Chapter 1

My name is Cat and this is the story of me and my best friend Big Bear. Or it is at least the story of how we met. I call it "Bear Meets Cat." I get to tell the story because Big Bear is very busy all the time.

Big Bear is not a cat, he is a big bear. Bears and cats naturally get on well together, as you know.

Like all cats I can speak bear. Big Bear can speak a few words of cat and Big Bear can speak people. He can read and write people. I hear some people can learn bear, but few people are any good at cat.

My people is poor. I know only a few words of people. I think my people is poor because I never really studied people in school. I always found people sort of boring, and never could find out why I need to know any people at all.

Every cat learns basic bear in school. We have to learn some bear, and take a test to show our basic bear skills.

I do not know why cats must learn basic bear. I asked my teacher in school one time why we had to study bear, but she just told me to be quiet and study.

Some people can speak bear, but only a few people can speak any words of cat. Maybe that is why cats and bears usually get along just fine, but cats and people seem to have so much trouble.

I can also speak to others, or at least most of them. Others are the not-cats, not-bears, and not-people. Others are all around. I even know one of the others, the kind that people call dogs, and he is quite a pleasant fellow, even if a bit stupid. My dog is so-so, my mouse is quite good, and I can figure out what most of the other others are saying.

Before I tell you about me and Big Bear and our friends, the places we have visited, the things we have seen, and what and who we have met along the way, I have to tell you the story of how we met. I mean how Cat and Big Bear met, not how you and I met. That's a story for after you and I meet. Like all cats, I know we will meet someday.

So on with my story.

I was sort of hanging around in the big market out in a place people call Inner Mongolia. There is a very simple name for it in cat. We cats call it that big place. I was there looking for work and a place to sleep. That big place is my home place; it is the place I was born.

That was where I saw my first real bear. I could tell at first glance he was a bear. This bear was much larger than any people I had ever seen.

At the time I was still growing. I was just a little cat then, but I could still see the difference between bear and people. He was a big bear indeed, but he sure seemed lost.

The big bear was walking all around the market. "Maybe he is looking for something?" I thought.

He was looking for something for sure, but it was easy to tell he could not find what he was looking for. The big bear went over there, over here, then back the other way, then did it all again.

"What a lost bear" I said to myself. "And what a big bear."

After I learned how to speak bear in school, my teacher always told me, "if you see a lost bear, it is nice to offer your help, it is the right thing to do." Offering help to a lost bear might be the right thing to do, but I had no idea how different from cats bears really were in person. This one looked so much bigger then the bears in our school books.

When I looked up from my thoughts, the big bear was coming right to me! He was walking right to where I was while I was thinking about the teacher and what she had told me.

I was afraid, but determined not to show it. "I can do this" I kept telling myself. "I can do this."

The big bear was right in front of me now. Oh my! He was so very big and I was so very small back then, but I did it. I held back my fright and I called out to him, "excuse me, you look like a lost bear." It was a saying every cat learns in school. I think he understood, but just to be sure I added, "I am Cat, what is your name?"

Well, for some time I was a little worried. The big bear just stood there looking at me.

At first I thought maybe I was not saying the words right. I only learned bear in school, and never had a chance to talk to a real bear, but my teacher always told me I had the best bear speaking skills of any of my classmates.

Then I thought "just my luck, the first real bear I meet turns out to be a big stupid bear that can't talk."

Oh, but talk he did! In a loud and booming voice that seemed to shake the ground he said "I am called Big Bear." He looked around again and said "can you please tell me where the WC is?"

"What a strange bear, this bear called Big Bear" I thought.

I asked him what WC was. It was a people word and I did not learn that word in school. He tried a few times to explain in people what this people word meant. Each time I told him I did not understand.

Then Big Bear started talking on and on in people using many words I had never heard before. It seemed like the more confused I got, the faster Big Bear talked.

"Stop" I said rather sharply to Big Bear. "Tell me in bear what you want, then maybe I can help you."

After Big Bear told me in bear what the people word WC meant, I laughed so hard I thought I was going to cry. "You can WC any place" I told him.

Big Bear looked at me like he was going to cry, but I didn't hear him laugh at all. He just looked sort of upset.

Several people were looking at Big Bear and me while we were talking. I may not understand people, but I know they looked at him like he was a big crazy bear.

Big Bear talked to one or two of the people then and must have found out where to WC. He told me to wait for him and took off some place pretty fast for a bear his size.

I waited for Big Bear, because I did not really have anything else to do. A little while later Big Bear came back and looked very happy and not lost at all.

"Do you have a job?" Big Bear asked me. I thought it was a little strange that Big Bear knew that cats need to have jobs after they get out of cat school.

I told him that I just got out of school last week and was sort of looking around for steady work. I told him about school and about the little work I was getting now.

A mouse here, a rat there, but I was really too little to catch big rats. If I did catch a mouse we would just play for a while and then go our own ways.

I told Big Bear about how hard it was to find a warm place to sleep around people and how I felt that frankly people food is not very good. I also told him how I was thinking of moving some place warmer to try to find work more my size. I think Big Bear understood most of what I was telling him.

Big Bear told me about the job he had open. Big Bear was from some place that has a name in people that I can't say. We cats call it that other big place.

Big Bear told me about his travels, he had even been to that other other big place, about his work, and about how he worked with people. Some of it I did not understand, but Big Bear sounded like a nice enough bear, even if a bit large.

"So if I took the job would I live in your cave with you?" I asked Big Bear.

Now it was Big Bear's turn to laugh. "Wild bears and wild people lived in caves a long time ago" Big Bear told me. "Not the same caves" he added. I was not sure why he added the part about not the same caves, but I did not ask about it.

"My teacher told me bears live in caves, so it must be true" I said to Big Bear.

Then Big Bear started to explain to me about history. History has never been a good subject for me. I find history almost as boring as people. My eyes got a sort of far away look and Big Bear gave up trying to explain about the history of bears and people in caves.

Big Bear tried to tell me about where he lived. He said he lived in what people called a house, around many people. "It sounds very dangerous" I told Big Bear. He told me it was really quite safe, so long as I did not go very far out of the house alone.

I agreed to go with Big Bear to see about working for him in his people house. Of course I was full of hope that Big Bear had a nice place to live and there was plenty of food near where he lived. It was starting to get pretty cold at night, so I was hoping this bear had some nice warm little boxes to sleep in as well. Like all cats, I enjoy my naps.

Big bears walk fast! Big Bear walked almost as fast as I could run!

It was a good thing Big Bear had asked to carry me. I did not need to run while this big bear carried me along.

You and I know that cats are never ever supposed to go in a straight line from one place to another. I am not sure why that is, but every cat is told over and over again in school how important it is to go every place with great care. My teacher used to say "look at what you pass, look around it, smell it, get a sense for what is around you, circle around things, and never go in a straight line."

I guess bears do not have that same lesson in bear school about not going in a straight line, because we travelled a long time and never circled back once. After we went a long long way Bear told me we were at his people house.

Big Bear pointed way up in the sky at some big dark people thing and told me "that's where I live, up in the top of that building."

"This is just great" I thought. "Here I was thinking this was a chance for a good job, working for a pretty nice big bear named Big Bear, and it turns out that this big bear is a big stupid bear after all."

I let my eyes narrow a little, looked at Big Bear, then asked him "you do know that cats do not fly?"

I tried to hide my sad feeling when I said it. I was already starting to think about where to go to get some food and find a place to sleep.

As soon as I asked that question Big Bear was laughing at me!

I am sure now that Big Bear did not know how much cats hate being laughed at. I was just getting ready to show him how angry someone laughing can make a cat when he picked me and walked right into the big dark people thing.

"You do know that bears do not fly?" he asked me.

Before I could answer we were inside the big dark people thing, Big Bear went in and started walking around and around, but every time he made a circle, we were some place new.

The sights and smells changed with every turn we made around. The walls were going by pretty fast, and I was getting a little dizzy.

I had many questions, but I could not seem to find my voice. Could it be? A magic bear? A crazy magic bear living in a people cave, spinning up into the sky?

Finally, after many turns around, magic turns that turned on some new thing each time, Big Bear stopped in a very little place in front of a wall. "This is my house" Big Bear told me.

"So I live in the sky, with a crazy magic bear, in a very little place in front of a wall" were my thoughts at Big Bear's words. It could have been worse, I guess. It was not very warm in the very little place in front of a wall, and I could not smell any food, but it seemed safe enough.

What Big Bear did next I could not believe at the time. He made a big hole in the wall using what he called a door in people talk. Once we went through the hole in the wall, Big Bear closed up the hole behind us. We were in the biggest, warmest, most wonderful place I had every seen!

Big Bear took me around his cave, sorry, his house, and showed me all the different things. Bear held me up so I could see out the windows, and we were really living in the sky!

There were lots of things to play with, so I played for a while. Bear brought me a huge bowl of some warm food that smelled very good, and I ate as much as I could.

There was plenty of clean water to drink, so I drank all I wanted. Then Bear showed me what he called the bed.

It was huge and soft and warm and covered with soft fur and it was just so great! I played on the bed for a while, then gave myself a nice bath.

After I was all clean I curled up in a little ball to rest my eyes for just a second or two. I was afraid to really sleep. I did not want to wake up and find that this was all a dream.

I guess all the excitement of moving, playing, eating, and the bed had me completely exhausted as Big Bear sometimes says, because I slept for a long time.

When I woke up on the big warm bed, next to my crazy magic bear, in the magic house in the sky, I realized it was not a dream.

I was a very lucky cat for finding Big Bear. Big Bear was a very lucky bear for finding me. I knew from then on we were going to be best friends.

As I lay there in a little ball on the soft, warm bed I suddenly knew there was one big problem that was bothering me! I stood up to stretch and think about it. I sort of gave a worried glance around to see if I had missed something.

After a short time, Big Bear noticed I was awake, and he saw that I was looking around and seemed a bit upset. "What is wrong, Cat?" he asked me.

"I am trying to think of a people word" I told Big Bear.

I thought very hard and finally shouted out "Ah ha!" after a while "I remember the word!"

"Well" said Bear "what is it?"

I grinned at Bear and said "can you please tell me where the WC is?"

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