Excerpt from "Angel's Journey," a work in progress. The author IS A CAT --The story is written in first person BY A CAT named Black Cat. Black Cat and his wife, Angel, who is expecting kittens, are lost. They are rescued by a little girl and her father and taken to an EMU ranch in Northern California. "Daddy" is in financial trouble and someone is making mischief, trying to scare him into selling his land for less than it's worth. On this morning they find that someone has opened the gate and four EMU hens have escaped... Daddy gets a phone call....
“Hello? Oh, hello...Really? That’s great… Yes. They are big and pretty funny looking… First house on the right off Burns Road. Got it. I’ll be right over… thanks for calling.”
Daddy hung up the phone. “A lady off Burns Road read about the missing Emus down at the corner store,” he said. “She’s spotted one of the hens over at her property. I’m going to run over there and see if I can drive it back. You stay here, Cynthia, and watch for the hen. Get ready to open the gate. If I can get her back in the yard, I think she’ll go back into the enclosure.”
He left and Cynthia and I sat near the window to watch for the hen. We saw the man coming up the driveway almost the instant Daddy was out of sight. It was as if he had been waiting in the bushes and watching the house until Daddy left.
He staggered toward the house, like he was drunk. He had several days’ growth of whiskers and his hands were gnarled and dirty. He was wearing a rumpled hat and a ragged looking coat two sizes too big. His shoes were scuffed and tied with two different colors of shoestrings. As the dirty man approached the house, the hair on the back of my neck stood up. He came onto the porch and pounded on the door.
I’ve always thought cats were superior to dogs, but at that moment, I wished I were a dog, so I could bark and scare away the dirty man. I ran to the door and growled, my hair standing on end. Hopefully, Cynthia would read my body language and understand I didn’t want her to come any closer, but no, she was coming toward the door and reaching for the knob.
My heart raced, imagining the worst. At best, the old guy was just hungry, looking for something to eat, or maybe asking for a bit of work and some money. At worst, when he found the child home alone, he might push his way in and try to rob the place or hurt Cynthia.
I spit at her and clawed at her hand, and she jerked back for a minute, then reached past me and put her hand on the knob. My heart sank. The child had apparently never heard the message, ‘Don’t open the door to strangers,’ or she was ignoring the warning and her kind heart was likely to put her in harm’s way.
Imagine my surprise when she flipped the lock on the door and then ran and locked herself in the bathroom. I hoped she had thought about the back door as well, since if the man was bent on breaking in, I suspected he would go around back if he found the front door locked.
I jumped when the doorknob rattled. He was trying the door. I looked at Angel. She was clawing at the blankets, pulling them into a pile and turning in circles, first one way and then the other, lying down, then standing up, all nervous like.
Not now! Oh, good heavens. The kittens were coming! I ran back and forth, torn between my concern for Angel and the man rattling the doorknob. The ragged man walked around the house, jiggling doors and checking the windows. Everything was locked up tight. After a while, he gave up and went away. I was just beginning to catch my breath and calm down when I heard the tiny sounds of kittens mewing. I rushed to Angel’s side.
“Two? Is that all of them?” I asked.
“Give me a break,” she said. “I’m new at this.” She returned to licking each kitten until it was dry and they were settled in having lunch.
“Boys?” I asked.
“No, two girls.”
“You sound disappointed. I thought you liked girls.”
“I do like girls. But a fellow wants sons. I had hoped for a son.”
“Well, isn’t that just too bad! Ohhhhh!!! Ohhh…umm.” Her eyes got big and then she twisted, sending the little girls flying as she delivered a big black and white kitten with four of the biggest white feet I’ve ever seen. “There,” she said, panting a little. “Hope you’re happy now. There’s your son!”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. You love me. Now go away and let us get some sleep.”
“Yes, my queen.” And I tiptoed over to the locked bathroom and meowed, hoping to let Cynthia know that the man was gone and she should come out now and see my new family.
Cynthia and I hovered over the new Madonna and children, being careful not to touch them while they snuffled around eating and sleeping. Angel was so proud, she was purring like a lawnmower. If I’d had any buttons on my vest, they would have popped right off.
The birth of the babies took the sting out of the encounter with the man at the door and by the time Daddy got home, the matter had slipped to the back of my mind. I think Cynthia might not have mentioned it all, but the minute Daddy came through the door, his face looked like a thundercloud.
“Where did this come from?” he shouted, holding up a doll. The doll had no head.
Cynthia’s face went a little pale. She shrugged, “I’ve never seen it before. It’s not mine,” she said. “Maybe the dirty old man left it?”
“What man? Who was here?” Daddy threw his sweater on the chair and slammed the door, reached back and flipped the lock. “Did someone come by while I was gone?”
“This old man came and knocked. He was real dirty and he walked funny. I remembered what you said. I didn’t open the door. I locked it and went into the bathroom like you told me. But Daddy, didn’t you see? Angel’s kittens are here. Three of them... Come and see.” She pulled Daddy over toward the blanket and his expression softened a bit when he saw Angel and the kittens.
“Yes, I see. But, Cynthia, listen to me. This doll!” He shook the headless thing. “This doll…” and then he stopped talking, as if he had thought better of explaining the implications of a headless doll left on the porch by a dirty old man that came to the door with a little ten- year-old girl alone in the house.
Even I, without much of a memory to call upon or experience in an evil world, had had enough sense to know that the situation might have been more serious, and ended differently, if she had let him in. Even I had had the sense to hiss at Cynthia and tried to prevent her from opening the door, though she had failed to mention that part to Daddy. I suppose she thought he might have been angry with me for trying to scratch her when she reached for the doorknob.
“You should let her rest now. Come on away.” Daddy said.
“Okay. Oh, I forgot to ask. Did you find the hen and get her home?” Cynthia ran to the window, as if looking at the enclosure would assure her of the hen’s safe arrival.
Daddy ran his hand over his head. “No. As a matter of fact, when I got to the house, the woman said she never called. She didn’t know what I was talking about. It must have been someone playing a trick…”
Daddy’s face went all pale. He turned away from Cynthia, walked over and poked at the fire, so she couldn’t see his face.
The hair on my back stood on end. It occurred to me that the call from the lady might not have been a prank. It was a trick to get Daddy away from the house and leave Cynthia here alone. And the headless doll on the porch was a warning.
How far would the neighbor go to pressure Daddy to sell his land? Would he actually hurt a helpless little girl? And how far would Daddy go to protect Cynthia from what looked like more than someone just after his land?