A rain drop plopped down....
Rae Elliott Williams
A rain drop plopped down right in the middle of my forehead, I could feel it winding it’s way through the hair on the my face slowly making it’s way towards my little upturned nose. This wasn’t my first rain, I knew that those drops would increase in frequency and force and would no longer trickle towards my nose but run like a river and I would need to tuck my face under my furry siblings if I was going to keep myself from drowning in it. We were all shivering, none of us had eaten for nearly 2 full days. Our mother had left us under these bushes in a small impression in the dirt but had not returned. She had moved us here only a couple of days before she disappeared. It was quieter then our last home but not nearly as warm or protected from these frequent rain storms we were getting.
I don’t think I was actually the largest of my siblings but I looked it because I had longer fur then the rest of them and if I puffed myself up they all assumed I was the largest and therefore the leader. I like being the leader. But when it rained my fur would not puff up and I looked as small and helpless as they did. Helpless was not something I was willing to settle for.
One of my siblings, he was more nervous then the rest of us, he fretted about nearly everything. And this new rain storm was no exception. I could hear him start whining even though he was at the bottom of the pile of us and I was at the top. It started as whimpers then increased to all out screeching. He was certainly earning his name of Nervous Nelly. I could hear one of my sisters, Pretty, trying to calm him. Personally I had lost patience with him and was just trying to ignore him.
We were going to have to venture out of this hole soon and I was debating if now was the time. The constant footsteps of humans that normally stomped past our hiding place had quieted as it often did when it rained. The only other time it quieted was at night. I knew that would be the best time to sneak out and take stock of our options but I was still a bit afraid of the dark. I was only 6 weeks old.
I squirmed off of the top of the pile of siblings, wiggling my ginger colored tail out last. “Where are you going Ginger?” One of my brothers hissed, he looked a lot like me but his coat was not quite as long. He didn’t whine but he was a gloomy guy, always predicting the direst of circumstances. We called him Sunny, he didn’t realize it was sarcasm.
“We need to find mother, or food, we’ll freeze to death if we don’t, now is the best time to venture out. It’s still light out and there aren’t many humans on the street. I’ll be back.”
“Well I’m coming with you.” Sunny grumbled.
“Me too.” Purred Strips, one of my grey sisters.
“I’m in.” The other grey sister who we called Stripes said.
“No it’s raining out there, and mother said to stay hidden.” My whiny brother whined.
“It’s raining in here too.” Pretty pointed out.
“And mother is probably gone for good.” Sunny cheerily added.
Well I guess we were all going. By the time I peeked out from under the bushes she had hid us in, all 5 of my tiger stripped siblings were peering out from similar hiding spots. We could see that across the slick and wet road was a building, behind it was a large metal box and coming from that box was the smell of food. Not good food but edible food. As a car zoomed pass we all ducked down instinctively.
“We can’t go out there, we’ll get squished for sure!” Nelly fretted.
“Squished or frozen? What does it matter?” Sunny offered.
“Geez boys you’re such downers.” This from my most colorful sister, Pretty.
Sunny and I are orange, ginger colored our mom said, she called us twins and said we looked just like our father. She thought me particularly special since most orange tigers are boys. Nelly and two of my sisters are grey tigers. But Pretty, she is a fun mix of orange, black, white and grey. I was a bit envious about all her colors, but I consoled myself with the fact that I had nice long fur and hers was short and close to her body making her look smaller then I.
I looked up and down the street, I didn’t see any lights. There were plenty of puddles in the road but I felt sure I could zip around them and avoid getting more drenched then I was.
“I’m going for it guys.” I said. I didn’t wait for them to try to talk me out of it, I just ran, out of the bushes, off the curb, into the wet street right towards the metal box. When I got there I ducked down under it and turned to see 4 of them right behind me. Nelly of course was still fretting and hiding in the bushes. We could see his eyes peering out.
I left my siblings to keep watch over him while I tried to find a way into this food box. That is when I made my first mistake. I never even looked, I just crawled out from under it to look up and plan my route and there stood a human. Looking right back down at me. She dropped her bag and fell to her knees. I could see my siblings quietly backing up, hiding themselves further under the box.
My second mistake was that I didn’t bolt right back under the box and out of reach. I was afraid if I did, this human would look under it and discover my brother and sisters. I might be bossy but I’m not mean and wished my siblings no harm. The human gently lifted me up and that is when I made my third mistake. I saw Nelly finally making a break for it, heading right towards us and I looked right at him. She, the human turned too and watched as he ran right across the road. He hit a pot hole and momentarily disappeared into the puddle before springing out again and making a final dash under the metal box. Now she knew there were more of us, I had inadvertently betrayed my siblings.
As I said I’m a bully for sure but I would never have put them at peril on purpose.
The human carried me inside the building next to that metal box. The warmth was immediate and the smells were amazing. Maybe this had not been such a big mistake after all. I was soaking wet, shivering and so very hungry, and now I was warm, dry and I could smell bacon.
“Johnny, get me a box, we have a litter of kittens under the dumpster.” Next thing I knew I was being rubbed vigorously by this human girl that smelled like bacon! I tried to wiggle out of her hands, I swatted at her and did my best hiss. I wanted to lick her but I couldn’t get close enough. Once she figured I was reasonably dry she plopped me into a cardboard box with a dry towel. A small bowl of milk was placed in the corner as were some food scraps, not bacon unfortunately. I scurried towards the smell of food but I was not quite to the bowl when it went dark. I looked up and could see only a crack of light shining through the top of the now closed box. Oh ohh!
I was worried about my litter mates, but I was also very hungry. I licked some milk and felt my whole panicked little body begin to relax. I had not realized how very famished I was. I tried to think back, we had been 2 full nights without our mother. So it had been 2 days since we had anything in our bellies. I was nibbling my first piece of chicken when Pretty dropped into the box next to me.
We fought over the biggest chicken scrap, which I won of course. In between bites she told me that they had caught her when she had tried to rush them and hiss at them. “I should have stayed as far back as I could but they were poking at us with a long stick and it made me mad.” She confided. She was a feisty one, no match for me but definitely my second in command.
It wasn’t long before the light came again and Stripes was dropped in. “Strips will be along soon, she won’t want to get stuck with the boys for too long.” Sure enough Strips and Stripes were reunited by the milk bowl within minutes. By the time Sunny joined us, I was busy cleaning my luscious fur to its finest glean. Nelly was the last to appear.
The box top was opened and we all hunkered down together and looked up. Nelly looked nearly drowned. His coat was soaking wet. The human was rubbing him with a towel and he was meowing as loud as he could. At first we thought she was hurting him but we watched enviously while she fed him a nice crispy bit of bacon. When she finally placed him in the box with us he seemed in perfect, in fact, very dry and well fed shape.
One at a time we were each lifted out again and dried off more, inspected head to foot, ohh’ed and ahh’ed over, then returned back to the box. We huddled together, trying to keep Nelly quiet. I thought about trying to escape but after an attempt or two it was obvious that the sides of the box were too tall for my short stature and it was dry and there was this magical bowl of food that seemed to never empty.
The milk bowl was continuously refilled all day long and treats were added to the other plate. We dined on chicken, fish and finally bacon over the course of the day, the box was placed under a warm lamp and the top was left open.
I wasn’t sure if this adventure had been a mistake or not, we were fed, we were warm, we were dry. But we would probably never be reunited with our mother. I wondered if she would worry when she got back and found us all gone.
Or had she decided that we were old enough to be on our own anyway and that was why she had not returned, or if something more dire had happened to her that prevented her from coming back to us.
Sunny was sure this was the case but I had to wonder, 5 mouths to feed was a lot of responsibility for a young mother.