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Today’s word prompt (the bolded beginning of the story) comes from Tom Olsen and the picture prompt from Rayna M Iyer. The prompts just clicked together, so I chose each for the other. Now for the flash fiction:
Cats do not make good pillows, but that was all the boy had– a cat he called Mau for a pillow, best friend, and family on the streets of Mumbai.
A cat has skills, and the boy had learned quite a few from Mau– how to move and when, where to scrape a meal from, and what to leave well alone. He knew to pad across the road when it was choked with traffic, to curl up on high walls when threatened, to steal a nap in someone else’s ramshackle tent on the footpath— close enough to people to earn a pat or morsel, but far enough away to bend into a run.
That evening when the earth shook with noise, window panes on the office buildings shattered, and the first sirens blared, the boy followed the other people of the street, to see what was up. But he came back to Mau, who licked him up, perhaps to warn him off the curiosity that killed cats.
That night, when people had run, holding each other, some bleeding, the others bent and wailing, when the sirens had dulled into a lulling song– the people in the tent behind which boy and cat shacked up for the night dwindled their chatter about bomb blasts, and fell asleep.
Sometime at dawn, the earth shook again, startling them awake, and all was sound and pain and darkness for a while, from which Mau emerged unhurt. But the boy did not. It did not matter how much he had learned from the cat, how hard he tried.
Mau had nine lives after all, the boy but one.