A Cat Named Wallet by Katherine Noce

Once upon a fine, grey afternoon, in the heart of some large city located some distance from here, the weatherman made no indication of snow. The weather had not received this memo and had proceeded to lightly rain tiny white crystals all over the place, leaving several inches of the stuff on the undisturbed rooftops and a flurried film on the streets and sidewalks. 

Fewer people than usual adorned these streets and sidewalks, instead settling for the warmth of a car, workplace, cafe, or home. Those who did brave the outdoors were quickly regretful of such a decision as the wind which pushed the snow along seemed to find and exploit every possible gap in the threads of a coat. Most people resembled a certain famous reindeer whenever they stepped back inside, with their noses and cheeks bright red from the cold. That being said, the few children which had managed to escape education for the day were scraping what little snow they could off their windowsills and drives for various mischievous goals, regardless of how the wind cut through their coats and scarves. 

Two people in particular also seemed to carry no ill will towards the weather, strolling through it in simple joy and peace. Well, at least one of them. The other, the older, the sister, Maddy, seemed to be a woman on a mission, purposefully carrying a bag of various sketchbooks, loose papers, writing utensils and other items with one arm. She walked, or marched rather, down the street examining the street signs as they passed, almost dragging her younger brother, Finn, by his scarf after her. Finn was in no such rush and was swinging his arms and almost dancing in the falling snow, though in his mind no self-respecting fourteen year old boy would be caught dead dancing in the snow. 

“Maddy, slow down! The museum’s not going anywhere!” He said after Maddy almost slipped again because she wasn’t paying attention to the ice patches.

“Finn, speed up. The museum closes in a couple hours and this project is due by midnight!” She turned a corner, and Finn skipped to catch up to her pace.

“You know, if you hadn’t stopped at almost every cafe on our block, we would have been there a lot sooner.” He said grinning with mischief. 

“I needed coffee, Finn, and none of them tasted quite right.” Maddy said. She shifted the bag on her shoulder and grabbed Finn’s hand. He laughed.

“You are the embodiment of a Monday, you know that?”

“Huh?” Maddy was scanning the skyline for the museum’s distinctive form. She saw it and promptly slipped on black ice while crossing the street. Finn laughed again and helped her up.

“You’re practically addicted to coffee, you sleep like a bear in hibernation, you get super grouchy when breaks are over, but you’re always working somehow.” Finn shrugged. “Sounds like Monday to me.” Maddy rolled her eyes but laughed anyways. 

“Thanks.” 

Just reaching the outside of the city’s art museum, Maddy stepped one foot in the door, breathing a sigh of relief that she would have time to finish her project when — 

“Quick Maddy!” Maddy spun around in a panic, thinking her brother was being kidnapped, or mugged, or throwing up, or —

“Catch that cat!” Finn pointed at the large sculpture of the art museum logo and started running to it. She snatched the end of his scarf, and he turned.

“What cat, Finn?” She asked, exasperatedly.

“That one! The tabby with a wallet in its mouth!” She barely saw a tail wrapping around a corner of the sculpture.

“Finn.” She said.

“Maddy!” He shouted, bouncing on his toes, looking back and forth between her and the sculpture.

“Why would a tabby have a wallet in its mouth?” Finn shrugged and pulled the scarf out of her hands.

“Because he’s a cat-burglar, Maddy, now come on! He’s got my lunch money!” Finn sprinted towards it. Maddy groaned.

“Maddy, you go around the other side, and I’ll chase it towards you.”

“This is not going to work, Finn.”

“Maddy, he is a thief, and justice must happen. We are catching that cat,” Finn said with the utmost sincerity. Maddy laughed. Then she grabbed the end of Finn’s scarf again, stopping him short. 

“Wait, wait!”

“Maddyyy!”

“Finn, we’ll never catch that cat by cornering it.”

“But Maddy, it has—”

“I know it has your wallet, but we need to be smart to get it back. Do you have any snacks in your pockets?”

“Yeah, always.” Finn rummaged around in his coat pocket and Maddy dug through her bag.

“I have some Laffy Taffy, beef jerky, and a granola bar.” Finn said.

“Use the beef jerky. I thought I had something… aha!” Maddy pulled out a plastic-wrapped half-eaten ham sandwich from the depths of her bag. Finn wrinkled his nose.

“How long has that been in there?” Maddy shrugged.

“Not long enough to grow mold.”

“Ew, nasty.” Finn unwrapped the beef jerky and bit off a chunk.

“Finn!”

“It was mine before the cat stole my wallet! I’m taking a bite,” Finn declared. He then carefully stalked the cat, much like the cat would have stalked a mouse or another small, undesirable creature. The cat looked up, licking its chops. Finn could see a corner of his wallet poking out from under the cat’s stomach. He rolled the beef jerky at the cat. It sniffed carefully at the offering, before trying to bite it. Finding the meat far tougher than anticipated, it soon abandoned the project in favor of curling tighter around the wallet. Finn groaned.

“The jerky’s too tough, Maddy. He won’t eat it.” Maddy unwrapped her sandwich and they could almost see the smell. Finn gagged and wrapped his nose in the scarf. Maddy gagged and held her breath. The cat, being downwind from the siblings, shot its head up. It smelled the horribly aged mixture of warm ham, Swiss cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, and mayo. The cat made direct eye contact with Maddy. She held the sandwich out to it and cautiously stepped forward, as though approaching a dragon while holding a chest of gold. The cat sniffed again and sat up, its tail curling around its feet to protect them from the snow. The precious leather hostage no longer lay under the cat’s thin stomach, but at its side, slowly accepting each tiny flake which chose to land on it. Maddy crouched on the pavement, reaching the repulsively scented sandwich out to the little thief. It reached its head out and sniffed at the bread to confirm the source of the offensive scent. Finn squatted behind Maddy, watching quietly, but Maddy could feel him shaking from cold, excitement, energy, and possibly more. It leaned forward and had barely opened its mouth when Finn snatched the wallet from the cat’s side, and it hissed and fluffed at the sudden movement. Maddy dropped the sandwich in front of the cat like a hot poker, and it hissed some more. 

The two ran inside the museum, breathing heavily from their escape and holding their breath from the sandwich smell. Maddy bought another coffee for herself and a fresh ham sandwich for Finn’s lunch at the museum cafe. As Maddy worked contently sketching the subject of her Art History class, she let Finn browse the museum with the promise of a dessert from the next cafe they saw on the way home, as long as no shenanigans reached her ears. Finn’s adventures in the museum never did reach her ears, but she did notice the security guard in the modern art exhibit glaring at Finn as they passed on their way out. Maddy raised an eyebrow at Finn, and Finn made a clear effort to avoid eye contact with both the guard and his sister. He couldn’t hide his mischievous grin when they left the building and returned to trying to catch snowflakes with his tongue and spinning through the snow. 

The weather had overcome the residual heat in the streets and sidewalks and the snow was beginning to thicken over them. The sun and temperature of the city began to fall, sending even the most enthusiastic of children inside to heaters and hot chocolate. Maddy and Finn left the museum as they’d arrived: Maddy marching over the ice patches, though with more care, and Finn twirling through the snow with as much fourteen-year-old dignity as the boy could muster. Suddenly, he stopped. 

“Maddy, Maddy, look!” Finn ran in front of her and pointed to the steps of an apartment building. Sitting there, with a thin layer of snow on its coat, was the cat. The very same tabby who stole Finn’s wallet. It was undoubtedly that cat, because as the siblings looked at it, bewildered, it grabbed something between its teeth and carefully came to drop it in front of them. Finn crouched to examine it.

“Maddy, it’s the sandwich!” He said, laughing, “It brought your sandwich back!” He looked up at his sister, with a light in his eyes which she knew all too well from when he wanted to ask for more candy at halloween. 

“No, Finn. You cannot keep the cat.”

“Come on, Maddy! He started it!”

“A cat that steals wallets?”

“A cat-burglar, Maddy.” Finn corrected with a straight face.

“He’s gonna get you arrested.” She laughed. Finn grinned and carefully reached out to pick the cat up. 

“Don’t pick it up! He could have fleas or ticks or some other nastiness.” Finn, being a child with little impulse control and a natural tendency to contradict his older sister just for the fun of it, picked up the cat anyway. It started purring very loudly, and the siblings nearly melted with happiness at the sound.

“What should we name him?” Finn asked, starting to walk back home with a bit more care and purpose than before. Maddy, having slowed down to scratch the cat’s head, made a non-committal noise. 

“How about Bandit?”

“Oh wow, that makes way more sense than what I was thinking. I was gonna say Wallet.” Maddy laughed. Finn shifted the cat to a more comfortable position and grinned. The cat meowed and got his claws stuck in Finn’s scarf. 

Maddy helped him untangle and said, “All right, I dub him Wallet.”

Once upon a snowy, dark evening, in the heart of some large city, located some distance from here, the Day family had not expected a guest for dinner.  The guest, Wallet the cat, had not received this memo and had proceeded to steal the wallet and hearts of the children, Maddy and Finn, reaching the parents not long after.

 

Biography: I am a high school senior concurrently enrolled at Aims and am on-track to receive an Associates of Science degree in Spring 2022. I love creative writing as a reader and as a writer. It allows me to experiment with language, testing my ability to say things in a manner which both challenges and amuses readers or other writers. Though it might feel a bit like a MadLib, the results are amusingly worth it. I spent most of my childhood with my nose in a book, and around third grade, I began to make my own stories. Starting with puppy-pirates and fairies, I’ve scrapped dozens of projects and written dozens more, including a story still in-progress which reaches beyond the 100-page mark. “A Cat Named Wallet” is my most recently (and perhaps my most quickly) completed short story, written in about six hours, not including snack breaks.