The houses at either side of the road began to be further and further apart. They began to see bigger and bigger houses, set back from the road, behind huge fences and hedges, with iron gates protecting the driveways.
Then these gave way to wider stretches of fields, behind huge hedges and stone walls, with only the occasional house, set way back from the road. In the houses they could see lights, sometimes upstairs, sometimes downstairs.
‘Can’t you slow down?’ Max panted, trotting to keep up with Lucky.
‘No.’ The little black and white cat said firmly. ‘I need to get home. Lucy is waiting for me.’
‘Stay down.’ Max warned as the road was lit up with the searching lights of one of the big, loud monsters. ‘Car coming,’ he said, nudging Lucky into the long grass at the side of the road.
Lucky, at first cross at Max for pushing him off the road crouched in the long grass, keeping his body low to the ground as the noise got louder and louder. The lights came closer, raking over the long grass. The noise was incredible, there was a whoosh as the beast passed where they were lying.
Lucky let out the breath he had been holding.
‘Don’t be frightened,’ Max said, nuzzling Lucky gently. ‘Its just cars. The roads are always busy when it is coming light and going dark. People do more things then.’
‘They’re so noisy and I hate the way the air rushes when they pass.’
Max nodded. ‘They are, but they won’t come into the grass. We are safe there.’
‘If you say so,’ snapped Lucky, unconvinced. He shook his head. What did the dog know?
Still though he felt safer with Max beside him.
They carried on walking. The cars began to come more frequently. ‘Hide,’ Max would bark and he and Lucky would jump into the long grass.
In some places the grass was short and cut. Then the two of them would have to jump into the ditch at the edge.
‘Ughhhh.’ Lucky complained after he jumped into a ditch at Max’s say so and found himself crouching in cold, and very dirty smelling water.
He wasn’t sure which was worse, hiding in the ditch, or the noise and whoosh of the car-beasts.
‘It’s gone,’ Max lifted his head as the roar of the car faded into the distance. Lucky jumped out of the ditch, disdainfully shaking each paw to rid it of the horribly smelling water.
‘What are you doing. Come on. Hurry up.’ Lucky stood on the edge of the road, looking back at Max.
The big brown dog was still in the ditch. Lucky took a delicate step forwards and peered into the ditch. Max’s head was buried inside a brown paper bag. ‘Max!’ Lucky snapped, crossly. They had to get going. He had to get home, back to Lucy.
‘Wait,’ Max’s voice was muffled inside the bag. He took a stride backwards, the bag stuck on his head moved with him.
‘Stuck. Stuck.’ Max’s voice was scared. He moved backwards quickly, the bag following him. Max’s furry bottom hit the back of the ditch. ‘Ouch.’
Lucky shook his head in annoyance, watching disdainfully as Max lifted his front legs over the bag and managed, eventually to knock it off his head.
‘That was a close thing,’ he said, emerging from the bag.
‘What are you doing?’ Lucky’s voice was filled with annoyance. ‘We need to hurry.’
‘We need to eat too,’ Max scrambled up the grassy bank and dropped something at Lucky’s paws. ‘Left overs. In the bag.’ He licked his muzzle where the tasty food still lingered.
Lucky sniffed delicately at the strange shapes Max had deposited at his paws. It didn’t look or smell like any food he had ever seen. Especially not like the chunks of juicy meat Lucy or her mum gave him.
He sat on his hind legs. ‘I have no idea what that even is.’ He sighed.
‘Chicken.’ Max told him, pushing against the chunks of meat with his nose. ‘I think the humans call it a chicken burger. Eat it. You need to keep your strength up’
Lucky lowered his head and sniffed at the pale object. ‘I don’t think I can,’ he shuddered. Human food did not look or smell nice, especially when it smelt of damp dog drool now that Max’s mouth had been around it.
‘Eat,’ Max said firmly. ‘I’ve eaten the bread and saved most of the meat for you.’ His eyes slid away from Lucky, hoping the cat wouldn’t realise that most of the meat actually meant quite a small portion of what had been in the bag. He knew the cat wouldn’t eat much. Not compared to a dog anyway.
‘I’ll try it.’ Lucky crouched down and began to eat. The meat tasted dry and strange to him and its texture was unlike anything he had ever tried before. But once he got past the dog and human smell it wasn’t too bad and it made his empty stomach feel a lot better.
‘Finished?’ Max lay beside Lucky, the chunk of burger close to his mouth.
‘Yes,’ Lucky began to wash his muzzle with his paws, shuddering at the long string of dog drool that was hanging from Max’s jaws.
He had barely stepped away before the dog had seized and swallowed the remainder of the burger in one big gulp.
‘Can we go now?’ Lucky turned towards the road, looking back at Max over his shoulder.
‘Yup,’ Max nodded, giving the brown paper bag a final sniff. He was sure there was more food in there, but he daren’t risk getting his head stuck again. With a heartfelt sigh he padded after Lucky.
It was daylight now. The lights were no longer on in any of the houses they passed. The roads were quieter now too and they walked side by side along the stretch of tarmac.
‘Where too now?’ Max said as they reached the end of the road. Ahead of them the road joined another, bigger one, but that headed in different directions from the one Lucky knew he had to go in.
‘That way.’ Lucky said, looking over the road as they crouched in the grass beside it, looking out at the stream of cars and huge lorries that were thundering along it.
‘We can’t get over the road. It’s too busy.’ Max shuddered, looking fearfully out of the long grass at the side of the road. Cars and lorries thundered past, in a constant stream.
‘We have to,’ Lucky snapped, getting to his feet and crouching ready to run.
‘Wait,’ Max, shook his head, gently holding the cat’s fur in his teeth. ‘We can’t go yet, you know what happened before when I had to rescue you.
‘Yes, alright.’ Lucky crouched back down. He hated it here. The grass smelt funny and the roar of the traffic was horrible. ‘We have to cross though.’
‘Come on.’ Max leapt to his feet and began to run. Lucky without pausing to think ran after him. The stretch of dark tarmac looked very wide. He could hear the loud roar of cars coming, but he just flattened his ears and kept running behind Max.
He leapt into the grass beside Max as a loud noise blasted behind them. ‘What was that?’
He lay in the grass, breathing fast, terrified of the loud, high pitched noise that had sounded from one of the car beasts.
‘Horn,’ Max said wisely. ‘The car beast was telling us it was coming.’
They hurried down into a wide ditch and lay in the long grass waiting until their breathing returned to normal.
‘What now?’ Max said. ‘Where too?’
‘This way.’ Lucky got to his feet and turned his nose westwards.
‘How do you know?’
‘I just do, ‘ Lucky said, scrambling up the bank and pushing his way through the hedge. ‘Lucy is this way.’ Home and Lucy were in this direction, he just knew.
Lucky turned back to see Max, pushing and wriggling against the thick stems of the hedge.
‘Can’t get through,’ he pushed and pushed, but his body was stuck against the stems.
‘Come on,’ Lucky urged.
‘Can’t. Can’t.’ Max scrabbled against the dry earth with his paws, his long claws gripping into the soil. ‘Oh, I can,’ he said, his body suddenly fitted through the gap with a rush that sent him sprawling onto the ground beside Lucky.
‘What kept you?’ Lucky rolled his green eyes in annoyance at the dog’s plight.
‘I don’t know if cat’s notice these things but I’m a whole lot bigger than you and that gap you found is quite small.’
‘You’re through now,’ Lucky rubbed his shoulder against Max, surprising himself at how much he liked the big dog’s company. He was glad they were together. He’d have been very afraid if he’d have been alone out on the road without knowing what to do, how to save himself from the car beasts. No, it was good that Max was with him, even if he was a smelly dog.
‘What is this?’ Lucky said as they set off towards the west again. The two of them had found themselves in a wide open space, with lines and lines of green plants stretching out to either side of them.
‘Oats, I think,’ Max said, nosing his way into the crop. ‘Some sort of human farm crop anyway.’
He eased himself into the row between the tall green plants behind Lucky. It was easier to travel across the field, the tall shoots hid them from view and there weren’t any car beasts to hide from and who would frighten them. They hurried across the field, not pausing as they reached the edge, ducked under an old wooden fence and into a grassy field.
‘I don’t like this,’ Max said as Lucky trotted out into the open. ‘Too exposed, anyone could see us.’
‘What?’ Lucky sighed.
‘You’ve never been caught by the dog warden that’s obvious.’
‘Yes, of course its obvious,’ Lucky pulled a wry face. ‘I’m a cat.’
‘Well you wouldn’t want to be.’ Max said, looking around them, his eyes watchful. ‘I think we are safe enough though. No houses here.’
‘No,’ Lucky complained as a large drop of rain hit him straight on the top of his head.
‘Just a bit of a shower,’ Max said, shaking his head as another drop landed on him, and another.
A short while later the shower had become a positive deluge. The two of them were soaked. They’d carried on walking until Lucky’s coat was soaked. They’d even carried on with Lucky walking beneath Max, with the big dog shielding the little cat from the worst of the rain, but it began to come so fast it was hard to see. The wind got up, whipping at the branches of the trees they passed.
‘Quickly,’ Max said, running for the cover of a small hawthorn tree. Its branches stretched out to either side making a dry space beneath its trunk.
‘Ughhh,’ Lucky complained, left out in the rain as Max made a run for cover. ‘Thanks.’ He said coming into the shelter and shaking himself deliberately in the direction of Max, angry the brown dog had left him to get wet.’
‘You’re welcome,’ Max said, not understanding why Lucky was cross.
They lay in the shelter of the hawthorn tree until the storm had passed, watching the rain pour down, soaking the grass. It was frightening, watching the trees bend in the strong wind and see the rain, so hard it seemed to blank out the surrounding countryside.
Lucky lay beside Max, letting the dog, shield him from the wind. It was warm in the shelter of his big body, the heat came off his fur and made Lucky feel safe. For a moment he dozed, forgetting where he was. He woke thinking he was on Lucy’s bed and then lifted his head, remembering.
‘It’s stopped.’ Max said, getting to his feet.
Lucky yawned and stretched.
They walked on, the grass was wet, the earth slippery and muddy.
‘We need to find a way around this.’ Max said as they came to a river. The water after the storm was fast and brown, broken branches floated on it. The water looked angry and frightening.
Lucky agreed. For once Max was right.
‘Just need a drink though,’ Max made his way down to the water’s edge. As he bent to drink the slippery bank gave way. With a loud yelp of fear he was in the water.
‘Max’ yowled Lucky, seeing his friend being swept away in the water, his head barely visible over the churning brown water, his paws flailing madly to keep himself from sinking.
‘Max, get out of the water,’ Lucky said, running along the riverbank to try to keep up with Max, urging him to get to safety.
‘Ca….n’t.’ Max spluttered, his head disappearing under the water before he re-appeared.
Then with a loud crash the current swept him into some an overhanging tree at the side of the bank.
‘Ughhh.’ Max coughed.
As Lucky looked he could see that Max’s collar had got stuck in one of the branches that was lying in the water a fallen tree had dropped right the way across the river. He was well and truly stuck.
‘Help me.’ Max pleaded, his body was being swept with the current of the water, while his collar was stuck.
Without pausing to think Lucky leapt onto the fallen tree. Sticking his claws in he began to walk slowly across the trunk, flattening his ears and narrowing his eyes against the strong spray that was battering his body. He had to get to Max.
He eased himself slowly along the trunk and then, pausing to look at the fast flowing brown water beneath his paws he launched himself into the air, landing neatly on the branch beside Max. The big dog, he could see, was in trouble, the water was covering his muzzle, making it hard for him to breathe, his collar was stuck in the branch.
Sticking his claws into the wood as tightly as he could Lucky crouched down to get close to Max. The spray of the water hit his face, making it hard to breathe. He found Max’s collar and stuck his teeth into it, desperately chewing at the tattered fabric. His jaws worked furiously his sharp teeth biting into the rope collar that was keeping Max stuck to the branch.
He caught sight of Max’s frightened eyes, and desperately flailing paws as the big dog tried to help himself. He felt a strong tug on the collar as it began to give way and then with a final chomp of his jaws he bit through it and Max was free. H
Clinging to the tree he saw Max disappear under the water as it rushed beneath the tree trunk and then a moment later his wide head emerged, his paws working furiously as he made his way towards the bank.
‘Thank you.’ Max managed to pant as he hauled himself out of the water and lay, exhausted on the river bank.