At the end of the street, under the hedges, the kitten sits and tracks the ankles passing by. It is near noon, and the street is bustling with black socks on their way to work, strappy high heels on their way to adventure, work boots plodding mud clods through the streets on their way to job sites. The kitten is not hungry because people are kind to kittens. There is a touch of fear, but it is healthy; a genetic gift.
About to leave school, we have Andrew. Andrew is nine years old and he's flat terrified. It is this way every day when school ends; at school there are friends and games and things to focus his mind on. There are even a few teachers who care. Or seem to. At home there is 1) a father who lost his job 5 months ago and started drinking hard pretty soon thereafter 2) a mother who is never home because she works two jobs now 3) an older brother that everyone thinks is "a little rough" because they don't want to think about the realities.
Andrew's brother is ... troubled. That's what the folks at school say. He's got anger problems. He is too focused on drawing dicks on everything with a Sharpie. He is mean to animals, but he's just rough around the edges. He touches other kids in ways we don't like, but he has impulse control issues. He's a good boy at heart. He comes from a good family. They have their issues. But. Good folks.
The job that Andrew's Dad lost was an insult. He traded 20 years of his life in a factory for existence, back problems, and at-will termination. The Corporation that owns that factory has given it's executive board bonuses every year since Andrew's Dad graduated high school.
Mom does hair. Only now she does hair and she also works at Target in the evenings. She hates everyone except her family and doesn't consider that a problem. She doesn't consider it racism that she hates the fucking Mexicans she works with. She doesn't see misogyny in her disdain for bitches. She hates black people for being loud; she'll tell you in a voice so loud the heavens will crack.
When Andrew walks by the kitten, he hears a sound. The first sound the kitten has made all morning. Down on hands and knees, and clicking sounds with the tongue, and the kitten is in his arms and he is giggling and smiling. The whole street disappears. And Andrew tucks the cat under his shirt. His parents don't care enough to make him give it up. They eat dinner and Andrew goes to bed with that kitten, and his brother is allergic to cats!
In the living room, Fox News is on and Daddy is on his second six pack. He was only going to drink one. He can ring Mom up and ask her to get another. But Andrew's got an ally now. Y'all don't have to worry about Andrew. The kitten will foster the tenderness in that boy. Cats live just long enough to get him out of his parent's house for good. Maybe even get him settled somewhere.
Don't worry, y'all. He named the kitten. Billy.
He's black and beautiful.