I'll be away from social media for a few days for bowel cancer surgery.
As such I am putting up a Tuesday Tale for your enjoyment while I'm away.
The following story is a retelling of the British folk tale "The King of the Cats."
I watched the one-eyed cat in my story scrounge and fight for food at the seaside restaurants along a strip on the Greek island of Paros.
The cat insisted I tell her story.
Queen of Cats
The three friends stared at the empty chair buffeted by the strong blast of wind from the sea.
It was a welcome wind, a respite from the noonday heat of the Mediterranean sun, and it sent the savory scent of grilled lamb over them.
"Damn, I wish she'd get here. I'm hungry, and we're nearly out of wine."
"She'll be along any minute. She just needed some time alone. You ever know her to miss a meal?"
All three laughed a light tinkling laugh. The wind, dwindled now to a light breeze, carried the laughter around the women, over the tables, and around the chairs. It danced past the ears of patrons along the waterfront and jumped and rolled down the street.
It tickled the ears of a thin, ragged white cat who batted it away with a paw and stretched herself in a puddle of warm sunlight. She yawned and sharpened her claws and then curled her head toward her tail and set about her regular midday bath.
She was a creature of the streets and alleys and of back yards under the moonlight. She depended on the soft hearts of tourists, the cold kindness of garbage cans, and the trust of small creatures for her sustenance.
Rough as her life was, a cat is a cat and as such must be presentable. Trusting this to be an absolute of her kind she licked and bit and worried and chased away the visitors who hid in her coat, sending them to the wind and the sun or to meet an end between her terrible teeth.
Her ears pricked up at the click of glasses and cutlery. The tones of the women's voices told her the friend had arrived.
She ran her tongue over a paw for one last check of the spot behind an ear where the fur went missing after a fight over a shrimp head and trotted over to the table, careful to seem interested yet not eager. She raised her tail and darted between their feet as the late arrival pulled out her chair.
"About time you got here. Did you get distracted at a shoe store?"
Wide–eyed and breathless the woman collapsed into the chair. "Who the hell is Tewlie Tillsbury?"
Blank faces met her question.
The cat raised her ears.
"God, I need some wine. You won't believe what I saw. I needed some exercise, right, so I took the back alleys along the edge of the village. And — I swear this is what happened -- I saw nine cats, all of them white, up on their hind legs carrying a casket."
The women stayed quiet. The white cat crept to a table leg and shrugged behind it.
The movement caught the woman's attention. She looked down "All white, just like this one. Oh, you poor thing. You've only got one eye."
The cat mewled and sat up straighter, cocking her head a fraction of a bit around the table leg.
"Anyway, the lead cat looked right at me and meowed."
The cat at their feet meowed.
"Yes. Just like that. And then it said, 'Tell Tillie Tewsbury that Tewlie Tillsbury's dead.'"
"Oh, come on."
"You always did have a good imagination. Cats and caskets. Please."
The one-eyed cat moved her head farther around and slid a paw toward the speaker, careful to keep her body braced against the table leg.
"I'm telling you."
"So," said one women fighting to keep the smile off her face, "this cat, it spoke in perfect English?"
"And this message, it was just for you?
"I guess so. That's why I asked you when I sat down if you knew Tillie Tewsbury."
"No. And you're making this up."
"I'm not. It meowed again and said the same thing."
Below them the white cat meowed again, only louder.
The woman bent down. "Yes, kitty, just like that."
And the one-eyed cat's one eye grew wider. Her tail shot straight up. Her fur bristled.
"Anyway, it told me to deliver this message about Tewlie Tillsbury being dead. All I can do is repeat it."
The cat turned her eye to the woman. She raised herself up and hunched her back high as she was able. In a voice melodious and strong the cat said, "Tewlie's gone? Our Tewlie's gone? Then I am Queen of Cats."
And she dashed between table legs and down the street and was never seen by human eyes again.
The woman sighed. "I guess I delivered the message. Is there any more wine?"