10k Bonus: A Litter Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing

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So, you guys all rock, and we crushed this reads milestone faster than I ever could have dreamed of. Without further ado, then, here is the first of my promised bonus chapters, based on the chapter-one excerpt below:

Anyway. [Patrick] spots Ditzy's look. And he gets this pained twist to his face, like I've won the bet I made when I told him whatever milk-like thing he found would have gone sour and he wouldn't know until he'd eaten it. We lost all electrical reliability five weeks ago.

"No cat litter this time," he says. "Please?"

I have written the cat-litter incident. Enjoy!

I swear the next time we go grocery-foraging together, I'm sending Calico J and Ditzy out to run around the block beforehand

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I swear the next time we go grocery-foraging together, I'm sending Calico J and Ditzy out to run around the block beforehand. Just to burn off some energy. I drag both hands down my face as the raucous singing in the next aisle over morphs from a pop song about kidney beans to a children's song about flatulence. I'm sure this one also has to do with beans—I'm sure I'd know how if I listened hard enough. At this moment, then, I'm glad listening to anything costs me more effort than I'm currently willing to spare. I recognize the tune of this thing. And I already know it'll be branded on my brain until midnight even without the accompanying lyrics.

Even in my slow spiral towards bean-induced insanity, I can't help but marvel at just how many songs about beans Calico J and Ditzy have managed to exhume from the corners of their minds for this occasion. They've been going for half an hour already. They show no signs of slowing. The clang of cans adds percussion to the musical number. I doubt it's even bean cans anymore. But at least there's still some semblance of productivity happening in that aisle.

I sigh and move to the store's front windows, Patrick trailing behind me. Rain beats down outside. The air is the deathly kind of calm you only get in autumn rainstorms. The kind that lets the rain fall straight as arrows from the sky to the ground, while the trees stand like scarecrows with their drooping arms in the absence of any wind to shake them. I hope the storm blows over soon. There was a chance of it this morning—I saw the clouds and gauged the risk—and these kinds of localized soakers never last long. They're just violent.

And red. You'd think the Red Rain would be satisfied with a good three hours of pouring each night, but it's saturated this daytime rainstorm, and it isn't apologizing. The clouds are a sickly reddish-grey. Beneath them, sheets of scarlet nonsense hammer the store's parking lot and gather into rivers along every curb I see. If the storm drains can't handle this, we're screwed. This store has only one level, and while I'm sure we could clear a shelf and perch on it, I'm not willing to test these shelves' structural integrity unless we have to. It's the apocalypse. We've got no way to treat a broken leg.

Behind me, the cursed children's song ends. Either Calico J and Ditzy have had mercy on us, or they've found something else to talk about. I should know if it's the latter. I wander back in their direction, and nearly collide with Calico J at the end of aisle three.

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