by Stephen King
Once upon a time—which is how all the best stories start— a little boy named Owen was playing outside his big
red house. He was pretty bored because his big brother and big sister, who could always think of things to do,
were in school. His daddy was working, and his mom was sleeping upstairs. She asked him if he would like a
nap, but Owen didn’t really like naps. He thought they were boring.
He played with his G.I. Joe men for awhile, and then he went around to the back and swung on the swing for
awhile. He gave the tetherball a big hit with his first—ka-bamp!—and watched the rope wind up as the ball went
around and around the pole. He saw his big sister’s softball bat lying in the grass and wished Chris, the big boy
who sometimes came to play with him, was there to throw him a few pitches. But Chris was in school too.
Owen walked around the house again. He thought he would pick some flowers for his mother. She liked flowers
He got around to the front of the house and that was when he saw Springsteen in the grass. Springsteen was his
big sister’s new cat. Owen liked most cats, but he didn’t like Springsteen much. Hie was big and black, with
deep green eyes that seemed to see everything. Every day owen had to make sure that Springsteen wasn’t trying
to eat Butler. Butler was Owen’s guinea pig. When Springsteen thought no one was around, he would jump up
on the shelf’ where Butler’s big glass cage was and stare in through the screen on top with his hungry green
eyes. Springsteen wuld sit there, all crouched down, and hardly move at all. Springsteen’s tail would wag back
and forth a little, and sometimes one of his ears would flick a bit, but that was all. I’ll get in there pretty soon,
you cruddy little guinea pig, Springsteen seemed to say. And when I get you, I’ll eat you! Better believe it! If
guinea pigs say prayers, you better say yours!
Whenever Owen saw Springsteen the cat up on Butler’s shelf, he would make him get down. Sometimes
Springsteen put his claws out (although he knew better than to try to put them in Owen) and Owen imagined the
black cat saying, You caught me this time, but so what? Big deal! Someday you won’t! And then, yum! yum!
dinner is served! Owen tried to tell people that Springsteen wanted to eat Butler, but nobody believed him.
«Don’t worry, Owen,» Daddy said, and went off to work on a novel that’s what he did for work.
«Don’t worry, Owen,» Mommy said, and went off to work on a noivel—because that was what she did for
«Don’t worry, Owen» Big Brother said, and went off to watch The Tomorrow People on TV.
«You just hate my cat!» Big sister said, and went off to play The Entertainer on the piano.
But no matter what they said, Owen knew he’d better keep a good old eye on Springsteen, because Springsteen
certainly did like to kill things. Worse, he liked to play with them before he killed them. Sometimes Owen
would open the door in the morning and there would be a dead bird on the doorsteo. Then he would look
further, and there would be Springsteen crouched on the porch rail, the tip of his tail switching slightly and his
big green eyes looking at Owen, as if to say: Ha! I got another one… and you couldn’t stop me, could you? Then
Owen would ask permission to bury the dead bird. Sometimes his mommy or daddy would help him.
So when Owen saw Springsteen on the grass of the front lawn, all crouched down with his tail twirching, he
thought right away that the cat might be playing with some poor, hurt little animal. Owen forgot about picking
flowers for his mom and ran over to see what Springsteen had caught.
At first he thought Springsteen didn’t have anything at all. Then the cat leaped, and Owen heard a very tiny
scream from the grass. He saw something green and blue between Springsteen had was shrieking and trying to
get away. And now Owen saw something else—little spots of blood on the grass.
«No!» Owen shouted. «Get away, Springsteen!» The cat flattened his ears back and turned towards the sound of
Owen’s voice. His big green eyes glared. The green and blue thing between Springsteen paws squiggled and
wiggled and got away. I started to run and Owen saw it was a person, a little tiny man wearing a green hat made
out of a leaf. The little man looked back over his shoulder, and Owen saw how scared the little guy was. He was
no bigger than the mice Springsteen sometimes killed in their big dark cellar. The little man had a cut down one
of his cheeks from one of Springsteen’s claws.
Springsteen hissed at Owen and Owen could almost hear him say: «Leave me alone, he’s mine and I’m going to
Then Springsteen jumped for the little man again, just as quick as a cat can jump—and if you have a cat of your
own, you’ll know that is very fast. The little man in the grass tried to dodge away, but he didn’t quite make it,
Owen saw the back of the little man’s shirt tear open as Springsteen’s claws ripped it apart. And, I am sorry to
say, he saw more blood and heard the little man cry out in pain. He went tumbling in the grass. His little leaf hat
went flying. Springsteen got ready to jump again.
«No, Springsteen, no!» Owen cried. «Bad cat!»
He grabbed Springsteen. Springsteen hissed again, and his needle-sharp teeth sank into one of Owen’s hands. It
hurt worse than a doctor’s shot. «Ow!» Owen yelled, tears coming to his eyes. But he didn’t let go of
Springsteen. Now Springsteen started clawing at Owen, but Owen would not let go. He ran all the way to the
driveway with Springsteen in his hands. Then he put Springsteen down. «Leave him alone, Springsteen!» Owen
said, and, trying to think of the very worst thing he could, he added: «Leave him alone or I’ll put you in the
Oven and bake you like a pizza!»
Springsteen hissed, showing his teeth. His tail switched back and forth—not just the tip now but the whole
«I don’t care if you are mad!» Owen yelled at him. He was still crying a little, because his hands hurt as if he
had put them in the fire. They were both bleeding, one from Springsteen biting him and one from Springsteen
clawing him. «You can’t kill people on our lawn even if they are little!»
Springsteen hised again and backed away. Okay, his mean green eyes seemed to say. Okay for this time. Next
time… we’ll see! Then he turned and ran away. Owen hurried back to see it the little man was all right.
At first he thought the little man was gone. Then he saw the blood on the grass, and the little leaf hat. The little
man was nearby, lying on his side. The reason Owen hadn’t been able to see him at first was the little man’s
shirt was the exact color of the grass. Owen touched him gently with his finger. He was terribly afraid the little
man was dead. But when Owen touched him, the little man groaned and sat up.
«Are you all right?» Owen asked.
The fellow in the grass made a face and clapped his hands to his ears. For a moment Owen thought Springsteen
must have hurt the little guy’s head as well as his back, and then he realized that his voice must sound like
thunder to such a small person. The little man in the grass was not much longer than Owen’s thumb. This was
Owen’s first good look at the little fellow he had rescued, and he saw right away why the little man had been so
hard to find again. His green shirt was not just the color of grass; it was grass. Carefully woven blades of green
grass. Owen wondered how come they didn’t turn brown.