Morty knew that tonight was Myrtle’s big night with the king so he stopped by Heggy’s cubby to get the play-by-play.
“How’s she doing?” asked Morty.
“Well,” said Heggy who was watching the couple eat dinner in the Royal Dining Room (which was just a spot on top of a dresser), “so far she’s missed the jump into the Royal Dining Room and fallen on the king’s face. Bottom’s up. Or down. Or whatever. It was bottom plus face equals splat.”
Heggy motioned with his paws a ‘splat’ for extra effect.
“Oh no,” said Morty.
“That’s what I said but I think it’s working. Things have been going swimmingly since,” said Heggy.
“Good news, huh?” said Morty.
“Very,” said Heggy.
“Any talk of politics or religion?” asked Morty.
He tried not to emphasize the word ‘religion’ but it kind of just happened. Neither he nor Myrtle were very good at pretending. Whatever happened on the inside tended to happen on the outside. Today Morty was anxious on the inside and it came out on the outside, especially when he said that word. Religion. He had told Myrtle not to mention her Jewish identity to anyone in The Castle. On the farm, they were in their own microcosm. A nice safety net. They had other worries, of course, of predators much larger than them but being a Jew was never dangerous. Out there, at least.
Morty had heard of stories of his people in the city where there was war, violence, starvation and meow-ism (refers to a type discrimination towards a cat who is different; similar to human discrimination but in cat linguistics, every thing is generally spoken using the word,‘meow’; however, in this pronunciation, it was referring to religious discrimination [Jewish cats emphasize the ‘eow’ part at the end of the word because of their unique dialect; difficult to hear unless you’re a cat] and the methods of harassment are very oppressive and violent).
Morty protected Myrtle from all of these stories about their ancestors and the suffering they went through previous to coming to the city. She’s off on her own now and he was learning how to let her go. Not very well. He loved her so and this process didn’t come without a couple of tears from the rough-n-tumble cat. He adopted her as his uncle after her parents died. The Old Farmer told him he had to take good care of her and Morty held up to his promise. He loved, cared and protected her as a father would. Now he had to learn how to let her go. And if he had to let her go — which he didn’t want to do but knew it was time — he was going to do it well: cautiously and with a great deal of care. Maybe she’d get married. Maybe she won’t but he was going to do everything in his power to make sure she lived safely in the land of their enemies, even if that meant playing by their rules. The world is big and cruel (there’s a lot of meow-ism out there). Which is why — previous to The Castle, right at the beginning of their journey to the city of Regina — he warned her never to tell anyone she was a Jew. Regardless of how you or I, dear reader, feel about the suppression of our identity and people-pleasing our enemies, Myrtle agreed.
“No,” said Heggy to Morty, suspiciously, “Why do you ask?”
“Oh you know,” laughed Morty nervously, “Just two of the most controversial topics out there. Sure to cause a controversy and I wouldn’t put it past her to begin or end any social situation without talking about one of them.”
“True,” said Heggy, “Hopefully, some of our lessons will stick. Evidently, the one on ‘Grace and Poise’ did not but perhaps ‘The Art of Conversation’ will.”
“I sure hope so,” said Morty.
The two of them glanced at the Royal Dining Room where the couple now sat sharing a bowl of kibble and soft canned liver. Minus the fall and subsequent booty-face-smash, Myrtle followed all of Heggy’s advice. She felt she had to now that she had fully messed up the beginning of the date by squishing the king’s beautiful face. She ate delicately but unapologetically. She smiled. And even though she knew she was fully capable of leading — for she was one of the most popular concubines and known throughout The Castle for her leadership skills — she let the King do it instead.
The King loved to watch her. He liked the way she moved (even when she was clumsy), her boop-able nose, her beanie toes, and how easy it was to be awkward with her. She would pause and let him breathe, just enough to catch his breath and smile. When she did, the muscles on her left cheek were so strong, they pulled her boop-able nose ever so slightly to one side. It was ever so slight. The slightest fraction of a sideways smile but he barely noticed because her eyes shone so bright and the dimples in her whiskers made her paw-sitively radiant. Maybe it was the sideways smile or the way her eyes fluttered when she thought something was funny or how her fur was still kind of static-y from their cuddle earlier (the one she offered him after falling on his face). Or maybe it was just the fact that she was just so completely herself that for a moment, just a moment, the King felt at home with her. Every time he got flustered, he would look at her brilliant, radiant, sometimes fluttering, sideways smile and forget what he was worried about. A new topic would pop into his tiny little kitten brain and the conversation would ensue. Everything about her made Zirk feel like a king: smart, brave and maybe a little risky.
The bowl was now empty and the two of them sat there grooming after their royal meal. Zirk noticed there was a bit of canned liver on the back of Myrtle’s neck. The King didn’t know how the speck of liver got there but he was oh so thankful for this serendipitous occasion. Maybe it was just the catnip talking but Zirk was feeling all the feels of being a king (ie. smart, brave, risky, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera). If ever there was a time to be a king, this moment was that moment.
Here. Let me help you, said the King as he leaned in ever so gently and groomed the back of Myrtle’s neck. She tasted like salmon. His favourite.
Heggy had taught Myrtle to receive compliments and affection warmly like it was something that happened on the regular (which it did [she was a very beloved cat]). However, she’d be lying if she said she didn’t like it when this manly man of a Lion-King-Cat was ever so tender with her.
It was right about here that something began to thaw.
Perhaps it was his nearness, his stately grin, or perhaps it was his fancy James Dean poof/lion’s mane. Perhaps it was his scent or the way he talked about his life and his family or the way he stuttered sometimes. Perhaps it was his kindness or the fact that he was a king and an undeniably handsome fur-man but the vow Myrtle had taken to remain celibate before marriage had melted. The promise she made to God and to herself stood as a puddle before the two kittens. When the King offered the option to stay the night in his royal chambers, she stepped over the puddle of her melted morality without ever getting her feet wet and followed him to his royal chambers. Where they proceeded to do things that are not PG-rated and too explicit for this blog.
[AUTHOR’S NOTE: I always have a hard time with this part of the story because I want Esther to remain true to her convictions. In the bible, it doesn’t say explicitly that they had sex but we know she stays with the king for the night and I think it’s fair to say they probably weren’t playing crib all night.
I also get nervous because I don’t know how to explain this to my readers. It would be much easier to write a story where Esther maintains her values and imitates what a proper ‘godly’ woman should do. That way, when we get to the genocide part, we’d all understand that God saved his people because they were good and moral and followed His commands. But that’s not the case. It’s much messier than that. The bible is full of sinners who were unfaithful and undeserving of God’s grace. There were adulterers and prostitutes, greedy tax collectors, outcasts etc. but that’s what’s kind of amazing about it. God saved His people in spite of what they did or how they (mis)behaved.
Because, really, the story of God’s relationship with his people in the bible is not about the people or their sins; it’s about the Father who is faithful in spite of our unfaithfulness. He believes we are worth saving even when we don’t deserve it.
Nobody does that. Seriously. Look at all your friends. All your lovers. Even your family. Humans are capable of great things. We are capable of great love, sacrifice and forgiveness but even then, we have our limits. Nobody will love you the way God loves His imperfect people.
I have to fast forward on the next part because I took too much time on my Author’s Note and it’s bedtime but basically–]
The king loves Myrtle more than all the other cats, he decides to make her queen, they are wed, have a huge feast, yada yada yada.
Cut to Heggy and Morty who watched the whole thing unfold like Bert and Ernie on Sesame Street.
“I think that went well,” said Heggy.
“Thank God!” said Morty.
“Thank who?” asked Heggy.
“Uhh….” uttered Morty.
[TO BE CONTINUED…]