The thick summer air envelops me in its warm, sweet wind, and the smell of honeysuckle accompanies the laid-back country song I was strumming. The wood of my guitar presses lightly against my torso, the shiny amber-colored wood gleaming in the sun, and I chew on a piece of hay as I lay back, playing my way to sleep. The bustling city miles away, the countryside is peaceful and empty, except for the crickets chirping in the early evening shade.
A light weight on my worn-out boots makes me sit up. What I find startles me a bit. A small grey kitten is curled up on my boot, soft fur lightly tousled from running, a small scratch on its leg. Being careful not to wake it, I gingerly pick it up, but my rough, calloused fingers brush its scratch, and the poor little kitten mewls in agony.
“Sorry, little guy,” I say. The kitten ignores me, slinking away, and is nearly gone when I call after it.
“Bud? Where are you going?” The kitten turns around suspiciously, but after studying me a moment or two, he silently stalks back.
“Your name’s Bud, huh. Why don’t we go inside and patch up that cut of yours?” Seeing as he’s still slit-eyeing me skeptically, I continue. “Do you want a bowl of milk afterwards?” Bud purrs in response. This time, I manage to hoist him up without touching his cut. I plop him into the pocket of my red-and-black plaid shirt, ears and small pink nose sticking out. Bud hoists his head out of the pocket but falls back in, yowling. Laughing, I skip to my house, hands in my pockets.
When Bud finally stops whimpering from the stinging ointment I had applied on his cut, his warm bowl of milk is just ready and steaming lightly, leaving a comforting milky scent in the air. Bud padded over and slurped it down as I stroked his fluffy fur.
“I guess since I know your name, you’d better know mine. I’m Bo.” Instead of purring as I expected, he nipped my finger. I yelped and yanked my finger away, revealing two shiny droplets of blood where his fangs had bitten. Bud seemed to almost smirk sadistically at my pain, fangs out and eyes crescent-moon shaped, sparkling. The eyes of a laugher. I scowl.
“Bad kitty!” I chasten. “That’s not a kind thing to do, Bud!” Bud rolls his eyes and curls up on my beat-up red couch. He slumbers, but watches me through the slit of a crescent-moon eye, curiously, mischievously. Although the bandage on my finger is a clear sign that Bud isn’t as sweet as he looks, it’s impossible to stay angry at him. His big, blue eyes switch slyly between innocence and mischief, and before I know it, I’m nodding off, Bud sleeping on top of me and fluffy tail next to my ear.
It takes me fifteen minutes to pull Bud off of me and another half an hour before I’m clean and dressed in a fresh pair of boxers and an old shirt that strains against my muscular arms. By the time Bud lightly hops off the couch, his milk is nearly cold and the robust smell of my coffee mingles with the fresh morning air. As I’m drowsily sitting on the veranda of my house, Bud suddenly pounces on my head, disheveling my damp strawberry-blond hair. Grumbling, I sit there, cat on my head and tail in my face (which I try to blow away, to no avail).
“Isn’t there anywhere else you can sit? Like, the couch is a place made for sitting. Huh, Bud?” I say, even though I already know he isn’t going to budge for a while. I think, think, think, and finally, after a good hour of reflection, just as I’m going to give Bud the coup-d’etat from my head, he nimbly jumps off, leaving me steaming from the ears. I grab his tail, which he flicks violently out of my hands and against my coffee cup, ultimately drenching me in the now-cold brew. Cursing, I run inside after him.
At 11:30 A.M. sharp, I’m dressed and ready to go to the grocery market. Armed with two bags and my cat in my pocket, I do one last check.
“Bags? Check! Wallet? Check! Bud?” I ask, looking down at the two gray ears sticking out of my pocket.
“Mrroww!” goes Bud, just as I see a paw wiggle its way up to the top. I stroke it gently, and Bud licks my fingers affectionately. Jolly, I skip to my car, a beat-up pickup truck. As I’m revving up the engine, Bud pulls his paws over his ears.
“We’re off to see the wizard! The wonderful wizard of Oz!” I screech as we pull out of the driveway. Bud’s yowling protests abruptly halts my lovely screeching, and I pout as we hurtle down the road at 90 miles per hour. At this speed, ten minutes later, we’re parked in the grocery market’s garage.
Back from the market, I quickly put all the groceries away in their respective places while Bud sits tranquilly on my shoulder, licking his paws. As soon as I close the refrigerator door, I rush over to my guitar. Bud watched curiously as I gingerly pulled it out and tuned it.
“Bud, meet Sal, my guitar. With the three of us, we will forever be happy.” I pick up Sal with one hand and Bud with the other. But even amid his protests, Bud quickly gives in to my hair, nestling in it and dozing off. I pluck the first chords of “Amazing Grace” at the same time as I sit down. Twirling Bud’s tail around my index finger, I clear my throat.
“Hey, Bud. So much has changed in a day… with you. So I’m going to sing you a song, but change the lyrics a bit.”
“Amazing Bud, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see ....” I sing softly. I chuckle under my breath.
“It’s funny that I’m singing this song. I never thought someone as small and fluffy as you could change my life like this, but I’m grateful for it,” I murmur. Bud quietly hops down onto my shoulder and nuzzles my cheek, almost as if to hear me better. We spend the rest of the day under the tree, as the warm light of the sun wanes, and the soft light of the moon illuminates the top of my guitar.
We stay like that for years, in the countryside, happy. No matter where I go, whether it’s the town bakery, the city, the grocery, Bud is there. Forever we remain, until Bud’s life slips quietly from him, and left me with my guitar. Oh, how I miss those days… the eternal summer, even in winter, those lovely twelve years together... and the soft moonlight on the three of us. One fluffy, one shiny, and one ruffled. Bud. My guitar. And me.