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Daily Science Fiction :: Cuddles by A.L. Lowe
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Cuddles

"No, it's broken, take your shekel," growled Jonas, giving the vending machine a final kick. He had already managed to dent the side and puncture the lower corner, but the last kick was somewhat halfhearted. He stared at the machine forlornly.
"Keep it. We may find another," said Kevin. He leaned toward the dirty plastic front. "Think you're better off. Nothing in there looks particularly fresh anymore."
"Could just break the thing," Jonas grumbled, perching his massive frame awkwardly on the small curb in front of the car.
"There's a station not so far from here," said Kevin. "And Miles'll drive."
"I don't wanna wait. I want it now!" Jonas slapped his palm into the car.
"Whoa there, let's not break anything else," drawled Miles. "Couple minutes without cuddles will be okay."
Jonas kicked a stone and muttered "Heartless" beneath his breath. Kevin grinned, grabbing on to the big man's shoulder and pulling him up and toward the back seat. Miles cranked the engine, letting it hum for a moment before shifting backward in to the road.
"He's not heartless, he just doesn't like cuddles," Kevin explained conversationally to the morose Jonas, who sat low in the seat and stared out the window.
"Just think cats oughta have claws. And eyeballs," drawled Miles.
"But they're not cats. They're kittens," Kevin said in a serious voice. "I bet you think chickens should have bones," he added, repressing a smile.
"I do indeed," replied Miles. Jonas perked up from the backseat as they passed a long-closed diner, but the vending machine had obviously been removed years earlier leaving only an empty square in its place.
"It's all for a higher purpose, Miles," chided Kevin. "Look at Jonas. What would he do without genetically modified kittens?"
"I imagine he'd learn to cope somehow," Miles said, glancing in the rear view mirror at Jonas.
The three were silent for a moment and the car bumped along the wide, desolate road.
"There!" shrieked Jonas from the back seat, jerking forward and slamming his hands down on Kevin's shoulders. Miles obligingly swerved into the tired looking parking lot and rolled to a stop.
"I believe your desperation's playing tricks on you," said Kevin, surveying the abandoned lot. But Jonas had already torn out of the vehicle and run along to the back of the now defunct motel. Kevin stretched his legs, slumping down in to the seat while Miles lit a cigarette. Kevin smiled.
"I'm not sure they should have released you from the twentieth century," he said. Miles nodded good-naturedly and exhaled.
A sharp cry followed by a thump came from behind the building. Miles and Kevin got out and followed the direction of the sound.
"Guess this machine's broken too," reflected Miles.
"Might be. Or it might be that I gave him a bum 10 shekel piece before," said Kevin grinning. Miles frowned at him, but said nothing as now they had reached the back of the motel. Jonas knelt before the vending machine, forehead pressed to the plastic window.
"No luck, huh?" said Kevin innocently.
"Anything living in there?" asked Miles. Jonas nodded.
"E3 and U6. Others bad," he whimpered.
"Here," Miles flicked a coin at him. Jonas stared for a fraction of a second, then dove for the coin, scrambling to stuff it into the machine.
A minute later he stood, visibly relaxed, holding the blind, mewing kitten to his face. The kitten pressed against him, crying softly and wiggling its paws ineffectually. After squeezing the little animal for several seconds, Jonas looked solemnly at Miles and held the cat out to him. Miles nodded, reached out and petted the tiny head. Both men turned to head back to the car, but Kevin's voice held them back.
"Wait, so, two slots were okay?" he asked tentatively.
Jonas nodded.
"Do you think I could borrow some change?" Kevin asked.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, October 28th, 2013

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