By Renee Ge
Art by Megan Xu
Issue: Phosphene (Summer 2019)
They didn’t have to stay. Jason had found them huddled up in a tiny ball of fluff beside the bushes on his front yard, when he was coming home from school. He had scooped them up and deposited them in his family’s unused attic and told himself that tomorrow, he’d look up a shelter to drop them off in.
They didn’t have to stay, but they did. He begged some food off a friend with five cats and they just…started growing. The smaller one was called Jacob because all the Jacobs he knew were short, and the fatter one he called Richard. Jason ditched boba invites and winky-faces in his DMs to spend time with those cats. He was so blessed, so moved, so thankful, never gonna take this for granted, always going to be grateful. He made an Instagram account for those cats. He would move mountains for those cats.
“Why are you always up in that attic?” his mother asked one day.
“It’s a science project, please don’t go up there. The parts are, uh, delicate.”
“Okay,” she said.
His dad, on the other hand, vowed to kill whatever animal kept thumping on their roof. “With my bare hands,” he said. At first, he thought it was rats, and he spent many hours on the roof, cleaning out the branches and spraying chemicals everywhere. But there were no rats. There were no tiny birds, either, and no giant bugs. Their roof shone red and dry like the sands of the desert, just as desolate and even more dead. It had been an especially dry autumn season.
Eventually, his dad did what Jason dreaded—he got smarter. “Don’t we have an attic?” he said, snapping on his yellow rubber gloves.
“Don’t go there, Jason’s science project is there,” his mother said.
“No, really,” Jason said, his hands shaking. “It’s my project for school. Sometimes, the parts fall and that’s why, that’s why you hear things.”
“Then I’ll help you fix it.”
* * *
This was what would happen: he’d rush into the attic, faster than his father, and gather Richard and Jacob into his arms. He’d open up the window and set them on the roof. He’d tell his father that he had actually left his project at school. Then he’d climb and cross that desert of a roof and jump down and run. He’d run and run and run until he’d find somewhere safe, maybe where Richard and Jacob came from, and he’d set them back up on the attic. And then, it would begin to snow, and the snow would cover up the red of the roof.