She slipped away from the back door of the farmhouse, heading southwest more or less, in the direction of the setting sun.
Captured, then tossed unceremoniously into a potato sack, she’d been torn away from her home just before the cold of winter set in. She’d had no choice but to stay where her captor finally released her. Having been born in a shed, a return to a barn had not been such a huge culture shock. But the world was finally returning to life again and she was anxious to take advantage of the warmer, more amenable breezes. The sodden earth would cushion, and silence, her already quiet steps.
She paused at the edge of the underbrush, took one look back at the house, then disappeared; grey morphing into grey in the dying light of day. There would be no more farm labour forced from her. She was going home.
Impregnated by a wandering feral; who had never returned to see the result of their mutual, and overwhelming, need, she had given birth to three sons — gingers just like their father. They had been noisy and demanding from the moment they had been delivered in the hayloft one cold winter’s eve.
They’re still noisy and demanding, roughhousing all the time, and decidedly ill mannered. I’m not hanging around waiting for the next vagrant to appear and do it to me again.
The next morning found her crouched by a creek at the back corner of the farm. The ice was long gone but the usual trickle of water, swollen by the spring thaw, was now a veritable raging river to her. She hated getting wet, but there didn’t seem to be any other option, unless …
She backed up. Forepaws gripping the ground, she raised her backside off the ground and with an exaggerated wiggle, she sprang into the air — and landed, safe and dry, on the other side of the water. With a bound, she was off again.
Going home — I’ll find it no matter where it is, or how far away. I can, and I will.
The anxiety to go home almost overcame her usual cautious nature. She barreled out of the bush at lightning speed and barely missed being crushed by a four-wheeled monster careening down a side road. Just in the nick of time, she turned in mid-stride and bounced back into the ditch.
Reason prevailed. She waited, listening carefully for the telltale “chug-a-lugs” that signaled the approach of one of the worst enemies of her kind. How often had she warned the kits about the danger? How many dead creatures, victims all, unheedingly sacrificed to the gods of the road, had she pointed out to them?
When the only sounds she could hear were friendly, she crossed to the other side. Something told her that this was the way to go. She would follow, but not too closely, the path the road took. When the monsters passed, she hid in the grasses and reeds. At night she hunted; a task easier now than it had been when she had first come to the farm. At home, she grew up listening for the sound of the can opener and waiting for the currents to carry the scent of meat or milk to her nose. On the farm, she returned to her roots, darting and dashing amongst the grasses and grains, in pursuit of anything smaller and weaker than she was.
Grass yielded slowly to pavement. Houses became more frequent. Monsters to avoid increased. There were more fences to climb, more humans to watch from the shadows of garbage cans. It was necessary to make detours at times, putting distance between herself and others of her kind. Their pungent claim to ownership assailed her frequently as she cut through the heart of town. She confined her travels to nighttime now, passing her days under porches or under the leafy abundance of rhubarb plants.
At last, she recognized streets, yards, and laneways. This was HER territory. She was almost home. The timeless inborn urge strengthened within her, giving wings to tired feet.
She paused under a mock orange bush in her backyard. Carefully, she licked upward from the tip of her tail and washed her face and ears.
Stepping out, she settled herself quietly by the door, waiting.
The door opened, and …
“Mom! Tiger’s come home.”
Meow. Is that a can being opened that I hear?