LT looked out across the back yard towards the house. He was feeling a little peckish, but didn't really feel like walking inside to check the foodbowl, and he definitely didn't want to go to the effort to catch something. He sighed, feeling his age. He didn't know exactly how old he was, but knew that it was harder to do things than it had been when he was a kitten, and each year things got a little harder. He used to be able to leap from the ground onto the top of the porch railings without even thinking about it. He hadn't tried that in years, afraid that he'd look like a right fool if he jumped and had to scrabble to get a hold as he fell.
He looked up at the sky, and saw the clouds gathering. He didn't much like getting wet, but that was no different than he'd always been. Even as a kitten he'd hated rain. Luckily the daddy didn't make him stay outside when the weather was bad. He even had his special cat house to use to keep dry or warm if he didn't want to go inside. LT stretched and got up, figuring he'd better get in before the rain started. It might not be much, but you never can tell, and anyway, any rain was too much in his mind.
The inside of LT's cat house was dark as a cave. He didn't even bother peering in and just bent down his head and squeezed himself through the little doorway. As he entered, he was surprised by the noise of claws scraping against the wood floor. "Who goes there?" asked LT.
"Um, just me sir. I'm sorry to be in your house, but the black cat carried me in here and told me I'd better not leave or she'd come and eat me." LT didn't recognize the voice, and wondered who or what Rudy had hauled into his house. The nerve of her! As LT's eyes began to adjust to the darkness, he saw a small huddled shape in the corner.
"What is your name, and what manner of critter are you?" LT wanted to know who he was talking to before he said anything else. He didn't want to get to know whoever this was and then eat him, her or it for dinner. That was just bad manners.
"I'm a fox, sir. I just left my mother's den a few days ago, and was scouting out around my new den, and that black cat caught me. I'm just glad she didn't eat me right off! Oh, and my name is Reynard. It's a traditional name for the eldest male fox in a female's first litter."
"Well, it's good to meet you, Reynard. We don't get many foxes around here. I thought they liked areas that were a little less developed." LT was intrigued. He couldn't recall having a conversation with a fox before, and decided that he wouldn't eat this one, even if he was just the right size for a hearty meal.
Reynard went to great lengths explaining how the development in the area had squeezed the foxes down into smaller and smaller territories, and that this year, the young foxes had to really travel to find their own territories. He'd even crossed several streets before he came to settle here.
"Where exactly is your den, Reynard? Don't worry, I won't come and haul you out of there - as a matter of fact, I'll warn the other cats in the area away, if you like." LT felt the youngster was quite knowledgeable and respectful and deserved a little help.
"Back through the trees across a yard or two and into a patch of trees. I found a nice den that probably belonged to a fox years and years ago. There are some old gnawed bones with fox teeth marks, but no scent of fox at all. It's quite cozy."
The rain started to fall, and LT eased the rest of him into the house and sat down next to Reynard. The two of them passed a pleasant hour watching the rain and chatting about the area and their respective families. Reynard didn't know any people, and said that he doubted he'd want to meet Mary Rose or Jay, since some his mother had told him that some people hunt or poison foxes.
"Oh, they wouldn't do that. They like animals a lot - except mice. Mommy really hates mice. You don't look anything like a mouse though, so that shouldn't be a problem." LT wasn't even sure how much Peep or Rudy would like Reynard. Rudy was a fierce hunter, and she'd be more likely to eat him than chat with him. "Wait a minute - you said a black cat told you to stay in here, right?"
"Yup - a cute little thing - smaller than a full-grown fox. All black, from the tip of her nose to the tip of her tail. I didn't really think she'd eat me, but I thought since it looked like rain, I might as well stay in here."
"That must have been the Peep. She's a nice little cat, and although she eats mice and such, I doubt she'd really want to take you on. Why did she want you to stay here?"
"She said something about getting an eltee. I don't know what an eltee is, though."
LT laughed and shook his head, realizing that he'd never introduced himself to the fox. "That's my name. L-T. Short for Little Tiger. She probably wanted to introduce us."
As the rain continued, the two animals chatted less and less, and began to doze. When LT woke again, he was alone. He was disappointed, but didn't blame Reynard. He'd have done the same thing.
The rain had stopped, and LT decided that he was definitely hungry enough to go inside for something to eat. As he entered the house, Peep ran up to him. "LT you won't believe what I found!"
"A fox." LT headed straight for the foodbowl.
"How did you guess? We never had foxes here before." Peep was disappointed that her surprise wasn't a surprise at all.
"He's very nice, and he liked my house quite a bit. We had a nice chat while we waited for the rain to stop. I just hope Rudy doesn't eat him. We'll have to tell her about Reynard, and threaten to shred her if she hurts him." LT spoke all this around the food he was eating as quickly as he could get it in his mouth.
"Taken care of, already. Rudy wants to meet him, and promised not to eat him."
LT finished his dinner and decided that although he might be getting old, he was never too old to make new friends.
Photo courtesy of Eric Begin - http://www.flickr.com/photos/ericbegin/2462711433/