June 4th 2011 3:46 am
[ View A Comments (7) ]
The shed’s roof had long ago begun the slow process of disintegration. Most of it was caved in, and over the years different owners had thrown some junk in there that perhaps they weren’t quite ready to part with, but didn’t want cluttering up the yard. The pawrents had unfortunately carried on this tradition [MOL], storing some chicken wire and other fencing materials there, as well as some old garden pots and other equipment. The place was no longer safe for humans, but it offered this dividend for animals – it was defensible. With the gate closed on the other side, no coyote was going to be able to get in through that one small ground entrance when there was one, or in this case, three scared and angry felines guarding the fort! Very soon, the pack saw there would be no sport from this quarter, and took themselves off in search of other prey.
When it seemed certain the danger had passed, the three exited the shed, first slinking out cautiously, testing the air and listening. They could hear the pack back down in the valley now, far from where they stood.
Sleeper turned to the dark stranger, “We can’t thank you enough – I thought they had us for sure!”
“They very nearly DID,” he replied as he walked them back towards the cattery, which they could see now appearing through the trees on their left. Samhain said nothing, glancing suspiciously at the rangy black cat who she recognized now as the silent visitor who had been hanging around outside their pen ever since the pawrents built it.
“How did you know to come?” she questioned, watching his face closely.
“I’ve been following you two all evening,” he answered quietly, “as soon as I saw you weren’t in your pen, and the gate was open.”
“Why would you do that?” Samhain pressed.
“Let’s say I take a…disinterested interest in the two of you.” He smiled, a not altogether comfortable smile, “ I’m curious about you.”
“Are you Samhain’s father?’ Sleeper blurted out.
“Sleeper!” Samhain snarled harshly.
The stranger smiled again, this time in an almost apologetic way. “Yes,” he said.
“You’ve been eating our leftovers,” Sleeper spoke again impulsively.
“SLEEPER!!!” Samhain spit out through gritted teeth. “Will you SHUT UP?!”
Papa waved his paw in a sweeping motion. “It’s alright! Yes, I’ve been eating the food your human leaves for me. I figured it was yours, I could smell and taste you both on it. There’s no shame in that. I’m an opportunist – I take what comes. It’s called SURVIVAL,” he added pointedly, staring at his daughter. Samhain flushed.
They had reached the cattery, and the girls hesitated in front of the gate. The wind had picked up and was starting to blow through the walnut tree. The gate swung a little in the breeze. Papa looked up and off to the west where the prevailing winds swept up the hill carrying the scent of possible rain. “You two better get on inside; I think there’s a storm coming.” Sleeper stepped through the gate, but Samhain hung back. Abruptly she turned about, and glanced at her father swiftly then down at the ground. The words tumbled out: “Why did she leave us?”
Of course, he knew which SHE Samhain meant – her mother, her biological mother.
Shadow, as he thought of himself, sighed. He turned first to Samhain’s sister.
“Sleeper, is it?” Sleeper gave a little nod.
“Sleeper, with you it was the luck of the draw. When whatever it was that startled your mother [THE MAMA: “It was me!”] made her decide to move you to a new location, Samhain just happened to be the closer to her and she grabbed her. If she thought about it at all, she probably meant to come back for you. But…the weather was changing; taking care of two late kittens at that stage when finding shelter and food for herself alone was soon going to be a likely problem, it seemed best to leave be. And as luck would have it, your humans intervened to keep you from starving and freezing to death.” He shook his head, wonderingly.
“With you, Daughter,” he put emphasis on the name, and Samhain flushed again.
“Her name is Samhain,” Sleeper interjected helpfully; Samhain glared at her.
“Samhain…I like that. Samhain, with you the problem is as I just stated it. Winter was coming; survival was the issue. You’d been attacked. Oh yes, I saw it happen,” he added quickly when he saw Samhain tense and start to speak.
“I was there. And no, it wasn’t me!” he overrode Samhain’s protest again.
“In fact, you could say I saved your life. It was your uncle, my brother. We look pretty much alike; I know it’s what you’ve been wondering. You’ve looked at me at times like you were remembering what happened that day.” Samhain didn’t say anything to this; it was true.
“He’d wanted my mate - your mother - and you were in the way. He tried to kill you, but I chased him away, not before he’d gotten a good swipe at you, unfortunately. I see your eye’s healed up completely,” he looked at his daughter appraisingly. “Good for you!”
“The Mama and Papa put medicine in it,” Samhain mumbled reluctantly.
“Yes, well – humans! I suppose they have their uses,” Shadow mused.
“Do you want to come in?” Sleeper asked politely. She was ready herself to go in and have a bite to eat and relax after all the excitement, but she wasn’t quite sure if it would be proper etiquette to simply leave.
“Sleeper – no!” Samhain exclaimed involuntarily. She knew there was no way she would allow this scary-looking, flea-bitten tom in her house, her MAMA’S house. But she also knew, with a sinking feeling in her stomach, that if he chose to come, there also was no way she would be able to stop him.
Shadow chuckled. “No need to be concerned, Daughter. I wouldn’t accept anyway. Domestic life and me are sworn enemies!” With that he cuffed Samhain on the shoulder affectionately. He looked at Sleeper, touching his paw to her face.
“You’ve got an attractive sister, little Samhain, he said in a low growl. Samhain returned it with bared teeth.
“You stay away from my sister!” she said angrily. Sleeper blushed and stepped back uncertainly.
Shadow just chuckled again. “You don’t have to worry. She’s pretty, but no offense, I prefer my women with – how shall we say it? – all their parts intact!” he added wryly.
There seemed to be nothing more to talk about after that, so Samhain backed into the pen, saying awkwardly, “Well, uh…see you around, I guess.” A great gust of wind blew up the hill at that moment, banging the gate home.
Shadow laughed. “I’d say that’s my cue,” he pronounced, almost gaily. “You girls take care of yourselves!” And with a final jaunty salute, he was gone, like a shadow, as swiftly as he had come.
Sleeper stood at the catdoor, frowning after him. “I’m not at all sure that I like that cat. He’s scary!”
Samhain was looking off into the darkness where he had vanished, and answered slowly, “I’m in complete agreement with you.” But Sleeper didn’t hear; she was already inside at the food bowl. Samhain lingered, pondering the strangeness of fate.
“Why us? Why are we the survivors? Why aren’t we out there, feral kitties, or worse – dead?” As no answer was whispered to her from the surrounding Darkness, she unconsciously (and ironically) mimicked her smaller sister, Mama Mouse; shrugging her shoulders, she turned and went into the house.
In the morning, the girls were outside watching the squirrels chase each other through the tree when they heard a car pull up the drive.
“They’re here!” Samhain exclaimed joyfully.
“That doesn’t sound like the Mama’s or the Papa’s car, Sleeper said, with a little frown on her face. It wasn’t, and the girls waited uncertainly to see who had arrived.
The car stopped and three women got out. These were three friends of their pawrents who had been hearing about the cattery and, as they were in the neighborhood, thought they'd stop by for a look. Sleeper had met all three, though two of them, Pam and Karen, she’d only seen when she was a baby, and the memory was very vague. Samhain didn’t know either of these two, but the third, Mary Ann, she recognized as someone who had come to visit in the time before the cattery was built.
“They did a great job!” Pam was saying as they walked up to the cattery. Karen, a skilled craftsman, was nodding as she looked it over appraisingly. “It’s a good size, and it looks strong,” she said. Mary Ann had spotted Sleeper and Samhain, “Oh, look! There are the girls!”
“Sleeper’s gotten so big!” Pam exclaimed.
“And look how pretty and sleek that Samhain is,” Karen was saying.
This was all Samhain needed to decide it was time to disappear. She turned tail and was up the ramp into the house in a flash, with Sleeper right behind her!
“We scared them away!” Mary Ann lamented. Pam said, “That’s exactly what they should do when something unknown enters their world. Go to safety.” Karen was nodding agreement. “Those are two very smart kitties!” she said.
Sleeper looked at Samhain where they were hiding just behind the catdoor. “We ARE very smart kitties…NOW!” she giggled. Samhain grinned.
At this point, Karen was at the gate and noticed something odd.
“The gate’s not latched,” she said with a puzzled frown.
“Oh, my – do you think they left in such a hurry they forgot to latch it?” Mary Ann said with a little laugh – she was well aware of how long it had been since the Mama and Papa had taken any time away from their babies and work!
“That doesn’t seem likely,” Pam said, coming over to inspect the gate.
“Well, it SHOULD be latched,” said Karen, decisively, and threw home the bolts. Thus, order was restored to the Sleeper and Samhain’s tiny universe.
Later that day, another car pulled into the driveway. This time it WAS the Mama and Papa! Happy greetings were had all around. Finally, the Papa stood, cradling Sleeper in his arms the way she liked, and the Mama was crouched down by Samhain, running her hands down her flanks, giving and receiving numerous headbonks, and scratching Samhain under her chin in just the right spot, and saying, “So how was your day without us? Any excitement while we were gone?”
Sleeper and Samhain looked at each other, but didn’t say a word. They just purred!
I has sooooo mush fun readin yer story! You girlies had a ex'ellan' 'venture.
OH, I LOVE the ending - they think you just slept the whole time!!! MOL! Pawrents!
This is such a wonderful kitty story! I loved it! Thanks for sharing it with us, and I hope you win a Pulitzer! Luv, Tink
Total lee pawsum storee samhain N sleeper!!! Yur mom N dad shuld be veree proud oh ewe both, ewe haz done an eggs cellent job on yur storee N we love it....we be glad yur dad helped ewe fite de coyotes two!!! purrhaps ewe shuld think bout sendin yur storee to a mag oh zeen editor N see if him will publish it....just think...ewe both could be bazillionaires !!!! peace out N rock on, long live trout :)
Thank you, thank you! And Tabbies, if we ever get a bazillion dollars, we'll buy you your own trout farm - hehehe!
See, I tol' ya, Ingen, that the ending would be happy! :)
Oh My Gooosshe! (said the valley girl cat) I cannot believe we missed the first two parts wow how did that happen? We LOVED the ending so furry well written!! kept us on the edge of our seats. It is 1 a.m here and mom want to go to bed but could not till we read the story. If I were doing a book review I would give it top rating!
(What does RSS do?)