By John Thomas Tuft

As we all know, cats are very spiritual beings. Now I admit, I never envisioned starting a story with those words, but big sisters can be very persuasive, if you know what I mean. So, big sister Nancy, this one is for you. Anyone else who cares to read it is welcome to do so as long as you understand that I am of the dog lover persuasion. Because, again as we all know, dogs are all heart. So, go ahead and come at me, but moving on to the spiritual life of cats… A word–the first few sentences come from Nancy, and I, being the ever-adoring and ever-respectful little brother, am tasked with turning them into a story. Then I really shall be devoting my attention to stringing words together for my next novel: Midnight Shepherd. It is the sequel to The Healer, which joins Even The Darkness, (both out now) Trailfaron, and Where The Wind Wills (later this year) as evidence of my journey through this life. Oh, and puppy pictures are always welcome. Here we go:

I have always been afraid of the dark. Monsters under the bed. Boogey men beneath the stairs. Ghosts in the closet. Angry spirits lurking in the corners of the basement, behind where the furnace breathes fire. Walking down the sidewalk at night, the trees beckoning to who knows what, the wind making their leaves whisper and conspire, going from shadow to shadow feeling alone, unprepared for anything. Sitting in the house on a stormy night, lightning flashes, thunder booms and the lights flicker off. Plunged into darkness, my first instinct is to seek light, any light. Panic rises unbidden, as objects in the room that were warm and comforting, now in the dark are looming shadows, unfriendly beasts, wandering souls seeking retribution.

One day, while I was musing on these fears in the bright light of a summer afternoon, I heard a scratching at my screen door. I got up from my favorite chair, wondering if Amazon delivery people had modified their approach. To my surprise, sitting there on the porch, looking immensely pleased with herself, was a large Persian cat. I stood there, mouth open, as she swatted lazily at a passing butterfly, then turned her eyes on me with that haughty, regal disdain Persian cats seem to master at an early age. “What a pretty kitty!” I exclaimed. Blue eyes stared impassively, maybe even rolled a bit. A paw was lifted, slowly licked and tugged at for a moment. “Who’s a pretty kitty?” I gushed. “I am.” The voice was almost a sigh, but definitely not a purr.

I opened the door with a start. “What?” She yawned, big, long, unperturbed. “Trigger, the shadow cat, at your service. Yes, I talk. Get over it.” With trepidation, I came onto the porch and sat on the top step. Trigger the shadow cat took two steps and brushed against my arm. I reached out to pet her, but she recoiled. “Did I say you could touch me? Geez, relax. Katy the calico, your mistress, sent for me. Something about fears, I gather.” All I could muster was, “Cats pray?” Trigger spotted an ant and was absorbed in tracking it for a minute. “Do donkeys fly?” She paused, thoughtful. “You know, you never hear humans say ‘holy cat!’ Why do you suppose that is?” Trigger sat there staring as though she expected an answer.

Finally, she plopped down on the porch and flicked the end of her dark tail against the boards. “You know the secret to being a cat? I’m not supposed to tell, and the guild might suspend me, but I like Katy so I’ll tell you. OCEP.” A robin alighted in the yard and Trigger instantly alerted. “The oil cartel?” I asked, befuddled. Trigger settled on her throne, tail securing all four paws. “O is for open. Cats are open to new experiences in the world. Exploring, alert but not afraid. Well, okay, vacuum cleaners might be the exception, but you get the idea.” I fussed, “Should I take notes?” Trigger shook her head, then cocked it to one side. “Just pay attention to Katy. C is for curious. About ideas, other humans, other realms of possibility. How stuff works.”

Another yawn. “E is for empathic. How do people see my life? How do they experience theirs? Do I care? You got any milk?” I tried to absorb it all. Trigger stared me down. “You got any of those little cans of gooey stuff? I’m hungry. You do know why cats have nine lives, don’t you?” She reared on her hind legs, looked down as though admiring herself. “We’re not afraid of death. Why do you suppose we’re always playing?” She sat and swatted at my fingers. “That’s P, by the way. We always readily access joy. Cats know how to play. Find joy. We hate it, absolutely loathe that term, Fraidy Cat, by the way. It’s felinecentric. If you’ve seen what we’ve seen…well, let me just tell you.”

Trigger seemed to be finished. “That’s it?” I’m not sure what I expected from a talking shadow cat. Again I got the look of regal disdain, barely tolerating my presence as anything other than a food source. “Yeah, fill your life with light from within and the shadows don’t seem so bad. Seek light, act like light, be light. OCEP. By the way, did you know you’ve got mice? I could use a snack.” It’s an afternoon I will never forget.

Words are magic, and writers are wizards.