By Jennifer Lai
Easy peasy, Eva thought, as Mr. Burke explained her duties for the upcoming weekend: water the plants and feed Mrs. Burke’s fifteen-year-old grey Burmese cat, Logan.
Mr. Burke glanced at his wife, whose eyes were welling with tears. “Logan is shy, so you won’t see him,” he said, “but make sure to fill his food and milk bowl fresh every day, okay?”
Eva nodded, although she doubted Logan would be shy around her. He’s probably just bored cause he’s around old people all the time, she thought, with the exuberant confidence only an eight-year-old could muster.
Mr. Burke leaned forward and whispered, “also, you won’t need to clean up Logan’s litter. He won’t be making any mess.”
Eva had always wanted a cat, but her mother didn’t think she was responsible enough. “You’d forget to eat if I didn’t remind you,” she often said. “How can you care for an animal?”
This was Eva’s chance to prove her mother wrong.
After watering Mrs. Burke’s succulents the next day, Eva filled Logan’s bowl with milk, then poured out the cat food, lifting the bag to her waist and letting the dry pellets of salmon and sweet potato clack against the shiny metal container. She wrinkled her nose as a dusty fishy scent punched the air.
Gross! I would never feed my cat this stuff.
The following day, Eva dumped out the previous day’s milk, replenished the bowl, and then did the same with his food, although neither looked like it’d been touched.
He’s probably waiting for me to remind him to eat.
Using a flashlight she found in the kitchen drawer, Eva searched for Logan under Mr. and Mrs. Burke’s bed, inside the master bedroom closet, and behind the twenty bags of cat food in the kitchen pantry. She even jingled Logan’s lattice balls, hoping the bells would lure him out.
She mimicked Mrs. Burke’s high-pitched voice. “Loooo-gaaaan, time to eat!”
Noticing a bag of cat treats, she scooped out a handful and dropped them in a trail leading from each room to the living room couch. He’s gotta come out sometime.
As she waited, she counted fifteen frames hung along the hallway walls, each filled with pictures of Mrs. Burke and Logan.
This made Eva even more eager to meet Logan—to pet his fluffy fur, squeeze his squishy tail, and watch him chase a red dot around the house.
After what seemed like hours, Eva stopped searching and turned on the television, flipping through channels she wasn’t allowed to watch at home, all awhile wondering why anyone would keep a pet that hides all day. How boring! No wonder Mr. and Mrs. Burke have cable. What else would they do all day?
When the Burkes returned home the following morning, Eva dropped by to collect her payment.
“I put food and milk every day, like you asked,” Eva said, noticing Logan’s food and milk were again untouched. “It’s not my fault if Logan wasn’t hungry. I tried—”
“Thank you so much, Eva. I don’t know what we’d do without you,” Mrs. Burke said before walking away.
As Eva started to leave, Mr. Burke pulled her aside, gazing briefly at his wife then back at Eva. “You must forgive Mrs. Burke. She just misses Logan so much.”
You were only gone for two days, Eva wanted to say, but didn’t.
Instead, she smiled, feeling proud of herself. She hoped she’d done enough so the Burkes would put in a good word for her with her mother so that perhaps her mother would let her get a pet.
Maybe she’d changed her mind, though. Maybe she’d get a dog. Cats were too boring.
* * *
Jennifer Lai works in cancer research and lives in Washington state. Her work has appeared in Blue Lake Review, Flash Fiction Magazine, Brilliant Flash Fiction and elsewhere.