Chapter 1 The Great Hisscape

“Nearly ready?”, called Jonathan, as Adele bent to give Millou one final farewell rub on his handsome ginger cheek.

“Yup”, replied Adele, as Lillith, sensing the upheaval, rubs her pretty face against the final suitcase…

“Don’t worry about them..”, I will take good care of them, reassured Katy, “I’ve been homesitting cats for three whole years now..”.

“I know you will”, replies Adele, “just watch Bobby, he’s a little furry Houdini….”

As Adele and Jonathan haul up the last suitcase from the hallway, heading outside to the waiting Gatwick airport Taxi, Millou and Lillith gaze forlornly behind them at their departing backs.

“Six months”, chufs Millou gloomily to Lillith. “They’ve never been gone so long before..” she replies.

Just at that second, a pale grey streak flies across the doorway, aimed at the closing wooden front door…

“Oh no, you don’t Bobby”, says Katy, rooting herself firmly in his path, ”..I know all about you…”.

The three Gateros follow Katy into the living room, Millou and Lillith to their favorite window sill, and Bobby to his toy box. Things were going to be dull without Adeles trainer laces to pounce on, or Jonathan’s black jeans to slather with fur. It just left little Bobby to open the kitchen cupboards, turn on the bathroom taps and dig up the geraniums…

The next day and Katy is shovelling the three litter trays when suddenly something large and black zooms past her left ear, Bobby hotly in pursuit. A hornet! Katy just beats Bobby to the post, and as she shoves the monster out a window, she hears her mobile going off in the nextdoor kitchen. Bobby sat on the living room carpet, watching Katy’s departing back view. Little did Katy know, that the rusty window latch was not quite home, catching at that very moment a gust of wicked winter wind…

Little Lillith glances up just in time to see Bobby’s grey rump tip triumphantly over the edge of the window ledge, followed in no short time by Millou’s bushy ginger tail..

”…wait for me boys…!” she pipes up..!

They were off!

”…where to, comrades..?!” shouts Bobby, fleeing helter skelter across the front lawn, kicking up clods of green turf, out the wrought iron gate, and out, out on to the road outside, swerving left to narrowly avoid Pat the postman on his blue bicycle…

”…keep going Bobby..”, replies Millou.. “No-one can catch us now..”.

For the next three hours, the intrepid trio race palmal, across gardens, roads and neighbourhoods, through valley and dale, forest and glen, but south, always south, until at last the landscape begins to give way to a rural chess board of toasted golden fields and brushed emerald green hills.

At last Bobby slows to a trot, as an eddy of sweet sea breeze caresses his soft grey face. He drops thankfully to rest in the shadow of an enormous oak tree. There the three Gateros take a moment to wash, scratch and regain their composure. Sensible Lillith, turning her pretty face to the other two, “so do you know which way Spain actually is..?”.

“Sure”, replies Bobby, ”..they were quite clear about it on Chat earlier.. we just keep going in this direction until we reach water..”.

With that all cleared up, they take a refreshing sip from a meandering stream, check the dial on the cat compass one more time, and back to the tapering trail that would take them far beyond the fading grey horizon.

Dusk slowly begins to fall, the waning sun slanting her soft golden beams across the swaying cornfields.

Weary and footsore, Lillith starts to ponder where the next can of Kitekat would come from. Over the hill, past a field full of black and white cows, a grey corrugated iron firmament comes into view. As they approach, they notice mountains of tossed straw, impaled upon pitchforks and woven hessian feedsacks tossed here and there. A white painted wooden sign swings in the breeze, ‘The Daisy Dairy’ .

“Quick”, calls Bobby, breaking into a foxtrot and looking back at the other two.

“Over here”, he swerves through the open doorway of an enormous barn, clucking chickens scattering in his wake..

”..wait for me boys…!”, by the time poor Lillith has caught up, they are half way down the barn, perched up on a wooden cart, contently supping thick warm yellow cream from an iron pail…

That cart is 6 feet high, too much for Lillith.

“Millou, help me..”, she mews plaintively..

Ever gallant, Millou spots a black plastic bucket, and carefully ropes it down to the waiting Lillith.

She climbs daintily in, and with Bobby heaving alongside, they haul Lillith up and into the cart.

At last, with three bellyfuls of cream, the three vagabonds fall into a deep slumber. They wake at first light to the shrill bugle crows of the dawn chickens,

“Where are we?”, groans Bobby, opening sleepy eyes, the first scents of straw and dung clinging to his nostrils.. then he remembers the thick richness of the fresh cream, and joins Millou and Lillith chasing the last dregs around the bottom of the pail. They stretch langorously, yawn and shake. Just as the airborn fluff settles to the ground, a heavy door slams at the other end of the barn.

“Quick”, shouts Bobby, diving for cover under some empty folded feed sacks.

The others make it just in time as the farmer approaches, leading a piebald Shire.

“Hey-up fella”, says the farmer, tethering the horse into the shafts of the waiting cart.

Today, there are four Daisy Dairy farm stores to call at, the furthest nudging the white Dover cliffs. Dobbin knows the delivery route well, and breaks into a brisk trot. With a click and a jangle, the cart wheels spin and the three Gateros gaze wide eyed at the green and golden landscape unfurling around them.

“Don’t worry comrades”, says Bobby producing the cat compass.

“At this rate we are on track to hit water by nightfall..”.

Sure enough, as the waning sun melts over the clifftops, and the moon languishes upon her back atop the lapping waves of the English channel, the cart at last draws to a halt.

Bobby and Millou hop down from the feed sacks, and Millou takes Lillith’s paw as she slithers gently to the ground.

There, an interminable metallic thread of glinting freight lorries winds as far as the eye can see.

Paw in paw, with Bobby leading the way, they follow from one lorry to the next, until finally finding an open door. They surreptiously slide through and into the empty cab, under the drivers seat, and curling beneath a dusty anorak and several crumpled yellowing newspapers, they fall into a deep sleep.

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