Joy lay on the bed – half-awake, half-asleep – with her ears perked up, listening to Sam building a train track in the living room.
She recognized all the clanking noises as pieces went together, and enjoyed hearing her big brother saying “Chugga-chugga, chugga-chugga, chugga-chugga, CHOO! CHOO!” and other sounds. She always wondered why he made those sounds, since the trains didn’t make any noise. Sometimes at night, after Sam and the big people went to bed, Joy would push the trains around a little just to check if they made any noises, but they never did. Once, after hours of thinking about it, she felt brave enough to push the red train along the track with her nose, and she was so excited when she got it to the top of a ramp and onto a bridge that she thought she would do this every night instead of sleeping, but when the train rolled down the other side and fell off a curve in the track onto the hardwood floor, the loud clunk made her desperately leap up into the air for safety; she hid under a folded-up blanket, her heart racing, and didn’t come out until Sam gave her food the next morning.
She loved hearing him play, though, and it sounded like he’d found what he called a “helicopter” to play with now – “Bedabedabedabedabedabeda,” came the sound from the living room.
After another minute or two (or maybe an hour – Joy didn’t know how long she’d been dozing), she heard a crack and a long creak. Mommy was pulling down the ladder going up to… well, Joy wasn’t really sure what was up there, but Sam and the big people called it “aa-tick” or “addik” or something.
“Aa-tick” was always exciting – it usually meant something was going away or something new was coming (or sometimes both!), and when something new came down, Sam was usually happy about it. And if Sam was happy, Joy was happy – unless Sam was happy because he was chasing Joy around the house, in which case Joy was one-part happy, one-part exhilarated, and five parts scared. She loved Sam very much, though, so as long as they were in the house together, she was happy.
She heard Sam pick up a bunch of trains (it sounded like five or six), and throw them all up in the air – something he always found funny, and Joy did too, as long as she wasn’t in the same room.
She froze when Sam came running into the bedroom, shouting “Joy! Joy! I just threw my trains!”
She thought that maybe if she just stayed still, he would go back to his – Oh no! He was jumping on the bed!
Joy jumped down and sprinted out of the room to find somewhere safe to hide. On her way through, she saw Mommy picking up a box and start climbing up the ladder into the “aa-tick”.
But wait! She stopped suddenly. What was that she saw in the box? It looked like… a red train! Oh no! There’s no way Sam wanted his red train to go up! It must have landed in there when Sam threw his trains – and Mommy hadn’t noticed!
“MIAOWWW!” Joy yelled. She had to stop this! “MIAAOOOWWW!”
“Oh, I know, Joy, you’re hungry,” Mommy said. “I’ll feed you when I come back down.” She kept climbing, with the box in her hand.
“Miaaow! Miaowww!” Mommy wasn’t listening. She would have to tell Sam.
“Miaow!” she shouted urgently as she jumped on the bed, risking getting landed on by a boy at least three times her size. Sam laughed and tried to tackle her. She leaped through his arms and decided she would have to do something about it herself. She ran to the ladder, and sprinted up before she had a chance to think about it and change her mind. But what was up there? Was it inside or outside? Sometimes she’d wondered if there were mice up there – “ooh,” she thought now, “I hope there are mice. Lots of mice.” But then she wondered if there were lots of boys three times her size jumping on beds, and she suddenly felt very scared.
Instead, she found mountains of boxes and other stuff. Some things, like Sam’s old potty and his crib, she recognized, but there was a huge amount of stuff she couldn’t even tell what it was – how could anyone find anything in all this stuff?
She heard Mommy move, and Joy jumped behind some Christmas decorations. She’d be safe there, and she couldn’t let Mommy see her; Mommy would just take her downstairs, and then how would Sam get his train back?
Joy waited silently until Mommy climbed back down the ladder, and she got back to her mission. She clambered over old boxes, bags, books and other belongings, and then, all of a sudden, there it was – Sam’s red train – sitting on top of the box of books Mommy had just brought up.
Joy tried to hit it out of the box with her paw, but that didn’t work – it kept bouncing off the side. She would have to pick it up in her mouth – “Ugh! Just like a dog…” she said to herself. Oh well, at least she had rescued Sam’s train. Now to just stroll back down the ladder and give it to him…
Oh no! What was happening?
The ladder was back up! Mommy must have finished! There was no way down!
Joy dropped the train on the folded-up ladder. What was she going to do?
“Well,” she thought, “the aa-tick isn’t too bad. I could live up here. Lots of toys. Places I can sleep. A window to watch the birds…” But then it dawned on her. “… but… but… what about… food? food! FOOD!”
After a minute or two that felt like hours, Mommy opened the ladder, saying with a smile, “Joy, how did you get up there?”
As she climbed up the ladder to help Joy down, the red train fell to the floor, but Mommy didn’t notice. Sam ran over to it and picked it up with a smile on his face. He looked up at Joy and didn’t say anything, but Joy looked back at him, and felt warm and proud.
When Joy and Mommy got back down, she went running into the kitchen, and Mommy gave her some food (“I’m so glad I didn’t have to live up in the aa-tick,” Joy thought), and she felt so tired from her adventures that she needed a good nap. She strolled back through the living room towards the bedroom. She stopped to watch Sam playing with the trains for a moment. He seemed so happy that she walked gently around the train track, jumped up on the sofa next to where he was playing, and fell asleep to the sound of “Chugga-chugga, chugga-chugga, chugga-chugga, CHOO! CHOO!”