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Archive for May, 2012

A children’s story about Cleo, our happy wanderer.

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Cleo is a very fat black cat who lives a pampered life in a country home. Her owners love her, and the other cats in the house let her be the boss. She has tasty food to eat, fresh water to drink and cozy places to sleep. She is a very lucky cat.

But Cleo’s life was not always so safe and comfortable. Once, it was full of adventure. If Cleo could speak, this is the story she would tell.

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Cleo was born under an old shed that leaned against an even older barn. She had brothers and sisters, five altogether, and in their first weeks of life they were safe, hidden from the eyes of the cranky old farmer who owned the shed.

Sometimes, they would hear his heavy footsteps as he walked nearby. When that happened, Cleo and the other kittens would snuggle deeper into their mother’s fur and lie very still. Once the farmer moved on, they would relax again and fall asleep. One day, though, it did not happen that way, and Cleo’s life changed forever.

It was warm spring morning, and Cleo decided she wanted to play. Usually, it was dark and damp under the shed, but on that day, a ray of light shone through a gap between the ground and the shed’s wall. Cleo couldn’t resist. While everyone else was still sleeping, she squeezed through the space and looked at the world around her for the very first time.

For as far as she could see, there were fields and forest. Flies hovered over a mound of garbage by the barn. Birds flew amidst the branches of an old oak tree. From far away, she could hear large, rumbling sounds like distant thunder, even though the sky was blue and free of clouds.

Suddenly from around the corner a big red tractor appeared. The old farmer sat on top, an angry scowl on his face. He stopped the machine when he saw her and climbed off to chase her.

Cleo ran for her life into the woods and quickly became lost. For months afterwards, she lived on her own. She learned to trap field mice and catch birds so that she could eat. She found cool, clear water to drink from a stream that wound through the forest. She discovered that being a black cat could be very lucky. It meant she could hide more easily from the hawks that flew above the forest in the day, and the wild dogs that prowled in packs at night.

Cleo was a survivor.

One spring day, the sound of friendly voices floated across the farmer’s field. Cleo crept carefully to the edge of the forest to hear better, and spied people laughing and talking in the distance. They looked friendly and she decided she wanted to get closer. She pushed her way through the tall hay that separated the forest from their backyard, and that was how she found the family who would become her new owners.

It took Cleo a while to get used to them. She liked the mother, because she spoke in a soft voice and moved slowly. She brought the thin, scared kitten something to eat and drink, and soon Cleo began to feel safe sitting near her when she was outside. But the big boys and their father scared Cleo. Their voices were loud, and they moved too quickly. Cleo would jump away and run when they came near. They reminded her too much of the farmer who tried to hurt her.

The other cats in the house frightened her too. They were much bigger than she was. They sniffed at her and Cleo thought they might eat her if she stayed still. To protect herself, she hissed at them and swiped at their noses with her tiny paws. Her claws were sharp from scratching the trunks of the forest trees, and the other cats soon learned that Cleo was tougher than she appeared.

Gradually, Cleo grew comfortable with her new family and home. She no longer had to hunt for food or run from enemies. She grew a little fatter and much calmer, and from autumn until the end of the winter, she was content to be inside the house where it was warm. Still, when the last snow melted, and the red-winged blackbirds returned to the fields, wanderlust settled in Cleo’s veins. She yearned to leave her safe home and explore again, and so began the first of her summer adventures.

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Cleo never meant to leave and then stay away so long. The first time it happened, the flutter of a butterfly’s wing tempted her. She left to follow it, and found herself once more crossing the farmer’s field and entering the shade of the forest. She played all day there, and that night, even when she heard the mother’s voice calling for her to come inside, she did not return. It was warm outside, and the leaves on the forest floor would make a soft bed. She could hide under a fallen tree and be safe, and so she did.

But when the next day came, she was still having too much fun to go back. She knew she was not lost; she could still see the house. One day turned into two, and then three, and before she knew it, the summer had passed. Only the cooler nights of the fall reminded her to go home. The family welcomed her with laughs and hugs, and piled heaps of food on the plate before her. The other cats sniffed at her coat and imagined the adventures she must have had. They looked at her with a new respect, and dared not push their way to the feeding bowl until Cleo had finished eating.

All had turned out well, so Cleo did the same thing the next summer, and the next, and the next, and the family grew to expect and understand Cleo’s escapes. From the minute autumn began, Cleo would begin to look forward to her next excursion, and that’s how it was until the year she turned six.

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Cleo left in late spring that year, eager for the adventures that would be awaiting her. She had no understanding of time, only the sense that there were mice to be caught and butterflies to be chased, and as always, she was happier in the forest than she’d ever been behind walls.

One day, she even came close enough to her house to be seen. The mother called her name, but Cleo ignored her and kept walking with her head held high. She was not ready to return. The forest was too exciting.

Finally, a day arrived that changed her mind. She came upon a raccoon’s shelter, and soon learned that a raccoon only was not as friendly as it looked. Cleo fought back as best she could and escaped, but not before the he had bitten a chunk from the top of her ear. She felt shaken all day by the attack, but by nightfall, there was another new danger. Just as she settled into sleep, she heard coyotes coming. The sound of their big feet and tails hitting the underbrush caused her heart to jolt in fear. She could hear their panting as they searched for her. Their keen eyes spotted her, and they bolted forward, barking their horrible high-pitched war songs. Cleo ran faster than she even knew she could, farther through the woods than she’d ever gone before. Ahead of her, a tree rose high towards the sky. She dug her claws in deep and scurried up the trunk and to the highest branches at lightning speed. The coyotes could not follow.

Cleo waited there for what felt like days. Her ear throbbed, and so did one of her paws where it had been punctured by a sliver of bark. She grew hungry but still was too afraid to come out into the open, even in the daylight when she knew they must be gone.

Finally, she could wait no longer. She slowly wiggled downward, and began her long way home to safety. It was time. The leaves were beginning to turn colour.

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Since then, Cleo has stayed away from the forest. The top of her ear has healed in a jagged pattern, and her whiskers have stayed white after her scare that night. Her owners joke that she’s grown as chubby as a baby walrus.

Now, Cleo’s summers are spent following on the heels of her owner as he works in the yard. She no longer fears his voice, because he is her protector. When he is not there, she is content to find a cool place under the lilac bush to lie down. There, she thinks of the stories she could tell, and dreams of chasing butterflies.

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