June 8, 1966
Jocie Brooke here reporting from Hollyhill, Kentucky. Do you like cats? I like dogs better. But you know that if you’ve read those books about Hollyhill. I wanted a dog so much I said a dog prayer and the Lord let me find a dog over in the woods and bring it home. I named him Zebedee, Zeb for short, because when he barked he sounded loud like thunder.
As soon as we got home and before I had even had a chance to ask, well, more like beg Dad to let me keep him, Aunt Love’s cat, Jezebel, had tried to attack him. She doesn’t call her cat Jezebel. That’s my name for the cat from you know where. But Jezebel is sweet as sugar to Aunt Love and since she’s also white all over that’s what Aunt Love calls her. Sugar. Take my word for it. Jezebel suits her better. At least around me. She does not like me.
So when I started writing Bailey’s Bug and came up with my cat character, Lucinda, it could be that I used Aunt Love’s cat as a model. Except I made Lucinda be black all over instead of white. But Lucinda has grown on me as I’ve written Bailey’s story.
She hasn’t exactly turned into a sweet cat. Far from it. She gripes at Bailey and might swipe at his nose, but she hasn’t deserted him. And Bailey likes her and thinks she’s smart. But is she going to be smart enough to figure out a way for them to be welcomed home? She’s tired of having to climb trees to get away from coyotes. If she never has to hunt for another mouse or bug to eat, she’ll be happy. Cats need cat food. Out of cans. Or saucers of milk. She wants to curl up in the sun and forget adventures. But when we left her and Bailey last week, both of them had lost hope. Guess it’s time to see what happens next.
BAILEY’S BUG by Jocie Brooke
(Continued from last week. The entire story so far is under the Bailey’s Bug title up top of the page. We start here with Bailey waiting for Lucinda to tell him what to do next.)
But Lucinda didn’t say anything. She didn’t even start licking her paw to wash her face the way she always did when she was thinking. She just kept staring at him while some of the light faded out of her eyes.
Bailey’s tail stopped dead, and his heart sank even lower than it already was. All the way back through the woods and across the fields, Bailey had been sure Lucinda would know what to do next. But now he saw his own lost feeling reflected back to him from her eyes. They’d come miles and miles. He’d found Reid. That should have been enough.
When he couldn’t stand her silence a second longer, he said, “You could go. They’d know you. Your fur’s always short and black.”
“There are probably hundreds of cats in that town. Half of them black like me.” Lucinda sounded very, very tired.
“I’d know you from any of those other cats,” Bailey said.
“Of course you would.” Lucinda’s voice rose. She sounded cross the way she used to sound when he did something to accidentally wake her when she was napping in the sun. “But people don’t look with their noses like you. They’d think I was a stray. I would be a stray.”
“That’s what they thought I was. Mrs. Alexander even called the dogcatcher, but I took off before he got there. But they don’t call the dogcatcher for cats, do that?”
“For a truth, lad, sometimes they do.” Skelley spoke up. “I knew a cat once. Never bothered a soul. Lived off what he caught. Jock did love to hear my circus stories, but one day the dogcatcher caught him in a net and carted him off.”
That wasn’t a story Bailey wanted to hear. “We’ve got to do something.” He looked at Lucinda.
The cat was no longer looking at him. She seemed to be seeing something far away. All of the sudden, she let out a terrible yowl. Bailey thought she might be remembering saucers of food and windows full of sunshine.
“Reid’s got a porch with a railing. That will be a great place for you to lie in the sun.” Bailey wanted her to feel better.
Lucinda let out an even louder yowl. She had never yowled like that before. Never. He wanted to put his paws over his ears. He didn’t want to hear what her yowls were telling him, but he couldn’t block it out.
It was hopeless. They would never have a family again. They would be strays forever, raiding trashcans for food and dodging the dogcatcher. Worse, when Lucinda got all her yowls out, she was going to hate him. It was his fault they’d left the Robinsons where she had food and sunny windows. Bailey raised his nose and added his howls to her yowls.
Bailey didn’t know Skelley was beside him until he felt teeth clamping down on his ear. He was so surprised he swallowed his howl and stared at the old dog. He was even more surprised when Skelley let go of his ear to bump Lucinda with his nose. That stopped Lucinda’s yowls as she turned to glare at Skelley.
All that effort seemed to take all the old dog’s energy and he had to sit down to catch his breath. Then he said, “Forgive me, Miss Lucinda, but I did have to get your attention.”
“You might have asked. Nicely.” Lucinda stood stiff-legged with her tail straight up in the air. The very end of it twitched back and forth. Bailey backed up a couple of steps just in case she decided to swat his nose, but Skelley didn’t give an inch.
“It could be that I was mistaken, but it seemed to me that all this caterwauling the two of you were doing was keeping ye from thinking straight.” Skelley stared at Lucinda.
“I’d rather not think right now.” Lucinda sounded fierce.
“Now, Miss Lucinda,” Skelley started.
Lucinda didn’t let him finish. “What’s there to think about except having to live out here with the coyotes and never having anyone set out a saucer of milk for me ever again.”
Bailey wished Lucinda hadn’t mentioned food. It made him want to start howling again.
(To be continued.)