One day, I found a stray cat. She was tiny and looked pretty much like a rat from getting wet in the rain. Since her fur was gray-striped, I called her Tabby. Right away, my brother started in on her. He jiggled one of her back legs, which was dripping water on the kitchen floor.
“Lookit her foot! It must be ten inches long—and it looks like she’s wearing Red Ball Jet high top basketball shoes.” He kept jiggling and teasing until, finally, Tabby pulled her foot up under her body and gave Tom a wicked stare.
“Leave her alone!” I scolded.
I stroked and cajoled the sopping cat until she ignored my brother and began to purr for me. Mom came in and ordered me to “put that filthy animal outside and eat your oatmeal.”
“But Mom, look how sad she is! I can’t stick her back outside. She’s cold and wet.”
“Cats get cold and wet and they manage to live. Put her out in the garage and get her a box and an old blanket. She can warm up in there and dry herself off.”
I sighed heavily and started to the garage.
I spent the morning getting Tabby situated in her boudoir, and by that time, Tom was bored with his bike. He ambled into the garage, glancing at the box I’d managed to filch for Tabby’s comfort.
“That supposed to be a cat bedroom?” he snorted as he pointed at an old satin dress I’d used as lining. I shrugged; hoping silence would make him bug someone else.
He pulled a wad of bubblegum from his mouth and played with it, and once it was filthy, stuck it back in his mouth. Gross.
“Why don’t you let me play with that cat,” he groused.
“Go away, turd-head,”I muttered.
“That dumb cat has the biggest feet I ever saw. I think she’s gonna be a giant. Red-Ball-Jet cat.”
I looked at Tabby’s hind feet. They were pretty big compared to the front ones, but I loved her anyway.
My brother squatted on his haunches and began to tickle Tabby’s feet. All of a sudden, she swatted him on the cheek with a sheathed paw, and he stumbled on his backside in surprise.
We both laughed and that began the game. He teased and heckled, calling her Red-Ball-Jet-Cat, and she never failed to swat him after a few seconds. We laughed at her antics until Tom got bored again. He stood up and looked around the garage. “You know what? I bet I can get that cat to do a flip.”
I eyed him warily. “How?”
“Well, Scott Callawalder showed me one time that his dog would do flips if it sniffed paint thinner. I bet that dumb ol’ cat would, too.”
I shook my head. “That sounds mean.”
“No it isn’t. They don’t get sick or anything.”
“No.” I said firmly. “Leave her alone. Look. She wants to go to sleep.”
Tabby had closed her eyes and was purring in her fancy box. I, being the dumb sister that I am, stood and tip-toed out of the room, thinking he would follow me. He just watched and then turned back to see what Tabby was doing. I stood uncertainly at the door to the kitchen for a minute, but decided to go in the house.
“Come get some Oreos, “I wheedled Tom.
Suddenly, a gray streak flew past the door. Tabby was doing back flips down the length of the yard, yowling to beat the band! I took off running after her. Tom, with a paint rag in his hands, was howling with laughter.
“You meanie!” I yelled.
Tabby stopped flipping and I caught her into my arms. Tom ran up to us and pointed his finger at Tabby’s legs. “Did you see those monster feet flipping end-over-end?” he gasped.
Tabby let out a ferocious growl and lit into Tom like a wild cat, her teeth biting and her claws scratching. He pulled her off him and ran screaming to the house for Mom.
Tabby watched him go and sauntered back to me. I picked her up. She gave me a long, dilated-eyed look, before she began to purr. I cuddled her close. She purred louder, stretching her Red-Ball-Jets out along the length of my arm.
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