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Julia resolves to find a missing cat and reunite him with his bereft owner

“Julia, would you be a dear and read the San Diego Times to me?” My grandma speaks with a scratchy voice as she slowly lies down on her crooked bed. Silver threads of moonlight shine through the window and blend with her bedside table lamp.

“Sure!” I unsurely reply. We always read the newspaper before bedtime, which for me is usually an uninteresting task, but tonight, thank goodness, soon puts Grandma to sleep. I love my sweet grandma, and wwI want to take good care of her while my parents are off to Hawaii for their vacation, but sometimes I wish we could just try something new. I can’t stay in one spot for long. My restless body can’t resist the urge to dance. Yet tonight’s late-night news soon becomes engaging:

“The catnapper moved as swiftly as a cheetah,” the housemaid reported. She saw him as she was leaving the Fiddlewick mansion at 7 p.m.: “He ran across my vacuumed carpet until the beautiful pure-white cat, Thomas, beloved of Ms. Fiddlewick, stopped him with loud screeches and hissing. That was when I knew he was being catnapped, so I ran outside to phone the police.” Said she didn’t get a good look at the catnapper, all covered in black with a black facemask.

This news makes my heart ache for Thomas. A feeling of sorrow and kindness fills my body.

Too tired to stay awake, Granny is already asleep. As I switch off the light, moonlight now fills the room, and I know I have to rescue Thomas. So, by moonlight, I continue reading:

Apparently, Thomas’s loud screech had caught the attention of nearby police officers. But they were too slow to catch up. Though they searched the mansion, they couldn’t find Thomas. What else the catnapper stole, if anything, remains to be determined.

The police asked another witness about the catnapper all in black. His gray eyes looked serious as he informed them, “I saw a man in black remove his balaclava and enter the Curtis Hotel. He had blond hair, nicely combed.”

That hotel could be the catnapper’s temporary home. But after the news release, he probably left the hotel in a hurry without leaving a forwarding address.

I listen to the deep growl of a bear, which I soon realize is my stomach. As I walk down the long hallway to the kitchen, I ruminate while my stomach growls noisily over my grandma’s snoring. Granny sleeps very heavily, and her snoring is almost as ear piercing as a loud siren in a deserted desert.

As I enter the neat kitchen with a growling tummy and walk toward the white wooden cabinet, the cool marbled floor soothes me. The moon is now invisible from the kitchen, forcing me to turn on a light. From the shelves full of snacks in front of me, I choose a bag of dried apples, and snacks in hand, I stroll back through the hallway and into my grandma’s bedroom, pick up the newspaper, and continue to read. The paper included a “Missing Cat Announcement”:

Our cat, Thomas, went missing on Aug. 15 around 7 p.m. We think he has been catnapped. Thomas is an all-white Siamese. His eyes are sapphire blue. See the attached photo. If you find or see this cat, please call Ms. Fiddlewick at 984-6783-5559 and leave a message with location details and your phone number. She will return your call.

Hmm . . . find the cat, find the criminal? Or find the criminal, find the cat? The criminal could have read the news or heard the broadcast and already called that number to learn if there’s a reward for the cat. He could be caught that way.

Most likely, though, he would have left the Curtis in a hurry. Where would he go? Perhaps Thomas, unminded, escaped and hid in the hotel where food would be plenty. So many unknowns and possibilities. Though the chance of my rescuing Thomas is slim, I can follow my instincts. I must gather food and milk to feed this cat and let him know that I care.

I return to the kitchen for temptations: a bag full of aromatic tuna, steamed-warm milk, and a cat’s favorite treat—kibbles! Armed with temptations and my kind heart, I quietly sneak out the door so as not to wake Granny. Granny, overly protective, would surely forbid me from going on this adventure.

I secure my helmet and begin to bike to the hotel, looking everywhere, wondering if I am anywhere close. Finally, I spot a big Curtis Hotel sign, written in big, lit-up words. I steer in that direction, get off my bike, and walk through the automatic sliding doors with my backpack, realizing that I look like a tourist. I sneak past the concierge, thinking about where a traumatized cat might hide.

As I move toward the hotel dining room and kitchen, passing through a lounge, I begin to whisper, “Thomas!  Thomas!” while searching the area. Under the couch, I find a single puff of white fur.

A puff of white fur! Could it be Thomas’s white fur?

My Lovely Friend Cat

Studying the ground closely, I discover a seemingly endless trail of fur leading into an ominous hall where a cold, ghostly wind meets me, and I walk toward a soft creaking from up ahead, where lights occasionally turn on and off. There, the trail of fur stops, and I can see a door. I saunter into the room, a kitchen. There, I look up to notice the chefs staring at me.

“Hi, I’m very sorry for disturbing you and for barging in. I will leave after I ask you if you have seen a white cat come into your kitchen?”

“Yes, we have, but because it began eating our fresh fish and making a mess of this place, I threw it out the window,” a chef with dark-brown hair and a skinny body replies.

“Why would you throw it out the window? I’m sure it was just extremely hungry. Why didn’t you feed it and offer it milk and water?”

“Well, some of our guests are allergic to cats. Either the cats can’t be in the hotel or the guests. We are here for the guests.”

“Okay, I see. Nevertheless, let me suggest that you be kinder to animals if something like this happens again.”

As I walk down the dark hall to exit the hotel, I realize that the chef hadn’t read the newspaper or he could have called Ms. Fiddlewick. I check my watch: 3 a.m. I feel for the cat’s agony as, outside the hotel, I marvel at the brilliance of the summer stars.

Wait, don’t cats always land on their feet? They do. That means that Thomas could still be around here somewhere . . .

I walk to the window outside the kitchen where the cat’s footprints would begin. I turn on my flashlight, and there they are, ever-so-faintly impressing the newly cut grass. I follow them to a small lake. It shimmers beautifully under the stars. I reason Thomas might go here to rest with the calm water and the refreshing wind.

Then, after circling my flashlight in all directions, I spot more footprints in the sand. Could be Thomas’s! Yes, they are cat paw prints that have traces of orange and a lingering aroma of salmon in creole sauce. Each paw print, one after another, leads me to a small cave, one fit for a big bunny. I peer inside to find white fur surrounding sapphire-blue eyes staring back at me.

“My name is Julia,” I announce. “Could your name possibly be Thomas?”

No response. Only complete stillness breathing in and out.

“Would you like to come out? I have some treats, or I can call Ms. Fiddlewick. Whichever one makes you feel safer.”

A soft purr responds.

“Did you just indicate that you love Ms. Fiddlewick? That she always makes time for you, even when she is very, so very busy?”

A meow answers, as if saying “Yes.”

“Then you must be Thomas, right?”

A purr follows.

I phone Ms. Fiddlewick to inform her of who I am (a girl named Julia and certainly not the catnapper) and that her Thomas is outside the Curtis Hotel by the lake, where I am feeding him kibbles and warm, steamed milk. Her voice becomes elated as she replies, “Be there in a wink and a whisker!”

Hmm . . . find the cat, find the criminal? Or find the criminal, find the cat?

When Ms. Fiddlewick arrives near dawn with her protective pink cane, Thomas has nearly polished off my treats.

“You must be Julia. Oh, you are such a dear. I can’t thank you enough!”

“Pleased to meet you, Ms. Fiddlewick! And pleased to have found Thomas.”

“I’m so exceptionally happy to learn that Thomas escaped the catnapper and that you troubled yourself to find him.”

Ms. Fiddlewick offers me an envelope filled with her promised reward money. “I hope this thousand dollars will support your education or whatever you need.”

“Thank you, Ms. Fiddlewick. It was quite an adventure! I’m so happy to reunite you with your beloved Thomas. I hadn’t considered the reward when I decided to undertake this quest. But I am grateful for your reward and will always honor you and Thomas.”

Walking toward my bike in greater-than-expected happiness, I realize that Granny must be awake by now. I fervidly bike back to my house, run through the door, and hustle back to Granny’s bedroom, where brilliant light begins to rise with the sun. I’m just in time.

“Hi, sweetie. Are you okay?” Granny yawns. “Did you have a good night?” she asks, rising like the sun from the comfort of her bed. “I feel like I had a very nice catnap.”

“Yes,” I respond, “I’m okay and so happy you enjoyed a restorative catnap. And, yes, I had a very good night.”

. . . very good indeed.

Miya Lin
Miya Lin, 10
Irvine, CA

Leticia Cheng
Leticia Cheng, 9
San Jose, CA