Friday, March 29, 2013

Welcome back.  If you've been following the adventures of Scat, Cat well here is Chapter 7.  Perhaps he has finally found  a home and family that will give him the love he craves.  But what of the strange Cat that he saw in the window?  Perhaps his welcome will not be as warm as he hopes.

So here it is:

Chapter Seven: Faith and Trust

Hunter hurried back through the tall grass to see where the Little One was going. He stopped and peered out at the house where it, no, Hunter decided that this Little One was definitely a she, was headed. A Big One with long dark fur on its head came out the door and gathered the Little One up in an embrace. They talked for a while and then wandered through the grass, picking flowers as they went. Hunter could hear the words “Sophie” and “Mommy” being used many times in their conversation.
Well,” thought Hunter, I do believe I have learned some important information. The Little One must be named Sophie and the Big One is definitely Mommy. I think I remember that Mommy is another way of saying Mother, and I can tell that these two love each other very much. How lucky they are. I hope they realize and appreciate what they have. There are so many in this world who would give everything to be like them. My heart seems to tell me that those who love one another so much have hearts big enough to love others. I hope there is room for me.”
As Hunter continued to watch Mommy and Sophie, he heard a sound coming up the path. A Rumbler came into view and pulled into a building with odd moving doors. Soon another Big One came out and Sophie ran to his side, calling out in a laughing voice, “Daddy!” The Daddy Big One gave her a hug and put his arm around Mommy. Then the trio went into their house, with much eager talk that Hunter couldn’t understand. What he did understand was that this was a family, exactly what he had been yearning for and perhaps now within his reach.
I must have a plan. I just can’t go rushing up and expect them to welcome me with open arms. First I will make myself as clean and tidy as possible. I must groom out all the sticky seeds till my fur is glossy and sleek. I need to take special care of my eye. It seems to be leaky all the time, so maybe I can fix that a bit. Then I will wait till the moment is just right to make myself known. So, it’s back to find a secure hideout to complete my grooming and still be able to keep an eye on what is going on with Mommy, Daddy and little lovable Sophie.”
So Hunter searched until he found a spot where the branches of a cedar tree hung to the ground. “Perfect! I can crawl inside, not be seen, but see what needs to be seen.” In his tiny green-shaded sanctuary he proceeded to really spruce himself up. No detail was overlooked: fur, ears, tail, bottom, belly, hair between the toes, toenails, and eyes, they all got a thorough going over. He discovered that he really couldn’t fix his leaky eye, but that if he gave it a good rubbing it felt better and looked more presentable, he hoped. Washing-up done, Hunter decided he felt safe enough to take a short catnap and found himself dreaming about what life would be like with this promising family. When he awoke, he saw Sophie skipping off toward the tree with the strange seat. Quickly, he scampered to his other observation post to see what she was up to. As she entered the clearing and prepared to sit on the seat, Hunter decided to make his move. He crept slowly from the bushes and rolled on the grass and put on his most appealing expression. “Mew? Meow?”
Sophie immediately stopped in her play and looked at Hunter. She knelt down, extended her hand and began speaking in a soft gentle voice. “Kitty, kitty, kitty?”
Somehow, Hunter was sure these words were directed to him and that Sophie wanted to make friends. He crept a little closer and began sniffing the air. “Mew?” he said again.
Kitty, kitty, kitty,” crooned Sophie and made her way toward Hunter. He let her get just close enough so he could sniff her offered hand but suddenly lost his nerve and dashed back into the bushes. He heard Sophie running toward the house calling for “Mommy” and wondered if he had somehow frightened her.
Now what have I done? I don’t want Sophie to be afraid. I wonder what she’s saying to Mommy about the strange acting Cat? I’m just so nervous about making a good impression, I can’t seem to think straight.”
Hunter moved back to his other hiding place to watch what was happening at the house. Soon Mommy and Sophie came out, headed back toward the swinging seat. They were each holding a bowl and there was a familiar tantalizing aroma coming from the one that Sophie carried.
Ooh,” mewed Hunter. “I smell something yummy! I guess Sophie wasn’t frightened after all. I’ve got to get back to her swinging seat as quick as I can. C’mon paws, make tracks!”
When Hunter reached his opening in the bushes, Mommy and Sophie were placing the bowls on the ground just a few cat lengths away. Then they went back toward the swinging seat and lowered themselves to the ground. Hunter waited to see what else they might do, but the scent of the food was just too compelling. Out he came and went straight to the wonderfully fragrant bowl. He made sure it was safe and then proceeded to eat like the starving little creature he was. He stopped only to take a few sweet laps from the water bowl and glance gratefully at Sophie and Mommy. When he had finished the food and licked the bowl meticulously, he politely washed his face and paws and looked up at his two new friends. “Purrow?” he said in gratitude, and waited for their reply. He didn’t have long to wait.
Kitty, kitty,” said Sophie, with a cheerful invitation in her voice. Mommy held out her hand in welcome and Hunter knew that finally his dream was about to become reality. He bravely approached the two seated on the grass until he was right in front of them. He rubbed his head against Mommy’s hand and as she caressed his head, he knew that she would never hurt him. Then Sophie reached out and began to rub behind his ears and under his chin, his absolute favorite spots to be rubbed. His motor began to hum and soon the three were becoming well acquainted. The warmth and love that emanated from their hearts captivated Hunter and he sensed he would become a willing captive.
When Mommy and Sophie stood and walked back toward the house, Hunter followed them willingly and joyfully. The rest of the afternoon, Sophie and Hunter had splendid games of tag and follow the string in the yard. They even helped Mommy pick some strange plants from a special plot of ground.
As they were playing, Hunter happened to look up at one of the windows of the house. In the window sat the most mysterious Cat that Hunter had ever seen. The Cat was slender and sleek with lovely light colored fur and a dark mask on its face. Most remarkable were the two startling blue eyes watching him with an inscrutable expression.
How astonishing! What an exquisite creature. If I become part of this family, how will this other Person feel about me? Will she like me, or be angry that she has to share the affections of Mommy, Daddy and Sophie?”
Hunter’s thoughts were interrupted by the sound of Daddy’s Rumbler, rolling up the path. He was unsure of what to expect.
Now I have to worry about what Daddy thinks of me, too. Maybe he doesn’t want a poor stray Cat like me.”
The Rumbler pulled into its house and soon Daddy came into view. Hunter was sitting next to Sophie and tensed his muscles, preparing to take flight if things took a sudden turn for the worse. One look was all Hunter needed to know that Daddy was delighted to see Sophie and Hunter together. Daddy came over and knelt down, extending his hand to Hunter. Hunter rubbed his head against Daddy’s hand and then to his own surprise, began rubbing his little Cat body around Daddy’s legs and against Sophie’s lap. When Mommy came over and gently picked him up and held him in her arms, he felt he might burst from happiness. “A family,” he purred. “A family of my very own!”
As twilight began to creep in, Mommy and Daddy began moving things into the Rumbler house: boxes, blankets, bowls and other mysterious things. Finally Sophie came and picked Hunter up and carried him into the Rumbler house. Hunter didn’t know what to think, but stayed quiet in Sophie’s arms while he took in this new situation. The Rumbler was quiet now, just sitting on one side of its house. The other side held all the things that had recently been carried in. Daddy closed the door and Sophie lowered Hunter to the floor. Everyone took a perch in some funny metal seats and Hunter decided it was time to investigate.
The first thing he did was to go to each member of his new family and mew an inquisitive mew, asking their permission to explore. They were all smiling at him, so off he went. His perceptive nose led him to a bowl of cat food next to another bowl of water. He looked back gratefully at his Family and continued on. He found a litter box, which he was very thankful for, too. No one likes to hunker in the dirt to relieve himself. It’s much too embarrassing for one of the People who has been raised with the Big Ones. (Just imagine… a modest, well-mannered Cat, digging a hole and squatting out in plain sight of Bast and everyone, to fulfill his bodily functions!) Next he stepped on a yielding colorful path that led to a box filled with snuggly soft material. Hunter stepped in and turned around two or three times, kneading a comfortable spot in the center with his paws. He lay down to try it out for size and found it very snug, indeed. He jumped out and found some strange furry objects that looked like Squeakers, but were definitely harder and certainly not going to run away. He pushed at one with his paw and to his delight it bounced along the floor.
What fun!” This must be what they call a plaything. I can have some splendid times chasing this around. Altogether, this spot is not too bad, especially compared to some of the places I’ve had to stay.”
He walked over and jumped up on Sophie’s lap. She began to caress him softly and hum a little tune that was most pleasing to Hunter. Mommy came over and held out a damp cloth for him to sniff. Then she gently rubbed the sticky goo from the corner of Hunter’s eye.
That feels ever so much better. How marvelous it will be to stay here with such caring Big Ones.”
Eventually, darkness fell and Mommy and Daddy spoke to Sophie as they all stood up, preparing to leave. One by one, they gave him a pat and walked out the door. Daddy was the last to go and leaving the door ajar, just a crack; he spoke encouragingly to Hunter and headed for the other, “real” house. Hunter jumped up to a perch where he could see out a window and felt a tiny twinge of sadness settle around his heart as his new family left him alone in the dark.
Why are they leaving me out here? I want to be with them and I thought they wanted to be with me.” He looked around at what they had prepared for him and decided to make the best of it. After all, he had a warm place to sleep and food and water to sustain him.
I must have faith in this good Family. I don’t know why they left me here, but I must believe that it was for a good reason. I WILL have faith. I WILL have trust.” With these thoughts echoing in his head, Hunter had a little snack and a sip of water. He then made his way to his snuggly box and prepared for the night. After a hasty wash-up, he realized how sleepy he was and soon nodded off, again to dream of his Mother’s song about the brave and clever Cat.
The sun was barely up when Hunter awoke to a confusing cacophony of jarring sounds. He jumped to the window and looked out. In the nearby bushes was Beechnut; seemingly unable to move, and hopping on the grass was a large dark Flyer, moving closer and closer to Beechnut. In a nearby tree sat Bob, frantically chittering and bobbing up and down. Another of the dark Flyers was also in the tree, cawing encouragement to the one below.
Hunter rushed to the door and yelled out. “I’m coming, Beechnut! Hang on!” He pushed on the door, but instead of opening, it ominously began to close. Studying the door, Hunter realized his mistake and stuck a paw underneath it and pulled. “Thank Bast I learned about doors while I was a Kitten,” he thought as he tore across the grass toward the Flyer, yowling as ferociously as he could. The Flyer didn’t seem to notice until Hunter made a leaping pounce and rolled the large Flyer away from his friend. To his astonishment, the Flyer didn’t fly, but only hopped a few cat-lengths away and turned to face him, its shiny black eye cocked in Hunter’s direction.
“By Morrigan’s Wing, you are a brave but foolhardy young one. Why do you act so rashly? Do you want this chattering morsel for yourself? Or is it battle that you seek?”
“Get away!” cried Hunter, back arched and claws at the ready. “That ‘morsel’, as you put it, is my friend and I will not let you harm him!”
“Your friend? Since when do the People make friends with their natural prey? This mystery I must solve. Calm down, Master Cat. Let us talk and learn from one another. I will not harm you or your friend, for this puzzles me greatly and I do not like to be puzzled. My kind are very knowing but also curious. Will you speak with me?”
“I will,” said Hunter. “But only if you let me tend to my friend first. If he is injured, I will do more than speak to you.”
“Bravely and justly spoken, little one. See to your friend, so that we may have a more polite discussion.”
Hunter ran to the bushes where Beechnut was still clinging, shivering with fear. “Beechnut! Are you hurt? What has happened here?”
“Oh, Hunter, I never thought I would be so glad to see a Chk-Chak in my life. Help me get untangled from this vine. My greed for one more chk-berry was almost my undoing.”
“Stay still for a minute, so I can see where you’re tangled. Ah, here’s the spot. Don’t be afraid, now. I’m going to use my claws to tear the vine. I may have to use my teeth, too. You’ve gotten yourself in a nice mess.”
Hunter very gently pulled at the vines and unwrapped poor Beechnut’s tail so the frightened Squirrel was able to wriggle free.
“My everlasting thanks to you, Hunter, but I will not stay to chk-chat. This adventure is now officially ended!”
With that, he raced up the tree, chking and buzzing. Bob was waiting anxiously, and within seconds, the pair had disappeared into the forest.
With his friends safely away, Hunter turned to the Flyer and sat down in the grass. “Now we can have that discussion, sir. I am convinced that you did no harm to my friend. My name is Hunter. I have wandered far and long, and hope to make this place my home. Would you kindly tell me who and what you are? I am unfamiliar with any Flyer as large as yourself, and I, too, am curious.”
“My name is Sir Midnight and I am a member of the proud and noble family, Corvidae, which the common folk call Crows and Ravens. We are the most clever of all that take wing in the azure sky. My mate, the Lady Lenore, sits in yonder tree and would also wish to make your acquaintance. May she approach, brave Hunter?”
“She may, Sir Midnight. It will be my pleasure to greet her.” Hunter found himself falling into the rather flowery speech pattern of the Corvidae and somehow it didn’t seem a bit strange.
As the Lady Lenore settled gracefully next to her mate, Hunter continued his address. “Greetings to you, Lady. May good health and happiness be yours, and may you be always welcome at my dwelling.”
“What a courteous speech, Master Hunter. I will think more kindly of your People from this point forth.” She then gave a slight nod of her head, as if of approval.
Hunter then returned his attention to Sir Midnight. “I think, Sir, that your family has a very fine opinion of itself. Can all you say be true and not just a boast? And who is Morrigan whose name you use so dramatically?”
“The shame of a braggart is not mine, young Hunter. We of the Dark Plumes know many things that other wild creatures do not.”
“Please enlighten me of your many talents, Sir. I am most eager to know of your accomplishments.”
“You speak most sarcastically for one so young, Master Hunter. Do not be so eager to belittle those you do not know. We Corvidae have many talents. We can fashion and use implements to help us obtain food. We are adept at borrowing objects that we find useful or that have beauty. We take but one mate for all our lives and live in family groups to better care for our treasured young. However, our greatest and most amazing talent is the use of the speech of Humans, those you common folk speak of as the ‘Big Ones.’ Yes, it is indeed so. We not only speak the Common Tongue of Nature's children, but also a fortunate few have developed the ability to speak in the Human Tongue! Close your mouth, Master Hunter. Your jaw is about to become unhinged. I see by your expression that you think me not only a braggart, but also a prevaricator. We do not boast, nor do we lie! Do you require proof, if indeed my word is not good enough? Then listen well, Sir Doubter, for now I shall demonstrate. I know several words of the Humans, but above all, this is my favorite… ‘Sophie.’”
Hunter’s jaw nearly did hit the ground when he heard the word, “Sophie,” for it was not in the common speech of the Animals, but an almost perfect duplication of Mommy’s voice.
“My apologies, Sir Midnight. You are without doubt, the most clever creature I have ever met. I am astounded to hear the name of my beloved Sophie in the Human speech. I hope that my rudeness has not diminished me in your regard. I would like very much to become better acquainted with you and your lovely mate, the Lady Lenore. I’m sure you could teach me much of the ways of the Human world.”
“Morrigan be praised. In truth, I was at first inclined to dismiss you as just another ignorant Cat, but you have convinced me of your sincerity. Come forward, Master Hunter. We will make the formal bows to seal our friendship.”
Hunter walked over to Sir Midnight and Lady Lenore. They began a curious bow, beak to ground, that was repeated three times. Hunter bowed his head in the same manner and the two Corvidae seemed pleased, if somewhat amused. With the ritual complete, Hunter had one more question to ask.
“If you please, Sir, twice you have invoked the name of ‘Morrigan.’ Would you kindly tell me who Morrigan is and her relationship to the Corvidae?”
“Indeed, Master Cat. As Bast is to your people, Morrigan is to mine. She is the Goddess of Battle and can often be seen above the arena of combat, hovering in the form of a Crow or Raven. May Her blessings be upon you.”
“My thanks, Good Sir. May the blessing of Bast be on you both.”
At this point, the door of the house began to open and Hunter’s two new friends rose gracefully into the air, circling overhead. As they flew higher and higher, Sir Midnight called down to Hunter.
“Farewell, good Hunter. We shall speak again on the morrow if all goes well.”
“Farewell, my friends. Return soon, for we have much to discuss.”
Hunter turned toward the house and saw Sophie and Mommy coming toward him. He was very excited to see them and began trotting toward them, mewing a welcome. He stopped suddenly, when he saw that Mommy was carrying a strange box with odd windows and a door. His worries seemed justified when Mommy picked him up and placed him in the peculiar box. To his horror, they then went to the Rumbler house and Mommy put him inside the Rumbler. Sophie sat on the seat beside him and Mommy brought the Rumbler to life.
“This is terrible! It’s as if my worst fears are coming true. I can’t believe that Mommy and Sophie would abandon me. They’re nothing like Hey You and Old Lady. I MUST have faith. I WILL have faith.” Hunter kept repeating his mantra while the Rumbler moved down the path. Sophie was talking reassuringly to him, but unwilling sad meows kept escaping from his mouth. Finally the Rumbler stopped moving and became quiet. He felt himself being carried, and through his small wire window he could see they were headed toward a white building.
“This is even worse than I thought,” cried Hunter. White houses are very bad luck for me. What sort of Big Ones live here and what kind of punishment will they dream up for me?”
Soon they were inside the building, and a mixture of terrifying odors assaulted Hunter’s nose. There were definitely Barkers here, along with other Cats and the aroma of many unknown creatures. A strange pungent mixture filled the air, and mingled with it was the overwhelming stink of fear.
Hunter didn’t know what to think or feel. Mommy went up to another Big One and talked. Hunter heard the word “Boots” mentioned, which sent little shivers down his spine and puzzled him even further, for he had a deep connection from earliest Kittenhood with the word, “Boots.”
Hunter didn’t have long to worry about his current situation, for soon he was carried into a small room and his box was placed on a high shiny table. A Big One wearing a white coat and round shiny coverings on its eyes, opened his box and pulled him out. He found himself being petted by this new Big One and again he heard the word “Boots,” spoken in a kindly way, seemingly directed at himself. While Mommy and Sophie watched, the Big One began to probe and poke all over Hunter’s body. His ears were checked, his teeth, his eyes, his tummy and even some parts that no one had dared to check before. Mommy talked to the Big One, whose name seemed to be Doc, and would occasionally give Hunter a comforting rub behind his ears. Doc was very gentle and his voice was deep and relaxing. Just as Hunter was calming down somewhat, Doc pinched some of Hunter’s skin together and there was a sharp sting, like that of a bee; then another sting. Next, to Hunter’s consternation, Doc forced his little Cat jaws open and popped something small and hard down his throat. Hunter automatically swallowed the something, wondering what on earth it had been. Finally, Doc wiped Hunter’s sore eye and put a squishy substance on the lids. Hunter was then allowed to return to his carrying box and lie down.
“I’m not sure what just happened to me, but I have a feeling it was all good. My eye certainly feels better and because I’m back in my box, I just might be going home. I WILL have faith! I WILL have trust!”
In just a few minutes, they were all back in the Rumbler, heading somewhere that Hunter hoped was Home. Soon, the house came into view and Mommy steered the Rumbler back into its own odd house. There was a strange, clashing, rolling sound and then silence. Mommy carried his box from the Rumbler, put it down and opened the wire door. Hunter poked out his head and saw his familiar sleeping spot and bowls.
“Well, at least I’m back where I started, and not by the side of the path somewhere. This is a very good omen. I was right to have faith in these good Humans. Maybe now that I’ve been to see Doc, I’ll be able to go into the real house and not have to live here with only the smelly Rumbler for company.”
Mommy gave Hunter a comforting pat on the head and went out the small door, saying words that made no sense to him, but that Sophie seemed to agree with. Once more he heard Sophie utter the word, “Boots.” A purr of anticipation began in his throat, becoming stronger and louder, until his entire body was practically quivering with excitement. Sophie sat in one of the metal seats, looked at Hunter and patted her lap. Miraculously, she crooned to Hunter, “Boots. Here, Boots.”
Hunter gladly jumped up to her lap and rubbed his head against her small hand, still purring with all his might. Sophie continued to caress and sing to him, saying over and over, “good Boots, good kitty.” Hunter curled into a ball and despite his best efforts, felt himself drifting off to sleep. After all, it had been quite an exciting day.
Hunter was awoken by the entrance of Mommy and Daddy. He stretched luxuriously and gave them a welcoming “mew.” Daddy sat down and Hunter decided to have a little snack and answer the call of nature. It was a little embarrassing in front of his new Family, but he didn’t have much choice. Everyone seemed enormously pleased with his use of the Litter Box and Hunter was certainly amused by their enthusiasm.
“Why would they think that what I just did was worthy of praise? Any self-respecting Person would use what was provided. They certainly didn’t think I would just go off in a corner and do my business on the floor! Yes, Humans are definitely remarkable creatures.”
At this point, Mommy and Sophie left the Rumbler house and went on their way. Since Daddy had stayed, Hunter decided to try out his lap, to test it for a proper fit. Daddy’s lap was indeed large and comfortable, not to mention, warm, so Hunter decided to get better acquainted. He rubbed his head against Daddy's hand and was rewarded with a lovely scratch behind the ears. Hunter began to purr with appreciation and found Daddy to be a most agreeable companion.
So, the rest of the day passed in much the same fashion. Mommy, Daddy and Sophie taking turns rubbing his favorite spots, playing his favorite games and of course, providing laps for napping. All during this pleasant time, his Family always addressed him as “Boots.”
I do believe that I’ll have to start thinking of myself as ‘Boots’ now. How odd that the Humans would pick a name that means so much to me. It is the same as my favorite song from Kittenhood, the one my Mother used to sing. Oh, how I loved that song of ‘Puss In Boots!’”
While Hunter-Boots was completing one of his frequent wash-ups, he noticed that his legs did indeed look like he was wearing boots… his front legs were mostly white, but his back legs were white on the top half and black on the bottom half. “I wonder why I never made the connection on my own? Although to be fair, my life has been a little hectic lately, too hectic to think of much but finding someplace safe and something to eat. Yes, ‘Boots’ they are and ‘Boots’ I shall become. It’s a wonderful name, and every time I hear it, I will think of my Mother and her wonderful singing.”
As darkness fell, Boots again found himself alone in the Rumbler house and this time all the doors were tightly closed, with no exit to the night outside.
So here I am again, excluded from the rest of my Family. I don’t know why, but I WILL have faith and trust. I WILL!”
Boots counted seven more suns and seven more darks that passed in the same way. His Family would visit him many times a day, and Mommy would wash his eye and apply the squishy stuff to his lids. His eye felt better everyday, and the good food and attention he was receiving made him feel more energetic and more like “himself”. Often, when he was on his own in the Rumbler house, he would watch out the windows. Sometimes Beechnut and Bob came to eat seeds and their yum-chk, but Boots was unable to play with his newfound silly companions. He even saw Sir Midnight and Lady Lenore strutting rather clownishly through the grass, on the alert for a tasty tidbit of some sort. Again, he had no chance to further his education with the Corvidae. But it was when the darkness came and he was left alone in the Rumbler house that the doubts returned and his faith began to waver. All he could do was repeat and repeat, “I WILL have faith, I WILL have trust!”
Finally there came a day when Mommy, Daddy and Sophie came to the Rumbler house with the strange carrying-box he had traveled in before. As they placed him in the box and the Rumbler began moving, he became very agitated and began to cry, even though he wanted to be brave.
When the Rumbler pulled up to the same white building where Doc lived, Boots was somewhat reassured even though it was undeniably a very scary place. Again, he was carried inside, taken out of his box and placed on the slippery table. Doc picked him up and spoke to the Family in his deep kindly voice. Mommy, Daddy and Sophie each gave Boots a soft little caress and then walked out the door.
Where are they going?” cried boots. “Why are they leaving me here with Doc and all these strange animals and smells?”
Boots didn’t have long to think about his predicament, for Doc carried him to a brightly-lit room and placed him on a different kind of table. He felt the strange Bee sting again and then felt himself falling, falling into darkness.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Scat Cat is back and very close to his along.

Chapter Six: Ups and Downs

Daylight was not far away when Hunter chanced upon a mist-covered meadow. There were several large shapes in the meadow, moving gracefully through the mist as they ate the grasses that filled the clearing. They had long willowy legs and fascinating brown and white ears that seemed to be constantly listening for unusual sounds. Some of the larger creatures had some sort of strange branches on their heads. From time to time they would look up and gaze across the field, turning their delicate heads in curiosity, inspecting the surrounding forest. Occasionally, one would raise its white tail like a flag and give a little start. Then the others would look up to confirm that everything was peaceful and feeding would resume. Hunter was entranced by the elegant creatures and wanted to make himself known, but felt very shy in their presence. He inched carefully from his hiding place until he was noticed by one of the beautiful creatures. The beautiful one came closer, stopping once or twice to sniff the air. Finally it stopped in front of Hunter, who bowed his head and said respectfully,
Greetings to you. I mean you no harm, but only wish to know who you are. Your dignity makes me feel awkward and plain.”
The stranger studied the little cat with soft gentle eyes and finally answered, “ Please do not feel that way. Your People have their own grace and beauty that cannot be denied. You should never feel inferior to another creature.”
I would thank you for the compliment, but I don’t know how you are named.”
We are the Dancers and my name is Artemis.”
Pardon me, but that name is strange to me. What does it mean?”
I was named for the Goddess that protects Nature and all Wild Creatures. I feel very blessed to share Her name. As for the Dancers, we are members of a small group that live in this forest and meadow, seeking only food, shelter and families to share our lives. What is your quest, little one?”
My name is Hunter and I too seek a family, but in a home of the Big Ones.”
With these words, Artemis raised her head and snorted in alarm. “Pardon me, Hunter. I know you mean us no harm, but soon, when the leaves begin to turn color, the Dancers will become the Hunted and it is the Big Ones who will be our pursuers.”
Forgive me, Artemis, I didn’t mean to upset you. To me the Big Ones mean shelter and family. Why do they pursue your people?”
For many reasons: for sport, as they call it, and for food. Yes, some that you see here will not live to see the next greening of the forest. It is the way of life and we have come to accept it, but it is very hard.”
Hunter was unaware of the tears starting to well up in his eyes. Artemis, however, noticed the little Cat’s distress and lowered her head down to Hunter’s.
Hunter, you must not be sad. You yourself are a pursuer of other creatures, as others may pursue you. This is Nature’s way and you are blameless, as are all who must hunt for food. The Big Ones are not to be hated for their behavior. They too are as Nature made them. If it is your destiny to make your life with them, do not hesitate in your quest. Even Artemis, my namesake, is also the Goddess of the Hunt.”
Thank you, Artemis. I think I understand now, and I will not be ashamed. Will you tell me more about yourself and the other Dancers?”
Just as Artemis was about to answer, one of the Dancers raised his white flag and snorted. The others came to attention. There was something moving in the distance and the Dancers began to flee. They disappeared into the forest with majestic leaps and bounds, and in a matter of seconds, the meadow was empty. The Dancers were gone, leaving Hunter to wonder if they had really been there at all.
Hunter crept back into his hiding place to observe whatever was coming. Daylight had arrived and Hunter could see dust billowing behind the unknown object, and hear an angry buzzing sound that was getting closer and closer. As the object came into view, Hunter could see it was a Big One, riding on top of a strange small Rumbler. The Rumbler bounced over the meadow and disappeared down a path leading into the forest.
That was certainly an odd little Rumbler, but I think my next step should be to follow it, not too close of course. It’s probably still dangerous, even if it is small. The Big One is most likely going to his home, and that home could be the one for me.”
So Hunter made his way across the meadow and down the forest path. The way was easy to follow and the soft earth felt soothing on his tired paws. The resinous aroma of pine trees was somehow cheerful and his spirits began to rise. The forest path ended in an area of cropped grass and there sat the strange Rumbler, on the stony path of another white house. The Big One was nearby putting something into containers that Hunter knew were called trashcans.
Hunter crossed the grass and ventured up the stony path until he was only a few cat-lengths from the Big One. “Mew?” he said, hopefully. The Big One turned around and glared at Hunter, mumbling something in the Big One language. Hunter threw himself on the ground and rolled on his back, showing his trust and submission. To his surprise, the Big One didn’t accept his yielding gesture, but picked up the round metal lids to the cans and began slamming them together. The sharp metallic clash that resulted was so painful to poor Hunter’s ears that he jumped to his feet and fled as fast as his legs would carry him. Back down the stony path he tore, across the grass and into the forest, not stopping until he was totally out of breath. He really didn’t know exactly where he was, but at least it was quiet and peaceful. He made his way to a large pine tree and curled up at its base.
What am I doing wrong?” he whimpered. “Is there something offensive about me? Why are the Big Ones so angry and aggravated when they see me? I’m beginning to think that I’ll never find a home.” Hunter was heartsick at the thought of being alone. The nights were beginning to get cooler and darkness was coming earlier every day. He looked at his tangled fur, full of sticky seeds and knew that his eye must look terrible too, since it was very itchy and watery all the time. “Just look at me! It’s no wonder that no one wants to take me in. I wouldn’t want anything to do with me either.”
(Now, it must be said that Hunter proceeded to have a good long cry and was feeling very sorry for himself, indeed. Perhaps we all would have felt the same in his shoes, well…paws. The world can be a very harsh place at times and this was definitely one of those times for Hunter.)
Gradually, his good sense took over and he began to think about cleaning himself up and what he should do next. He began pulling out the sticky seeds, and proceeded to wash his face, paying special attention to his eye. Just as he was about to trim his back toenails, a strange laughing noise came from the tree above him. He searched the branches overhead and finally saw the culprits, two Red Squirrels perched on a limb, looking very impertinent and very pleased with themselves.
Chk, chk, chickaree. Who can that ground-rat be? Chk, chk, chk. Has he lost his way, chk, chk? Shall we throw some chr-chk at him?” What followed was a lot of chking and chacking and buzzing that was totally lost on Hunter. Then came a miniature shower of pine needles and small twigs and a lot more silly laughter. “Chk, chk, chickaree. I see the rat, but he can’t get me.”
Well, this insult was just too much for Hunter and up the tree he raced. The two Squirrels thought this was great fun and led Hunter on a merry chase through the tree until they finally reached the tiny branches at the very tip-top and gracefully leapt to a neighboring Maple tree. Hunter couldn’t follow, of course but sat down on a branch and had a good laugh, as he imagined how silly he must look.
Okay, I give up. You’re right. I can’t catch you, so come closer so we can have a little chat and get to know one another.”
Chk, chrrr, chrrr. The rat in the treetop must think we’re very stupid, chk, to fall for that old line. Chk, chk, chickaree. You’ll have to do better than that, you silly fat-rat Chk-Chak.”
Now just hold on. I am very sincere and have no tricks up my paws. I really would like to talk to you. Why don’t you come just a little closer, to a spot where you still feel safe? I’ll go back down to the ground and swear an oath to Bast that I will not harm you.”
Chickaree! You are persistent. I guess we could come a bit lower and chk-chat for a bit. What do you want from us? Directions, maybe? You certainly don’t act like you know much about the forest.”
Well, I guess you’re right about that,” Hunter conceded. “I seem to have lost my bearings. Let me introduce myself. My name is Hunter and I’m looking for a home and a family. Do you know if there are any of the Big Ones near this forest who are friendly?”
Well, chk, chk, we might. My name is Beechnut and this is my chk-friend, Acorn Redoak, but we just call him Bob. Sometimes we travel to a Big Ones’ nest where there is food… food for us Chkrs and food for the Flyers. Sometimes, even the Dancers go there to eat. We like to tease the Dancers. Chk, chk. They are so easy to trick. They are such splendid playmates!”
That sounds like a good place for me to try. How do I get there? Is it far?”
No, not far at all, as the Chkr jumps. From the top of this needle tree, just jump to the next sweet-juice tree. Then follow the berry trees till you come to the acorn tree…”
Wait,” said Hunter. “That may be how you travel, but I can’t go by treetop. How will I follow your directions from the ground?”
Beechnut looked astounded at this question and turned to his friend. “Well, Bob, isn’t he the silliest Chk-Chak you’ve ever met? Aren’t they the same trees at the bottom as they are at the top, foolish Hunter? Chk, chk, chickaree.”
Well…”said Hunter, “I guess that’s true, but sometimes you just can’t go from tree to tree when you travel on foot. Things tend to get in the way, like big drop-offs and thorny bushes, and they tend to throw off your direction. The tops of the trees are also a whole lot bigger than the bottoms, you know.”
Beechnut and Bob whispered together for a bit, with lots of chks and chaks and chickarees thrown in. Finally they turned back to Hunter, and Bob made a suggestion.
We are going to do you a favor. Since you seem so pitiful and helpless, the two of us will lead you from the treetops. We will just jump and chk our way along and you can follow our voices. Do you grasp my meaning, Chk-Chak?”
Wow, you two are definitely smarter than you look. That’s a great idea, as long as you don’t go too fast. Please remember that I may have to travel over or under some obstacles. And in appreciation of your help, I promise to try and help you if I can, maybe when you need it the most.”
Don’t make promises that you can’t keep, Chk-Chak, but we thank you for the thought.”
So the peculiar journey began, Beechnut and Bob chking their way along the treetops and Hunter listening and following from below. There were a few setbacks along the way and once Hunter fell into a ditch, since he wasn’t watching his step, but watching his two silly friends, laughing in the treetops.
Wait! Let’s stop for a minute,” panted Hunter. “I’ve got to get myself out of this hole and rest a bit. Don’t you two ever get hungry or thirsty? Well, I happen to be both. There is some fresh smelling water over here and maybe a tasty morsel for my lunch.”
Ooh, you horrid Chk-Chak! Here we are helping you and you’re going to kill something, maybe one of our relatives. This just might be the end of a beautiful friendship,” said Beechnut, absolutely sputtering with indignation.
Who said anything about killing your relatives? There just happen to be some very nutritious plants here that will do very well for a quick lunch.”
I apologize, Hunter. I’m just not used to trusting any of your kind. Go ahead with your lunch. Bob and I will snack on some of these toothsome nut-chks. Let’s not wait too long though, the Big Ones’ nest is not far from here and they probably have some sort of delicacy for us to eat, maybe some of that smooth creamy nut-chk stuff. Yum-chk!”
I’m ready when you are. Lead on, my nutty friends. The sooner we get there, the sooner I’ll know if it’s the right place for me. So far, I haven’t had much luck, but maybe this time will be different.”
On they went, until Bob and Beechnut stopped in the top of a tall maple tree and became very excited. “Look. Look. Chk, chk! There is the nest and they do indeed have some yum-chk. We’ll be leaving you now Hunter, the food and fun awaits. I’m sure you can find your way from here, even if you can’t find your tail with both paws. Good luck, Chk-Chak and may this be the place you seek."
Good-bye, my trustworthy guides. You were a great help even if you were somewhat of a hindrance, too. If I make my home here, I may see you again, but if not, may your nests be warm and well-stocked with yum-chk.”
As the two Squirrels scampered off, Hunter decided to change his tactics of approach. Instead of just rushing up to the Big Ones, this time he would stay in hiding and observe them from a distance. Perhaps their behavior would let him know if he might be welcome. He walked cautiously until he came to the cropped grass that surrounded the house.
Hmmm,” he said to himself. “This house is not white, but the same color as the Dancers. Maybe that is a good sign. I certainly haven’t had any luck with white houses. I guess I’ll just have to find out for myself.” So Hunter began his surveillance from the cover of some tall grass. There were plenty of the Flyers around, eating seeds, and drinking and washing up at a small pond with a tinkling waterfall. Bob and Beechnut were clinging to an odd metal branch, feasting on something that seemed to put them into a state of ecstasy.
Well,” thought Hunter, “it certainly looks like they welcome the animals here. Only time will tell if they welcome me.” He waited till he began to feel drowsy, but there were no Big Ones to be seen. He must have nodded off, for he dreamt again of his Mother singing. Then the singing changed and Hunter awoke to a sound he had never heard before. It was the voice of a Big One, but gently soft and lyrical. The words were being repeated in the most lovely mannerelf hidden. He could tell there was a clearing ahead, so he crouched down and stealthily inched his way to an opening in the bushes. As he peered out of his hiding place, his eyes took in a strange and enchanting scene. It seemed like something from a dream, half remembered and just waiting to become reality.
In the clearing was one of the Big Ones, but much smaller than any Hunter had ever seen. The fur on its head was tied up in two bright strings and its face was round and smooth, glowing with health and merriment.
I think I’ll have to call this a ‘Little One’. It looks very soft and innocent and its voice is very soothing. That is a strange moving perch that the Little One is using. It seems to be attached to some long vines, hanging from that tree. The Little One looks and sounds very happy moving back and forth like that. How unusual.”
Hunter’s Little One was, indeed, a little girl in a swing, and as she pumped her legs and glided up and down she was singing a song that went something like this:

My Swing, Oh my Swing, in the apple tree,
Carry me high as the flight of the Bee.
Carry me low as the brook, running free.
My Swing, Oh my Swing, in the apple tree.”

Hunter was entranced by the whole image and was just about to make himself known, when a voice called out from the house.
Sophie. Sophie?”
The Little One jumped from her seat and ran toward the voice, leaving Hunter feeling more lonesome than ever, but also quite hopeful.