Shadow the cat looked down on the window, which looked down on everything else. Sun beams chased dust motes chased twitching whiskers and lazy tail. All else was still. All else was quiet. Beyond the paned glass stood a tree, which housed a creature more curious than even cats.
The wombat hadn’t moved for hours. Shadow typically admired this propriety in others, yet she felt this was unusual for her greatest of friends. As day faded to dusk faded to starlit evening, Shadow watched with growing concern.
The Outside felt more like home at night. Shadow crept to Wombat. Wombat was unwell. Yet Shadow knew best. Wombat should hunt. Wombat should stretch, should scratch, should climb high into the tree for safety. Wombat would not.
Shadow ran and ran through the night, chasing after smaller tails. Food Mouse did not seem to please Wombat. Nor did Dry Leaf, nor Shining Beetle, nor even Flopping Pond Fish. Shadow was vexed with her friend and went back Inside. Shadow dreamed of stolen tuna.
The morning was bright when Shadow began anew. Ball With Bell, Longest String, Smallest Box, nothing would provoke Wombat. Shadow ventured farther from home. The birds called Wombat lazy. The squirrels scolded Wombat to fetch his own oak nuts, which made no sense at all.
Shadow returned to the burrow. With soft paws and softer mews, she coaxed from Wombat a beleaguered grunt. She scrabbled into his burrow and began to dig a broader home. Her paws ached, her fur was filthy, and the dust made her sneeze, but she dug until evening.
Paw to paw, nose to nose, Shadow sat with Friend in the dirt. After a time, Shadow stole back Inside and returned to Wombat with Nasty Orange Crunchy Stick that Humans and Wombats alone seemed fond of. Wombat munched, a happy sound, as at last he began to stir.
Birds laughed at Wombat’s burrow, a nest insufficient for protecting eggs. Squirrels shook their tails at Wombat as they scurried past in harried blur. Though Shadow understood, from her window far above the ground, that Wombats wanted Wombat gifts.