|2008 NaNoWriMo piece completed and into final editing stages. What is NaNoWriMo you ask? Check it out at www.NaNoWriMo.org and take the challenge in '09.
This would be the 1st book in what I envision as an eight book series for children about 10-14 years of age (though I believe adults will find entertainment value in it as well). Please read the entire piece before reviewing. Looking for honest reviews only please. My hope is to begin querying agents in the next couple of months. Appreciate any constructive criticism/input. Thanks a bunch.
Chapter 1 – The Awakening
I guess my first real memory was the twisting knot of emptiness in the pit of my gut - an emptiness you could only imagine if you have ever gone without food for several days. I hope you’ve never had the pleasure of that feeling. Instinct told me that, though I could see nothing, I had to push and shove with all my strength. The force compelled me to drive forward. If I could just make it down the path, I knew somehow that this awful emptiness would go away.
But it was no use; the harder I tried, the weaker I became. My siblings were stronger and they refused to let me through, for the emptiness consumed them as well. The emptiness then turned into an unbearable pain. I gave up. I wanted to rest. I sunk down and thought if I could just fall asleep the pain would go away.
No sooner had this thought slipped into my mind, when I heard that sweet, yet majestic voice for the very first time, “Move aside, little ones. Your brother wants to eat too.” The voice was that of my mother - my beloved mother. Boy, do I miss her. I’d love to tell you all about her, but that is a story for another day. On this particular day, she was my savior.
She nudged some space between my two sisters, picked me up and placed me in the vacant spot. It wasn’t a large area, but enough for me to get through for the very first time. It took only minutes until the pain in my belly was replaced with the warming, free-flowing liquid that was my mother’s milk. I knew at that moment my mother would always take care of me. You see, I was what you humans call a kitten.
Now hold on a minute before you close this book thinking, Kittens? I am not reading a story about kittens. Just how old do you think I am? I suppose as a human you believe we are all just friendly little fur balls happy to just sleep our days away in the sunlight of a window, eat out of a can, snuggle up to you, and purr away to our heart’s content. Or perhaps you can’t stand cats because once-upon-a-time your cousin’s cat used your leg as a scratching post. Whether you love or hate my feline friends is really not the issue here. If you are a mildly curious sort of human, you may find this story of some interest to you because there is a slight possibility that you were once one of us. I’ll get to that later. This isn’t information I can just quickly unload on you and expect you to believe it. I feel the best way for you to learn is the way I learned - with lots of doubts and questions needing answers.
Joshua Chamberlain was my very first human owner. I called him my owner, though many of my friends refer to their human owners as servants. I think that’s rather pompous of them, but - you have to admit - humans really don’t expect too much from us cats. You feed us, pet us, give us a never-ending supply of fluffy little pillows to rest on, no matter how many times we might rip it to shreds, clean up our … well, you know. And really, it does amaze me, as there are some cats I know that are the most disagreeable characters, and yet humans will do just about anything to get their attention and gain their approval.
After a couple of days of intense thought, Joshua bounded into the kitchen, waving the wrinkled piece of paper in hand. His mother, Christine, was preparing dinner. “I have the names all picked out now, Mom,” Joshua said, walking over to his mother. She looked up briefly from chopping carrots for a beef stew she was simmering on the stove. The year was 1956, and Chuck Berry’s new song, Roll Over Beethoven, played for the third time that day on the transistor radio Christine kept on top of the refrigerator.
“You do? That’s great, Joshua, but don’t forget, you can keep only one of the kittens. We don’t have the time or the money to take care of all these cats.”
“I know. I just want to call them something until they’re old enough to leave Fog.”
Fog was my mother’s name. My mother told me she remembered Joshua’s mother naming her that because she was completely grey in color. I looked much like my mother, except I had a streak of white running from the top of my nose to the middle of my forehead.
“Ok, let’s hear them then,” Christine said.
“Since they’re all mostly grey like Fog, I tried to think of names that I think of as being grey.” He ran a hand through his light blond hair to push it away from his steel blue eyes while he looked at his paper.
“Ok, that makes sense,” his mother replied as she scraped the carrots off a wooden cutting board with a large knife, splashing them into the boiling broth.
Joshua knelt down next to the cardboard box that held my mother, me and my siblings. I could feel the warmth of Joshua’s hand as he reached into our box and picked us up one by one.
“This one is Shady.”
“OK,” his mother said stirring the pot without looking at my sister.
“This is Shadow.”
“This lighter grey one is Ash.”
“Mom,” Joshua said in annoyance, “you’re not really listening.”
“What? Oh - yes I am,” his mother said, dropping the ladle into the spoon rest on the stove.
He repeated the last one, “This is Ash.”
“Ash, that’s a pretty name,” she said, trying to be more engaged.
“This one is the darkest and reminds me of smoke …”
“Hold on,” Christine said, holding up her index finger. “Let me guess … Smokey.”
Joshua smiled. “You guessed it. And the smallest one will be Misty, because it’s hardly like he’s there at all,” Joshua declared.
At first this declaration struck deep at my heart; ‘Hardly like he’s there at all.’ But then Joshua picked me up and cradled me against his slight chest for the first time. He was only a boy of eight, and I knew the name probably fit better than any other eight-year-old would have given me. I should be glad not to be a Fluffy, Muffin or Mittens. And so I was.
For six weeks the cardboard box was my home. The box shrunk as my siblings and I grew bigger and bigger every day. It wasn’t long until we were running around the box, playing and clawing at one another, in jest, of course. Joshua would let us out sometimes. It delighted him as we slipped around a newly waxed floor.
Smokey was our leader from the very beginning. He was always hatching new adventures for us whenever possible. Shortly before the five of us were to be separated, Smokey came up with his latest scheme. “When he comes home from school today, he’ll no doubt let us out again. I want to see more of this “house” thing these humans keep talking about, so when he takes us out of the box I want you all to run in different directions. Got it?”
“Got it,” we all replied.
With the plan firmly placed in our minds, and excited about what adventures the plan would bring, it took forever until Joshua finally came home that day. As predicted, the moment Joshua sent his backpack sailing next to the kitchen table, he came right for us.
“Hey guys. Miss me?” Joshua asked as he sat beside our box. He began picking us up and placing us on the floor one by one. Smokey warned us not to move until we were all out of the box; otherwise the plan wouldn’t work. I was the first out of the box. I dared not move for fear Smokey would be furious.
A minute passed until we were all on the floor. We were statues – none of us dared to move before Smokey gave the command; no one wanted to be the fool to ruin his plan.
“Hey, what’s wrong with you guys today? Are you tired or something?” Joshua pushed Smokey on his backside to get him moving. As I looked over to him for the signal, I got the feeling he was even more nervous than the rest of us.
“Ok, go!” Smokey burst out at last.
I paid no attention to the others. As instructed, I just ran as if my life depended on it toward the smallest room off the kitchen. It was the room Joshua and Christine would go into routinely, closing the door for only a few minutes, and then emerging again after a sound of rushing water came from the room. I, of course, learned later that this was the ‘bathroom’. This particular bathroom had no bath, so the name seemed odd to me at first.
As I ran for the bathroom, Shady ran for the living room, while Shadow ran for the far side of the kitchen, and Ash took off toward the den. Smokey, still one of the bravest cats I’ve ever known, chose to run for the stairs leading down into darkness.
“Whoa … what are you guys doing?”
We completely caught him off guard. Joshua nabbed me first. Not just because I was still the slowest of the litter at the time, but I believe because he cared for me most of all. My siblings often remarked about how Joshua always held me the longest. Though I would outwardly act embarrassed at that fact, inside I was proud as could be.
He placed me carefully back in the box then launched after the others. “Man, you guys are getting fast.”
Joshua had to stand up as the others were already well out of arms reach. Next he snatched Shady up by the living room doorway and Shadow from the farthest counter in the kitchen away from the box. After plopping them in the box with me, he took off after Ash and Smokey. He scooped Ash into his left hand, but Smokey had already made it to the basement steps. Smokey had been running so fast that when he made it to the stairs he was unable to stop himself from sliding.
“Oh, no,” Joshua yelled.
We heard an awful squeal entwined with several thumps as Smokey plummeted down the stairs.
“What are you doing, you crazy cat?” Joshua exclaimed. His footsteps echoed on the bare wooden stairs as he went after my brother.
It turned very quiet. The silence consumed us. We couldn’t see over the top of the box, so the three of us sat there and stared at one another wondering what was happening. Shadow was shivering. “Everything will be ok, Shadow, don’t worry,” I whispered, though I wasn’t convinced my statement held truth.
“What’s going on over there?” Shady whispered. “Why isn’t he talking?” He reached up with his front paws trying to peer over the box, though he knew he wouldn’t be able to.
I was the first to hear Joshua, but he wasn’t talking. The slight echo of muffled sobs climbed from the basement. This is bad, real bad, I thought to myself. I knew Shady and Shadow then heard Joshua as their eyes widened with fear.
It was several agonizing minutes before Joshua came back up the stairs. He walked in a daze toward our box and placed Ash beside me. He disappeared from the kitchen with Smokey cradled in the crux of his arm. We could hear our mom following him, mewing with concern.
We peppered Ash with questions: “What happened?”, “Is Smokey dead?”, “What is Joshua doing with Smokey?”
The answers didn’t come to her easily. “I don’t know,” she said with tears in her eyes. “He’s not moving, but I think I saw him breathing a little.”
We expected Joshua’s mother to be home in the next few minutes. She never came in more than 20 minutes after Joshua was home from school. We eagerly awaited her arrival, for it would be then that Joshua would have to talk. I have found the act of waiting at some points in my life almost as painful as the twisting emptiness in my gut that I experienced in my very first days of life. Smokey’s fate was anyone’s guess at this point.
At last, the now familiar, thundering noise of a muffler in desperate need of repair alerted us to Christine’s arrival. “She’s here,” I cried to the others. We all scrambled to the side of the box closest to the living room where Joshua was speaking softly - to himself or to Smokey? We just couldn’t tell.
The front door creaked open and we all recognized the rustling of grocery bags. “Oh, Joshua - perfect. Come help me with the rest of the groceries. They’re on the backseat.” She proceeded into the kitchen without a pause in her gait.
“Something’s wrong with Smokey, Mom,” Joshua said still in the living room. His mom placed the two brown paper bags on top of the counter, opened a cabinet and began shoving canned goods into it.
“What was that you said, honey?” Christine shouted from the other room.
“Something’s wrong with Smokey. He got hurt,” Joshua’s voice cracked as he tried not to cry. “Please come over here and look at him for me.”
His mother squeezed one more can in the cabinet and closed its door before returning to the living room. “What happened?”
Joshua told her the entire story through a raining stream of tears: how he let us all out of the box, and how stupid he was for doing it because he should have known we were a lot faster now, and how he was able to get all of us, but he was too late getting to Smokey.
“It’s ok, Joshua. It’s ok,” his mother said. “See, he’s breathing fine.” At this, we all let out a sigh of great relief. Smokey was breathing - he would be ok. Just knocked unconscious maybe. “Alright, put Smokey on the couch for a minute, and help me bring in the rest of the groceries. After we get those put away we’ll take him right over to the vet and see what’s wrong, ok?”
“Ok,” Joshua said with a bit more hope in his voice.
The remaining groceries were put away in silence. Christine and Joshua then took off with my bigger brother. More waiting. It was an awful feeling. But knowing that he was breathing made it not as bad. Soon after they left, mother came into the box with us and lay down. “He will be fine, little ones. Not to worry,” she said, but the concern in her own voice was easily detected.
“What’s a vet, Mother?” I asked.
She thought for a moment and considered her answer before speaking. “Vet is short for veterinarian. A vet is a human who, most times, will try to help us cats in times of great need when we are suffering from sickness. Though there are times when the vet does certain things that make our lives distressing in the interest of making the lives of our human servants easier.”
“Why? What do they do to make our lives distressing?”
“That is something we can talk about some other time - when you are older.” She turned around in the box a couple of times before curling up in the corner. She closed her eyes, letting me know that she was done talking for awhile.
Come to find out, Smokey had broken his hind leg. When he returned to the box later that evening, we gave him a hero’s welcome, but Smokey was different somehow. His eyes were spiritless spheres. In the days that followed, Smokey refused to leave the box even when the rest of us would go venture about the house. The basement, however, was now in a permanent state of closure.
After a few weeks, Christine and Joshua brought Smokey back to the vet, where the bandages were removed from Smokey’s leg. Upon his return we found the fall had given him not only a limp to remember it by, but also seemed to rip the spirit of adventure out of him - permanently. Maybe it’s awful to say, but it was because of Smokey’s fall that I became a better cat. I tried to appear confident and get Smokey to go on adventures with rest of us in hopes that the Smokey I knew, would return. Each journey into a new room or sneaking of food out of the pantry helped my confidence grow. Smokey would go with me, for the ride so to speak, but never enjoyed the scenery. Smokey took the backseat as leader and I took the wheel. I felt bad for him, but there was only so much I could do.
When my brothers and sisters were chosen by new owners over the next three weeks, it was Smokey I missed the most. Though the rest of my siblings went to homes with young children, Smokey was taken by an elderly woman who lived alone, since he was now the mellowest of our group. I found the pain of not having my siblings around subsided after the passage of a couple full moons. My mother and I were happy to stay in the house of Joshua. I enjoyed this simple life of eating, sleeping and being held by a wonderful human boy. But this was only the beginning. I was unaware I still had so much to learn; as years passed, I found life wouldn’t be so simple after all.
Chapter 2 -- Encounter
Life was pretty quiet alone with my mom. After about a month had passed she seemed to accept that most of her babies were gone. Though she missed the others, we were happy.
As I look back on it now, my first clue into the secret lives of cats came when I was about three months old. I went to bed on the oversized pillow my mother and I had been sharing each night since my siblings were whisked away. On this particular night, however, I noticed after some time had passed, that my mother left our pillow to sleep under Joshua’s bureau. I lifted my head briefly, but paid little attention; I was exhausted by the day’s activities of running around the house ‘like a crazy maniac’ - as my mother called me. I wondered why she was going under the bureau to sleep, but my head soon collapsed back on the pillow, and I thought nothing of it again - that is, until she repeated the behavior a couple of months later.
At that point I was about five months old. I could tell she was waiting until I fell asleep, for she whispered, “Misty? Misty, are you asleep?” She said it in such a way that I could tell she wasn’t really trying to get my attention; she just wanted to be sure I wasn’t awake … so I said nothing. Convinced I was deep in slumber, she jumped off the pillow and ran under the bureau once again. Her behavior completely puzzled me; why in the world would you go to sleep on a hardwood floor when there was a perfectly good, fluffy pillow to rest your head?
The next morning I couldn’t contain my curiosity. I came up behind my mother as she was eating breakfast out of her silver dish. “Mother?” I said.
She finished chewing and swallowed her bite without looking. “Yes, Misty,” she answered, and leaned back down for another bite.
“Why did you go to sleep under Joshua’s bureau last night?” My mother stopped mid-chew and didn’t move for a moment. She then finished her bite and said, “What do you mean, Misty?” She went back for more food and still hadn’t turned around.
“Last night, after we went to bed, when you thought I was asleep, you went under Joshua’s bureau to go to sleep. I was just wondering why you do that sometimes.”
“Yeah, I saw you do it before, too. About a couple of months ago.”
At this my mother turned and swallowed the last of her victuals. “Are you spying on me, Misty?”
Suddenly, I felt blood rush to my whiskers. I wondered if I had done something wrong by asking. I wasn’t sure, so I answered the best I could. “I don’t think I was.” I felt that my answer was true, but I hung my head all the same.
“Misty, it’s ok. I’m sorry. You’re not in trouble or anything,” she said. I looked back up in her pale gray eyes. “I’m just not ready to tell you why. I promise I’ll explain it to you later, ok?”
“Sure, ok,” I replied. I wondered why she was making a big deal out of it. Of course, I would later find out just what a big deal it was.
It was two years later when I had my first encounter with Jack - an interesting character you will meet in short order. I was resting on Joshua's bed waiting for Joshua to return from school. For a good portion of the morning I was in and out of sleep. I awakened only to stand, turn, shift to another part of the bed and settle down for another good snooze. Yes, the life of a cat does not require much energy at times. It was during one of the moments when I was coming out of a nice round of sleep on the edge of Joshua's bed that I opened my eyes slowly, as I had a thousand times before, but this time when I rose and turned, there he was, sitting right in the center of the bed.
"Owww!" I said after he startled me backward, and with a large thump I fell onto the floor.
I had never seen another cat in our house save my mother, and my siblings who had been gone for nearly two years. I looked up to find a large, scruffy, black cat peering down at me over the side of the bed. A broad grin stretched across his face. (Yes, cats grin. If you doubt as much, please refer to Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.)
"Hey, Kid, lucky for you we always land on our feet, huh?" the strange cat said with a chuckle. He then turned and disappeared from the edge. I walked around the foot of the bed, and then to the other side trying to get a good look at the intruder, but I couldn’t see him from the floor.
“Who are you?” I yelled out still pacing the floor.
“Hellooo … who are you?”
Still no answer.
I was scared, but my irritation at the rudeness of this cat overcame that fear. I jumped back onto the bed. I was ready for a confrontation, but he was curled up in the center of the bed with his eyes closed, acting as though he owned the place.
“This is a real nice bed you have here. Real nice,” he said without opening his eyes. His voice trailed off as though he was just thinking aloud, not really talking to me necessarily.
My irritation and fear turned to anger. How dare this creature, who I have never met before in my entire life, come in and take over my spot, my territory? “Who, might I ask, are you? And what are you doing in this house?”
“Sure you can ask me, Kid,” he said with a yawn. “But that doesn’t mean I’m going to answer,” he continued. Still he didn’t move. He just rested as peaceful as could be – not even giving me the benefit of looking me in the eye.
“Listen, I’m only giving one more chance here. Who are you and what are you doing here? If I don’t get an answer in the next ten seconds, you’re going to pay,” I said summoning the toughest voice I could. How he was going to pay if he didn’t answer I hadn’t quite figured out yet, but I thought it sounded like a decent threat. I breathed a sigh of relief when he didn’t call my bluff and started talking.
He pulled himself up and perched himself on his haunches and his front paws. He stared at me seriously for the first time. “Hey, Kid. Take it easy. Spunky little guy, aren’t you? I’m not a bad guy - just coming for a visit, that’s all. My name is Jack. I live in the neighborhood. I’ve seen you perched in the window quite a few times, and thought I should introduce myself.”
As if that made everything better. “Fine, you’ve introduced yourself. Now please leave.”
“Boy, you’re not exactly what I’d call a gracious host here, Kid.”
“You were never invited,” I said.
“Well, you at least owe me your name. I gave you mine, after all.”
I hesitated. I didn’t want to give him the impression that everything was ok now. That we were some kind of buddies because we knew each other’s names. “It’s Misty,” I relented.
“Hmmm, Misty,” he said while walking across Joshua’s navy blue comforter. I backed up as he approached. “Watch out there, Kid, you don’t want to fall off two times in one day. You’re a jumpy little guy aren’t you? You obviously don’t meet with many other cats. That’s the problem with you housecats - you stay cooped up for months, years even, with these humans and you don’t even know how to react when one of your own kind just wants to give a friendly ‘hello’.”
Now I was furious. How dare this guy come in and insult me? He was the intruder and yet I was the one having my character attacked. I fixed him with an fiery stare as I walked over and said, “Nice to meet you, Jack. Now leave.”
“Now hold on, Kid,” Jack said, retreating.
I brought my nose a half inch from his. “And stop calling me ‘Kid’,” I said practically growling like a dog – I almost scared myself.
“Sorry, Ki- … Misty. That’s just the way I talk. Now listen, I didn’t mean to scare you,” Jack said, swung his head behind him checking on his proximity to the bed’s edge. He skirted around me to the other side of the bed.
Holding my head high in order to emphasize my size, I walked toward Jack again; this time with greater speed. “It’s time for you to go.” My heart was beating crazily.
Jack backed up quickly. Not noticing how close he was to the edge of the bed, he fell off in the same spot I had fallen only minutes before.
Jack ran toward the bedroom door and turned. “Gee, Kid, I just wanted to talk.”
“Goodbye, Jack,” I said from atop the bed.
He turned again and ran out through Joshua’s bedroom door - but he didn’t leave. He ran across the hall and pressed himself under Christine’s bed. The nerve of this guy! I had had it with this joker. Without hesitation I leaped off the bed and into Christine’s room.
“Jack! Get out from under there, and get the blazes out of this house!” I paced from side to side ready to pounce. No answer. “I know you can hear me. Now get out of here!” After a minute there wasn’t a sound in the room except for the tick-tick-tick of an old- fashioned alarm clock with the hammer perched between the two bells. I was convinced Jack was trying to make a complete fool of me, and prove I was a coward - just standing there doing nothing. Well I was no coward. I ducked my head and squeezed under the bed ready for a battle … but the only things I found for the fight were a black pair of high-heeled shoes and a couple of mismatched earrings. Jack had completely disappeared. There was no way he could have passed me without my seeing him. At least, I was pretty sure he couldn’t.
Intent on finding the intruder, my mother came into the room behind me unnoticed. I jumped at the sound of her voice.
“What are you doing, Misty?”
After searching the room in confusion for ten minutes to see if Jack was hiding somewhere else, I figured he must have snuck by me somehow. What other explanation could there be? The two windows in the room were shut and I was standing by the entrance to the doorway. Yes, Jack was a sly devil and he outsmarted me this time, but I swore if I ever encountered him again, I would not be made a fool for his entertainment. I wouldn’t have to wait long for that opportunity to arise.
Chapter 3 -- FPT
"Come on, Mom." Joshua grabbed his mother by the hand the moment she walked in the door at 5:30. "I have to have the project in by Friday." I watched the two of them from the loveseat.
"I know, I know. Just let me change, ok?" She always rushed to free herself of the greasy film that clung to her waitressing uniform after working nine straight hours at the Pit Stop Truck Stop five days a week. She fought gravity by attempting a quick jog up the stairs to her room.
The box of Plaster of Paris had been sitting on the kitchen counter for over a week. Each night Joshua asked Christine to help him make his volcano, and each night she told him she was too exhausted. "We'll do it tomorrow, Joshua. I promise." Joshua was a real go-getter. He was always trying to get his projects in early.
His mother came back downstairs a few minutes later in a pair of sweatpants and a green t-shirt. Joshua was already slicing the plastic bag that contained the flour-like powder.
"Hold on, hold on. I don't know if this stuff is dangerous," Christine protested.
"It's not a real volcano, Mom."
"I know that." She picked up the box and began reading the instructions. "Seems pretty simple. Grab the big mixing bowl and I'll measure the water and powder," she said after a few moments. Joshua reached under the cabinet, and noisily did as his mother instructed. "So how was school today?"
I wasn’t so sure about that answer - Joshua had been acting quite strange over the last few weeks; much quieter than usual. Sometimes he wouldn’t even notice I was there when he came home - no matter how much I rubbed up against his legs for attention.
"Fine?” Christine said, also suspicious of his answer. “That kid, Tommy ... is he still giving you a hard time?"
"No more than usual," Joshua said as he thumped a metallic bowl onto the counter.
"So what did his quick wit come up with today?"
"Oh, the usual - 'You're a big nerd’, 'Bet you'd kill yourself if you ever got a B'. You know - the usual."
"Ugh, that kid drives me insane. I’ve had it with him. Doesn’t he live close by?”
“Just a couple blocks from here, unfortunately,” Joshua replied, taking a peek at the instructions himself.
“I just want to go over and give his father a piece of my mind again.”
“It doesn’t work anyway. Your last phone call proved that.”
“Obviously. I just can’t believe he’s still giving you a hard time even after I spoke to his father." She turned on the faucet and began measuring the water. "You know, honey, he's just –”
"Yeah, I know ... jealous because I'm so smart. I've heard this speech before, Mom."
"Well, he is, you know. You'll be laughing all the way to the bank someday while he's picking up your trash."
"I wish," Joshua mumbled. I watched Joshua’s downturned eyes and immediately felt pity for Joshua. After all, he was my favorite human.
"Get the other measuring cup. We need four cups of this powder." She went over to the drawer holding the utensils and took out two large spoons. As Joshua reached up, she realized he was wearing a different shirt than the one he wore to school. "What happened to the t-shirt you were wearing this morning?"
Joshua subconsciously reached for the side of his arm. "Just felt like changing. It got kind of dirty in gym today."
"It's so humid though, why the long-sleeved shirt?"
"I don't know," he replied defensively, again reaching for his arm. Now Joshua’s mom is not a slow-witted human, and Joshua’s movements escaped neither of us.
"What's wrong with your arm?" Christine asked, reaching for his shirt with her free hand. I jumped onto the counter for a better look.
"It's fine, Mom,” Joshua said. He pulled out of his mother’s reach. “Get down, Misty.” His voice hardened as he pushed me gently until I had no choice but to jump back to the floor.
"What do you mean, 'it's fine'? What happened? Let me see." She put the spoons on the counter, and made him lift up his sleeve. A dark black-and-blue mark, two inches in diameter, sat fixed upon his arm. "What happened?" Christine exhaled in exasperation.
"What do you think?" Joshua was obviously irritated.
"That's it. I'm taking tomorrow off and talking to that principal."
"Please don't, Mom," Joshua said. His arm must have been sore because he pulled his sleeve back down as though he were handling a ticking time bomb.
"Why not?" She was getting furious now.
"It'll just make it worse."
"This kid needs to be taught a lesson, Joshua. Let me see that again." Christine took his arm and lifted the sleeve once again. "Just look at this. Don't you want him to stop? This is getting ridiculous. It was bad enough the way he talked to you, but now this?"
"Please, Mom." He was as tall as his mother’s shoulders now. He pleaded to her with his eyes, and though no words were said, the message was clear. She stood quiet for a long moment. “Please” he repeated softly.
Christine took up her spoon once again. "Alright -if that's what you really want."
"Thank you, Mom."
Christine replied with a barely audible grumble.
I looked from one to the other. What? I thought to myself. This little brute “Tom” was going to get the best of my owner without a fight? I felt ashamed of my owners for the first time.
Christine began stirring as Joshua poured the water into the powdery mix. "Can you at least tell me what happened?"
"If I tell you, you'll just get madder."
She stopped stirring. She stared at Joshua while he continued to pour the water. You could see by the intense glare on her face, she was ready to scream about the whole situation. I knew he was probably right though; if she heard the details, she would turn them over in her mind until there would be no stopping her from taking action.
They didn't talk about it any further. For the next hour they mixed, poured, and molded while they talked of other things in the comfortable way they usually did. Their topics often varied as much as the colors of a rainbow. Though young, Joshua was a great fan of the evening news. He was a great conversationalist with his mother – often even having his own opinions on politics of the day. As I came to know other human children, I found Joshua to act much older than his years.
“This is actually kind of fun," Christine said as she smiled at Joshua. He returned her smile sincerely. Christine stopped working, and wrapped an arm around her son’s shoulders. "I'm sorry I'm always so last-minute, Joshua."
"That's ok, Mom. I know things aren't so easy for you and you get tired a lot," he said, concentrating on smoothing out the plaster. "And I have all this kid energy to waste."
"That you do," she chuckled. “That you do.”
After everyone, including my mother, went to bed that night, I roamed about the house a bit in the dark thinking about this Tom character. I wondered what he looked like and why he kept giving Joshua such a hard time. I rounded the corner to the kitchen in search of a little drink before bed, and instead found myself walking smack into Jack!
“Hey, watch where you’re going, Kid,” he said in his usual carefree tone.
I glared at him. “You just scared me half to death, thank you very much!”
“Why, you’re welcome. It’s about time you started appreciating me,” he said while he jumped up onto the counter in search of food.
“I was being sarcastic.” I jumped onto the kitchen table to keep an eye on my persistent intruder. I suddenly remembered Jack’s disappearing act from a couple months earlier. “How did you get in here?”
“The back door was open,” Jack replied as he started clawing the plastic wrap off a plate half-full of brownies that was sitting next to Joshua’s volcano project.
“You’re lying.” And I knew he was lying because I had just passed by that very door not 20 minutes before. It was, most definitely, closed.
“Are you a Newbie, Kid?” Jack asked with his mouth half stuffed with a stolen brownie.
“A ‘Newbie’? What’s that?”
“Never mind, Kid - you just answered my question.” Jack swallowed a mouthful of the brownie and began pawing for more. I leaped from the table onto the counter, and stood right next to Jack.
“Quit eating those. You’re going to get me in trouble.”
“Just one more, Kid. Have a heart. I’m starving here.”
For a moment, I actually felt bad. “Don’t your owners feed you?” I asked.
Jack raised his head and fixed me with a cold stare. “I don’t have owners, Kid. I don’t need owners, and I don’t want owners. I’m Jack the Cat, and I’m a self-made, self-reliant, feline phenomenon.”
“Then why are you stealing our brownies?”
Jack’s cold stare melted into a smile. “Ah, you’re quick. A cat’s got to do what a cat’s got to do in order to survive, Kid. Boy, as much as I can’t stand their species, these humans sure know how to make a stomach happy.”
He was an irritating sort of fellow, but I couldn’t help but be transfixed by him. Being strictly a housecat, I never got to talk to others of my own kind, except for my mother of course.
“Well, it’s obvious that your mother hasn’t told you yet.”
“Told me what?”
“Hasn’t told you a lot of things by the sound of it,” Jack said as brownie crumbs fell from his mouth all over the counter.
“What are you talking about?” I asked.
“Well, someone ought to tell you. It isn’t right for a cat not to know … not to be given a chance to make his own decisions.”
He was beginning to irritate me again. “Why do you keep talking in circles? Just tell me what you mean, for crying out loud.”
Jack took his time finishing off his second brownie before he turned to me and sat down. “You ever hear of FPT, Kid?”
FPT … FPT? I wracked my brain, but FPT rang no bells for me. “Don’t think so,” I replied coolly. “So what’s FPT?”
“FPT is the most magnificent tool the good Lord ever gave any creature on Earth. FPT stands for Furniture Portal Travel.”
“Huh?” I gave him a crazy look because his answer deserved one.
“Furniture – Portal - Travel,” he said slower. “Sure the name sounds ridiculous, but the term is actually quite accurate. All you got to do is get under a large piece of furniture, where not a human soul in the world can see you, think about someone you really want to see, and boom!” Jack snapped a paw toward the kitchen window. “You’re transported to wherever that being is at that particular time.” Jack stopped talking and licked his fur.
I just stared at him. Did this cat think I was some kind of moron?
Jack apparently knew exactly what I was thinking. “I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true. Ask your mother the next time you see her.”
Right – like I was going to burden my mother with the thought that her son was going insane. I started pushing Jack off the counter to get him moving. “Ok, let’s go. It’s time for you to leave again.”
“Hold on there, Kid. Didn’t you wonder where I went to that day I ran under your servant’s bed, huh?” he said as I forced him to the floor. I didn’t move. Jack looked up at me. “You couldn’t find me, right? How do you think I got out of there? Through FPT, Kid. FPT.” Jack stopped for a few moments and kept licking himself on the side of his body. “You can even see famous people,” Jack continued. “Though I don’t suggest doing that too much, Kid, because the moment rich and famous folks see a cat they don’t know … boom! You’re off to Animal Control.”
“Why do you keep licking yourself so much? Do you have fleas or something? I don’t want those things even near me, so you better take off.”
“I’m getting itchier because I like hanging with you, Kid.”
What the heck was this cat talking about? This was just getting weird. The whole concept was ridiculous; traveling through portals under furniture. “I’m going to bed. When I wake up, I expect you to be gone. I would appreciate it if you would leave the rest of our food alone and just go.” There was no doubt Jack was a cat who thrived on his independence and didn’t seem to need anyone, but there was hurt behind his eyes when I said this.
“I’m not crazy, Kid,” he said slowly. “I swear.”
I walked out of the kitchen and left him behind to go up to Joshua’s room. When I awoke in the morning, Jack would be gone.
Chapter 4 -- Damages
I hadn’t told my mother about my first encounter with Jack. I don’t know why I didn’t. Perhaps I was just embarrassed about it. But when Christine came downstairs to make her coffee the morning following Jack’s second intrusion, a gale of frustration followed by a piercing “Joshua!” found its way all the way up the stairs and into Joshua’s room where I was sleeping. We both awoke with mild heart attacks. Was Jack still in the kitchen, I wondered? He wouldn’t be that dumb. Then I remembered - the brownies!
I jumped off the bed first. Joshua followed and quickly threw on a pair of sweatpants that had been tossed to the floor beside his bed. I ran downstairs to assess the damage. I walked with great caution into the kitchen; instead of the usual morning greeting from Joshua’s mother of “Hello, Mr. Misty. And how are you this morning?” - I received “Misty! Did you do this? Huh?” as Christine waved her hand in the direction of the mutilated brownies. It was the first time I was afraid of Joshua’s mother. There was fire in her eyes. Of course, I should have expected it. Jack was long gone, and my mother has been with the family for so long, they knew she would never do such a thing. I was the only viable suspect.
I wanted to run and hide, but to me that would just prove my guilt. So I parked by my food dish, wondering briefly if I would be fed that morning, watching Joshua help his mother clean the crime scene.
My mother wandered into the kitchen and observed the brownie brigade cleaning up Jack’s mess.
“Misty,” she said in a deeply concerned tone, “did you do this?”
“No, Mother,” I said. “I’ll tell you about it shortly, I promise.” I didn’t want to start talking about it right then, for the story was long. We are taught very early not to speak with one another too much while in the presence of humans. If I told the story then, Joshua and his mother would wonder why I was mewing at my mother so much. Of course, they wouldn’t understand a thing I was saying, but still it was always best not to draw too much attention with humans around. My mother understood and pressed me for no immediate information. Instead she joined me in watching our owners.
“I don’t ever want to see you letting that cat up on the counter again, you hear?” Christine said to Joshua. “There have to be boundaries drawn, Joshua, or he’ll start getting into everything. Got it?”
“Ok, Mom, I got it. You don’t have to yell at me, you know. I didn’t hand them to him,” he replied, brushing the last of the crumbs off the dustpan and into the trash.
Christine stopped rinsing the sponge in the sink. She turned and leaned her back against the sink. She looked at her son as he hung the dustpan and brush back up in the pantry closet. “Come here, Joshua,” she said.
“Oh, boy. Now what did I do?”
“Just come here, ok?”
He walked over to his mom hesitantly. She reached her arms out to him and he came closer so that she could hug him. “I’m sorry if it seems I’m taking it out on you, Joshua. I love you more than anything in this world. You know that, don’t you?”
He returned her hug. “Even more than brownies?” he said with his head on her chest.
Christine laughed. “Yes, even more than brownies.” She hugged him closer. “You’re a great kid, Josh. You’ve had so much to deal with since your dad and I split up, and I feel awful about that. I just wanted to make things better for you, and this whole Tommy business is just really bugging me.”
Joshua gently pulled back. “Don’t worry about me, Mom. I’m not the first kid on Earth who’s had to deal with a bully before.”
“I know that, but it infuriates me because I know how kind you are. You just don’t deserve that kind of treatment.”
“That kind of makes me sound really wimpy, Mom.”
“You know what I mean. I’m not saying you can’t defend yourself, I just know you have a wonderful heart, that’s all.”
“I have to get ready for school,” Joshua said, indicating he didn’t want to talk about it anymore.
Christine looked up at the time, “Oh man. It’s getting late.” She kissed Joshua on the forehead while he grabbed a box of cereal out of the pantry. “I’ll see you after work. Love you.”
“Love you, too.”
She opened the back door and starting closing it behind her, but then hesitated. “Joshua?”
Joshua turned to her. “Yeah?”
“If Tommy gives you a hard time today?”
“I give you permission to sock him right in the nose.”
Joshua laughed. “Ok, Mom.”
The door closed behind Christine and soon after her car roared to a start. I walked over to Joshua and rubbed against his legs while he ate his breakfast. He reached down and stroked me from my head down to my tail several times. I couldn’t stop myself from purring. “You’re lucky, Misty. You were close to being cat stew tonight. You know how mom loves her brownies.” I just kept purring for I knew he was exaggerating.
Joshua pushed out his chair, scraping the tile floor, and put the white, ceramic bowl in the sink with a clang. After which he went to the pantry and put food in my mother’s bowl and my bowl. I smiled, for I would be getting breakfast after all.
After Joshua left for school, my mother and I sat on the couch in the living room while I told her all about Jack. After I told her about his first visit, she was clearly displeased I hadn’t mentioned it to her before. Then I told her what he had told me about this ridiculous business about FPT the previous night.
“Furniture portal travel? I mean, I may only be two-and-a-half years old, but he must think I’m some kind of moron to believe a thing as fantastic as that. He’s getting in here someway, and today I plan on finding out how so I can put a stop to his uninvited visits.”
My mother’s silence suddenly struck me. As she looked out through the window, I wondered why she wasn’t agreeing with me. Surely this ridiculous story warranted some type of reaction.
“Mom? Are you listening to me?” She turned her head slowly and looked straight into my eyes with a look of sorrow. “What, Mom. What is it?”
“There are things I haven’t told you, Misty. Things I guess I should have told you awhile ago, but I didn’t because I thought you were better off not knowing.” A look of apology then hung in her eyes.
“What kinds of things?”
“Well, for one thing, Jack is no stranger to me.”
“You know Jack?”
“Yes, I know him. Quite well, in fact.” She paused for a long moment, sighed deeply and continued. “Misty … Jack is your father.” She waited for my reaction. She didn’t have to wait long.
“My father?! What are you talking about? You said my father lived here and died shortly before we were born. Isn’t that what you said?”
“I know I said that, and to me it was true at the time. He made a choice that I was angry with when I was carrying you and your siblings. In my heart he was dead.”
“Choice? What kind of choice?” I couldn’t believe it. My mother had lied to me. I always saw her as the noblest of creatures, and now I find out she’s a liar.
“Before I go into that, we must talk about what Jack spoke of before you can understand his decision. Though I didn’t agree with it, I guess in a way, I did understand it. Knowing Jack as I did, his choice should not have surprised me.”
I couldn’t believe it. This brownie stealing vagrant was my father? And my mother lying about it? It was too much to take. “I can’t talk to you right now,” I said. I jumped off the couch.
I turned to her briefly, discovering a sorrow in her eyes. “I’m sorry, Misty. I know I should have told you before.”
“Yes, you should have.” I dashed up to Joshua’s room, leaping three steps at a time. In Joshua’s room I could find familiarity and routine. It would take some time for me to accept that Jack was my father. I was furious at my mother for not telling me, but it wouldn’t be too long before curiosity got the best of me. We cats are notoriously curious creatures after all. I needed to know - just what was Jack’s choice?
Chapter 5 – Dangerous Pursuits
For five days I avoided my mother. If she came into the kitchen to eat while I was eating, I would leave. If I decided I wanted to laze about by the living room window that allowed the best sunrays, but found my mother was already in the room, I would casually walk by and go into the kitchen as though I never intended to be in the living room anyway. Well, after those five days of giving my mother the silent treatment, I realized something - silence gets you nowhere when there are things to be discussed and, most of the time it only causes more pain for both parties.
I walked into Christine’s room where my mother was sleeping on the bed - her favorite spot of leisure. Not wishing to startle her, I jumped onto the bed as quietly as I could. I sat next to her for about a minute before speaking. “Mother.” She didn’t move. She was a notoriously sound sleeper. “Mother,” I said again as I nudged her with my nose.
She slowly opened her eyes. She quickly awoke when she realized I was finally talking to her again. She smiled, but then stopped as she seemed to remember how mad I had been the last time we spoke.
“It’s ok, Mom. I’m not mad anymore.” I stretched out beside her. She allowed herself to smile again. “I just need to know why you felt you had to lie to me.”
Her smile again faded as she sat up and considered her answer. “I guess the best way is to tell you from the beginning,” she began. “When Joshua’s parents got married and moved in together, each of them brought a cat to the marriage; Christine had me, and Joshua’s father, Nick, had Jack. Well, Jack and I did not get along at first - to say the least. I was a calm sort and always kept to myself, whereas Jack … well, how should I say this? Jack was the adventurous one, and always in your face talking, whether you wanted him there or not.”
“Tell me about it,” I replied and rolled my eyes. I never met a more annoying character. Not that I had met many characters in my life up to that point, but my gut told me he had to be near the top of the “annoying” list.
“Well, believe it or not, after about a year together in the same house we both fell in love.” My eyes opened in amazement. The crazy look I gave her didn’t go unnoticed. “I know he’s not a refined sort of fellow, but he possessed traits that did make him quite charming at times. Like I said, your father was very adventurous and he told me wonderful tales. We even embarked on a few of our own adventures together, but it was this adventurous spirit that would eventually end our lives together once and for all.”
“This FPT thing? Is that how he went on these adventures you’re talking about?” I felt ridiculous asking such a question, but I had to know if this thing was true. Because if it was, then my father wasn’t as much of a lunatic as I first thought. If you can disprove something like your father being a lunatic, good chance you aren’t one either. However, if it’s known that your father is a lunatic, you might start questioning whether you yourself are one.
My mother drew in a deep breath before she spoke. “Furniture Portal Travel is indeed all too real. Real and sometimes incredibly dangerous. This is why I never spoke of it before, Misty. Some cats think it’s a God-given right to all cats, but there are some of us who have different beliefs on how cats should lead their lives.”
“So you know all about the FPT thing?”
“Have you ever done it?”
“Yes, many times. More than I’d like to admit, though not as much as many others of our species.”
“I still don’t understand why you didn’t tell me. All this time I could have been seeing whomever I wanted.”
My mother’s brows furrowed. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize you had so many important people to see.” I had never heard my mother’s voice filled with such disdain. She got me there. Who would I have gone to see anyway? I didn’t know what to say. “Listen, my son, I’m not joking when I say Furniture Portal Travel is not all fun and games. Yes, sometimes it is fun and exciting, but there is the slight chance of great risk that can make it incredibly dangerous. I lost all my other babes - I guess I’m just not ready to lose you too.”
“What’s it like? How do you do it? Does it hurt?” I said as the questions exploded from my mind, and gushed out through my lips. There was a whole new world to discover and I couldn’t help myself. I wanted to know as soon as possible, so I might finally embark on a great adventure. I loved Joshua with all my heart, but the same five rooms day after day can really get to a cat.
“This is exactly what I was afraid of,” my mother answered as she shook her head. “I knew as soon as you found out, you’d run under the next couch and take off.”
“Wow, it works under couches, too? Not just bureaus and beds?” I could tell my mother was really regretting that I now knew this fantastic secret she’d been keeping from me. I tried to relax and not seem so excited about it so she wouldn’t worry so much. “I’d just like to know how it works, Mom. I could never away from you. And that’s a promise.”
She looked at me with a weak smile. “I know you would never intentionally hurt me, Misty.” She sat back on her haunches. “It works with any piece of furniture. The key is that you are completely concealed from the eyes of any human. Once no human can see you, you must close you eyes and wish to see any one particular living being; human or otherwise. Once you have that creature set firmly in your mind, you will be pulled through space to where that certain being is at that very moment in time.”
“That’s incredible!” I exclaimed as my excitement betrayed me. “I’m sorry, Mom. I don’t mean to be so excited. It just sounds like such an incredible thing. What could be wrong with it?”
“There is so much more to it, Misty, you just don’t know. I need you to wait before you ever try FPT. I need you to wait until I can think of the best way to give you all the information you need. I haven’t done it in quite a while. It’s important that you know all the facts about the lives of cats and how FPT can affect your lives in particular. You have so much promise, you have no idea. I can’t see you ruining that promise because you rush into this without being prepared.”
“You said ‘how FPT can affect your lives’. What do you mean ‘your lives’? Don’t you mean ‘your life’?”
My mother sighed with resignation. “This is one of the things you need to know, Misty. You have heard humans talk about cats’ nine lives, yes?”
“Well, of course. They say that because we seem to get ourselves out of danger so well, right?”
“Misty, what the humans say is true. They just don’t know it. Somehow this secret was revealed to a human hundreds of years ago, but through time humans have come to see it only as an expression, not as a fact. We cats literally have nine lives.”
If my mother thought I was excited before, boy was she in for something. “Nine lives! You’re telling me I have nine lives to live?” I couldn’t help myself. I started pouncing up and down on the bed. I mean if she told me about the nine lives before telling me FPT was real, I probably wouldn’t be so excited, because up to that point, my life wasn’t all that exciting. Sure, I had fun chasing a rouge fly on occasion, or teasing Rufus, the neighbor’s dog, from the kitchen window, but with Furniture Portal Travel - life was going to be completely different for this particular cat.
Chapter 6 – Perils of Ignorance
After my little celebration upon hearing I had nine whole lives to live, my mother was far from pleased. I suppose she was hoping for a more mature reaction. So she walked away and told me matter-of-factly, “We’ll talk more about this over the next couple weeks. Don’t do anything foolish.”
‘Don’t do anything foolish?’ I wondered what she meant by that. Well, it wouldn’t be long until I found out. My mother must have known me better than I knew myself, because it was only two days until I did do something foolish - I tried FPT for the first time … without telling my mother.
I couldn’t help it. I just couldn’t wait to see what it was all about. I was stretching out on Joshua’s bed getting ready for my usual morning snooze when I started wondering about what this ‘school’ place was that Joshua left me for nearly every day. I closed my eyes in hopes of forgetting the thought, but it was no use. I began thinking how I could see Joshua right then if I really wanted to. All I had to do was slip under the bed and wish for it. I sat up. “I’ll only go for a few minutes,” I said aloud, trying to justify the fact that I was about to go against my mother’s wishes.
With mounting excitement, I catapulted off the bed, then ducked my head and squeezed my body under Joshua’s twin bed. There was a colossal difference between going under Christine’s bed and Joshua’s bed. There was plenty of room under Christine’s bed. Under Joshua’s bed, however, I had to negotiate around two beat-up skateboards, an array of baseball cards, a mountain of dirty socks, and dusty school papers. I moved toward the center where there was a bit more room – though not much. My heart was beating like a drum corps competition. I was crazy with anticipation, but also petrified with the fear of embarking on the unknown.
I placed my belly down on the cool wood floor and closed my eyes. I took in a deep breath and then said aloud “I want to see Joshua.” I waited for a few seconds. I felt nothing so I opened my eyes; I was still under the bed. I closed my eyes and said it again. “I want to see Joshua.” A bit of the excitement and fear left me when I opened my eyes to the mess under the bed once again.
I glanced about in confusion. Why wasn’t it working? After a couple minutes I began to wonder if Jack and my mother were in on some cruel joke at my expense. Anger brewed in my chest as I pictured them talking and having a great laugh together. “Furniture Portal Travel, ha, ha, ha! That’ll get him.”
The more I thought about it, though, I knew my mother wasn’t the type to play such tricks on me. I knew I must have been doing something wrong.
I closed my eyes again, but this time I really concentrated. I pictured Joshua’s bright blue eyes, his feathery blond hair and numerous freckles. I pictured him with the smile he graced me with every day of my life. This made me smile as well. “I really want to see Joshua.” And this time I could feel the words that I just uttered rang true not only on my lips, but in my heart.
A sudden overwhelming pressure overtook me. A pressure as though gravity was pulling me down from the very center of my stomach. Then the pressure snapped away, catapulting my heart, for it felt as though the floor just disappeared from under me. In the first few seconds I suffered an impenetrable feeling of suffocation, as if I had been completely submerged in a pool of hair gel. The sense that I was not breathing terrified me. I tried opening my eyes. I thought I had opened them, but I could see nothing. The drag in the first few seconds then turned into a cool wind caused by enormous velocity. I thought for sure I was going to come crashing to the ground. Still there was utter darkness, so I squeezed my eyes shut again praying for the end to come. The suffocating feeling of passing through a vat of hair gel returned, but my body appeared to slow down immediately. And then there was nothing.
I knew the trip was over because I could feel the warmth of the sun on my back and light penetrated my eyelids. My legs shook with fear and exhaustion as I slowly opened my eyes. I found myself standing next to what must have been Joshua’s school. And there he was – standing not even fifty feet away from me in the tar-covered school yard.
I thought when I showed up I’d just run over to Joshua, rub up against his legs in return for a nice pat on my back, and be back on my way to the house before my mother even noticed I was gone - but I froze. There were all these other kids around, yelling, kicking balls, playing on old metal swing sets. I watched Joshua from behind a bush next to the two-story, brick school. He sat on one of the swings. Barely moving, he stared at his outstretched feet.
I rustled up the courage to walk over to Joshua for it seemed he was in dire need of cheering up for some reason. I was about seven feet away from the safety of the bush, when a young lady with long, brown hair sat on the swing next to Joshua and began talking to him. I ran back to the bush to observe.
Joshua’s mood changed instantly. They were both talking and it wasn’t long before he was laughing with her. The sight of him happy made my heart smile, though I think I was a bit jealous that I wasn’t the one who made him happy. In any case, the moment would soon be short-lived.
Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a larger child with floppy, black hair moving rapidly in Joshua’s direction. There was an evil look of determination in his squinting eyes that immediately put me on alert. Joshua was unaware of this larger boy’s approach as he came up behind Joshua and the brown-haired girl. I ran out from behind the bush too late.
“Hey, Bookworm Boy,” the large boy yelled while he shoved Joshua off the swing into the dirt. I thought immediately that this had to be the infamous Tom I had heard about. It wouldn’t take long before my suspicions were confirmed.
“Tommy!” yelled the brown-haired girl. “Leave him alone.”
“Mind your own business, Sa-man-tha,” Tommy blurted in a mocking tone, “or you’ll be joining him. Oh wait - that’s what you want anyway, isn’t it?”
I ran over to Joshua to see if he was ok. The Samantha girl also came over. “Are you ok?” she asked.
“I’m fine,” Joshua said as he rose to his knees. He angrily brushed the dirt off his red t-shirt. “Misty? How the heck did you get here?” he asked, noticing me standing at his side for the first time.
“Is this your cat?” Samantha asked.
“Yeah, but I have no idea how he got here,” Joshua looked at me in complete confusion.
“Awww, look … Bookworm Boy has a little kitty cat,” Tommy said as he yanked me up by the back of my neck. For a moment everything turned black.
“Leave him alone,” Joshua yelled.
“Leave him alone,” Tommy repeated, again in his mocking tone. My body hung in the air with only a few stumpy fingers gripping me by the scruff of my neck. Joshua reached for me, but each time he tried to grab me, Tommy swung me out of reach, shooting enormous pain throughout my body.
“Give the cat back to him, Tommy,” Samantha demanded.
“Glad to see you got yourself a bodyguard, Bookworm Boy.”
It happened before I had time to register the movement. The Samantha girl punched Tommy smack in the nose, causing my immediate rescue from his grubby hands. I had only moments to decide; should I stand by Joshua or run for the hills? I choose the latter. The ‘hills’ being the bush I had just emerged from.
Tommy fell to his knees holding a hand to his nose when a male teacher, with an overgrown beard, came over to investigate. In muffled tones, I could make out Samantha relaying the recent events while Joshua came looking for me behind the bush.
“Misty. Come here, Misty. It’s ok.” I took one last peek through Joshua’s legs to make sure the Tommy kid wouldn’t be swinging me like a baseball bat any longer. When I felt it was safe, I slowly emerged and Joshua scooped me up into his arms. I was shaking like a big bowl of Jell-O on a washing machine during the rinse cycle. Joshua pet me for a few minutes until the teacher came over with Samantha.
“Joshua, Samantha told me what happened. I know Tom was giving you a hard time, but this doesn’t mean I approve of this behavior - understand?”
“Yes, Mr. Emery.”
“Is this your cat?” Mr. Emery asked.
“And why do you have your cat here?” Mr. Emery asked with what sounded like a mixture of annoyance and outright curiosity.
“I didn’t bring him, Mr. Emery. He just showed up, I swear. I have no idea how he got here to tell you the truth.”
Mr. Emery looked at his watch. “How far do you live from here?”
“About three miles. I take the bus.”
“Are either of your parents home today?”
“I live with my mom, but she’s at work right now.”
Mr. Emery looked again at his watch. “Well,” he thought out loud, “it’s only another hour and a half until school lets out. I think Mrs. Andrews in the science lab has a couple of cages big enough to hold your cat. Why don’t you take him down there and tell her I said it was fine for you to keep him there until the end of the day.”
“Thanks, Mr. Emery.”
“Do it quickly.”
Joshua carried me into the school while Samantha walked beside us.
“Where’s Tom?” Joshua asked Samantha.
“Mr. Emery told Jason to take him to the nurse’s office. I’m supposed to go to the principal’s office before heading back to class.”
“You really socked him good, Sam.”
“Thanks,” she said with a smile.
“But please - don’t do it again on my account.”
Sam’s smile faded. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to embarrass you.”
We arrived at the science lab. Mrs. Andrews was very nice. And although the class was dissecting a frog a mere ten feet away, I wasn’t very nervous when they put me in the cage; I knew Joshua would be coming back to pick me up shortly. Unfortunately, I found out, it wouldn’t be short enough.
I waited patiently for Joshua in the metal cage. From the smell of it, it probably belonged to a rabbit or another small animal at some point. I decided that taking a nap would make the time go by quicker, and plus I could escape this whole frog dissecting business. I thought to myself that that’s one creature that might not want nine lives if that’s the way you had to go.
I rested well for about 20 minutes, but then my body starting getting itchy. Not just a little itchy - it was so bad, it actually woke me up. I licked until I thought the itch should be gone, but when I stopped it was as though I had done nothing. I tried to ignore it the best I could, but by the time Joshua picked me up and brought me on the school bus, I was licking myself like mad. The itching became pure torture - and nothing I did would stop it.
At first, all the students on the bus thought it was great to have a cat on the bus ride home, but after ten minutes I was being avoided like the plague.
“What’s wrong with your cat?” said one student … then another … and yet another.
“I don’t know. He’s not usually like this. Maybe he was allergic to something in the science lab,” Joshua replied.
When we arrived home, I leapt from Joshua’s arms to go find my mother. As I figured, I found her on Christine’s bed. I jumped up beside her and rudely nudged her awake. “Mom, wake up. Mom, I need you to wake up.”
“What is it, Misty?” my mother said sleepily. Though I knew it would be of no use, I stopped for a moment to try, once again, to lick the itch away. And it was of no use - pure agony continued. My mother quickly sat up. “Misty! You did it, didn’t you? You went against my wishes.”
“I’m sorry, Mom. I just wanted to try it once. How do I make the itching stop? Please make it stop,” I pleaded, for the itching seemed to multiply with every passing minute.
“Get under the bed,” she instructed. “Hurry.”
I didn’t hesitate. I sprung off and dove under the bed while my mother jumped off and stood beside it. I would have jumped off a building if she said it would stop the itching. My skin was on fire from all the scratching I’d done. “Ok, now what?”
“Ok, I’ve had enough. Say it.”
“Say what?” I said in complete frenzy.
“Say ‘OK, I’ve had enough’. Say it, quickly.”
I was confused, but I did as she instructed. “Ok, I’ve had enough!”
As it had all begun, I felt the familiar pull of gravity on my belly, followed by the feeling of falling through a trap door into the vat of hair gel. Complete darkness, then the cool wind caused by my body moving at extreme velocity, followed by another trip through the hair gel, and it all came to a stop. I opened my eyes - to the skateboards and smelly socks under Joshua’s bed. I wondered why I was there, but not for long.
I crawled out from under the bed. The itching was certainly not gone, but I could feel it was no longer getting worse - it was definitely improving. I continued in my efforts to lick my fur until the pain and itching would go away completely. My mother walked across the hall when she saw I was in Joshua’s room.
“Well, that’ll teach you not to jump into something you have absolutely no idea about,” my mother said in a scolding tone.
“I’m sorry, Mom. It sounded so simple. I just wanted to try it, just to see what it was like. A cat can’t help being curious, you know.”
“A cat can help being anything if he actually puts his mind to it,” she retorted.
I didn’t reply. I wouldn’t win an argument with my mother anyway. Besides, I was just grateful she got me out of that mess.
“Misty, there are rules and things you should know before ever attempting FPT.”
“I think I already know that now.”
“There is a lot to learn not only about FPT, but about what it means to be a cat and how your behavior can and will have a great impact on your future lives. It’s imperative you wait and learn these things before you ever pull something like this again.”
I choose to keep silent and continued to groom myself.
In a much graver voice, my mother continued, “Misty, do you realize that if Joshua hadn’t brought you home to me, so I could tell you what to do, you would have been dead within a few hours?”
At this, I looked up. “Dead? How would I be dead?”
“The itching would have continued to multiply. When you use FPT the itching gets worse and worse until you transported back to your OP.”
“OP? What’s that?”
“OP means your Original Position - the spot where you began a particular FPT episode. DP is the Destination Position or where you traveled to. If a cat doesn’t return to the OP within six hours, the itching becomes so unbearable a cat will do anything to stop it. Even if it means tearing at his flesh until he bleeds to death.”
I shuddered at the thought. She was right, if the itching didn’t stop, I would probably have done that very thing to make it do so.
She continued, “When you are on a trip through FPT, you lose track of time. The only way to gauge how long you’ve been gone is when the itching begins. It usually starts slowly, at around the two hour mark. Then it doubles at the third hour, again at the fourth and so on. A cat must come back to the Original Position, otherwise he will go crazy and he can’t stop from shredding himself to pieces.”
“Whoever gave us this ability didn’t mean for it to be a way to just go wherever, whenever we wanted. It seems we were given this gift, and I do consider it a gift if it is done properly, only to break up the boring routines of being a household pet.”
“How did cats first find out about FPT?” I asked as the itching finally subsided to the point of being barely noticeable.
“There are different legends of how it all began,” my mother started, but was interrupted when we heard footsteps accompanied by Joshua’s voice.
“I have no idea how he got out or how the heck he was able to find me all the way at the school. Mom, it was just amazing to see him show up like that,” Joshua said walking into his bedroom with his mother right behind him.
My mother and I casually sat on the floor - as humans would expect. Again, my mother had constantly reminded me not to talk around humans too much, for they could start finding patterns in our way of speaking, giving them clues to our intelligence. If our intelligence was discovered, there would be no end to scientific experiments on cats after that.
“He looks fine. He doesn’t seem itchy right now,” Christine said. Obviously Joshua told her about how I embarrassed him on the bus.
Joshua looked at me in confusion. “You’re right. I’m telling you, though, he was acting crazy on the bus.”
“Maybe he was just nervous. He never went cruising in a school bus before.”
“Yeah, maybe.” Joshua still looked confused. “Come here, Misty.”
My mother stood up and took the opportunity to make herself scarce in the other room. Joshua picked me up, sat on his bed, and settled against the pillow propped up against his headboard. He held me on his lap all the way up until his mother called him down for dinner. Little did he know, he saved my life that day. I licked his hand with my scratchy tongue and purred for him like I’d never purred before.
“Boy, you sure seem ok now,” he said while stroking my fur.
At that point in time, I thought I’d never again try FPT. But it wouldn’t be too long until curiosity got the best of me again.
Chapter 7 – In the Beginning
Joshua spoke of my mysterious appearance at his school for about a week, but then it seemed all but forgotten. I was glad when he stopped talking about my little taste of adventure because each time it was mentioned my mother gave me a glaring look, which I pretended not to notice.
About a month had passed before I felt it was safe to ask my mother more about FPT. After our owners went to bed, I went to Christine’s room to find my mother. The door was slightly ajar. The door was notoriously squeaky, so I was hesitant to push it open. I was able to just stick my head in the door. “Mom,” I called softly. I could only see a small portion of the room with what little moonlight came through the windows. I hoped she hadn’t fallen asleep yet. “Mom, can you come out?” My question was greeted by silence, but after thirty seconds I heard a muffled thump – my mother jumping to the floor.
“What is it, Misty? It’s late.”
“When are you going to tell me more about FPT? You said you would tell me more about it later. I was just wondering, how much later?”
“Misty, I was almost asleep. This couldn’t have waited until tomorrow?”
“Sorry,” I said. I lowered my head and began heading back to Joshua’s room. A few moments later the door squeaked angrily behind me. I turned to find my mother pushing through.
“Let’s go downstairs so we don’t disturb the servants,” she said.
I turned my face from my mother’s gaze; I winced at the word ‘servants’. I loved and respected my mother with all my heart, but she was knew I didn’t like that reference used with Joshua and his mother. I was well aware that human beings had their faults, but didn’t all species? Some cats justified their slurs against the human race, claiming humans tended to commit foolish acts that not only affected the livelihood of their own kind, but sometimes the very existence of other creatures on the planet as well. Any other time I would have reminded my mother that I didn’t appreciate these unflattering references, but I had another goal to consider at that moment.
We strode down the stairs together without a word. My mother walked over to the window where the light from a harvest moon lit up a large area on the living room carpet. My mother sat down and I took up the spot across from her.
“Misty, I want you to know right now that just because I tell you the things I know about FPT, does not mean I’m giving you permission to go gallivanting about the planet.”
“I know that, Mother.”
“You say you know, but I’m not sure you really do. There are things I’m going to tell you, things you may believe I’m only saying to curb you desire for FPT. Many cats believe these things have basis only in legend, but I have heard enough accounts from other cats over the course of my first eight lives that make me believe there is truth to the legend.”
“Eight lives? You’ve already lived eight out of the nine?” I said in amazement. As I said the words, and they echoed back into my ears, grief suddenly struck me; my mother had only one life yet to live. The feeling must have made itself known on my face for my mother edged closer and leaned her head on me.
“I have had eight wonderful lives, Misty. I’ve had many kittens - so many I’m afraid I’ve lost count. I have never had the pleasure of staying with any of my offspring for as long as I’ve been with you, which makes me so grateful for you. I guess this is why I didn’t want to tell you about FPT. I wanted you to stay with me forever. It was selfish of me, and for that I truly apologize.”
“It’s ok, Mom. I understand.”
She smiled before continuing. “You always come back as the same sex you were first born with. If you were a female kitten in your first life, you will be female for the rest of your lives thereafter. No one is sure why, that’s just the way it is.”
“So I’ll be a boy for all nine lives?”
“How was FPT discovered?” It was a question I’d been dying to know the answer to – how did it all begin?
“Legend says that FPT was discovered by one of our feline friends hundreds of years ago. It is said that this particular cat was being severely abused by its servant. One day the servant began chasing the cat in a rage that made the cat fear that this particular life would soon be coming to an abrupt end. Well, the cat barely escaped the grasp of this servant and ran into another room. He ran under a large chest of drawers, where it is claimed that he prayed with all his might to be back with his father. Before he knew it, he was in a servant’s house where his father lived on the other side of town. The father asked him how he got there. His son told him what happened, but of course the father didn’t believe it. You couldn’t really blame him. I mean, would you believe such a story?”
“I thought Jack was a crazy lunatic when he first told me,” I replied.
“And so did this cat’s father. The cat explained to his father how horrible his life was with his servant; how he would push his head under water and laugh when he finally let him up, choking and gasping for air.”
My face wrinkled in disbelief. “Humans wouldn’t really do such a thing - would they, Mother?”
“There are some humans, Misty, who have no regard for any life. I fear this boy, Tommy, you’ve spoken of may turn into such a human as that one day if someone doesn’t show him right from wrong before it’s too late.”
“So what happened to the cat when he was with his father? Did he start itching? You know, like I did?”
“Did he ever. His father grilled his son as to what was wrong, but the cat claimed he had no idea, just as you didn’t. His father tried to help his son all he could to get rid of the itch, but it was no use. As you are now well aware, pure grooming techniques alone do nothing to relieve the suffering.
“The cat went crazy, scuffing his fur off with the excessive scratching and gnawing. His father became nervous that his own servant would return to see his son ruining a priceless rug, as bits of furry flesh fell upon it. ‘Get outside!’ the father insisted. But the son could hear nothing in his mind anymore because he was mad with pain.
The father pushed his son outside where a small pond lay just beyond the dirt road in front of his servant’s house. He pushed his son to the pond thinking the water might help the itch, and if it didn’t, then his son would drown and be relieved of his misery.
Now I told you how the son’s servant played tricks on him, pushing him under the water. So, naturally, he was terrified of water. When he realized his father’s intention, he scrambled to get away. ‘Get in the water,’ the father insisted, but the son pulled away and shook his head with fear. ‘Get in or you will tear yourself to pieces. There must be someway to stop this.’ He implored his son to just try it. After a minute his son moved closer to the rippling edge trying to overcome his fear. But then he appeared to change his mind as took two steps away from the water’s rim. ‘I can’t do it, Father. I’m too afraid.’
At this, the father ran at his son, forcing him with the side of his body into the pond. The son fell back with a great splash. His fur stuck straight up forming clumps like a mountain range. He thrashed about, causing more splashing. But, alas, the water did not relieve the irritation that plagued his skin. At last the son yelled, ‘Ok, Father, ok. I’ve had enough of this!’ And thus, the words required to bring him to his OP were uttered. The son disappeared before his father’s very eyes.
The father grieved for some time thinking he had drowned his son. Little did he know his son’s words sent his son back to the place that caused him a different kind of pain. For days the son grieved that he was sent back to his servant, but relieved that the horrible crawling beneath his skin was at last gone.”
“Did he ever do it again?” I asked.
“The cat again had to endure with the pains brought on by his servant. After some time has passed, you may find that the mind sometimes forgets how bad an experience was compared to the present moment. So, yes, he did try to see his father again after only a couple weeks.
However, no matter how much he tried to duplicate his initial actions, running under the bed, closing his eyes, and praying to be with his father, it did not work. He tried every day for a month until he became discouraged and gave up. But then one day as he walked into the kitchen to find if his servant left any food behind, there stood his father. His father’s eyes were wide with fear and amazement. The son ran over to greet him.
‘Is this heaven?’ his father asked quietly.
His son laughed, ‘Heaven, Father? Of course, not. How did you get here?’
‘I did as you said.’ His father spoke slowly. ‘I went under my servant’s bed, closed my eyes, and wished that I could see you one last time. And then,’ he paused, shaking his head in disbelief, ‘there you were.’
‘You mean, you didn’t walk here? You appeared here?’ the son asked. His father nodded his head.
The son leaped in the air, for he was not crazy after all. They spoke for some time, happy to be with each other again. But, of course, the reminder would soon begin that his father had to return to his OP.
‘Father, you must get into the water to make it stop.’
‘I don’t believe that’s what saved you,’ his father replied as he scratched at the invisible intruders. ‘You were in the water for some time before you disappeared. I believe it may have been the words you spoke.’
‘But I don’t remember what I said,’ the son replied in desperation.
‘I do,’ said the father. ‘How could a father ever forget his son’s last words? What I truly believed were your last words.’ He walked over to his son, and placed a tender lick on the space between his son’s. ‘I love you dearly, my son.” He then stepped away, paused, and voiced the words with care, ‘Ok, father, ok. I’ve had enough.’ And the son’s father disappeared before his eyes.
“I thought you had to be under a piece of furniture for it to work.”
“The Original Position point must be under a piece of furniture, however, over the centuries it has been determined that to return to the OP, you must only be out of human sight while saying the words ‘OK, I’ve had enough’. Near the beginning of the discovery, when the father and son began to spread the word about their experience, many believed you had to say ‘Ok, Father’ first; but experiments with FPT proved it was the four words together, not six, that were necessary in order to return.”
“It’s amazing,” I thought aloud. “Just amazing.”
“There is much more to tell you, but it’s getting late. We’ll talk more soon, I promise. But I ask that you don’t push me for information. I want you to prove your patience to me, knowing that I’ll tell you soon enough. Understand?”
“Yes, Mother. I promise I’ll try.”
“I know you will.” My mother nestled her head against mine before we started going back upstairs.
As I jumped onto the bed with Joshua, I wondered how long until she would tell me more. For I had to admit to myself, I was not a very patient creature. Luckily, I wouldn’t have to wait long for more information; my mother wasn’t the only one who possessed it.
* Remaining chapters (8-15) can be found in Radioshea's portfolio. www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1500747