Stand of Trees

by Katherine D Stutzman

Still wearing her grey coat, she found a wide, shallow bowl in the cupboard, filled it with milk, and set it on the floor. The kittens ran to drink from it, all six of them, their heads nudging each other blindly around the rim of the bowl as they lapped.

"Oh my god," she said, laughing, "Why did this happen to us? What are we going to do with them?"

"I didn't know people still did shit like that. Maybe some guy on a farm a hundred years ago might get rid of cats that way, but now?" He fingered the sack that they had found, writhing and mewing, in a stand of trees near the road.

"Are they okay? They don't seem to be hurt, do they?" She bent down and peered at the kittens. "Maybe that one—that orange guy, see him? He seems like he's not putting weight on one paw. What about the others?"

"I don't know. They look all right, I guess. Do you think somebody threw them out of a car? Or just left them there? I mean, seriously, who does that?"

"Give it a week and maybe we'll do it." She swept her arm through the air above the mass of kittens. "'Okay, back in you go!' You know, after we've spent a fortune on cat food, and I'm on my inhaler every ten minutes, and they've thrown up under the couch for the fourth time in five days," she laughed and kept going. "And the landlord finds out, and the whole apartment smells like cat piss, and we have to move those little bodies out from underneath us every time we go to bed, and we're tired of feeling paws on our faces in the dark… It could be us!"

He laughed with her and thought of how they had been walking by the road, the rain just starting, and how they had seen the stand of trees from far off. He had thought she looked pretty with her hair frizzing around her face in the damp, and they had kept walking. When they reached the trees the trunks were black with rain, and there was the sack. Sitting in the kitchen now, watching the kittens drink and hearing her talk of the shelter, of how many kittens they might be able to keep, of a friend who might take one or two, he knew that this was what life would be: always the stand of trees far off along the road, always the unknown thing to be brought into the home.

BIO: Katherine D. Stutzman's stories have appeared in jmww, The Postcard Press, and the Summerset Review.  She is a graduate of the MFA program at Penn State, and currently lives, writes, and teaches in Philadelphia.