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The Sinister Scheme of Sneezy Batman

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Troy’s parents had always told him to count his blessings. And he had: he’d lie in bed at night and dutifully tick things off the list: plenty to eat, warm bed, parents to take care of him, football, angels watching over him, other kids to play with, shoes on his feet, etc.

But lately Troy was beginning to think he’d been doing it wrong. Because now he really had something to be grateful for; now he had blessings to count that felt real and personal and meaningful in a way his boring old list never had.

He had Abed. Abed alone made up most of the list. The blanket fort, their awesome apartment, the nights spent watching Kick-Puncher fan-movies on Youtube, being able to sustain a weeks-long debate about who would win if Batman and Kickpuncher were both trying to get a date with Mitzie from Inspector Spacetime; all of this fell under the Abed category.

Troy fell into bed every night dazed with happiness. He woke up every morning blearily buoyed with vague, cheerful expectations. And it was all because he had a friend who got him. All this nerdy, juvenile stuff Troy had spent most of his life trying to squash, trying to hide, trying to erase—Abed liked him even more for it. Troy was beginning to get what was so great about college. You could be yourself. You didn’t have to worry about your parents any more, and you didn’t have to worry about employers yet. You were free to just… be how you were.

He’d been a little worried when Annie moved in, that she wouldn’t get how it was. That she’d try to impose her idea of normal on their nest of insane, genius awesome. But she’d slipped right into their routine, and it felt like the three of them had always lived together.

Annie made banana pancakes every Sunday for breakfast and timed her studying so she had a break every hour to thumb-wrestle with Abed. If he wasn’t around, she’d play a round of MarioKart with Troy before she got back to work. Her life curled neatly around theirs like a puzzle piece.

Everything was awesome, and then everything was terrible.

 

And it was all because of a cat. Obviously.

“Oh look, a cat,” Abed said as though he was commenting on the weather and not an earth-shattering disaster. He was sitting at the table working up a chart comparing how frequently Scully cocked her right eyebrow vs her left, and what the triggering event for each eyebrow-cocking was. They’d just finished a massive multi-week X-Files marathon and as a result Troy had a permanent case of the heebie-jeebies and had also developed an embarrassing crush on Scully’s mom. She just seemed so nice.

Troy looked up from his knitting, and sure enough—there was a cat sitting outside the window peering in.

Its matted fur stood out in all directions. One ear flopped limply and the other rotated ceaselessly in its socket like a satellite dish in a TV show about sinister government conspiracies. The very fires of hell raged in its eyes. It was the most evil thing Troy had ever seen in his life.

“Ugh!” he shrieked, pulling his feet up onto the couch, “Make it go away!”

Annie grabbed his knitting off the floor where it had fallen and placed it neatly on the coffee table.

“Troy!” she said, “it’s just a cat. Relax!”

“Troy has a morbid fear of cats,” Abed said, his gaze fixed on the chart (“Exasperation with Mulder; frosty exasperation with Mulder; fond exasperation with Mulder”). “But she’s right, Troy. It can’t do you any harm from out there. The window’s shut.”

The cat had edged closer to the (thankfully shut, Abed was right, Abed was always right) window. The light from the cosy living room flashed in its depthless green orbs. And then it sneezed. Right onto the window. Little gobs of cat snot hit the pane with a splat.

“Oh,” Annie said in her “poor little thing” voice. “It’s got a cold.”

“You used your ‘poor little thing’ voice,” Abed observed. “But I think you will find if you observe it closely it is not in fact a pitiable, helpless creature, but rather a fearsome survivor from the war-torn world of stray cats. Given what the odds of survival out there are for a domesticated felid… I’d say this cat is obviously an extraordinary badass.”

“Make it go away,” Troy moaned.

 

Troy liked animals. He did. He’d had a beloved dog as a kid (Reggie, now a doddering sixteen, still lived with his parents). He had always loved the various class pets at school—guinea pigs, turtles, hamsters, and a memorable tarantula. But cats and Troy were like Kickpuncher and Punchkicker—doomed by fate to be enemies forever.

There was just something about cats. Their mean eyes. Their sharp claws. How they could sneak up on you without even trying. The way they slinked around like a villain in a 1990s Disney movie. And cats hated Troy as much as he feared them. He could tell. It was just something about how they looked at him.

Normal cats were bad enough, but the cat lurking outside the window on the fire escape was clearly a special case. There was no mistaking the look in its eyes as it peered in through the haze of saliva and mucous it had left on their window. It wasn’t merely a badass. It was obviously a killer.

 

“Don’t you think you’re overreacting a little?” Annie said gently. She offered Troy his knitting. “Here, just ignore it. I’m sure it’ll go away,” she said.

Troy, taking a deep breath, lowered his feet to the ground and accepted the half-finished  mittens from Annie. They returned to their knitting.

Screeeeeee

Screeeeeee

Screeeeeee

The cat was scratching at the window. Troy writhed with horror.

“Oh,” Annie said, “The poor little—” she glanced at Abed, who nodded at her encouragingly, “—badass,” she finished. She didn’t sound convinced.

Abed looked thoughtful, then seemed to come to a decision.

“Troy,” he said, “I know this is going to be hard for you. And I apologize.”

He threw the window open, and the cat streaked into the apartment.

 

When Troy came to, things were a little hazy.

“What happened?” he said. Annie was patting his hand.

“You had a fit of the vapors,” Abed said matter-of-factly.

“Why?” Troy said. He sat up gingerly. And then he saw it.

 

When Troy came to, things were a little hazy.

“What happened?” he said. Annie was patting his hand.

“You had a fit of the vapors,” Abed said matter-of-factly.

“Why?” Troy said. And then he saw it.

 

When Troy came to, things were a little hazy.

“What happened?” he said. Annie was patting his hand.

“You had a fit of the vapors,” Abed said matter-of-factly.

“Why?” Troy said. He started to sit up, but Annie gently pushed him back down.

“Don’t be mad, Troy,” she said. “But we’ve decided to keep him. I really think you can learn to get along with him!”

“What? Who?” Troy said. And then he saw it.

 

The first few days were sort of a horrorshow, but… No. There was no but. The first few days were sort of a horrorshow. Annie took the demonspawn to the vet and got drops to put in its demonspawn ears (ear lice, apparently). Every night she wrapped it up in a towel and ignored its otherworldly screams as she dribbled goo into its ears. Troy generally hid in the bathroom for that part.

Abed read up obsessively on cats, and started reciting “interesting facts,” including a truly upsetting tirade about the observable effects of Toxoplasmis Gondii in humans.

“Sexual promiscuity in women; slovenly hygiene and long hair in men,” Abed said. “You catch it from their poop.”

“Please stop talking,” Annie said so Troy didn’t have to.

For his part, Troy slept with a head of garlic under his pillow. (“Vampires, not cats. Not even werecats,” Abed said, but Troy figured it was better than nothing.) The cat mostly left him alone, miraculously, but just seeing it lurking on the arm of the couch or biting at its hind claws made his skin crawl.

And it was gross. The damn thing wouldn’t stop sneezing. Troy wasn’t generally scared of germs, but (maybe motivated by Abed’s descriptions of that poop disease) he started following the cat around (at a safe distance) with disinfecting wipes. Otherwise their entire apartment would have been thoroughly coated in cat snot.

“I think we should call him Sneezy!” said Annie.

“That’s sweet,” said Abed, in the tone of voice that meant, “I have laboriously cultivated enough basic social skills so that I know not tell you you are being stupid, even though you are being stupid.”

“Sneezy, like the dwarf!” Annie said. She was getting excited about the idea.

“Obviously we should call him Batman,” Abed said.

“I vote for Demonspawn,” Troy muttered. Both Annie and Troy ignored him.

Annie put on her “I’m going to be the reasonable grownup” face. “We can compromise,” she said. “Sneezy Batman!”

Abed looked thoughtful. “I can live with that,” he said.

Troy buried his face in his hands.

 

Troy settled into a grim new routine. He slept lightly, hyper-alert to the movements of Sneezy Batman. The cat prowled the apartment from eleven at night to two in the morning and then usually slept in the kitchen sink until four or so. Then he started crying for breakfast around five. Annie usually gave in and fed him. Abed could sleep through anything, and Troy was afraid to get out of bed before dawn because the cat was mostly black and easy to miss in the dark apartment.

 

Sneezy Batman rolled in Abed’s shoes. He licked Abed’s pillow. He chewed on Abed’s towels. He tracked Abed with his eyes as he moved around the apartment. He moaned, hollow and despairing and inconsolable, until Abed got back from class.

“Aw,” Annie said. “Sneezy Batman loves Abed!”

Troy couldn’t argue. Once you accepted that maybe—maybe—a cat from the sinister gulf beyond the veil was capable of experiencing love, then you couldn’t really dispute that Sneezy Batman showed every sign of loving Abed… almost as much as Troy did. If that was even possible.

And then, one day, Troy came home from a conscripted social event which turned out to basically entail watching Jeff try on overpriced motorcycle boots to find Abed kneeling on the floor in the livingroom, tossing a balled-up piece of paper at Sneezy Batman. Sneezy Batman would tap it around and eventually it’d end up back with Abed, who would toss it again.

Troy stood in the hallway for a few minutes, just watching. Abed had a look of complete fascination on his face. Sneezy Batman was also completely absorbed. He chased the ball around with single-minded purpose, batting it like a soccer player. Eventually, he flopped onto his side, panting, and sneezed.

Abed smiled.

Troy knew that smile. You didn’t see it very often. It took something like the renewal of a beloved TV show or the discovery of a box of discontinued breakfast cereal at the grocery store to make Abed smile like that. Every now and then, Troy himself managed to be the cause of that smile. He knew what it was worth.

And then Abed looked up and saw Troy, and his smile got even brighter.

Troy knew that it was hopeless. Abed made up, like, ninety percent of his blessings list. Troy’s happiness was, at this point, pretty much inseparable from Abed’s happiness.

Troy walked over and sat gingerly down on the floor. It was time to make peace. He guessed the cat wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Now that it was clean, its fur had gotten kind of fluffy. And its lopsided ears were sort of rakish. And it made funny noises when it slept. Troy figured he was man enough to stand up to a sort-of-cute cat. Probably. He owed Abed his best try, anyway.

“Okay, Sneezy Batman,” he said. “Do your worst.”

Sneezy Batman blinked up at Troy in a friendly kind of way. He shuffled over and sniffed Troy's knee.

And then he sneezed on it.

“He likes you,” Abed said. “I read on the internet that cats only sneeze when they’re comfortable and feel safe.”

“Something to be grateful for,” Troy said.