Cotton ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp
There were five of us: me, a brother and three sisters. When we were old enough, we were taken away one after the other. I think my mother was a little glad to see us go. She was getting old and wanted only to lie in the sun and take uninterrupted naps.
As with all of us, a big one came to get me. He smelled funny but he handled me gently as he put me into a carrier and closed the door. I cried a little and pulled at the door with my paws but I knew it wouldn’t do any good—I wouldn’t be let out again until I was in my new home.
The car ride made me sleepy and made me forget that I had to pee. I had ridden in a car before on a couple of different occasions and I knew how it either makes you want to throw up or go to sleep. I curled up in a tight ball, making myself as small as I could, and went to sleep.
The car went a long, long way from where we started but finally it came to a stop. When the big one got out, I stood up in anticipation of being let out. I was knocked off my feet again, though, when he picked up the carrier, carried it inside the house and set it down on the floor. (A rough but short ride.) Right away I smelled all kinds of awful smells that I couldn’t identify. Was it the smell of another cat? My heart started to pound. All I wanted was to go back to the safety of my mother.
When the big one saw I didn’t want to come out of the carrier, he stuck his big hairless, pink face through the door and spoke the terrifying language that to me sounded like a dog barking. I crouched down and backed up into the corner.
He upended the carrier—I tried holding on but there was nothing to hold to—and I went sliding out against my will. I stood up and took a few steps, stretched my muscles and licked my paw. The big one seemed to approve.
Just then a different big one, a “she” big one, came out of nowhere and scared me with her loud voice. I started to run for cover but she scooped me up in her paws. Now, I have to tell you it’s an odd sensation to be picked up by something fifty times bigger than you are. I meowed a couple of times to let her know I didn’t like what she was doing to me, but she nuzzled me and started scratching my neck and ears. In spite of the bad smells that made me want to gag, I began to purr a little.
The “he” big one said something to the “she” and they both made that hideous sound that I was to recognize later as laughter. They gave me some water out of a little red bowl and, after I took a good long drink, I was directed to the litter box, which I was very glad to see. I scratched in the box for a few seconds, sat on my haunches, made a tiny wet spot and covered it up so it didn’t show.
The two big ones began playing with me, even though I was in no mood. They had a toy mouse on a string that they dangled in front of my face. I thought I smelled another cat on the toy mouse, but I obliged them anyway by batting at it with my paw and trying to catch it in my mouth. After they tired of this game, they gave me some food, which I was barely able to eat because it didn’t smell like anything I had ever eaten before. I guess I was still too nervous to eat, anyway.
Later on they left me alone to do some exploring on my own. I went into the next room and then the room after that. I jumped up on a big table but there was nothing there that interested me so I jumped down. I walked the length of the couch and the chairs in the living room, exploring every inch of the stinky fabric; I stuck my paws in the dirt of some plants and then I climbed on the TV. I crawled under the couch and came out with dust stuck in my whiskers that caused me to sneeze. I jumped onto the counter in the kitchen, nosed into the sink and took a couple of licks out of a greasy skillet on the stove.
I went into the bedroom, which seemed to be the best room of all. The bed was soft with enough room for a hundred cats like me. As good as the top of the bed was, the underside was even better. It was dark and there were some boxes and things that offered complete concealment from any dangers that might still be lurking. I was thinking it would make a good place for a nap when Finley jumped out at me and scared me so bad I jumped sideways and took a few spider-like steps backwards. The fur ruffled up on my back and my tail puffed out to three times its normal size.
Finley was a young cat, not quite full grown, but bigger than me. He was a long-haired cat that made him seem bigger than he was and he had a mane like a lion. He let out a couple of guttural meows that to me sounded like war cries and came running toward me. I wouldn’t let him get near me, though. I ran into the other room with him chasing me. I didn’t know if he was going to kill me or just hurt me.
I dove under the couch and I knew right away it was a smart move because Finley wouldn’t fit. He could see me, though, and he knew I wasn’t going anywhere and that if I came out he would know it. Every now and then he stuck his paw under to try to grab at me, but I pulled away out of his reach.
I discovered then that Finley was the most patient cat in the world. He stood guard there, stalking me, for the rest of the day and most of the night. I was hungry and thirsty and I had to use the litter box, but I was still too scared to come out. When the big one tried to coax me out by shining a flashlight in my face, I just ignored him.
Finally, in the morning, with the big one there to keep Finley at bay, I came out. The big one picked me up and set me on the table in the kitchen to feed me. He spooned some food into a bowl and I began eating. When Finley, who knew everything that was going on, realized I was eating what he thought of as his food, he tried to get at me to push me away. The big one had to make him stay away from me so I could eat. (That’s when I learned how to eat and growl threateningly at the same time.) After I ate, I had a good drink of water and a satisfying couple of minutes in the litter box, while the “she” big one held Finley in her arms and whispered in his ear.
After a couple of days I was feeling more courageous and I stood up to Finley, nose to nose. Instead of hurting me, as I thought he was going to do, he licked me on the face and head. I guess I discovered then that he wasn’t as bad as I thought he was going to be. What I thought at first was meanness and aggression was more curiosity and playfulness, with just a little jealousy thrown in.
I was still leery of him for a week or so, keeping my distance and hiding from him if I found him a little too overbearing, but I began to get used to him after a while. If he wants the spot on the couch that I’ve made warm, he makes no qualms about trying to take it from me, but more often than not I’m willing to move to another spot and let him have it.
Cold weather was coming on. Cats, as you probably know, are always looking for extra warmth. Finley makes a really good sleeping partner. Not only is he warm, but he has the softest fur I’ve ever felt. Sometimes we sleep head to head or cheek to cheek or crossed over each other like a couple of earthworms. Sometimes I use his belly for a pillow or he uses mine. When winter comes and the nights are really cold, the big one lets us sleep under the covers with him in the bed. There is no warmer place in the house.
Finley and I are now inseparable friends. We play together a lot and keep each other company. We’re a lot alike but also a lot different. Sometimes we eat together out of the same bowl, but most of the time he lets me eat first before he eats. If anybody ever knocks on the door, I run and hide but Finley stays right there to find out what is going on. When we both are taken to the doctor at the same time, I’m still scared but not as scared as I would be if Finley wasn’t with me. When I hiss, he hisses, like two parts of the same hissing machine.
Copyright © 2014 by Allen Kopp