Storytime with Stidmama

Chapter 86

He couldn't remember ever being so cold.

Which wasn't surprising, he supposed, since he was only a few weeks old.


It did seem a long time since Mae-Mae had left him there, in the small, dark but cozy, little niche in the stone wall.

He stretched around and looked back over his shoulder toward the light and called softly for her.

There was no answer.

He watched his tail, twitching it nervously, willing it to think for him.

It didn't work.

So he yawned, and stood up, hunching over in the low space, and squeezed himself out far enough so he could look around.

It was cold!

He sneezed gently and shook his head at the stinging sensation, and stared out into the landscape.

Things were blurry for him, and he didn't know what they were. He noticed large dark blobby things that sparkled in the light, and other blobby things that moved at a distance...

Closer in, there were little things hopping about, the movement caught his eye and for a moment he forgot how cold he was as he contemplated how long it would take him to reach them. And if they were friendly. Or good to eat.

He looked down, trying to decide how far it would be. He stretched his right leg out, trying to reach it.

And tumbled to the ground.

It was hard!

The little hopping things flew up into the air, out of reach even of Mae-Mae, and he sat there on the cold, hard ground, feeling hungrier.

He shook his head again, and fluffed his fur out as far as it could go.

It didn't help.

"Mae-Mae!" he mewed, piteously, hoping the tone of his voice would bring her. But there was no answer.

He tried again, feeling very alone, "Mae-MAE!"... "mae-mae?"

He shrunk back against the wall, seeking warmth.

He looked up the wall, and couldn't see where the niche had been. He shivered, and licked his paws, trying to warm his toes.

Mae-Mae had been gone a long time.

A soft, white, feathery shape floated down next to him. He watched it curiously, and batted at it with his paw.

There was another! and another...

One landed on top of his head, tickling his ear. He shook his head and sneezed again. The air felt different, less sharp, more wet.


A large, blobby thing that made the ground shake was approaching. He squeezed back as far as he could into the wall.

The blobby thing slowed down, and leaned in, reaching with long arms.

"Well hello there, little one!" A voice boomed, rumbling like thunder would sound, if he had ever heard any.

A warm hand picked up the kitten and cradled it.

He knew he should be afraid, but the hand was so warm. He curled up, and waited.

Another hand came around, and gently smoothed out his fur on his back, on his head. The hands brought him close to a large face, making little puffs of white air that were warm and smelled of strange, exotic things.

The man put him gently in a pocket, and walked on, the kitten bumping against his hip.
The old cat stretched and resettled herself in the side chair. The man she used to keep warm had gone cold, and now he was gone.

In his place, Miss Cathy -- who was nice enough, but never had time to just sit and let an old cat sleep.

The cat had seen many winters, had borne many kittens, had weathered many changes.

People came, people went. It was little of her affair, though she wondered occasionally if they would keep putting her little dish of food in the right place.

This Mr. Tor, for example, a large, brutish fellow, appeared every once in a while, staying longer or less, causing the others to move things around and readjust the schedules.

She did not like her schedules readjusted, that was certain. Still, little she could do, so she made her opinion known and stalked on through life.

Not that anybody seemed to care what her opinion might be, she thought.

Now what were those two women doing? Talking and exclaiming over some silly thing Miss Cathy had been doing with a perfectly fine ball of yarn.

She jumped out of her chair and followed them into the kitchen, purring as she found her customary chair in its customary corner out of drafts but in view of everything.

Now that awful dog was out of the way -- she was always glad when it was put outside, it made such a commotion all the time -- she would have the women to herself. She might even get an extra saucer of cream if they noticed her.

She curled around herself and lay down, watching them work with her eyes half-closed, the tip of her tail twitching to the rhythm of a song only she could hear.

The door opened, and Mr. Tor came in. Another bundle of wood, no doubt, it was about time!

But what is that smell? A fresh, new smell, like cold lichen and warm milk?

She watched suspiciously as Miss Ava examined the bundle of fluff.

And sighed. She had been through this so many times before...

There would be no extra dish of cream for a few days at least.