1: Bandit Steals a Kitten

1: Bandit Steals a Kitten

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: I Can't Believe My Cat Did That!

Bandit Steals a Kitten

One cat just leads to another.

~Ernest Hemingway

With nothing more than a few cardboard boxes, assorted fears and misgivings, and a cat named Bandit, I moved into my grandparents’ old house to start an uncertain new life. After a long and painful breakup with my boyfriend of four years, I fled from the city to the comforts of the little house where I always found love when I was growing up. Even with both grandma and grandpa gone the house still held their warmth and traces of their scents.

Bandit paced through the rooms, mewling unhappily while I unpacked my clothes and put them away. He clearly preferred the airy apartment we had left behind. He leaned against my legs and looked up at me, pleading with me to explain why his world had suddenly been turned upside down. I bent over and scratched behind his ears. “It’s going to be okay, Bandit. This house has always been filled with love. We are going to be happy here. You’ll see.”

The sudden rap on the front door startled both of us. I opened it and stared into the face of a young woman with the reddest hair and the most ginger-colored freckles I had ever seen. Her smile lit up her face and her eyes twinkled as if pure joy spilled from them.

She thrust a plate of brownies at me and said, “Hi, I’m Brandi and I live next door.” The wonderful aroma of chocolate made me realize how hungry I was. Anxious to make my first friend, I grabbed the plate and opened the door wide.

“I need a break and these are perfect,” I chattered. “Come inside and I’ll make some coffee and we can get acquainted.”

She only hesitated a second before stepping inside, her smile growing even wider. “I can’t stay long,” she said, reaching down to scratch Bandit under his chin.

“I have a cat too,” she said, following me into the kitchen. “She had kittens four weeks ago. You should come over and see them. They are so cute. I’ll have to find homes for them soon.”

I shook my head. “Bandit is all the cat I need.”

Brandi grinned, looking at the black oval around Bandit’s eyes that stood out in startling contrast to his otherwise white fur. “Perfect name.”

A couple of days later I was staring down at one of Grandma’s flowerbeds, wondering what I should do to tend them. Brandi came outside and called to me. “Come and see the kittens. I promise I won’t try to persuade you to take one. Besides, they aren’t weaned yet.”

Brandi led me to the deck in the back of her house. “Pepper had her kittens here and this is where she seems to want to stay,” she said. I peered into the soft bed that Brandi had made for Pepper and her kittens. Two were solid black like her, one was gray-and-white striped and one was a calico. I picked up the calico and held it up for Bandit to inspect. “See the little baby,” I crooned. “Isn’t it sweet?”

Bandit stared at the kitten for a moment, then stepped forward timidly and gently nudged the kitten with his nose. The kitten mewed softly and Bandit quickly stepped back, never taking his eyes off the kitten as I laid it down next to Pepper.

I got my love of cats from Grandma, who had installed a cat door in the kitchen many years ago. It took Bandit a few days to discover the newfound freedom that the door gave him. Once he discovered that he didn’t have to wait for me to open the door for him, he would run full speed ahead to the door and burst through it like a rocket.

One afternoon I was doing laundry when I heard Bandit crying softly. Wondering what was causing his distress, I forgot about folding clothes and hurried to the kitchen.

“Bandit!” I hissed sharply. “What have you done?” Bandit looked up at me guiltily as the tiny calico pawed around in vain, trying to find a teat on Bandit’s tummy.

Bandit gave an anguished yowl when I picked up the kitten. “He has to go back to his mama,” I said, laughing now. “You don’t have what he needs.”

Holding the kitten close to my chest, I knocked on Brandi’s door. She grinned when she saw the kitten. “Changed your mind, huh? Well, he can’t leave Pepper for another week at least.”

I laughed. “Bandit brought the kitten into the kitchen through the cat door. I suppose he wants a pet of his own.”

Brandi took the kitten from me. “Well, tell him to come back for him next week and I’ll let him have it.”

“Bandit doesn’t need a kitten,” I said. “And neither do I.”

A few days later as I was making a salad for dinner I looked up just in time to see Bandit slinking through the cat door with the calico in his mouth. He looked at me sheepishly and gently put the kitten down. I sighed. “You can’t just kidnap a kitten,” I scolded. “Besides, don’t you know you’re a boy cat? Toms can’t have kittens.”

Bandit just stared at the kitten in utter fascination, licking his tiny face with his rough tongue. Sighing, I scooped up the kitten while Bandit watched me with anxious eyes. “He has to go back,” I said sternly. “We don’t need a kitten.”

The following Saturday I became concerned when Bandit didn’t come back home after his morning excursion. He never stayed outside for very long, but it was after ten and he hadn’t returned. I went outside and called for him, but no white cat in a black mask came running toward me.

Brandi walked out of her house and waved to me. “Are you looking for Bandit?” She grinned. “Follow me.”

Puzzled, I followed her to the deck at the back of her house. “Sweet, isn’t it?” she said, nodding toward Bandit.

Bandit sat beside the bed where Pepper patiently nursed her kittens. When he saw me, I could swear his eyes narrowed in defiance. If I would not let him bring the kitten home with him, he would stay with the kitten. I shook my head in disbelief.

“He’s just going to keep stealing the calico until I find a home for him,” Brandi said. “And he’s going to be sad when the kitten is suddenly gone.” She placed her hand gently on my arm. “I think Bandit is lonely. Haven’t you ever been lonely?”

I swallowed past the lump in my throat, thinking of the long, lonely nights I spent in Grandma’s old four-poster bed. “So . . . when can Bandit take the kitten from its mother?”

Brandi scooped up the kitten and placed it in my hands. “Now seems like a good time.”

Bandit’s tail swung back and forth in joy as he trotted along beside me as we took the kitten home. “You got your way this time,” I told him. “But don’t you dare try stealing another animal . . . ever.”

~Elizabeth Atwater

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