Ami and Tsuki by Delvon T. Mattingly
This story will be appearing in print in the fourth issue of Furtive Dalliance, available Winter 2018.
Dozens of kittens were aligned in adjacent kennels, some meowing to be noticed, others taking their afternoon naps.
I wandered the linear room with my cousin, Gerard, stopping by every cage to encounter a new friend. I met with Calicos, Siamese, Tabbies as well as domestic short, medium, and long hairs. They were all adorable, yearning to use their tiny claws to hitch a ride on my jacket out of despair.
No relationship should begin separated by a steel door. I opened each cage to let the kittens roam freely. Many of them wavered at first. It was no surprise, their reluctance rooted in apprehension of the same species that put them in there. But, many of them were babies, pure, receptive to love and freedom. Eventually, they all chose to explore the room.
“Are we allowed to do this?” Gerard asked, trying to keep up with every kitten.
“No one is around,” I replied, glancing at a sign exhibiting: Do Not Open Cages. “It’s fine…”
Many of the kittens interacted with each other while the others meandered to Gerard and me. One with azure-colored eyes and a white coat, marked with many orange stripes, nudged against my legs, taking laps around them. An initial meow escaped its petite mouth, followed by an array of chirrups.
“Remind me why you want another cat again.”
I shrugged. “Me and Nicole aren’t doing too well. If she leaves, she’ll take our cat with her.”
“Consider this a contingency, so I’m not drinking booze alone.”
“You can always reach out to me.”
The white kitten wouldn’t stop talking as Gerard and I shared a laugh at his inane suggestion. He was already my primary source of solace.
“What’s your name, buddy?” I sat, asking in a sweet tone.
Noticing my interest, Gerard searched the reports attached to the kennels. “This one seems about right. It says Peru, male, seven months.”
“Peru? No way. Look up what kind of cat he is, white with orange stripes, blue eyes.”
“A Flame Point Siamese!” He informed after a brief search.
“That’s why you’re such a talker,” I deduced, rubbing Peru’s neck. “Siamese cat, huh? Docile and friendly, will probably get along with Nicole’s cat, depending on if she stays.”
“A talker? Sounds more like a whiner to me.”
“That’s just how Siamese are!”
“You know too much about cats.” Gerard picked up a black kitten with massive topaz eyes and bright pink paws. Their ebony hues complemented each other. “I like this one. Is Peru the one you really want?”
“It looks just like you,” I joked.
“I’ll take that as a compliment…”
“Seriously though, selecting a new companion is kind of intuitive, you know? I’d love to take them all home, but Moon personally chose me, and I think I’m already in love.”
“I’m thinking about naming him Moon, yes.”
Gerard cradled the black kitten in his arms, discovering its profound purrs and loving temperament. “Then, I’ll name this one Sun. The contrast is fitting.” Sun began licking Gerard’s face, an act of grooming—and to Gerard—instant admiration.
I stood and gathered every document identifying the kittens. Quickly flipping through them, I recited the names on each one. “Charles, Sir Fur Baby, Jello—these are lame.”
“What is Sun’s original name?” Gerard wondered.
“Um, a black cat? Could either be Sabrina, probably based on the old television show, or Clover. Both female. One 5 months, the other 8.”
“Sun it is…”
“We have to be more creative than that,” I glanced out of the glass windows barricading the room of kittens from the rest of the animal rescue. “We have time.”
Gerard smiled. “Amaterasu and Tsukuyomi?”
“Those are Japanese, right? How did you even come up with that?”
“Exactly, Amaterasu is the sun goddess and Tsukuyomi is the moon god,” Gerard chuckled. “Dude, you’re the one who watches more anime than me. The names and references are commonly used in Japanese pop culture.”
I rubbed my chin, recalling that I had heard the names from somewhere. “Well, they’re too long. How about, Ami and Tsuki?”
“Ami and Tsuki,” Gerard repeated, refusing to let go of Ami.
Picking up Tsuki, I immediately led Gerard out of the room. We both looked back, watching the remaining kittens explore the area, saddened by the ones attempting to follow us out, wishing we could bring every single one with us.
“No,” I interrupted, “Let them have their freedom, at least for now.”
Delvon T. Mattingly, who also goes by D.T. Mattingly, is an emerging fiction writer and a PhD student in epidemiology at the University of Michigan. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Maudlin House, X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, MoonPark Review, and elsewhere. Learn more about his work at http://delvonmattingly.com/.