“Cheese! It’s still here!” Banana shouted.
Cheese, who was lying on the dining room table, looked scornfully at Banana. “Yes, I already know that. I can smell it, can’t I?” He turned his attention toward the back yard, where he could see a squirrel packing pieces of corn into its cheek.
“Well,” persisted Banana, “what are we going to do about it?
That KITTEN might try to eat our food, or sleep in our favorite spots, or play with our toys! Ewww…kitten drool…on..my..string!!!” Banana looked panicked and disgusted at the thought.
Their conversation was interrupted by Karen, who breezed by them on her way to the kitchen. Banana followed her, anticipation making her tail stick straight up. Karen stood at the counter, mixed something in a small container, poured whatever it was into a tiny bottle, and then breezed right by Banana again.
“Well!” exclaimed Banana. “She forgot to feed me…oh, and you, …of course! How could she forget to feed me? She knows that’s her first important job of the day!”
Disgusted, she flopped down in front of the patio door. “She didn’t even pat my head or scratch me in that puuuurrfect spot on my back!” If Cheese didn’t know Banana as well as he did, he would have said she sounded like she was going to cry.
Long minutes passed; Cheese watched as another squirrel shoved sunflower seeds into its mouth. Banana was tossing and turning on the floor; she was interested in nothing, and her loud sighs were really beginning to get on Cheese’s nerves. Finally Karen reappeared, carrying an armful of nasty-smelling towels to the washing machine. “Ewww…,” cried Cheese, burying his nose in his paws, “….that kitten must not know proper litter box usage! I hope it doesn’t touch me!” He shivered at the very idea of coming in contact with such an untidy creature.
Both Banana and Cheese were now very, very miserable, and it was all that tiny kitten’s fault!
Karen was back in the kitchen now, and Banana’s ears twitched at the sound of food hitting the bottom of dish. Banana skidded around the corner and ran right into Karen’s leg.
“Oh, Banana! I bet you thought I forgot you,” purred Karen, as she reached down to pat Banana’s head. “Tabbouleh is taking up a lot of our time at the moment, isn’t he?” Her hand moved down to stroke Banana’s back. Banana responded with a sharp reply that ended with a purr of her own.
Cheese came in to sniff the food bowls, and allowed Karen to scratch his head. Just then, Gale entered the kitchen, carrying Tabbouleh, who was wrapped up in a hand towel (and looked a lot like a burrito). She knelt down so Banana and Cheese could get a good look and a bit of a sniff at Tabbouleh. Cheese hurried away in disgust at the smell, but he was also feeling a twinge of sympathy for this kitten that was abandoned by its mother.
He knew exactly how it felt, because he had been left by his mother at that age too. Banana just stared in amazement; how could that loud kitten be so small?!
Later that day, as the people and the cats were lounging in the living room, Gale cleared her throat.
“The next few weeks are going to be hard,” she began. “Karen and I have decided we are going to be a foster family for Tabbouleh. That means we are going to take care of him until he’s old enough and strong enough to live with people of his own.
Banana and Cheese, we’re going to need your help. He’s going to need to learn some stuff from big cats—how to play, how to eat, and how to clean himself. Do you think you can teach him some of those things?”
Banana and Cheese thought about this. Banana was still worried about having kitten slobber all over her toys, and
Cheese was nervous about whether Tabbouleh could really learn the fine points of grooming. Then they each thought about the moment, earlier in the day, when they saw Tabbouleh all wrapped up and looking so little and helpless.
Cheese knew the kitten really needed him; he remembered that, before he came to this family, he lived with a foster family of cats and their people too. Those cats taught him a lot of things! Banana decided if Cheese was going to help, maybe she could too. She would push her very special fuzzy catnip balls under the big black chair; they would be safe from Tabbouleh there, and maybe he wouldn’t lick the strings as much as she thought. Besides, she was THE expert when it came to eating, and there was a lot she could tell Tabbouleh—she only hoped he would be there long enough!
Over the next few days, Gale and Karen, Banana and Cheese, and Peter (who was on summer vacation from school) realized they had made the right decision. Tabbouleh was a lot of fun, and was very cute. He learned things very quickly, and he didn’t chew on too many of Banana’s toys. Tabbouleh grew and grew…and…best of all (according to Cheese) wasn’t nearly so stinky.