“Kittens” by Chloe DeFilippis
The last time my sister hopped the fence to get a ball from our neighbor’s yard, one of the kittens we’d been tracking was dead. Its black furred body was deflated. White foam crusted at the edges of its mouth. Mama told us to stay away from those cats—that their constant hissing meant rabies. We didn’t listen. We weren’t supposed to hop the fence either. When our old neighbors moved, we were forbidden from that backyard, where weeds grew as tall as our garage. We weren’t even allowed to ring the doorbell. Mama warned, The same man never comes out twice. I didn’t know what she meant.
Victoria never got the ball. The surviving kittens, their mama rushed her. Victoria ran fast, pushed herself over the wooden fence, and landed on our picnic table, panting. She looked at me, dark brown eyes wide: Ma was right.
For the next month, we watched more kittens die, on the same patch of concrete where they were born. The new neighbors let the bodies rot until Mama had enough and called animal control. A man with gloves came with a black garbage bag. I wasn’t allowed to watch as he took them all away.
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Chloe DeFilippis Artist Statement: Chloe DeFilippis was born and raised in Bayonne, a tiny blue-collar peninsula in New Jersey, where she currently resides. She graduated from New Jersey City University in January 2015 with a Bachelor’s degree in English/Creative Writing, having completed an honors thesis in memoir. Chloe uses her perspective as the youngest in a six-person, working-class family of Italian- and Polish-American heritage to inform her work. Her poetry and flash nonfiction have been published in the journal Voices in Italian Americana as well as in the e-anthology Olive Grrrls. She was the 2015 recipient of the Walter Glospie Academy of American Poets Prize and is currently the proud moderator of her 100-word writing group, which has been together for two years. When she’s not writing, Chloe is tending to her small vegetable garden.