"Nando's Night Out"
"Nando's Night Out"
Nando Cat sat on the window sill, gazing through the screen. His green eyes gleamed in the moonlight. His orange tail zigzagged. Perhaps tonight a giant bug would hit the screen.
In the bedrooms, Runner and Laugher and the Tall Ones slept. Across the street, Loud Dog barked. Below the window, mosquitoes hummed. Nando yawned.
Suddenly a big beetle slammed the top of the screen. Buzzing, it clung tightly and spread its wings. Nando lurched upward and rammed his body at the bug.
Instantly the screen fell out. Scraping the window frame, it broke free and crashed flat on the ground. Nando rode it down. He landed unhurt on all four feet and paused to look around.
Nando visited Big World once a year to see the vet. Now and then Runner and Laugher took Nando outside for fun, but he cried miserably. Big World was too big. Nando liked the tight, hushed space under Laugher’s bed.
Now stars glittered above his head. Breezes ruffled his fur. And the big beetle was gone.
In the darkness, Nando spied a mouse. Nando chased her, but she slipped away.
Sniffing, Nando smelled an enemy. A fox slunk from behind a rock. Nando skittered up a tree. The fox snarled at the tree, then loped away. Nando climbed down, his heart thumping.
The summer night felt warm. Nando eyed the open window and the fallen screen. Then he turned and tiptoed toward the road.
Across the street, Loud Dog growled. So Nando headed downhill, past ten rows of houses, to the river.
The smell of fish met his nose. Nando knew the happy taste of fish. Tracing the scent, he reached a boat tied to a dock. Two men scurried round the boat. They did not see Nando. Springing silently, he landed in the boat beside a minnow bucket. The men started the motor and steered downriver.
Nando hid behind the minnow bucket. He placed his front paws on its rim. As he stretched his paw to snatch a fish, a man shouted, “Hey, there’s a cat in this boat! Keep him away from the bait!” The men glared at Nando and covered the bucket.
Nando crouched low and began to shiver. Waves rocked the boat. Finally the boat stopped at a large dock. One of the men picked Nando up and handed him to another man on the dock. Then the boat with its bucket of minnows zoomed away.
This new man smelled like dog. Vaulting from the man’s arms, Nando ran into the darkness. Behind a building he found a large, rolled-up blanket on the ground. Nando crawled between the blanket’s folds.
Moments later, someone plucked the blanket and Nando off the ground. Nando dug his claws into the blanket. He felt himself plopped onto a floor. A woman yelled, “All the equipment’s on board. Tell those shipwrecked people on the island they’ll be rescued soon.”
A harsh whirring filled Nando’s ears. The floor rose up and rushed forward. Nando shook.
When the helicopter landed, Nando heard strange sounds. Laugher had made these sounds when she tripped on the stairs, Runner when he hammered his thumb. Nando knew the sounds of pain.
The woman called, “Bring the injured passengers first. Especially the kids. We’ll come back for everyone.”
Feet clomped near Nando’s head. Seats squished. Buckles clicked.
“My leg hurts,” peeped a tiny voice.
“Where’s Mama?” asked another.
“I’m cold,” whimpered a third.
“Here,” the woman said, “we’ll wrap you in this.” She tugged at the blanket. Nando rolled over and over as the blanket unwound. The woman whisked it away, flopping Nando onto the helicopter floor.
“A kitty!” cried Tiny Voice. “Can I hold it?”
The woman stretched her hand toward Nando. “Hello, Kit Kat,” she said. Nando sniffed her hand. She stroked his ears and neck. Carefully she lifted Nando onto Tiny Voice’s lap. Four small people petted him at once. Their hands felt like Laugher’s and Runner’s. Nando curled up and closed his eyes.
When he awoke, the woman spoke again. “We’ve landed at the hospital, children. The doctors will check you and give you snacks.”
“What about the kitty?” asked Tiny Voice.
“He made you feel safe, didn’t he?” replied the woman, “I’ll bet the other kids on the island would like him, too. I’ll take the kitty back and forth with me till everyone is rescued.”
So Nando stayed inside the helicopter. Six more times he landed on the island. Six more times hands big and little rubbed his fur. All the people grew quiet when they petted him.
After the rescues, the woman disappeared into a building. The helicopter door hung open. Hopping out, Nando trotted to a field.
Then a new smell hit his nose ‒ a smell like Runner’s and Laugher’s food. Nando stalked the scent across the field to a house.
Outside the house, a boy like Runner stood beside a bicycle. On the ground sat a deep, thick, open bag. Dinner was in that bag, Nando could tell. Sneaking over, he peeked inside. He saw, atop a heap of paper logs, a stack of bread and meat.
Nando crept into the bag. He nestled down among the paper logs. Then he began to feast.
Grasping the bag, the boy strapped it to his bicycle. “Feels heavy today,” he muttered. Then he rode the bike down the street. Every few seconds he reached back and yanked out a paper log. Nando kept eating.
Suddenly the boy yanked Nando’s tail instead of a paper log. Nando yowled. Startled, the boy fell sideways. The bicycle clattered down, and Nando sprinted away.
Sprawled beneath a bush, Nando peered out. At Big World’s edge, the sky was turning pink. Nearby, a dog barked.
Nando sniffed the air. It smelled like Loud Dog and Runner and Laugher. That tree ‒ didn’t it save him from the fox? That screen lying in the dirt ‒ was it…?
Nando padded to the window screen. He stared up at the open window. Then he hopped to a nearby birdbath and on up to the window sill. Turning toward Big World, Nando perched upon the sill and licked his paws.
Runner entered the room and spotted Nando on the sill. “Look!” Runner called. “The screen fell out! Nando’s sitting in the open window!”
Laugher hurried in and scooped up Nando. Runner shut the window. “Mom will have to fix that screen,” Runner said.
“I’m so glad Nando didn’t jump out,” exclaimed Laugher. “Can you imagine what might have happened to him?”
Runner nodded. “Nando could have had a terrible night.”
© Suzanne Werkema