The large ginger cat reclined on the table and stared out the window at the growing orange and purple hues radiating from the horizon, cooing the moment the ball of fire began its slow ascent welcoming in the new day. I could not help being drawn in by the beauty of the moment. The way that he sat in front of the window, it was as if he had become part of a painting created by one of the great masters. Had his tail not been casually flipping back and forth, I would have sworn that it was indeed a work of art.
Thump, bump, thump, bump the stomping noise rose from the staircase, the creator of the commotion descended the steps. I glanced over in time to find a small black and white feline weaving her way between two spindles from the staircase and onto the back of the sofa. I was always amazed that such a small thing could make such a racquet, I mean really, she was even louder than Mommy or Daddy.
“They are still not back yet Rapi?” The nasally voice carried across the room and caught the orange cat’s attention.
“Not yet, Yehudi,” he called back to the black cat without removing his eyes from the spectacular sunrise that was unfolding in front of him.
“I wonder what is taking them so long?”
Neither of us bothered to respond to the tuxedo cat’s question, choosing instead to let silence fill the spaces between us. The waiting was starting to become oppressive, and while I was just as curious to see how all this would turn out, I understood the reality of the situation, I was a dog, and this was more of a cat thing.
We all turned to see a slightly chubby grey and white cat standing in the doorway that connected the living room with the dining room.
“No Bella,” we all grumbled at the same time.
“Geez, no need to be so testy.” Her face fell into a frown.
“Sorry,” Yehudi offered a somewhat believable apology to her.
“They are here! They are home!” Rapi’s announcement had created a wave of excitement that crashed over the room and washed away the tension. We all raced to find a spot in front of the window that would afford us the best possible view of the car.
“Look, they are opening the back door.” The orange cat provided the play-by-play commentary even though all of us could see for ourselves what was going on out in the driveway.
“OMG, is that a … it is … it’s a …”
The door flew open, and Mommy rushed in carrying a rectangular metal box, with a cloth draped over it.
“Help! I am trapped,” a teeny tiny voice squeaked from under the cover. We all looked at each other, then dashed towards the cries for assistance.
“Move guys, get out of the way!”
There was a no-nonsense urgency to Mommy’s voice, a tone that conveyed a specific message, and that message was that trouble awaits the one who does not obey. Being the furbabies that we are, we ignored Mommy. She weaved around us until she reached the bathroom, where she promptly shooed us out and slammed the door in our faces.
“How rude,” Yehudi grumbled.
“I wonder what’s going on in there.” The orange cat verbalized what we were all wondering. Not one to wait and find out, he got a running start and threw his considerable weight against the door.
It did not budge. Rapi, on the other hand, jumped up and down holding his shoulder.
“Are you okay?”
He looked at me like I was asking a dumb question. Then it dawned on me. It was a dumb question.
“Sorry,” I said with a sheepish look on my face.
The squeak of the faucet being turned was quickly followed by the sound of rushing water and blood curdling screams. That was all Rapi needed to hear.
“Every cat and dog for themselves,” he shouted over his shoulder then took off scurrying across the living room and diving under the sofa.
A caterwauling broke out and the rest of us scattered to find our own hiding places.
They had been in the bathroom for thirty minutes, before the door finally swung open. Mommy emerged, cradling a fluffy blue towel in her arms. It was not until she reached the bottom of the stairs that I saw a miniature pink nose poking out.
I quietly crept out of the safety of my hiding spot under the kitchen table and followed Mommy from a distance until we had reached the spare bedroom at the top of the steps. My eyes grew wide when she put the towel down in the big blue pen and a white kitten with big splotches of tan and black fur slowly inched out and began to explore.
Yehudi strolled past me and into the room. Somehow, I had become so fixated on the kitten that I had not noticed that the three cats had been slinking up behind me.
“Hey, what your name?” The kitten jumped, surprised to find another cat in the room with him.
“Fluffnstuff, they call me Fluffnstuff,” the spotted white cat said, crouching down behind the towel for protection.
“Well, Fluffnstuff, you have been kitty kept, do you know what that means?” The words tumbled from the little black cat who was now prowling around the outside of the large octagonal pen that held the newcomer.
“I don’t understand,” the kitten stammered.
“It means you are not gonna see your family ever again … that’s what it means.”
My mouth fell open. I had never seen this side of Yehudi before, and I didn’t like it.
I turned in time to see Bella trot into the room, but Yehudi made sure to keep the enclosure between them.
“See that cage?” The black cat nodded towards a small metal crate in the corner of the room. It was covered with a thick pink blanket, which blocked out the light. The kitten looked toward the cage and began to tremble.
“That’s the hole. It’s where they put the bad kittens!” Yehudi scowled then let out a sinister chuckle.
“Knock it off Yehudi, you are scaring the kitten,” the big orange cat growled before chasing her out from behind the octagon and out of the room.
My heart was pounding in my chest.
I found the little black cat in the bathtub staring transfixed at the faucet, her focus intent on the droplets of water that would form there then tumble in a free fall to the tub. Her usual expression of wonder was absent, instead it had been hijacked by this new look of agitation, and it scared me.
“What’s going on Yehudi?” I took great care in making sure that I did not come across as glib or uncaring.
“Nothing.” Her eyes remained unwaveringly focused on the drip… drip … drip of the water, yet the tone of voice gave away the turbulence that was swirling around inside of her.
“You know, it’s not good to keep your feeling bottled up inside, it will turn your insides into rotting cheese,” I said, tilting my head to get a better look at her green eyes.
“I know, but there is nothing wrong.”
“Okay, I will take your word for it.”
It looked and felt like I was talking to a stone statue, and I would have been able to convince myself that I was if had not been for the occasional blinking of her eyelids.
“Why were you so mean to the kitten?” I had decided to change tactics and see if I could identify what had caused the little outburst.
“I was just messing around,” a monotone voice came from our new statuary.
“I don’t know if she understood that, I mean, she is pretty scared already. You remember how terrifying the first day was.”
Her head swung in my direction, her eyes meeting mine, and her whiskers fluttering. I thought she was going to open up, instead, she returned her gaze to the tiny puddle of water pooling near the drain.
“Okay, I get it, you are not in the mood to talk, but if you change your mind, I am here for you. You know that right Yehudi?”
“Yeah,” a tiny almost imperceptible squeak escaped from the little black cat’s lips.
I turned to leave but cast one last glance over my shoulder at the cat. Still seated in the same place she let out a sigh, slumped her shoulders and dropped her head. I wanted so much to turn around and go back to her, but I knew it wasn’t the right move to make. Using every ounce of my willpower, I turned and left the room.
The sound of laughter rolled out of the spare bedroom at my approach. I peeked around the corner to find Rapi and Bella telling knock knock jokes to Fluffnstuff.
“Knock knock,” the orange cat said, his chubby cheeks formed into a giant smile.
“Who is there,” the little calico kitten asked, giggling in anticipation.
“Nobel, that’s why I knocked!”
The three of them burst out into raucous laughter, and I quickly followed suit, that’s when the kitten looked up and became aware of my presence in the doorway.
“Dog!” he shouted and burrowed under the fluffy towel.
“No, no, I am a good dog,” I protested.
“It’s true, Cindee is a good dog,” a nasally voice called from behind me. We all pivoted to see Yehudi standing there, her tail flailing in the air, and face wearing a broad smile.
“Cindee is the best friend you could ever hope to have, she is always there to tell you how great you did when good things happen, but she also picks you up when you are down.”
A pink nose and white whiskers poked out from under the blanket.
“Come on out, I won’t hurt you. I just want to say I am sorry.” With her apology out in the open the tuxedo cat sat down and looked expectantly into the pen.
A fluffy little head emerged.
“it’s okay,” Yehudi whispered encouragingly.
The kitten cautiously climbed out from her hiding place and after a little more coaxing from Yehudi covered the short distance between the two of them and took a seat opposite Yehudi on the other side of the mesh screening.
“I am so sorry for being mean to you Fluffnstuff. You see, once upon a time I was you. I was kitty kept by Mommy and Daddy too,” the black cats voice had taken on a warm welcoming tone.
“They kept me in the same pen that you are in right now. They would pick me up and love me and tell me how special I was. I was the new kitten on the block, and it was great!”
Rapi and Bella exchanged glances, and it became obvious to me that they had never heard any of this before either.
“They tried really hard to find a forever home for me, but black kittens are peoples least favorite, and so no home for me. “
Fluffnstuff stared wide eyed at Yehudi and began to tremble a little.
“Don’t worry little one. Guess what? As time went on I realized that I was already loved and I had a home. I also discovered that the youngest one get’s special treatment,” she smiled.
“That’s true,” Bella said with a fake scowl and a giggle.
“Fluffinstuff, I have been the baby for so long that when I saw you come through the door, well, I got jealous. I was afraid I wasn’t going to be loved as much,” the black cat confessed hanging her head.
Rapi started to protest, but I shushed him so Yehudi could go on.
“Then I discovered, I would have another brother, and I could love more than I already do, and maybe, just maybe, you might grow to love me back!”
Fluffnstuff leaned forward pressing her face against the mesh and Yehudi followed suit until they were forehead to forehead.
“What’s going on up here? A cat convention?”
We turned to look. It was Mommy with Mrs. Thompson from the house behind ours.
“Excuse our little zoo,” Mommy laughed.
“Is this the precious little one you were telling me about.” Mrs. Thompson asked, picking Fluffnstuff up and cuddling him.
“That’s him,” Mommy answered.
“He would be a perfect fit for our family,” Mrs. Thompson said, adding a kiss on top of Fluffnstuff’s head for confirmation.
“Well, looks like you have a new home,” Mommy said rubbing noses with Fluffnstuff.
It had been a long day, and it was time for me to say good night to the sun, so I began my journey to the dining room and the big glass doors. To my surprise I found Yehudi there, scanning the horizon, waiting for the sunset. It was very odd to find the little black cat here, especially when she much preferred hanging out upstairs.
“Mind if I join you?” It was meant as a gesture of good will, I was going to sit down and watch the sky fill with all the pretty reds and blues and oranges and purples regardless of how Yehudi answered.
“I don’t mind at all,” she replied. Good, I thought, that will alleviate a whole bunch of awkwardness. I flopped down on my belly with my nose pressing against the window. Together the two of us watched in silence as the sun began its slow descent.
“Did you mean all of that stuff you said earlier Yehudi? You know about being jealous?”
She hesitated for a minute, then turned to look directly into my eyes.
“I did,” she answered with a deep exhale.
I watched as her left eye blinked, and her whiskers trembled.
“You never have to worry about being loved less. It doesn’t matter if you are the oldest, the youngest or somewhere in between, we are family, and we love each other.” The words tumbled out of me without thought. I guess that makes them truer that if I had to think about them.
“What about Bella,” the cat asked.
“What about Bella,” I repeated the question, looking for clarification.
“Well, you two are like enemies.” Yehudi’s words seemed to ring true at first.
“Hmmmm, Bella and I have a complicated relationship,” I answered.
Sometimes, I wish this cat wasn’t so curious.
“Well, she has trust issues and me … well, I am a little too anxious and sometimes those things don’t mix too well,” I tried to explain.
“But we do love each other, and we look out for each other too,” I added.
The young cat thought about what I had just said for a moment or two, then nodded.
“I think I get it.”
We fell silent, content in one another’s company. Our attention let go of the events of the day and soon we were absorbed with the beauty of the moon and the twinkling stars overhead.
I felt Yehudi’s body shift and shuffle until it was pressed against mine. With nothing but the sound of our breathing and Yehudi’s purring we let ourselves enjoy the moment and gave thanks for the gift of love.