[A scene from The Seventh Effect (Melange Publishers) – available on Amazon]
As I promised her, after dinner I told Catspaw her favorite story, “Cat Restaurant.” Sometimes she went to sleep when I started telling the story; that showed how much she really liked it. But this time she looked wide awake.
“Once upon a time,” I began, “all the cats in the neighborhood got tired of complaining to each other about the lousy food the people were feeding them, and decided to do something about it.
“After days of discussion and meowing, and a great deal of staring and licking, they decided to open a Cat Restaurant. They picked Fluffy and Underfoot to scout out a good location. After a few nights of prowling around back yards and over by the docks, they found an abandoned fishing shack that still had a delicious faint smell of salmon, and halibut, and grouper, and smelt, and lots of other kinds of fish neither of them had ever smelled before.
“So Fluffy and Underfoot reported back to the whole group the next night that they had found a wonderful place for Cat Restaurant. All the neighborhood cats followed them back to the shack, and all the cats agreed that it was indeed a wonderful place for Cat Restaurant. They sat around for several minutes and licked themselves in anticipation of the feast to come.
“Each cat was assigned to snitch a few small items from home, such as saucers, napkins, and so on. The cats brought these things to Cat Restaurant and Fluffy and Underfoot organized them, set up eating-places on the floor they called “tables,” and sitting-places they called “chairs,” on the floor. They sat back and looked at the result, and purred and purred.”
Catspaw looked up at me, and rolled over for a minute of petting. Then I got to the part of the story she liked best.
“The cats picked a date and announced a Grand Opening, and spread word among all the other cats in the city that World Famous Cat Restaurant would be opening the next Friday night, serving salmon, and halibut, and grouper, and smelt, and lots of other kinds of fish. Meals were one mouse, prix fixe.
“The cats went down to the waterfront and fished in the harbor and caught a few small fish, but had more luck lurking around the canneries and running off with heads, or hunks of tuna, and whatever else they could find. They stole saucers full of milk from front porches all around town, and carried them carefully to the restaurant.
“On Grand Opening Night half the cats in the city were there. They deposited their mice at the door, bellied up to the milk bar and ordered doubles. When they were all warm and their fur was fluffed up, they sat down at the ‘tables’ on their ‘chairs,’ waiting for the great feast.
“The cat-waiters paraded out of the kitchen carrying trays and platters and dishes, hot steaming heaps of salmon, and halibut, and grouper, and smelt, all good things making a ripe rowdy smell and heating the room with anticipation of good, nose-down feeding.
“But as each cat-waiter emerged from the kitchen he started to nibble. And bite. And feed. And by the time the first waiter had reached the first table, half the fish were gone from the platter, and the waiter’s tummy was round and warm, and his whiskers stiff and greasy. And by the time the other waiters had reached the other tables, there were only bones and wet spots on the platter, all the warmth gone into the cat-waiter’s tummies. Purring with delight, they put the platters down in front of the other cats, found quiet dark places and had a long nap.
“By this time the cats that had paid for this feast were up on their hind legs, scrabbling for whatever fish-scraps might be left, looking around to see if other cats had got any more scraps than they had. But there was nothing left.”
I looked down at Catspaw. She was on her back, asleep, a big smile on her face. I was sure she had cast herself in the role of one of the lucky waiters, not the disappointed diners. I finished the story.
“The city cats howled in annoyance, took back their mice, and left the fish-shack without leaving a tip.
“And so that was the first, and last, time that there ever was a Cat Restaurant. But cats are always thinking up new ways to annoy their owners and other cats, and so there will always be another adventure, and another.”