A New Farmer – A Cat arrives
It was early summer and the meadow was wearing her warmest and most vibrant hues. We sat entranced and beguiled, savoring each sweet moment. I knew the afternoon would be hot, but not too hot, and though the humidity was high from the recent rains, I foresaw a very pleasant day unfolding. Everything was so perfect, in fact, that I became uneasy. It seemed too perfect. So I was not surprised when I saw the famous Darnalong, Windigale Ossep, prancing down the mid-meadow trail. I heard Ishmael snort, stand up and walk away. He and Windy do not get along. I watched as he proceeded south toward Probable Creek then I turned to watch Windy's arrival from the opposite direction.
“Oh Lillow!” she gushed, walking up, “This is such a lovely spot and you all look so content and happy here!” I heard Holly exhale sharply and Lorna's feather's ruffle. Windy, besides being overweening has a reputation for bringing bad, sometimes horrific news, and few are glad to see her, or any Darnalong for that matter, which is an effect that all Darnalongs are curiously blind to. Yet she has brought us news that we'd needed to hear in the past, so we've always grinned and bore it, so to speak. And in spite of everything, I did like Windy.
“Hi Windy!” I answered, smiling at her. “Yes, it is a lovely spot and a beautiful day! Come sit with us.” I pointed to a nearby chair, amid desultory “Hi Windy's” from Holly and Lorna.
“Yes, yes hello,” Windy chirped as she sat down. “Lillow, I have seen the most amazing thing!” Being the sort, she leapt to her feet again and facing me, began doing a sprightly little jig. “I've seen the most amazing thing! An amazing thing Lillow, why I don't believe I've ever seen such an amazing thing, not ever, not ever before!” She stood still for a moment, looking away. “Not that I can remember anyway. Well maybe that Dust Devil … ” Then, looking back at me, “No, this tops that! Really, you just won't believe it!”
“Windy! What is it?” I'm always surprised when Lorna speaks up like that.
“Yeah, what is it?” I add.
“Well I must say! I've never heard such ingratitude coming from the possible recipients of fabulous news!” Windy snarled, looking first at Lorna, then me and finally Holly. We all wore innocent expressions, as was our right.
That was when I noticed another odd figure coming down the mid-meadow trail. It seemed to be entirely black and walked on all fours like Holly does. It walked serenely, languorously swaying, its tail held upright from its behind. By now we're all watching, Windy's 'fabulous news' gone to a back burner.
I knew what this creature was and I stared in fascination as well as vexation. It was a cat and I knew I'd been remiss in not including cats, er I mean Cats, in my stories. One Cat at least, I thought with a pang. The Cat, who wore a pointed hat with the sides folded up between black, pointed ears, had arrived and, sitting down on its haunches, began licking its forepaw. It seemed unconcerned at our gaping. Then it stopped licking and holding its foot in place, looked up at me with a wide smile.
“Lillow, I've been reading your stories and I am shocked that not once, in a story about Witches no less, that not once have you mentioned or even alluded to the presence of a basic and most necessary member of any Witch's entourage, that being, of course,” it lowered its foot, “the humble Cat.” Its chest seemed to swell. “Well known for their prestigious work as familiars, Cats are also invaluable and loving companions.” It briefly looked at Holly and Lorna out the sides of slitted eyes. Then, looking back at me with a guileless expression, it continued, “We are generously endowed with soft, shiny, and eminently pet-able fur.” Its shoulders swayed, like an invisible hand was gliding down its back. I stared in awe. What an astonishing performance! It lifted its head, and gazing at me past long lashes, it asked, “Why Lillow? Why no Cats?”
I didn't know what to say. I heard Windy snort then mutter, “Well, the nerve.” I looked at her.
Looking back at me with indignantly stricken eyes, she whispered, “That was my fabulous news, Lillow. That, that thing there, who I saw first remember, that was my fabulous news.” I watched a tear form in her eye then roll to the ground.
“Gosh, I'm sorry Windy. I guess you just didn't have time?” I offered.
“No Lillow.” She's speaking louder now, “I had more than enough time. It was just that Ishmael …” She looked around as if just realizing that Ishmael wasn't here.
“Ahem!” the Cat said, looking sternly at us. “Please ladies, if you would be so kind as to keep your squabbling to your own time?” It paused, then smiling it stood and spread its arms wide, “Can you not see? I have arrived!” Windy backed up a step, frowning fiercely.
“Gosh, I'm sorry Cat,” I said, honestly feeling remorse, “there were just never any Cats around when I was writing.”
“I'm here now.”
“And you're in a story now. It's this story, the story about how you arrived. What's your name?”
Returning to four feet, it padded closer, with willowy movements and smiling face. “I am called Alexander. After Alexander the Great, and my middle name is Winnefred (win-ferd) after Winnefred the Great and my other middle name is Cornelius ...” He paused.
“After Cornelius the Great?” I asked, feeling clever.
His eyebrows shot up, “Why no! Gracious sakes no, now why would you think that?”
“Oh!” I was surprised. “I just thought that since the first two were great and I'd never heard of Winnefred or ...”
“No, no no, oh my no!” he uttered with a wounded look. I thought his histrionics were reminiscent of Windy’s and looking around I realized she was gone. With a huff Alexander continued, “Winnefred was in fact great and many thought him the greatest of all,” he gave me a sly look, “in Cat Land.”
Well, of course. I'll admit I do not know the greats in Cat Land, so I nodded my acceptance, saying, “Well okay then. Winnefred the Great. And Cornelius?”
“Ah Cornelius. Mum just liked the name and threw it in.” He smiled, sitting again on his haunches, and waving his tail.
“Well I'm glad to meet you Alexander Winnefred Cornelius Cat. I guess you know our names from reading the stories?”
“Indeed I do, Lillow Mi.” Then looking at each and tipping his head, he said, “Lorna, Holly.”
“Hello Alexander Winn ...” Holly began.
“You can call me Alley,” he interrupted.
“Hello Alley!” they both chimed in. And that is how Ally Cat came to the farm.