From my Work in Process: Black Cat and the Key to the Treasure
Kimberlee travels alone in Germany while her friend attends a conference...
Salzburg, Germany: As Kimberlee passed through the countryside, the terrain varied as the road rose and fell through hills and valleys. Around every corner, another picture postcard vista appeared. With no particular agenda, Kimberlee frequently stopped to photograph a scene.
In a green meadow, the only sound was the breeze shaking the leaves on the shrubs alongside the road. The tinkling of shiny brass bells hanging from the collars of a flock of sheep or a group of black and white cows grazing nearby produced a stirring in the heart of a captivated tourist. In another place, the gentle terrain rose up through the pasture to where a fine mist clung to the hillside. The sound of tinkling bells confirmed more animals hidden among the distant trees.
Fewer vineyards dotted the hillside as Kimberlee approached Salzburg; the town where Mozart lived, played his harpsichord and wrote melodies. Several hundred years later, his name is still a household word and millions of people enjoy his music.
She reached the center of the city, parked her car, and began to walk. Ancient ivy-laden buildings with sagging tile roofs covered the sidewalk courtyards. Church spires peeked out from behind red tile rooftops. She passed a church with dates carved into the wall reading 1200-1400. How incredible! One church was said to be 1000 years old.
Faint music drew her toward the town square where a street musician stood on the steps of an ancient church played Ave Maria on his violin. While tourists clustered around the steps, pigeons flew from rooftop to rooftop, as though drawn by the haunting melody.
Kimberlee paused. The lingering notes echoed off the surrounding ancient buildings and filled the courtyard with music such as one might imagine in Heaven. Her thoughts drifted back to another time. She imagined the cobbled streets filled with horse-drawn carriages. Perhaps one held a princess and her ladies-in-waiting. Over there, a knight in shining armor on his trusty steed, ready to joust with a dragon.
The musician drew his bow across the strings, and the final note hung in the air. He lowered his hand. The audience stood motionless. Someone coughed, and the spell was broken. Generous visitors tossed money into the violin case at the musician’s feet before they wandered away.
Kimberlee opened her purse. “That was absolutely lovely! Thank you,” she said, as she dropped a few euros into his case.
She ran to catch a tram climbing to the top of the hill where a medieval castle overlooked the city; a cold and barren place with multiple staircases reaching in all directions. Inside the castle, armor, ancient guns, javelins, chains and torture devices covered the walls. Stepping out onto the balcony, the entire city and valley lay below. It was like peeking into the pages of a storybook.
Rainy mists on the distant mountains beckoned hikers upward into the cold crisp air. To the left–rivers, towers, cathedrals, graveyards, and church spires. To the right–cobblestone streets with horse-drawn carriages, and sidewalk cafes, musicians, and archways where street vendors hawked their wares beneath colorful awnings.
After wandering around the castle for an hour and taking dozens pictures, she returned to the city below.
She came upon a street artist, sitting on a short stool, his backpack and palette of paints by his side. He leaned into his easel and applied the finishing touches to a watercolor painting of the church, where the musician had played his moving aria on the steps. Could she be one of the colorful blobs that represented the tourists?
Unable to resist the appeal of the drawing and the memory of the thrilling experience, she purchased the picture. She would have it framed and hang it in her bedroom, a constant reminder of the poignant melody that had stirred her heart.
What a magical city! After a hearty meal and very strong coffee, Kimberlee returned to her car. She drove to the outskirts of town to look for a pension for the night. Brett would be thrilled to hear about all the things she had seen today. How she missed him and wished he was by her side.
This is an edited scene from my next novel, coming this summer. And Then There Was a Tiger. Watch for announcement of publication.
Agnes took Maddie’s hand and marched her down the aisle towards the back parking lot to the tiger exhibition. “Morning, Mrs. Williams. So, you’ve come to see the tiger, too?”
“I’ll admit, the idea makes me a bit nervous. You don’t suppose it’s a wild one, do you?”
“Can’t imagine they’d let it perform out in the open if it was.” Agnes grinned down at Maddie and squeezed her hand. “I suspect it hasn’t eaten any little girls for a while.”
“Grandma!” Maddie sidled closer to Agnes’s leg. “That’s not funny.” Her eyes were as bright as sparklers on the Fourth of July.
Agnes’s heart warmed, seeing Maddie’s pleasure. It wasn’t likely she had ever met a tiger face to face. For that matter, meeting a tiger was a first for her too.
The spectators gathered in front of a boxcar-like caravan with a painted canvas draped over the front bars. Brightly colored yellow spoked-wheels jutted from beneath the wagon.
The crowd heard grunts and grumbles behind the canvas. They eagerly awaiting the first sign of the emerging tiger.
The tiger’s cage creaked and swung open. A young man emerged, dressed in a blue and yellow shirt and red trousers. He stepped down the metal step carrying a short red and white striped stick resembling a magician’s wand. He bowed to the audience, then glanced back toward the open door, drew a whistle from his pocket and blew a shrill note. “Don’t be shy, Shere Khan. Come on out and say hello to the nice people.”
Scratching sounds came from behind the canvas, like the sound one might imagine a tiger would make as it rises from a metal floor, intent on hunting its prey. An orange nose appeared through the open door and the beast leaped onto the ground. Yellow eyes roamed the crowd.
The spectators murmured and took a collective step backwards. Coming to see a tiger was one thing–actually seeing one three feet away, unchained and unrestrained, was quite another.
“Shere Khan.” The trainer waved his stick in a circular motion. “Wave hello to the nice people.”
“Is he dangerous?” Someone called from the audience.
“Only when he’s hungry.” The trainer chuckled. “Up! Shere Khan!”
Shere Khan sat back on his haunches, lifted his front feet and waggled one foot.
A wave of oohs, aahs and nervous titters broke out in the audience.
They inched forward, clapped and laughed. They weren’t afraid. Not really. They knew he was tame. Heads nodded and smiled.
For the next ten minutes, the trainer put the tiger through his paces. After each trick, he gave the cat a treat from the bag at his waist. At one point, the tiger lay on the platform, gazing at the crowd, looking like an enormous, striped housecat.
Agnes dabbed her hankie across her forehead again as her thoughts turned to Shere Khan’s distant furry relatives. Too many had fallen prey to the hunter’s guns and the clothing industry, now that Hollywood starlets fancied fur coats. Shere Khan’s native cousins should be thankful that fox fur coats had more recently become more fashionable this season than tiger. Even so, the threat imposed by poachers was still very real. She envisioned wealthy and unscrupulous hunters stalking an unsuspecting prey, seeking tiger skin rugs and tiger heads mounted over their bars.
It was hard to imagine this gentle giant pursuing an antelope, leaping on its back, killing it with one snap of his jaws. Hard to imagine his jowls covered in the life’s blood of the still warm antelope, snarling to fend off predators determined to steal his bounty. Hard to imagine the beast dragging his kill through the underbrush, perhaps to a nearby den where two or three cubs awaited their first taste of meat. Such was a wild tiger’s life in the jungle.
This tiger was probably hand-raised, likely declawed and now totally dependent on a human to provide his meat on the end of a stick. It was doubtful he’d ever seen an antelope, and even if starving, wouldn’t know what to do if he saw one.
The trainer’s voice snapped her back to the present. “Does anyone want to pet Shere Khan?” The trainer pointed to Maddie. “You?”
Maddie glanced up at Agnes.
“What do you think?” Agnes touched Maddie’s cheek. “Do you want to pet him?”
“I…I…think so. Yes!” She pulled away from Agnes and stepped closer.
Maddie reached out her hand and touched Shere Khan’s head, then ran one finger over his ear. “He’s so soft.” She stroked down the tiger’s neck and scratched his ear.
Shere Khan turned toward the caress, opened his mouth and yawned, showing long sharp teeth. His eyes sought Maddie’s face and their eyes locked in a gaze that seemed to connect their soul. At last he blinked and lowered his head onto a giant paw.
Seeing Maddie’s delight, several other children rushed forward.
The trainer motioned them back. “Just one at a time.”
Maddie returned to Agnes. “He only likes me. See how he’s turning away from the other children?”
Indeed, Shere Khan stood and ambled back toward his caravan, apparently he'd had enough public adulation. Within seconds, he was up the steps and out of sight.
Agnes reached for Maddie’s hand. “Are you ready to go back now?”
Maddie's gaze was fixed on the spot where Shere Khan had disappeared. She rubbed her fingers together, seeming unable to relinquish the sensation of the tiger’s ear, reluctant to forget the rumble in his throat as she stroked his face. The child seemed lost in the memory of a special shared moment with a creature from the wild, reluctant to return to her life where troubling events were a daily occurrence. “Shall we go, sweetheart?”
Maddie blinked. “I remember, before I was born, we were in Heaven and we played in a meadow with baby lambs and goats. Was Shere Khan remembering, too, Grandma?”
“What strange ideas you have, child. Where do you come up with such things?” Played together in Heaven? What could have put such a thought into her head?
Maddie’s eyes were aglow, her smile as innocent as an angel. She looked as though she was truly catching a glimpse directly into Heaven where she had played in a meadow with a tiger.
Goosebumps crept up Agnes’s arms. Maybe Maddie was remembering. Hadn’t Pastor Lickleiter just preached on this text and encouraged the congregation to memorize the Bible verse? The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. (Isaiah 11:6 KJV)
Wolves? Leopards? Lions? Who’s to say there wasn’t a tiger among them?
The reporter frowned. “ Odboddy! Please tell me in your own words just what caused the fire at the watch tower. I understand you were alone when the fire started.”
Mrs. Odboddy sighed, lowered her eyes and stared at her fingernails. She sat back down on the sofa chair. Here we go. Shouldn’t be too hard to convince them I was responsible. “You see, I…”
For some reason, now that it was time to relate a lie and take responsibility for a foolish act, her mouth went as dry as a prairie cactus flower. She took a quick breath and tried again. “It was like this. I was watching the coastline and…”
Her mind went blank. What did we decide I was supposed to say? That’s right. Kicked over the heater. “I turned on the heater. There was this squirrel, see. It climbed up the legs on the watch tower, or maybe it climbed up the ladder. I didn’t exactly see how it got in, but then it jumped over the wall. It startled me and I made a swipe at it with my purse and…and that’s when I accidently knocked over the heater…” Agnes glanced at the reporter and Ritchie. Were they buying it, or not?
“A squirrel… At the beach? Then what happened?” Harvey’s eyebrows touched the edge of his brow line. He wasn’t buying her story.
I’d better beef it up a little. “Well, maybe it wasn’t a squirrel. Maybe it was a…seagull. Now that I think of it, I’m sure it was a seagull. Anyway, I knocked over the heater and the spark ignited the kerosene and started the fire. I tried to put it out, but it spread too fast. I barely escaped with my life!”
Agnes’s heart thumped. She touched her nose with a shaking hand. In spite of the tingle at the end of her nose, it didn’t seem to be growing like Pinocchio’s.
“A seagull. Makes a little more sense. Why didn’t you say that the first time?” The reporter glanced toward Ritchie.
Ritchie’s hand covered his mouth. His shoulders shook.
Was he actually giggling? “I was embarrassed to say that a seagull startled me. You see, I’ve been terrified of seagulls ever since I was a baby and a seagull landed near my baby blanket and tried to pick…out…my…eyes…” Good grief. This blasted fib was spinning out of control with every breath. Why was this so hard? She’d been telling tall tales for years and never had so much trouble making the details sound right.
Harvey stood and glanced at his wristwatch. “So, let me get this straight for the newspaper story. In the middle of April, when it was close to 75 degrees at the ocean, a squirrel that wasn’t a squirrel but was really a seagull came over the wall. You have a fear of seagulls because one tried to peck out your eyes when you were a baby, and when you tried to chase it away, you accidently knocked over the heater and the watch tower caught on fire. You couldn’t put it out with the fire extinguisher hanging three feet away on the wall, and you barely escaped with your life. Is that about right?”
“You’ve got it! That’s exactly how it happened. Are we done now?”
Agnes jumped up from the sofa chair and opened the front door. “Thank you so much for dropping by. I’m looking forward to your story. Good-bye!
Harvey and Ritchie stood and stepped onto the porch. “Uhh. Okay. Good-bye.”
“Say hello to your aunt, won’t you?” Agnes closed the door and leaned against it. She put her hand over her eyes. Good grief! Katherine was going to have a cat-fit when she saw that whopper in print.
Mrs Odboddy Hometown Patriot is available at Amazon in e-book for $3.99 http://tinyurl.com/hdbvzsv
One of the stories from my book - ALL THINGS CAT HTTP://tinyurl.com/y9p9htak
The Conscientious Objector
The old woman, Broomtilda, took me in when I was a wee kitten and named me Tinkleberry. Her idea, not mine…Over the years, as she grew frailer, it became difficult for her to find enough work around the village to buy bread and cheese. Were it not for the old cow in the byre, we would have no milk for my breakfast and Broomtilda’s dinner.
One night, Broomtilda tucked her shoes under the bed, pulled the covers up to her nose and went to sleep with only milk for her dinner. Come dawn, being too weak to rise, she called me to her side. “I have provided all your needs until today, Tinkleberry. Now, you must go, my friend, kill a small beast and bring me meat, for I no longer have the means to feed us. If you fail, I shall perish.”
That she should ask me to kill a living creature went against my very soul, for unlike my feline brethern, I have long been a conscientious objector. “You know I would do anything for you, dear Broomtilda,” I said, “but to kill even the smallest living creature, I cannot do. Please do not ask me to pay such a price in return for your kindness.”
“How can you answer thus, when I am ill and hungry? Have I not always provided for you?”
The tears in her eyes wrenched my heart, and yet I trembled in horror at the thought of killing even the smallest vole. “Isn’t there another way to meet our needs?”
“Only one, but I dare not speak of it. It’s far too dangerous,” she wept.
“Whatever it might be, I shall do as you demand, if it keep me from breaking my vow as a conscientious objector.” I bowed my head, my hair bristling in dread.
She lifted her frail hand. “You must make your way to yonder mountain. High on the top beside a river, you’ll find a cave where a wicked leprechaun dwells,” she said. “Perhaps you can trick him into revealing where he hides his gold. Even if you can steal one small coin, it would feed us for many weeks. Go, now Tinkleberry. My life is in your paws, small friend.” My mistress fell back upon the bed, her voice a bare whisper. “If you cannot bring back a piece of gold, our days on this earth are numbered.”
I set out to do as she had bid. Though against my conscience to kill, my wits would be tested if I was to fool the evil leprechaun, steal a coin, and live to tell the tale.
The trail to the mountain was steep. With each step, I cast about in my mind how to fulfill such a task. And with each step nearer the cave, I had no clear plan how to dupe the leprechaun from his gold.
“Halt. Who goes there?” The shrill voice of the wicked leprechaun called out from beneath the log that spanned the river. His words chilled my heart. It was now or never! “Answer, Cat, or I’ll turn you to stone.”
Panic seized my heart. And an idea popped into my furry head. “I’m just a harmless pussy cat out for a stroll in the woods. My, what a lovely river you have here, Sir Leprechaun. I love what you’ve done with the place.” A little honey-talk goes a long way toward soothing a malevolent spirit, or so I’m told. I sashayed across the log, humming an Irish ditty, and bowed low. “My name is Tinkleberry. (Her idea, not mine.) Pray tell, what might your name be, kind sir?”
The leprechaun’s demeanor softened somewhat. “My name is Merichandrick. What do you seek?” He grumbled.
“A spot of tea would be lovely. I’m weary from my travels.” I looked wistfully toward the gnome, hoping to convey abject vulnerability and candor. To my great relief, he invited me to step inside his abode.
“Come on in and I’ll light the fire.” I followed him into the grotto, aware that he might have a trick up his sleeve. Was he planning to toss me into the stew pot once inside? My nerves tingled, prepared for the worst.
“Sit over there.” The imp shuffled toward the fire as I scanned the cave.
Fearing treachery, I kept one wary eye on my host as I gazed around. A green and red parrot in a cage, hung from a golden hook. “Oh, what a lovely bird,” I posited, sidling closer to the cage. Where was he hiding that blasted pot of gold? Near the back of the cave, something lay hidden beneath a red blanket.
The little man turned. “Will you be after spending the night?” said he, with a wicked glint in his eye.
He likely plans to kill me as I lay sleeping. “If I’m so invited,” says I with a yawn, patting my paw against my mouth, giving him a good view of my sharp fangs, in case he had any funny ideas. “Let us drink our tea and I’ll curl up for the night just yonder on your lovely red blanket.”
He shook his mop of green curls. “Not there,” he shrieked, panic shining from his wicked eye. “Best you should sleep closer to the fire.”
“As you wish, and I thank you kindly for the hospitality,” says I. Oho! The gold is beneath the blanket. Once the little man sleeps, I’ll snatch a coin and be on my way. He’ll be none the wiser from the loss of one coin.
My host set out two mugs, poured the tea and shoved one toward me. Expecting a trick, I sneezed, and as he reached for a handkerchief, I switched the mugs. Indeed, my mug was drugged, for the evil goblin drank and fell immediately into a stupor.
As I reached to snatch a gold coin from the pot beneath the blanket, the parrot shrieked, spewing vile curses. Murderous rage filled my heart. Would the cursed bird ruin everything? All I needed was one small coin to save my mistress.
A conscientious objector no more, I leaped at the cage and knocked it to the dirt floor. The door flew upon and the now repentant parrot squawked and flapped on the ground. One swift snap of my jaws, and the bird would curse no more.
Broomtilda traded the gold coin for six chickens and a second cow. Bossy gives us enough milk to sell and pay for bread and vegetables.
As a recovering conscientious objector, only occasionally must I venture into the woods, highjack an unsuspecting rabbit and fetch it home for the stewpot. If our fortune changes for the worse or the old cow dies, the wicked leprechaun still has a pot full of gold coins, and I know where he lives.
I read that when cats are cuddling and kneading you, and you think it's cute, they're really just checking your vitals for weak spots. Kandyse McClure
If man could be crossed with the cat it would improve man, but deteriorate the cat. Mark Twain
From the beginning of recorded time, cats have shared our lives, gained our trust, protected our harvests and warmed our beds. They were likely the first aboard Noah’s ark and the last ones off, not wanting to get their feet wet.
Over the centuries, cats were both revered and worshipped in ancient Egypt and reviled during the dark ages when they were thought to consort with the devil.(Upon occasion, considering some of my cats’ antics, I’ve had my own suspicions about their continued devil consorting.)
Currently, cats have taken over millions of American families. Cats have become one of the most popular subjects of Facebook and You-Tube videos. With so many people enjoying cats and cozy-cat mysteries, I felt a book of short stories about cats would be well-received. I compiled twenty-one of my best short stories that are either about a cat or include a cat and published a little book called All Things Cat. http://tinyurl.com/y9p9htak
All Things Cat stories range from humorous to heartrending, featuring cats from diverse walks of life and varying periods of time.
Some are ‘first-person’ accounts, written by anonymous felines, abandoned by his master, the prize in an Old West poker game, routing a burglar in a WWII meat market, overcoming self-doubts about his hunting/stalking abilities, and adopting the First Family in the White House. Likely, these feline authors had no intention of sharing their innermost thoughts, dreams and fears with the world, but, as an author, that’s what I’m here for, right?
Other stories were inspired by a plethora of situations, news events, contest prompts, holidays, and the like. They illustrate how cats affect, impact or enrich our lives through their contributions or companionship.
The stories are set in both past and present and in diverse surroundings: Salem, Massachusetts, a pirate ship off the coast of Maine, a haunted hotel in the Sierra Mountains, Roswell, New Mexico, and the oval office in Washington, D.C., to name but a few locations.
Also included are excerpts from my novels, Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer, and Black Cat’s Legacy, and Mrs. Odboddy - Hometown Patriot.
So, whether you are a cat lover or a reader who enjoys stories about cats, I expect you would enjoy reading All Things Cat. Just $2.99 for an Amazon e-book. http://tinyurl.com/y9p9htak
Saint Nicholas: During the 4th century, in Asia Minor, lived a Bishop of Myra named Nicholas who secretly gave his possessions to the poor. According to legend, St. Nicholas wished to provide dowry money for three daughters of a poor merchant. To keep his identity secret, he tossed bags of gold down the merchant’s chimney. Accidently, it fell into the girls stockings hanging by the hearth to dry. Thus, began the custom of hanging stockings by the fire filled with gifts, fruit and candy. Three gold balls used to decorate pawn shops, as a sign of merchants honoring their patron saint, Saint Nicholas.
St. Nicholas and his Reindeer: Originally, St. Nicholas rode a white horse in his native country of Turkey. As his popularity spread rapidly across Central Europe to the Scandinavian countries, having no horses, they gave St. Nicholas a reindeer-drawn sleigh instead.
Reindeer are relatives of the wild caribou, but are different from any other type of deer in that both male and female reindeer have branched antlers. Their habitat is now concentrated in Canada, Alaska and in the Arctic.
The Night Before Christmas: Both St. Nicholas and his reindeer became famous when Dr. Clement Moore published his famous poem in 1823, “A Visit from St. Nicholas, or The Night Before Christmas.”
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer
Now Dasher! Now Dancer! Now Prancer and Vixen!
On Comet. On Cupid! On Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall!
Now, dash away, dash away, dash away all!
St. Nicholas was also given some of the characteristics of the Norse god, Thor, who rode through the sky in a chariot wearing a red coat.
He was dressed all in fur from his head to his foot
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot
In 1866, the political cartoonist, Thomas Nast, (who drew the characters of the Republican elephant and the Democratic donkey for Harper’s Weekly magazine), drew a picture of St. Nick with his pipe, twinkly face and fur trimmed coat that has served as the model for the jolly old elf ever since.
He was chubby and plump, a jolly old elf
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself
A stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth
And the smoke encircled his head like a wreath
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly.…
FatherChristmas: In the 17th century, a very old grey-bearded gentleman called Father Christmas also gave gifts to the poor. In the USA, the character of Father Christmas merged with the Dutch settler’s patron, St. Nicholas. He was called Santa Niklaus, then Sinter Klass and finally Santa Claus.
So, whether you call him Santa Claus, Father Christmas or Saint Nicholas, the exchanging of gifts at Christmas dates back to these legendary characters. The Wise Men gave gifts to Baby Jesus. We all give gifts to our loved ones. This Christmas season we must not neglect sharing our good fortune with those who are in need, as was the original intent of St. Nicholas and Father Christmas.
As we look around the world and around our own country, there is no shortage of people in need. My family gives to Samaritan’s Purse, an organization that responds world-wide, bringing relief and the story of God’s love wherever disaster strikes. At Christmas, we donate money to Samaritan's Purse to send a goat and chickens to families in third world countries.
How does your family celebrate the season? What ways do you acknowledge those less fortunate?
This story was published in the Inspire Victory anthology, 2014. It is also a repeat blog post from February, 2015. I thought you would enjoy reading it again.
I love my cat, Truffie. She’s a gift of joy in my life. Every day, she makes me smile. She loves me unconditionally, even when I’m not wearing make-up or my hair is a mess. She loves me when I’m grumpy or had a bad day. She even loves me when I accidentally step on her tail.
I remember a day that Truffie stopped eating. She lost weight. We took her to the vet twice. Though we racked up $600 in medical bills, the vet’s diagnosis held no reassurance, “All the lab tests and x-rays are normal. I don’t know what’s wrong with her. Maybe we could−”
“No,” I said. “I can’t afford to spend any more money. Not if we don’t even know what’s wrong or how to fix it.”
Five days had passed since she became ill. If something didn’t change soon, there was no hope for her. I took her home. I forced eye droppers full or water down her throat every few hours. She still wouldn’t eat or drink on her own. She had a fever. None of the medicine the vet had prescribed seemed to help.
I began to wonder. Does God care that Truffie is sick?
Sure, we know He cares about our health and our finances and foreign affairs and protecting the troops fighting in far-away places. But does God really care if my cat is sick? Would He take time from His busy schedule of healing folks and finding work for the unemployed, and protecting our troops and trying to make the Washington swamp solve our problems, to heal a cat just because I asked? You see, I’ve prayed about all those things for a while now, but Truffie’s fever? Does He really care? Do I dare pray and expect God to heal her?
I asked my pastor, “Do you think God cares when our pets are sick? Would it help to pray for Truffie?” He told me that on a certain day, people bring their animals to the Catholic Church to be blessed, but he couldn’t think of a Bible verse that specifically says God heals pets, especially cats.
I searched the Bible in hopes I’d find something to prove God cared about the animals and would answer our prayers when they’re sick. Matthew reminds us…Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. (Matthew 10:20 NIV) Sparrows... Cats... Not quite the same, but if He cares about birds, it stands to reason that He cares about cats too.
We’re all familiar with God’s blessings and promises. We know He gives us everything we need. Our home... Our loved ones... A job–well, most of us have a job, or we had one, before they downsized the company, and now some of us have unemployment. But not many of us are going hungry or sleeping in the streets, so even in our adversity, God supplies our needs. But that didn’t answer my question. Would it help if I ask Him to heal my cat?
I searched the scriptures for more about prayer and faith. Ask and it will be given to you. (Matthew 7:7 NIV). Was that the key? It went on to say that faith the size of the mustard seed could even move mountains. For truly I say to you. If you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move and nothing will be impossible. (Matthew 17:20NIV) That sounded promising. And lastly…how much more will the Father in Heaven give good gifts to those (his children) who ask Him. (Matthew 7:11NIV)
Now, we were getting somewhere. The Bible teaches us that it’s a matter of having faith when we pray, not the specifics of what we pray about.
What did I have to lose? So I prayed for Truffie. “Lord, You know how much I love her. You know how much joy she gives me and You know how it would grieve me to lose her. I’m calling on Your promise, Ask and it will be given…. I place this little cat in Your loving hands, Lord, and ask You to heal her and raise her up again. I have faith that she will be healed because You’ve promised…”
Now, I’m not going to tell you that a bolt of lightning surrounded my head or that the Heavens opened and God’s voice rang out, “Truffie. Rise up and walk,” but the next day, Truffie started to eat. Her mood brightened! She purred! She was on her way. She would recover.
I know that God cares for our cats and dogs and rabbits and horses and all our pets. Not because there’s a specific verse in the Bible that says so, but because we love them and He loves us…enough to want our joy to be complete. He promises that if we ask and have faith, we can move mulberry trees into the sea, or move mountains from here to there, or maybe it’s all about teaching us to take all our cares to the Lord, no matter how big or small and knowing He will hear and answer.
Truffie was eight years old this spring and has never been sick another day in her life. Truffie is living proof. God answered my prayer, and yes, I’m convinced.
God loves cats.
Mrs. Odboddy - Undercover Courier - Agnes travels by train and carries a package to President Roosevelt that she is sure contains secret wall documents. This is a scene from her first morning after sleeping on the train. Full of righteous pride, she is off to a bad start this morning...
Agnes hurried down the aisle before anyone else could beat her to the washroom. After brushing her teeth, washing her face, and smearing cold cream across her face, Agnes glanced into the mirror. She chuckled, noting that the cold cream made her face resemble a clown. Mid-chuckle, her smile faded. My purse! She’d left it in her berth, with the secret documents for President Roosevelt inside!
Agnes threw open the bathroom door and plunged down the aisle, cold cream still smeared over her face. What had she done? Oh, Lord above. Protect this idiot from her foolish ways.
The empty berth shrieked condemnation for her carelessness and neglect. Her purse was gone.
Oh, nooooo! Where was the porter who was supposed to be on guard, watching their belongings?
Agnes raced toward the far end of the car and found the porter, his head lolled to the side, his chair tipped back against the wall, sound asleep,.
“Porter! Wake up!”
The young man jerked. The legs of his chair slammed to the floor. He jumped to his feet, his eyes blinking. “Yes, ma’am?” He touched his cap, his eyes wild, scanning from left to right. As he came to full wakefulness, he peered at Agnes, her cold-creamed face contorted in rage. His eyes looked like black marbles floating in pools of milk. He stepped back, his trembling hands outstretched. “I’m sorry. I won’t do it again!”
“Porter! Did you see someone getting into my berth? I’m the second one from the end.” Agnes pointed down the aisle.
The porter’s face turned several shades lighter. “No, ma’am. Sorry ma’am. I…I… I’m afraid I fell asleep.” He hung his head. “Are you going to tell my boss?” He lifted his head.
Agnes reached up and touched her cheek. “Oh, my goodness!” I didn’t even wash my face. No wonder I scared the living daylights out of him. She pulled a tissue from her pocket and wiped at her cheeks. “I left the bathroom in such a hurry… But, then I discovered my purse missing from my berth!” Her heart raced as she uttered the dreadful words. And vanity clouded my good judgment! I’m such a fool.
His mouth trembled. Was he more concerned about her purse or getting caught sleeping on the job? “Missing? You’re sure you didn’t misplace it?” He hurried down the aisle toward her berth.
Agnes followed on his heels.
The porter yanked back Agnes’s curtain and glanced around her bed. Only the Bible lay on her pillow–. He slid the suitcases from side to side and tossed the pillow to the other end of the bed. “Have you checked in your suitcase?”
“Don’t you think I’d remember if I put it in my suitcase?” Agnes huffed. What kind of an idiot does he think I am? On the other hand, what kind of an idiot was she to leave her purse sitting on the bed with secret documents inside and run around the train with cold cream smeared on her face? Chill bumps raced up her arms as the realization of the loss hit home. She had failed the President of the United States of America on the first day out the door. She blinked to hold back tears as the porter rifled through both of her suitcases.
“Can you describe it, ma’am? What was inside?”
Agnes shrugged. “It was black…um…well, never mind what it contained. It had my wallet and my money and…and…my train ticket and passport.” Tears trickled down her cheeks.
“I’ll question the passengers before report it to the conductor.” The porter’s face contorted again.
Weren’t they two of a kind? Both brought low by their own carelessness. “I’ll finish up in the washroom while you look.”
The porter nodded and hurried off, leaving Agnes to return to her interrupted ablutions.
Agnes washed the cold cream from her face and stared into the washroom mirror. The wrinkles in her forehead had deepened over the past few minutes and the sparkle that folks said she carried in her eyes seemed to have abandoned ship.
Agnes straightened her shoulders and forced a smile. She gave her hair a final pat and stepped out the washroom door, climbed into her bunk and pulled the curtain. She laid her head back on the pillow, clutched the Bible to her chest and began to pray.
Mrs. Odboddy Undercover Courier Purchase this book at Amazon (e-book $3.99) at http://tinyurl.com/jn5zwb
Six weeks after the World Trade Center attack on September 11, 2001, the nation continued to mourn.
Several days ago, the Sacramento Daily Sun editor burst into my office, “Clive. Pack your bags. You’re going to Salem, Massachusetts, to cover their Halloween celebration. Let’s give the subscribers something new to read about.”
He had me at the words, ‘pack your bags!’ With yet another gut-wrenching editorial in my computer about the 341 firemen lost in the Towers, I was up for anything to get away from the twenty-four-seven news cycle.
October 31st is big news in Salem every year. 250,000 visitors swarm the city to experience haunted houses, costume balls, live music, dances and holiday parades. This year, due to a full moon scheduled on October 31, 2001, the first full moon on that date since 1974, Salem planned even more spectacular events. The occurrence of a full moon on Halloween happens only four or five times each century! The next one isn’t expected for another twenty years─October 31, 2020!
Entering Salem, I was impressed by the witches and goblins, pumpkins and ghouls decorating houses and businesses, much like we decorate for Christmas back home. Witches are big in Salem all year long, due to the history of the Salem witch trials, but this year, especially so, what with the full moon phenomenon. Apparently, Salem’s city fathers thought the citizenry had grieved 911 long enough and should get their minds back onto business as usual. Let the nation grieve if it must. Salem would strike while the moon was full!
Cornstalks lined the streets. Jack-o-lanterns hung from each lamp post. Shopkeepers, decked out in witch and warlock, ghost and vampire costumes, hawked merchandise. Every shop window displayed witches and cauldrons, spirits and ghouls. Tourists clamored through the town atop horse drawn hay wagons and carts.
I ate lunch at a little diner and delighted in the attentions of a charming waitress with long black hair, shocking gold eyes and fluttering lashes. With a glance, Jenny churned up feelings I hardly remembered, being a widower well past middle-aged, and an almost regular church goer.
Imagine my surprise when she handed me a napkin with a message inside. Meet me outside tonight. 11:25 P.M. Come alone. I must see you.
I left my lunch half-eaten and stumbled outside to ponder the situation. With her obvious charms, she had the pick of any young man; what could she possibly want with me? I interviewed shopkeepers and snapped photos of the holiday events that day and well into the evening. Even knowing it was a fool’s errand, at 11:15 P.M, I was drawn back to the diner like a moth to a flame.
At 11:20 P.M. Jenny wiped down the last table, flipped over the CLOSED sign and locked the café door. She had nearly given up hope of finding a middle-aged man with silver-white hair and mustache. What were the odds that Clive should walk through the door at the last possible moment to change her destiny?
Jenny wrapped her cape around her shoulders and stepped out the front door. There Clive stood, as she had hoped! She was blessed with a sixth sense about the future, knowing when the phone would ring or a visitor would knock at her door. An oppressive spirit had even settled on her the morning of September 11, feeling something evil on the horizon. She had powers over men, but on this night of nights, with the full moon overhead on this auspicious date, her fate lay in the hands of this stranger. Without his cooperation, she could not escape the family curse.
“Hello. Thanks so much for coming.” Jenny placed her small white hand on Clive’s arm, hoping to bend his will to her needs. “You’re the only one who can help me.” She lifted her hand to dab at a tear.
“I’m happy to oblige. But, why do you ask a stranger? Don’t you have family or friends who could help you?”
Jenny lowered her head, brushing her lashes against her pale face. She allowed her lip to tremble as the tear trickled down her cheek. A white curl tumbled onto her forehead, seemingly out of place among her mass of black curls.
“Here, here, now. None of that.” Clive brushed Jenny’s hair back into place. “I’ll help you if I can, my dear. Don’t cry.” He tipped up her chin and dried her tears with his handkerchief. “Now, give me a smile and tell me all about it.”
“I fear you’ll think me crazy, sir, but I swear I speak the truth.” Jenny sat on a bench and began an inexplicable tale.
“I am a descendent of the judge who unjustly hanged Sarah Good as a witch in 1692, right here in Salem. Since Sarah Good’s death, the judge’s descendants have suffered a terrible curse. Upon the rare occasion, only about four or five times each century, when the full moon is overhead on All-Hollow’s Eve, any female descendent between the age of 18 and 29 is in grave danger.
“As the full moon is upon us this night for the first time since 1974, and to avoid the curse, I must find a middle-aged man with long silver-white hair, who resembles the judge who sentenced my poor ancestor, Sarah, to death. Before midnight, a drop of this man’s blood must voluntarily be placed on a particular stone that stands at the edge of town.” Jenny’s pale lips trembled most effectively. “Would you shed a drop of your blood on Sarah’s commemorative stone to save me from the curse?”
“What kind of curse, my dear?” Clive raised a perplexed eyebrow.
“It is so terrible, I dare not speak it aloud.” Whispering these words, Jenny clung to Clive’s shoulder and wept piteously. Would it be enough to convince him to go with her to the stone? And, once there, could she muster the courage to do what she must do to stave off the curse?
Clive was speechless. Never had he encountered such a stunning creature that so captivated his heart within minutes of meeting. Never has such a ridiculous tale so captured his imagination. He was inclined to leap from the bench, take her by the hand and race to the stone in question. Only with great difficulty did he pummel his rash impulses into submission and sit back on the bench, staring up into the starry sky.
The full moon hung blood-red over the city, casting an orange glow across the sidewalks, still churning with costumed tourists, jostling and laughing, their joyous songs of nonsense carried into the black sky on the night breeze.
The young woman stirred in his arms, her sobs finally ceased. She dashed tears from her cheeks and looked up at him. “You will help me, won’t you? I’m so desperate. I only need a teeny-weeny drop of blood, really. I’d be ever so grateful.”
If she truly believed her outrageous tale, considering the unusual request, even a gentleman couldn’t help wondering, how grateful? On the other hand, just exactly how much was a teeny-weeny drop of blood and just how crazy was this charming girl?
Clive shivered. The breeze rustled the corn husks tied to the lamp posts. A thin cloud crept across the center of the moon, seeming to cut it in half.
Clive glanced at his watch. 11:40 P.M. “Well, let’s get on with it. Can we walk to the stone?” He would humor her and see where all this would lead. His hand rested around a small penknife in his pocket. If a tiny drop of blood is all it takes to satisfy her fantasy and win her gratitude, I can do that.
The wind picked up and whistled overhead as the cemetery loomed into view. Groups of tourists ambled among the grave stones. Raucous laughter burst from the direction of Bridget Bishop and Martha Corey’s graves, also victims of the 1692 Salem witch trials. One would think it was an amusement park rather than a cemetery from the sounds of merriment coming from the shadows.
Jenny squealed when a man dressed as a vampire loomed from the bushes.
Clive put his arm around her shoulder and pulled her close. She was really a dear little thing, and his heart stirred. He wanted so to calm her fears. Perhaps he’d bring her coffee in bed tomorrow morning…
Sarah Good’s commemorative stone gleamed in the moonlight.
Jenny ran her fingers over the grooves in the stone forming the letters– Sarah Good 1653 – 1692. “Poor thing. I’m so sorry, Sarah. Please forgive my ancestor.” Jenny glanced at her watch. “Are you ready?” She drew a huge serrated bread knife from her purse. “We don’t have much time. I only have two more minutes. Clive?” Jenny’s beautiful smile, only moments ago holding so much promise, faded, replaced by a fiendish leer. Only his blood splashed across the accursed stone would make her smile now.
At the sight of Jenny’s wild eyes gleaming in the moonlight, Clive stepped back. The thrill of the lovely lady and moonlight adventure faded and common sense finally prevailed. Jenny had no intention of settling for a pricked finger and a drop of blood.
With the knife in her hand, she crept closer and closer with murder in her eye.
“Hold on, there, young lady.” He backed away, glancing left and right. Where had all the costumed tourists gone? The witches and ghosts and even the vampire had disappeared at the first sight of Jenny’s knife.
In the distance, the town clock began to strike. Twelve o’clock…the witching hour. Bong…bong…bong. The hour that a real witch, if there was such a thing, might easily murder a stranger to satisfy her twisted notion of an imaginary family curse.
Bong…bong…bong. Clive’s dull life suddenly held a great deal more appeal. How he wished he was back in New York and had never heard of Salem.
Bong…bong… Jenny shrieked and rushed at him, the knife raised...
Paralyzed with fear, Clive threw up his hands, closed his eyes and held his breath, waiting for the death blow. Bong! Midnight!
Seconds ticked by. Clive ran his hands up and down his chest. “I’m still alive?” He opened his eyes.
Jenny’s cape and the bread knife lay on the ground, but… Where was Jenny? Had she waited seconds too long to strike and the curse taken her? But where? How?
Sarah Good’s gravestone gleamed in the moonlight. A small black cat hunched beside the stone, her tail whipping around her black toes. A white blaze crept over her nose, across one golden eye, ending beside her ear. She stared up at Clive, terror in those golden eyes, such as to soften the hardest heart. Meow?
“Jenny?” Clive walked closer to the stone. Wasn’t there a fable about witches turning into black cats? He’d never believed such tales before, but... He stroked the little cat and peered into her eyes. “Jenny?” He gasped. Jenny’s golden eyes stared back. The curse! It was true. “She needed me to protect her from the curse. She still needs me.”
He would write his 2000 words newspaper story about Salem, about the haunted houses and the costume ball and the decorations and the Halloween parades. The story would be colorful and for a few minutes the Sacramento Daily Sun readers could forget the tragedy that took almost 3000 lives on September 11, 2001
He would write about tonight being the first full moon on Halloween for the last twenty-seven years, but, he would not write about a 300-year-old curse that turned a Salem witch into a little black cat. Who would believe it?
Clive cradled Jenny in his arms as he walked back to town. “Don’t worry, Jenny. I’ll always take care of you. You don’t have to worry about anything ever again.