Chapter IX
A Tale

Alone sat the Mici perched on top of the couch in the den. This was his most delicious sleeping spot. The soft raised weaved fabric of its cushions, resting in steeple form against the couch's back, usually melted under a slumbering Mici, providing a sanctuary of relaxation, a cradle for sweet dreams, but not this day.

He sat upright; not succumbing to the beckoning charms of the soft weaved napping spot. His large, muscled shoulders slumped forward. His eyes appeared vacant. He stared through the double door windows of the den, which opened to the rear grounds and gazed beyond fall's first touches on the hardening earth. He looked past a rabbit's search for entrenched birdseed, thrown out a day before for the Blue Jay and the Finch. Labored thoughts numbed his instincts, a faculty that normally would have announced another's arrival. Mici flinched, startled as Micia's touch summoned him back from a lonely Journey.

"I'm sorry I frightened you." Micia's words touched gently, softly upon Micio's half smiling, half frowning face. She rested her Rubenesque form next to her friend of a thousand encounters and proceeded to do what mothers do best. Mothers, appointed by birth or spirit are anointed with a divine gift. Their touch replaces fear with courage, uncertainty with hope and fills the void left by confusion with love.

"I've been thinking about Harvey and Rita. I feel ----- depressed," Micio mumbled, searching for the right words as clarity to that which the mask of confusion now wore.

"I understand. I feel the same way."

"I can't imagine the both of them not being here. I've tried, but it just doesn't register in my mind. It doesn't connect," The Mici continued. "I can't envision a world, our world without the both of them in it, without all of us in it all the time just like it's been before, forever and ever. I just don't understand."

"We don't understand either," Panda added, leading a procession of Pepper, Junior, and Raffle.

"Do you mind if we join-in? We were napping in the other room and overheard your conversation. We're just as confused as everyone, so we thought we'd join-in. Do you mind?"

"Maybe you can help us understand," the Mici replied. "Please join us. Unfortunately, this problem belongs to us all."

"That's reassuring," Raffle chirped.

"Maybe this is just a bad dream brought on by an overdose of catnip," Pepper offered.

"Yeah, sure," Junior blurted. "And we're all having the same dream together, at the same time. Is that right tuna brain?"

"Could be," Pepper continued meekly. "I saw something like that on the Sci-Fi channel. It had to do with alien-mind control."

"Oh brother," Junior threw up his paws in disbelief, while the others rolled over with laughter at the Pepperoni's explanation.

"Boy, we needed that to break the tension," Mici offered.

Panda looked over at Micia with his soft, pleading eyes, eyes that reminded her of butter melting in a frying pan. "Can you make any sense of this Micia?"

Micia smiled the smirk of resignation. How was she to make sense of what she considered a senseless situation? But her Cattenese family needed her, depended on her insight, her wisdom to heal the abrasions newly formed on their loving hearts. "You know I watch a lot of television," Micia offered.

"And eat a lot of popcorn," Junior chimed.

"That too," Micia laughed. "I also read a lot of books that are always scattered about, so I have a good idea of the human condition. In the people world, there are expectations and conditions for everything."

"What do you mean?" Pepper questioned.

"I'll explain it by comparing their lives to ours," Micia sang out. "Our entire world exists between the four walls of this house."

"You forgot the floor and the roof," Raffle shouted shaking her head in a proper teaching motion.

"You are absolutely correct Raffle, four walls," looking at Raffle she stated with conviction, "a roof and a floor. In this confined space we live out the lessons taught by our parents."

"Like how to hunt for mice," Panda shouted.

"How to run up a tree if chased by a dog," Pepper barked.

"All very good lessons," a smiling Micia continued, "but the life lessons that I'm referring to are the ones that deal with friendship, cooperation and understanding. They also instilled in us the quality to be thankful for all that we receive. Our parents were very wise. They knew a cat's life would face many challenges."

"Not getting my favorite treat after dinner is a real problem," Pepper volunteered.

"That's not what she means," the Mici interceded. "She means real problems, such as not having a home, living outside, having to hunt for our food, having to resort to eating a bird or a squirrel instead of a delicious can of Friskies."

"That's a horrible thought," Panda shuddered.

"You're right Panda, that is a horrible thought, especially since the squirrels and birds are our friends," Micia acknowledged.

"We wouldn't want to do that," Pepper offered. "That would make us astigmats."

"That would make us what?" Panda questioned.

"That would make us astigmats. You know eating our friends. We would all be involved in astigmatism."

The felines looked at each other in total disbelief and then grabbed their bellies as they rolled around the carpet in bouts of unbridled laughter.

"What's so funny?" Pepper questioned, standing there quite befuddled, watching her friends rolling on the floor, knocking into each other and laughing until it hurt to laugh anymore.

"I'm sorry," Micia offered. "I think we all needed a rest from this topic, and you gave us the opportunity. The word you were searching for is cannibalism, which would make us cannibals."

"Oh," Pepper flushed in embarrassment quietly took a seat next to her teacher, momma Micia.

"That's ok darling," Micia continued. "There's a lot of different ways to practice cannibalism. In the sophisticated human world, one can dine on the hearts and souls of your fellow man without ever lifting a knife or fork."

"Explain the teachings of our parents," the Mici implored.

Micia jumped up onto the sofa, coming to rest a top of an exceptionally large and soft throw cushion. On the floor, in a semi-circle, sat her students awaiting her words of wisdom, words that they hoped would calm their anguish, ease their pain.

"I think all of us, with the exception of Mici, were rescued and brought into this home from perilous circumstances. And, depending on our order of arrival, there were a lot of adjustments to be made, not only by the newly arrived, but also from all of you that were the present inhabitants of 104 Beaumont Terrace."

"I was afraid when I first got here," Raffle exclaimed. "I had been living in a cage at Petco for a few months before Harvey brought me home. All of a sudden, I'm not living alone in a small cage. I'm sharing this large house with two humans, Mici and Micia."

"You’re lucky little lady," Mici stated glibly.

"You're right; I was and still am very lucky. Even though I was very tired, I fought the urge to fall asleep. Afraid I'd wake up, back in my little cage, afraid that my new house and new friends were just a dream. I'll never forget what Micia said when I expressed my fears. She said this is your home forever and ever. We have to stick together, to do things for the common good, so all our lives will be better."

"Do you remember that?" Micia asked the Mici.

"I remember she snored, scared me half to death the first time I heard that noise bouncing off my eardrums. I jumped up to see if a burglar was loose in our house, turns out it was just Raffle, curled up between me and the Micia sound asleep."

"That was the first sound sleep I allowed myself since coming to the house," Raffle said softly.

"I'm sure each of us went through a period of adjustment coming into this new environment with all the new personalities, moods, dispositions and uncertainties. I know I was very nervous when I met Mici for the first time."

"You were?" Mici shot out in a startled tone.

"Absolutely," Micia affirmed. “I had just come from a completely different situation. I had been living with my mother, brothers and sisters in a very small apartment."

"Were you happy?" Raffle interrupted Micia's explanation.

"I was very happy, darling," Micia answered with smiling words.

"Are you sad now that you're living here with us, separated from your mom, brothers and sisters?" The Mici asked, his face slightly distorted, anticipating a response to a question that under different circumstances would never have been asked.

"I was happy then darling," Micia acknowledged with a girlish grin, affording Mici a reassuring wink as she tilted her head back to the direction of the others, "and I'm very happy now. As we were discussing, my mother prepared me for that day with her insights and her love."

"My dear child," she began.

"Because she didn't have a name till Rita got her," Panda blurted. "I'm sorry I interrupted you Micia. I'm just so excited at this story."

"That's ok. I understand," Micia continued, "For this could be any of our stories, all our pasts and all the dreams of all our parents, that all their children find happiness in loving homes."

All the kids nodded their heads in agreement with each other and then turned their attention back to Mamma Micia.

Micia cleared her throat that had filled slightly with the tears of remembrance.

"My dear child, my mother began," Micia continued. "I would love to have your beautiful face, as well as those of your brothers and sisters by my side for the rest of my life. But I know that's usually not possible in this human environment. I've had children before, brothers and sisters that you'll never know. At a certain age, the age at which you are now becoming, they were taken from me, never to be seen by me again."

"Wow, that's horrible," shouted Junior.

"This story sounds very familiar," Pepper interjected. "I sort of remember having a conversation like that with my mother."

A knowing smile formed on the face of Micia. "This is a very common, shared conversation in a cat's life," Micia acknowledged and then continued. "I was shocked, totally dismayed at the thought of not spending every waking moment with my mother, brothers and sisters in the future as I had up until that very instant."

"Please, hold that thought," the Mici pleaded. "I have to visit the litter box right away. I've been holding it in so long my eyes are turning green."

"They are green, you numb skull," Junior yelled out.

"Yeah, I gotta go too," Panda shouted.

"Ok, everybody take care of their needs and then we'll continue," Micia instructed.

"I'll put up some popcorn," Raffle volunteered. "This is a great story and it needs a lot of buttered popcorn," Raffle added.

"With much fuss and clatter the kids returned to their previous spots in the den with Micia firmly perched in her teaching position.

"Is everyone settled that we may continue?" She asked.

"Yep," volunteered Raffle. "The popcorn's hot and buttered and we're all littered out."

"Yeah, go on with the story," Junior interjected.

Micia continued with the conversation between her and her mother. "Don't be afraid my little darling, my mother purred as she took me into her beautiful Calico arms, arms that provided a haven from the insecurity, fear and other bits of chaos swirling in my thoughts, numbing my perception of what had been until that moment, my home, my family, my existence."

"That's terrible," Panda cried out.

"I'd better get a few boxes of Kleenex," Mici offered.

"It starts getting a little better," Micia reassured. "My mother then said, don't worry my precious one, what I've heard from the stories overheard when the humans were speaking to each other, wonderful, loving homes, are always found for the children."

"Yeah, unless they're thrown into a dumpster like I was," shouted Junior.

"Or get lost, separated from our families like me and Pepper," Panda joined in.

"Those things do happen," Micia agreed. "But in the human world there is a large group of good-hearted people dedicated to loving and caring for us."

"Like Harvey and Rita," Raffle shouted confidently that her contribution would have the necessary merit to be accepted by the others.

"Like many people," Micia continued. "Harvey and Rita certainly being two of them," she acknowledged.

"Tell us more about what your mom taught you," Raffle implored

"Ok," Micia continued. "She taught me that I would probably go to a loving home, as we had just discussed."

"And you did," stated a blushing Mici.

"And I did," reiterated Micia. "Her last instructions to me were that love conquers all, not love built on the foundations of expectations, not love supported on the footings of conditions, just true, unbridled, unconditional love."

"Wow, your mom's a smart lady," Pepper said wistfully.

"That's why I hug and cuddle each newcomer," Micia stated. “I may not know the type of environment from which they came, but I let them know through my words and through my actions that in this household LOVE rules. Here, unconditional love exists for all. This is the mortar that binds our souls, excites our spirits and gives rise to our consciousness."

"Wow, did your mom say all that?" asked a very impressed Junior.

"Her teachings, my words," smiled the Micia.

"Did she have anything else to say?" Panda asked. "Your mom I mean, you know, any more words of wisdom?"

"Matter of fact she did," Micia spoke. "She stated that love, as life, does not always run smooth."

“She's right.” interrupted Pepper, "Like the time Junior was laying on my special napping spot. He did it on purpose. He knew that's where I always slept. He had this smile on his face as he watched me walk away looking for another spot to sleep."

"You should have kicked him in his tail," Panda volunteered.

"Kick Junior," shrieked Pepper. He would have hung me by my tail on the curtain rod of the shower and used me as a speed bag."

"What's a speed bag?" asked Raffle.

"It's what boxers use to practice their speed punches," the Mici answered.

"Oh, he would never do such a thing," Micia said firmly.

Junior, stretched out on the carpet, had a huge smile on his face, as if rehearsing for the part of the Cheshire cat in ‘Alice in Wonderland.’

"The point is," Micia continued. "Love, much the same as life, does not always run smooth. When difficulty arises, realize that it is only momentary, and when one of the pride acts out of character, creating some type of unpleasantness, remember it is only temporary," the Micia continued. "Recall all the good things, the nice things done by that pride member. I know it's not easy to think this way, but it works. Also, remember, everyone gets their turn as the cause of difficulty; and I'm sure you'll want the best thought of you at those moments, so think the best of others. Love them. Be considerate and you'll see amazing things happen. Their bad mood will fade away, replaced by smiles and sunshine. My momma said that a cat's life is not easy. We live in a confined area, sometimes sharing space with many others. We have to be very considerate of everyone's values, and feelings. We're all in this together; therefore, we must all learn how to live with each other in a way that allows all to pursue their happiness without robbing another of happiness."

"Didn't Harvey and Rita learn that lesson from their mothers?" Micio asked.

"We'll never know darling," Micia responded. "This much I do know," Micia continued, "Once again from watching television and from reading. The human world is like a fifty page menu at a restaurant."

"Wow, fifty pages of choices," Pepper fantasized. "I wonder how many different kinds of fish dishes there would be on fifty pages, wow."

"Probably plenty," Micia continued. "And for some, fifty pages with all the choices that fifty pages offer, would be of no difficulty. They'd zip through the pages locating their known favorites, examining tempting new dishes, totally discarding that which held no appeal before coming to a decision. For others, fifty pages may be viewed like looking at a long journey with no destination. They are completely overcome by all the varieties, mixtures, appetizers and entrees, soups and salads, beef, chicken or fishes. Should I order from the Italian section and if I do, should my selection be plain or parmesan? Maybe Italian's too fattening, maybe I should just order a salad."

"No, order the Italian," Raffle screamed out, saliva dripping from her jowls, completely caught up in the bouquets of tastes and aromas.

"It's only a made up story, dingbat," Junior shouted.

"That's ok darling," Micia commiserated with the famished Raffle.

"The story is also making me a little hungry, but back to the point. Some handle life's choices better.”

"Why can some be ok with all the choices and others not?" asked a pensive Mici.

"I'm not sure darling," Micia replied.

"Maybe we're lucky that we're selecting from a small menu," Mici suggested.

"What do you mean, darling?" Micia questioned.

"Yeah, it's your turn at being the guru," Junior laughed.

"What I'm trying to say," Mici continued, "Is that living together, knowing that this is our house, with no choices to go anywhere else, insures that we have to work through our problems, learn to cooperate, to share, accommodate and most of all to compromise."

"Very well put," Micia acknowledged the Mici.

"We have a choice in staying or leaving," a smiling Panda laughed into the conversation.

"How's that smarty?" Raffle challenged.

"We can run away when the door opens," Panda further offered.

"You're quite right," suggested Micia who continued. "When the door does open, we could run out. After all, on the other side of the door may await excitement and adventure, new friendships to be made, new lives to be led."

"But it can't be that great or exciting to run out the door," a perplexed Mici broke into the flow of possible great adventure.

"I don't know Mici, it sounds pretty good to me," offered Junior.

"If it was so much fun and adventurous then why do all the people whose cats run away call Harvey to ask for his help in finding them? And why do they put ads in the newspaper and posters on billboards trying to find them? They’re the conversations I've overheard Harvey having with distraught owners looking for their cat friends. It doesn't sound so good to me," Panda sighed.

"Yeah and how about this, Junior, you'd never get to be with us again," the Mici added.

"Hmmm, let me think about that," Junior smiled, “Excitement, and adventure, but I'd have to give up the Mici, hmmmm."

Mici gave Junior a steely gaze as Micia interceded.

"If running off to what awaits beyond the door was better than what already exits, then it would be called being found. Instead, it is called being lost."

All the kids succumbed in silence to the wise words of Micia. Even Junior nodded his head in agreement.

"Why don't they call it being lost when a person leaves the house and never returns," Panda questioned.

"Sometimes they do," answered the wise Micia. "Sometimes they do." She cleared her throat and continued. “When you choose someone, you choose all his or her choices. Some go through life making all types of decisions, but never commit to choices, committing to choices that last a lifetime, choices that transcend life's challenges and choices that define a relationship. And so, that there is no questioning, no doubt to my feelings, my position. I choose you."

"Choose who?" Mici asked.

"I chose you," Micia replied. "I choose all of you, unconditionally, to share all of life with me, to share dreams, ambitions, joys and triumphs as well as tantrums, disappointments, failures and tears. In short, all that there is to life; may my only entitlement be your unconditional love."

"I feel much better since you discussed this with us," the Mici said. "I'm still going to miss Rita and Harvey is really depressed. We've got to do something for him. Don't know what at this time; but we've got to do something."

"We're all going to miss Rita," Micia agreed. "And as for Harvey, we'll work as a unit, as a family to develop a solution. A long time ago Harvey was under the illusion that it was just he choosing us. He didn't know, because he is just human, that the most important choice was being made by us."

"That's right, I almost forgot," countered the Mici, now completely recovered from the reactive mood that had occupied his heart, clouded his spirit. "We chose him!"

"Forever and ever," Panda shouted.

"And beyond that," Raffle joined in.

"He's our guy," Pepper sang out.

"As long as he remembers to give us tuna fish as dinner on Sundays," Junior bounced in. "I'm only kidding," he quickly added as the pride extended him a group stare.

"We have a lot of work in front of us," said coach Micia. "Come on, everyone put your paws together for a parting shout," coach Micia demanded. "On three, all together, our mantra, one, two, three, cats rule!!!"

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