Inspired by: New Friends by Iraville
Something slithered under the car. Jamie spun around to face it, head getting the funky spinning feeling from turning around too fast. It was dark under there. The sparse light from the garage windows and the yellow glare of the overhead light didn’t do much good. It could have been anything.
Jamie started to back toward the door into the house. Then he caught sight of Mr. Cuddles, stranded on the dash of the van, looking lonesome, abandoned, afraid. Jamie clutched the car key tighter, careful of the scary red button that made the car scream. He couldn’t abandon Mr. Cuddles.
He pressed the button that made the car unlock. All the lights flashed, and the blue van beeped in a friendly way. Nothing moved. Jamie took a deep breath, filling his mouth with dust, and the strange new-house smell, and started to inch forward again.
The gloom under the car pulled back as he approached. There was something under there, making the shadows darker. Huddling close and hunched. Jamie stopped.
Maybe it was a cat?
At home, at their old house, the neighbor’s cat was always hiding under the car. When Jamie tried to hide with him, he always hissed and scratched.
(“Animals are hard, Jamie.” His mother had told him, the first time she carefully cleaned out his cat scratches, covering them with band-aids that looked like his favorite character, Captain Carton. “They have a really hard time explaining what they want, so sometimes they lash out and hurt us.”
“That’s not very nice.” Jamie had said, holding Mr. Cuddles tight so that Mr. Cuddles wouldn’t be scared. Mom gave Mr. Cuddles a kiss, which worked on teddy-bears like the fancy white paste worked on him, to make it heal faster, and then gave him a Mister Yardarm band-aid. Mister Yardarm was Mr. Cuddles’ favorite. He liked that Mister Yardarm read a lot of books.
“I know dear.” Mom said, the rhythm of her voice slow. “But when we get scared it is very hard to be kind.”)
Jamie took a deep breath. From the dashboard, Mr. Cuddles looked on, encouraging.
“Okay cat!” Jamie said, loudly, but not shouting. (He was inside, after all.) “I am coming over and I am going to climb into the car, okay? Please do not scratch me!” He took a couple of steps forward.
Something had definitely moved under there. Several somethings. But they were moving closer, instead of further back. Jamie stopped, rocked backward and forward for a bit, and then hit upon a brilliant idea. He pulled out the keys and hit the button that made the sliding doors slide open. The van beeped happily, the lights under the doors lit up blue, and the doors slid back with the gentle grinding of the door motors.
The blue light revealed a whole host of dark shapes, huddling under the van. They hunched down further as the light hit them.
Jamie felt his breath leave him.
“Oh Mr. Cuddles.” He said, barely out loud. “You didn’t say you were surrounded!” Hardly Mr. Cuddles’ fault. He was being held, after all. It was sort of hard to make yourself heard through the van and a horde of enemies.
Possible enemies, Jamie corrected. He didn’t know they were hostile. Maybe they were just scared.
Jamie tried to imagine the animals under the van as scared.
It didn’t work.
He took another deep breath and ran toward the car, closed his eyes, and lept over the gap.
Jamie sailed through the air. Nothing reached out to grab him. No claws raked his back. He hit the seat with a muffled, dusty thud and sat up instantly. Then he hit the button to close the doors.
The van beeped happily and flashed its blue lights. The doors starting closing. Jamie didn’t wait. He threw himself into the front, grabbed Mr. Cuddles off of the dash, and then sprung from the van to the garage floor.
He landed heavily, Mr. Cuddles clutched tightly to his chest, realized he was very close to the underside of the van and took off at high speed for the door to the house.
The van doors shut with a cheerful click.
The chittering of many high voices cut through the flat sounds of his feet on the cement.
Jamie hit the bottom step, climbed two more, and turned, his back to the door that went into the hallway.
A little black shape had emerged from under the van. The blue lights clicked off behind it, leaving it exposed to the dim overhead light.
It wasn’t a cat.
It had fur kind of like a cat though, long and black and very soft looking. And it was sort of cat sized. A small cat. But most cats Jamie had met didn’t stand on their hind legs. And the tail that stretched out and around its little feet was definitely too long to be a cat’s.
And it didn’t have cat eyes. Just soft little bubbles of black.
It chirped at him.
“I’m going.” Jamie explained. The animal didn’t sound like it was angry, but Jamie knew that sometimes animals, especially animals you hadn’t met before, could be confusing. For example, Mrs. Budgies bird, Hamilton. When Hamilton puffed out his neck feathers it didn’t mean he wanted to be pet. It meant he wanted to bite.
The small not-cat waved.
Jamie waved back, automatically.
The animal waved more vigorously.
Jamie waved back again, but then he realized that maybe that was a way of showing that it was angry or scared.
The animal chirped again, faster, sounding very excited, and began to bounce back and forth, from foot to foot.
Jamie reached up and behind him for the door knob, trying to keep watching without actually staring. Mom had told him that sometimes staring at animals made them uncomfortable. The animal staring at him certainly made him uncomfortable.
He found the door knob.
The animal was clapping its paws together rapidly.
“Okay.” Jamie said. “I am going to go now, okay?”
The animal stopped bouncing. It gave a deep nod.
Jamie bolted through the door, Mr. Cuddles flying in his hand.