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Old 03-15-2016, 01:40 AM   #261
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Bart looked toward the B&B, where the fire was still visible behind it. “I wonder what happened there.”

“It’ll probably be in the paper tomorrow,” said Zeus.

Joyce looked at Carrie. “You look exhausted, like you need some hot cocoa, a nice bubble bath, and a warm bed.”

Carrie laughed. “I think that sounds perfect,” she agreed.

Joyce headed for the kitchen, and put the kettle of water on to boil. Carrie always kept a canister of instant hot chocolate next to the coffee and tea, and Joyce knew where it was. Carrie went to her bedroom, changed her clothes, and started the bath water running in her Jacuzzi, a house gift from Suzanna. She came out in a soft pink fleece robe, and joined Joyce in the kitchen.

“Feels better already,” she said, sitting down at the table. “God, what a night.”

Justin and Paul returned and found them in the kitchen.

“We’ll be able to fix those pretty soon,” said Paul. “I’ll order the glass tomorrow and as soon as I can get it, we’ll put them in.”

“Or here’s another idea for you,” Justin added, leaning against the counter. “Those windows are single-pane, and fairly old. It’s my guess they’ve been in since you’ve had the building.”

“They have,” Carrie nodded.

“Replace them with double-pane thermal ones. We’ll install them for you, and those will be stronger and tighter. You won’t lose so much heat and air conditioning with those, and in the long run, they might save you some money in electric bills,” he finished.

Carrie thought about it as Joyce placed a mug in front of her and went back to check Carrie’s bath. She looked at Paul.

“I probably should have done that after the break-in when you replaced the door,” she said. A ten-year-old runaway from an abusive foster home had broken into the shop one winter night, not intending to steal anything but looking for a warm place to sleep. Paul had replaced the door for her then.

“Well, it’s not too late,” Paul smiled.

Carrie nodded. “I think I’ll do that tomorrow. I’ll probably have to order those since they are so big. I doubt Brennan’s Hardware carries anything that large in stock.”

“Probably not,” said Justin.

Joyce came out. “Your bath is about ready, Carrie.”

“Thanks,” she smiled tiredly.

Justin looked at the clock on Carrie’s stove. “I’ll get going now, let you relax and get some rest. Call me when you need to get Suzanna tomorrow,” he said.

“Me too, Justin. Let us know how Suzanna is doing and if you need anything, let me know,” Paul said, getting up from the table. “Need a ride, Joyce?”

“I’d love it,” Joyce smiled.

“I’ll be more than happy to give you a ride to the hospital to get Suzanna tomorrow too, if Justin’s tied up,” said Paul.

“Thanks you guys, but I’ll use Suzanna’s truck to get her. It’s not far,” Carrie replied. “But as soon as I get her home, I’ll call you both.”

Suzanna had a four-wheel-drive Toyota truck, and she and Carrie often swapped vehicles. Carrie had a red Subaru station wagon which Suzanna loved and had helped her pick out.

Paul collected Zeus, Pook, Saav, and Ruffie, and petted the cats good-night. Joyce thanked the men for being there, and they filed out the door; Justin going out the front, Paul heading for the alley door. When they closed the doors, Joyce reset the locks and returned to Carrie in the kitchen.

“Your bath is probably ready. Why don’t you get a refill there and I’ll go check it,” she suggested.

“Okay,” Carrie said, getting up. Joyce headed down the hall again, and Carrie went to the counter for another cup of cocoa. Joyce checked her bath. It was ready, and with a quick hug, Joyce went out to climb into Paul’s SUV to return home.

Zeus was quiet on the way home, and so was Paul, both lost in their own thoughts. When they entered the kitchen from the garage, Paul looked at his cat.

“Are you hungry, buddy?”

Zeus jumped up on the table and looked at the human. “No, thanks, Paul. I’m just…I don’t know.”

“Worried? Scared?” asked Paul, sitting down with him.

The big tailless tabby sighed. “I’m not sure. You know, regular felines like Sunshine and Isis don’t have these…feelings that sentient beings deal with. I’m almost envious.”

Paul reached over and scratched his cat’s chin. “But they know something’s wrong. Especially Sunshine. He was probably scared to death when the blast happened and all of a sudden he’s snatched away and shuttled over to Carrie’s without Suzanna. There’s no

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Old 03-15-2016, 01:48 AM   #262
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way we humans can tell him what happened, or that Suzanna will be home tomorrow. Can a sentient cat convey that to him?”

Zeus thought about that. “Maybe. I don’t know. I don’t think I could, because regular cats don’t exactly communicate the same way sentient ones do. But – one thing I do know. If anyone can do it, Meows can. He’s the sharpest one of all of us. And if he can, he will.”

“So, you’re saying you’re pretty much worried about not just Sunshine, but everyone, and tonight was upsetting to you.”

“You could say that,” nodded Zeus.

“It was terribly upsetting to me,” said Paul.

“And I think I feel stuff like gratitude and safety here, with you,” the cat admitted.

Paul smiled. “There’s nothing wrong with that at all. I’m glad you feel that way. You saw and heard everything, so you know it will all be okay.”

“I’ll feel better when Suzanna gets home tomorrow.”

“So will I. C’mon, let’s go get our minds off this stuff. Want to read and listen to music for a while before I go to bed?”

Zeus shook his head. “No, tonight’s your night to pick what we do.”

Paul and Zeus had reached an agreement to take turns choosing what to do together long ago, having had vastly different ideas about what was relaxing and what was annoying. Neither one liked being alone, so they reached a compromise. Paul could watch the cop shows Zeus hated as long as the cat had his computer with him in the living room or family room, and every other night, they often read and listened to classical music and lately had taken up backgammon and chess.

Paul picked his cat up. “I just really don’t feel like watching TV. Let’s go find a couple of books to get lost in and I’ll put on some Brahms. I think that will be a lot more therapeutic for frazzled nerves.”

Zeus smiled and relaxed as Paul carted him off to the family room. “Thanks, Paul. The next two nights are yours, then.”

“Nope. This is really what I do want to do. Tomorrow’s yours.”

The cat was not a cuddler, but now he nuzzled Paul’s shoulder and purred. Paul gave him a little squeeze before putting him down gently on the family room couch.

Ruffie ran into the little cottage, followed by Pook, Saav, and Joyce when Paul dropped them off.

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Old 03-18-2016, 03:19 AM   #263
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“Oh, Mom,” Pook sighed in dismay, looking at the jagged crack stretching across the big middle section of the bay window. The six side windows on either side, however, seemed intact.

Saav peered up and Joyce looked over at it.

“It’s okay,” Joyce said, more sharply than she meant to.

Pook and Saav traded a surprised glance.

Saav frowned. “Mom?”

Joyce looked down at the small, worried faces. “I’m sorry, girls. I didn’t mean to snap. I was just thinking about what you said earlier, Saav, that about ‘a pile of smoldering rubble.’ See, this is nothing. This is nothing to us, really. Know what I mean?”

Pook looked at Saav, then up at Joyce. She nodded. “It just seems so – so very….weird.”

“Not weird,” Saav corrected her. “Unreal. I look at that and I see friends hurt and places burnt and –“

Joyce scooped up the little Saav. “Ssssshh, Saavy. Ssssshh. Don’t think about that, Sweetness. It didn’t happen and let’s just be grateful and go on, okay?”

Saav, the poet and writer, was much more sensitive than the rest of the sentient cats. Pook jumped up on the arm of the couch as Joyce sat down with Saav.

“But it could have – “ Saav began.

“Saav.” Joyce stopped her. “It didn’t. And if we worry about could haves and what ifs and all that stuff we can’t change, fix, or do a dang thing about, it crowds out the better things we need to think about.”

Saav pondered that.

“Waste of time and energy thinking about that stuff. But Mom, that crack makes me glad everything will be okay,” Pook smiled. She leaned over and licked Saav’s ear. “Like your bad dream, Saav. This will go away, too.”

Saav had been plagued by nightmares during her first year of life, reliving her first few miserable weeks of life in her sleep from time to time.

The scruffy little cat in Joyce’s arms sighed, then looked up at the crack again. “I guess you’re right. It just really scared me.”

“Well,” sighed Joyce, “it scared the crap out of me, too.”

“Me too,” Pook added.
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Old 03-18-2016, 11:32 AM   #264
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Good Morning...just what I needed to start the day, another episode of the cats!
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” - Albert Einstein
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Old 03-20-2016, 11:34 PM   #265
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There here is more for the Ogress and Dawgluver!

“Okay, we all agree on that. Now, let’s find some tape and get this patched up for now,” Joyce suggested. “Then we’ll find something fun to do and get our butts in gear. Suzanna will be home tomorrow and we’ll plan something nice for her.”

“Duct tape’s on the nail in the garage,” smiled Pook.

“Yeah, you would know where that is,” giggled Saav.

When the girls were first taken in by Joyce, she had left a strip of duct tape in the garage stuck to the edge of a shelf. Blown about by the breeze coming through the opposite window, it danced in front of Pook, who instantly attacked it. Saav joined in, and soon they found themselves wrapped up in the three-foot strip, stuck together. They yelled for Joyce, and she had to carefully pull the tape off both of them while trying not to take too much fur out of their coats. Ever since then, Pook had been teased about her fondness for duct tape, and Saav had written short stories about Pook duct-taping her, Joyce, or the dog to various things such as chairs, ceiling fans, screen doors and air vents.

“Watch it or you’ll find yourself attached to the piano bench,” Pook retorted good-naturedly.

Joyce and Saav laughed. The cats headed for their books on the coffeetable while Joyce patched the window with the tape and plastic in case it got windy outside. The mountains of western North Carolina could whip up some pretty fierce winds at times, especially during the winter.

“Brrrrrrr,” she said, coming inside. She looked at the window. “Well, that looks like crap, but at least we won’t be heating the porch.”

The cats looked at it.

Pook shrugged. “Messes up the view of the street, but we can still see out these side windows.”

“There’s the window in the door too,” Saav pointed out, waving a paw at it. The front door had a large oval window that stretched nearly the height of the door.

“Yeah, we’ll still get plenty of light in here,” nodded Joyce. “You girls hungry? You didn’t eat anything at Carrie’s tonight.”

The two cats looked at each other. In all the fear and worry, they hadn’t even thought about it until now.

“Hmm,” Saav said thoughtfully. “Maybe a little something would be okay.”

“Ehhh, our food in the bowl’s okay with me,” frowned Pook.

“Want a pouch?” asked their human.

“Oh, yeah, one of those shrimp and sauce pouches sounds good,” nodded Pook.
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Old 03-20-2016, 11:37 PM   #266
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“Okay, girls. I’m going to make some tea, so come on in here and get your pouch. Then we’ll find something fun to do for a little while before I hit the bed. Geez, it’s almost two in the morning.”

They went into the kitchen, and Joyce gave the dog a treat, then gave the cats their shrimp and sauce cat food in their treat bowl on the counter.

While the cats ate, Joyce sipped her tea and made out a short grocery list.

“Don’t forget caviar,” mumbled Saav around a mouthful.

“Oh yeah,” laughed Joyce. “Like I can afford that.”

“Wait til you sell your first book,” Pook giggled. “We’ll be rolling in it.”

“Not on my carpet you don’t,” Joyce replied, grimacing. “What a mess.”

Saav looked up, licking her whiskers. “Don’t worry, Mom, when I sell my short stories I’ll pay for the maid service.”

“And with my web design business, I can get us new carpet,” added Pook.

Joyce smiled at them. “Maybe someday, girls. One thing I am going to do is take us all on a nice vacation somewhere really neat.”

Pook had finished her portion, always leaving the better, bigger portion for Saav. She turned from the bowl, and looked at Joyce.

“Where the heck are we gonna go?” she asked. “What do cats need with vacations?”

“You’ve never seen the beach,” said Joyce. “We can find an oceanfront hotel, walk the beach, eat fresh – I mean fresh – seafood.”

“Hey,” said Saav, looking up. “That gives me an idea. I was looking at stuff for Belle and found where you can rent an apartment or a beach house for a week that has several bedrooms. We could all go away for a few days.”

“’All?’ As in us and our friends and the other cats?” asked Joyce.

“Sure. That would be fun,” said Saav, and went back to her pouch.

“Woooooo!” exclaimed Pook. “Now that would be fun!”

“Well,” Joyce said thoughtfully, “that just might be an idea. I just wonder if we could find a pet-friendly place. That’s something to look into, though.”

Pook shrugged and scratched her chin. Saav finished eating, and they returned to the livingroom, where the cats took to their books and Joyce worked on a scarf she was knitting for a friend while Celtic music softly filled the room.

Justin walked in the door, and nearly tripped over Loki and TigTig, who had been waiting for him.
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Old 03-20-2016, 11:39 PM   #267
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“Geez!” he muttered at them.

“Watch where you’re going, you oaf,” growled Loki.

“Get out of the way when the door opens, Loke!” Justin snapped.

“Where the hell have you been? You stink,” said Loki.

TigTig sniffed at Justin. “Yecch.”

Justin sighed at them and hung his coat on the hooks in the small foyer. “You know where I’ve been. I’ve been at the hospital. I took Carrie home after we saw Suzanna. I called you, Joyce called you. What do you want? An itinerary?”

“That would be a good idea,” said Loki, as he and TigTig followed Justin into the kitchen. Justin reached into the freezer and pulled out a small bottle of vodka and a frosted shot glass, poured a shot, and drank it. He poured another one, put the bottle back, and sat down at the table with the shot glass. Loki and TigTig stared.

“Damn,” Loki remarked. “Rough night?”

“Wow,” TigTig said blandly.

Justin hardly ever did that. The small bottle had been in the freezer for over a year. “Yes. Got a problem with that?”

TigTig blinked.

“Guess not,” said Loki, and he nuzzled Justin’s hand. “The fire’s still going. You can see the glow from here.”

“I know. The whole front of the B&B porch is scorched and lots of windows are blown completely out. Carrie’s two shop windows are badly cracked and Joyce’s bay window’s cracked too.”

“But everyone’s okay, right? And Suzanna’s coming home tomorrow?” Loki asked.

“Poor Suzanna. I really like her,” TigTig said softly.

Justin took half the shot and swallowed it. “Yes, nothing changed that way. I guess it’s just unusual that something like that would happen here, in Stony River.”

“Justin, the whole weekend has been unusual. You might need another one of those,” Loki suggested, waving a paw at the shot glass.

TigTig nodded. “The creep you reported stalking Suzanna, finding out about the other cats, and this tonight makes for an unusual weekend.”

The human stared at her. “True,” he said, and finished the shot. He looked at his glass. “I think you’re right, Loke. One more and I’m off to bed. I really feel tired tonight.”
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Old 03-20-2016, 11:41 PM   #268
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The cats watched as he poured another shot and tossed it back. He went to the sink and put the glass in it and looked out the kitchen window at the dull orange glow just a mile away. Loki and TigTig hopped up on the counter to see.

“It’ll be all right,” said TigTig. “You’ll feel better tomorrow when Suzanna gets home.”

“You’re right, Tiggy,” Justin smiled, petting her.

“C’mon, Justin,” Loki said, purring at him. “Let’s get you to bed.”

“Good idea,” agreed Justin, reaching down to pet Isis, who had come in from wherever she had been napping. The three cats followed him upstairs, and Isis and TigTig headed for the study. Loki followed Justin to his room and watched as he got ready for bed.

Justin flopped on the bed and pulled the covers up to his chin after setting his alarm. Loki snuggled next to him.

“Hey, Loke, let me ask you something.”

“Shoot,” answered the cat.

“Do you want to take some online classes?” Justin asked.

Loki sighed. “I think so. I just don’t know what I want to learn about yet.”

“Well, when you figure it out, let me know, okay?"

Loki nodded in the dark. “Thanks. I will.”

“You can go to Carrie’s to visit the others when I’m at work, you know, any time you and Tiggy want,” Justin reminded him.

“We talked about that tonight after you left for the fire. We’d like to go every day you work if that’s all right with you,” replied Loki.

“You got it. We’ll start tomorrow. ‘Night, Loke.”

“’Night, Justin.”

Loki lay quietly purring by him, thinking of the days stretching ahead, of times to come with the other cats and people, and shivered as he remembered the fireball in the sky. So quickly, this could have been taken from him. If there is a cat god, thank you, he prayed. He waited for a few minutes until he knew Justin was asleep, and soundlessly slipped away to the computer room.

“Hey TigTig.” Loki hopped up to their table and pawed open his laptop.

“He’s asleep?”

“I’m here, aren’t I?”

“I see that,” said TigTig.
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Old 03-20-2016, 11:42 PM   #269
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“We’re going to Carrie’s tomorrow and any day we want to,” he told her, waiting for the computer to come on.

“Cool.” TigTig was typing on hers.

“What are you doing?” Loki asked.

“Helping little Belle with her Picasso thing. Meows is, too. Bart and Zeus are waiting for you,” she replied.

“Where’s Pook and Saav?”

TigTig shrugged. “Dunno.”

“Justin said I could take classes if I want to,” Loki told her.

“It’s about time, Loke. I’m glad.”

Loki smiled. “Me, too, Tiggy. Ah, there they are…”
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Old 03-20-2016, 11:45 PM   #270
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The next chapter is just titled 3-A.

This is still the second book, the one which is unfinished.


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