There were plenty of fire engines battling the black smoke. Fire fighters moved around with purpose, attaching hoses and raising ladders. And while all of the other fire engines whistled contently as they helped, happy to be doing their jobs, engine Four only sighed.
An alley cat named Fly strolled by, trying to see what all the fuss was about. Seeing Four sitting sadly while fire fighters climbed his ladders, Fly hopped up on his warm hood and curled down for a nap.
“What’s got you so blue?” asked Fly, his eyes already drooping with sleep.
“I miss my home,” Four sighed. “I’m in a new fire house now, and nothing is right. My things aren’t where they’re supposed to be, like they were at my old home. The sounds wake me up, and when I wake up I don’t know where I am right away. I don’t like it. I wish I could go back home.”
Fly stretched and licked each of his paws. “Me, I’m always home,” he said.
“You’re not home right now,” Four said.
“Sure I am,” Fly said, curling into a tight ball. “Home has nothing to do with where you lay your head or keep your things. If you look around and you see people you love, you’re home. No matter where you are.”
Four looked around. He saw his parents smiling while they worked. The fire fighters were serious but he knew they loved their jobs.
“Am I home right now?” he asked.
“Depends,” said Fly. “You with the people you love?”
“Yes,” Four answered.
“Then yep,” Fly said, shifting into a better spot and heaving a sleepy sigh, making the fur on his tail ruffle.
“Who is it you love?” Four asked, looking around. It didn’t seem like this skinny alley cat, with a notch in his ear and a kink in his tail, had any kind of home at all.
“Everyone you see,” Fly murmured, mostly asleep already. “This whole neighborhood is my home.”
A woman came off her front porch when she spied the alley cat asleep on the hood of the yellow fire engine.
“Oh there you are, you poor thing,” she said, scooping Fly into her arms. “I was worried about you. Let’s go get you away from this smoke. I have some milk and a little tuna fish. How does that sound?”
Fly gave Four a wink and a wave of his tail as she carried him into her house.
Four looked then at the other neighbors comforting each other as they worried together about the house with smoke billowing out. He saw how they all cared about each other. He thought about how this was someone’s home.
He extended his ladders as far as they would go and kept them extra steady so the fire fighters could get to the high spots. He opened his compartments wide so they could reach the tools they needed. And together, they saved the home.
It felt good, working with his new friends and his family. He realized he felt happy. Comfortable.
He realized the alley cat was right. He didn’t need walls or a ceiling to tell him that he was home. He was home already. No matter where he went, or where he laid his head at night, he was home. And it felt just right.