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"Litter" by Ashley Beresch

When my son wants to disappear for a while, he turns into a cat. He curls his small limbs into an ovalish shape on the couch, facedown in the pilling navy tweed with his little pink feet poking out, and hatches into a kitten.

“All creatures come from eggs,” he claims to have learned in school. I can’t really argue with that. The hatching is a quiet kind of noisy, full of little chirrups and squeaks. It ends when he sits up, shakes invisible slivers of eggshell from his fur, and looks around with bewilderment. 

Trout is born first. He can speak and read but everything is new to him. “What’s this?” he asks, pointing to a book about birds, a stale glass of water, a wintering tree in the yard. Five years old and already manufacturing novelty. It chips at my heart.

Trout is snuggly and surprisingly chore-oriented. He picks up all of his toys with curious glee. “What are these things!” he chortles as he drops cars and trucks and other things that go into a big box. I ask if he knows where my son is. “On a scavenger hunt,” he replies, passing a wooden train between his paws, marveling at its tiny wheels.

Trout disappears that afternoon and my son is back with little ceremony but every day new eggs appear and new kittens hatch. It’s hard to keep track of them all. They hatch whenever my son sees fit. What does it mean? I ask myself, then get too scared to answer, then get embarrassed to be scared in the first place. 

Snowglobe, Snowflake, and Snowball are all born in one afternoon. They mew for a few minutes, then drink a little milk from a green plastic cup and ask for a cookie. “Three cookies? No way,” I say but remember, these are three different kittens. They each need a cookie. 

Snowflake is feisty and prone to scratching so I take her out for a walk around the block. “Today I learned something,” she says. “I learned I like walks.” She tells me she is puffy like a cotton ball but with thick black fur and a single white spot between her ears. She knows all the other kittens’ names by heart and counts them off on her toes for me. I think of all the people I have been in my life. I could probably count them on my fingers and toes, too.

Then Snowflake dies one evening while I’m making dinner. A rattlesnake opens the door and eats her up. Surely, I think, that’s the end of it! My son is coming back for good! But surprise: she laid a new egg just before she died. Here is another fresh kitten curling around my legs. 

“I miss my son, Candy Cane Sprinkles,” I say to this new kitten later as he purrs on my lap. “Do you know when he will be back?” I stroke the soft patch behind his ear and kiss his sticky nose.

“Meow,” the kitten answers.  He looks up at me with impossibly wide eyes. He licks a booger from his paw. “I don’t know how to talk. And I’m not Candy Cane Sprinkles. I’m his twin, Choc-a-lit Cupcake. Can I have a cookie?”

Ashley Beresch is a writer and artist living in Athens, GA. Her work appears in Apple in the Dark, Maudlin House, and The Fabulist. She's also a curator for Micro podcast. You can find her online @ashleyberesch/


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