Towards the end of summer time the mornings become quite brisk and the afternoon wind carries with it the smell of autumn. On one such August afternoon Cat and Puppy were playing near the decaying little bridge. It was one of their favorite places, because that’s where the creek widens a bit and the current slows down. Under such conditions bigger objects –bottles, cans, lost shoes- (whatever makes it downstream and past the preceding town) become easily caught up on the rocks and sticks near the shoreline. (And if it weren’t for that, those objects would continue on their way, all the way down to the ocean). What better place to find treasure! And if one were to construct a small dam with more sticks and logs, just imagine what kinds of things one might scavenge from among the slimy, algae-covered branches.
Cat and Puppy were busily working away on one such construction project when Puppy’s sensitive nose zeroed in on an entirely new smell. Cat’s ears, which according to her were as sharp as a bat’s, picked up a curious squealing. At times it sounded as if someone were crying, and at others it seemed more like sneezing. Then, for seconds at a time everything just went silent and no matter how hard Cat listened, she couldn’t even hear a peep. The smells, however, were not getting any fainter. In fact, as the evening brought with it an even stronger wind, Puppy was convinced that some heretofore unknown creature was hiding somewhere quite near. Actually, Puppy could hear the strange whining, too. Neither of them wanted to say anything, however, out of fear that the other would make fun of them and accuse them of imagining things. But their conversation went silent. Their hands kept on working, choosing sticks and logs appropriate to the task of building the dam, but they barely said a word since they were both focusing all their available senses on their surroundings. After the third sneeze sounded, followed by a sniffling (the kind when one is playing and can’t stop to blow one’s nose –and of course can’t wipe it on one’s shirt) Cat could no longer bear the quiet:
‘Hey, Puppy, I think something is here,’ she whispered. ‘Or someone…’
‘What do you mean, exactly?’ answered Puppy, since he couldn’t let on that it wasn’t exactly true what he normally claimed, namely that he could instantly identify any smell on the face of the earth.
‘It’s just that,’ whispered Cat. ‘I hear some strange sounds coming from the bridge.’
She straightened up, and perked up her ears in the direction of the sounds. She began to move a few feet closer to the footbridge. Then she froze. It suddenly occurred to her, what if this something were, say, disgusting or even all slimy. It might even move, say, all slinky, like a lizard. It could even have huge claws and sharp fangs. Or it might be small and sneaky, waiting for Cat to walk right into its trap.
‘Aren’t you coming?’ asked Cat a little unsure, turning back towards Puppy, who was acting as if he weren’t the slightest bit interested. In fact, he was very curious, the only problem was his courage had escaped him. Of course, he would never admit that to Cat, and probably not even to himself.
‘I think it would be better if… if you go look… and I’ll guard this area over here.’
Puppy, noticing Cat’s furrowed brow, added, ‘Why are you looking at me like that? There might be more than one of them, you know.’
Whether Cat decided to take Puppy’s advice or whether her curiosity simply got the better of her, we’ll never know. What we do know is that Cat, in the way only cats can do, slowly, carefully made her way toward the sounds coming from the bridge. When she was quite close to the bridge the sound of crying began once again. She took a step closer, then another step, and finally stopped at a safe distance. Still, she twisted her head even closer, then her whole body, because her curiosity over what on earth it could be was simply killing her.
‘Puppy, I see it!’ she said, trying to whisper and yell at the same time, the result of which being that not much sound came out at all, just a lot of hot breath.
‘I see it!’
‘So, what is it? Tell me already!’ Puppy said, forgetting that he had been pretending like he wasn’t all that interested.
‘Well, I’m not quite sure, but…’ she took another step, twisting herself even closer. Finally, she straightened out, looked back at Puppy and said in a triumphant voice,
‘There’s a white, fuzzy, snotty thing sitting on a leaf!’