Loud noises tended to make John respond quickly, so the banging made him run out of the kitchen and to the front door, opening it to reveal Matt in mid-kick, his arms occupied by something struggling within his jacket.
"Grab it. Shit!" 'It' was already escaping from Matt's arms, an orange and white basketball-shaped streak that leapt through the air, landed on the carpet, and fled into the living room, leaving Matt wincing as he touched the blood oozing from a scratch on his chin. "Damn it."
"You brought a cat to my house? In your jacket?" John curled a hand around Matt's wrist, pulling him into the house and shutting the door behind them, leading him to the bathroom.
"It wasn't planned. Those kids down the street were trying to hurt it. It ran away from them. I yelled at them and scooped it up."
John got out antiseptic and a band-aid. "Down by the yellow house?"
"I'm going to have to talk to them." He'd talked to the parents already about the brothers' minor acts of vandalism, but that clearly hadn't worked. Time to put the fear of John in them before they ended up in juvenile hall. He wiped the scratch clean, and smoothed a band-aid on Matt's cheek. "So what am I supposed to do with him?"
Matt shrugged. "Find who it belongs to? Take it to the pound?"
"Let's go see what shape he's in."
They ended up on their bellies, lying on the carpet in John's living room, staring at the cat, who was firmly ensconced under John's armchair. He was orange and white, with green eyes that glittered with a determination to not be captured. His sharp claws backed up his stubbornness.
John rubbed at faint line on his hand, thankful that the cat hadn't been quite close enough to draw blood. "Christ, he's fast." The cat growled, which John supposed was a minor improvement over the hissing.
"Wow, 'wild cat' brings up some interesting websites," Matt said, having risen up on his elbows so he could surf the Internet on his phone.
John cuffed him on the head. "Get off the porn sites."
"Getting, getting. Okay, hmmm."
"What? Any good advice?"
"Mostly just to leave him alone until he relaxes and will trust you. Put some food and water and a litter box close to him."
"Yeah? Did you scoop up a litter box with him?" John grumbled, but he rolled to his feet, and offered Matt a hand up. "I've got some hamburger. What do you think, cat? You want some hamburger?"
Cat declined to respond.
"Maybe dirt from the garden for the litter box?" Matt suggested, tucking his phone back into his pocket.
They scavenged around, ending up with a cardboard box with some dirt from John's miniscule yard, a bowl of water, and another of hamburger, leaving everything in the living room before they retreated to the office for the next step in Matt's ongoing quest to prove to John that the Internet was both useful and fun. The afternoon's task – get John enrolled in online banking – was dutifully accomplished, though John still didn't see that writing checks was all that big of a deal.
"Just give it a try for a few months, okay? You'll get used to it, I promise. And sooner or later they're going to get rid of checks altogether, so you might as well be ready."
"They can't get rid of checks."
"Yes, they can, and they will. Trust me. And look here," Matt added, quickly typing, finding links to sports bloopers on youtube. "Fun stuff. Sports stuff. On the Internet. Twenty-four seven."
John watched, and laughed, and conceded that okay, maybe the Internet did have a few amusing items. "You can get all those things on DVDs too, though," he pointed out, as they were eating pizza and drinking beer in his kitchen, the conversation having zigzagged back to technology and the changing future, as it so often did when John and Matt were together. "Sports bloopers and greatest moments in football."
"You have to buy them though."
"I'm buying the Internet connection every single month. That's one of those bills you helped me set up."
"But it's one fee and then it's everything. The entire world at your fingertips, online."
John shrugged, wiping the grease of Brooklyn's best pizza off his fingers. At least Matt hadn't turned out to be a health nut who tried to make him eat organic all the time, because John was very much afraid he was losing the battle to resist technology, and he could only handle so many adjustments. "We should check on your cat."
"It's not my cat."
"You rescued him. That makes him yours."
Matt swallowed the last of his pizza and wiped his mouth. "Yeah, and you rescued me and Lucy and the entire country. I'm not holding you responsible for all of us."
"Lucy is my responsibility. She's my daughter," John shot back as they crossed into the living room. Most of the hamburger was gone. The cat was no longer under the chair, but still close, lying on the floor with all paws curled under him. Now that John could see better, he realized that one of his ears was clipped, giving him a battered look, and though he wasn't quite basketball-sized, he was certainly full-bodied. "Hey, cat."
"Lucy stopped being your responsibility when she hit 18."
"Lucy's my responsibility until I die."
Matt made a noise in the back of his throat, neither agreeing or disagreeing with that assertion. Likely he disagreed, but he knew when it was pointless to argue with John. "It's probably too late to take it anywhere."
"It looks like it's been eating regularly. It must belong to someone."
They both contemplated the cat, who contemplated them back, blinking his green eyes slowly. "There must be a website for lost pets. I'll find it," Matt offered. He pulled out his phone, holding it toward the cat, and taking a photo. "I'll upload the picture and list my email. I'll give you a call if I find an owner."
John gave him a wry look. "So he stays here until that happens?"
"It's not like I can get him home. And wow, look at the time. I've got to go. I've got to be online soon."
"Yeah. Okay," John agreed, because he couldn't see kicking the cat out to be tormented again, so he might as well stay for a while.
John saw Matt out, watching him walk down the street. It was nice that Matt had moved to Brooklyn. Both of their hours could be so screwy, John's from the demands of his job, Matt's because Internet people had a weird sense of time. Being close, they still managed to see each other regularly, which they might not have managed if Matt had relocated within New Jersey.
He cleaned up the kitchen, then got his laptop from the office, setting it on the coffee table, and finding youtube again, thankful that Matt had insisted on wireless. Television was crap these days, and as much as John didn't want to admit it to Matt, surfing around on sports videos was amusing. He ignored the cat, but noted occasionally that he moved, getting closer and closer. When he was finally sitting by John's feet, John dangled an arm down, until the cat rubbed his head on John's hand, letting John scritch between his ears. He began purring, a sound as loud as his body was round.
"You're feeling comfortable now, aren't you?" John asked the cat, before scooping him up and setting him on his lap. The cat kneaded John's leg, digging his claws in, making John happy that he was wearing thick cords. "We're going to have to figure out how to cut your claws," he told the cat, stroking his hand along the cat's back.
The cat purred harder in response to the attention.
"Yeah, you act tough, but you want to be loved, don't you?"
That earned John a lick on his hand, which he wasn't entirely sure he liked, as the cat's tongue was rough and wet.
"Yeah, okay. I'll go out tomorrow and get cat food and stuff," he promised the cat. If Matt didn't find an owner, maybe he'd keep the cat. If he ever got a pet, he'd always thought it would be a dog, but dogs needed regular walking. A cat would be a better animal for him.
As if he understood the promise, the cat rolled over, rubbing the back of his head on John's leg, his front paws kneading the air. John tentatively rubbed his belly, surprised when the cat let him, eyes half-slitted with pleasure.
"You're just a big pussy cat, aren't you?" Petting the cat was relaxing, soft fur and comforting purring. The new things just kept coming and coming, all brought to him by Matt.
Maybe change wasn't so bad.
~ the end ~