Bored, I turn to my little brother, Salem. “Want to play a game I heard the humans talking about?”
His eyes perk up. “Sure. What’s it called?”
“How do we play?”
“Well,” I point a paw to my side, “this half of the room, where my stuffed mouse and tuna bowl are, is my territory. That side over there, with your stick toys, is your territory. When I say “Go” we each pretend to push a red button that sends nuclear bombs to each other’s side.”
Salem scratches his head. “What does that do?”
I smile. “It obliterates everything, wiping us and our territories clean of the map!”
“Then who wins?”
“Well, according to our human, someone called Satan.”
Salem and I were still young when it happened. Salem was only a few months old, and I was almost 2. Our humans had just brought a second little human home. It came with screams, and cries, and unimaginable odors.
One morning, the first little human, what they called a toddler, was running around the room and throwing things when I heard the sound of glass breaking. I turned to look, and it was actually Salem that had broken something. I shook my head in shame. Kittens, they’re the worst.
The older male human shuffled in, his eyes dark, and his face grim. He looked around at the little human and then at Salem and me and said to our other human, “One of them has got to go. It’s just too much right now.”
I lowered my head and reached for my luggage.
Salem pounced over. “What are you doing?”
“You heard the man. Someone’s got to go.” I turned and did the most prudent thing I could. I began packing all of the toddler’s toys into the suitcase.
Salem scurries up to me, “Hey, Suki. There’s a cool tree in the house to climb on. Come on.”
I nod my head slowly, “Ah, the test has begun.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, this time every year the humans bring a tree into the house, and we aren’t allowed to climb on it. It’s a test.”
He stares at me, “Really?”
“Yep. Then they dangle shiny objects on strings on the tree, and you can’t touch those either. If you make it a whole month without doing it, a guy named Santa breaks into the house one night and leaves you a present. If you don’t pass the test, you get nothing.”
“That seems mean.”
“Well, that’s the rules.”
He crouches down, assuming a lunge position, “Okay. I call dibs on the first branch.”
I hold up my paw, “Weren’t you listening? We won’t get a present if we don’t pass.”
He grins. “I figured those rules don’t apply once it’s been peed on.”