"Very good princess." I said with a big smile on my face. Out of the corner of my eyes, I noticed that Mr. Taro is sleeping peacefully under a bush. "Kenta, did you let the cat out again?" I turned to my eight years old son who was busy playing with his Nintendo DS Lite "It's not me dad."
"It was me honey." My wife, Yuki looked up from her reading. "I think it's nice for Mr. Taro to get some sun once in awhile."
"But you know his bad habit dear." I protested to her. "He likes to wander off when we're not looking."
"Hmm..but he's always home by dinner time, you know that." She went back to her reading again.
One of the things I learned from my marriage is that I can't win against my wife in any arguments; somehow she's always right in the end.
I met Yuki in college through a friend of mine. We were both attending Osaka University at that time but majored in different things; I majored in writing and she majored in children's education. I'm not sure if it was love at first sight but I knew I wanted to spent the rest of my life with this woman right from the start. We had our ups and downs but somehow we made it through.
"Help me down daddy." Eri's voice snapped me out of my thoughts. I quickly went over and helped her down. "Thank you." She hugged my legs tightly.
"You're welcome, honey." I patted her on the head. We made our way over to Yuki.
"It's almost time for dinner." I showed Yuki the time on my watch.
"Then we better get inside then and I'll start dinner." She closed her book.
"Where's Mr. Taro?" Eri asked.
"He probably wandered off again." Kenta made his way over to us.
"We'll wait for him at home princess."
Shortly after we got home, it started to rain. "Weird, I don't remember the weather man mentioned rain today." Yuki looked at me.
"Do you think Mr. Taro will be okay?" Eri looked at me too.
"He will be just fine." Yuki picked up Eri and put her on her lap. "He's a smart cat."
"I'll go out and look for him." I grabbed a umbrella from the closet.
"Be careful darling, it's pouring and windy outside."
The rain is really coming down hard I thought to myself. I can feel the force of the rain beating down on my umbrella. Please be okay Mr. Taro I prayed silently.
"Mr. Taro!" I called as loud as I could but it was not loud enough to beat the sound of the pouring rain and the howling winds.
1 hour passed, 2, and then 3, still no luck on finding Mr. Taro. I went back home feeling like failure. Yuki greeted me with a hug. She has already put the kids to bed and was waiting for me to get home by the window. I changed out of my wet clothes while she made coffee for me. Afterward, we just sat there listening to the flickering sound of our old reading lamp.
Mr. Taro is a very important part of my life. He appeared from nowhere when I was five. I was a quiet boy with a speaking problem. My first word was at five. Before that, I didn't know how to speak. I used to point to let my parents know that I wanted something. My brothers as well as the school kids would make fun of me because of this. Every day going home from school, I would run into some bullies. Kids can be so merciless with other kids. The only thing I could do was run. I ran as fast as my little legs could but it was still not fast enough. They beat me with their little fists and I was always coming home with new bruises.
Then one day, I was walking home like any other day except it started to rain. I didn't have a umbrella. "Hey Hideki!" I looked up and saw Tashiro and his buddies slowly making their way to me. Fears suppressed me as I backed away and into a wall. Before they could do anything, something jumped between them and me; a tabby cat.
"It's a stupid cat!" Tashiro laughed.
The cat as if knew that Tashiro was laughing at him, attacked him with his claws. That scared the other kids off. Tashiro, now face covered with blood mixed with tears cursed at me before running off too.
I nodded to the cat as a way of thanking him before continuing home. The cat followed me all the way home and protected me from that day on. My parents didn't want to keep him at first. They tried kicking him out but I wouldn't let them. I grabbed my dad's arm and cried out, "CAT!" That surprised him. "Hideki just spoke!" My dad got excited. From that day on, I learned to speak.
"Hideki, are you okay?" Yuki's voice snapped me out of my flashbacks.
"I have to go out and look for him!" I said
"No you can't! It's so dark and pouring out!" She protested
"You don't understand! Mr. Taro protected me when I was young now it's my turn to protect him!" I run out of the house and into the darkness.
"MR. TARO!" I yelled "ANSWER ME PLEASE!"
An hour passed with no sign of Mr. Taro. I fell on my knees and cried. "This is all my fault."
I looked up. "Mr. Taro?"
"Mr. Taro, where are you?"
The sound, where is coming from? I asked myself.
I followed the fainting meows to a garbage dump. There, beneath all the garbage bags and other things is Mr. Taro, soaked and scared. I quickly took off my shirt and wrapped him up. "I'm here now, Mr. Taro. Let's go home old friend."
Half way home, I ran into Yuki. She dropped her umbrella at the sight of Mr. Taro and me. With tears in her eyes, she hugged us both tightly. Afterward, we made our way home slowly, enjoying the beating of the pouring rain and the sound of the howling winds. "Purrrrrrr...."