by Talky Tina
A work in progress
|"Tucker, you are not going out looking like that," The firm voice was laced with exasperation. Out of all her fourteen kits, he was the most precocious and oft times careless. With a brisk paw, she pulled him to her and licked the tuft of fur that was sticking straight up. Tucker wiggled and wrestled until he broke free from his Mother's hold on him.
"Mom, I'm gonna be late," He said with as much dignity as a kit in his position could muster. Before his beloved mother could scold him, he dashed out the door and into the rain-slick ally. His nose was assaulted by a mix of exhaust fumes, pungent curry wafting from the Middle Eastern cafe, and the smorgasbord of body odors emanating from the humans that walked all over too and fro, not paying any heed to where they stepped.
Tucker did not gain much satisfaction when the humans would look down upon him and gasp before awkwardly changing their course. He tried to ignore it when people saw him coming and they backed away. Deep down, it hurt. All Tucker really wanted was to feel the touch of a human hand on his head. His best friend Tabby said it was one of the best feelings in the world. Tabby was lucky. He had a whole family of humans that let him live with them. They gave him all kinds of delicious foods, bowls of fresh water. He said the smallest of the humans would let him curl up with her on her pillow at night. Tucker couldn't even imagine laying on a soft, cool pillow with a human of his very own.
Mother had told him and his siblings the story, how it all began. But it was so far fetched to actually believe, and he was irritated his Mother thought he was dumb enough to believe the fairytale she tried to spin. After all, he would be nine months old tomorrow. He wasn't a baby! However, each time a human shied away from him, each time a lady human tugged her smaller human away from him, he did have to admit, perhaps there was some small element of truth in what Mother had said.
Turning down a familiar sidewalk, Tucker knew the time was coming when he would have to leave his mother and the rest of his siblings and head out on his own. A male kit could not stay in the nest forever. He was aware of the struggles his Mother had trying to feed all the hungry mouths. Her rail-thin body was no longer young and lythe. Living as a stray in the middle of a bustling city was not an easy life. Having a litter of mouths to feed each year took its toll on her health. She was getting slower, it was getting harder to hunt and provide for her babies. All the many, many kits she bore into this world and not one, no, not one thought to return to the nest and offer her some help. Many, once they left the nest, were never heard from again. It is as if they just vanished off the face of the earth.
Tucker wondered where they could have gone? He made a vow to himself, he was not going to be like all the others. He was going to go out and make his own way, and then he was going to return and take care of the Queen who gave him life. He would hunt and find a much better dwelling. One that didn't have cold drafts in winter, one that didn't leak and get puddles when the rains came. One where Mother could sprawl in the sun and doze softly on a thicket of clovers. His meandering thoughts were brought to a shattering halt as he ran smack into something hard. He let out a startled hiss and instantly arched his back and unsheathed his claws, ready to defend himself against the unknown attacker.
"Whoa there killer," a deep masculine voice said as Tucker steadied himself and tried to quickly regain his thoughts. He stared into large jade green orbs that peered at him unblinkingly. "You're headed in the wrong direction young lad."
"But," Tucker was trying to covertly study and take in every detail of the massive, jet black beat standing before him.
"Well, we best step to it if we are gonna make it by dark," The beast said as he began heading the direction from which Tucker had just come. Tucker was taken in by the older cat's magnetism and grace. His muscular form lithe and strong, even for an older cat. Tucker noted the scars that cobwebbed the beast's massive head, and the chunk torn from the left ear. His tail, tho long and graceful was bare in spots and Tucker could see scaley patches.
"Where are we going?" Tucker finally got up enough gumption to ask.
"How old are you lad?" The beast asked without pausing or looking at him.
"I'll be nine months very soon," Tucker responded proudly. The beast grunted.
"I'm guessing this will be your first meeting then." Tucker wasn't sure if that was a question he was supposed to answer. It sounded like the beast was more or less talking to himself. They walked in silence for what seemed like forever. Tucker was having second thoughts about following this beastly feline. Buildings were becoming fewer and he knew they must be getting close to the outskirts of town. Mom would be furious if she knew how far from home Tucker had wandered. As he glanced back, he realized he had no idea now how to even get back home. His only choice now was to continue going onward.
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The harvest moon shone brightly high in the sky as Tucker trudged behind the older cat. His paws hurt and he was hungry. He thought about his Mom and siblings and how they were all probably tucked in the nest and Mama was purring them to sleep. The cool autumn breeze ruffled his charcoal black fur and he suppressed a shiver.
The rough pavement had long since given way to dirt, and now, soft green grass cushioned his path. No longer were they surrounded by tall buildings, but now even taller tickets of trees lined the path. He followed the older cat into a thicket which opened into a secluded small clearing. In the darkness, Tucker became aware of dozens of eyes following him. Orbs of green, orange, yellow and gold blinked at him.
The large cat he had followed prompted him to lay down and get comfortable, for they were waiting for what he called the Supreme Being to arrive. As he obeyed the larger cat, another feline, of a slate black approached with a bird in her mouth which she dropped before the larger cat. As she was leaving, another cat, closer to Tucker's age approached him and dropped a small mouse before him and encouraged him to eat up. By this time, Tucker was famished and didn't have to be told twice before he gobbled down the delicious gift. He was in the middle of licking his paws and face when a hush came over the crowd and he became aware of a presence.
His attention was drawn to a terrifyingly large cat that Tucker realized had to be a panther, not a domestic. Domestics just didn't get that huge! The panther walked slowly and with purpose. Large, muscular strides. His eyes were the brightest of golds and reflected the tones of the harvest moon.
When he stopped in the center of the clearing and sat on his haunches, the entire assembly of felines erupted in urforic purring, so loud Tucker was sure it could be heard clear into the city from which he had just come. As suddenly as it started, it stopped and silence fell upon the hushed clearing.