Time to crack open my eyes, to yawn and yawn again, to stretch, to scratch, then pounce on the ball of wool sending it shooting under the bed. And I’m off, skidding on the carpet, slithering past the ball, almost colliding with the wall. Arching my back, I spring again, digging my claws into the woolly prey. It clings to me and we struggle. I roll on my back, splaying my legs, and wool tumbles over my belly.
A shape looms at one end of the bed, it’s tiny, round eyes struggling to pierce the dark, its breath hot and unsavoury, calling the name it gives me. I move to slink away, but it corners me, its hand grabbing me by the scruff of my neck, and drags me through a flock of dust bunnies into the light.
I am whisked into its arms, the breath knocked from me. “Lie still,” it says. As if I could do otherwise in its vice-like grip. Its fingers dig into the crevice behind my ears till I am forced to purr and nuzzle against it. So much for self-respect. “It was only a dream,” it says, dumping me back on the floor.
What nonsense. As if we could dream. It was nothing but a ball of fluff I saw, or a mouse scuttling away, caught inches from its hideaway, or a bird, its wings fluttering, feathers flying free or maybe a rabbit, terrified, trying to stare me down with big round eyes. All are gone now, and it with them, leaving me alone with a bowl of pellets tumbling to the floor. I turn a disdainful back.
Ooh! An open window. I jump up and sit on the sill, sniffing the air. Hmm. Others. Across the road. Down the alley with all those smelly dustbins. Through the scented blackcurrant bushes. And there, amid it all, the hint of a treasure, a she-cat of the most exquisite sort. I lift my nose and incline my head, straining forward. Yes. The scent has my whole body quivering. But the wind swings to the north and the delicious smell is swept away.
I spring to the ground and race to the gate. Ducking down, I peer out under the metal bars. Nothing. Not a hair nor a whisker of her. I sit back on my haunches and wait, my head held high. No sign of her. Better clean my paws while I wait.
What’s this coloured thread caught between my claws? It flows beneath the gate, weaves amongst the leaves along the stone path, jumps up onto the window sill, only to plunge to my bowl below from where it hurries across the kitchen, down the corridor and through the bedroom door till it disappears beneath the bed.
Seized by a wild desire to run, I grasp the wool between my teeth and tear off down the lane, past the ruins of a tractor, round a toppled signpost and away into the orchard, trailing a coloured tail wherever I go.
Reaching the middle of the orchard, the thread goes taut and I tumble forward, head over heels, a bundle of fur, over and over, in a shower of leaves till I come to a halt. When I look up, a pair of eyes stares down, and whiskers that twitch, and a paw that gives me a playful tap. It’s her.