Jenny Berry and the LOST Tabby Cat

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Jenny Berry had never ever had a pet. She had never had a puppy or a kitten or even a hamster. And, to be honest, Jenny had never really thought much about having a pet. But now everything was different because now it was August and the beginning of the long school holiday, and a new family called the Morgans had moved into the house next door to Jenny’s house. And this new family had a mother and a father and two daughters called Emma and Tilly, and a tabby cat called Jasper. Emma and Tilly were both one year and one month younger than Jenny and they looked exactly the same as each other. This was because they were twins. Jenny wasn’t sure which one of the twins was Emma and which one was Tilly but they were both really nice so Jenny decided that it didn’t matter too much which twin was which. But Jenny’s Grandma Lily said of course it matters which twin was which. So Jenny decided that she would learn to tell them apart.

But this story is not really about the twins. This story is about Jasper …

Jasper the tabby cat had long tabby fur and a red collar with a bell on it. The twins told Jenny that the bell was so that the birds would hear Jasper jingling just as he got ready to pounce on them. Jenny asked her grandma what she thought about Jasper’s collar with a bell on it and Grandma Lily said: ‘Well, we don’t want all our songbirds to finish up in Jasper’s stomach, do we?’ So Jenny agreed that the bell was probably a good idea.

Then, one afternoon, about two weeks after the twins moved in next door, Jenny was watching through her bedroom window, waiting for Grandma Lily to arrive. Suddenly something caught her attention. It was Jasper. He had jumped up onto the wall that separated Jenny’s front garden from the twins’ garden. Then, just as suddenly, Jasper jumped down into Mr Berry’s flower bed. Then he wandered across the lawn and sat down in the middle of the drive. Oh no, thought Jenny, what if Grandma Lily drives straight in without noticing Jasper and squashes him! She had to do something about it. So she ran downstairs and opened the front door and flapped her hands to shoo Jasper away. But Jasper just sat and looked at her.

So Jenny stepped outside and made a shooing noise.

But Jasper just sat there, perfectly still. What was she to do? How do you move a cat that has decided to sit in your driveway? Jenny looked along the road and frowned. Grandma Lily would be here any minute. Jenny’s mother was in the back garden with Will’s. If Jenny ran through to call her, Grandma Lily might arrive while she was away and Jasper would be squashed. She took a couple of steps towards him and tried shooing. It was hopeless. Jasper had no intention of moving. Jenny realised that she had to do the moving for him. But Jenny didn’t know how to pick up a large tabby cat. In fact, Jenny didn’t actually know how to touch a large tabby cat.

Just then Jenny heard Grandma Lily’s noisy old car coming along the road. So she ran down the drive to the pavement and waved her hands in the air so Grandma Lily would see her. The plan worked! Grandma Lily pulled her car up in the road and got out to investigate: ‘What are you doing Jenny? Is something wrong? Where’s Mummy?’

Jenny turned and pointed to Jasper, who was still sitting in the middle of the drive: ‘Jasper won’t move, Grandma. And Mum’s in the back garden with Wills.’

Grandma Lily looked at Jasper and considered the situation. Then she walked halfway towards him.

‘He won’t shoo away,’ explained Jenny.

Grandma Lily laughed. Then she bent over and held out her hand and made puss-puss noises. Jasper immediately stood up and jingled towards her and allowed her to stroke him. He rubbed his long fur against Grandma Lily’s leg and purred. ‘What’s wrong, my furry friend?’ said Grandma Lily

Jasper looked up at Grandma Lily and made a long meowing noise. Jenny had never heard him do that before. ‘What’s wrong with him, Grandma? Do you think he’s got a headache?’

‘No,’ said Grandma Lily. ‘I just think he’s lonely. Where are the twins?’

‘They’ve gone to town to buy their new school uniforms,’ explained Jenny.

Grandma Lily bent over and picked Jasper up: ‘Well perhaps poor Jasper thinks that his family have gone back to their old house and left him here all alone. He’s only a cat, and although cats are very clever, he probably doesn’t understand about moving house. He was probably very happy with his old house and now he’s been left here on his own.’

Jenny suddenly felt very sorry for Jasper. ‘What shall we do, Grandma?’

Grandma Lily stroked Jasper’s head: ‘Why don’t we take him round to see Mummy and Wills and ask if there’s any spare milk and a nice clean saucer. And then he can visit with us until his proper family comes back.’

Jenny thought that was an excellent idea. Grandma Lily carried Jasper through the house and into the back garden and explained to Jenny’s mother that Jasper was feeling lonely and needed a saucer of milk. So Jenny’s mum put Wills into his garden playpen and fetched some milk and everybody watched Jasper lap it all up and then settle down beside them and clean himself. He cleaned his paws and his ears and the white patch on his chest. Jenny practiced stroking him and he seemed to like it. Then he washed himself again and settled down and went to sleep. Jenny looked at her grandma for an explanation.

‘Cats are very clean animals,’ said Grandma Lily. ‘They always wash themselves after they’ve eaten and they always wash themselves before they go to sleep.’

‘Do you think he’s happy now?’ asked Jenny.

‘Yes, I’m sure he is,’ said Grandma Lily.

So Jenny and her mother and Grandma Lily had tea in the garden and watched Jasper sleep. Wills tried to reach over his playpen and touch Jasper and Grandma Lily explained that it was important to teach Wills to stroke gently and not to pull Jasper’s tail. And she told Jenny that many years ago, when she was just Jenny’s age, her grandma, who would be Jenny’s great-great-grandma, had a cat called Tom. And great-great-grandma had said that if you move house with a cat, you have to put butter on its nose so that it doesn’t get lost.

‘But, why Grandma?’ gasped Jenny. ‘What difference does the butter make?’

‘Great-great-grandma used to say that the butter stops a cat from smelling its way back to its old house, so it has to stay in the new one.’

Jenny looked at Jasper. His nose was pink and very clean. There was definitely no butter on it.

*

Emma and Tilly and their mother did not return home for some time. Grandma Lily and Jenny’s mother took Wills inside and Jenny stayed in the garden to keep Jasper company. It was almost three o’clock by the time Jenny heard the twins laughing in their garden. Then she heard one of them calling puss-puss. Jasper lifted his head and looked towards the fence. Then he settled down again and went back to sleep. Jenny decided that he was probably angry with the twins for leaving him alone. So she walked over to the fence to tell them that Jasper was in her garden. She stood on a big flower pot so she could see over the top of the fence and called: ‘Emma, Jasper’s here. He was lonely.’

One of the twins ran over and tried to see over the fence but she wasn’t tall enough. Jenny decided that that was probably Emma. Then the other twin hurried over and for the first time Jenny noticed that this second twin, who must have been Tilly, had a big freckle on the end of her nose. ‘Are you Tilly?’ Jenny asked the freckle twin.

The freckle twin nodded. So Jenny asked if they would like to come and collect Jasper because he was asleep and she wasn’t sure how to pick him up. Although she had stroked him. So Emma and Tilly and their mother came to collect Jasper and everybody got to know each other and Jenny was very happy to have the twins and Jasper living next door. But Jasper’s problems were not over.

*

The next day was Saturday and Saturday was Market day. Mrs Berry always took Jenny and Wills to town to look around the stalls and then to have lunch with Grandma Lily in the macaroni cheese restaurant. And Mr Berry always stayed at home to watch the television. This particular Market day, Emma and Tilly Morgan and their mum had also decided to go to the same restaurant. So everybody had lunch together. Then everybody went home. Jenny drove home with Grandma Lily, who said she was very impressed that Jenny had learned how to tell the twins apart. ‘Do you know how I do it?’ laughed Jenny.

‘I think it might be that freckle,’ said Grandma Lily, smiling.

When they arrived home, Jenny’s father was already sitting in the kitchen waiting for a piece of Grandma Saturday cake. ‘Ah, Mr Berry,’ said Grandma Lily, opening her cake tin. ‘Have you had a busy day?’

Mr Berry watched her lift out a fat honey cake: ‘I’ll have you know, Lily, that I’ve tidied the shed. And I’ve also told Jack Morgan next door how to prune his roses.’

‘Well done,’ laughed Jenny’s mother. ‘How lucky for Mr Morgan that he has moved in next door to a gardening expert.’

Jenny knew that that was one of Mummy’s jokes, so she laughed. Then everyone turned as the doorbell chimed. Grandma Lily and Jenny hurried to see who it was. It was Emma and Tilly. They had come to see if Jasper was visiting because he wasn’t at home and Mr Morgan couldn’t remember when he last saw him.

‘I don’t think he’s here,’ said Jenny. ‘I’ll ask my dad.’

But Mr Berry didn’t know where Jasper was either. Grandma Lily told the twins not to worry because he was probably asleep somewhere and he’d soon be back. But the following day Jasper was still missing. And when Grandma Lily called round to help prepare lunch, Jasper was still not home. As soon as the twins saw Grandma Lily’s car in the drive, they hurried round to ask her what might have happened to Jasper, because they already knew that Grandma Lily knew about most things. Tilly with the freckle was very close to tears, although Emma was being much braver. That was another thing that was different about the twins … how many tears they had.

Emma told Grandma Lily that she was worried that Jasper had decided to go back to his old house. Tilly burst into tears when her sister said that: ‘I think we left him on his own too much,’ Tilly whispered. ‘He was so lonely that he came to spend the day with you. And then yesterday we were ALL in town, so there was nobody here to stroke him.’

‘Your dad and my dad were here,’ said Jenny.

‘Yes, but dads are not very good at stroking cats,’ said Emma.

Grandma Lily frowned: ‘That’s not always true, Emma,’ said Grandma Lily. ‘Why don’t we walk along the street and ask if anybody has seen a big, furry tabby cat.’

So Grandma Lily and Jenny and the twins asked at the houses along the street. But nobody could remember seeing Jasper. Emma and Tilly were very upset. And so was Jenny. Grandma Lily said that they would have to wait a little longer. Then she went back to Jenny’s house to help with lunch and think of a plan. And Jenny went home with Emma and Tilly. To wait. Mrs Morgan made strawberry milkshakes but nobody enjoyed them much because they were all worried about Jasper. Tilly looked at Jasper’s empty basket: ‘Jasper is LOST,’ she cried. ‘Because we didn’t care enough. Our old house is miles away. If he tries to go back there, he’ll be really LOST. We should have made sure he was happy before we left him on his own.’

Well, that made Jenny think. She took a big sip of her milkshake, and then she said: ‘My grandma told me about a magical place where your LOST things go when you haven’t cared about them enough. I don’t know whether it’s really true, but my mitten and my raggedy doll and loads of my other things might have gone there to hide until I deserved to have them back.’

‘What place?’ said Emma, looking serious.

‘It’s a place called Raggedy Lyme,’ said Jenny.

‘But where is it?’ said Tilly, drying her eyes.

‘I’m not sure,’ said Jenny, ‘but I can tell you a rhyme that might give you a clue.’

‘That would probably help,’ said Mrs Morgan, sitting down next to Jenny. So Jenny said the rhyme:

‘There’s a space in a place called Raggedy Lyme,
Full of errors and terrors and wasted time,
Where your lost things can hide, until they decide,
That you’ve earned their return from Raggedy Lyme.’

The twins asked her to say it again. So she did. Then Emma said perhaps Jasper had gone there to teach them a lesson, but how would they be able to earn Jasper’s return. Jenny tried to imagine how Grandma Lily would answer that question. Then she smiled: ‘Perhaps you should promise not to leave him on his own too much. And you could promise that when he comes back you’ll give him a big saucer of milk.’

Tilly’s eyes opened very wide: ‘But, Jenny, who shall we make our promise to?’ she asked.

Now, how would Grandma Lily answer that question? Then Jenny smiled again: ‘I think you should promise each other,’ said Jenny. So the twins made their promises to each other and everybody felt a little happier. Then Jenny said that she had better go home because her lunch was probably ready. And it was.

Over lunch Jenny asked her father whether he had seen Jasper in the garden yesterday when they were in town. He tried to remember: ‘I think I remember hearing his bell,’ he said. ‘When I was tidying the shed.’

Grandma Lily stopped eating and looked across at him: ‘When you were tidying your shed, Mr Berry? Your shed that you always say is full of mice?’

Jenny leapt up: ‘Daddy, do you think Jasper might have got locked in the shed?’

Mr Berry jumped up and hurried into the garden. And a few minutes later he walked back into the kitchen holding Jasper: ‘He was asleep on my workbench,’ said Mr Berry. ‘He didn’t look that upset. I think he’s been dining on mice for the last two days.’ He set Jasper down on the floor and Jenny was so pleased to see him that she hurried over and picked him up and hugged him while her dad phoned Mrs Morgan and her mum fetched a saucer of milk.

He’s probably very thirsty after eating all those mice,’ explained Grandma Lily.

So Jenny set him down carefully and watched him lapping and purring. A few moments later, the doorbell chimed. Jenny and Grandma Lily hurried to answer it. It was Emma and Tilly. ‘Jasper came back from Raggedy Lyme, because he heard our promise,’ said Emma.

Jenny pointed to the kitchen and the twins hurried through and sat on the floor beside Jasper until he had licked the saucer clean. Then they shared picking him up and stroking him. Jenny said she was very pleased that Jasper was safe and the twins both thanked her for telling them about Raggedy Lyme.

*

Jenny stood at her front door watching the twins carrying Jasper back home then she hurried straight back to the kitchen to tell her father that he ought to buy a kitten so that Jasper would have a friend next door to play with.

‘What a good idea,’ laughed Grandma Lily. With a friend living next door he’ll never need to go to Raggedy Lyme again!’