By Linda Porter Carlyle
Joseph Anderson Donetti opened his eyes. What was that noise? The morning sunshine poured in through the bedroom window. The soft summer air moved the curtains gently. Joseph sat up. He listened carefully. What was it that woke him up? It sounded like crying!
Joseph jumped out of bed and opened his bedroom door. Sure enough! Someone downstairs was crying!
Joseph padded down the steps and into the kitchen. He stopped. His next door neighbor Mac stood in the middle of the room, wiping tears from her cheeks with a wadded-up pink tissue. “What’s the matter?” he asked.
“Mabel’s missing!” Mac wailed. “Mabel’s missing!”
G.M. (Joseph’s “Grandma Maddie”) pulled two more tissues from the box on the kitchen table and handed them to Mac.
Mac blew her nose fiercely.
“Mabel didn’t come last night when I called her,” Mac said with a little hiccup. “Mama said not to worry—she’d be back for breakfast. But she’s still missing this morning! Mabel’s never been missing before!” More tears streamed down Mac’s face.
Joseph pulled out a chair and sat down. He hooked his bare feet over the rungs. “I’ll help you look for her,” he volunteered. “I wonder where she went.”
“I hope something terrible didn’t happen to her!” Mac whispered. “I hope she didn’t get hit by a car! I hope she didn’t get eaten by coyotes!”
Joseph’s eyes got big. “Coyotes!” he exclaimed. “There aren’t any coyotes here!”
“Of course, there are!” Mac retorted with a hiccup. “Don’t you hear them yipping sometimes at night?”
“I don’t think we should imagine the very worst,” G.M. put in briskly. “Not yet, anyway.”
Joseph jumped up. “I’ll get dressed. We’ll go look for Mabel right now!” he said.
Before long, Joseph was back downstairs, ready to go.
“Here,” G.M. said. “Put these in your pocket.” She gave Mac a handful of fresh tissues. “And before you two go out to look for Mabel, I think we ought to pray about her.”
Mac, Joseph, and G.M. stood in a little circle. “Dear Lord,” G.M. prayed, “You know all about Mabel. You know how much Mac loves her. And You know exactly where she is right now. Please help Mac and Joseph find her quickly. And please keep her safe. Amen.”
“Where do you think we should look first?” Joseph asked as he and Mac hurried down the porch steps.
“I don’t know,” Mac said. “I guess everywhere around the neighborhood.”
“Mabel!” Joseph called, jogging across the grass. “Here, kitty, kitty!”
Mac whistled her special whistle. She knew Mabel would recognize it. She hoped Mabel would come to its sound.
Mac and Joseph walked up and down sidewalks for a long time. They talked to people watering the flowers in their front yards. They talked to people walking dogs. They talked to skateboarders. They talked to shoppers carrying groceries from the market. “Have you seen Mabel? Have you seen a cat that looks lost?” they asked.
“I’m hungry!” Joseph finally announced. “Let’s go home.”
“We can’t eat now! How can we just stop looking for Mabel?” Mac said.
“Well, I’m starving!” Joseph said. “Did you have breakfast?”
Mac shook her head.
“We can look some more after we eat,” Joseph said, heading home.
Mac scuffed slowly along behind him.
Joseph saw Mrs. Evans standing on the back porch. “I see you haven’t found her yet,” she said as Mac clumped up the steps.
Tears began to slide down Mac’s cheeks again. She walked straight into her mother’s arms and buried her face in her shirt.
Mrs. Evan looked at Joseph over the top of Mac’s head. “Go home, and get some breakfast,” she said. “Then come on back. We’ll talk about what we should do next.”
Joseph ran across the lawn and burst into the kitchen. It was empty. “I’m starving!” he called out.
“You can get yourself a bowl of cereal!” G.M. called back from down the hall.
“We didn’t find Mabel,” Joseph said, holding his bowl carefully so the milk wouldn’t slop out as he walked slowly into his grandmother’s art studio. He sat down beside G.M. at her big work table.
“I’m really sorry to hear that,” G.M. said, rinsing her paintbrush in a glass of water and squinting at her picture.
“Do you think Mabel got hit by a car?” Joseph asked.
“I hope not,” G.M. said.
“Do you think Mabel got eaten by coyotes?” he asked. “Are there coyotes around here?”
“Yes, there are,” G.M. said. “And I sure hope Mabel didn’t get eaten!”
“What else can we do?” Joseph asked. “We prayed. We looked all over the neighborhood.”
“Sometimes when we’ve done all we can do, we just have to wait,” G.M. answered. “And waiting is usually hard.”
Joseph sighed. He stared at the wall, thinking about Mabel and Mac. “I know!” he exclaimed suddenly. “We could make Lost Cat posters and put them up on the wall at the market, and on telephone poles, and stuff!”
“That’s a good idea,” G.M. agreed. She dipped her brush in light green paint.
Joseph took a big bite of cereal, and the phone rang. He jumped up to answer it.
“She’s back!” Mac’s voice shouted.
Joseph held the receiver away from his ear.
“She’s back!” Mac repeated breathlessly. “Mabel’s back! She’s a mess! One of her eyes is swollen shut, and one of her ears is all bloody. And she’s dirty, and her fur’s all stuck together in clumps. But she’s back! And I don’t care what she looks like! She’s back!”
Joseph looked at G.M. “Mabel’s back,” he announced.
G.M. grinned at him. “I heard!” she said.
“Come over, and see her,” Mac said. “She’s purring and purring like she’s never going to stop. Maybe you can hear her. I’ll put the phone beside her.”
Joseph listened. He heard a faint rumbling noise.
“Did you hear her?” Mac asked. “Did you hear her?”
“I think so,” Joseph said.
“Well, are you coming over?” Mac asked. “Mom and I are going to give Mabel a bath. And then I’m going to go to the market and get some of her favorite cat food. That expensive kind. You can come with me if you want to.”
“Can you give a cat a bath?” Joseph asked. “I never heard of giving a cat a bath! I’ll eat fast. Or maybe I’ll bring my cereal over to your house.”
Does a pet live at your house? Has it ever been lost? What did you do to find it? I hope you found it and that it was safe. How does this story help you understand this week’s Bible story about the lost son? Mac was filled with joy when Mabel came home. How does God feel when someone who has rejected Him comes back to Him again?—Mrs. Sox