Liontamer2

A guttural voice boomed at us, “I, Massimo, am here!” It was quite an imperious tone, and I hated being bossed around, so I peeked out to snap a response, but I couldn’t remember what I was about to say when I looked. It was a magnificent Lion with graceful wings folded on its back. Its pelt glowed in the sunlight that suddenly poured in. Its great mane was a halo. It was… a lion. Angelo giggled in delight as if this were a petting zoo. I shushed him quietly and held him tight as my heart beat rapidly. Raul stood back up, helping Damian too. Raul looked his usual nonchalant self, except for a glitter in his eye. Damian just stared with his mouth open.

Raul helped me up and we were all standing now. “I have finished the deed. It has taken us 25 years! But it is done.” With that, he bowed, folding his front legs. He then bounded imperiously off. I looked at the others, “That was…” “AWESOME!!!” shouted Damian. Angelo bounced happily up and down. I laid a hand on Raul’s shoulder; he jerked away and cast his eyes down. “Hey Raul, what’s the matter?” inquired Damian, he knew trouble when he saw it. “Nothing.” “Awe, come on Raul! Tell us!” “No!” snapped Raul, and then added, “Sorry. I’m sleeping.” That was the longest sentence Raul had ever said.

At night, we were sleeping under the canopy again: Raul and Damian had fixed it. I was staring through rips at the stars, thinking of my mom when Raul whispered, “Lion… tanner… Mom! Dad…” Or was it tamer? I wasn’t sure: he was talking in his sleep. While we were eating a tiny slice of bread we’d bought weeks ago, I brought it up. I waited until Damian had gone off to snoop. I leaned against the stone wall and said softly, “Raul? You were saying something last night; something about lions and your parents. Raul stopped cold. He jerked upright and pounded down the alley, as fast as his long legs could take him. I furrowed my brows. Touché much? I set about taking out the one dish we owned that held the rainwater that dripped through our canopy. After that task, I lay back with Angelo in the crook of my arm like a cat and had a nice nap.

When I woke up, Angelo was tottering around, falling now and then. I picked him up and gave him a piggy-back ride. Damian was back with a few plastic fans and a baseball cap. I threw it in the basket that held the other things. He then handed me earrings. “This is just something I found on the ground. Man, it took me ages to find the other one. Lady took it off at this fountain, and then they slipped in. I looked so stupid trying to fish ‘em out! It was a riot!” he shook out more water from his gold locks. “Looks like you got a bath.” “Yup. Say, where’s Raul?” “Oh. I dunno.” “What’s for dinner?” “What am I: your mother?” I teased. “In this family, yeah.” I sighed and rifled through a cardboard box that was shriveled up from the rain. I pulled out a half eaten apple. “Here, leftovers.” That’s when Raul shuffled in.

“Smells great,” Raul mumbled even though there was no smell. “Very funny,” I said. “What do you want? An apple like Damian? Or do you want the choicier item of a banana?” Raul shook his head to both and sat in his sprawled blanket. “All you got is fruit?” complained Damian. “Yeah. If you want something else, go buy it!” I spooned out mushed bruised banana with my index finger and fed it to Angelo, who chewed it happily. We sat in usual silence. Then Damian broke the silent spell, “I saw more lions today. Each of ‘em were eyeing me and the entrance to our house. It was weird. Nobody noticed at all,” then he added, “Oh, and I found this scrawny guy in a dark corner all by his lonesome.” He handed me a puny little kitten with dirt covering every inch of his little being. But I saw little patches of soft orange. I poured a little rainwater on the kitten. He shook his tiny head, splattering us with gray water. His fur clung to his body now, making him look scrawnier. I wrapped him in my hoodie, keeping him from the cold.

He mewed a tiny mew making Angelo squeal in delight at the discovery of a cute kitten. “Keep?” wondered Angelo with his big eyes hopeful. I couldn’t let him down, not with that face. “OK.” “What’ll we name him, then?” asked Damian. Raul kept silent. “What do you want to name him, Angelo?” “Kitty!” exclaimed Angelo excitedly. “No, silly,” I ruffled his gold hair. He looked slightly put out, but the kitten made his way through the hoodie and went to put his wet head under Angelo’s hand. “It’ll be our cat, so let’s all think of a name,” suggested Damian. I listened to the waves lapping against the steps to the gondolas. Raul cocked his head, and Damian had a far off look in his eyes. “I like the name Stella. That used to be my Mom’s name,” said Damian with a sad look to his face. Raul said nothing. I said, “I can’t think of one myself.” Raul nodded and it was agreed that the tortoiseshell cat with white back feet was to be named Stella. “Steeeeeella!” sang Angelo gleefully.

Stella always followed Angelo, loving the attention he gave her. The kitten grew quickly in the week she lived with us. She grew slightly larger and her fur grew longer and more glossy. She was a cat that could care for herself. So we would go out leaving her with Angelo on emergency, such as… Damian getting caught.





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