From the balcony, the kittens sniffed the night air, laden with the scent of ginger flowers. Fireflies danced in the dark woods. Frogs croaked.

"I miss Mama," said Stolly, and sang a little song:

catsoup ch05 v01Runty and me,
The moon and the trees,
Mama I love you,
Wherever you be.

A cat yowled in the distance. Stolly and Runty pricked their ears.

The yowling grew louder, closer. It was the kind of yowl that humans throw shoes at.

Then there was a rustling in the undergrowth, a crackle of broken branches, a flash of cat's eyes.

Stolly's heart thumped. He crept forward, to see a cat running across the lawn. He poked his nose through the railing: the small tabby was gazing upwards. "Mama," he cried.

"Mama!" cried Runty, rubbing his cheeks against Stolly's.

The kittens asked many questions about their mama's life in the country park. She hunted for butterflies, lizards and birds, usually at night. She slept in an abandoned pig sty under a papaya tree. She lived in a cat clan and had many friends.

Stolly paced up and down the tiles, listening, longing. "I want to live in the wild, with you," he mewed. If only he could jump the three floors down to the ground without hurting himself.

"You're safer living up there," Mama Mao replied. "Out here, there are big winds. Big rain. Crazy dogs."

At that moment, Mama Mao arched her back and raised her hackles. A bush shook behind her.

And Old Aunt Po's head appeared from underneath it.

Runty puffed his fur up too. Stolly's tail was spiked as a bottle brush.

Growling, Mama Mao turned tail and ran up the mountain path. "I'll come again, I promise," she called, before disappearing between the trees.



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