Bucky the Horse and the Gods of Radiation (5)

Linnifrid walked, arms outstretched, teetering as if she were on a thin high wire. She was whistling something sweet when something came out of the brush, sat there, and just stared with big eyes. The girl stopped and looked at the cat; it seemed to be voraciously studying her. “Hello there, Mr. cat,” the girl said. “Are you lost?”

The cat moved toward her and started circling her legs and purring. “Now that I’ve found you, how could I ever be lost,” the cat said, looking up at her with a big grin that pushed its whiskers straight out to the side.

“What a strange day it’s been. First a talking tree, and now a talking cat. What’s your name?”

“I’m Fred.”

“Fred the cat?”

“That’s what I said. Right, right. My name is Fred. What are you doing around here? Not many people come around here anymore. I like it that way. People are pigs, but not you. You seem different somehow.”

“You’re being silly. I’m just a simple farm girl living in a police state. I’ve lost my horse and now I’m trying to find him. Have you seen a horse around here anywhere?”

The cat wound around her again, slobbering and pushing its head against her calves. “Indeed, I have seen a horse today. In fact, we shared a few pints and became friends.”

“Bucky’s been drinking?”

“Like a horse,” the cat chuckled.

“Well, what happened? Where did he go?”

The cat stopped and scratched behind one ragged ear. “I don’t know where he went. Last time I saw him he was trying to talk to a tree. Hey. Wait a minute… Didn’t you just say you talked to a tree today?”

“Indeed I did,” Linnifrid said. “He wasn’t the nicest tree in the world, though.”

Fred put a paw to the side of his face and played with his whiskers. “Hmmm, I didn’t believe him, and now I feel like a complete ass,” the cat said.

“So you have no idea where he went?”

“No, I don’t. But I would be honored to help you look for him.”

“Thank you, Fred. You’re a very nice cat. “I usually don’t like cats. I think they smell bad.”

“Thanks.”

“Oh, no offense to you. I was speaking in general terms.”

“I feel a whole lot better. So, do you want to continue walking along the lake or should we make for the forest?”

“The lake. I think Bucky would go to water.”


The two walked together along the oddly twisting shore of the lake. Fred scuttled ahead so that he could stop and smell everything. Linnifrid’s heart grew doubtful as the day wore on. The sky was growing chilled, and the light was beginning to fade. The girl stopped and was worried. “I don’t have any supplies for the night,” she told the cat. “I’m afraid in my rush to go after Bucky, I left unprepared.”

“It’s okay,” the cat smiled. “I’ll keep you safe and warm,” and then he winked at her in a very creepy cat way.

Linnifrid ignored the boorish gesture and looked around. “I think we should build a shelter.”

She pointed. “There. That’s a perfect spot between those trees over there.”

Fred looked but he really didn’t care. “I don’t think I’ll be much help.”

“You can help me look for wood.”

Fred snickered, but kept his naughty thoughts to himself.

“I can look for it, but I can’t carry it. Unless you want to strap the wood to my back, but then again I’m afraid I’d only be good for a bundle of twigs.”

Linnifrid took a moment to bend down and pet the cat’s head. “Don’t worry about it, Fred. I’m a big strong woman. I think I can handle it.”

The girl and the cat moved away from the shoreline and closer to the edge of the forest that began like a wall atop a short golden and green bluff. Fred scavenged ahead and when he found a few good sticks and logs he called out to the girl and she would come running.

Linnifrid carried the wood in her arms and piled it at the campsite. The cat ran up behind her and pushed himself between her ankles and just stayed there. “How are you going to make a fire?” Fred asked.

The girl frowned and wondered. “I think maybe I need to rub two sticks together, really hard and fast. I saw it on the television. It makes a spark on something really, really dry and then you have to blow on it real gentle until there’s a flame, and then you feed the flame into the wood.”

“Sounds too complicated.” Fred complained. “Don’t you have any matches?”

“No. Of course not. I have no reason to burn anything.”

“I say we forget the fire. We can just cuddle.”

“Oh, Fred. Stop being so fresh, and foolish. I’m a young woman and you’re a cat. I have no romantic interest in you at all.”

“Whaaat? I didn’t mean anything by it. I’m a cat and I happen to like warm places. If you know what I mean.”

“There it is again, Fred!”

“What?”

“Those… Those sexual innuendos you keep dropping. It makes me uncomfortable and I wish you would stop!”

“All right, all right,” Fred said softly. “I’m sorry. It’s just me being me. I talk like that with everyone. You know. I’m a fun cat.”

Linnifrid crossed her arms and looked down at him. “I think you should sleep outside the shelter tonight. Better yet, why don’t you just run off and hunt or whatever cats do in the middle of the night.”

Fred looked down at the ground and somehow he felt very hurt inside. “Oh. I understand. You just want to be alone, or maybe you have a human boyfriend.”

“It isn’t that, Fred. You just kind of creep me out… When you talk like that. I don’t like it all.”

“Can I ask you a question?”

“What’s that?”

“Are you still a virgin?”

Linnifrid grew angry and her face flushed to the color of an apple. “That’s none of your business! How dare you ask me such a question.”

“I’m just curious. I thought you might be experienced and could tell me some things, very detailed things.”

“That’s it! I don’t want to be friends with you anymore. You’re a vile creature I must say. Simply vile! Now get out of here before I throw a rock at you.”

Linnifrid reached down, palmed a stone, and then threatened him with it. “Leave me alone!” She threw the stone and it landed with a thump, barely missing the cat’s head. Fred jumped, his ears went back, and his fur unfurled, making him look more like a porcupine than a simple, dirty-minded feral cat of the wild lands.

“Go!” Linnifrid yelled. “Go or I swear I might cook you for supper!”

Fred calmed and looked at her. “Fine. I’ll go. Good luck finding your stupid horse, and of course, be safe tonight. Lots of things happen in the night.”


The cat turned and walked away, and it didn’t take long for him to disappear like a ghost among the grasses and the dips of the land.

Linnifrid was glad to be rid of him, she thought as she laid out the last of the boughs across the top of her shelter. She sat down on the ground near the fire she managed to make. Seems she was so mad at Fred the cat that she was able to muster up enough friction between those two sticks to birth a spark. Now she felt safer as the dark grew deeper. She’s seen many a night skies, but the one that night was darker than any other dark she could ever remember.

She held her arms close to her body and gently rocked back and forth on the ground. The orange flames were clean and crisp and somewhat see-through. She thought about her Papa and how that it was his great wish for when he passed that he be turned to ash and scattered somewhere out on the farm. He had always said to her that the wind would steer his next boat.

Linnifrid was hungry, but she had nothing to eat. Her stomach grumbled. “I would give anything for a steaming pot pie right now,” she moaned aloud to the flames and the darkness. “I can just imagine the flaky crust, the creamy gravy, the crisp garden-fresh vegetables.”

Then she heard something move in the grass. A twig snapped. Then there was a voice. “I think you’ve lost your mind,” someone said through the air.

Linnifrid jumped to her feet. “Who’s there? Who’s out there!?”

“Why it’s me. Your beloved horse, Bucky.”

“Bucky!” Linnifrid yelled. “Is that really you?”

The horse stepped into the glow of the fire and smiled at her. “It is indeed me. I’m so glad I found you.”

TO BE CONTINUED


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