by Elaine Faber
Enjoy this never before published cat short story.
The old woman, Broomtilda, took me in when I was a wee kitten and named me Tinkleberry. Her idea, not mine…
Over the years, as she grew frailer, it became difficult for her to find enough work around the village to buy bread and cheese. Were it not for the old cow in the byre, we would have no milk for my breakfast and Broomtilda’s dinner.
One night, Broomtilda tucked her shoes under the bed, pulled the covers up to her nose and went to sleep with only milk for her dinner. Come dawn, being too weak to rise, she called me to her side. “I have provided all your needs until today. Now, you must go, my friend, kill a small beast and bring me meat, for I can no longer feed you or myself.”
That she should ask me to kill a living creature went against my very soul, for unlike my feline brothers, I have long been a conscientious objector. “You know I would do anything for you, dear Broomtilda, but to kill even the smallest living creature, I cannot do. Please do not ask such a price for your kindness.”
“How can you answer thus, when I am ill and hungry? Have I not always provided for you?” The tears in her eyes wrenched my heart and yet I trembled in horror at the thought of killing even the smallest vole.
“Isn’t there another way to meet our needs?”
“Only one, but I dare not ask. It’s far too dangerous,” she wept.
“Whatever you demand, I will do as you bid.” I bowed my head, my hair bristling in dread.
“You must make your way to yonder mountain. High on the top beside a river, you’ll find a cave where a wicked leprechaun dwells,” she said. “Perhaps you can trick him into revealing where he hides his gold. Go, now Tinkleberry.
My life is in your paws, small friend.” My mistress fell back upon the bed, her voice a bare whisper. “If you cannot bring back a piece of gold, I shall perish.”
I set out to do what must be done. My conscience would be put to the test if I were to match wits with the evil leprechaun and live to tell the tale. The trail to the mountain was steep. With each step I cast in my mind how to fulfill my task, and with each step nearer the cave, I had no clear plan how to trick the leprechaun from his gold.
“Halt. Who goes there?” The shrill words from beneath the log that spanned the river chilled my heart. It was the wicked leprechaun! “Answer, Cat, or I’ll turn you to stone.”
Panic seized my heart. And an idea popped into my furry head. “I’m just a harmless pussy cat out for a stroll in the woods. My, what a lovely river you have here, Sir Leprechaun. I love what you’ve done with the place.” A little honey talk never hurts. I sashayed across the log, humming an Irish ditty, and bowed low. “My name is Tinkleberry–her idea, not mine. What might I call you, kind sir?”
The leprechaun’s demeanor softened. “My name is Merichandrick. What do you seek?” He grumbled.
“A spot of tea would be lovely. I’m weary from my travels.” I looked wistfully toward the man, hoping to convey abject vulnerability and candor. To my great relief, he invited me to step inside.
“Come on in and I’ll light the fire.” I followed him into the grotto, aware that he might have a trick up his sleeve.
Was his plan to toss me into the stew pot once inside? My nerves tingled, prepared for the worst.
“Sit over there.” The little man shuffled toward the fire as I scanned the cave.
Fearing treachery, I kept a wary eye on my host as I gazed around. A green and red parrot in a cage, hung from a golden hook. “Oh, what a lovely bird,” I posited, sidling closer to the cage. Where was he hiding that blasted pot of gold? Near the back of the cave, something lay hidden beneath a red blanket.
The little man turned. “Will you be after spending the night?” said he, with a wicked glint in his eye. He likely plans to kill me as I sleep.
“If I’m so invited,” says I with a yawn, patting my paw against my mouth, giving him a good view of my sharp fangs, in case he had any funny ideas. “Let us drink our tea and I’ll curl up for the night just yonder on your lovely red blanket.”
He shook his mop of green curls. “Not there,” says he, with a bit of panic in his wicked eye. “Best you should sleep by the fire.”
“As you wish,” says I. Oho! The gold is under the blanket. Once the little man sleeps, I’ll snatch a coin and be on my way. He’ll be none the wiser.
My host set out two mugs, shoving one toward me. Expecting a trick, I sneezed, and as he reached for a Kleenex, I switched the mugs. Indeed my mug was drugged, for the evil leprechaun drank and fell into a stupor. As I snatched a gold coin from the pot beneath the blanket, the parrot shrieked, spewing vile curses. Murderous rage filled my heart.
A conscientious objector no more, I leaped and knocked down the cage. The now repentant parrot squawked and flapped on the ground. One swift snap of my jaws, and the bird would curse no more.
Broomtilda traded the gold coin for six chickens and a second cow. We get enough milk to pay for bread and vegetables.
Since I’m a recovering conscientious objector, only occasionally do I venture into the woods, highjack an unsuspecting rabbit and fetch it home for the stewpot. If our fortune changes or the old cow dies, the wicked leprechaun still has a pot full of gold coins and– I know where he lives.