This is one of my favorite stories.... the end is a nice twist. Well worth the few minutes of your time. Enjoy!

Another restless night, looking for him again. It’s been happening more often lately. And he stays away much longer. He just melts away into the darkness, invisible, and the march toward winter is accelerating. Soon, I will be sleeping through the worst of it. But he doesn’t sleep that way.

I don't want him outside once I fall asleep. I want him safe, in his happy, warm place; home. He needed me to stay lush, but my cycle doesn’t work that way. It is short.

He gives most of my other residents the heepers-jeepers, so that's what I called him; Mr. Heepers Jeepers. He roams and hunts, he struts and shows off. Even though he is a menace, he manages to entertain with his antics.

When he learned to crawl, his eyes were still closed. He was so small, and already so fierce. He tickled me silly when he started to sharpen his claws, and his skills, on my thick skin. Yes, I chuckled and laughed. Those were beautiful times! But I forget … I’m watching out for him, listening to the wind as my glorious panache leaves me gently.

He's black as a new moon night, loves to hiss and growl; show his teeth. He thinks he is soooo big, and yet... he doesn't even weigh 4 kg yet. He’s not done growing. I wonder if he knows it. It’s only been a few short cycles since we’ve met.

We started this cycle together; he was born at my feet when I was Budding Spring. His mother chose me to protect him and his siblings. It had been such a long time since I had hosted littles like him. What a joy to wake up to a mama making her bed in the crook of my ankles, where the moss is thickest! What a magnificent gift for one in her hundredth cycle, or more, I don’t recall exactly. A true lady never tells her age. My cycle is much longer than one might think. After all, I am still a beauty!

But they moved away after we all grew strong, and I became Miss Lush Summer. What a time that was; the birds, the flirting, and rustling in the wind. That’s my favorite short cycle. So much life and song; the wind, the cicadas, the birds, the squirrels. All vying for my attention, my protection. Oh, those are the days! And they were the best days with the babies at my feet.

Anyway, I digress, yet again, I hope you will bear with me. MHJ hid and stayed with me when the family came to take the others away. And he's become protective of me, his home. I am so happy he stayed. He’s made himself a nest, a shallow burrow. He snuggles up close and none can see him. He’s safe.

But now that I am Dame Fall O’Tumn, I go towards my deepest slumber and brightest awakening while he continues to maturity. He has such a short yet long cycle, no breaks, no regeneration. It just goes on and on until it is no more.

The exact opposite of myself with my short, intense cycles of regeneration, growth, and sleep that stretch out into a rather long cycle. The things I have seen. There used to be family members living close by, we were a tight-knit group. Now there is much more space, I’m so huge. I see more people too.

Oh, these memories that crop up every now and then. I wonder where Mr. Heepers Jeepers is. He doesn’t seem close. I can’t see him, or hear him, or smell him in the wind. I need to stay alert. On the lookout. I hope he’s ok.

I wonder if it is true that cats have nine lives. If they do, we might spend many awakenings together. I know he will only grow bigger and older, but he will be here for a while. That's a comforting thought. Oh, there I go again, I digress... damned old age. Oops! Sorry, I forget I am a lady. I love my colours now, yet I am tired, sluggish, and can’t offer as much protection as I once did.

What I want most is this; I want him to spend the cold and lonely time with me, warming my roots in my sleep. I’ve tried to make a shelter of my falling leaves. A place for him to hide away from the cold and the wet. I just don’t know if he will stay. Can he stay? Will he be ok? My sleep is short, but it is too long for MHJ.

And I admit it, I'm scared, ... I'm scared he won't recognize me when Budding Spring comes along again, young and exuberant, full of new life, waking from the most refreshing slumber. If he stays with me, he will see it happen and know that it is me, reborn. He will understand that though we are different, we are together.

But I know that I must let him go, I haven't been able to feed him as much lately. Most of the birds have gone, the squirrels are sleeping and the grasshoppers he loves so much, long dead. And, he is still growing, he needs more, not less. He needs more food, more space, more heat. I must find him another family. One whose home is not in the wind.

Ah, good, there he is, I can’t see him yet, but he’s moving. He doesn’t make much sound, but the wind talks to me, ever so gently tonight, and lets me know that MHJ is happy and coming home. He’ll be here soon!

Now that the sun is announcing its upcoming presence, he’s prancing around me, rubbing my rugged legs, letting me know he's happy to be home. And I’m happy to see him.

“I see that you’ve had a good night. I hope you have found what you need near here because you must always come back. Except, I love you Mr. Heepers Jeepers and I have to find you another family. But, I think I will let you choose your own family, in your time. For now, I'm just happy you are here with me.”

After all, how does a tree go about finding a family for a cat?

Submitted: June 28, 2022

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