My Earliest Memories
Soft, sweet, and precious. That’s how I entered this world, a little fluffball, like the rest of my kind. I remembered a large, warm body lying against mine, its warmth comforting me, and tiny bodies intertwined on a hard floor. I could still detect hints of sour milk dripping off my lips. Remnants of a lullaby came to me at night before I nodded off:
Dream, sweetly of stars. Sway softly in clouds,
And though your thoughts may be far, you’ll always hear my meows.
With that, the family pictures stopped. Now I am alone, hunting for my own meals.
I am a feral feline molly. Or in different words, a cat of the female variety free to explore and find food. Unlike the domesties who are under the control of the two-leggers, I’m proud to be independent, roaming streets and scavenging fields for my daily catch while avoiding anything that looks at me with a hungry eye.
Somewhere along the way I have learned to enjoy exploring, following strange scents and discovering new places. That’s how I met Big Tom.
“I’m so glad I’m not one of those vermin who hole up underground,” I declared to the trees and anything else that would listen. The day’s heat made me purr, and a light breeze added a zing to my step. My fur fluffed up, exposing my skin to the warmth.
Earlier, before the sun reached its highest point, I had caught a delicious lunch using my well-honed, hunting skills. I stalked it, keeping low behind bushes. It hovered over its own prey, a grasshopper. When the six-legger jumped in front of my bush, my prey swooped down with open beak. I pounced when it reached its lowest point just above the bug, my front paws pinning the flier to the ground.
It’s annoying chirps echoed off the trees and through my head. I lugged it to the tall shrubbery and settled into the soft ground. A few good chomps put an end to the incessant peeping. The fresh meat filled a hole that had gnawed at me far too long. Satisfied, I gave myself a good grooming, leaving my fur clean of feathers, blood, and any other unwanted bits before laying my head down for a necessary rest after the arduous morning’s pursuit.
The sun slid partway down its arc as I meandered into a park. Glare reflected off tall metal structures blinded me. I took refuge between the bushes that rimmed the edges and sank into the cool grass, closing my eyes to the dazzle. Searching for shelter is part of my routine, whether it’s under decayed floorboards, squeezed in openings of walls, or amidst the bushes in a park.
My ears pricked at a chorus of shouts. Squinting through the leaves, I saw little two-leggers climbing all over the metal forms. A couple of them chased and knocked each other down just like kittens, crunching the stones that blanketed the area. They bumped into an even tinier two-legger held captive in a cage that dangled on chains attached at the tallest part of the metal structure. A fully matured two-legger waved its arms and growled at the two playful youngsters until they moved off. The adult pushed the cage housing the bitty thing. It flew up in a graceful bend and then fell back towards the big two-legger, who pushed it again and again.
That tiny two-legger was trying to escape from the cage. It kicked its little legs furiously and squealed like the flier I caught. Was that a mother or father two-legger who held it captive? Why did it scare its offspring? You would never catch a mother cat doing that. All the more reason to keep my distance from them. If that’s what the two-leggers did to their own kind, imagine how they would treat a four-legger. I would never be a domestie. Those felines that depended on two-leggers for food and shelter should be ashamed of themselves. Didn’t they want to use their hunting skills? They probably buried them along with their pride.
The light faded and more of the adult-sized two-leggers appeared on the scene bleating and fussing and herding the little ones. They all walked off in pairs or larger groups, leaving behind the empty cages to bob from the hanging chains.
The two-leggers around here behaved like bees. During the day, they would come to life buzzing around on their big feet or zooming off in noisy, fast, wheeled carriers that dominated the streets and often made it impossible to cross over. When the sun set, they closed themselves up in their version of a hive or flower. The chaos of the day melted away into a night as quiet and as empty as a hollowed-out burrow on a hillside.
The slight, cooling breeze from earlier picked up. Leaves flapped about, brushing my back and tickling my ears. The cages dangling off the metal structure banged against each other, ringing through the air. I lifted my chin, fascinated with the dancing objects, the wind forcing my eyes to half close.
I took a deep breath, ready to exhale into a relaxed state, when my nostrils flared at a pungent smell, knocking my eyes wide open.
“Good evening, little molly. Would you like some company?”
I whirled around. A huge cat with a gorgeous halo of fur fluttering around his head stared down at me, deep down. The clattering noise played in the background as I took in all that black and white fur.
“Rat got your tongue?” he asked.
I swallowed. “You’re so tall,” and then I grimaced. Of course he’s tall, you idiot.
He purred, and I swore those copper eyes of his twinkled. He puffed out his chest. “I am a big cat. Do you want to hear me roar?”
“Not really,” I squeaked.
“You’re not scared of little old me, are you?”
“Of course not.” I knew fear. This wasn’t it. My breath came out in short gasps. The wind rushed through me, and the banging structures filled my ears. Bug-eyed, I tried to take it all in, but my body carried on without me. My front legs lowered, claws gripping at the ground while my back paws kicked up, one at a time. My tailed swished from side to side.
The sun disappeared, leaving behind a darkened sky that pushed down the scraps of light. His eyes glowed like a couple of stars, penetrating my every nerve. He stood, ignoring the blustering wind. It blew around him, over him, through him, his mane waved, beckoning to me.
He edged closer, leaving an intoxicating trail along the way and sang out to me:
“This will be the night. Good things will occur.
Under the moonlight, you and I will purr.”
The wind’s howling accompanied his song, urging him towards me. I joined in the singing, meowing at the top of my lungs. The rest of the world was a mere discord as we harmonized to the moon.
At sunrise, he ran off. I was too tired to care and spent most of day napping, alternating sleeping spots between shade and sun. The two-leggers, like yesterday, buzzed in and out. I took longer than usual cleaning and smoothing down my fur, my paws tingling with anticipation of the tom’s return. The furry beast came back serenading and again, I joined in, synchronizing to his beat.
Our trysts continued for the next few nights. Then he didn’t show up. He disappeared from my life as quickly as he had entered but not without leaving me a gift, a bellyful.
It didn’t bother me that much that he took off, at least not in the beginning. I loved what he had left behind, but that too disappeared.
My plan was to find a safe home. At first, I didn’t want to stray too far from the park in case Big Tom-my name for him-returned. Silly me, always hoping. I roamed, just beyond the edges. The bushes, trees, and soft green grass were replaced by patches of tall, brown blades, flailing in the wind, and scattered dry, sticky patches. The hackles on my neck rose. Dangerous eyes would spot my kittens with no problem in this area, and the cold night wind would blow their scent far and wide.
I plodded on until a tall fence blocked my path. I scurried to the top and halted, facing the roof of a little house. A yard full of dead grass and scraggly bushes stretched out on the other side, and beyond that loomed a bigger house. Its windows had spider-web cracks running through them, and the walls looked as if some creature had taken bites out of them.
The little house was a paw step away from the fence. I padded onto its roof and froze, testing the air. Nothing twitched my whiskers or flared my nostrils. No two-legger, no four-legger, no problem.
The roof had a few small holes, big enough to slide an arm through. I treaded around them and slipped to the ground. The side wall was full of scratches with a large hole right under the hanging part of the roof. Easy to jump to and easy to squeeze through as I landed inside onto soft, dry ground. An inspection of all four corners confirmed my earlier hunch: it was dark, musty and empty, a perfect place for newborns.