The Den

Thursdays used to be Susan Pettigrew’s favourite day of the week because they kicked off the weekend. Fridays were for friends, games and getting dressed up. Saturdays were for sleeping in, finishing rom-coms she fell asleep to previously, shopping, working out, coffeeshops and writing stories mostly for her own enjoyment. Sundays were for church, lesson planning (Susan was a teacher), meal prep and suppers with her father. Sure, Mondays and Tuesdays were nice because they got Susan back into routine  but Wednesdays were the worst. Susan used to hate Wednesdays because they were boring and monotonous. A person has to work hard to get through a Wednesday. Her students are restless on a Wednesday and don’t stay focused. Wednesdays are long days. But then one day (probably on a Wednesday) Susan realized that in order for a Thursday to occur a Wednesday must happen first and so she didn’t mind Wednesdays any more. In fact, Wednesdays became one of her favourite days for the simple fact that they preclude a Thursday, her first favourite day.

It also helped that Wednesdays evenings was when she volunteered at The Castle and cuddled cats. That is her second reason for loving Wednesdays.

Anyway, on this particular Wednesday, the Wednesday that Susan was working at the cat cafe, a little girl and her father dropped off a box of two cats. One was patchy with grey and black spots and squiggly whiskers. His eyes were a piercing, bright yellow. The old farmer who took care of him used to say that couldn’t tell if his old cat was going to come for a cuddle or gouge his left eye out. This made him a very respectable, intimidating cat that called for the utmost respect.

Morty, said Susan, reading the cat’s collar. I like it. What about you?

The other one was fluffy with stripes and spots of orange, black, grey, white and brown. Her eyes were round with soft little eyelashes and her nose curved over her mouth like the Saskatchewan river when it splits into the north and south. It was a perfect little nose.

What a cute nose! booped Susan. Myrtle! Is that your name?! asked Susan, again peeking at the tag. Like the tree? Oh, I love that, she said. I’m so happy you’re here.

Susan scooped up both the cats and took them to a bathroom for a much needed bath. Neither Morty nor Myrtle fought Susan on this as that would not be fitting for a guest to do. Instead they stood as stoic and as sullen as Olympic athletes in fourth place.

Good sports, thought Susan as she dried them and brought warm milk to drink. It’s time for me to go, she said. It’s the end of my shift but I’ll show you to The Den.

The pair followed her into a curtained room with a fireplace, chairs, window seat, tables and shelves that were lined with just as many cats as books.

Cats, said Susan as every pair of eyes looked up. This is Morty and Myrtle. They are new here. Please be nice. You all remember what it was like to be new. It’s time for me to go home now, yawned Susan. I need to have a bath and go to bed. It’s been a long day. But tomorrow is Thursday and that is my first favourite day.

She turned off all the lights, locked the doors and went home for the night.

There was a momentary pause as the cats listened to Susan lock the door, pull out the key and crunch, crunch, crunch as she walked home in the snow. As soon as the sounds of her footsteps her too far to hear, The Castle came to life. Everyone hustled and bustled.

“Where is my lipstick?” cried the bespeckled cat.

“I can’t find my perfume!” declared another.

“Who took the comb?! I had a comb and I put it right here. Now it’s gone, ” cawed a brunette feline.

“It’s not your comb!” yelled another brunette (assumedly, the sister of the other brunette) as she scratched her back (assumedly with the comb her sister was looking for).

“Yes it is! I found it first!”

“NO. I FOUND IT AND YOU TOOK IT FROM ME!”

A sissy, cat fight ensues with claws and screeching. Some of the neutered cats huddled to watch the sparring.

“They took away our nuts but they can’t take away our entertainment,” whispered one cat to another.

“It’s better than cable,” said the other. They smirked and high-fived while the sisters hissed and spat at each other.

Nobody seemed to notice their new visitors except for an albino cat seated on an armchair. He elegantly jumped from the chair and walked through the chaos, paying no mind to the drama around him.

“Welcome to The Castle” bowed the albino, “I’m Heggy. One of the castle managers. Please pardon the others. We’re in the middle of our own Bachelor competition. The king has recently become single and the town is trying to cheer him up. We’ve got a large collection of kittens from all over Saskatchewan single and ready to mingle. I’m their part-time manager and full-time stylist,” said Heggy.

“Bachelor? You mean, like the t.v. show?” asked Morty.

“Quite,” said the albino, “Think of it as a pageant for the king. By the end, the girls get a husband and crowned Queen of The Castle. The rest of us are dirty rascals.”

“Sounds stupid,” said Myrtle. Morty shot her a look.

“I agree,” grinned the albino. “It’s quite stupid.”

“So why are you doing it?” asked Myrtle.

“There’s a cat sitting on the mantle of the fireplace. His name is Zirk and he’s our king. He’s an imperfect feline. Selfish and impulsive, gullible and takes all advice seriously, even if it’s very bad. But he’s also the best king we’ve ever had. He’s generous and makes sure that everyone, including the newbies feel welcome in The Castle. There isn’t a cat here who doesn’t love King Zirk. When he is up, we are up. When he is down, we are down. Ever since he screwed up and lost his queen by tossing her out, nothing has been the same.”

“Well if he tossed her out, then he deserves to be sad,” said Myrtle.

“Maybe for awhile,” said Heggy, “but if he stays sad for too long, then we all suffer. People start fighting, food isn’t even distributed, and the kitty litter gets messy. It’s complete chaos.”

“So you’ll demean women to make your king happy?” challenged Myrtle.

“What is demeaning about getting beauty treatments for two years* with two square meals a day and treats galore?”

*Two years in cat years is measured as two months in human years. 

“Can anyone join?” asked Morty before Myrtle could interject with some sassy quip.

“Only the most beautiful kittens,” said the albino, nodding at Myrtle.

Morty pulled Myrtle to the side, “You’re doing this.”

“You’re insane,” said Myrtle, “Absolutely not.”

“Listen to me. I’m getting old and I won’t be here forever,” said Morty, “We gotta think ahead.”

Myrtle’s eyes that were fiery with debate before dulled and she became very quiet.

“Okay,” she said.

“I’ll be right here,” said Morty “I’m not going anywhere.”

“Fabulous!” declared Heggy, “Get a good night’s sleep! Tomorrow we begin class.”

“Class?!” said Myrtle coughing up a furball, “What class?”

“Etiquette,” gulped Heggy, covering his gag reflex with a paw, “We have a lot of work to do.”

[TO BE CONTINUED]