A Feline Fairy Tail (Tale)



When I was about five my father bought me two goldfish at the pet store for about ten bucks. We got a round fish bowl, a bunch of blue pebbles, and a little fish castle to put in the pebbles so my goldfish could play knights if they felt like it. He bought a little shaker of fish-flakes to feed the fish and some water drops to make the pH levels in the water habitable for them. They had names, but I never remembered them. They were to me, Fish 1 and Fish 2 and I was only moderately excited by their presence. We had them for about a month before one day I found them floating belly up in their fish bowl. Apparently the water had been too basic for their delicate fishy bodies and it killed them. I walked out in the living room to where my father was sitting out on the couch watching TV and held the bowl of dead fish in my tiny arms.

2003 - No Cat Yet

2003 – No Cat Yet

My father looked at the bowl in horror, his mind going into panic mode as he desperately racked his brain for the words on how to explain mortality to his serious eyed little girl holding her bowl of fish. Would they flush the fish, bury them, hold a big funeral? What was he supposed to do?

I looked up at him and with a straightforward tone of matter-of-factness I said, “Daddy, my fish are dead.” I then carefully placed the bowl of carcasses on the floor and then beamed up at him. “May I have a cat now?”

You see, my dad bought me fish to distract me from what I really wanted, which was a cat. Now like a number of small, bug-eyes little girls of 5, I was absolutely obsessed with cats. I drew pictures of cats, I watched movies on cats, I checked out every book in the library on cats, and I collected stuffed animals that were cats. By the age of five, I could rattle off all 91 International Cat Association certified breeds of felines and their specific breed traits and registered colors like some boys of five can rattle off Pokémon.

I knew every single fact about cats, from the average lifespan to the year that cats were domesticated (7500 BC in Cyprus). I had a singular focus in life to achieve one goal, which was to acquire a cat by any means possible. My mother was adamant about not having one, but as my obsession grew, she began to bargain, especially after I began to dress up as a cat myself.

Happy Cat Owner!

Happy Cat Owner!

“You can have a cat when you are five, Maddie.” She said to her then three-year-old daughter, thinking that by the time two years passed, the fancy of feline ownership would have subsided in her toddler’s mind. “Just take those socks off your hands and stop meowing.”

It was a smart strategy, but she gravely underestimated my fixation.

On the morning of my fifth birthday I crept into my parents room at four in the morning. Standing inches from my mother’s face, I poked her forehead softly with my index finger and smiled with a wide toothless grin. My mother jerked awake as she saw two dark, saucer-like eyes staring at her in the weak light of dawn.

“I’m five now, Mommy.” I whispered, “Can I have a cat now.”

My mother rubbed her tired eyes and shot a look at the clock. “What?” She asked groggily, her mind still coming online.

“Remember, you promised me two years ago that we would get a cat on my fifth birthday. I’m five today.”

“You remember that?” She asked in surprise as her hands fumbled for her glasses.

My mother furrowed her brow and looked down at her daughter’s wide grin. We had owned a cat when I was a baby and it was psychotic. When it bit me, my parents had had to “send it to a farm in the country” and my mother was heartbroken. As my mother looked down at her gleaming eyed child and frowned. This was bad.

 “What greater gift than the love of a cat.”  ― Charles Dickens

“What greater gift than the love of a cat.” – Charles Dickens

I smiled undeterred and flipped the pages in my book to an article describing how to properly assimilate children and animals.

“Look Maddie.” She said softly but firmly, closing the book on her lap and taking me in her arms, “The only way you are going to get a cat is if God drops one in your lap. So if you want a cat, you are just going to have to pray for one.”

I looked up at her and grinned, then picked up my book, gave her a kiss on the cheek, and dropped to the floor and prayed.

Nine months later, Ms. Melissa Cook came to live with us and she brought her cat, a beautiful and black silky shorthaired cat named Ebony. Ebony actually stowed away in Ms. Melissa’s moving van and it was a bit of a surprise that her cat followed her. God put that cat into my lap and I fell in love with Ebony at first sight and when Ms. Melissa was ready to go, she left Ebony with me.

“The smallest feline is a masterpiece.”  ― Leonardo da Vinci

“The smallest feline is a masterpiece.”  – Leonardo da Vinci

I’ve had Ebony for eleven years and she is still my favorite animal in the whole wide world. She was the answer to a little girl’s multi-year prayer.

To this day, I have never had another fish.


“A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.”  ― Ernest Hemingway

“A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.” – Ernest Hemingway


Fear in Love

Somebody told me once that overcoming fear is the heart of love and I did not understand. To my poor perception, that strange little phrase made absolutely no sense. In my experience, love had always been an emotion derived from the happiness it brought me, and to say that love could originate from something so appalling as fear perplexed me. Love was beauty, I reckoned, love can’t come from such an ugly creature as fear. I thought I knew what love was, but then again, I had never really truly been afraid.

When I watched my great-grandmother die everything changed. I experienced a million different emotions ripping through my consciousness. I felt the violent monsters of fear, sadness, confusion, and bitterness seem to clench their thick claws around my throat, crushing my airway, suffocating me until my vision was dark and blurred and there dwelled no sensation but the horrifying weight of my terror that seemed to pin me against the wall. My eyes could not meet the glassy gaze of my dying great-grandmother who flopped as limply as a baby doll in the clutches of the monstrous hospital bed that had invaded her living room. I watched her chest rise and fall slowly and with frightening irregularity, as if with each ragged exhale, death was about to stealthily drag her away while we weren’t looking. My mother and grandmother bravely fought off the vicious predator that was circling the bed, speaking soft words to my great-grandmother as they washed her ashy face, but death still crouched in the room, waiting patiently to take her away. The flickering candle of my resolve was extinguished and I fled from the room, unable to stop running until I was far enough from that living room that my courageous mom and grandmother would not be able to hear me sobbing like the coward I was.

Laying inside the bushes by the shed behind the house, silent tears streamed down my face as I hid from the fear that was crouching inside. A selfish fear owned me as I prayed to be transported back to a home a thousand miles away. Escape seemed to be the only option, I called my father, and begged to be saved. I confessed how terrified and useless I felt, pinned against the walls and being slowly choked to death, a hangman’s noose wrapping around my neck, tighter and tighter with each frantic heartbeat. I begged to have a reprieve, to escape the prospect of watching my great-grandmother slowly succumb to the ice-cold fingers of death. My father was silent for a long time, and even in my hysterical state I knew pardon was impossible and I would have to walk back into that room invaded by death one way or another. He finally took a deep breath and spoke a phrase still etched in my conscience, “The only way to beat your fear is to fight it with love. Just love Maddie.”

I did not want to go back inside to that cavernous living room with the intruding hospital bed and my gaunt great-grandmother with one foot securely in the grave. I did not want to have to breathe in that air, laced with chemicals and the sickly-sweet smell of aged flesh. I did not want to go back but I did and I reluctantly walked in the living room, cheeks still red from my cowardice and self-pity and I strode to my grandmother, exhaustion in her eyes, and asked to take the next shift. My grandmother slowly nodded and handed me a cup of cool water and an eyedropper, the only way to get fluids into my great-grandmother who was lying unconscious on the bed beside us. I was left alone in the room, just me and her.

“Water…” My great grandmother croaked, her parched lips gaping. I quickly dipped the eyedropper into the cup and squeezed the drops into her mouth. I had not seen her this close before, how small and frail she looked in the enormous bed. I reached out my hand and touched her cracked and wrinkled wrist, feeling the erratic pulse beat against my fingers. Gingerly, I took her hand in mine, an action I had done so many times before she got sick, and I placed my other hand on her forehead, mimicking a soft circle with my figures that she had once done to me when I was ill. I held her hand and I gazed at her closed eyes, remembering all the beautiful memories we had shared.

She suddenly opened her eyes and looked at me with a clarity that no one had seen in days and she smiled with an expression that seemed angelic. “Madeleine, will you sing me a song.” She said softly.

I smiled and nodded, and racked my brain for her favorite song. Slowly, I began to sing, “Glory, Glory, Glory” my shaky voice filling the room as my great-grandmother’s lips moved slowly in time. As the last notes faded away, I felt tears rolling down my cheek, but they weren’t tears of fear or terror anymore, they were tears of pure love overflowing in my heart towards my great grandmother. She saw the tears and looked at me with soft eyes. “You’re a good girl.” She said with a smile, “Full of love.”

I will never forget that last moment I shared with her, nor will I ever forget the way the love in my heart made me feel so at peace. Nothing existed in me at that moment except the greatest sense of love and contentment that I have ever felt in my life. I was truly at peace in a way that let me overcome the cold claws of death and let me give a simple goodbye to my great-grandmother. I believe that overcoming the greatest fears in life is what allows the greatest love to grow. I was afraid, and I experienced the fear completely, then I let it pass through me and leave only love in its wake. I believe that is what they meant by “overcoming fear is the heart of love,” when you overcome the most intrinsic emotion of all, fear, you can finally achieve the most beautiful.

Recent M & J