Chicago's nickname is the Windy City. It's cold there, the kind of cold that goes right through to your bones. When we were just tiny kittens, my brother and I were saved from a miserable life on the streets. It was a good thing because we may not have survived a Chicago winter as feral cats. We were very cold, equally as hungry and oh, so afraid.
We were living in some bushes, hiding from anything that moved, when I heard someone coming. We got ready to dodge into our wall of shrubbery to hide, but not quickly enough. Two hands reached down and scooped up first me and then my brother. We fought with all of our might, using our little claws, biting and hissing, but to no avail. The hands that held us proved much too strong for us to get away. We were so terrified that all we could do was to shake and let out pitiful mews. We finally gave up and melted against the lady's chest. We could hear her heart beating just like our own mama, and immediately we quietened down.
We were taken to a very elegant home inside a big, tall skyscraper. The lady set us on some soft, plush carpeting. We sank so low that it tickled our little bellies. We looked around and discovered a whole world filled with gigantic things called furniture. These objects were all different shapes and sizes and perfect for sharpening our little claws on. The next thing I noticed was how warm it was there. This was the first time that we were ever inside a building. Being warm and cozy was definitely good.
Then the lady fixed us a bowl of food. This was totally unexpected. It was nice not having to scrounge around for food. We could get used to this. Our caregiver talked to us the whole time we ate, using a soft voice as she fixed a place for us to sleep. She named me Burt and my brother Ernie, after the characters on Sesame Street.
We explored the whole place and found there was nothing to hurt us. After our investigation, we were able to feel comfortable in our new surroundings. A week or so passed and we started to play hide and seek with each other. We were running, jumping and playing so much that it made our lady laugh. Soon we trusted her enough to let her join in on the fun. She threw balls that made tinkling noises and we would chase them, batting them around with our little paws.
I should also tell you of our friend, Al. Al was the building's doorman and he was a close friend of our lady and soon became our pal, too. When he came to visit he brought flowers for our lady and he played ball, hide and seek and occasionally would give us treats and toys.
One day, Al came to visit. When he walked through the door, we immediately sensed something different about him. As we took turns passing through his legs, we noticed a different smell. At one pass through, I turned and went right up to him and sniffed in deeply. I had it! Fifi! He smelled like Fifi, the French Poodle from down in 3B! I brushed up against his leg, back and forth. Then I stood in front of Al, my head cocked to one side, and I took in the aroma. Soon my eyes squinted half closed, my mouth opened slightly, lip curling back into a snarl. I rubbed the side of my head across his leg once again and my senses took over. This was the closest we ever came to Fifi, and it was exciting to us.
One night, our lady came out of her room all dressed up like she was going to church. But she couldn't be because it was at night. Where was she going dressed like that? Soon the doorbell rang and Al was standing there with his usual bouquet of flowers. Oh boy! Company! And it's Al. That meant another evening of playful antics. But wait. What's going on? Al was helping our lady put on her coat. She turned to us and told us to be good. Then they both left us. All alone! Al didn't even play with us! Well, we weren't going to stand for this.
In the middle of the coffee table, I spied the vase of flowers. The ones that Al brought. Ernie and I looked at each other. We both had the same idea. We raced to the table and leaped on it. I stopped just short of the vase full of water and flowers. Ernie wasn't so lucky. Crash went the vase! Water spilled out making a puddle onto the table. Ernie landed carelessly in the water and mewed disgustingly. You all know, we cats hate water! He stood up unsteadily, shook all four of his paws trying desperately to relieve them of the water. He then shook his body, starting with his head and ending with his tail. When he had most of the water deposited back on the table he turned to see me already tearing at the fragile flowers. He jumped right in and helped me and we didn't stop until they were strewn all over the apartment. What fun! Until.
The key turned in the lock and we heard our lady telling Al goodnight. Quick! Head for the hills! Under the bed! She'll never look there! As we scurried underneath the bed, our delicate little ears made out the sound of the door opening slowly and our lady gasping. She had seen the mess that we made. Oh boy, we were in trouble now! Hunching down into the carpet, we held our breath. Moments passed in darkness. Then the room was bathed in light. We could see her feet. If we ran real fast we might get away. Too late! She was already on her hands and knees, reaching for us. There was nothing left for us to do but to take our punishment. Our lady pulled us out from our hiding place, held both of us up to her face, and told us what bad kittens we were. But by the time she had cleaned up our mess, she was holding us in her lap, telling us how much she loved us.
Then it happened. Our lady came home one day and told Ernie and me that we were going to move. Oh no! We didn't like this idea. Not one bit!! Moving meant change and change was not good. We cats never liked change. She told us about the move as she wrapped up all of the bric-a-brac and things that we had become so accustom to and put them in boxes. We were going to a place called Sacramento, California. In this place, the sun shined almost all of the time. We could even go outside and play if we wanted to, although who wanted to!
We finished packing all of our precious things in boxes and off we went to sunny California, leaving the Windy City and all that we knew far behind us. When we got to our new home, we found it wasn't too bad after all. Our lady had set it up quite comfortably. Our food bowls were right where they should be, next to our beds. Even though we were no longer little kittens, we still liked to give a new place the old once-over. The furniture was still available for us to take cat naps on. The bed was set up in the other room and had just enough space for us to scoot under when we were playing hide and seek. We even ventured out into the sunshine where we could warm our bones, play in the green grass and chase each other like kittens once again. No, California wasn't so bad at all.
So the three of us lived very happily until the day that our lady had to give us to her daughter as she had been called away. On that day, our lady told us that we would be going to a beautiful place called Pine Mountain Lake. There was lots of green grass and sunshine to play in, although by now, Ernie and I were reaching the "Golden Years" for cats.
Our lady's daughter came to pick us up and take us to this place we had only heard about. Believe me, it's as pretty as its name. We were no longer surrounded by tall buildings and the noise of the city. It turned out that we weren't the only cats in her daughters life though. She had several others. Well, we were always used to being number one and two in the house. Now we had to take a number when we wanted petting! The humans of the house were great, very loving and kind, but it was those pesky cats that we had to contend with.
Now they were a problem. We needed to show them who were the top cats.
We tried to get along, but it all proved to be too much. So the daughter had to give us to a very nice lady named Kym, who lived in the same area. Kym rescued feral cats so she had a lot of cats running around there, too. She lived in a big house, had a big office and lots of land to roam on.
When we first arrived, there was one enclosure for all the cats. Kym called it the "cat house" as it was a house where all of us cats hung out, literally. There were hammocks made out of towels for us to lounge in. Posters were hung on the walls of cats doing everything imaginable including, of course, the infamous "Hang in there, baby!", which was my personal favorite. All in all, it was quite homey.
Outside the door was a pathway wandering through the loveliest little garden with a pond that even had giant goldfish swimming in it. They were fun to watch. I could stand there for hours and watch them, wondering what it was like to be a fish. The pathway lead to the gate of the enclosure, which was always open by day, and at night, Kym closed us in our little paradise after giving us our treats and tucking each one of us into bed. Life was good!
One night after our treats and long after Kym tucked us in, we heard such a commotion outside that all we could do was hide in our hammocks. Sammy, one of the younger, more courageous cats, peeked out of the window of our house. All he could see were shadows dancing in our beautiful garden. We couldn't believe what we were hearing. Whoever it was, was making loud noises and tearing up our sanctuary. Oh no! Would they actually be so bold as to come in where we were all hiding and tear it to shreds, too? Soon they climbed the tree and were gone as quickly as they came.
The next day, Kym came to let us out and discovered the terrible disorder that our visitors had left. Plants had pulled from around the pond, turning the clear pool to a muddy swamp. To top it off, all of the fish were gone. Kym quickly put our garden right, re-planting all the plants, filling the pond with fresh water and stocking it with new fish. Kym told us that our guests had been animals that humans called raccoons. Messy little creatures, weren't they!
We overheard Kym talking to Paul, one of our many manservants, about building a new enclosure. It originally was to be for just Ernie and me since we were the senior cats. Before we knew it, Kym had built not one, but two enclosures. One was for the new cats who were quarantined when they first arrived, and the other was for Ernie and myself. We had finally received the recognition that we deserved. We were top cats again. One might say, we retired to the country and were spending the rest of our days doing what cats do naturally, lying lazily in the sun, going hunting occasionally and, of course, demanding and receiving all of the attention for which we were worthy.
Denise Brixey - USA