It was cold in the night air and a slight drizzle dampened Lucky’s sleek black fur. Instinctively the little black and white cat made his way beneath the wide overhanging branches of a rhododendron bush where he could sit unseen and safe. He sniffed the air, it smelt unfamiliar, petrol fumes overlaid with the smell of humans. He shivered. It was cold outside, the night air damp. He wanted to be inside, with Lucy. Instinctively he knew it was time for him to be with her, time to eat and curl up beside her. His inner body clock told him it was the time when he should be curled up on the bed beside her desk waiting while she did her homework before she curled up with him on her lap at bedtime. He shouldn’t be here, far away. He wanted Lucy. The ground beneath the rhododendron bush smelt of an unfamiliar dog and vaguely of a fox. Lucky’s tail twitched with irritation, his ears flickered, listening for any sound that might alert him to danger.
He sniffed again, hoping to catch a faint breath of the salty air that was so familiar to him, but there was nothing. He was a long way away from home. Lucky waited a while longer, his green eyes watching the dim light that came from the window through which he had just escaped. There was no sound from the house, Mrs Flannigan was sleeping soundly, happy in her new home, safe in the knowledge that she was with her loved ones.
The tip of Lucky’s jet black tail twitched, he was a long way away from his loved ones though. He looked towards the house, there was safety there. A warm bed, the company of Mrs Flannigan. She’d made it clear how fond she was of him. He liked being beside her, sitting on the warmth of her lap. The house was nice, he’d be well cared for there. He meowed softly, voicing his frustration. He liked Mrs Flannigan, she was kind to him, she needed the company of a cat, the poor lady was lonely. But Lucy needed him more. He didn’t belong here. He belonged with Lucy. He meowed again, louder. Wanting to let Lucy know he was coming home. He got gracefully to his paws, stretched, and then, instinctively began to head west, towards where he knew Lucy was waiting for him. He slid quietly from beneath the bush, his pads making no sound on the long grass. He padded across the neatly mown lawn, his ears twitching, listening for sounds of danger. Far away a cow mooed and further away came the noise of a car. He paused, waiting, ready to scamper away if there were any danger. Then, as the noise of the car died away he began to walk. Lucky slipped through a gap in the neat wooden fence, wrinkling his nose at the smell of fresh paint on the rails which Mrs Flannigan’s son, Tommy, had painted in readiness for her arrival. The paint was still tacky and a white streak brushed onto Lucky’s fur, clinging to the dark hairs.
The ground outside the garden was smooth and hard. The long, dark pavement stretched into the distance in either direction in front of the neat gardens that ran along the road where the Flannigan’s lived. Lucky walked across the unfamiliar surface, feeling its hardness beneath his paws. It was very different from the rutted farm track he was used to at his home. He froze as an enormous black dog stepped out onto the pavement from behind an open garden gate.
‘Out late.’ The dog said, sniffing at Lucky.
Lucky narrowed his eyes, flattening his ears onto his head, ready to run away if the dog was any threat.
‘’Yes,’ Lucky retorted, snapping, he didn’t want to get into a conversation with a dog. He had things to do, urgent business. He had to get home.
‘Where are you off too? Shouldn’t you be indoors at this time of night?’ The dog sat down on the pavement with a sigh.
Lucky twitched the end of his tail to show his irritation. He hadn’t got time to talk to a dog, who clearly had nothing better to do.
‘I’m fine,’ he had to crane his neck to look up at the dog. ‘Shouldn’t you be indoors yourself?’
The dog got to his feet and began to walk alongside Lucky, who sighed, hoping the dog would understand his irritation and go away. ‘Can I keep you company?’
‘I’d rather you didn’t.’
Pointing his nose towards the west Lucky began to walk, stepping down off the pavement and onto a vast looking black stretch of tarmac. “Watch out!” Lucky heard a dog bark, he half turned in the direction of the bark and saw the two giant eyes of a roaring monster bearing down on him. There was no time to move, Lucky flattened his ears against the monster’s roar, staring, terrified at it’s eyes which shone so much they blinded him.
Lucky felt the rush of air which surrounded the monster, its dark shape going straight over the top of him. Lucky sensed its warmth and heard the roar of its angry voice as he flattened himself onto the hard tarmac. The movement of the giant beast sucked the air out of his lungs. And then it was gone. He was alive. Gasping to get air back into his lungs and stunned with fright Lucky watched the monster’s bulk as it disappeared around a curve in the tarmac, two shining red eyes glaring at him as it went away. “You stupid cat,” Lucky felt himself being picked up by a damp mouth, “You could have…” Lucky couldn’t hear any more as the big dog’s words were muffled by carrying Lucky in his mouth.
He swung limply in the dog’s mouth for a few moments before being dumped unceremoniously at the opposite side of the road. He didn’t care what happened to him he was too shocked to move anyway. Normally he would have been hissing and spitting at the dog for daring to come near him, let alone pick him up, but he was too stunned to protest.
He soon recovered his composure, lying on the side of the road was definitely not something he wanted to do. Cats did not get picked up and dragged around by dogs, especially ones who were bossy and wanted to order them around. Cats were the boss, not the dogs. It was time the dog realised that.
He got gingerly to his feet, checking out his body, everything seemed to be in the right place. He shifted his paws, twitched his tail, moved his whiskers, flattened his ears. Yes everything worked as it should.
“Stay. Off. The. Roads,” commanded the dog in a deep growl.
Lucky glared up at the dog, the tip of his tail twitching angrily. “Thank you, I will,” he snapped, feeling very undignified with a smear of dog drool over his neck. He had been very frightened by the monster on the road, but he wasn’t going to admit that to a dog. Tail still twitching Lucky stalked away, making sure that he kept to the dark stretch of pavement rather than going onto the wide smooth road. There was no way he was going to risk another encounter with a road monster.
“So,” said the dog, “Where are you going to?”
Lucky glanced at the dog who had fallen into step beside him. The dog reminded him of Shep the old sheep dog that usually spent the day slumbering beside the fire at Lucy’s home. This dog was old too, with a short curling brown and white coat. Lucky turned his head slightly so that he didn’t breathe in the dog’s doggy odour. Someone should give this dog a bath, but that wouldn’t be Lucky. His owners weren’t doing a very good job of taking care of him. Lucky had never been out away from home at night before, but he was pretty sure that no dogs should be roaming loose either.
“Home,” Lucky replied, the dog looked friendly and after all he had saved Lucky from the Road Monster, otherwise Lucky would never have dreamed of talking to a dog! He threw a look over his shoulder, the dog was still following, but he wasn’t a threat, he’d helped Lucky when the yellow eyed monster had attacked him. Perhaps he could talk to a dog, just this once.
Apart from the cold wind that blew across the road towards them, there was silence broken only by the clicking of their claws on the tarmac surface as they walked. The big hairy dog towered over Lucky, but he didn’t feel threatened by him at all. In fact the dog seemed very friendly and nice.
“Where’s home?” asked the dog, after they had padded along companionably for a while.
“Were Lucy is,” Lucky told him, ‘I shouldn’t be here. This is a mistake. Mrs Flannigan’s son thought I belonged to her and brought me here with her.’
‘Who’s Lucy? Who’s Mrs Flannigan’s son? Why did he bring you here?’ The dog asked.
‘Woah, so many questions.’ Lucky twitched his whiskers in disgust.
‘Lucy is the girl I own,’ Lucky explained carefully, turning to face the dog. ‘Mrs Flannigan was someone who I used to visit. She was an old lady who needed some company.’
‘Oh,’ said the dog, nodding solemnly.
‘So her son thought I was hers and she was moving so he brought me here with her. A mistake and now I need to get back to Lucy. Home.’
‘Home,’ sighed the dog, ‘What a lovely word.’
“I’m not really sure how far away it is though.’ Lucky told him. B’ut I know it’s this direction.”
The big old brown and white dog sighed, making Lucky wrinkle his nose at his doggy breath, “Home,” he said sadly, “I’d love to have a home.”
“You’ve got no home?” Lucky stopped and faced the old dog, noticing for the first time how kindly his brown face was. He couldn’t believe that an animal wouldn’t have a home. No soft fireside rug to lie on… no kind person to stroke your fur….it was unthinkable.
“Nope,” sighed the dog, stopping suddenly to scratch at a flea that was making him itch, “I used to have, they called me Max.” The dog sat up again, “But then a young pup came along and I was thrown out.”
“Why don’t you go home?” Lucky asked, unable to comprehend how any family could not want Max. Maybe he was mistaken.
“Home!” spat Max angrily, “You must be joking, my old master tied a brick around my neck and threw me into the river. The rope broke otherwise I would have drowned.”
Lucky shook his head in disbelief.
“I’m not going back there.” Max sighed. ‘I don’t know what to do. Where to go.’
Lucky looked at the big dog. His eyes were sad. Beneath the tatty brown and white coat he was a nice dog. If you ignored the smell. He couldn’t imagine Lucy ever doing anything like trying to drown him. Imagine. What kind of person could do that to a dog. For a moment he imagined the cold water, the weight of the brick pulling poor Max down into the depths of the cold water. Imagine how it must feel to know your person had done that to you deliberately. It was hard to imagine the betrayal, the hurt Max must feel knowing he had been pushed out because a young, more exciting pup had turned up and taken your place.
Perhaps they should go back to Max’s home and rescue that pup. The same might happen to them when they were older and a newer dog came along.
‘’Should be go back and rescue that pup?’ Lucky asked, his imagination whirling with all kinds of scenarios of dramatic rescues.
Max shook his head. Lucky winced as drool spun into the air. He closed his eyes as the wind generated by the big dog’s shaking lifted his fur.
‘No. I can’t go back there.’ Max said. He lay down on the pavement and put his giant head onto his shaggy paws and let out a long sigh of despair.
‘I can’t see a new pup playing with my human. It would break my heart.’
Max sat up, spinning on the pavement until he found a comfortable spot and then lifting a back paw to scratch the back of his head. Lucky pulled a face in horror at the fur and mud that flew off the dog. He was filthy. But he was kind and Lucky owed him his life. Without Max he’d have been snapped up into the jaws of that yellow eyed monster that had attacked him on the road.
“You can come with me if you like,” Lucky told Max, “My mistress Lucy is kind, she wouldn’t do that to you.”
‘I don’t know….’ Max said, yawning. ‘I’m kind of busy. I like it here. Plenty to eat from the bins.’
Lucky bounded up onto the fence beside them and looked down at the dog.
‘Well, if you’re sure.’ From his high position he looked around the surroundings. Everywhere he looked there were houses, small gardens. Behind the houses in the distance he could see bigger buildings, their lights on even in the night time, stretching up into the sky. They seemed to go on forever. Lucky wanted to be out in the countryside again, where the air was cleaner and there were animals and farms and Lucy.
‘Yeah, I’m fine here.’ Max put his front paws down and gave a leisurely stretch before turning and walking away up the street.
‘Ok,’ Lucky called, hopping off the fence onto the next one, a low stone wall.
He glanced over his shoulder, watching Max walk away.
‘Thanks then. Good luck.’
He jumped down onto the pavement. A moment later Max was beside him again.
‘I think you’ll need some help.’ He said. ‘Little cat like you. Big world out there. I mean you nearly got taken out by a car.’
‘Whatever,’ Lucky sniffed. He had no idea what Max was talking about.
‘I’d better come with you. Keep you company. Look after you.’
Lucky twitched his whiskers. ‘Good of you. Thank you.’
The two animals fell into step, side by side on the long pavement.
“Do you know where to go?” Max asked after they had walked together for a while.
“Yes of course,” Lucky said with more confidence than he felt, “It’s this way.”
On and on the pair walked in a companionable silence. The city streets began to give way to houses which were set further apart each in its own big garden. Lucky took a big breath, the air tasted cleaner and somehow cooler. The first streaks of light were slowly beginning to push away the blackness of the night.