Marmalade

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

Marmalade has been living in the Neighborhood for Seasons as one of the many House-less cats. It's not easy, but she survives and knows all the tricks of living alone. One such trick is a House where a small family of People lives with their dog and bird. A House where she learns, she might not be so alone after all.

MARMALADE

 

 

It was the Cold Moon again.

 

Marmalade sneezed as a fallen leaf brushed past her nose. Around her, the Houses People built arched into the sky like trees, blocking out the scant light of the setting sun. The orange tabby flicked her tail as she got to her paws, steps light as she made her way down the stone Pathway. Keeping her eyes peeled and ears pricked, she carefully crossed the Pathway, making sure no Smoke Runners were around.

 

Hunting hadn't been favorable that day, and her stomach was growling like a rival cat. With night coming earlier during the Shivering Season, hunting around the Neighborhood was getting a bit harder. Many birds were flying South to warmer lands, and the squirrels were all curled up in their hiding holes for the Season. It wasn't a good time to be a House-less cat, and with the Grey-Furs and Ring-Tails coming up from the Lake, food was getting even more scarce to come by.

 

Chhiich-Schhhich!

 

Marmalade's ears lifted, catching a familiar sound. Eagerness filled her as she recognized the noise, her pawsteps quickening. If she was right, then it wouldn't matter if she hadn't caught anything to eat.

 

“Maaarrrrmalade! Maaaarmalde!”

 

Yes! She knew that voice! It was the sound the Graying Person made to tell her food was being put out! Marmalade scampered past the Fencing surrounding the House's Garden, where the House's People's dog – who Marmalade called Yapper since it was all bark and no bite – was allowed to roam.

 

She turned the corner to see the large female Person looking around while holding a bright blue Food Holder. Once she noticed Marmalade the Person made a happy noise and called again:

 

“Marmalade!”

 

The Graying Person made other sounds, but Marmalade didn't care too much about them. Though Marmalade had lived enough Seasons around People to know many of their Words (such as House, Fence, and Garden) and could piece together their meaning through body language, she wasn't an expert. Better to leave that to the Crows and Blue-Birds, who were smart enough to trick even cats.

 

Marmalade scurried up to the Porch, where the Graying Person was filling the Food Holders set out for the cats. She brushed against the Person in thanks, pleased when she got a head scratch reply, before tucking in to eat. The Food Pellets were hard and crunched beneath her teeth, but they filled her hungry belly and wouldn't run away if she wasn't fast enough, so she wouldn't complain.

 

Behind her, the Graying Person went back inside her House calling to the other Person that lived there. Marmalade glanced back in time to see the Browning Person (named because her hair was turning brown over the yellow) walking through the House with Yapper dancing at her paws before the Door closed. The tabby cat snorted and shook her head at the dog's behavior before going back to her meal. She needed to get what she could before the other cats showed up to eat.

 

As though summoned, the thin pure white female known as Whitey hopped up the steps of the Porch, freezing when she noticed Marmalade already eating. The two she-cats stared each other down for a few moments before Whitey cautiously made her way to the Food Holder closer to the steps – and on the other side of the Porch from Marmalade.

 

Marmalade gave a lazy flick of her tail and returned to eating. She didn't understand why the other cats were so nervous around the People. Always watching them when they stepped outside and running away if they got near. Whitey hadn't been as bad recently, but little Tangerine, a young orange tabby similar to Marmalade, but much smaller, would freeze if she saw a Person through the Windows before running away. It was ridiculous in Marmalade's opinion, after all the People fed them at least twice a day, sometimes more, and even called to them to let them know it was there. They didn't have to do that. In fact, most People didn't feed the House-less cats.

 

Pawsteps up the ramp signaled another guest, and a glance showed Graybeard, a large gray tabby male with a bad eye slowly coming up. A soft warning growl sent him hurrying past Marmalade and to food left on the ground between the Food Holders. Whitey laid her ears back as she watched the tomcat, but didn't show any other sign of his presence bothering her. Still, Marmalade kept an eye on both of them just in case. If a fight broke out it was likely that the Graying Person or Browning Person would come out to break them up. The Graying Person had done so whenever Marmalade would get into arguments with Tiger, the fluffy-tailed orange tomcat that had recently wandered deeper into the Neighborhood and hadn't looked back.

 

Movement out of the corner of her eye brought Marmalade's attention back to the ramp, where Tangerine was nervously making her way up. The young female wasn't even fully out of kittenhood, and more skittish than a squirrel. Marmalade watched quietly as the kitten stopped halfway up the ramp and sit back in a crouch, respectfully waiting her turn to eat. Marmalade had no quarrel with the young cat, but Whitey was a known bully and Graybeard was a tomcat. As a rule, tomcats either avoided kittens like carrion food or if they were alone like Tangerine was, played the bully and threw their weight around.

 

Twitching her ear, Marmalade sat up with a yawn, stretching in an obvious show of disinterest to her eating companions, and leaped onto the Fencing surrounding the Porch. Tangerine didn't waste any time, darting up the rest of the ramp and setting into Marmalade's previous spot to eat the leftovers. Another ear twitched as the larger tabby gazed across the Pathway in front of the House. Finding nothing of interest, she looked back at the three cats beneath her before looking towards the Windows. Sometimes, if lucky, Marmalade could see one of the People of the House or even the House Bird that lived there.

 

The House Bird was the reason Marmalade wasn't allowed in the House, she knew. The Graying Person seemed to keep it as a Pet like the Browning Person kept the dog. Marmalade had seen the House Bird sitting on Graying Person's shoulder or in the room Graying Person sat in for hours at a time with her. Yapper never seemed to leave Browning Person's side, except on the occasion she was let into the Garden on her own.

 

Yapper wasn't a bad dog, as far as dogs go. The little brindle-and-white dog wasn't much bigger than Marmalade herself, with longer fur and a high yapping voice. And while Yapper barked a lot, she never bit Marmalade or any other cat (though she seemed to enjoy chasing them). Whitey had complained about the dog chasing her, but Marmalade scoffed at her. If the she-cat had stood her ground Yapper would have lost interest, and might even have greeted her. It was her own fault for being so cautious when she didn't need to.

 

Marmalade stretched her neck up when she noticed Browning Person walking back through the House with Yapper. She flicked her tail, wondering what was in the back of the House and why Yapper and Browning Person always spent their time back there. Rarely did either leave the back of the House, though Browning Person would sometimes leave with Graying Person. Graying Person must be busy since she left the House more often, or maybe Marmalade wasn't around when Browning Person left.

 

She shrugged and looked back down at her fellow Neighborhood cats. Tangerine had finished her leftovers and was making her way to where Graybeard had abandoned his spot to sniff around Whitey's now-empty Food Holder hopefully. Whitey herself must have left while Marmalade wasn't paying attention because the blue-eyed she-cat was nowhere to be seen. With a dissatisfied huff, Graybeard turned back around to his food, only to find Tangerine scarfing it down as fast as she could.

 

Angry that his food was being eaten by a cat half his size, Graybeard peeled his lips back with a snarl. His back arched and his ears flattened, tail bristling and lashing low to the ground. Tangerine froze mid-bite, eyes widening and pupils becoming slits with fear. She gave an uncertain growl back, her tail lashing back and forth and muscles tensing for a retreat.

 

This wouldn't do. If this kept up, either Tangerine would be chased off or one of the People would come and chase them both off. With a sharp hiss, Marmalade stood up from her spot over both cats, fur bristling and tail sweeping behind her. She growled another warning to Graybeard, reminding both of her presence and effectively preventing the tomcat from starting anything.

 

There was a pecking order among the Neighborhood cats, and though the tomcat was above Tangerine, he was not above Marmalade. If Marmalade said Tangerine had the food he left behind, then that was Law unless he wanted to fight her.

 

Graybeard stayed still for a few moments growling at her, but he made no move to fight. Another hiss from Marmalade sent him running. He knew he was no match for the battle-scarred she-cat, having previously lost more than one tussle with her before.

 

Both females watched him leave before Tangerine gave a shaky purr of thanks and tucked into her food. Marmalade sniffed and settled back down on the Fence, not even sparing the kitten a glance. There was no need for thanks, she was just preventing her People from getting involved.

 

A soft blink and curious flick of the ear. Her People? Sitting up, she ignored Tangerine's nervous twitch and began to groom herself in thought. Were the People of this House hers? She didn't live in the House like House-cats did, though she spent many nights underneath it to keep warm and safe from the Gray-Furs and Ring-Tails. House-cats wore collars, like the dogs People kept as Pets didn't they. No, Midnight, a black tomcat was a House-cat a few Pathways away and he didn't have a collar.

 

She thought of the stories her Mother Cat told her when she was a kitten. About when a cat found their Person or People, they just knew. After all, Mother Cat told her, cats were not Pets like dogs or even birds, cats chose their People or Person.

 

A purr worked its way out of Marmalade's throat as she remembered the Graying Person and Browning Person leaving their House just to scratch her head. The Browning Person had even sat outside on the Porch with Marmalade and Whitey once (one of the few times Whitey didn't run away immediately) just to pet Marmalade. And Graying Person was the one who normally left food out every day, and they both always made happy soothing sounds towards her when they saw her.

 

Yes, Marmalade decided, purring happily. They were her People, even if she wasn't allowed inside the House because of the House Bird. Her whiskers twitched with amusement as she thought, even the dog, Yapper, was her's. After all, Yapper never wanted to harm and would greet Marmalade if she let the dog close enough.

 

A content sigh left Marmalade as she sank to lounge across the Fencing, resting her head on her paws. Below, Tangerine finished eating and wandered off, glancing back at the older tabby before disappearing under the House.

 

This was her House. Her People and her dog. And even if she could not enter it, she would make sure that all cats knew.

 

She was Marmalade, the Outside House-cat. And this was her House.


Submitted: July 08, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Kristen Blakey. All rights reserved.

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