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Old 02-26-2016, 12:45 AM   #11
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and sick. Once you get the scent of a mouse, it all wakes up and it will come naturally,” Pook assured her. They kept going toward the back of the storeroom, and sure enough, one scurried across the floor.

“Aha!” said Pook. “Smell that?”

“Wooo, yeah, let’s go get em,” said Saav, her whiskers and tail twitching.

Pook was the first to corner it and charge, and in two violent shakes, the mouse was limp and still between her teeth.

“Dang,” marveled Saav. “What kind of neighborhood did you come from, anyway?”

Pook dropped the mouse. “Same as yours, silly. See how that works?”

“Um, I think so,” said Saav, frowning.

“Okay, good. You get the next one. Where are we supposed to put these?”

“Hmmm. I don’t know. Why don’t you ask Carrie? She might want them in the trash or something,” Saav suggested.

“I’ll do that. You go find the next victim.”

Amazed at the instincts waking up in her, Saav realized the sentient and the feline sides of her were much more different from each other than she expected. However, spoiled by treats and very good food, she had just never developed a taste for mice or rats. Perhaps that would have been different, had she been healthy and remained with the clowder, she wondered.

She looked around, sniffing, as Pook left for the front. Soon she caught the strong smell of mouse…or what she thought might be a mouse. She tracked it and soon, she found herself face-to-face with a snarling, angry wharf rat almost as big as she.

Gathering up her courage, Saav charged. The big rat fought back, but Saav held her ground. Clawing and biting, she and the rat rolled around the floor under and over each other when suddenly something heavy came down on them and the rat went limp. Saav looked up and saw Pook’s teeth had gone through its neck.

“You okay?” asked Pook after tossing the rat aside.

“Gaaahhhh,” said Saav, licking at a bite on her left front paw. “That little monster put up a fight.”

Pook laughed. “You would find a huge one your first time out. Good job, though.”

“Couldn’t have done it without you, Pooks. Good thing I don’t have to feed myself by hunting, I’d starve.” Saav spat out a chunk of rat fur and
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Old 02-26-2016, 12:52 AM   #12
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skin, shuddering. “Wooooo! Those things taste gross. Now where are we supposed to put these things?”

“Actually, they taste good. That is, if you aren’t used to eating really good stuff like we do. Then you’d have to develop a taste for them. Carrie’s coming back with an extra mop bucket she’s putting outside the door. We’re supposed to drop them in there. She seemed surprised we weren’t interested in eating them,” replied Pook.

“Eat them? Eww! We don’t know where they’ve been!” exclaimed Saav disgustedly, spitting out more skin and fur. “But that’s what I wondered, if you had to develop the taste. I’d rather stick with our cat food and our people food Mom gives us. Was she disappointed?”

“No. I asked her if raw rodent meat was one of her favorites, and she didn’t seem to think so. Here she comes with the bucket. We’ll put these two in there, go get another one, and see if we can go scratch up some seafood,” said Pook.

Carrie put the rusty metal bucket outside the back door, and propped the door open. “There you go, kitties,” she smiled, then saw the big rat. “Yuck! That was a big one!”

“Yeah, he was,” Pook agreed, digging a clump of rat fur out of her teeth with a claw. “That was Saav’s first one. She did good, didn’t she?”

“We got two so far,” said Saav, grimacing.

Carrie bent down and petted them. “You did beautifully. I’ll go let the Lowerys know you’ll be in soon. Not bad at all for your first ten minutes.”

She stroked Saav’s back, and felt something wet on her hand. Inspecting her hand, she saw her palm was smeared with blood.

“Saavy!” she exclaimed, snatching the kitten up and racing to the showroom.

Pook, alarmed, scooted along quickly behind her.

“Ack!” Saav squirmed in Carrie’s hands. “What did I do?”

“You’re bleeding, Saav,” Carrie said, plopping her on the counter.

“Well, you would be too, if you picked a fight with a wharf rat as big as you,” grumbled Saav. “Put me down. I’ll live.”

“Hush. Just let me stop the bleeding and clean it out,” Carrie said firmly as Pook inspected the two-inch-long gash on Saav’s back. Saav twisted around, trying to see it.

“Oh, it’s not that bad,” Saav told them. “I’ve had worse. I’ll be fine, really.”

“Hush,” Carrie repeated, pulling a first-aid kit from under the counter and opening it up. “That rat might have diseases and germs that could get
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Old 02-26-2016, 12:57 AM   #13
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into this cut. You think that pneumonia you had was bad? Try rabies or blood poisoning. Now hold still.”

She held some wadded-up gauze against the cut, while Saav sat still, fuming.

“I’m not going to get sick,” Saav argued. “Cats catch rats all the time and don’t get sick.”

“Well, I understand that, but I’m going to make sure you don’t have any problems. Now quit squirming, wigglebutt. This might sting a little,” she said, dabbing at the gash with an alcohol pad.

“YOWWWW!!” Saav howled, and hissed.

“Don’t you hiss at me. Hold still, Saav!”

Saav growled, but held still. “What IS that? Battery acid?”

“Noooo, silly. Just a little alcohol,” Carrie said with a smile.

“Phew! That’s worse than that flea stuff,” Saav grumbled.

“Yeah it is,” snickered Pook. “Yuck, Saav, you reek.”

Saav frowned and growled at her sister. Pook crossed her eyes and wrinkled her nose.

“Okay, just a little antibiotic cream, down the cut, there we go….and you’re done,” said Carrie, looking at the scruffy kitten closely and feeling her skin. “Looks like that was the only bad one.”

“It wasn’t that bad, really,” Saav insisted.

Pook shrugged. “I dunno, Saav, it looked a little deep to me.”

“Did it? I couldn’t really get a good look at it.”

“Yeah,” Pook assured her sister. “It did.”

“Pook, you help Saav keep an eye on that and make sure it doesn’t get infected. If it does, let your Mom know. These alley rats really are full of germs and nasties,” said Carrie.

“I will. We always look after each other,” replied Pook, winking at Saav, who finally smiled.

“Thank you, Carrie,” said Saav.

“You’re welcome. C’mon, let’s get you back to the storeroom,” Carrie said, picking Saav up again. Pook followed them to the back, where Carrie put Saav down on the floor. “I’ll run next door and let them know you’ll be in soon.”

Pook and Saav smiled at her, just as another mouse ran across the floor. The cats took off and dispatched the unlucky mouse quickly, then put all three of them in the bucket.

"Bleah, these things taste awful. I think we’re spoiled,” said Pook.

“No kidding,” Saav agreed, flattening her ears.
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Old 02-26-2016, 01:29 AM   #14
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Pook washed a bit of mouse blood off a white paw. “Let’s go find some real food. Enough of this fresh-meat-on-the-run thing for now.”

“Good idea, Pooks.” Saav gave her whiskers a quick clean-up.

“Mmmm….I smell shrimp,” Pook said, nosing toward the restaurant.

Saav laughed. “Maybe we should give fishing a try sometime.”

“As long as I can do it from a boat and not get wet,” replied Pook, turning toward the restaurant door.

The girls trotted across the storeroom to the kitchen and walked through, sniffing the tempting aromas of broiled salmon and steamed shrimp.

Ralph Lowery looked down and saw them. “Ahh, and who do we have here?” he boomed. Ralph was a very energetic man with a kind heart in his late forties, who loved people and life. He and Carrie went back over fifteen years as friends, fourteen of those years as building co-owners and businesspeople.

The cats sat at his feet and he gave them a pat on their heads. “I’ll have something downright delightful for you in just a second,” he told them, reaching for two plates. He loaded them up, and put them on the floor in a corner. The cats ran eagerly to the plates, finding a fabulous selection of broiled salmon, fried red snapper, steamed shrimp, crab cakes, and hush puppies.

They dove in as if they were starving. Ralph laughed at the sound of cats smacking their lips and purring at the same time. “I’ll keep those full for you,” he said, and went back to the stove smiling.

Saav belched. “Woooooo, this is good stuff,” she whispered to Pook.

“Mmmmfffppp,” said Pook, her mouth full of crab cake.

They snarfed up everything on their plates, then licked those clean. With a thank-you pass around Ralph’s ankles, they went back through the door into the back room of the store.

“Gaaahhhh,” said Pook, sinking against a box. “I ate too much.”

Saav burped again. “Me too. I need a wash and a nap.”

Pook sighed. “I guess we’d better get back to work,” she said, getting up slowly.

“Ugh,” groaned Saav. “Do we have to? That means I have to move.”

“C’mon, Saav, I think we better.”

“Slavedriver.” Saav sighed and hiccupped.

“Yeah, yeah,” Pook said listlessly, rolling her eyes. “C’mon.”

Saav turned, and saw a shadow around their mop bucket outside in the back. “Wooooo! Someone’s messing with our bucket!”
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Old 02-26-2016, 01:42 AM   #15
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The two cats ran outside, and a big-boned but rather thin orange tabby tomcat had his head in the bucket, sniffing. He looked up as they charged through the propped-open door.

The two girls stopped short when they saw him.

Pook and Saav stared at him, as a sense of knowing passed between them. They recognized each other vaguely, possibly from the feral band, as an orange tabby had been good to them, helping them find food and water. It was nearly a year ago, though, and those memories were fading.

“These yours?” he asked politely.

No surprise there. Pook and Saav traded a look: He is one of us from the clowder! Pook thought he was the one who had helped her to get the sick Saav to food and water. What even better luck!

“Um….not really. You want those?” asked Pook.

“If they don’t belong to anyone, sure,” he smiled. “I wouldn’t want to take your lunch.”

“Help yourself,” replied Saav. “You that hungry?”

The tomcat nodded. “I don’t have a home. I'm always hungry."

Pook and Saav looked at each other again. They knew what that was like, and although they found their home at about six weeks old, they had never forgotten. He looked like he had spent a lot more time on the streets than they had.

“Just a minute,” said Saav. “Come with me, Pooks. We’ll be back, uh…do you have a name?”

“No,” he said sadly.

“We’ll be back,” Saav promised. “Stay right there. Don't go anywhere. I’m going to bring someone back you can talk to. I mean, talk to. Okay?”

“No way,” snarled the tom. “I don’t speak to humans. Only other cats. I will not converse with humans, it is too dangerous. I hope you girls aren’t trying to do that.”

“We talk to the lady we live with and with a lady in there. That’s all. You’ll know when you see her. We did. We’re safe. We wouldn’t do anything to hurt you,” Saav promised. “You’ll feel it down to the tips of your claws. If I’m not right, when you meet her, don’t speak. If you feel what we feel, talk to her. Fair enough?”

He looked from one to the other. “You’d better be right.”

“I am. I promise,” Saav assured him.

“Okay,” he said finally, and sat next to the bucket, curling his tail around himself, and gave them a frown.
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Old 02-26-2016, 01:48 AM   #16
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Pook and Saav trotted back inside. “What’s up?” asked Pook. “You look like a cat on a mission.”

“I have an idea. He needs a home, Carrie and Ralph need a mousecatcher. I think the two needs can be met,” Saav explained as they went to the showroom. “What do you think?”

“Now there’s an idea. Plus, he’d eat what he catches, and maybe Ralph would give him leftovers and stuff,” nodded Pook. “Also, he talks. He’d be safe with Carrie.”

“Exactly,” Saav nodded.

The two cats entered the showroom, and found Carrie alone, rearranging a display case of little porcelain figurines.

“Carrie?” Saav asked timidly.

She turned around, and instantly smiled. “Well, there’s my two little mousetraps. What is it, Saav? Is that gash bothering you?”

“Oh, no, it feels all better now. But there’s a cat outside…” Saav began and explained the tomcat’s situation. “We thought maybe you might give him our jobs and maybe he’d have a home.”

Carrie looked at Saav thoughtfully. “Hmm. Where’s the tomcat?”

“Outside, in the back, next to the bucket,” Saav said.

“He’s real nice, and he’s one of us. He talks too,” Pook added.

Carrie put a figurine down on the counter.

“You spoke to another cat this time?” She did not look amused. “Didn’t your Mom and I discuss this with you two just this morning?”

“Carrie, he’s a cat. Not a human. Didn’t we just know with you too?” asked Pook.

“Another one?” she asked a little nervously. “Is he another one of those singing feral cats?”

“We think so, but we don’t know if he was one of the singers, though,” said Pook. “We ran into him briefly, I think, when we first came to the town and found our home. He led us to food and water the other cats didn’t know about. It was the last thing Saav ate or drank for two days, before she almost died on us.”

“He won’t talk to me. He doesn’t know me like you do.”

Saav shook her head. “We knew the moment we met you. I was still real sick, and I felt it. He’ll feel it. I think he’ll talk.”

“This is a little much, girls,” Carrie replied, worried.

“Carrie, he’s hungry. He wants our mouse bucket,” Pook pressed.

Carrie sighed. “Okay. Let’s go see what we have.”

They led her through the back room and out the door. The tom still sat there, and looked up at Carrie with intelligent yellow-gold eyes.
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Old 02-26-2016, 01:52 AM   #17
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“Ohhh, you are a handsome kitty,” she told him.

He stared at her. She watched him.

The tomcat took a step toward her, then recoiled back two steps.

“Don’t be afraid, kitty.” She knelt and held her hand out to him.

He just stayed where he was, watching her. Pook and Saav held their breath.

Carrie reached next to her and picked up Saav, cuddling her. “Did you help this one when she was tiny and so sick?”

The tomcat flinched as if Carrie had tugged on a hurtful memory.

“Ah, so you know this one, don’t you?” Carrie said softly.

He twitched an ear but didn’t move.

She reached for Pook, petting her. “Did you help her find food and water? Or did you perhaps find some water somewhere and maybe had something to do with the food getting there, too? Did you?”

His yellow-gold eyes grew huge. Pook and Saav saw him shudder almost invisibly.

“I see,” said Carrie. “So you did. I admire kindness.”

Saav looked pleadingly at the orange tom. Pook gave him an encouraging little smile.

Speak up, ******! Saav thought with all her might.

Carrie reached out to the tom again, putting Saav down. “I won’t hurt you.”

He froze.

“I know,” he blurted suddenly, looking away.

Carrie jumped a little and laughed. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to talking cats, she thought.

“Well, good. That’s a start. And you are quite handsome,” she smiled.

He sniffed at her. “You smell nice.”

“Why, thank you. You have nice manners, too. I understand you need a home.”

He shrugged and looked at a weed poking through a crack in the pavement.

“Well, how about we work out a business arrangement?” Carrie asked.

He perked his ears up. I like this lady, he thought. “Okay.”

“I need someone to catch mice and keep them out of here and the restaurant next door. I can put in a cat door for you back here, and you can live here in the store. I’d take you home, but I have three dogs that don’t like cats. I’ll make sure you get good food, plenty of fresh water, and all your shots. I’ll be here during the day, six days a week, and on the day I’m not
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Old 02-26-2016, 01:56 AM   #18
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here, I’ll come by and check on you. In return, you keep the rodents under control. How’s that sound?” she said.

He put his head down, and Carrie thought she saw a tear slide down his nose.

“For real? Forever?” he asked in almost a whisper; as if he were afraid to ask.

“For real. Forever. I promise it.”

There were several long seconds as the tomcat and the human regarded each other.

“Thank you,” he replied quietly, finally smiling up at her. “I think that sounds perfect.”

“Wonderful!” Carrie reached down and petted him. “My, you are pretty thin. How old are you?”

“I think I’m almost two years old.”

“Oh, good. When was the last time you ate?” she asked, scratching his head.

“Yesterday, a little.”

“Well, that won’t do. Come along with me,” said Carrie, turning and going back inside. The tom looked at the bucket longingly, but followed her in.

She headed for the door to the kitchen. “Ralph, you got any more leftovers? We have our own cat now,” she said, pointing to the tom. “He needs a home. I thought I’d let him live in the shop and help with the rodent population.”

The tomcat sat in the doorway, practically drooling over the aroma of fresh seafood.

Ralph looked down and laughed. “He’s a pretty one! Sure, let me get him a nice plate.”

He went to the other counter, got out a plate and put the same leftovers from the night before on it that he had given Pook and Saav. “Here you go, fella,” he said, putting the tomcat’s plate next to the girls’ plates in the corner. The cat trotted over, and with a thank-you swish against Ralph’s leg, he dove into his plate, savoring every bite.

Ralph and Carrie watched him. “Have you got a name for him?” asked Ralph.

Carrie shook her head. “Not yet. Any ideas?”

He looked at the cat thoughtfully. “He’s a little thin. Where’d he come from?”

She shrugged. “He showed up in the back, wanting the mice in the bucket,” she said. “I’ve never seen him before. Maybe that feral band.”
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Old 02-26-2016, 02:02 AM   #19
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“Could be. The ones I’ve seen back there won’t come near me.”

“He’s certainly different from the others,” Carrie agreed.

“Bart. How’s that for a name?” Ralph suggested.

Carrie thought about it. “Yeah, Bart. That’s a cute name for him.”

The tomcat lifted his head and looked at Carrie, his eyes lighting up. I like that name, he thought.

“Bart he is. Thanks, Ralph. I better get back to work,” Carrie said, going back through the doorway.

“See ya,” smiled Ralph. He stooped over to pet Bart. “Eat up, good buddy. There’s plenty more here to stick to those bones.”

Bart purred loudly at him.

Pook and Saav, watching from the doorway, looked at each other.

“Dang,” said Saav. “I think we got fired.”

Pook laughed. “No, just replaced.”

“Maybe Mom can bring us back to visit. We’ll see Bart and Carrie, and get more goodies from Ralph,” Saav mused.

“Yeah, maybe she’ll do that,” nodded Pook.

Bart reluctantly stepped away from his half-finished plate. His stomach wasn’t used to a lot of food, and he felt stuffed. Padding over to Ralph, he gave him another thank-you swish, and went through the doorway to find his new friends.

“I couldn’t eat it all,” he told Pook and Saav. “You little ladies are welcome to the rest of it if you like.”

“Thanks, but we’ve already eaten. You’ll want it later,” said Pook.

“C’mon, we’ll show you the water bowl,” Saav suggested, and turning, the three cats went into the showroom. Pook nosed toward the bowl, and Bart went to it, enjoying the taste of the fresh, clean water. The girls and Carrie watched him drink gratefully.

“Poor thing,” sighed Carrie. “He probably has only been drinking dirty water out of puddles.”

“Yuck.” Pook made a face, screwing up her nose.

“I got a guy coming to put the cat doors in this afternoon, and a vet appointment scheduled day after tomorrow,” she added.

Bart looked up from the bowl. “Is that going to hurt?”

Carrie smiled. “Yes. But only for a few days, and you’ll be fine. If you’re good and don’t scratch or bite the vet, she’ll give you treats.”

Bart looked alarmed. “Days?” he repeated, his eyes wide. “What’s going to happen to me?”

“Well, Bart, I want to get you fixed. It’s so that you’ll live longer and not stray away so far,” Carrie explained.
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Old 02-26-2016, 02:08 AM   #20
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“Fixed? What’s broken?” he asked her.

“Well, nothing, really, but usually when a cat gets a home, the owners usually like to prevent unwanted kittens,” she replied kindly.

Bart flattened his ears. “You’re going to – oh, no, I’ll be a sissy!”

“No you won’t,” said Pook. “Our neighbor’s cat is fixed, and he’s a terror.”

“We’re fixed, Bart, and we’re okay,” Saav added.

The orange tabby didn’t look convinced. “That’s not exactly something to look forward to,” he said warily.

“You’ll be sore for just a few days, is all. It will help you be healthier and you’ll live longer,” Carrie smiled at him.

“Here? With you and them?” he asked hopefully.

“Here with me,” she said. “The girls don’t live here.”

“Oh.” He looked disappointed, frowning.

Carrie walked over and petted him. He was so thin. “Don’t worry, Bart. And if you’re nice and don’t scratch or bite the vet, she’ll give you real nice treats.”

“But I just got treats,” he said.

Pook, Saav, and Carrie traded a look. “Those were scraps, Bart,” said Saav. “Carrie’s talking about real cat treats, like what candy is to humans.”

“Well, it seemed like a feast to me,” replied Bart. “I couldn’t even finish it all.”

“You haven’t been eating regularly or well, Bart,” said Carrie. “Your tummy isn’t used to being full, and it’s probably shrunk. Don’t worry, you’ll be eating like a pig soon.”

“Oh,” he said, and went back to the water.

Carrie studied him, deep in thought.

“I’ll get him a nice warm cat bed, and put a soft blanket in it and put it over in the corner close to that heat vent.” Carrie was thinking aloud. “Then he’ll be comfortable.”

Bart’s ears perked up. He lifted his head from the bowl again to look at Carrie.

She wasn’t watching; she was making a list of things to get for him, but the thoroughly grateful look he gave her made Pook and Saav smile. He was going to be well taken care of now.

I guess the fixing thing will be worth it, he thought, and returned to the bowl of fresh water.

“Girls, what cat food does your Mom feed you?” she asked.

“We’re on adult food now,” said Pook, giving her the name brand and flavor. “You can get it at the vet’s or at a pet supply place.”

“Do you like it?”
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