Colby knew he’d been wetter and colder. He knew he’d felt more miserable, he just couldn’t for the life of him remember when. He and David looked at the last dumpster in the alley.
“Rock, paper, scissors?” David asked.
Colby shrugged. “Sure.”
“One, two, three.”
“Shit,” Colby said as David’s rock crushed his scissors.
Colby hoisted himself into the dumpster and started kicking things around. There wasn’t much in it and water had filled it a few inches already.
“See anything?” David asked.
Colby thought he caught movement out of the corner of his eye and spun around.
“What is it?” David called.
“Thought I saw something move.”
“Probably a rat.”
“I hate rats.”
Colby shined his flashlight into a corner and swore he saw something shake. He kicked away a bit of paper. Under it was an old shoe box wrapped in tape. The box rattled on its own. Colby gently tapped it with his foot and heard an odd squeak.
“What is it?” David asked.
Colby picked up the water-logged box. Something rolled and scrabbled inside. Colby hopped out of the dumpster and showed the box to David.
“Something’s alive in there,” Colby said.
“Put it down. Kids probably boxed up a rat for fun.”
Colby split the tape with a pocket knife and pulled back the corner of the lid. He shined his light in and a pair of eyes shined back green. He pulled back the rest of the lid. In the bottom of the box sat a sodden black and white kitten who let out a squeak of both hope and defiance.
David looked into the box and took a sniff. “Gasoline.”
Colby shook his head. “Some days I hate people. Let’s get out of here.”
Don was supervising the loading of evidence into the back of SUV’s as the rain poured down.
“Hey, Don,” Colby said. “We got nothing, anything left is being washed away. Can we get out of here?”
“What’s in the box?” Don asked. Colby opened the lid and Don looked inside. “Cute. You should take it down to a shelter.”
“Not at this time of night. I’ll just take it home and take it down to the SPCA in the morning.”
Colby found himself hit with Don’s best ‘are you an idiot?’ look. “Colby, do you really think you’re going to bring a kitten into a house with a four-year-old girl and be able to walk back out with it?”
“I’ll tell her it’s someone else’s.”
“You’ll still be putting the idea in her head and what Esther wants Esther gets.”
“It’ll be fine,” Colby insisted.
“Right. Tell me what you name it.”
Colby trudged into the house, stripping off the most sodden of his clothes right at the front door. The box rattled.
“Just a sec,” he told it.
The sound of little feet came running from the garage.
“Daddy!” Esther shrieked and wrapped her arms around Colby’s wet leg.
“Hello, Sweetie.” Colby said, patting her head. Colby looked at his watch. 10pm. Esther was at least in her jammies which was an improvement over the usual non-existent bedtime routine.
Charlie emerged from the garage. “You’re soaked.”
“Thank you Mr. ‘State the Obvious.’” The box let out a squeak.
“What’s in the box?”
Colby opened it to show Charlie. The kitten squeaked at the light. “Found it at a scene, taped up in the box.”
Charlie took a sniff and made a face. Esther jumped up and down until she could see in the box.
“Kitty!” Was the ear piercing shriek that caused both men to wince.
“Esther, sweetie.” Colby said. “Could you go to the bathroom and get your shampoo and an old towel from the bottom of the cupboard?” Esther ran off at full speed and Colby moved towards the kitchen.
“You brought home a kitten?” Charlie asked.
“I couldn’t leave it there.” Colby brought out the tiny shivering mass of fur and fangs and put it by the sink. “I’ll take it to a shelter tomorrow.”
Esther came running into the kitchen with her baby shampoo and a giant towel. “What are we going to name it?” she asked eagerly.
“It’s not our job to name it. He’s going to go to a nice family who will pick a name for him.” Colby began running the water, making sure it wasn’t too hot.
“We’re not keeping him?” Esther asked.
Colby looked down. Esther’s eyes had gone wide and there was a slight wobble in her lip. Colby tried to ignore the question, instead focusing on trying to wash the gasoline off the tiny creature who was putting up spectacular vocal objections.
“What is that noise?”
Colby turned around to see Alan shuffle into the kitchen.
“Daddy has a kitten and it’s getting a bath and he said we can’t keep it.”
Colby sighed. “I found it at a scene, it’s covered in gas and it’s going to a shelter in the morning.” Colby heard Esther make a whimpering noise.
“Colby,” Alan said. “You brought a kitten into a house with a four-year-old girl and you really think you’ll be able to walk back out with it?”
Colby shook his head and began to dry the kitten off. “Don better get married soon. He’s channeling you.”
Esther pulled on Colby’s leg. “We’re a nice family daddy. Why can’t we keep him?”
Colby looked to Charlie for backup.
Charlie shrugged. “I don’t mind.”
Colby looked to Alan.
“Hey, I’m just a renter.”
Colby looked at Esther who had somehow managed to make her big brown eyes even bigger. The kitten began to purr its whole body vibrating.
“Fine,” Colby said with a sigh. “But you’re taking care of it and it needs a name.”
“Schrödinger,” Esther said quickly, the big eyes and wobbling lip mysteriously gone.
Colby looked at Charlie. “What have you been letting her read?”
“Just my old books.”
Esther took the kitten into her hands and rubbed her cheek against it. “I love you, daddy.”
Charlie reached down and stroked the kitten gently with one finger. Colby was sure he’d just been played by two geniuses.
“I love you too, sweetie. Let’s find something for Schrödinger here to eat, and then we’ll put both of you to bed.”
Colby heard Alan snicker from where he was leaning against the kitchen door.
“One of these days, ask me how Don got his puppy.”