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B2MeM Challenge: Based on this prompt by lindahoyland: Where did the kitten come from? Is it lost? Does it lead our M-e heroes and heroines into adventures? Gen.
Sam glanced up from the box of seeds he was sorting through as he heard the patter of Elanor's little feet padding through the smial. "I'm in the kitchen, Elanorelle," he called. Her voice sounded urgent.
"What is it?" he asked. "Is something wrong?" For her little face was scrunched up in distress, and he could see that she had been weeping.
"Da, Tater is missing!"
"Ah!" Tater was one of their cat Strawberry's recent litter of kittens. The oldest and boldest of three ginger males and one white female. Elanor had named them Tater, Turnip, Tomato and Truffle.
"Strawberry was crying! She can't find him neither!"
"Are the rest of the kitties in the garden shed?" Sam asked.
She nodded her head mournfully. "Uh-huh. But Tater's not there. I looked and looked. And I looked outside, too."
Sam stood up and held out his hand. "Come along then, Elanorelle, and we'll look for him."
Biggest Brother prowled low to the ground in the brush beneath the shrubs. He had finally figured out the secret of the leather flap through which Mother occasionally disappeared, and now he could explore all he wished!
First he had followed a bright fluttery thing, that flapped about in the air, first temptingly in front of his face, and then tantalizingly just out of reach. But it finally flew out of sight. Then he saw a small hopping thing, that let out little buzzy chirps as it jumped away from him. Prey! Perhaps he could catch it and take it home to Mother to prove what a mighty hunter he was! He had pounced at it several times before it led him here, and then it had vanished. He would have been disappointed, save that he could see one of the feathery things that flew in the sky. It darted down to seize a berry, which it was devouring at the top of the bush. But when Biggest Brother tried to climb up, the leaves and branches shook and the feathery thing also flew away out of reach.
He was beginning to be tired, and if truth be told, hungry as well. Perhaps he should go home to Mother and his sibs, even if he had no prey. He still had a mighty adventure to tell them of. But it was ever so far back to the cosy den beyond the leather flap.
"Tater! Tater! Where are you?" He heard the voice of the Smaller Two-legs, who came to visit the den from time to time, with gentle hands and a soft voice. She would hold him carefully in her lap and he would purr for her. She was calling the word she used for him, what Mother called his "hobbit-name".
"Kitty! Kitty! Kitty!" That was the voice of the Large Two-legs. He came often to the den, and brought with him food for Mother, which she sometimes deigned to share. Then he would fetch away objects, or bring objects, or sometimes sit there and mess about with objects. He, too, had a gentle way with kittens, though his hands were not so soft.
For just an instant, Biggest Brother thought of hiding deeper in the shrubbery to make a game of them finding him. But he was tired and hungry, and it would be much faster and easier for the two-legs to carry him back to the den.
"Mew!" he called. "Mew! Meoww!"
He could hear the heavy feet of the two-legs running towards him.
"Tater!" The Smaller Two-legs cried out in her high-pitched voice. Soon her little hands reached in to pluck him out from his hiding place.
"Bless me!" rumbled the Larger Two-legs. "How did you come so far all on your lonesome?" He reached down to where Biggest Brother was cuddled on Smaller Two-legs' shoulder, and scratched his head. That felt nice, and Biggest Brother leaned happily into his touch. "Well, let's get you home to your ma!"
As the family sat at tea, Elanor chattered happily about the excitement. Rose and Baby Frodo had missed it all, being down at the village when it happened.
"And we found him right under the lilac bushes under the kitchen window, Mummy!" said Elanor as she plucked another bit of shortbread from the plate.
"Well, Ellie, that's a far piece for a little kitten like him to go all on his own!"
Sam finished swallowing his own shortbread and took a sip of his tea. "He's a bold one all right! He's figured out his ma's cat flap. I put a box beneath it. Strawberry'll be able to leap out easy enough, but it'll be more trouble for the little ones. But they're getting older, no keeping them penned up too much longer." He gave Rose a look.
"I reckon it's time for us to start finding homes for the kitties,” she said. At the downcast look on her daughter's face, she added, "Don't you think the Gaffer might like one? Do you think he'd like to have Tater?"
Diverted by the idea of her Gaffer with a kitten, Elanor grinned and clapped her hands.
Sam just sat back and admired his little family.
Strawberry admired her four children, nursing away. Their little teeth were getting sharp though; it was time to wean them. Soon they'd be old enough to move away, and she once more would have some peace and quiet.
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