Highway Cats

Highway Cats by Janet Taylor Lisle Read Free Book Online Page A

Book: Highway Cats by Janet Taylor Lisle Read Free Book Online
Authors: Janet Taylor Lisle
they were also tiny kittens, fragile and unaware. Shredder wanted more than anything to keep them safe.
    Nearby, curled up in various bushes and hollows between the gravestones, other highway cats slept, their dirty tails and broken whiskers giving evidence of their hard lives.
    Why were they here? Because they couldn’t keep away. Like hungry birds drawn to a springtime feeder, they were staying close to the kits. The little ones’ strange sparkly sheen was now visible to all. Through the dark it glowed, an eerie, otherworldly beacon that seemed to those watching no more or less than the glimmer of hope.
    Shredder sighed. The truth was, the future looked grim. An impossible series of miracles would be necessary to save their bit of forest. The old cat knew the signs of road-building as well as Murray the Claw. He knew the power of its machinery and the force of will behind it. Somewhere in the city, high up in one of the office buildings Shredder had passed on his recent journey, a plot had been hatched. A script had been written that could not be unwritten. The stage had been set. Their wood would soon become another strip of roadside brush.
    â€œWhat’s-ss wrong?” Khalia Koo’s hiss came suddenly from overhead. She was perched on the crumbling stone wall that ran around the graveyard.
    â€œYou shivered. I thought you might have heard something.”
    â€œI was remembering another time, another place.” Shredder’s voice trailed away. “There was a small house, a yard, miles of open land…”
    â€œYour old home.”
    â€œYes. I still dream of it sometimes. I had a family once, you know, a bunch of little ones like these.” He curled his weathered tail more closely around the sleeping kits. “They’ve brought it all back, much as I’ve tried to forget.”
    â€œI guess-ssed there was something like that in your past,” Khalia said. “I never did see you as a hard-bitten road cat.”
    â€œOh, I’ve been hard-bitten, all right. I’ve got the scars to prove it. But I never was as tough as I pretended to be. I’ve been scared most of the time. I didn’t want this highway life. I got lost is what happened, and I couldn’t go back.”
    Khalia became silent, for this was exactly what had happened to her. Shredder’s honesty pierced the wall she kept around her heart. Again she felt a desire to throw off her disguise and tell her true story. “I was once a loved cat who had great beauty and many admirers,” she would begin. But then what? How would she dare to show her real face? Her burns were so terrible. Shredder would shut his eyes and run.
    A metallic shriek sounded from the clearing below, followed by the cough of an engine.
    â€œThey’re going to fix it,” Khalia said. “They’re working on it now.”
    â€œOnly a matter of time,” Shredder agreed.
    â€œI guess it’s back to the highway for us. We’re being ss-shoved out again.”
    The truth of this remark caught Shredder like a punch in the stomach: the unfairness of it, the careless crushing of small lives, the cringing along roadsides and hiding in weeds, choking on fumes and fighting for road food. It was too much to bear. No one, not even a highway cat, should have to live that way.
    â€œNo! I won’t do it,” he muttered.
    â€œWon’t do what?”
    â€œI won’t go back out there. I’m too old.”
    Khalia stared down at him.
    â€œAnd the kits are too young,” Shredder went on wearily. “Miracles or not, they’re unfit for the road. We’re staying put. This will be our last stop.”
    â€œBut you can’t stay here!” Khalia Koo jumped off the stone wall. “They’re going to level this wood. If you think the kits will stop them, good luck is all I can say. This has gone far beyond what anyone can do.”
    Shredder nodded his old

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