The prompts, two men and a flapping tarp, brought to mind for Orion a rustic, possibly medieval setting. Hmmm, a cart with a flapping tarp? Now why would that picture spring to mind? Where was the cart going? Why? And why would the reader care?
Ah, there’s someone in the brush beside the road the cart is on. Who is it and why is that person hiding?
And it needed a cat. A cat always helps a story, right?
So why not make the cat the narrator?
And the story spooled out from there.
WARM IN THE NIGHT
She-Who-Is-Warm and I wept when we left our first home.
Warm’s father said we had to go live with the strange man. There were too many mouths to feed and Warm was the youngest daughter. He told her the strange man would protect us, keep us safe, even love us.
That is not what happened though.
The big man was civil to us when we first arrived. He was very polite. Warm squealed with delight when he bought treats for both of us.
That night, Warm smiled at me in a way she never had before, telling me how happy she was in our new home.
The next day, though, everything changed. He shouted and ordered Warm about. Me, he threw outside into the cold.
Later that night, Warm smuggled me back inside. We huddled together under the covers on her narrow bed under the eaves. While she cried, I purred comfort into her ears and licked away her tears.
One day, Warm dropped a pot of soup. I leapt to help her clean it up, but Bad-Man rose from the table, slapping Warm hard and knocking her against the firebox. When she yelped in pain, he laughed.
Such an ugly sound. I had never heard anything like it before. Arching my back, I hissed at Bad-Man.
After that, things got so much worse.
He began hitting my Warm, leaving bruises and black eyes.
When I growled at him one day, his boot sent me across the room and into a wall. Warm rushed to my aid, sheltering me in her arms as the mug and platter he threw shattered against her back.
That night, along with Warm’s tears, came the whispered words, “We have to leave, Purrful. If we stay, as sure as the sun rises every morning, he will kill us both.”
After Bad-Man went to bed, Warm placed me in a basket, then covered me with a towel. She told me it was just for a short while, just until we were safe. Safe from Bad-Man. Usually, I hated being toted around like a meatloaf in her basket, especially with a towel covering me. How could I protect my Warm if I couldn’t see or smell danger coming?
The stars were bright and the moon rode high in the sky when we crept out through her window. Bad-Man’s snores marched after us like footsteps in pursuit.
As dawn grayed the horizon, we found a hiding place just off of the main road outside of town.
We were cold. Even huddling against Warm’s chest within her cape wasn’t enough to keep us from shivering.
A rumbling from along the road drew our attention. Warm peered out, then gently placed me into the basket again.
Even buried deep in the basket, I could hear the plodding hooves and the familiar squeak of the wheels. Someone was coming our way.
Peeking out, I saw two men sitting high on a cart. The reek of alcohol made my nose wrinkle. As they passed our hiding spot, they began singing. Loudly. I flattened my ears to my head. I had never heard such a racket. Not even from the old tom who used to serenade momma from the fence at our first home.
Warm pressed me back into the basket. The sounds from the cart drew closer as she ran a few quick steps, then leapt.
There were strange smells all around us. The flickering light caused by the flapping tarp over our heads combined with the cart’s constant swaying made me queasy.
Clawing my way out of the towel, I climbed out of the basket. I meowed until Warm’s hands found me in the dark. Together, we curled up under her cape in the straw as we trundled into the dawn.
As I snuggled into her arms, I swore that, though it might cost me my life, I would never again let someone harm my Warm.