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I liked the sound of her soft talk. It was much nicer, much more pleasant than the whining I had heard earlier.
And finally, she let me go.
Now was my chance. Freedom at last. I took off. Only, the floor under my feet was slick as could be. I ran and my feet just spun. I ran harder. My feet just spun more. Finally, they took hold of the slickery floor. I went flying and ran as hard as I could.
There was an opening in front of me. But the floor was so slick, when I tried to turn, I couldn't. I went crashing into the wall. I hit it so hard I almost knocked myself out. Still, I kept running.
Now I was in a different part of the barn, where the floor was soft and felt good under my feet. I could really hold on and move here.
I ran and ran and ran, trying to find a way out of this barn so I could get back to my own barn. Only, there was no way out. This barn was closed tight. Finally, I found a place to hide. It was under a big long thing with soft pillowy things on it. Its bottom was close to the ground, and it was dark under there. I sat, trembling and panting and shaking.
I was breathing so hard I could barely hear. But above my panting I heard another people voice in the other room.
"Leave her be, Sarah," the voice said. It was a soft voice, a voice that sounded gentle, almost nice. "She's scared. Just let her explore her new home for a while. Let her relax some."
"I want to play with her, Mother," I heard Sarah whine again.
"There's plenty of time for that," the mother voice answered. "Just leave her be for a little while."
Nobody came after me. I was alone under the long dark thing with the pillowy things. After a while I started feeling a little safer. I licked my paws and cleaned my face and looked around.
This barn wasn't like the barn where my house was. It was brighter, and there were more colors and things to look at.
First off, there was no hay on the floor. It was covered with this soft, fluffy cloth. It felt good to dig my claws in it and sharpen them. There were things all around -- little things on the walls, big things like the thing I was hiding under, and things with short legs. There were things with long legs and flat wood tops on them, too.
Suddenly, two big blue eyes were staring at me.
"Mother," Sarah called. "She's under the couch."
I felt myself jump. I scooted back, farther into the safety of my dark place called The Couch.
"Leave her alone," the Mother people called.
Sarah went and sat on one of the other things that looked like The Couch, only it was smaller.
"May I sit in the chair and wait for her to come out, Mother?"
"No, Sarah. I'm making some stew for supper. Why don't you come in the kitchen and help me?"
I felt my tail, which was big and all fuzzed up, start to relax. The fur went down. I was safe again. At least for a while.
But what about Toby? I wondered. Would I ever see him again? Was he lost, forever? My poor, poor Toby.
I meowed his name over and over and over.
It seemed like forever, but finally, Toby heard my cries.
"I'm here," he meowed.
"Where?" My ears perked up. I crawled to the edge of my hiding place under The Couch, so I could see better.
"Right here," he meowed.
Toby came walking across the floor. He really wasn't walking. It was more like a strut. He ambled around, swishing his tail from side to side. He had a real "big shot" look on his face.
"Under here, quick," I meowed. "It's safe under The Couch."
Toby didn't seem interested in hiding though. He strutted across the room. He climbed right up in The Chair, where Sarah had sat, and started licking his paws.
"Toby. Down here. Quick," I called.
He just raised his eyebrows and moved his head to the side, like he was about to go to sleep.
"What are you hiding under there for?" he said, real cocky-like. "It's much softer up here in this The Chair than it is under there, The Couch. Come on up.
I felt my eyes get wide.
"Oh no, I can't. They'll get me. They'll...they'll..."
"Oh. quit being such a baby, Kikki. They're not going to get you. People things are nice."
I shook my head.
"Oh, Toby. Are you nuts? Mama told us you couldn't trust people things. She said they could be mean sometimes. Remember her telling about her friend who got caught by people things, and they tied a tin can to his tail? And about a tom cat she used to know -- people tried to shoot him just because he was singing to Mama."
Toby licked his paws and shrugged.
"Well, maybe some people things are mean. But the Burkes aren't. They're nice!"
"Nice?" I stuck my head farther out from under The Couch.
"Real nice. My boy people's name is Ben. He pets me and rubs my back. He even scratched me behind my ears." His eyes kind of got that dreamy look in them. "It felt good."
Toby smiled and licked his other paw.
"Really. The girl people is called Sarah. She petted me too. She pet softer than Ben, but it felt okay. The big man people is named Daddy, and the other girl people...well, they call her Mother, I think. They're all nice. They even fed me."
My eyes got big. I was far enough out from under The Couch that I could raise my front end up."Food?"Suddenly, I realized how far from my safe hiding place I had crawled. I jerked and looked around quickly in all directions. There was nobody there, no people things trying to sneak up on me.
"Food?" I asked again.
Toby smoothed his whiskers down with his paws.
"That's right. Milk, even."
I was clear out from under The Couch. I walked over to The Chair. I put my paws up on it, where Toby was sitting. I looked him straight in the eye.
"Real milk? Like Mama's?"
Toby quit smoothing down his long whiskers.
"Well, not quite like Mama's. It tasted different. And it was cold instead of warm. But it was sure gooood!"
He rolled over on his back and stuck his paws straight up in the air. I could see how round his tummy looked.
"Real honest-to-goodness milk?"
"That's right," Toby yawned.
I climbed up on The Chair so I could look him in the eye again.
"I'm starving," I meowed. "How can I get some?"
Toby rolled over on his side and curled his paws under his chest.
"Simple. All you've got to do is go in there. They call it The Kitchen. It's in a saucer, on the floor."
"That's all? Just walk in there and get it? And that's all there is to it?"
Toby yawned again.
"Well...no. You might have to get petted or get your ears scratched. But that isn't bad, either. Fact is, it felt pretty good."
"Oh no. I couldn't do that. I couldn't let those people things get hold of me. I...I..."
There was a noise from the other room -- a loud clanging sound.
Instantly, my tail shot straight up. I jumped in the air and spun around. I made a mad dash for my safe place under The Couch.
From there, I could see into The Kitchen. The girl people called Mother was picking a pan up off the floor. She wiped it with a cloth and put it back from where it had fallen. She picked another thing up out of some water and wiped it with a towel, too. As she wiped, she hummed to herself. It was a soft, pretty sound, a sound that flowed through the barn. It was deeper but not as clear as the sound the birds made in our barn.
I relaxed again and felt my tail unfuzz. Maybe Toby was right. Maybe these Burke people weren't the bad people things Mama had warned us about.
Still, I had to be careful. I had to stay here where it was safe. But...but...Milk?
That sure sounded good.
Copyright © 1989 by Bill Wallace