The Adventures of Spooner and Nuggie
Chapter 1 (My Name Is Spooner)
Spooner was born with nerve damage in her front foot. The medical term for it is radial nerve paralysis. This caused her front left paw to bend at a right angle at her wrist, similar to a hockey stick. The condition left her with no feeling in her paw, so at least she had no pain. She learned to get around on her three good legs quite well. Very strong willed and determined, she did not let her special paw hinder her at all. She could do all the things cats like to do. Her strong back legs allowed her to shimmy up the maple tree behind the house with little effort. Coming down did test her a bit. She would back down with her hind legs extended and locked into place. She would then release her grip with her front paw and make a grab lower. This was followed with moving her hind legs down again and repeating the process until she was close enough to make the final leap to the ground. She liked to play with string and had several toys she could bat around and play with for hours. Her favorite toy looked like a ping pong ball with feathers attached. Ears back and tail lowered, she would stalk it around the chair legs under the table to hone her hunting skills. Her fluid movements, as she bobbed and weaved around the legs, were quite remarkable. There was also a special perch built to serve as her throne. It had a hole in the base she could pass through like a tunnel, or sit back and assess the surrounding activities from a point of safety. The legs were wrapped with rope making them perfect for scratching. The second platform had a curved cradle covered in blue carpet. It was perfect for sprawling out in on a lazy afternoon. At the top was a padded basket for her to relax in. It was placed near a window so she could gaze out. In good weather the window was left open. She loved the sights, sounds and smells that came through the screen. She would sit there for hours. In the spring, the fragrant smell of the blooming lilac bushes filled the room. They formed a boundary to the east, too tall and thick to see beyond. Like a canvas to a painter, their dark green leaves and purple blossoms provided a backdrop to the birds and wildlife drawn to it. Over time she could identify fourteen different birds based on their markings and distinctive chirps. From the soft songs of the wrens and chickadees to the raucous calls of blue jays and crows, each seemed to have their own distinctive personality. She was equally intrigued with every winged visitor and would have enjoyed a personal introduction with each one of them. There were two regular squirrels she would observe running on the lawn and chasing each other up the maple tree, close enough to the window that she could make out the clicking of their claws on the bark. As they chased each other, they would make chattering sounds. This agitated Spooner as if it was a verbal attack on her. They would gather walnuts from the lawn and climb the tree to eat them while keeping an eye on the dogs. They actually had a mound of shells beneath their favorite branch. In the evenings, she would sometimes see other wildlife on the edge of the grove. In the waning light the occasional deer would pass by, barely noticeable when it stood frozen among the trees. Nature had given it its’ own camouflage coat, blending perfectly with the trees and brush. She had seen a mother raccoon followed by three babies. The mother was followed by the babies in a perfect row. Four shadowy figures traveling the outskirts of the lawn. At times she was allowed out and she relished the opportunity. She climbed trees, rolled upon the ground and soaked up the great outdoors. Each step, sight and sound filled her with wonder. The soft grass under her paws was as comforting as a blanket on a cold winter night. She was part Siamese with fine features, mostly white with black and brownish-orange markings. A sharp jaw line and black tipped ears, she had the regal appearance of a drawing you would expect to see in a pyramid. Soft blue eyes that complimented her personality and perfect white whiskers made her a true beauty. She had a dainty meow, almost a whisper.
Chapter 2(Introducing Nuggie)
Life was good for Spooner. She had the place to herself and was the center of attention. But life is known to be full of change and so too, it was for Spooner. A new kitten needed a home and came to live with Spooner. At first it was more of a distraction than anything. This new ball of fur known as Nuggie would scamper around the house, but a quick hiss from Spooner and she would be gone. As time passed the kitten became braver and Spooner became more tolerant. Finally Spooner thought things were going to settle down. Nuggie however had other ideas. By now Nuggie had become a large young cat full of vim and vigor. She was long haired with an extremely fuzzy tail. Her coat was black and grey striped with a white bib on her chest. She also had four white paws of which she was very proud. Green eyes with a hint of mischief, she was always looking for excitement. She had an odd meow. Usually two close together “reorr reorr” sounds and you knew she was up to something. She loved to sneak up on Spooner and attack her when she was not expecting it. She meant no harm and thought it was all fun and games. Spooner however did not get the same satisfaction from the assaults rendered by Nuggie. As time went by a quick hiss and show of teeth from the older Spooner let Nuggie know play-time was over. Much like siblings, they learned how far they could push each other and when to back off. And like siblings, despite the bickering, when confronted by danger they would stand together to face it. The other target of Nuggie was a red dot that would show up quite often at night. It would dart around the floor pursued by Nuggie. She used all the acrobatics in her arsenal to capture it. She would make a high leap onto it. At other times she would try slapping it with her paw. No matter how fast she ran, spun, or jumped, she was never able to quite catch it. She refused to give up, chasing it over the furniture and across the room. One day this red dot would make a mistake and it would be hers. When not occupied with activities, she sprawled out on the floor. A large glass patio door was the perfect place to let the warm sun envelop her. Stretching out, she covered a large area, from her long fluffy tail to her curled whiskers. Enjoying her afternoon naps for hours, only occasionally moving when disturbed by a noise or pesky fly. Sharpening her hunting skills on flies was a daily ritual. Following a fly around the room until it was low enough for her to make a leap for it. Her ability to catch this menace between her front paws was inspiring.
Chapter 3(The Adventure Begins)
As it happened, one day a delivery came to the house. Spooner and Nuggie heard the truck pull up and ran to the front door to check it out. When the driver opened the door to put the package inside, the pair saw their chance and took it. They dashed out the door and were on the lawn in a flash. Spooner, having been outside more while supervised, was content to stretch out on the grass. It was cool and soft like a plush green carpet. She let it cradle her. Her twitching tail created waves in the grass. Nuggie however was ready to explore. She considered herself a modern day Davey Crockett. The grove was calling her and there was no stopping the lure of the unknown. As she made her way to the tall grass separating the safety of the lawn and the darkness of the grove, Spooner rolled over and saw her. Surely Nuggie wasn’t going into the grove she thought. But even as she thought it she knew the answer. She had two choices. Let Nuggie go alone or risk joining her on her impulsive quest. Being a little older and wiser, her initial thought was to stay put. But seeing the joy on Nuggie’s face as her whiskers pushed through the tall grass on the edge of the grove and having that inherent attribute of curiosity cats have, she really had no choice. She loped after Nuggie and followed her bushy tail into the jungle of weeds. As the two progressed they would push through dense patches of weeds and grass. It was so thick, it was like squeezing into a glove. Their fur was flattened close to their bodies and normally erect tails were forced down. They would emerge in an occasional opening and constantly found themselves weaving around trees. There was so much to see and smell. It was almost overwhelming. Birds chirping overhead created the background music to their exploration. Spooner recognized many of the chirps and tweets but could not make out the musicians through the dense cover. They saw squirrels jumping from branch to branch with such ease they would have made any trapeze artist jealous. Nugee was tempted to climb after them, but there were just too many other distractions closer. Spooner stood up on her hind legs and steadying herself with her hooked paw, she scratched the tree with her good paw. There was just nothing like the feel of bark under her claws. Nugee saw her twitching tail and was tempted to swat it, but instead was drawn to tracks left after the last rain. These were much bigger than her paws and she considered her paws to be quite large not to mention very pretty. What had made these and where was this animal now? Perhaps she should track it. Spooner finished her effort to scratch the tree and went to see what Nugee was looking at. She found the tracks less interesting than the walnut on the ground. She had become quite good at using her damaged paw as a hook to rake items up. She deftly pulled the walnut up to her and batted it back and forth between her paws as Nugee looked on. While interesting, this was not edible or alive and did not warrant Nugees’ full attention. Her gaze moved to a clump of grass with movement. This was more her style. She crouched and got ready to pounce. Her front paws were pressed together with her chin resting on them. Her back feet were braced, claws extended for traction, as she shifted her weight back and forth on them. With her tail twitching and body coiled, she waited for the perfect moment to spring into action. In a single bound she was on this specimen that dared to question her prowess. She held it under one paw while sniffing it to determine its value. Spooner had witnessed the action and came to see what Nugee had captured. It was an odd looking thing about the size of a moth she had once caught. Unlike a moth, it had no wings and had large hind legs. It was green and blended in with the grass very nicely. It had two black eyes that seemed large for its body. Nugee lifted her paw to get a better look and with a giant leap the subject was back in the grass. While she was sure she could have recaptured it, she was ready to move on. At least she could cross grasshopper off of her list of things to conquer. She perked her ears and put her nose in the air. The tip of her tail moved back and forth like a compass needle finding its direction. Which way should she go? Then with a rustle in the weeds to her left, she had her answer. She moved slowly with deliberate steps through the brush. Not making a sound, she advanced on her prey. By now her pristine white paws had become more of a light grey. Nature providing a camouflage with a fine layer of dust. As she made her slow progression, she saw Spooner advancing to her side. She too was gliding through the maze of underbrush. It was impressive the way she moved with her hooked paw acting as a brace she edged forward. All of her practice under the table had paid off, she seemed a natural stalker. By now Nugee could catch glimpses of her quarry through the grass. It was brown, about her size but with long ears. She had seen this before looking out the window. It was a bunny. She continued her slow approach with Spooner mirroring her moves to the side. At this point she was roughly five feet away. As she raised her paw to take the next step, the rabbits’ ears popped up. It sensed danger was near. It lifted its pink nose and began sniffing rapidly, trying to catch a scent. Its whiskers twitched with anxiety. Nugee froze with her paw in the air, not wanting to give herself away. Neither moved for a minute, each determining what their next action should be. They could have passed for a nature scene in a wax museum as they remained frozen in time. Spooner too had stopped, but as the bunny was directing its attention towards Nugee, she took one more crouched step towards her target. Now she was within striking distance. She prepared herself for the final lunge, but at the very instant she was going to leap forward the rabbit bolted. This startled her so much that instead of a forward leap she jumped straight into the air, an easy three foot off the ground. Sometimes it seemed that to make up for her front paw, her hind legs had become more spring-like, giving her greater mobility. Nugee meanwhile had launched after the rabbit. The rabbit was very quick and could turn on a dime. It darted back and forth through the tangled web of grass, weeds and branches. Soon it was out of sight and Nugee gave up. She realized that having lost the element of surprise there was no hope of catching the rabbit on its home turf. She made her way back to Spooner. As she emerged, Spooner gave her a look that asked “where’s your game, big hunter”. Nugee was undaunted. There was just too much going on to dwell on the last episode. Even now she noticed a butterfly dancing above a sunflower. She moved closer to evaluate. It seemed to hover effortlessly above the giant yellow flower. The butterfly dipped closer to Nugee and she raised her paw to take a small gentle swat at the butterfly. She seemed to be conflicted with her desire to attack and not wanting to hurt this beautiful winged insect. It was bright orange with a black outline and black spots. Spooner watched on, content to let Nugee assess the monarch while she cleaned her hooked paw. She sat on her haunches licking her paw until she was satisfied with its appearance. She stretched, reaching as far as she could with her front feet. Her center curved down, but her back and tail raised high. Now it was her turn to make the first move. She pointed her nose towards the sky, ears erect and eyes open wide. A gentle breeze blew across her whiskers. It seemed to tickle her and she shook her head. Not sensing anything special Spooner decided to follow a path in the grass. If it was good enough for whatever made it, surely it was good enough for her. Plus it would be easier than blazing a new trail in the brush. Nugee did not see her as she made her way down the path. But a few moments after she was out of sight Nugee looked away from the butterfly and saw Spooner was gone. It was not hard to know which way she went. Obviously she would take the trail, so after her she went. Nugee caught up to Spooner in short order and rather than follow, she bounded over the top of Spooner. This action got her a quick hiss of admonishment. Nugee didn’t care. She had gotten far worse in the past. The two looked ahead and could see a large tree had fallen across the trail. Nugee made a dash for it and Spooner trotted behind. The tree had been there for some time. It was covered with moss and had mushrooms growing from its sides. Ants and a host of other insects had laid claim to this large tree as it had begun to rot. Spooner hopped upon the tree and began maneuvering her way through the branches. This was nice, the fun of climbing a tree without the effort. Nugee meanwhile was checking out a field mouse nest tucked under the tree. She could see the wad of grass, leaves and fur under the tree. She could also smell the mice within. She could not get her paw under the fallen tree, so she went to the other side, nope no better over there. She jumped on top and sat there thinking, there had to be a way to get at the nest. She slid down again and tried to force her paw under, but to no avail. As she sat there perplexed, a loud caaw pierced the air and a shadow passed over Nugee. She looked up to see a large bird land at the top of a tree. It was black, about her size with a very large wing span. This crow was worthy, she determined, of her hunting abilities, but far too high to attempt capture. By now Spooner had made it down the length of the tree and back again. She sat down overlooking Nugee. She began cleaning herself again. She wasn’t actually dirty but looking at the seeds in Nugees’ ruffled hair and dirty paws she couldn’t help but go into cleaning mode. They were there quite a while as Spooner cleaned and Nugee pondered her mouse dilemma. The wind was beginning to pick up, causing the treetops to sway. Some leaves blew past Nugee, turning her attention to the fact that it was cooling down and becoming darker. Ready to move on, Nuggie glanced up at Spooner as if to say “are you coming”? She headed down the trail and Spooner jumped down with a thud. With her leg she was not able to make as graceful a landing as she would have preferred. She followed Nugees’ lead and she too noticed the shadows in the grove were becoming heavier. The pair made their way deeper into the grove. They passed by some large mushrooms. These reminded Spooner of an upside down food bowl. She was getting hungry. She pressed on hoping Nugee would lead them home soon. The sun was slowly slipping away and their surroundings took on a whole new look. What had been a swaying tree branch now looked like a large arm grabbing for them. As leaves blew across the trail ahead, it seemed for a moment that an army of critters was preparing for their arrival. When a clump of grass moved they were unsure if it was caused by the wind or if an enemy was lying in wait. Spooner laid her ears back and hunched down closer to the ground as she moved along. With the last rays of sun gone, their only light came from glimpses of the moon between the clouds. It was getting colder now and she sensed a storm coming. She wasn’t quite sure how to get home but she knew at this point the best option was to find shelter and try making it back in the morning. They moved on through the eerie night. The birds and other animal sounds had grown silent. Now they were serenaded with the howling wind and battering of branches against each other. Then, ”kaboom”, a crack of thunder shook the ground. Nugee pressed her body so close to the ground she could have passed for a small bear rug. She could hear her heart beating in her chest. This was getting serious, they had to find shelter. Her eyes scanned the darkness for a suitable place to weather the storm. Spooner was now beside her. She too sensed the urgency of their situation. Then as a jagged flash of lightning lifted the blanket of darkness, Spooner saw what she was looking for. A large elm tree about twenty feet off the trail with a hollowed-out bottom. She pressed her way through the branches and weeds. Suddenly a large drop of water hit her between the ears. She shook it off and looked up, only to be greeted with several more. She pressed on as the drops increased. Only a foot to go and the rain came down in sheets. She lunged into the opening followed closely by Nugee. The drone of rain hitting the ground echoed inside the tree. They had found cover just in time. Spooner shook the water off her body and began the process of cleaning herself. Nugees’ long fur coat was drenched. With a great shake she removed the excess. The problem was, much of it ended up on Spooner. She gave Nugee a look of disdain and with a shake of her head, went back to cleaning. They were fortunate to have found shelter. The storm was getting worse. The wind moved through the trees with a relentless ferocity. Intermittently they heard a branch or tree fall victim to its’ unyielding attack. The lightning showed the ground saturated with water and a small stream had started running by the tree. Spooner finished cleaning herself and moved next to Nugee who was sitting in the back peering out the opening. Spooner had seen many storms, but the rawness had been blunted by a closed window. Now instead of being an observer of natures’ tantrum, she was an unwilling participant. What she wouldn’t give to be nestled on the couch right now. She pushed closer to Nugee for warmth and comfort. The two sat for hours looking out, motionless but eyes open wide. They were exhausted but the clamor of the storm kept them from sleeping. Finally the rain stopped and the thunder slowly became a soft murmur in the distance. The wind had died down but was still blowing. The air was damp and chilled them to the bone. They curled together, tails wrapped over their noses. They were ready to let sleep wash over their weary bodies. Spooners’ head popped up, ears erect. Something had awakened her. She rose to her feet waking Nugee as she did. Nugee could tell from her demeanor that something was wrong. She too got up peering out the opening of the tree. The moon gave just enough light to make out objects but they could see no danger. Then the sound of steps to the side of the tree assured them something was out there. Spooners’ back arched and her fur fluffed out. Tail twitching she was ready for action. Suddenly the intruders’ head appeared in the entry. It had a pointy snout with sharp white teeth and eyes that seemed to glow with a hint of red. With the dim backlight of the moon, it was an ominous sight. It saw the pair inside and greeted them with a cross between a growl and a hiss. Spooner returned the favor with a spit and a hiss. Their unwelcome visitor had probably used this tree for shelter in the past and was not happy to find it occupied. Spooner and Nugee had a tactical advantage, with protection from behind and room to move. The intruder had to pass through a narrow opening, limiting its movement. They began what seemed a dance with one making a small forward movement and the other moving back, followed by the counterpart advancing a step and driving their foe backwards. This went on for several minutes. At this point, Spooners head was cocked slightly and her lip was curled showing her sharp white teeth. There was no mistaking this for a friendly tango. Finally, being outnumbered, the intruder determined the effort would not be worth the reward and it scurried off. The two watched as it disappeared in the moonlight. It had a gristly grey coat of hair and a hairless tail dragging behind as it left. The opossum was not one of the prettiest creatures they had run across. Spooner curled up again. She was exhausted and wanted to sleep. Nugee stared into the night, thinking she would keep watch. But soon she too grew weary. Spooner looked so contented lying there. Perhaps she would lie down and rest her eyes for a second. Before they knew it, dawn was breaking. Spooner made a big stretch which woke Nugee. The two gazed outside. In the distance they saw a deer methodically stripping the leaves from a branch brought down by the storm. They emerged from the tree and surveyed their surroundings. A plant near the tree had three leaves shaped like lily pads. They were as large as Nugee and had pools of water in the center. The two cats lapped up the water gratefully. It was good but they were hungry. They needed to get home. With the morning light they could see better, but their surroundings looked different. The storm had brought down branches and blocked some trails. They made their way to where the deer had stood. Nugee noticed the tracks and remembered them from the beginning of their adventure. It had been a deer that made the tracks. She would file this information away for future reference. They continued on, not sure if they were headed in the right direction. All at once Nugee saw something in the cover ahead. It was crouched down motionless, trying to avoid detection. But Nugee could see a large tail feather sticking out of the grass. With a great fervor she charged towards it. Before she got close, it exploded into flight and with a cackle was gone. Spooner sat in disbelief. Apparently Nugee had missed a few classes on stealth. It was probably for the best anyway, Nugee would have had her hands full with a rooster pheasant. They traveled on hoping to see some familiar landmarks. They wound their way around trees and branches, squeezing through openings in the thick stands of weeds. Still nothing seemed familiar to them. By now they were wet from the grass and weeds. Their normally bushy tails now a soggy reminder of the previous nights’ storm. They journeyed on. The damp weeds transferred moisture to their coats as they passed. The morning sun was shining and the rain had created a humid environment. It was like trekking through a rain forest. Mosquitoes buzzed about their heads. A fly kept landing on Nugees’ ear. She would twitch it only to have the fly land again. She turned her eyes while keeping her head motionless, with a quick snap she caught the fly in her mouth and gobbled it down. What it lacked in gourmet appeal was compensated for with the spice of having gotten the better of this little pest. The bottoms of their paws were picking up mud. They navigated the obstacles like a maze, occasionally having to backtrack. They could only hope they were going in the right direction. Spooner stopped to shake the excess mud from her paws. Nugee was motionless ahead. Something had caught her interest. She made a high arching leap onto a clump of grass. She was on whatever had garnered her attention. She carefully lifted one paw to see if held her prize, nothing there. She raised the other slightly and as she did the grass moved. It was there and blended in with the grass. She would have to release it to get a better look. Reluctantly, she raised her paw wanting to see this creature. With a great bound the wet, green captive escaped. Nugee sprang after it, but with almost psychic timing, as she landed where it had been, it had already jumped again. This hopscotch match continued until Spooner showed up. She glared at Nugee. She wanted to go home, not chase frogs. The two pushed on, over logs and under hanging branches. While they still didn’t know where they were, there was a purpose to their movement. It was like an innate map was guiding them. Nugee let out one of her patented “reorr reorr” calls. She seemed to sense they were getting closer to home. Spooner cringed at the brutish sound, but if it meant they were on the right track, she could tolerate it. Their path was now blocked by a large cocklebur bush. Nugee decided to leap over it. She either underestimated its size or overestimated her jumping ability. She came down on top of it, one of its burrs attaching to her long white belly hair. Having flattened the plant, Spooner was able to slide by. They were now in a small clearing. Spooner stood up on her hind legs to get a better look. Her view was still blocked and she could not see out of the grove. However, she felt confident they were headed in the right direction. It had been a day and a half since they’d eaten and the grumbling in her stomach was growing stronger. The sun was now directly overhead, its’ rays were intense and the pair would stop periodically to pant. Nugees’ ears perked up as she scanned the horizon. Somehow, this seemed familiar to her. As she moved her head side to side, her eyes were like lasers, sharply focused and searching. Then she saw it, up ahead barely visible through the branches, the fallen tree on the trail. Now she was sure where they were. She picked up the pace, with Spooner following closely. They trotted with a renewed strength. As they passed the fallen tree, Nugee only gave the mouse nest a momentary glance. She was on a mission and was not going to be distracted. They plodded on, with things growing more familiar as they went. Their excitement growing, they moved on more quickly. Nugee crashed through a wall of weeds and she was on the lawn. At last they had made it. Spooner was beside Nugee. While she would normally love to lie on the grass for hours, today was different. She was eager to go inside for food, water and a soft bed. They raced to the front door, only to find it closed. Where was the reception welcoming them back from their safari? They paced back and forth with Nugee announcing their arrival with her usual “reorr reorr”. The door popped open and they dashed inside. There were their bowls, full of food and water. How wonderful to be home. Spooner gave a soft sigh and began devouring the food. She thought “I won’t be doing that again”! Nugee was camped in front of her dish, scooping up the food as fast as she could. She too was happy to be home, but she couldn’t help but think of all she’d seen on her adventure. If the grove held that much mystery and intrigue, what could she expect from the river in the other direction?
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