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Sleeping Cat

Out of Paws Reach

(c) Linda Hutchison April 2017

It was no good. Emma paced past the cat cages again, but the familiar brown face didn’t appear anywhere. She just couldn’t understand how on earth she could have lost him. He wasn’t one to wander, and she hadn’t left him out at night. Her balcony was a couple of floors up, so it’s not likely that he leapt off. The last time she’d seen him, he’d been stalking across her bed. She’d assumed that he’d been looking for somewhere to sleep. But later that day, she couldn’t find his warm, furry body snoozing anywhere. And that’s when panic had set in. 
Overnight, she’d been out calling his name from the balcony, over and over, like some wannabe Juliet singing out unsuccessfully to Romeo. In turn all she heard was silence, until finally a window opened and a kindly old face looked down.
“He ain’t coming home, love. Now go to bed, there’s a good girl.”
By 6:00am, she’d printed one hundred flyers with his precious seal-point face on them, and was waiting for the newsagent to open so that she could buy the metres of sticky tape she’d need to plaster them all over the neighbourhood. By 10:00am, with flyers now adorning posts, poles, walls and even paths, she’d collapsed exhaustedly onto the couch and passed into a fitful sleep, where she could hear him purring, but couldn’t see where he was. She woke abruptly, in a cold sweat, and again looked at her pantry with disgust. Food no longer had appeal.
That afternoon, she posted a Missing Cat message on her FaceBook page, and included fifty photos of her beloved boy.
“Aren’t you overdoing it a little?” messaged her best friend, Phoebe.
“I’d have posted 200 if I had the time,” she messaged back. “One slightly different angle might just be enough to jog someone’s memory.”
She rang every cat shelter within a 100 kilometre radius, but with no luck. She searched her apartment again, going through suitcases and pulling books out of bookcases, so she could check behind them. But there was still no sign of him, and her desperation levels were rising.
Three days later, she had door-knocked her entire neighbourhood, placed ads in every shop window with an agreeable owner, and had posted his details on every missing cat website option available, including Gumtree. Her heart was broken. She was sure he’d be pining now, or was lying dead in someone’s backyard. Her phone rang, and she burst from her seat to grab it.
“Oh, Phoebe, it’s you.” Emma said, disappointedly.
“Thanks a lot, mate.” replied Phobe, grinning.
“Sorry – I just know he’s somewhere. I need to find him before it’s too late.”
“No worries, just wondering if I can help.”
“You could come with me to the Lost Dogs’ Home again.” Emma asked with such a forlorn tone of voice, Phoebe couldn’t refuse. Besides that, Phoebe knew of a great café near the shop and she was sure she could persuade Emma to go with her. She drove over.
Emma rushed into the cat section of the Lost Dogs’ Home and almost pushed over a small child in her anxiety to check every cage.  She reached the final one, and could only note a handful of tortoiseshells, and a large Russian Blue male. No sign of Chester. She started back at the beginning. After four increasingly slow rounds of the shelter, Emma had to admit that he wasn’t there. Her spirits and her body were drooping.
“Come with me to the Cosy Corner Café, Em – you need a cuppa.” pressed Phoebe.
The thought of food was vaguely nauseating, but Emma followed her friend across the road with her head down and her hope even lower. There was no finding him and she couldn’t replace him. A gaping hole was opening in her life. She entered the café and sat unseeing at the table Phoebe led her to. Phoebe pushed a menu across the table, but she didn’t even look at it.
“Just some tea, please.” Emma spoke to the waitress with looking up.
“Emma, look around you.” Phoebe’s voice had risen in pitch, but Emma barely noticed. She kept staring at the pattern of the wood table in front of her, racking her brain for ideas of where to look next.
A slim brown paw snaked its way up next to her leg, and tried to flick the fork down onto the ground. Emma nearly fell out of her chair. “Chester! What are you doing here, you rabbit!” Emma looked up and realised that she was in a cat café – surrounded by moggies of all sizes and descriptions. But the only one she had eyes for was now snuggling on her lap. She hugged him close and wiped her tears away with the napkin.
“Order me an apple pie, Phoebe” Emma said firmly. “It’s time to celebrate.”
The owner of the café, noticing Chester’s close attention to her customer, wandered over and said “It appears that you know our newest arrival. A lady dropped him off yesterday. She’d found him asleep in her washing basket, but thought he was too lovely to take to the shelter.”
“The case is solved then – he must have been asleep in mine when I took it down to the laundry, and set it aside to wait for the next free machine. From now on, my dear boy, you stick to my bed.” Emma hugged him close. “Or the window ledge, or couch, or cupboard, or ironing board – just not the washing basket.” He purred his agreement.

Out of Paws Reach: Work
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