Turtle the Cat

Once upon a time, on a warm, cozy night, a black cat slept soundly with her kittens curled up snuggly against her side. Her soothing heartbeat and the gentle rhythm of waves matched the patter of their tiny snores. Beneath the full moon, shimmering on the ocean, the little cat family dozed peacefully. A flock of gulls, gliding silently, cast only hints of shadows on the sand. As the gulls trailed off, pursued by their reflections in the water, a kitten awoke, blinked twice and twitched his whiskers. The glittering moonlight on the ocean danced before him in a blanket of flashing sparks. As the night came into focus, the little black kitten stretched his white paws and climbed from his mother’s warm flank just enough to extend his legs and reveal his white belly. The kitten angled his head to examine the ocean, turned to confirm he was the only one awake, took a few gentle steps, and licked at an itch on his right front paw.

The night was so bright, it almost seemed like daytime to the little kitten. He had never seen the beach lit up so bright at night. The little black and white kitten wanted to explore the night world amazingly aglow with pale moonlight. He smelled freshly caught fish and the little kitten turned to see a bait bucket left on the beach by one of the daytime fisherman who sometimes threw scraps for the kittens. Even on his hind legs, the little kitten couldn’t reach the top of the bucket, but he could smell the tasty fish inside. He jumped just high enough to grab the rim and pull himself up to see into the bucket. As the little kitten peeked over the rim of the bucket he felt it tip over on top of him and everything went dark. A passing ghost crab stopped and stared at the upside down bucket rocking back and forth in the moonlight. The bucket tipped over and rolled down to the edge of the water. A dizzy little cat, covered in bait and fish guts, staggered out of the bucket. The frightened ghost crab clicked his pinchers and ran sideways away from the stench of the guts-covered cat. The little kitten shook off the fish parts and rinsed himself in the cold ocean water. He rubbed himself dry in the sand but he couldn’t get rid of the terrible smell.

Down the beach, off in the distance, it looked like the sand was dancing. The little kitten saw dozens of tiny shadows running and playing between the grass and the water. He bounded towards them but the shadows were too far away. He looked over his shoulder and spied the napping cats. He took a few more steps away to investigate. Step over step, the little kitten, led by moonlight, listened for any noise above the whispered lapping water. Every now and again, he would peek back at his sleeping family. As he approached the small playful shapes, the tiny black and white kitten lowered his head just so his whiskers brushed the sand. He sniffed gently to detect any danger.

“Tip, tip, tip, tip.” Something just brushed by his leg; then something else, and another something! “Tip, tip, tip, tip, tip, tip.” The little kitten hopped and spun to see what was running between his legs. Little baby turtles just hatched from their shells running from the safety of the long grass to the freedom of the ocean. Dozens of fleeing baby turtles running all around!

Bouncing and bounding, half playing, half fighting, the kitten skidded along with a river of playmates toward the boundary of the sea. The kitten stomped his left paw redirecting a panicked turtle. Then, he stomped with his right, to force the turtle back. He raced one turtle, then, went back and to race another. In the tall beach grass, he could see some bigger turtles, but they seemed distracted and didn’t care to join in the game.

Just then, the little black and white kitten, silhouetted by the shimmering sea, noticed circling shadows in the sand. He looked up from the playful turtles just in time to catch a wing across the nose. Dozens of sea gulls were rising and falling over the sand capturing the baby turtles and lifting them off the beach into the darkness. The little kitten swiped at one bird then jumped at another and bit a third as it flew by. The little kitten jumped and swiped and bit but couldn’t protect his new friends from the hungry birds. Then, the brave little kitten tried his best to cover the helpless creatures. He rounded up four baby turtles and quickly yet gently plopped down on top of them. He could feel the babies squirming, little shells tickling across his belly. The kitten flinched and gripped the sand to keep all four from being eaten. It was no use. The turtles didn’t understand his plan and struggled back into danger. All four were caught by the birds and taken away into the dark night sky. The little, black and white kitten went back to slapping wildly at the birds. The birds didn’t like the little cat interrupting their dinner, so they chased the kitten and soon caught him. The little kitten closed his eyes swinging his tiny paws wildly at his attackers while they bit with sharp beaks and scratched with sharp claws. The little kitten couldn’t take anymore of the biting and scratching. He jumped and ran zigzagging across the sand and grass, cutting himself on shells and twigs until he slipped and rolled down a dune to the edge of the sea where he passed out, exhausted and hurt.

When he woke up, he was sore. The pain from the scratches and bites hit him first, then the dull ache in his side. One eye opened easier than the other and the sunlight seemed to hurt the inside of his head. He was covered in a strange, bad smell and wanted to bathe in the salt water. When he stood, the little kitten tripped sideways and tumbled in the sand. The hurt little kitten balanced himself, shook off the sand, and with all his might, ran into a wave and back to the shore. The stinging of the salt water in his cut skin subsided and was replaced with a quick chill. He shook his fur dry. Something was clinging to him. On his belly, just to the left, was a turtle shell. Not a baby shell, but a full grown turtle shell maybe left behind by a mommy unable to protect herself or her babies. The little kitten started crying, remembering the failure of last night’s battle. He scratched at the shell with his paw and his nose, but it was stuck. Broken-hearted and sad, the tiny black and white kitten with a turtle shell stuck to his belly looked back towards the family he left in the moonlight and slowly began his journey home.

Just above him, where the grass meets the sand, a gang of older alley cats had gathered to feast on the leftovers from last night’s noisy hunt. As the nasty cats gorged themselves, they saw a sad, little kitten, head down, tears dripping from his tiny face, a turtle shell clinging to his tummy. The tiny kitten rolled onto his back, trying to pry the hard shell from his fur.

“Hey! Look at that!” shouted a short, stocky cat. “That is the weirdest, furriest turtle I’ve ever seen!” The shouting cat pointed at the little kitten with the turtle shell stuck to his belly and slapped his taller friend on the back. The taller cat was too busy munching on a mouse to notice the little kitten and smacked the short, stocky cat for disturbing his meal. The other cats all laughed and looked in the direction of little kitten with a shell on his belly. The kitten stopped and stretched his neck to see the older cats who gathered around him.

“That has got to be the ugliest, stinkiest, turtle-cat ever!” said one of the alley cats.

“What’s a turtle-cat?” asked another.

“I guess it’s an ugly, little cat that lives in an ugly, stinky shell”

“Did you eat all you friends, you greedy turtle-cat?” One of the cats poked the shell on his belly. They all laughed.

“Or did you scare them all away turtle-cat?” Another poked as he spoke. All the cats pointed and laughed.

“Turtle. Turtle.” They all began to chant. “Turtle! Turtle! That’s your name!” From the older cats, the teasing came.

The little kitten didn’t like being teased this way. It made him think about the poor baby turtles being picked up in sharp beaks. He was hungry and wanted to be free of his shell. He imagined fighting the nasty, wild cats but he was so tired and sore, he knew he wouldn’t be able to win. The little kitten felt himself starting to cry again so he ran as far and as fast as he could. Every movement hurt but he didn’t want to stop running. He crossed a big road, dodging honking cars and big trucks. He skidded on his belly-shell under a fence, ran through someone’s backyard, hopped on an old lady’s head to jump across another fence, slid down a yellow plastic slide, scared a girl on a swing, and bolted zigzag down a street with lots of parked cars.

Finally, out of breath, the little cat with a turtle shell attached to his belly, leapt into a bush scraping his nose, stomach and front paws. In the safety of the short shrub, the black and white kitten panted quietly. He noticed that his belly-shell had been scraped free by the branches when he jumped into the bush. It was laying partially exposed in the sunlight an inch from his tail. He pawed at his flank to be sure nothing was there. He angrily kicked the shell even farther away. Exhausted, the damaged little kitten collapsed on his side like a fallen flower against the dirt. The kitten looked above him at the sideways world. He was looking at a house. In a window, the tiny kitten saw a little boy.

“Durdul!” The adorable blonde boy turned and exclaimed as he pointed out the window.

“What’s that, sweet boy?” Mama noticed he needed a haircut.

“Durdul.” He moved his head slowly in the way Mama did when she tried to make him understand. “Durrrd-dul.” It was all that the child ever said. He wanted to say other things, and tried. But all that came out was a soft, sweet “Durdul.” It made his mouth feel good to say it but it wasn’t right.

“Oh. I see.” Mama said and walked to the window. Mama gazed out the window wondering what the ‘durdul’ could be this time. Sometimes it was a car, sometimes a bird, sometimes nothing at all. All the other children his age seemed to be talking, but her beautiful baby boy left her guessing. Doctor’s visits checked out; he was a healthy little boy. “Rexy-Roo, I love you.” Mama said.

“A lot of first-borns are like that, reluctant to talk.” Her mother-in-law had stopped by for coffee earlier that morning. “He’s just a shy boy.”

“But he’s really not shy,” Mama thought to herself. “He’s curious and kind and playful and loving. He’s just not talking.” For months she had waited for a “Mama” even if it was directed at a stuffed animal or the table. She was even content to hear a “Dada” directed at her husband, but nothing came out except for a sweet mumbled “Durdul.” Gazing out the window, she saw what made the little boy so excited. In front of the bush by the mailbox was an actual turtle. Mama’s inner thoughts were interrupted by fireworks of joy.

“Rexy, did you see a turtle?” Mama asked.

His little head spun up at her and bared a big smile and nod. Mama smiled and her eyes sparkled. “It counts; ‘turtle’ is your first word!” She picked him up and proudly marched out the front door. She wanted the whole neighborhood to see the boy to point at a turtle and say “turtle.” On the walk down the driveway, carrying Rex on her hip, her thoughts leapt to her little blonde boy someday saying “grass” and “tree”, pointing to flowers and identifying them, and finally hearing him point to her and say “Mama!” When she arrived at the end of the driveway, she sighed. A single turtle shell lay by the bush near the mailbox. “Oh. It’s just a shell.” Mama said disappointedly and shifted the child to the other hip, her sudden daydreams of a chatty child washed away by the reality of a non-turtle event. With Rex propped on her right hip, she reached down to retrieve the shell careful not to scrape the boy’s head against the branches of the bush. The blonde boy straightened up excitedly and pointed. “Turtle!”

The kitten, lying on his side under the cover of the bush, heard the word, jumped to all fours and arched his back waiting to pounce on any cat that wanted to tease him. The sudden energy was too much for the little kitten and he collapsed back on his side unable to defend himself.

“Turtle!” The little boy shouted again.

The cat turned his head but couldn’t move. Mama could see that the poor little kitten was in bad shape.

“Turtle!” The little cat stared at the boy.

Mama sighed. “Well Rexy-Roo, I guess you’ve found a kitten named ‘Turtle’. Let’s put you down for a nap and see if Ms. Danielle has any food for Turtle.”

“Turtle,” the boy said again seeing how it pleased Mama.

They went inside, cleaned up, and after a few mild distractions and Mama singing “Three Little Birds,” the blonde little boy drifted off.

“Hey Dani, could I borrow some cat food? Rex found a kitten and the poor thing looks hurt.”

“Of course, I have some time before I have to get to the hospital.” Danielle replied. “Should I bring it by or do you want to pick it up?”

“I just put Rex down. Why don’t you come by and I’ll fix us some lunch?”

Three houses down the cul-de-sac, a green wooden door opened. A short woman with straight black hair and hospital scrubs carried a tin of cat food towards a house whose occupants included a small blonde boy, a woman stirring peanut butter, and outside, a small kitten panting sideways in the underbrush of a small shrub. The woman walked by the mailbox, glancing at the bush as she proceeded up the driveway.

“Thanks Danielle.” Mama swapped a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for the tin of Frisky’s and hugged her friend. After a quick review of the neighborhood news, Mama led her friend down the driveway to see the kitten. “What do you think?”

“Sure is a little thing.”

“Do you think it’s safe to feed it?” Mama asked.

Danielle spied the cat through the branches. “Well, it’s definitely in bad shape. Do you know how it got here?”

“No. Rex spotted it from the window.” Mama pointed to the front window proud of the boy’s ability.

Danielle opened the can and slowly put it just under the branches. Mama heard the rustling of dead leaves followed by a threatening hiss.

“Let it be for a while. If he eats and leaves, all is good; if you find him at your door, you’ve got a new pet.” Mama frowned at the extra responsibility. “If the food is still untouched and this little guy hasn’t moved, call Beaches Animal Clinic and they’ll come get him.” Mama frowned again. She imagined little Rex at his usual place in the window watching rough men extract a dead kitten from the bush near the mailbox.

“Thanks. I’ll pick up a replacement can at the store tomorrow.”

“No troubles. Great P, B, and J! We’ll call it even. Besides,” Danielle teased, “you may want to wait to see if cat food is going to be a regular purchase.” She looked at her watch. “Oh, jeez! I’d better get moving if I want to get over the bridge before rush hour.”

Mama watched Danielle walk back to her house. Mama turned her gaze to the two bedroom windows. Her boy would be up soon. She walked back inside the house and fixed another peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Danielle waved from her SUV as she drove past and Mama returned the gesture from the kitchen window. Mama crossed her fingers, hoping for an empty can and bush without a hurt kitten.

The people outside the bush stopped talking and went away. Little Turtle smelled the food as soon as the can was opened. Only fear made him wait now. Slowly, carefully, he crept up to the can. Every movement hurt. The tiny cat bowed his head to peek from the bushes and sniffed around the can for the scent of danger. Soon, hunger overtook fear and he hugged the can, gobbling its contents. He closed his eyes and made his face as small as he could, so as to lick every morsel from inside the tin.

Suddenly, he heard a pop and an enormous hiss that didn’t stop. Little Turtle jumped back into the bush with the tin can still covering his tiny black face. Using his small paws to dislodge the tin, the little cat peeked out from the bush expecting to see an army of angry cats waiting to attack. But all he saw were sprinkler heads, fully extended, bathing the grass in a small shower. The mist produced a series of rainbows hovering in the sunshine. Little Turtle had never seen such a thing and stared at its beauty from a dry patch under the bush. When the water stopped and the sprinklers returned to their homes in the ground, the little black cat crept from his hiding place and licked at the stream that ran down the driveway and along the curb.

The small cat blinked his eyes and examined the area. He had no idea how to get back to his family. He was afraid. Little Turtle remembered the sunrises curled up snuggly against his mother and decided the sun would lead him back. He started walking towards it being very careful and cautious to stay out of sight. When the concrete ended, a line of trees began. Following the golden sunlight shimmering through the leaves, little Turtle could hear his paw-steps crackling on dried twigs. He thought he heard someone else walking in the woods behind him. From the corner of his eye, Little Turtle could see something following him. The little kitten took a few more steps and spun around ready to defend himself, but nothing was there. He thought he saw it over his shoulder and spun around again, but again he saw nothing. He spun again trying to catch it off guard, but nobody was there. From a branch in the trees, a confused sparrow watched an even more confused little kitten spinning in a circle, chasing his own tail. When Little Turtle stopped, he realized that he was alone. The silence scared him and he felt cold. Little Turtle wanted to be home snuggling where everything is safe. As he walked, the shadows of the trees grew and merged together. Then the sun disappeared completely and the tiny black and white cat stopped, alone in the darkness, and began to cry.

A tall, slender woman stepped lightly on a marble floor, trying not to wake her son. Mama cherished waking Rex from a nap. From the doorway, she gazed at her tiny miracle, innocently sleep breathing, lips gently smiling. An aquarium perched on the dresser gently hummed and randomly bubbled. The small boy’s blonde hair and pink face peeked from under his blue blanket. An orange stuffed bear, face half gnawed from teething, lay face down just to the left. Mama wanted to pick up her angel and hug him into her heart. As she watched, his eyes opened slowly, foggy then bright and excited. He didn’t speak but smiled that great big smile that was only for her. Mama hesitated then walked to his side, hoisted him to her shoulder and carried him into the living room. As soon as he saw the window, he remembered the little kitten.

“Turlte! Turtle! Turtle!” he yelped and squirmed wanting to run to the window. She put Rex down on his feet and watched him run to window and hop to his spot on the sofa where he daily watched the comings and goings of his world. He turned back to Mama, pointed to the window and happily shouted, “Turtle!”

Mama picked him up again and walked out to the bush, being careful to block the boy’s view. Mama spied into the bush but only saw an empty can and brown dead leaves. She smiled. “Looks like Turtle went back to his mama. Maybe he’ll come back to play someday. Are you hungry baby?” The boy frowned at the bush, but as his gaze reached his mother’s face his smile sprang back to life and he nodded.

Some distance away, a tiny black and white kitten, whimpering, lost and lonely, suddenly heard the rustling of dried leaves and the breaking of twigs. The sound was getting closer. Something was coming. Little Turtle crouched as low as he could almost right into the ground. Two pairs of eyes, shimmering in the darkness, were creeping towards him. The tiny little black and white cat started shaking and couldn’t control himself. He closed his eyes and prepared for the worst.

When he opened them again, he was looking at four paws with sharp claws extended. Two were orange with black and brown patches. The other two were gray with thin, black stripes. Without moving his tired, aching body, Turtle’s eyes followed the paws up the legs to two strange faces staring down at him.

“Where do you think he came from?” said one cat.

“He’s not a house cat,” replied the other. “No shiny tag and he still has his claws.”

“Oh. He’s all cut up. Did you lose a fight, little guy?”

Turtle wanted to run but he was too afraid. If these cats wanted to hurt him they might as well do it here. The poor little kitten, exhausted and bloodied, covered his face with his left paw and swung wildly yet helplessly with his right.

“What’s he doing?” said the gray cat.

“I don’t know. Either he’s trying to fight us or wave away that terrible smell.”

“Oh boy, he smells bad. Dude, you stink! And that’s coming from a couple of cats who eat out of garbage cans.”

“It’s o.k. little one,” the orange cat said, “we’re not going to hurt you.”

Turtle looked up from under his paw. He had never seen a cat like that before. The orange cat wasn’t precisely orange, or any other color, but a patchwork of all different cat colors. From one ear to the middle of his eye seemed brown. The other ear was white like Turtle’s belly but his fur turned rust-colored towards the mouth. This cat’s nose was a deep orange except for a plop of black on the left side. Parts of his body were gray while other parts were different shades of orange, white, brown and half-stripes of black. Turtle stared, scared.

“Yeah. I get that a lot;” the cat spoke, “I’m Bob, this is Maxwell.”

“Come on,” Maxwell spoke, “it’s almost dinner time!”

The two cats turned and walked. When they were almost out of sight, Turtle rose to his feet and followed, staying far behind. After a while, Turtle saw Bob and Maxwell up ahead stepping out of the shadows and galloping across a patch of light and again into the darkness. Turtle didn’t want to be alone again and ran towards the place where he saw the other cats disappear.

When he crossed out of the trees, the ground dropped half a foot on to a street. Turtle heard a loud roar. He turned to his left and saw two big bright lights coming right at him. The lights disappeared, the roar blew by his head and Turtle felt hot air on his fur. When he looked to the right, two red lights were moving away from him. He was alone bathed in the brightness of a streetlight.

“Over here!” Voices in the darkness were calling to the little black cat. When he galloped towards the voice, he saw Maxwell, then Bob, then two other cats sitting on a curb near a dumpster. From under a light, a door opened and a small, round man with an apron dragged a trash can towards them.

“Dinner time,” Maxwell hissed joyfully.

The small, round man hefted the garbage into the dumpster, tapped the can twice on the edge to make sure all of its contents were gone and carried the can back to the building. The man put the can down, picked up a hose, turned on the water, rinsed out the can, and left it upside down to dry. He turned the water off leaving the last drops to trickle from the hose and reentered the building through the same door from which he emerged.

The four cats bounded up the side and disappeared into the dumpster. Little Turtle didn’t want to be alone. He jumped to follow and just barely made it over the top of the dumpster ledge. Turtle’s little body bounced off the inside wall and plopped down on the stinky pile a few inches away from Bob’s head. The other cats were gorging themselves on the discarded food.

“This is Nancy and Shirley.” Bob mumbled with his face half hidden in the garbage. Nancy was all black and Shirley was light gray with no stripes. Every few bites, Shirley had to stop eating and spit out the shiny silver tag hanging from the collar around her neck. Shirley ate slower than the others.

A loud noise from outside the dumpster startled little Turtle. Without thinking he jumped on Nancy’s head and leapt out of the dumpster luckily landing on the soft grass behind it. The little kitten skidded into the cover of the trees and looked back for the source of the sound. The other cats were slowly climbing out of the dumpster, bellies full and faces messed with scraps of food and sauce. When little Turtle decided everything was safe, he crept back to the group.

“Boy, you sure are jumpy.” said Nancy, licking the leftovers from her paws. The tiny kitten looked up at her with his big shimmering eyes. In the electric light, the other cats could see the scratches around Turtle’s nose. Alone in the spotlight, exhausted and frightened, Turtle felt his right side give way and he fell on the grass, sideways staring at the older cats. The tiny black and white kitten mustered a small whine, turned to the night sky and closed his eyes. The other cats walked over to him and laid down encircling his tiny body with their warmth and pity. There they slept until the pink fingers of dawn stroked their purring bodies.

Many days passed. Little Turtle became accustomed to the routine of the other cats and fell in line. The scratches grew smaller and disappeared beneath his fur. The cats dined nightly at the dumpster and on cold nights they would huddle under parked cars for warmth. One morning, while searching for a small lizard breakfast, Turtle smelled something strangely familiar. A rusty, empty tin can rested on its side under a bush by a mailbox. Looking up, turtle saw a tall, slender woman with a small shovel and a great big hat walking away from him. By her side was a small blonde boy with a green plastic shovel. The woman knelt by the side of the house and started her gardening. Like a flash, the black cat with the white belly sprung from the bush and took off towards the trees. A little blonde boy dropped his shovel and gave chase. The woman looked up from behind her hat but did not see her son. Playfully, she crept around the corner of the house expecting the small boy to jump out at her and wrap his tender arms around her legs. When he didn’t, she continued her creeping to the front door. She peered around the door with a devious smile intent on surprising her little boy just enough to make his hugs stronger, but the doorway was empty. She went back to the side of the house surprised to have been outsmarted by a toddler, but he wasn’t there either. Mama circled the whole house, quickly walked inside, jogged back outside, ran to the street and anxiously looked both ways. She ran around the house again beginning to panic and called the boy’s name. At first, her calls were in a normal voice, embarrassed that her neighbors might know that she had misplaced a small child, then raising her voice as she shuttled inside and outside the house. Her baby was not there.

In a clearing, under a canopy of trees, a little blonde boy caught his breath and resumed his repetition of “Turtle.” As he stumble-walked, the little blonde boy playfully clapped his hands. Every now and again, he would hear the rustling of dried twigs and leaves and would change direction to follow the sound. Rex liked playing hide-and-seek with Mama and was so happy that Turtle was playing with him now. After a while, the rustling stopped and everything was quiet. Rex was by himself in the shade of a big tree. A breeze blew across his bare legs and the little boy shivered. He turned and turned but could not recognize anything familiar. He shouted, “Turtle!” and angrier, “Turtle!” Nothing happened. The little boy grew anxious and plodded as fast as he could in one direction then the next, every once in a while panting “Turtle.” Rex wanted a big person to come help and started crawling like he did when he was a baby, but no one came to help. The quiet frightened him. He wanted to hear Mama or the gentle murmur of his fish tank. He wanted the warmth of Mama’s arms and to hear her heartbeat against his face. The scared little boy started rocking himself back and forth on his hands and knees, crying, mindlessly babbling to himself “Durrrrdle. Durrrrdle.”

A black and white cat walked through a familiar grove of trees and remembered being beaten by birds and teased by a gang of cats. The sound of “Turtle Turtle” made him angry and he leaped from behind a tree, eyes wide, back arched, claws ready to attack. The little boy screamed and rolled backwards sitting on the ground, fear in his shocked eyes. The cat, just as confused, lowered his arch and stepped backwards staring at the boy. They stared at each other.

“Turtle.” Rex smiled, overjoyed to see the cat.

The black and white cat wanted to strike at the sound but was frozen by the pretty boy’s face. He sniffed. The child smelled of sweat and fear. The cat hissed at him half-aggressive, half-confused. The cat hissed again with more aggression. The child’s face remained unchanged. The little boy felt safer despite the cat’s threats.

“Turtle.” He giggled.

The cat backed away watching the little boy and finally turned to join the other cats.

The boy began to cry again and whined helplessly, “Turtle.”

The cat slowed then stopped. Looking back at the crying child sitting alone in a pile of dead leaves, he turned again to face the boy. Slowly, the cat circled the boy whose face grew brighter as the cat closed in. The little boy grabbed the cat and hugged it tight to his face. The cat squirmed, twisted away, and hissed at the boy. The little boy tried to grab and hug the cat again, but the cat moved just beyond the child’s reach. The black and white cat meowed assertively then friendly. He recognized the boy from the window. The cat walked by the boy brushing his leg and continued in the direction of the window where the boy belonged. The boy was too shocked to move but was no longer crying. The black cat with the white belly looked to the boy, meowed, and continued walking. The boy rose to his feet and slowly, shyly, followed the cat, staying far enough behind.

As they walked, Rex forgot his fear and by the time they reached the end of the trees, Turtle and Rex were walking side by side. Rex could see Mama standing in the street talking to a blue man. A strange red, white, and blue car was in the driveway and another one was parked by the bush in front of the mailbox. When Mama saw the little blonde boy she ran to him as fast as she could. The black and white cat jetted back into the trees and out of sight.

There is a house on a cul-de-sac with a very talkative blonde boy in the window, a bush by its mailbox, and a garage door that is always slightly raised just high enough for a black and white cat to enter. Inside, behind two cars, a tricycle, a small tennis racquet, a pair of muddy sneakers, and a playpen full of outside toys, Turtle the Cat can always find a bowl of food and some water to drink.

The End