From her usual spot between the front seats, the little girl gazed at the passing landscape, absently drawing shapes in the craggy skin on Father’s neck. On either side of the road the broken bones of civilization lay in colorless mounds. She often wondered why the colors left, why the piles weren’t bright like Lego bricks. Perhaps because she was thinking this, her heart thrilled at the orange fur sticking up from the drift.
“Stop!” she screeched. Her father slammed on the RV”s breaks and shot the girl into the huge front window. The purslane Mother had been cutting for dinner flew like confetti.
“What the hell!” Father gripped the steering wheel. The girl pointed to the almost invisible orange slash. He squinted, his brow furrowed. She could tell he was about to lose his temper, so she darted down the steps and out the hole that had once been a door on their RV, when their RV had been a vacation vehicle and not their home, when homes still stood.
The girl ran to the drift and extracted the treasure, shaking the radioactive dust from its fur the same way women once shook out clean clothes, back when people bothered cleaning clothes, back…
The cat’s matted coat hung off its bones like bolts of loose fabric. She put her grimy nose next to its pink one, and whispered, “Wake up.”
The cat’s eyes remained little tipped dashes.
“Wake up I said!” the commanding tone was clearly an emulation of her father’s. She gave a hearty, bone-rattling, flesh-tenderizing shake. Nothing.
Cradling the cat in her arms, she took slow, shuffling steps, the kind that don’t want to, not toward Mother and Father and the RV, but to the front door, to all was left of the cat’s home. She knocked.