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"Missing Mittens” by Alina Liu: May 2024 3rd Place

A shriek rent the air in the early morning as Penelope scrambled down the stairs, coming to a stop in the dining room. Her father, sitting at the table with a cup of coffee, looked up.

“Good morning,” he said. “Is everything alright?”

Penelope let out a strangled noise before waving around madly with her arms.

“I can’t find her! She’s gone!”


“Mittens! Our cat! I woke up and she wasn’t in my room where she sleeps. Then, I called her name, but she didn’t come!”

Her dad frowned. “She’s not downstairs––I didn’t see her. You sure she’s not just


“She always comes when I call her name.” Penelope’s eyes began to water, and she ran to her father who pulled her into his lap. “What if she’s lost forever?”

”Let’s wait a bit to see if she turns up. She’s probably just under your bed, or something.”

The days passed, and Mittens didn’t show. Penelope grew increasingly sullen. Signs were taped up on trees around the neighborhood, and people called out to her on the streets,asking for updates. Her friends and neighbors would walk the streets, calling out Mittens’ name, but to no avail.

“She always comes when she hears her name…” Penelope whispered quietly one night, curled up against her mom.

“Mittens will come back. We’ll keep looking and looking, and we’ll find her,” her mother said, pressing a kiss against Penelope’s forehead.

That night, Penelope dreamed. She dreamed that she was doing her homework at her desk when she heard meowing at her feet.

“No, I can’t give you treats, Mittens,” she chided. “You just ate.” 

The meowing grew and kept intensifying until her eyes fluttered open. It continued. It was coming from under her bed.

Penelope sat bolt upright and pressed herself against the floor, searching the shadows beneath the bed frame. She could discern a dark form moving, yellow eyes peering back at her––but there was more.

Penelope sprang back to her feet, her heart racing.

“Mom! Dad!” she called. “It’s Mittens––and she has kittens!”


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