her eyes – her knee pressed against my thigh.

I keep stroking her hair till her breathing indicates that she’s fallen asleep.

[Quietly leave (& other ‘check on’ choices)]

[Keep petting her (and fall asleep next to her]

—–


Scene: “Checking on Clawdia”

In the bedroom I find Clawdia curled up in the middle of my bed.

The bowl of shrimp next to her, now empty except for the shrimp tails.

That’s pretty unusual for Clawdia, to have left it there and not put it in the kitchen or at least on the floor.

She tends to do a good job cleaning up after herself.

But this has been a very stressful week and tonight even more so.

Collecting the bowl and putting it aside I grab a blanket and start to cover her up, I’ll let her have the bed tonight.

Without opening her eyes she reaches out and puts her arms around my waist.

It’s a little unexpected.

She’s affectionate when she wants something, or to show her appreciation sometimes, but this is something else.

Trying to put myself I her position, with Mia recently demanding I get rid of Clawdia; my fight with Mia; Pepper being here; now a feral Neko in the living room…

MC: “Poor girl.”

I sit down on the bed. Without opening her eyes, she stretches her long body, moving to cuddle into me so that she’s now partly on my lap, and still hugging me.

I rub her back, and feel her relax deeper into sleep.

I can’t help but think back to that time I woke up with her in my bed, spooning with my hand on her soft breast.

Her warm body pressed against mine felt so exciting, and had other effects beyond my control… and she didn’t seem to mind.

It was difficult to tear myself out of the bed that morning, as a basic part of me wanted to stay and enjoy the yearning sensations and give in to the lust.

It’s so strange that this creature

[I still have stuff to do]

[I need to make sure Clawdia doesn’t feel neglected (and fall asleep with her)]


Scene: “Burgers”

It’s a strange sight.
All 3 nekos, in close proximity to each other, looking at me from the window.

MC: “I said come outside girls…”

Looking at them framed that way makes the worrisome thoughts return.
Can I really care for 3 nekos?
It’s not just the cost of feeding what are essentially 3 people.
But also the grooming, and clothes, and attention they require to be healthy and happy…
Not to mention, I’ll be “that guy who has 3 nekos”.

MC: “…sigh…”

It is a gorgeous afternoon and the grill nice and hot, so I push the thoughts out of my head the best I can.

Pepper’s eyes are wide at the sight of the grill.
Clawdia has a pleasant expression as she gazes out past me into the distance.
Shimi has just her one eye and ears poking up as she peeks from the window.

MC: “I’m making hamburger, guess no one wants any…”

As the meat hits the grill, Clawdia opens the door carrying paper plates, and comes over to me.

Clawdia: “Yummy burgers! Now?”

MC: “Not yet sweet Claws, but soon.

Pepper springs out the back door sniffing the air.
She gives me a curious and devious glance,

Pepper: “Get em Pepper!”

She says to me, and then begins prowling along the fence-line of the yard.
Maybe she’s looking to catch a rat for me to grill up for her.

Shimi squats at the doorway, half inside and half outside.
She makes a tentative move to come out but the sound of a not too distant car engine causes her to retreat inside.
Her physical wounds aren’t getting any worse, but the emotional ones aren’t getting better yet.

For a while, we all enjoy the beautiful afternoon.
Clawdia nibbles on the catnip plant and smiles as the sun warms her face, occasionally remarking about something that catches her eye.
Right now it’s the fact that there’s a shiny green bug on the catnip plant, and that the plants are pretty dry and in need of water.
I notice that her nails are starting to get long.
She’s usually good about self-grooming, I probably just need to remind her.

Shimi actually ventures out a bit, but never very far from the door in case she gets overwhelmed and needs to go back inside.
She seems to mostly ignore the other two and focuses on me.
I guess I’m the alien in her world, and the mix of current dependency and curiosity have her interested – although wary.
Shimi has taken to hoarding. Nothing major, but there is a spot behind the curtains where I keep finding things.
At first I was cleaning it all up when I found it, but now I let her keep the 3 newest things she’s hidden, and only put away the older stuff. At the moment there is a spoon, a box of matches, and a can of peas.
The spoon and matches make sense, but she tends to avoid most vegetables at meals, so I found that curious.
But If its easing her anxiety, then I’m ok with it.

I realize that at some point Pepper went back inside, and came back out carrying a hammer.

I didn’t even know I owned a hammer.
There’s a toolbox in the hall closet, but I’ve never had need to go into it.
Seeing her with the hammer is a bit unnerving as I’m reminded of the adage:
“When all you have is a hammer, you treat everything like a nail”

It seems Pepper – hammer cocked causally at her shoulder – has found a hole in the yard, likely that of some rodent.
She’s hovering over it and slightly twisting her head as she listens to find if anyone is at home there.
Come to think about it, that’s actually an odd thing…
The overcrowding of rat colonies has devastated the populations of mice, moles, chipmunks, frogs, squirrels…
I can’t remember the last time I saw a raccoon.
Most metal street light poles now have birdhouses hanging from them, and shelves for birds to nest on, as a way to keep the rats from the eggs.

The sudden scolding at us by several passing crows grabs everyone’s attention,

Clawdia: “Shoo!”

Pepper: “Get ‘em Pepper!”

Shimi: “…!”

and the 7 eyes in my yard track them till they disappear.

Clawdia: “Ronika!”

Veronika: “Hello Clawdia. Hi… oh… you have 2 Nekos now?”

Veronika is my neighbor. Her appearance at the fence quickly noticed by Clawdia was missed by me and Pepper. Pupper turns and quickly regards Veronica, then turns her attention back to the ‘whatever’s burrow’ hole in the ground.
Wait, she said two nekos?
I look back towards the house for Shimi, and of course she disappeared at the sight of a stranger.

MC: “U-uh… yeah. You met my friend Goro… Well, he joined the Army and now I have Pepper.”

I leave out the details of HOW I came to have Pepper, and notice that one of Pepper’s ears it turned in our direction as Veronica and I converse.

Veronika: “Oh wow, that’s so sweet of you to do that!”

Veronica says while scratching Clawdia where her ear meets her neck.

I’m a little surprised by Veronica’s reaction. Then again, she’s an artist, although if I remember correctly – she mostly works as an interior painter for her dad’s construction and remodeling business, but …

MC: “Hey Veronica,”

I say while watching the nekos,

MC: “do you want a neko?”

Both Pepper turns to me with a look of shock and awe, nearly dropping the hammer.
Clawdia shoots me a very disapproving glance and purses her lips.

Veronica: “OH, I… OH…”

MC: “Kidding! I’m kidding! Hah.”

I say to all three. Although… No, they are my responsibility now.

MC: “Hey Veronica, we’re about to have dinner. Would you like to join us?”

Veronica: “Oh wow, thanks so much, but I can’t… I-I uh… plans…”

I don’t know a lot about Veronica, but I do know that she has a on-again-off-again boyfriend that’s kind of a tool.
Her response tolls me they are currently “on again”. I want to tell her she’s too sweet for him and that he’s a dope to not treat her better, but I guess it’s not my business. I decide to save her and cut off her sentence:

MC “No problem. Some other time maybe. Raincheck!”

Veronica: “Yeah, definitely! Thanks.”

Veronica gives a soft slightly far-away smile.

Veronica: “Well I better go get ready. Bye Clawdia – you are so sweet! By Pepper, it was nice meeting you.”

Clawdia hugs Veronica over the fence.

Clawdia: “Bye ‘Ronika!”

Pepper doesn’t budge from her snipe-hunt, but her tail gives a relaxed but elaborate back and forth swish that could almost be interpreted as a wave.

MC: “OK, come on girls. Cheese burger time!”

With this distraction and my enjoying the girl’s reactions, I turn my attention to the now ready burgers – completely forgetting about the hole in the yard.