“So the vermin are trying to take over your homes?” Gülay asked. She sat with Anya and Nadya on the ledge of a thick branch with several mini cats sitting across from them on smaller branches. Her clowder had disappeared into the various nooks to explore.
“They are running us out of our territory,” a small voice said. The mini cat had short legs, a squat body, a fluffy tail, and patches on its white fur that glowed purple. Spots was the bravest of the group - which was saying much - and sat the closest to them, perched on the tipping point of a branch.
Nadya swung her legs back and forth. “And you want us to stop that?”
“We can make a deal.” Spots leaned ever so closer. “We know where a key is. If you help us. We will tell you.”
Anya let a slow breath. “Tell us what we can do.”
“This is a bad idea. Letting giant cats help, even worse,” Nadya said. They were hiding behind a branch that was thick around. Thicker than pictures of redwood trees in California that she had seen. They were watching the so-called vermin, as the mini cats put it, as they fluttered to and from various nooks. They were small in size with bodies reminiscent of mice with long tails, rodent-like front feet, with neck and heads of birds, taloned back feet, and butterfly wings that were brightly colored and fluttered. “First cats. Now flying mice.”
Anya rubbed her forehead. “This won’t end well.” From where they hid they could see Nemehiss slipping along a high branch.
“I can’t look.” Nadya hid her eyes behind her hands. “Tell me when it’s over.”
Gülay cringed when she watched Ricky Ticky Tabby nearly slip off a branch as he followed Puddy Tat and Pumpkin Belly over a branch above their heads. Sassy Pants hung back with Clawdia as they surveyed the flying mice with a lick of their lips. That’s when Nemehiss pounced from her branch. The flying mice scattered in all directions. Some went running into nooks. Others went flying through the gaps in the canopy. Nemehiss jumped from branch to branch until she reached the one where they hid. She had a squealing and wiggling mouse in her mouth. She twitched her tail with pride.
“That’s… one way…” Nadya said, peeking from behind her eyes.
Sassy Pants came back with one of his own which Clawdia was trying to casually pry away from him. He mumbled something that was undefinable through the rodent he held. Gülay climbed onto the top of the branch. “So, let’s not eat the mice…”
“The cats talk. Surely these can too,” Anya theorized.
Puddy Tat lounged on an overhanging branch. “Does that mean we can’t eat none of them?” He swished his tail.
“Hello, mouse,” Gülay said, choosing not to answer her cat’s question just yet. “We just want to talk. Can we do that?”
“Put me down! Beast!” came a much-deeper voice than expected from the small body of the mouse. Its wings were a dark orange with spots of black creating a vivid pattern. Its head was like that of a toucan’s with flecks of green on its beak.
“We will let you go when we have a little chat,” Nadya insisted. “We promise.”
The mouse muttered something that did not sound at all polite.
Clawdia sniffed the mouse. “Are you sure we can’t eat it?” She licked the side of its head and it started squealing angrily again.
“You’re trying to force the mini-cats out of their homes.” Gülay crossed her arms. “We want you to stop. So, let’s cut to the part where we discuss how we can get that.” She kept her feet firmly planted on the branch while fighting the feeling like she was going to fall out of the tree. It made her constantly paranoid.
“We don’t make deals with felines!” the bird-mouse yelled. It flailed its limbs outward in an attempt to free itself.
“We aren’t felines,” Anya protested. “So you can make a deal with us.”
“We just need to know what you want,” Nadya added.
“Let me go!” it yelled.
“If you promise to not take off,” Gülay warned. She pointed at it. “I’m Gülay. This is Anya and Nadya. The mouth you’re in belongs to Nemehiss.”
“Butterbean,” the bird-mouse finally answered. Its wings finally stopped fluttering and it resigned itself to giving up.
“Nice to meet you. Look, the felines don’t appreciate you trying to take over their nesting site. How about we cut a deal? What will it take for you to leave them alone?” Gülay cut to the chase. Nemehiss dropped the bird-mouse onto the branch.
Butterbean sputtered then fluttered its wings until it was a thin branch growing from the thick one. “What kind of deal?”
“What do you want?” Nadya asked. “Name it.”
The bird-mouse thought a moment. “If you want our war to end with the felines, then we need something. Find us a better nesting site and we’ll consider leaving them be.”
Anya bounced slightly. “Deal!” She looked at her friends. “Sooner we do that, the sooner we can leave.”
“Not to be a bother but could you get the big cat to let me go,” came a small frightened voice. They turned to look at Sassy Pants who had a flying mouse in his mouth.
“This is the fifth place we found,” Anya said. “And the fifth place that you rejected.” They spent the entire day climbing through branches. They had found perfectly good nooks and clearings built within the webbing of branches but the flying mice had rejected each of them. “What’s wrong with this place?”
“It’s not right,” Butterbean said. He landed on a branch and sniffed the air. “It’s … not for us.” He fluttered his wings for extra emphasis.
Gülay sighed. “You said the last four times.” A bright orange winged mouse with a puffin head landed on her shoulder.
“Because they weren’t right,” the orange mouse, named Sunshine, agreed.
“Can’t we stop to nap?” Sassy Pants complained. “Ricky Ticky keeps slowing us up.”
The younger cat yawned. He had three flying mice riding on his back. Kiwi and Mango were nestled together asleep while Tookie rode on Ricky Ticky Tabby’s head. “I’m sleepy.”
Gülay patted the cat on his neck. “We’ll stop soon,” she promised.
Anya groaned. She felt a tug on her hair and looked on her shoulder where Excalibird was picking at her hair. When she looked at him, he dropped the hair and looked innocent. “There has to be something -” she’s cut off by her sister who came through the maze of branches.
“We found something.” Nadya crawled over the branch. She had two small bird-mice on her shoulders. Itsy Bitsy and Pip Squeak were only half-grown and had taken to Nadya quickly. They were both finch-headed mice with varying shades of purple on their wings. “And I think it’s perfect.”