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The Rainbow and the Kittens
By Steven Kingsley and Jacqueline Kent Emerson

Close your eyes and imagine, if you will, the three cutest kittens that ever existed.

One black, one grey, and one white — their fuzzy fur not yet turned to the silky sheen of an older cat, their movements still a little tumbly and unsure, their big eyes and pink noses daring you not to say "aaaaawwwwwww." This is the tale of how these three adorable kittens found their colors.

* * * * *

"It's time for bed, my darlings," sang Mama Cat to her three kittens—Nightingale, Starlight, and Mist.

"Ten more minutes!" Starlight pleaded, but Mama stood her ground.

Mist looked up at Mama and with the full force of his deep brown eyes and mewed, "Mama, will you tell us the story of the day we were born?"

"But you've heard this story dozens of times," Mama chuckled.

"Pleeeeeese?" Nightingale, Starlight, and Mist rang out in harmony, all staring up at mama with irresistible eyes.

"Oh, alright," Mama exhaled. "You three are so adorable, how can I refuse?"

The three kittens snuggled up in bed and listened closely to Mama.

"Right after you were born, I looked up and saw a magnificent rainbow stretching all the way across the sky — red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. The sky was so happy to meet you that it borrowed your colors and painted a rainbow to welcome you to the world." She leaned over and kissed Nightingale on her fuzzy forehead. "That is why, Nightingale, are as black as the dark of night. Next Mama kissed Starlight on her fuzzy forehead. "And you, Starlight, are as white as a twinkling star." Finally, she leaned over to kiss Mist goodnight. "And you, Mist, are as grey as an overcast sky."

Mama got up and turned out the light. "Goodnight my darling kittens."

That night, the kittens had vivid dreams of rainbow-colored kittens frolicking in the meadow. They awoke in the morning to hear a steady rain strumming against the window as they stretched their fuzzy arms and curled their tongues up in yawns. As soon as the rain cleared, the kittens ran outside to frolic and play.

As they danced in the colorful flowers, they listened to the song of the beautiful bluebirds and the red cardinals. They played with the colorful bugs and and waved to the colorful butterflies.

"I wish our fur could be all the colors of the rainbow," said Starlight.

"I wonder what we would look like if the rainbow hadn't taken our colors?" mused Mist.

As Nightingale was licking her paw for her morning bath, the others did not know that her mind was busy hatching a plan.

The next morning, Nightingale woke up before the sun. She was too excited to sleep anymore and woke up Starlight and Mist.

"Let's go," Nightingale whispered.

"Go where?" Starlight asked, confused.

"We're going to find the rainbow and ask it if we can have our colors back," Nightingale explained.

"But we've never gone out exploring on our own before. We don't even know where the rainbow is," Starlight quivered.

"Don't be such a scaredy cat, Starlight. Mama said it stretched all the way across the sky. All we have to do is look up and follow it."

Starlight and Mist still weren't sure, but they decided to follow Nightingale's plan.

The kittens went outside and looked up, hoping to see the rainbow, but the sky was still dim and all they saw were a couple twinkling stars.

"I don't see a rainbow," Starlight said, worried.

"Of course not, silly!" Nightingale chuckled. "We have to, uh…" she quickly looked to the left and right, "walk to that tree first. Then we'll find the rainbow."

When the kittens reached the tree, they heard a rustling and looked up. They saw a flash of something coming at them fast. The three kittens nuzzled close and shut their eyes. When nothing happened, Starlight slowly peeked through one eye to see what was there.

Towering over them was a huge bird with a flat white heart-shaped face, big black eyes, and a sharp yellow beak.

"Mew!" Starlight jumped back in fright, and then her siblings did the same.

"Normally I would have eaten you by now," the bird said, surprised by the words spilling out of his mouth. The three kittens gulped and continued to stare up into the giant bird's eyes. "But, well… look at you. You're just too gosh-darn-cute to eat. I've never seen anything like it," the bird said, perplexed. "I'm Barnabus the Barn Owl. At your service."

"Hello, Barnabus. Do you know where the rainbow is?" Mist ventured.

"Rainbow, eh? Can't say that I've seen many of those. I've heard of them — magical colors painted across the sky." Barnabus stretched out his enormous wing and traced an arch as he spoke. "Pretty sure that's a daytime thing, and well, I'm a night owl." Barnabus winked and waited for a laugh at his pun, but the kittens just stared at him. He cleared his throat and continued, "I think I know someone who would know, but she's not awake yet. Rainbow hunting is an awfully big adventure. Why don't you rest in my nest for a bit and resume your search when the sun comes up."

The three kittens woke the next morning to a whirring sound. They opened their eyes to see a very small bird with a long narrow beak. It was hovering just outside Barnabus's nest; its wings moving so fast they were a blur.

Starlight leaned over and whispered to Nightingale and Mist, "She's made of all the colors of the rainbow. She must know where to find it!"

"My name is Violet," the hummingbird spoke very quickly. "Barnabus tells me you're looking for a rainbow."

The three kittens nodded to Violet. The sun was just starting to peek over the horizon and kissed the bird's feathers, setting her colors aglow — her body was an iridescent green that faded to yellow, punctuated by bright purple under her eyes. Her tail was a rusty-reddish color.

"I haven't see a rainbow in a while, but the hummingbird gossip around the flowerbeds is that there's a waterfall where rainbows can often be found."

"Will you please take us there?" Mist asked.

"Well, you see, I have a full-day of nectar gathering planned and I…"

The three kittens' chins quivered as they tried to hold in tears of disappointment."

"Awwwww, please don't cry! I'll take you, I'll take you!" Violet conceded. "Barnabus warned me that you three were the cutest things he'd ever seen, but my goodness, you are even cuter than I imagined!"

Barnabus flew back to his nest as the kittens were climbing out. "Thanks, Barnabus!" They cried.

"Well you're very welcome," Barnabus replied. "Normally, this is my bedtime, but I'm thinking I might join you on your journey!"

"Yay!" the three kittens cheered.

The kittens bounded off through the meadow, trying to keep up with Violet, who was flitting back and forth to make sure she didn't fly too far ahead of the kittens. Now that the full light of the sun was reflecting off Violet, the kittens were stunned by her vivid colors.

"Wooooow," Starlight marveled. "Your colors really are beautiful."

"Ha! You should see my brother" Violet snapped back. "His colors are much brighter than mine."

The kittens tried to imagine it, but struggled to visualize anything more colorful than Violet.
Now they were even more excited to find the rainbow and ask for their colors back so they could look like her.

Just then, something started dancing with Violet. It's big, flat wings fluttered and its long narrow body bobbed up and down in the air.

"Watch out, hummingbird!" it warned. "There are cats down there that will catch you and eat you!"

Violet chuckled as she realized that the butterfly was talking about the three kittens. "Oh, you mean these three kittens. They wouldn't hurt a fly."

The butterfly swooped in to get a closer look, but still kept her distance. She felt herself flying closer and closer until she landed on Nightingale's nose. Nightingale's eyes crossed as they followed the butterfly's movement. Mist and Starlight broke out into a fit of kitty giggles.

"We're on a quest to find the rainbow. Want to come?" asked Nightingale.

The butterfly could not move her eyes away from these adorable kittens. "I would love to!" she said. "My name is Piper."

Starlight looked longingly at the bright orange spots on the outside of Piper's wings and the brilliant blues on the other side. She closed her eyes and imagined herself with brilliant blue fur and bright orange spots.

As they continued on their journey to find the rainbow, the three kittens met other critters who wanted to join their quest—a neon green frog, a deep purple dragonfly, a sienna squirrel, and an orangeish-brown deer. Piper and Violet were flying in the lead followed by the bounding kittens.

Dark clouds were creeping in and Nightingale looked over to Starlight and saw her eyes starting to droop.

"Don't fall asleep now!" Nightingale urged. "Our new friends are all the colors of the rainbow. They must know where it is!"

Starlight tried, but just couldn't keep her kitten eyes open. She curled up in a ball and fell asleep. Just as a yawn is contagious, so is a nap. Mist and Nightingale curled up with Starlight and fell asleep purring. Violet, Piper, and the other critters would normally be irritated with the delay, especially since the clouds were moving in faster and faster, but found themselves ooohing and awwwing at the pile of purring cuteness in front of them.

Violet had lost track of time when she saw the squirrel jump at the sound of rustling in the bushes. Violet flipped around to get a better view. A fox was crouched behind the bushes, ready to pounce on the sleeping kittens. She quickly warned the other critters, but there was little time to wake the kittens and run. To her surprise, the critters didn't flee. They held their ground, protecting the napping kittens from the impending fox attack. Barnabus readied himself to swoop down on the fox. Buck, the deer, stood over the kittens to shelter them, and the rest circled to confuse and distract the fox as best they could.

The fox quickly shifted his plan of attack.

"Well Deer, you may be bigger than me, but my bite is strong," the fox threatened as he paced back and forth. "And you, squirrel. I'll happily have you as an appetizer before my main course of kittens, if you so choose. Or — you could move aside and avoid all that mess."

"Back away, fox," the deer said, standing his ground. "My buck is stronger than your bite."

"Unlikely," the fox replied, confident and crouched. He was just about to attack when something caught his vision. He swung his head to the right. The three kittens had woken up from their naps and were playfully chasing dandelion tufts that were floating away on the breeze, unaware of the imminent battle.

The fox's jaw dropped. Instead of licking his chops in hunger for the meal he was about to devour, a soft "aaawwww" escaped his lips. He sat and watched, entranced with the kittens' wobbly leaps and playful pounces.

When the kittens finally noticed the fox, they hopped over.

Hello! What's your name?" Nightingale asked cheerfully, happy that another critter might be joining their quest.

The fox couldn't believe that just minutes ago, he had wanted to eat these adorable kittens. Now all he wanted to do was snuggle with them.

"My name is Redd," the fox answered.

"We're on a quest to find a rainbow," Mist explained. "Would you like to join us?"

Just then, a flash of lightening tore the sky and a loud crash of thunder rumbled the ground beneath them. Rain poured down and the animals sought shelter under the branches of a tree.

"Why are you searching for a rainbow, little ones?" the fox asked.

"We aren't searching for a rainbow, we are searching for the rainbow," Nightingale clarified.

"The rainbow that stole our colors when we were born," Mist added.

"Yeah," Starlight agreed. "We were supposed to be all the beautiful colors of the rainbow, like all of you. But the rainbow took our colors and we got stuck like this."

The three kittens stuck out there paws for emphasis. One black, one white, and one grey.

The critters stared at each other with shock and confusion. They had never stopped to ask why the kittens were seeking a rainbow. They had assumed it was simply because rainbows are so beautiful to gaze upon.

"Do you realize," Redd asked, "that these different critters do not usually keep each other company?" The kittens looked around at their new friends and then back at the fox in confusion. "We normally stick with our own kind," he added. "But you three adorable kittens have the power to change our ways."

Barnabus chimed in, "You three are not only the cutest things I've ever seen, but you have the sweetest hearts of anyone I've ever met. What could you possibly be seeking from a rainbow that you don't already have?"

"If I were all the colors of the rainbow, then I would…um…I would be able to…um" Starlight tried to come up with something.

"If I were bright green or brilliant blue or a deep orange then I would…well…I'd…" Mist struggled to explain.

"If only the rainbow hadn't stolen our colors, then we would be…uh…we would uh…"
Nightingale couldn't finish her sentence either.

Understanding sunk in for the kittens.

Just then, the rain stopped and the sun broke through the clouds. The kittens looked up and saw a magical rainbow arching all the way across the sky. They ran out into the meadow and stared up in awe.

"Well, kittens," Redd said, "here is your rainbow. Now is your chance to do what you came to do."

"Rainbow," Nightingale called out to the rainbow. "You are beautiful!"

"And so are we!" Mist and Starlight said at the same time, which made them giggle.

The kittens along with their new group of unlikely friends sat and watched the rainbow until it disappeared. They never asked for their colors back.

"I think it's time to go home," Nightingale said. And so, escorted by their new group of friends, the three kittens made their way back home.

* * * * *

As the kittens approached their house, they saw their mother searching and calling each of their names. They said their goodbyes to their new friends and promised to see each other soon.

"We're here, mama!" Starlight cried.

Nightingale, Mist, and Starlight ran to hug their mother. "Where have you been? I've been worried sick! I looked everywhere!"

"We went out to find the rainbow from your story," Mist explained. "Remember?"

Mama let out a big breath of relief, "I'm so glad you're safe, but you shouldn't have left the yard!"

"But mama, we had to go on an adventure to get our colors back." Nightingale countered.

"But you don't need new colors!" Mama cat said. "Nightingale, you are a beautiful, shimmering black — the color you see when you close your eyes — with all the possibilities of your imagination. And you, Starlight, are a beautiful, shimmering white — the color of a mountain covered in snow — with all the possibilities of a blank canvas. And you Mist, are a beautiful, shimmering grey — the color of a calm, overcast sky — with all the possibilities of the universe."

Mama Cat kissed each of three kittens on the forehead. "And what happened on your adventure, my darlings?"

The three kittens looked at each other, and thought about all the new friends they had made and everything they had learned.

"We found our colors!" Starlight beamed.

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