For starters, let me introduce myself to those of you who have not had the privilege to meet Judy Howard and me in person during our travels across the country.
In this debut memoir, Judy portrays me as the sometimes calming, at times mischievous, but most often the loving force during that first-adventure , driving solo across the country. She describes me as a domestic short haired cat, although my fans believe I might have romped with the mighty Bengal tigers in a few of my past lives. The Bengal theory began trending after I revealed the brave and exciting adventures of the fictional character, Sportster The Cat, in my own book, ACTIVATE LION MODE. We felines also like to brag about our ancestry. I tend to sit a little taller when Judy discusses the possibility of my wild Bengal heritage.
Like a little kitten, The Short Story, our Smart car, follows behind everywhere we go.
These characters, whom readers have come to love, learn to overcome impossible obstacles in order to live a rich and inspiring life.
Over the years, you, my peeps have befriended and encouraged Judy and me and every one of our story characters as we battled life's demons. You have cheered us along as we rose above our flaws and blossomed into loving souls. Judy and I want to thank you for your supportive comments on social media and all your wonderful reviews on Amazon.
Dizzy from thirst and hunger, I became weak, making it easy for the man to sweep me up and take me to Judy. "I found this kitten," he said. "Could you tell me where the animal shelter is located?" He had wanted to take me to homeless jail. I was scared and so ashamed. My tiny mewing cries touched Judy's heart. She operated a pet grooming salon and assured the man she would find me a good home.
In celebration of our 10th Anniversary Judy and I want to send out loud and thundering purrs to all of you and hope you will ride along with us as we prowl and pounce across the country.
Come along! We would love to meet you! Invite us to visit your home town and show us around! We would love to curl up for a week or two and explore.
The moon was high. The starlight, dimmed from the city’s lights, had lost its sparkle. For the amount of bodies strewn across the asphalt, the makeshift campground surprised me. The bustle had toned down to murmurs, occasional spurts of low laughter, and the sporadic bark of a dog. A good time to move out. I studied my foster family one last time. Jawbreaker sensed something was astir and lifted his head. I ignored his watchful eye, and headed out. When I looked back, he padded behind me, probably thinking I was taking a bathroom break. I stopped, jerked around, and hissed. Jawbreaker’s eyes widened, heeded my warning, and sat down. His big mouth drooped as I spun around and sprinted off into the night.
I jogged along the road we had come in on. The city offered drainage ditches, underpasses, and an occasional abandoned building for hiding. Only two trucks passed.
Maintaining a steady pace, I made time. No sign of bears or elk. No woodpeckers or hawks, but I jerked to a halt. I caught scent of an odor I had never experienced, but instinct told me it was the smell of death. I froze and began to tremble. I wanted to run, return to my Green Berets and Jawbreaker, but chilling fear held me in place.
I recalled Judy pointing out the dead furry bodies along the roadside. “Do you see that, Sportster? Bad things can happen if you aren’t careful.” She would shake her finger at me and say, “You have to stay close to home.”
Well, I wasn’t close to home, thanks to her, but I would be careful. I gathered my courage and followed the scent. On the edge of the road lay the ghastly carcass of a kitten. I belted out a yowl that pierced the night and hightailed it. I didn’t stop until my lungs begged for air and my legs screamed for relief. With a last burst of energy, I dove into a large pipe leading under the freeway. Rancid water splashed in my face as I sprinted toward the dim moonlight at the end of the tunnel. My stomach hurled, and I gagged from the offending stench but kept going. The passageway opened into a concrete ditch enclosed by cyclone fencing. Without slowing, I rushed the line of chain link. With my momentum, I scrambled over the top, spurred by the ear piercing rattle of the metal, and leaped down on the other side. With the barrier between me and the crime scene, I stopped and caught my breath.
I had landed in another parking lot. A large Elk, his head held high, sporting a wide rack of horns stood in front of a building. I balked again, my hair on end. Wait. It was a statue. This was an Elks Lodge. Judy and I had camped at many of these facilities. They were fraternities of sort, their symbol, the Elk, usually guarded its entrance. I scanned the parking area. Several RVs nestled in the rear of the property. One looked like our motorhome.
My chest pounded in anticipation, but I crept along the brick wall that met the fencing. It was a long, but safe way around to the vehicle. I must be cautious. Like most campgrounds at night, all was quiet. My heart raced as I neared the motorhome. Judy had not made it easy for me to find her. She would be happy to see me. I imagined her reaction after six nights without me. She would feed me my favorite treats and kiss my face while I pretended to hate her gushing. Judy mentioned perhaps she might be prone to believe, as the Buddhists do, in reincarnation. They believe that pieces of the soul of a deceased loved one can be reborn into an animal’s soul, thus taking on the passed loved one’s personality characteristics. “You are so like my Jack.” She would say to me. “He, too, acted like he hated my sweet talking, but I think deep down he loved it, just like you do Sportster.” I purred remembering her words and climbed onto the motorhome’s porch.
My heart sank when my paw touched the first step. This was not our home. Strangers’ scents coated the porch and the door. My tail drooped. My heavy spirit weighed me down, accenting my exhaustion. I crawled onto the porch. Too tired to be careful, I curled up, tucked my nose under my flank and closed my eyes.
The warm morning sun and the motorhome’s rocking movement woke me. I moved to a more covert position under the vehicle. Voices inside only mumbled until the door’s lock made a familiar click and a man spoke clearly. “There you go, Annabelle. Why can’t you let us sleep late just once?”
The door slammed shut as a soft ball of fur glided down the steps. Grey paws reached out from Annabelle’s plush body and carried her to the ground. She performed her own yoga stretch, her elbows flat on the asphalt, and her butt in the air. She must have seen me because her tail gyrated, then kinked into a small hook at the tip, as if calling me.
I sprang to my feet and approached like a peep on twitter, chirping my intentions, my exhaustion forgotten. She turned, acted startled, her icy blue eyes grew large. I chirped again, more of an alluring trill this time. She stood her ground. Her tail flagged back and forth.
I presented myself, nose to nose, and suddenly became aware of my unkempt condition. My cologne was the rancid tunnel water from yesterday. My tail, erect and vibrating, exhibited a glaring bald spot from Jawbreaker’s attack. I quickly lowered it before she noticed. I rolled over, showed her my soft underbelly … and the burrs embedded in my coat. I had been too fatigued last night to groom myself. Shame spurred me to jump up. I dashed away into the bushes.