AUTHOR’S NOTE: Obviously, I took some creative liberties (we’re still world-building here). The point is there’s a royal banquet and Esther is growing in popularity... at the rate I’m telling this story, I’ll be well into retirement by the time I’m done. But whatever. It’s happening and that’s what matters.
After a good night’s sleep in her new cubby (which is just a shelf in a bookcase), Myrtle woke to an odd but pleasant smell that made her tummy grumble. “What a curious thing,” she thought as she jumped down from the top shelf with a bop, bop, bop to the red Persian carpet, flooded with the morning sun. Myrtle followed her nose to the back pantry where a bunch of cats were piled on top of each other to make a ladder. Perhaps this was an attempt on the behalf of the cats to make a cheerleading pyramid but instead of impressive gymnastics and enthusiasm, it was just a long string of fur. You did not know where one cat began and the other ended. It was a boa of fur. The Boa of Fur.
Now because the cats have been feasting for at least six months (more on this later), they were all delightfully chonky (‘Chonky’ means chubby but in the cutest sense. The sassiest sense. The term is unique to cats alone [never call a woman ‘chonky.’ It will not go well]). Any cat, regardless of their chonk, can do anything a cat without chonk can do but the cat with chonk will require more concentration, focus and strength when doing gymnastics because they have more area to maintain. It’s just physics, okay? But for the record, the amount of chonk in a cat does not measure their worth, or the amount of love or loyalty they can offer. Each cat is beloved regardless of their chonk, their age or the colour of the fur. But let’s be honest, a chonky cat is quite irresistible.
In this case — the case of twenty or more chonky cats standing one on top of the other a.k.a. The Boa of Fur– was beginning to tire in their journey to the cans of soft chicken liver. They were huffing and puffing, a couple of eyeballs were bulging as the Boa of Fur kind of teetered like an exhausted game of Jenga. Indeed, the top shelf was quite close. According to one of the veterans of the cafe, the shelf is exactly fifty tails above sea level. All cats assumed the veteran was right but they have never tested his theory entirely. All they know is the top shelf is where all the cans of soft food are kept and it is very, very high. No one has been able to make it up there. But because of the royal banquet (again, more on that later) being held for the king where the ENTIRE castle could have as much or as little food as they wanted, it was imperative that the cans were brought down for the feast.
Now, the feast a.k.a. the royal banquet, has been ongoing for six months. 24/7. King Zirk invited everyone from all over the land (which includes the majority of the Cathedral area and Regina’s downtown core) to flaunt his great wealth and generosity. Of course, none of this wealth was his own. His entire empire was built off the backs of slaves (mostly hoomans) and the ‘dividing and conquering’ of kings before him. Nonetheless, he took ownership of the Castle like any good alpha-male would regardless of whether or not he lifted a claw to add to its success.
Anyway, this is all to say, we’re in a pantry with a really high top shelf where all the canned food is and there is a ladder of gymnastic cats trying to get to the top in order to feed the king and all of his royal guests.
For some reason, Myrtle was feeling a little cough-y that day. Not like ‘coffee,’ the drink but like ‘cough-y’ where you have a tickle at the back of your throat and will cough at odd times. Mostly when you least expect it. Mixing this reflex with the anticipation of friend-making (something she was so deeply looking forward to in The Castle) and the excitement when she finally did meet this Boa of Fur reaching for the soft cans of chicken liver, her first greeting came out clumsy and moderately startling.
“H-UH-LLO,” coughed/greeted Myrtle.
The first cat on the bottom, the fuzziest of them all (who was remarkably cute [not only because she is chonky but because she fuzzy]), wobbled first. Eventually, she lost her grip and fell over. With the base of their Boa missing the whole string lurched and they all came tumbling, which then led to a bunch of grumbling and mumbling. Of course, this did not help Myrtle in the area of friend-making and all of the cats belonging to the Boa quickly marked her as evil and gave her the proper stink eye.
“This is all your fault!” humphed the Fuzzy One, “How are we ever going to get the chicken liver now!?”
“I’m sorry,” said Myrtle, “I’m feeling a little cough-y.”
“Heggy is going to be so mad!” squeaked a mousy cat, “The king and his royal party are waiting for their thirty-second course. If we can’t get it ready in time, he might throw us out like he did to his first queen!!!”
“You’re trying to get to the top shelf?” asked Myrtle.
The Boa nodded. Myrtle evaluated the pantry. Each of the four walls were covered with sturdy shelves that were lined with cat food and coffee supplies. It reminded her of the barn and her secret entrance to the loft. Most cats used the ladder to get up to the loft but it was extra hard because you had to have upper arm strength and it was an awkward journey. The cats elbows and knees were always skinning along the side wall as they tried to move from rung to rung. Luckily, Myrtle found a hole in the roof of the tool room. She would jump zig zag, shelf to shelf, and squeeze through the hole in the ceiling to the loft. It was her secret entrance. Nobody else knew about it.
“I can get up there. What do you need?” said Myrtle.
“As many cans of chicken liver as you can get your paws on,” said the Fuzzy One.
Myrtle nodded. With a bippity, boppity, boo, she jumped from shelf to shelf, zig-zagging all the way to the top. The whole Boa, including the Fuzzy One, stood in awe of Myrtle’s fancy jumping ability.
“Incoming!” shouted Myrtle as she swiped each can of cat food off of the top shelf, one at a time.
“IT’S RAINING CHICKEN LIVER AND TUUUUNNNAAAA!” danced a ginger kitty with glee. The entire Boa quickly got to work opening the cans and pouring the contents onto fancy platters for the king. The Boa scurried off, balancing each platter effortlessly to the banquet room (which was just a corner in the living room) where all the royal guests were dining.
In an empty pantry with nothing but an array of open cans, Myrtle bopped her way down from the top shelf as delicately as she did from her cubby this morning. She found a couple of scraps in some of the cans and licked them clean. She’s never tasted anything so heavenly. “I must save some for Morty,” she thought.
“I hear you saved the day.”
Heggy, the albino cat who worked as a part-time manager and full-time stylist at The Castle, stood in the doorway.
“Yeah, I’m a pretty big deal,” snuffed Myrtle as she licked one of the cans clean for the third time.
“Come with me,” said Heggy.
Myrtle did as she was told and followed Heggy into the living room where they passed below the throne (which is just the mantle of a fireplace but still, an important mantle for an important cat). There was a handsome cat seated on the throne overlooking the hustle and bustle of his felines below. He had the shoulders of a lion and a James Dean-esque poof of hair on his head. His eyes sparkled with hidden laughter as if he was always on the verge of a punchline and his lips dripped with chaotic charm.
“Who’s that?” asked Myrtle.
“That’s the king,” replied Heggy.
“Oh,” giggled Myrtle, “Is he the one we’re all competing for?”
“Yes, dear. He’s the one.”
Myrtle has never seen a cat like the king before…
[TO BE CONTINUED]