A miserable barking pierced through the neighbourhood in the light early hours of the morning, stopping and starting at irregular intervals.
Ten-year-old Lily eventually got out of bed and stared out of her bedroom window on the 3rd floor. She spotted the big black cat walking away from the building. She knew the black cat well. Sometimes she gave him food, and he ate politely, and Lily enjoyed looking into his brilliant emerald eyes.
The barking started again. Lily knew the black cat was going to find out what was going on. On impulse, she slipped on her pink crocs, grabbed her mom’s keys hanging by the door, and went out, determined to follow the cat.
Although the cat was able to find the yard where the insistent barking came from fairly quickly, his paws were aching by the time he got to it. He hadn’t realised he was so far out of his comfort zone. He worried about getting back to his building and wished he had waited before setting off to deal with the barking. There was a high fence around the yard, now silent. The cat rested his joints, wondering about next steps. He heard soft steps behind him and knew it was the little girl who sometimes fed him. He turned round and meowed a polite question at her. A whimpering half bark came from the yard and died down again.
A tree by the pavement grew tall, its branches extending over the fence. Lily helped the cat up the tree, he scrabbled a bit and hoped Lily understood how easily he could have climbed up if he had really wanted to. He wasn’t super-happy about crawling out on a branch extending over the yard either, but Lily seemed to expect it, and by that point he had no choice.
Perched on the branch, he looked down into the yard. A very skinny dog with big bloody welts on its back was chained up- the source of the barking. A dirty child as big as Lily was lying on the rough dark ground, as if asleep.
The cat meowed as loudly as he could, an awful caterwaul much more piercing than the dog’s earlier barks.
A terrible woman came out into the yard, opened the gate, saw Lily, grabbed her by the arm and pulled her in. Lily started screaming, and the dog began barking. Only the child on the ground remained still.
The sound of Lily’s screaming abruptly stopped, as she was pulled into the house.
The cat and the dog kept howling.
People were attracted by the ruckus. The cat meowed louder and soon a firefighter appeared climbing up the tree to bring him down. As the firefighter extended himself on the branch, the cat went further out, as far as he dared on the branch over the yard, and looked down. The firefighter followed his green eyes, and looked down into the yard and saw the howling dog and motionless child.