Mama: Earline- I see you have packed several pieces of luggage. Are you traveling?
Earline: Yes. I am so glad Zebrudus is back. He said we are going to get in touch with nature. I hope it doesn’t involve poultry. I am getting a bit tired of the chicken drama.
Mama: Whatever treat he has planned I am sure you will enjoy it.
Earline: All I know is that I don’t want Tia Xiomara looking at me. That Evil Eye thing is scary.
Mama: The Eye can bring many types of changes. But put that out of your mind. Focus on the present. Where are you two going?
Earline: I think it’s a theme park and resort. He mentioned something about a cat mountain. That sounds like a thrill ride. Um... I wonder if I brought enough resort gear. I have one bag of swim and beach wear, one for fancy dressing up like dinners, one for sportswear, one for lingerie, one for shoes- how many pairs of strappy sandals do you think I need? One for personal care- moisturizers, massage oils, shower and hair products and equipment, makeup, fragrances, and one bag for accessories like jewelry, belts, sun hats. Do you think that is enough? We’ll be gone a week, so maybe I will need…
Mama: Zebrudus’ weight lifting abilities may be put to the test. Oh- here he is now.
Zebrudus: (Enters Mama’s office) Gradzhnya Olvecki everyone.
Mama: %”*^)$3$%?> , Sir.
Earline: Huh? Well, anyhow, I am all packed. Do you like my new sundress? (Twirls and stripy short skirt flares out.) Just right for traveling.
Zebrudus: You look delectable; it’s quite flattering. But we must embark while we have copious hours of daylight. Quickly slip into the restroom and change. Here are your clothes and boots. (Hands Earline a stack of olive colored clothing.) Don’t forget the sunblock. I’m sure Mama will return your suitcases to your room when she picks up the kittens.
Earline: Wha??? I don’t get it. You said outdoors- like in resort.
Zebrudus: I said nature, like in backpacking. I have everything we will need in these two packs. Yours weighs only 40 or 50 pounds. No problem. (lifts backpack several times with one arm, pumping iron.)
Earline: But, but, but… these boots are so ugly- They tie. They don’t have heels. There’s no bling or anything. Where do I put my iPad? My make up? My curling iron? * Sniff*
Several days later:
Earline: I can’t believe this is our last night. I never thought camping would be fun but it is. I’ve learned a lot. Who knew I could cook over an open fire, although cooking and fires seem to fit together for me.
Zebrudus: You have shown remarkable poise, stamina and courage in the face of so many unknowns. That is quite admirable.
Earline: Thanks. I’ll clean up the leftovers in a minute. I need to go visit the bushes. (Walks away while Zebrudus sees to their tent and other camping impedimenta.)
A while later:
Zebrudus: I was beginning to get worried- you were gone quite a while. It’s pitch black out now. The sun sets quickly here. What are you carrying?
Earline: I found this kitten down in a bathtub sized crater. He was crying and couldn’t get out. He must have tumbled in. Why would somebody leave a kitten way out here? I don’t get it. He’s pretty big for a kitten.
Zebrudus: (as Earline brings kitten into fire light) Earline- put that animal down right now and back away. That’s not a kitten; it’s a mountain lion cub. It is a wild animal and I can assure you the mother is close by. She will want her protect her baby. They are dangerous and can even kill a human if provoked.
Earline: I was wondering why his tail was so long and he had big paws. He’s so cute and soft. I bet he’s hungry. (She puts cub down by bowl of leftover beef stew. Cub eats.)
Zebrudus: You’re bleeding. Did it bite you?
Eatline: He was scared. He just nipped me here between my thumb and index finger. It hardly hurts. He’s been licking it.
Earline: What was that? I know- Maybe his mama came for him.
Zebrudus: Earline- back away. Oh no- too late!
Huge mama mountain lion leaps into camp between Earline and Zebrudus. She snarls, swiping at him. Zebrudus reluctantly backs away, heading for the tent where he has weapons.
Earline: Hold on there, mama cat!
Mama mountain lion spins toward Earline, snarling. The big cat takes one look at Earline, and then quickly drops down on her stomach submissively.
Mama Mountain Lion: My apologies, Pikiskwatew kiki asiniwacew.
Earline: That’s okay. No problem. You just wanted to make sure your baby was fine. I understand.
Zebrudus: Earline- back away slowly. I have a rifle but I don’t want to shoot if I don’t have to.
Earline: Calm down, Z. We’re having a conversation here. (She sits down on nearby rock.)
Zebrudus: All I hear is snarling and hissing. What do you mean by conversation?
MML: (to Earline) May I approach the cub?
Earline: Sure- he’s your baby. (To Zebrudus): Just chill and listen.
MML: Cub- why are you here with the humans?
Cub: I’m sorry Mama. I wanted to touch the moon. I saw it in a big hole. I reached over the side, stretched my paw down, and I slipped. The moon was only a reflection in a puddle in the big hole, anyway. My paws got wet. I tried to jump out, but I couldn’t. The sides were too high. I missed you and started crying. Then the female human found me. I didn’t mean to bite her but I was scared when she pulled me up…
MML: Hush, cub. (To Earline): Thank you for rescuing this young foolish one. He has chosen to mark you as She Talks with Mountain Lion. It is a very rare gift. Wear the scar with humility and hold the secret close.
Zebrudus: All I hear is yowling and growls. Can you understand them? What’s going on?
Earline : Shhh, Z. (To mountain lions): Glad I was there to help. He just tumbled in. Hey, that can be your name, little guy- Tumble.
Tumble: I like it, thanks. Mama- Pikiskwatew gave me beef stew. It’s good but I liked those chickens better.
Earline: So, now we know what really happened to those Town Hall chickens.
MML: I have to feed my babies. The rabbit population will soon increase again and …
Earline: Don’t worry. The animal sanctuary usually has some leftovers. I’ll make sure Pepe and Raul bring out food every few days and leave it here. With the ATV’s it won’t take long.
MML: I will listen for them from our den up in the mountain caves. Remember that our food must be meat. Cats need the amino acids in meat to survive, especially Taurine.
Earline. I’ll research that some and get you what you need as long as you leave the chickens alone. I don’t want Mama getting mad.
MML: Thank you, She Talks. No, the Mama is to be respected. Come Tumble, your siblings are waiting. I caught three fine, fat squirrels to bring home for dinner.
Tumble: Wait until they hear about this! So long, Pikiskwatew. We’ll meet again soon. (They lope off into the night.)
Zebrudus: Are you okay? What was that all about?
Earline: Tumble and his mama were just telling me about the food shortage right now. We worked out a deal. It’s no biggie.
Zebrudus: You really talked with them? Understood them?
Earline: Sure, didn’t you?
Zebrudus: No, I am not a Solomonar when it comes to cats. The zgrimties, the hultan in my family have strong abilities but we do not usually have the gift to understand cats. But let’s get your hand bandaged.
Earline: I can’t. The mama mountain lion said I was to,” Wear the scar with humility, and hold the secret close.”
Zebrudus: We can then only stem the bleeding. You are right. This gift is rare. It is unusual that the mark will appear on two … Er… Come- let’s retire for the night.
Earline: I am getting sleepy.
They quickly finish cleaning up, enter their tent and settle into sleeping bags. Zebrudus extinguishes the lantern.
Zebrudus: (Takes Earline into his arms and holds her protectively.) Let me tell you a story, a legend, actually. The first known part takes place over a thousand years ago. In a mysterious desert kingdom built upon an oasis, a dark haired princess is born…