5. A Lesson Given
Three rambunctious kittens ran into the sunroom playfully trading swipes and blows. Eppy danced over and around Little One as he tried to trip her with his right paw. Alyssa nipped at Little One's left leg as he reared up and tried to catch Eppy in mid-leap. Little One stumbled forward and plowed into the edge of the carpet. Eppy triumphantly ran onto the top of the sofa. Little One and Alyssa stumbled rolled into a kicking clawing ball of kitten fur. It ended with Little One staring over a submissive Alyssa who pawed feebily at her older brother. Eppy sat on the back of the sofa and reagrded her siblings with a hauty disdain.
"You two are so uncoordinated." Eppy stated as she groomed her one white paw. "At least I show some catlike grace."
"Only because you bail from a good wrestle." Alyssa replied as she playfully swatted Little One on the top of his head. "You couldn't stand up to either us in a good scrap."
"I am not into scrapping. Alyssa." Eppy replied. "I don't see the need to practise running, jumping and play hunting. I will always have a house like this. I will always have a Twolegs Nofur to bring me my dinner and to cuddle up with when the nights are too cold to spend on the cat bed."
Bandit snorted in disgust from his vantage point on the four shelf of the bookcase. He barely stirred at Eppy's comments, but his tail flicked in disapproval.
"You may think so, Eppy." Little One countered as he estimated the distance bewteen himself and Eppy. "But you don't know what the world has in store for us."
"You may not, Little One" Eppy countered. "But I shall always live in a comfortable home with a proper bed , tasty food and plenty of toys."
Little One leaped up and snagged his sister's leg and pulled her unceremoniously from the sofa to the floor. Eppy fought briefly at the indignified way she had been removed from her perch, but realized that Little One had her pinned .She cried out and bit at her brother.
"I hope I stay here." Alyssa said plainly. "I like the female Twolegs. She lets me help her put her makeup on in the morning and always greats me first when she comes home. And she smells like cinnamon."
"You have such a sweet tooth, Alyssa." Little One joked. "I would like to stay here too. But not for the Twolegs. sake. I like being with Momma, Bandit and Uncle Magoo."
"Uncle Magoo?" Eppy sneered increduously. "Bandit? I can see wanting to stay with Momma. But wanting to stay with those two is just strange."
"Uncle Magoo has a lot to teach." Little One Protested.
"What does Bandit have to teach?" Eppy snidely replied. "How to find garbage to eat? or How to turn a rusty dryer into a bed? You need to think about where you want to be Little One."
Little One did not know where he wanted to be; he loved hearing stories from Bandit. He especially loved the loves that he knew Momma would be upset about. Every time Bandit told him a story, he would make Little One recite it back to him. Little One was starting to know some of Bandit's stories as well as he did.
"I'm going to see if there is any more stinky goodness in the bowls." Eppy stated and then she turned and trotted towards the kitchen.
Alyssa hestiated as she debated whether she wanted to play more or have something tasty to eat. In the end her kitten hunger won out and she followed Eppy towards the kitchen. Little One was torn between spending time with the older males of the house and tracking down a quick snack.
"Are you coming, Little One?" Alyssa asked over her shoulder.
"No" Litlle One responded. "I'm not that hungry yet"
"I figured as much." Eppy snapped as she presented her tail to Little One and headed to the kitchen.
"Shadow Spare Us." Bandit cursed as he watched the two little female kittens saunter off to the kitchen. "I though she would never leave."
"You don't like Eppy, do you Bandit?" Little One asked, secretly thankful that his sisters had left.
"I don't think about Eppy at all, Little One." Bandit replied.
Little One knew that was a very bad thing in the world of the Free. A cat that was not thought of at all in the world of the Free was for all purposes dead to the other cats.
"What about Alyssa?"
"Alyssa is tolerable."Bandit replied as he dropped from the shelf to the floor in a signle purposeful jump. "In time, she might even become interesting."
"And me?" Little One fished for a compliment.
"You are an annoying, pestering little dropping." Bandit stated as he stretched his body and then collapsed on the floor.
"That's good right?"
Bandit gave a good gust of air through his mouse nose that came out like a wet puff of air. To a Twolegs Nofur, it would seem to be a kind of a curse or an under the breath swear.
"It is what it is." Bandit replied.
"You said that you would teach me something of the Free, besides just stories" Little One asked meekily. "I've been good and remembered the stories and recited them back to you."
"And?" Bandit asked.
"And you said you would show me some of the secrets of the Free." Little One pleaded.
'I guess I did." Bandit stood up. "Follow me."
Bandit lead Little One out of the sunroom and into the hallway. He walked until he reached the fork in the hallway. To the left, the hallway lead to the kitchen where Eppy and Allyssa could be heard crying for food. To the right, the hallway lead to the bathrooms and the bedrooms. Bandit sat in a spot that was exactly between the two paths.
"Sit." Bandit commanded.
Little One sat right next to Bandit as he attempted to mirror Bandits exact posture and demeanour.
"Tell me what you can smell."
Little One twitched his nose and tried very hard to indentify the smells he caught on the air.
"I can smell Eppy and Alyssa." Little One described. 'And I can smell you and momma and Uncle Magoo. I can smell the cinnamon scent of the female Twolegs. I can smell the male Twolegs. He smells strangely of feet and something else I don't know."
Little One was sharply cuffed by Bandit.
"No." Bandit guided. "Take in the air of the house. To this particular place, all of the currents of the house pass."
Little One looked up at Bandit in confusion. There was something that Bandit sensed on the air that he did not.
Little One took another deep breath. He still smelled Eppy, Alyssa and the cinnamon Twolegs. Bandit shook his head sadly.
"Little One." Bandit explained. "To the Free, the Scent is all important. It tells you who to avoid and who to approach. It brings word of danger and woe. It brings tales of pleasure and fun. To the Free, the Scent of the World is our daily news."
"How do I find the Scent?" Little One asked.
"You need to relax." Bandit reassured. "Both the Bound and the Free have the gift to find the Scent. The Bound have simply lost the purpose of the Scent. When you live your life amongst the Twolegs, the need for the Scent slowly disappears. I will tell you this, Little One. Back in the junkyard, the Scent told me of the Tom's approach and of his intent."
"What was his intent, Bandit?" Little One asked, his attention straying.
"His intent was not pleasant, Little One." Bandit said softly. "I offended him and the natural order of the junkyard. He was simply doing what he had to do as the Tom."
Bandit gave a low slow breath.
"I caught his scent, Little One." Bandit continued. "And I knew that I was in danger. I did what all Free are taught. I ran, I hid and when found, I fought."
Bandit's voice trailed off as he remembered his confrontation with the junkyard Tom.
"Teach me what the Scent means." Little One asked. 'Teach me what the Scent says to you and to the Free."
"Little One." Bandit replied. "You already know of the Scent. All cats do. You have just not learned what it means. Close your eyes and trust what you smell on the faint currents of air within the house. Follow each trail to its source, Explore each nuance until you know exactly where and when it comes from"
Little One tried to mimic Bandit’s stance and posture, but he felt that he did not grasp the Scent the way that Bandit did. Bandit sensed Little One’s difficulties.
“Little One.” Bandit instructed. “You are trying to capture all of the Scent. You never understand all of the Scent at once. You need to find one thread of it and follow it. Tell me what you smell in the air?”
“I smell the cinnamon of the female Twolegs.” Little One replied.
Bandit sniffed the air and quickly caught the thread of the Scent that Little One had stumbled on.
“Now tell me where the Scent is coming from.” Bandit instructed.
Little One found his nose following the scent. It was coming from the bedroom down the rightmost hallway. Little One’s nose twitched as he followed the scent of the Twolegs to its source.
“Tell me Little One.” Bandit asked. “What do you smell on that thread of the Scent?”
“It is the familiar cinnamon scent that the female Twolegs always seems to leave behind her.”
“And what else?”
“There is another scent borne along with the cinnamon. It’s dark and low. It tastes like salt and fear.” Little One explained.
Bandit nodded. “What do you think it is? Search your memories for that scent.”
“She’s sad.” Little One exclaimed. “She is in the bedroom and she’s sad.”
“It’s more than sad…” Bandit lead Little One in his exploration of the Scent.
“Yes. She’s not just sad. She’s scared.”
“There is more to that Scent, Little One.” Bandit stated morosely. “I don’t know what it is yet, but she is scared and worried about something. For now I want you to listen to your Bound instincts. Go to her and comfort her. She needs you right now.”
“You should come too, Bandit.” Little One asked. “I think the gesture would mean much more coming from both of us.”
Bandit agreed reluctantly. “But I’m not purring. No matter what she does.”
Little One ran to the bedroom to where he knew the female Twolegs was resting. He ran energetically and happily with his new found knowledge. Bandit followed closely behind. His pace was more reserved and stately. They found the Twolegs on the bed partially curled up. Her eyes were damp and salty as Little One had sensed. Little One clawed and struggled up the blanketed bedside and was followed by Bandit’s graceful leap on the bed. While Little One found the hollow of the Twolegs neck and began purring furiously, Bandit found an open spot on the bed and curled up into a comforting ball. As hard as he tried to prevent it, a faint rhythmic purr began to escape from Bandit’s chest.