Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Arlo's Origin

by Tanner (Resident Cat-in-Chief)

My kitty Arlo is pretty much all grown up now. He is bigger than me, which means he beats me at cat-rasslin’, and I can’t force him to do anything he doesn’t want to do.

He has also been asking me a lot of questions that are hard to answer—like “What did you do when you were a young cat?”

Well, I hate to admit I did some things I shouldn’t have, but I don’t want to tell him that. For instance, the late great Dylan introduced me to catnip, and I might have over-indulged with him a few times. 

There was also the matter of the times I slung dirt in the living room and lied about doing it. Mommy has blogged about that here and here. My lawyer had to get involved. But I didn’t want to tell Arlo that. Then he asked the big questions: “Where did I come from?” and “How did Mommy become our mommy?” I wasn’t quite sure, so I made up a story. Here it is:

Where Arlo Came From

Once upon a time, on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge, all the cats who used to be Mommy’s kitties got together and decided she needed another kitty.

Eddie-Puss, who raised me from a kitty and who crossed the rainbow bridge a couple of years ago when his thyroid gland quit working, said, “We ought to send Mommy another kitty to fill in the gap that some of us left when we had to leave her.”

“I agree,” said Foxy, the cat matriarch who left a year or two before Eddie-Puss. “Dylan’s cancer will send him to join us in a few months, so there’s going to be an empty space to fill. We should send this new kitty before Dylan crosses over, so she won’t be too upset about Dylan’s leaving.”


“What kind of kitty should we send?” asked Joshua, the Siamese who crossed the bridge 16 years ago when he was 17.
All the cats thought and thought.
“Maybe he should have a little of the best of us,” said Dino, a big black cat whose lymphoma took him across the bridge in 2001. “Mommy likes black cats. At least she’s had several of us, so the new cat should be black.” Eddie-Puss, Spookie, and Oprah agreed.
“She likes white feet,” added Spookie, who had white feet, so they all agreed to this. Then they decided to add more white areas underneath so the new one would have something of his own. Plus Mommy had some black and white cats that she liked.

“Soft, shiny hair,” said Eddie-Puss. “She always admired my hair.” Everyone agreed that soft, shiny hair was a must.


“And he should have some of our habits,” Foxy noted. “For instance, I always had breakfast with her every morning. I would wait beside her while she ate breakfast from a white plate with the blue edge, and she would always save me a few bites of egg. The kitty we send should do this too.”
“I remember the time Jim-Bob pushed in front of you,” Eddie-Puss said. “You smacked him so hard that you knocked him sideways.”
“That was the smack heard round the house,” said Foxy. “Jim-Bob never jumped the line again. He’s turned out to be a good, hard-working cat." It was then decided the new cat should eat off Mommy’s white plate with the blue edge.

“What about bad habits?” one of the cats asked. “Dylan is bad to bite up paper towels.”
“Well,” Foxy said, “Dylan does have bad habits. But he once did a very kind thing for me. A few days before the cancer brought me here, I wanted so badly to catch one last mouse. I was sitting on the deck when Dylan appeared with a dead vole in his mouth. He dropped it in front of me, and I picked it up and carried it around. It was almost like I’d caught it.” Foxy, who’d been a great hunter in her prime, thought for a moment. “Maybe the new kitty should bite up paper, and maybe even out-do Dylan in paper-biting skills.” The cats agreed he should have this skill. Then they wondered where they could find a new kitty soul who had all these characteristics.

“I’ll check the data base of new souls,” said Eddie-Puss, “and see if one is available. Otherwise we’ll have to put in an order, and goodness knows how long that will take.” He hurried off and was back in a flash with a new kitty soul.

“This is X-2016-8-ARLO,” Eddie-Puss said. “Arlo was just created the other day.”
The cats explained to the new feline soul where he would be going and what he would be doing.”
“It’ll be scary at first,” Foxy said. “The world has many scary things in it. You’ll be wild, like I once was, so you’ll have to live by your wits for a while. But there are lots of bushes to hide in, and Mommy will serve food to the other cats. If you keep watch, you’ll know when she is bringing food. The other cats will let you eat their leftovers. Then, when Mommy knows you are around, she will bring food just for you.”
“How will she know?” the new soul asked.
“She’ll catch fleeting glimpses of you in the yard,” Eddie-Puss explained. “Then you might look in the window on the front porch so she’ll see how cute you are.”

“Is that what you did?” the new soul asked.
“I was hiding under a bush when I heard her call one of the other cats. I came out and ran to her,” Eddie-Puss said. “She saw how skinny and tiny I was, so she scooped me up and took me in and fed me. I ate and ate.”
“But you’ll stay under the bush where you’ll feel safe,” Foxy said. “When she sees you, she’ll start bringing food. She never lets a stray animal go hungry. After a few days, you’ll start coming to her. Then you will let her play with you and pet you. When she calls you by name, you will let her pick you up and take you inside.”
“What’s inside? How will she know my name?” the tiny soul asked.

“Inside is a wonderful place where you’ll be safe and have all you want to eat and even toys to play with,” Eddie-Puss said. “The night before she gives you a name, she’ll watch an Arlo Guthrie special on PBS. The name will stick with her. Oh, she’ll think she thought of it herself, but she won’t know how we’ve planned things. People never do.”

“But I don’t want to leave here. It sounds scary!”
“Oh, you’ll be back eventually,” Foxy said. “We all return here where we began.”
“It’s only scary for a little while,” Eddie-Puss said. “After you cross the bridge, you’ll go into a dark tunnel that’ll take you to the world. When you finally come back, a tunnel of light will bring you back to the bridge where we’ll be waiting for you. You won’t be scared then.”

“We promise,” said all the cats as they began herding the little new soul to the bridge.
“You won’t remember this place very well once you’re in the world,” Foxy said. “Except maybe for little bits in your dreams.”
Then they waved good-bye with their tails as the new kitty Arlo started his journey. “Till we meet again!” they all purred.

Arlo didn’t say anything while I was telling this tale. Then I looked over and saw that he was asleep. 

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting.William Wordsworth


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