WEST FORK KICKAPOO - I’m trapped! For a short time, two small windows with glass blocks brought in light and gave me hope of being discovered. But soon darkness fell, all noises above me stopped, and I knew I’d be alone until morning.
I’m a scaredy-cat. I don’t like being by myself after dark. I also don’t like most people. I prefer hanging out with my “from another mother” brothers—although not too closely, and not too often. I need to be in control of the touching situation. And Mom’s a grabber.
I’ll be lying on the couch dozing, and before I know it she smothers me with gibberish and hugs.
“Okay, easy there, Ma,” I’ll mutter as I squirm away. “I’ll come to you when I’m ready.”
Earlier tonight, the wind was howling and Mom was bundled up, carrying water out to the donkeys, while I was trying to tip-toe through the snow.
Ruben, the youngest mutt, caught sight of me. He’s okay, he doesn’t hurt me, but he constantly wants to play. I don't like playing and I don’t like being chased. S,o I ran into the basement and hid until the coast was clear. But I waited too long.
Before everything went black I could hear Mom calling: “Lorca, Salvador, Ivan, Monkey,” and lastly, “Maurice.” That’s me! I wanted to come and get inside the house with my brothers, but last year Mom duct-taped the basement dog/cat door closed because raccoons kept inviting themselves in, helping themselves to our food, and then leaving a smelly calling card for Mom to discover in the morning. She was furious!
So no more going in and out of the basement at will. If we go in, we have to keep an eye on Mom, notice when she starts to head for the door, and make a mad dash when she reaches to turn out the light.
The basement’s not a bad place, if you like being alone. Mom put a ginormous cat tower down here for us to play and sleep on. There’s also a table just for us, with our never-empty food bowl on top, surrounded by bricks to keep Ruben and Teté from snatching our kibble.
There are six stations—that’s what Mom calls them: cat beds, old blankets, and towels set up in strategic locations, some high, some low, allowing us a choice of where we want to curl up. But tonight, I just want to curl up next to Mom.
They’ve nicknamed me Bashful, and I am, but when the sun goes down and it gets dark, I’m scared—and that’s when I jump up next to Mom and burrow into her side. She’ll roll over when she hears me purring, pet me under my chin, and rub my fur the way I like. Eventually her hand stops, her arm curls over me, she lifts up her blanket and pulls me next to her warm body, and we both fall sound asleep.
But not tonight. I wonder if Mom even misses me?
Oh, no, there’s a giant rat, with red eyes blazing. He’s trying to get up on the cat tower. “Help! Help!” I cry. As the demon rat gets closer, I hear his sharp claws ripping the carpet with every step he takes. Quickly, I jump off the tower, knocking over the stacked-up totes that store Mom’s summer clothes.
When I wake up, Mom is standing there with her headlamp shining red. I’m in her arms, and she’s smothering me, talking gibberish: “Where were you, Maurice? Mamma missed you and couldn’t sleep, you silly kitty. Why did you trying running away from me? Come on upstairs and we can cuddle.”
I want to squirm away. I want her to stop squishing me and talking like I’m a baby. But I don’t. I let Mom carry me while she steps out into snowdrifts over her Sorrel boots, red lamp lighting the path, all the way to the front door.
As the door opens, Lorca, Monkey, Salvador, and Ivan are all there to greet me.
Saved at last, and not a minute too soon! Good night, my sweet brothers. Good-night Teté, Finn, Ruben.
“Sweet dreams, Maurice,” Mom whispers in my ear, as I lie next to her and purr and purr until we both fall asleep.
Maybe Mom is a scaredy-cat too, and can’t sleep without me?