‘I’ve done it now,’ thought Stanley.
Molly was sitting in the back of the car, holding an empty hamster cage. She was crying – very, very loudly. Her older brother, John, sat next to her with his fingers stuck in his ears.
‘Shut up, Molly. It’s your own fault. You shouldn’t have brought him. I left my rabbits – Grandad and Nanny could have looked after Stanley as well.’
Stanley peeped out from behind the plant pot in the driveway. He was dithering. Should he; shouldn’t he?
Molly’s dad and mum came out of the front door of the holiday cottage, locking it behind them. They pushed the key back through the letterbox.
‘I’m sorry, Molly,’ said her dad. ‘We looked everywhere but we can’t find him. As soon as we get home, we’ll go to the pet shop and you can choose a new hamster.’
‘But I want Stanley!’ shouted Molly.
‘Oops,’ thought Stanley. ‘I’d better show myself.’
He scampered from the pot to the front doorstep and sat there expecting to be seen and rescued. In the car, Molly’s wails became even louder and her father quickly started the engine.
‘Over here! Here I am!’ Stanley tried to make himself conspicuous. No one noticed.
Molly’s dad turned the car around and started to drive slowly away from the cottage.
Stanley was desperate. He tried to jump up and down – but hamsters aren’t very good at that. He tried to yell – but hamsters can’t do that at all.
He sat forlornly on the doorstep as the car drove out of the gates and disappeared along the road. A cold wind ruffled his fur and Stanley shivered. His stomach rumbled. He had escaped from his cage the day before and had managed to find half a squashed chocolate biscuit behind a radiator. But that’s all he had eaten and now he missed the delicious vegetables, fruit and seeds Molly left in his cage.
And he missed Molly.
It was miserable being a homeless hamster.
He tried to get back into the cottage. But all the windows were tightly shut, both doors were locked and there wasn’t a single chink or gap he could squeeze through.
What to do now?
Stanley felt very sorry for himself.
It soon started to grow dark. Molly’s family had taken a short holiday in the week after Christmas. They had enjoyed a few chilly but sunny days when they could explore the cliff tops and fields around the lighthouse cottage. But today the weather had changed. It was very cold and the fine rain was turning into icy sleet which settled on Stanley’s fur and dripped uncomfortably from his whiskers and nose.
Stanley felt very, very sorry for himself.
He was so cold he had to do something. After searching everywhere, Stanley found the walls of another building and a step leading to a doorway. He huddled close to the door. At least he was out of the icy wind and rain. He started to cheer up – a little.
Then he saw a gap in the corner. Just a tiny gap. Just enough for a hamster who is an expert escapologist. Stanley crept through and found himself at the bottom of some concrete stairs. They were deep steps but he managed to make his way up by scrabbling and scampering and stretching.
Finally, he reached the top. It was very dark. He could hear the sea crashing at the foot of the cliffs below; he could hear the wind whistling around the walls of the building. But he had no idea where he was.
Cautiously, Stanley moved forward across the concrete floor. He listened. He sniffed.
He could hear something new. The quietest of breathing. He could smell something new. Damp fur, maybe.
There was a faint hiss, almost a growl.
Something was hiding in the shadows, something dangerous, something scary.
It hissed again.
Stanley’s heart was only the size of a pea but it was beating so loudly the creature must be able to hear it – even above the sound of the waves outside.
He waited in terror, expecting to be seized at any moment by the teeth of the fierce beast.
New noises began above him – clicks and whirrs – a slight creaking – then more clicks. With a sudden whoosh a bright light burst out above Stanley, illuminating all the room, the concrete walls, the wide window, beaming out into the night and across the sea. And the great light lit up the monster in the corner ……. a tiny ginger kitten!
The light showed him there was nothing to be afraid of. The kitten was as bedraggled and sorry for itself as Stanley. And twice as scared!
In the bold and powerful light Stanley felt bold and powerful too. He looked straight at the kitten.
‘I’m starving and I expect you are too. I’m going back down the stairs to look for food. You can come if you wish.’
The green eyes blinked in surprise.
After scrabbling precariously down about ten steps, Stanley discovered a door to a small cupboard in the concrete wall. He sniffed. ‘Whopping whiskers!’ said Stanley, ‘I smell food!’
The blue door was not properly shut and Stanley tried to squeeze inside. After a few minutes of frantic wriggling, he got stuck, wedged between the wall and the door like a deflated furry balloon.
‘Help!’ he squeaked. ‘I’m stuck. Somebody help the hamster!’
A slender paw reached out from behind him and pulled the door ajar. Stanley fell back and rolled under the kitten.
‘Thanks’. His voice was muffled by the kitten’s damp fur.
‘Let’s see what’s in there,’ said the kitten, carefully stepping over Stanley and edging her way into the cupboard.
Inside, there was an old grey knitted scarf, a tattered notebook, a cheap biro, and a paper bag containing a small orange, a tuna sandwich and not one, but three digestive biscuits.
Before you could say stinky paws, the kitten had eaten all the tuna, leaving the stale crusts, and Stanley had eaten one biscuit and stuffed the other two into his cheek pouches.
He thought he ought to be polite.
‘I’m Stanley. What’s your name?’
The kitten stared at him. ‘My name? I haven’t got one.’
Stanley looked at the orange which had rolled out of the bag. The ginger kitten’s fur was almost the same colour. Molly had a small orange on Christmas Day – what was it called?
‘That’s it,’ said Stanley, ‘Clementine. I’ll call you Clem.’
(Dear reader, what do you think the owner of that food will do when they discover the cupboard is bare? You’ll have to read the next chapter to find out.)
So, the kitten and the hamster climbed back up the stairs and fell asleep in a corner, curled up together to keep warm, safe and sound. And the great light continued to shine around them throughout the night and far into the distance.
© Jane Hendra January 2018