Christina M. Simmons
Dusk padded in on eight cat feet and settled itself on the windowsill. The sun had dropped below the sky rim, painting the bright sky with golden washes and purpling shadows, and the world was waiting for night. Inside, two cats sat side by side, upright as Egyptian statues, unmoving.
“Easy, now,” murmurred the black cat. “Steady.” At his side, the smaller orange tabby’s tail quivered, but he said nothing.
The young cat straightened, coiled his tail, and closed his copper-penny eyes.
In the garden beyond, dusk settled into twilight, painting the grass and bushes with dusty violet. A cooling breeze danced with the flowers. A flight of sparrows twittered into the sheltering forsythia, home for the night. Somewhere beyond, a dog barked. The tabby’s ears flickered, but his eyes remained shut.
“Concentrate,” warned the black cat.
The young cat lowered himself to the window sill, folding his paws beneath his breast, furrowing his brow.
Outside, the last traces of sun-gold retreated beneath the western horizon. Lawns, flowers and trees absorbed the deepening shadows. Porch lights blinked on down the front of the street. The tabby’s whiskers spread, curving forward, and one by one the stars flickered to life. Orange ears rotated, and a few crickets joined the spring peepers in their bell-like song.
The black cat glanced down at his apprentice and blinked in silent approval. Above, the crescent moon smiled.
The silence was broken by the rattle of the front door and the clatter of toenails on tile. The house lights flared. The Woman was home. The black cat turned as the dog galloped in to the study, followed by The Woman. He glanced at his apprentice, then leaped to the sofa, touched noses with the dog, and raised his tail in greeting.
Above, the tabby tensed, ears folding back, and squeezed his eyes more firmly shut.
The Woman cooed to the black cat, tickling his chin. Then her eyes fell on the tabby.
“Hey, Fur-face… what’s wrong with you?” She reached out, stroking his long back.
That was all it took.
The cat's eyes flew open in horror – and outside, a shower of falling stars streaked the sky silver. The tabby drooped, disconsolate. The Woman regarded him thoughtfully.
“You just aren’t yourself tonight. Tell you what… I’ll break out the Salmon Supreme dinner. If that doesn’t cheer you up, I don’t know what will.” She strode from the room, dog at her heels. The black cat leaped to where the tabby huddled, ears and tail limp.
“I dropped them!” the younger cat wailed. The black cat smiled.
“Well, it happens to everyone. And it was your first time; night is difficult. You did quite well, all things considered.” He leaned over, bathing the younger cat’s ear. “Tomorrow, we’ll just start with a nice, ordinary sunrise.” He sat back, whiskers chuckling. “Still… don’t forget to turn the stars off this time, would you?”