I took another piece of duct-tape and stuck a poster to a wooden telephone pole.
‘How many more?’ I yelled to Josephine, who was working on the other side of the street.
‘About ten altogether!’ she yelled back.
We were getting close to the end. The light was fading to dusk, and Mom was sure to have a hot supper on the table.
As I tacked up the last poster, Josephine caught up with me and we headed toward my house.
Mom had a steaming pot of spaghetti ready.
‘Won’t you stay and eat with us, Josephine?’
She immediately agreed. I caught her eye, and then I knew she was only doing it for me. Josephine knew I needed her.
The next morning the sky was cloudy. I assumed there was going to be rain- a lot of it. Perfect— just perfect. Matches my mood exactly! I thought pessimistically.
I ate my breakfast with much unneeded effort. Every bit of toast I ate landed in my stomach with a THUNK! Finally I gave up and went outside to look for Kali. Maybe she came back in the night. But there was not a soul nor a cat in sight.
Then a horrible thought came to me. We had tacked up posters all around the neighborhood. Beside the roads, everywhere. Ms. Garner would drive over here, and... My heart froze. She would likely see the MISSING CAT posters...and know it was Kali! I felt terrible. How could I have been so stupid? Couldn’t I even have used my brain for ONCE?
‘When was Ms. Garner going to pick her up?’ I asked my mom.
‘She said, um… let me think… oh right. I remember now! She agreed to noon exactly. ’
GULP!!! It was ten past noon!
Just then I heard a sputtering car drive into our street. A green car. Ms. Garner.
‘Aah! There she is!’ I yell-whispered to Mom in a frenzy of panic.
‘I’ll go,’ she offered, smiling in a sad way at me, trying to do anything to make up for forgetting the porch door.
‘I have to go too,’ I protested, though unwillingly and dreading every moment of the next few minutes. I bravely followed Mom out the door.
Ms. Garner stepped out of her car, her frizzy hair hanging like a cloud around her head.
‘Why, hello, Ms. Garner! It’s so nice to see you again!’ Mom smiled from ear to ear.
That’s fake, I ensured myself, knowing, hoping that Mom would never say that, or smile like that in a situation like this. I was biting my nails, wondering if Ms. Garner had seen her cat on the posters.
‘Will you come in and have some of my freshly baked cookies?’ Mom pleaded in a friendly voice.
‘Of course I will. How’s Kali? Is she inside?’ Ms. Garner asked, looking around the front yard as if Kali would bound over to meet her joyously. I wish she would. I was relieved to hear that Ms. Garner evidently hadn’t seen the posters. Maybe I still had a tiny chance!
‘Ellie’s going to get her right now.’ Mom said. ‘You’ll be surprised at how sweet she’s become!’ Mom signaled wiggling eyebrows at me.
She’s buying time for you, I told myself. Go look for Kali in the last time you’ve got!
Mom led Ms. Garner inside, chatting away the whole time. As Ms. Garner stepped inside, Mom looked back at me as she closed the door. Her face twisted into a sympathetic smile again.
‘Go!’ she whispered, and closed the door firmly behind her.
Just then I felt a drop of rain splat on my freckled nose. And another. And another.
Get inside? But something told me to stay and look for Coco. Getting wet once to save a cat wasn’t bad.
Just then, I heard a soft meow!
It came from above. I looked, but saw nothing. I hoped and wished for all the life of me that it was Kali. Then I saw a streak of tabby fur, from the roof to the ground.
‘Kali!’ I shouted, then winced as I remembered Ms. Garner’s prescence. I scooped the cat up and cuddled her firmly.
’So, all this time, you’ve been sunning in the gutter! You naughty, naughty kitty!’
I hurriedly carried her inside and smuggled her to the bathroom without being seen. Kali was all wet and muddy, the rain having soaked her dusty fluff. Giving her a quick bath, I strongly hoped that Ms. Garner didn’t hear all the screeching and yipping. But I got her mostly clean. Soon I dried her off as much as possible. The end result was so funny, I couldn’t help laughing at Kali. Her long fur was pointing to every which way, and she looked like she was a big, fluffy pompom with four short sticks poking out of her. Her thick, bristling tail stuck straight up in an indignant way, as if frowning at my chuckles.
The cat brushes were on the porch, and I couldn’t get there without being seen, so I had to do with my mom’s hairbrush. Sorry Mom…
A few minutes later I was able to bring her into the sitting room clean, dry, pretty, and sweet. Ms. Garner reached out her arms for Kali, and the cat plopped onto her lap. Kali immediately started purring. Good kitty, Kali!
Raindrops thudded softly on our roof and our blooming flowers swayed back and forth when the fat drops hit them.
‘Oh my goodness! She’s so different! I’m so proud of you, Ellie. I knew you could do it! Here.’ Ms. Garner got out her wallet and gave me a wad. Wow!
Mom raised her eyebrows at me full of wonder. I smiled, meaning; I’ll tell you all about it later!
‘You were right, Ms. Garner.’ I said warmly. ‘About being able to train her in one week. And about Kali being a sweetie at heart. Kali just needed a lot of different experiences— and a lot of extra love— to touch her heart and help her learn!’
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