Paralysed with fear, I was awakened by the vibration and sound of the engine.
The snug ledge I had found under the vehicle for a nap, away from the increasing heat of the day, had suddenly become a dangerous prison.
My morning up to this point had been completely carefree; playing around the barns and in the undergrowth of the unkempt garden, with my brother Tom and sister Kitty.
I heard voices, as doors banged shut.
“Head for Tonbury then up the A547 towards Masonsley,” suggested Anna.
“OK. Did you pack the corkscrew?”asked Paul.
“Of cause, I keep one in the picnic bag.”
“Yes and Yes. Anything I have forgotten we can live without for a few hours.”
We began to move. Why hadn’t I jumped down and runaway before we started moving? I can’t jump now I would be killed for sure.
I snuggled back down on my ledge, grateful for the support all around as I was buffeted side to side with each turn of the wheel and back and forth with acceleration and braking.
Although I could feel the heat from the engine this was counteracted by rushing air as we sped along.
On and on and on. The journey seemed endless.
The noise was deafening and there was a horrible oily smell from the engine.
Finally we stopped. Anna and Paul unloaded the van. I could hear children’s voices in the distance and the sound of ducks and birds.
The smell of water made me realise that my mouth was completely dry. I needed to get a drink.
I didn’t move for a long time; too stiff, bruised and scared.
“Don’t be daft Tim,” I told myself.
“You have got to get out of here. You don’t want another journey like that! Slowly, I eased myself down onto my unsteady feet.”
From under the van I could see a beautiful glistening lake beyond the grassy bank; families paddling, canoeing, sunbathing or sheltering from the sun under the pines.
“Where shall I go? What shall I do?”
There was no way I would ever make it home I knew that; we had travelled too far and I had no idea which direction was home. I could hear the sound of running water. Perhaps there was a stream close by. I didn’t want to stay under the van, so cautiously made my way to the shelter of a bush.
“Paul, I have just seen Tim!” cried Maria.
“What! That’s impossible.”
“Look!” she pointed. “He ran from under our van to that bush. I am sure it’s him.”
They both got up and started walking towards me.
I knew if they caught me I would be in real trouble; more trouble than ever before, and I have been in a few scrapes in my time.
I shrank back further under the bush.
I turned and ran to the next, then the next: darting here and there.
They would never catch me, I was much too quick.
They nearly had me at one point, when they closed in on me from both sides, but I slipped passed Anna as she lunged towards me.
Past a clump of trees and behind some buildings I sprinted.
When I stopped to catch my breath I could hear them faintly calling me, but they had lost sight of me and were looking in the wrong direction.
That was when I skipped away through a gate and into the boatyard.
They had completely lost me.
The boatyard was a fantastic playground.
There was everything from canoes and dinghies to beautiful cruisers and yachts. When I finally felt safe I found a place to sleep and I didn’t stir until the evening when all the cars had gone.
I found the stream of delicious crystal-clear fresh water, and in the bins around the café there was plenty of food.
At first it felt like a great adventure, keeping out of sight in the boatyard by day and exploring at night.
But by the third night I felt so very home-sick.
I missed my family. They would be wondering what had happened to me.
Mum would have been franticly searching everywhere. Tom and Kitty too would have been missing me. We had never been apart before.
I curled up in a wood store next to the café and cried and cried.
Suddenly, the door creaked open. A shaft of yellow light fell upon me. I froze. A huge black shape was silhouetted in the doorway.
“Hello there. Why are you crying?”
Her voice was soft and gentle. “Are you lost?”
She bent down and took me in her arms. This was the first time in my life I had let anyone touch me. She carried me into the café.
“Daddy, Daddy, look! I have found a little kitten. I think he is lost. Can I keep him? Can I? Please Daddy, say yes.”
“Oh Michelle, he’s a scrawny little thing, isn’t he?
“I wonder if someone tried to drown him in the lake.”
His deep baritone voice declared with a chuckle.
He scratched his head and wiped his big hands down the front of his apron.
I quivered and cuddled closed to the girl’s beating chest.
“I suppose it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have a cat around here if he can earn his keep.
“We must not feed him too much though, as we want him to keep all the rats and mice away.
“You can give him some milk to build him up a bit and you can make him a bed in the wood store, if you like”.
So the café became my home and Michelle and her Daddy, my new family.
I am now as good a hunter of rats, mice, voles and fish as my Mother.
Michelle’s Daddy named me Lucky, and I think I am.