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"Momma! Momma! Come quickly! Mac is hurting Cooper again!" cried the little yellow kitten as she scurried into the garage. "Please hurry! Cooper can't breathe!"
Clarabelle raced out of the garage toward the commotion under the tree. Mac again! What was she going to do with him? This was her fourth litter, and she had never seen any kitten as strong, large, or fearless as her son Mac. She and all of her kittens were butterscotch tabbies. Some were darker yellow than others, but her son Mac was the palest yellow of all. He looked just like a miniature lion cub with big feet, large ears, and a very long tail.
By the time Clarabelle reached the two kittens, Mac had seen her coming. He was sitting on top of Cooper's head and was holding him down with all four paws. Cooper was gasping for breath.
"Mac! Get off Cooper right now! Can't you see he can't breathe?" Clarabelle screeched.
"Aw, Mom, we're just playing. Cooper and I are having a wrestling match, and I pinned him down first. He's all right. See," Mac explained as he jumped off the pathetic, gasping kitten.
Cooper rolled over onto his back and gasped deep breaths. "Mom......I thought......I was going.....to DIE! Make.....him leave........me alone!" he sobbed.
"Oh, Cooper, you poor thing," Clarabelle said as she nudged up against him. "You're just fine. Try not to talk so you can get your breath. Mac, I want you to go to the garage right now. I will talk to you in just a few minutes. Now mind me and get going young cat."
Mac turned toward the garage and slowly walked away with his head down. "I didn't mean to hurt the little wimp. We were just playing," he protested as he entered the garage.
After what seemed like forever, Clarabelle entered the garage alone to confront her wild son. "Mac, I love you all very much, and it hurts me when you are so mean to the others. I know you like them, but you just don't realize your own strength. Don't you know you are bigger and stronger than the others? You should use your advantage to help and protect them, not scare and hurt them. I am at my wits end with you, and I must punish you for this. I think I will have you sleep by yourself tonight in the old playhouse out back. I am also sending you to bed without your supper. So, get along now, and I will see you in the morning."
Mac slowly walked to the playhouse by himself feeling very alone. He could hear his brothers and sisters laughing at him. He was very unhappy and felt like no one liked him including his mother.
The playhouse was cold and dirty. Mac missed the warmth of the other kittens as he curled up in the corner by himself. For several minutes he tried to get comfortable, but he just couldn't. He finally walked over to the door and looked out toward the garage. It was fairly dark out now, and everyone appeared to be asleep. All was very quiet. As he mournfully looked over the yard, something caught his eye and gave him an idea.
"Hey! I know what I'll do. I'll climb onto the golf cart and sleep on the cushioned seat. That will be much better than this old, dirty playhouse," Mac whispered to himself.
Mac scurried over to the golf cart that was parked by the garage. After a few tries, the athletic kitten finally jumped up on the back of the cart. When he crawled up on the seat he found a sweatshirt someone had left. "Great! Now I can curl up on this and be comfy and warm," Mac thought. He quickly fell asleep as he snuggled down into the folds of the sweatshirt.
Mac was sleeping soundly when all of a sudden he was awakened with a jolt. It was morning, and the golf cart was moving with him secretly wrapped up in the sweatshirt on the back. Every morning Mac's owner took her children to school on the golf cart, and today was the last day of school before summer vacation. They were unaware of the stowaway on board this morning.
Most kittens would have been frightened by now, but not Mac. He loved adventure, and this was the most exciting situation he had been in yet. He was ready to leave home for good and look for a place of his own.
When they stopped in front of the school, Mac quickly jumped off the back and ran to the nearest shrub. There were so many children everywhere, and the noise was deafening. He thought he should hide until some of the traffic died down. He was close to the front door of a very large building. He had never seen such a big place. "I'll bet there are many new places to explore in that big building. I'll sneak in behind someone when no one is looking," he thought to himself.
Sure enough, all of the children disappeared into the building when a very loud bell rang out. Cautiously, Mac moved towards the door to wait for someone to open it again. His plan worked in no time when a group of mothers came outside. He quickly darted inside just in time before the door slammed shut.
"Wow! What a large room! I've never been in such a large place," Mac exclaimed as he looked around. He took a running leap and slid several feet on the shiny, waxed floor. Mac was in the school's gymnasium. There were several balls lying in the corner, and he began to playfully nudge and roll the balls all over the floor. He had never had so much fun. As he was busy chasing the balls, two people walked in the door and saw him. "Who let a cat in? I'll bet one of the children did. We should catch it and put it outside," said one of the people.
Mac heard the people talking and looked quickly for somewhere to hide. "Oh, no! What am I going to do?" Mac cried. "There is no easy place to hide in this room!"
He took off running as fast as he could, and for a small kitten, he could run really fast. Neither of the adults could catch him as he led them on a wild chase all over the gym, up and down the bleachers. Finally he saw a door and darted through it into another large room. At the end of the room there was a bright red soda machine that had a very small space underneath. Mac raced across the floor and barely squeezed into the opening. "Safe at last!" he panted as he looked out from underneath his hiding place. "I think I lost them," he thought to himself.
Mac waited and watched silently. The room was very quiet, and he couldn't see any people at all. Gradually he began to relax and eventually fell asleep. He was very tired, hungry, and thirsty after the chase in the gym. As he slept, another loud bell rang and startled him awake. The sound of children's voices filled the room, and Mac moved as far back to the wall as he possibly could. He could see many feet walking all different directions in the great room. Eventually the noise died down, and fewer and fewer children passed by the machine. Another bell rang and the room was quiet again.
Silently, he inched his way out from under the soda machine and made his way down a hallway towards an outside door. When he was about halfway down the hall, a door burst open and a young girl walked into the hallway right in front of Mac. Instantly Mac raced back down the hall to his hiding place. The young girl followed him as fast as she could and saw where he went. She bent down by the machine and caught him just in time and pulled him out. Her eyes opened wide and she smiled as she scooped him up in her arms. "Who let you in, you adorable little kitten? Aren't you just the cutest little thing? My name is Brooke," the girl said to him as she hugged and pet him. "What am I going to do with you?" she pondered. After a few moments she thought of what to do. "I'll take you to Mrs. Deckard. She loves animals, and she might help us."
Mrs. Deckard's classroom was at the end of the hall by the outside doors. Brooke peeked inside the door to the classroom and saw the teacher putting away books and posters for next year. She called sweetly, "Mrs. Deckard, look what I found hiding under the soda machine. Do you think you could find out where he belongs?"
Mrs. Deckard turned around and instantly fell in love with the little ball of fur. "Oh, how adorable! You are the sweetest kitten I have ever seen! Where did you come from? Surely you belong to someone. We will have to check around the building to see if someone is looking for you. Let's get you a drink of water first; you look thirsty."
The kind lady found an empty bowl in a closet and filled it with cold water from the water fountain outside of the classroom. Brooke put Mac down so he could drink, and drink he did. He had never been so thirsty, and the ice cold water was very refreshing. It certainly perked him up, and when he was finished, he took off in a dead run to hide under a cabinet in the room. He was not sure if he could trust these people. They seemed kind and helpful, but a little kitten had to be careful. Brooke ran after him, and flushed him out from under the cabinet into Mrs. Deckard's hands.
"You sure are a wild little critter," observed the teacher. "I can't believe how fast and strong you are for a little kitten." She hugged him close and made him feel warm all over. Then she put him in a large box. " You will be safe in here little fella. I will be back in a few minutes. I am going to see if I can find out if you belong to anyone," she explained as she left the room.
Mrs. Deckard and Brooke asked everyone who was still in the school if he belonged to anyone. Almost everyone had already left for the summer, and no one who was still there knew anything about the little kitten. He appeared to be homeless. Mrs. Deckard decided to take him home to Dogwood Lane. She loved animals and thought he could live comfortably at her home with her other pets. He seemed so sweet and lovable.
Mrs. Deckard had two dogs and a cat that lived at her house. The two dogs, Baby and Zoey, were rather old dogs. Baby was a small black and brown terrier that barked at anything and everything that moved inside or outside of the house. She was the self-appointed protector of the house and family. For the most part Baby was very pleasant, but she did have a bad temper if someone tried to pick her up. She hated that!
Zoey was just the opposite. She was a somewhat larger black dog and as sweet-tempered as any dog could be. She was quiet most of the time and let Baby boss her around. Everywhere Baby went, Zoey followed. Her favorite thing in life was a belly rub from her favorite person, Mr. Deckard. You really couldn't ask for two nicer dogs as pets; they loved their home and their owners.
Daisy was the cat that lived at the Deckard's house. She was a beautiful little cat, mostly white with a few brown and gray spots and a tail that looked borrowed from a raccoon. She loved to be pampered. Baby and Zoey loved her too, and treated her just like another dog. Daisy was special, and everyone around her made her feel special every day. Her favorite thing to do was to curl up on Mr. or Mrs. Deckard's laps whenever they sat down. Life would never be the same for Daisy, Baby, or Zoey on the day Mac came to live at their house.
When Mrs. Deckard walked into the house carrying Mac, she called for the trio of pets. "Look what I have, everybody. I brought home a new friend for you. I want you to meet the newest member of our family."
Baby began to bark, and Zoey chimed in. Daisy hissed and hunched her back, and Mac leaped from Mrs. Deckard's hands and raced under the living room sofa. It was a tight squeeze, but he pushed with all of his might, fearing he would be eaten at any moment. Baby stood beside the place he disappeared yapping loudly. Zoey turned and left the room, followed closely by Daisy. This clearly was not a good beginning.
Several days went by, but none of the Deckard's pets warmed up to Mac. Mac was very confused. He really liked this home, but he was afraid of the other animals. They clearly did not want him here. He did like Mr. and Mrs. Deckard very much. They were especially kind to him, and always made sure he had plenty of food and fresh water. One afternoon he was curled up under a shrub in the front flower garden when a voice startled him.
Excerpted from The Cats of Dogwood Lane by Linda Thomas. Copyright © 2013 Linda Thomas. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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