Morty was a hearty farm cat. He grew up chasing mice, climbing hay bales, and napping by the dugout. His parents hosted prayer and bible readings in the loft of the barn. They were Jewish (yes, cats have spiritual lives, too) and followed the teachings of the Hebrew God they loved. He protected them from disease and disaster, from extermination and the hooves of clumsy horses that didn’t know where they were stepping. Year after year, come sun, rain, flood or drought, the Hebrew God of Love provided the cats with everything they needed. Morty’s family was keenly aware of the ways God loved them and everything they did, or at least they tried to do, was meant to honour the One who cared for them the most.
All the farm animals (except the pigs who were fond of the cats because they refused to eat pork [but the cats were not fond of the pigs because they were gross]), had an opinion on how the farm cats lived and prayed. The cats didn’t like this and there was often a lot of tension, sometimes slavery and oppression but also a couple wars (that’s another story). Life on the farm, especially as a cat who loved God was very messy. For some odd reason, the God of Love remained faithful to them even though they made bad choices, complained and tried to run away from Him a lot.
Anyway, eventually all the farm animals that were enemies of the cats were slaughtered and butchered for meat so it all worked itself out in the end. Huzzah.
One day, a kitty by the name of Myrtle came to live with Morty on the farm. Her parents were both run over by a truck on the highway and she had no where else to go. Morty’s hooman farmer took her in when he saw her on the side of the road and brought Myrtle back to the farm. The old farmer held Morty close and asked him to take care of her. Morty agreed. She called him Uncle Morty but he loved her like a daughter.
The day the farmer died and his estate was auctioned off was the day the cats decided to move to the city. They followed their nose and a couple of the gravel roads. Eventually finding themselves in the downtown core of Regina.
“What do you think?” said Uncle Morty, “Is it everything you ever dreamed?”
“It’s very nice, but, but, but–” yawned Myrtle, “I miss the farm.”
“I know, dear.”
“I miss the hay in the loft. I miss the sky. I miss the pig slop and the ugly bull. I miss the puddles and the crows. I miss the old farmer. I even miss the mice, including the ones I killed,” she began to cry, “They were so nice, even when they were dying.”
“They were special mice.”
“Nobody here is very nice,” she said. “They keep to themselves and don’t talk a lot.”
“I’m sure there is a nice person somewhere,” said Morty.
“I’m hungry,” said Myrtle.
“I know, dear,” said Morty as his own tummy growled. “We’ll try to find some food tomorrow. It’s snowing now and we need to find a place to stay warm for the night.”
“Okay,” said Myrtle. The two of them shivered in a huddle beneath the cold light of a convenience store. Morty was half asleep when little girl plopped down beside them and opened up a bag of chips.
“Want some?” said the girl as she offered the rest of her bag chips to the kittens. Morty went first. Not because he wanted all the food but because he wasn’t sure if it was safe for Myrtle yet. He snatched a chip out of the bag and the little girl scratched his ear. Her hands were warm. Morty nodded at Myrtle to let her know it was okay to come over now.
Some man from the car in the parking lot told the little girl to hurry up.
“I can’t just leave them like this,” she said.
He shouted something again.
“Pleeeeeease,” she said.
“Okay. Deal,” she replied. Scooping up the kittens in both of her arms, she drew them close to her chest and held them close. They got in the car and the little girl did not let them go the whole ride home. When they arrived home, she bathed them and gave them more milk to drink. She found a nice big box and put a ratty old blanket at the bottom.
“Smells like mothballs!!” declared Myrtle as she buried her face in the blanket and inhaled deeply, “Smells like home.”
Myrtle and Morty slept soundly in their box with a blanket.
The next morning, the little girl put a bowl of tuna sprinkled with treats into the box. After dining on all kinds of food, the kittens napped deeply. When they awoke, they were still in their box but driving again in the car. The little girl’s face red all over and she was sniffling.
“Why is she sad, Uncle Morty?” asked Myrtle.
“I don’t know, honey.”
The car stopped outside and the little girl got out carrying the box Morty and Myrtle called home for less than 12 hours. Myrtle hooked her paws over the side of the box to see what was going on. The little girl and her dad walked across the street to a little shop.
“Want me to carry that?” asked the father.
“No. I got it,” said the little girl as her nose dripped with runny snot.
“Yes,” said the girl.
The father opened a little wooden door that led to a coffee shop. The little girl put the box on the floor and spoke with another lady at the counter.
Morty couldn’t help but notice all the statues of cats and pictures of pawprints on the walls. But the most disconcerting of all the things he saw were the forty or so cats staring back at him.
“What is this place?” asked Myrtle.
Before he could say another word, the little girl scooped up Morty into her arms and snuggled him so tight his eyes bulged a little. She kissed him deep on the top of his head and put him down. Then she picked up Myrtle and did the exact same thing except instead of her eyes bulging she peed a little.
“Sorry ’bout that,” said Myrtle.
The girl barely noticed and hugged her tighter.
“Bye, bye, kitties,” she said as her father smoothed his daughter’s hair and guided her to the door.
“Thanks,” said the dad to the clerk at the front desk who nodded and came around the side of the counter to welcome the new felines.
“Hello,” said the clerk, “My name is Susan Pettigrew. Welcome to The Castle!”
[TO BE CONTINUED].