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Chapter Thirteen


Darkened Habitats



          The old woman left Sheldon, Tanya, and Penny trapped in the cage throughout the afternoon.  The three cats could not fathom why she wanted them penned up in the cage and began to imagine the worst as the hours dragged on.  Situated pill-mill around the yard were other smaller cages, now empty, that had probably been filled with other animals.  It looked as if the old woman had once had her own private little zoo.

          The backyard now reflected the dilapidated condition of the house.  Perhaps the woman had left through the front of her small house and had gone shopping or to work.  That would, they agreed, explain why she had been gone so long. 

Of course Tanya had her own theory.

“I bet she’s going to eat us,” she declared as they lie in torpor for a while.

“No, Tanya,” Sheldon sighed, giving her a lick, “that crossed my mine too, but I believe that old woman’s just crazy.  I’m sure she’s done this before.  When we know she’s home, we’ll execute our plan.”

 “We might not have to play dead,” Tanya said bleakly. “She might just club us to death when she returns.”

“I was wondering about those cages too, Sheldon,” Penny gave him a nudge. “Why are they empty?  Did those animals just die or did she sell them after capturing them?  Did the woman really have some kind of backyard zoo?”

“I don’t know Penny,” he shrugged, looking around the yard.  “They look really old.  Maybe she once had chickens.  Her house really looks ancient.  The town probably grew around her.  I don’t think it’s even legal to have animals caged in your backyard now.”

As Sheldon and Penny shared Tanya’s fears, they remained nestled together, purring in spite of their alarm, the girls looking to Sheldon to make their plan work.



          When the three cats were sound asleep and the sun began to drop behind the building to signal the advance of night, Sheldon awakened from a dreadful dream in which the old woman was coming at them with a meat cleaver in one hand.   As he opened his eyes he could hear a noise inside the darkened house, a scratchy operatic piece that made the dwelling seem even scarier than before.

          “Wake up!” he cried into their heads. “The old woman’s back.  Get ready to play dead!”

          The three cats stood up and readied themselves for the slightest squeak from the old woman’s back door.  Sheldon uttered a clumsy prayer and Penny, who was Jewish, found herself chanting “Hear O Israel the Lord is One...”  But the old woman never came.  The house was dark and the music played, and yet their keeper remained cloistered inside, the mystery causing great strain on the three.

          Sheldon did not want them to have to make their escape in darkness.  Their night vision as cats was, in many ways, superior to what it was in the day, but the thought of negotiating the street at night seemed unthinkable to him now.  Just when the sun was about to burn out and it appeared as if the old woman had gone to bed or was perhaps lying drunk in her house, the door hinges squeaked and the three cats flopped down in the positions they had decided upon earlier in the day.  It seemed as if darkness fell just as the old woman came outside with her flashlight, training it immediately on their cage.  Sheldon lie on his back, Penny on her side with her legs stuck straight out, and Tanya lie crumpled in the corner with her tongue stuck out of her mouth.

          “Oh Lordy me,” she wailed, “what happened to my cats?”

          “All right it worked,” Tanya’s thoughts flashed into Sheldon’s head, “but what if she comes back with a trash can and sack and just throws us immediately into it after dragging us out?”

          “Don’t move Tanya and Penny, she’s coming straight toward us!” Sheldon’s thoughts rang out in their heads.

          Flinging the lid open and shining the light upon the three cats, the old woman cursed and groaned then cursed again.  As Penny had predicted she would, the woman left the lid open but stood contemplating what to do.

          “Listen girls,” Sheldon ordered gently, “as soon as we see the light retreat across the yard, we must make our getaway.  The old woman is looking right now for something to put us in.  We’ve got the element of surprise on our side.”

          When the old woman had walked only a short way from the cage after spotting a trash can in her yard, Sheldon sprang up and out of the cage, followed by Tanya with Penny not far behind.  The old woman had just turned in her tracks when the Penny’s tail disappeared over the fence as she followed the other two into to the darkened alley beyond.  The old woman’s words as they ran toward the light of the street at the end of the alley would strike the trio as humorous when they looked back at this episode later tonight: “Come back, come back you bastards, I’ll kill you if you don’t come back!”

          “Where do we go now?” Tanya’s question came first.

          “To the street,” answered Sheldon, “and after that in the same direction we were heading before.”

          “And what direction is that?” asked Penny now.

          “If we can still make out the outline of the mountains in the distance, we know we must head the opposite direction: south.”

          No sooner had they reached the street than the footfall behind them told them that the old woman was in pursuit.  As it turned out, there was just enough daylight to see the silhouette of the mountains, so the trio did as Sheldon suggested and headed south.  As fleet footed cats, they easily outran the old woman to begin their long journey back to Shadowbrook Arms.



Irma Fresco, as Sheldon, Tanya, and Penny, was now a lost cat on the street.  Unlike the misbegotten trio, however, Irma had never been captured and held captive by a deranged old woman.  But also unlike the trio, she was on the street by herself.  It was night.  It was getting darker and darker.  She was alone.  After wandering the street for an entire day, unable to find her way out of the maze-like buildings, poor Irma found an alley behind a restaurant on the outskirts of skid row that had several old crates stacked up and hunkered down in a warm corner to wait for garbage from the restaurant to be thrown out so she could scrounge up a meal.  Through it all, her natural optimism, though tested and battered, would not let her give-up.  When she had regained her strength and rested up awhile, she would be off again to find her way back to Shadowbrook Arms.  She didn’t know what exactly would come next or how the spell could be lifted but an inexplicable feeling of peace came over her as she nestled in the newspaper-lined crate.  It was as if something incredible was about to happen to her, if only she would wait a little longer to find out.

          As night fell again on the street, Irma looked out of her crate and watched the old man who dumped the trash for the restaurant, pause to light up a smoke.  He was obviously a street person, himself, though his bearing did not seem downtrodden to her.  Perhaps he was down on his luck or had always been a bum throughout his life….What did it matter?  She asked herself as she began to drift off to sleep…. At least he was a human…. He could make a living for himself… walk in and sit down at a table, eat spaghetti with a fork, and drink a hearty red wine.

          Only moments away for Irma was her delivery from the street, but for now she was back in her mother and father’s home, listening to them speak Italian to each other as they all gorged themselves on mama’s chicken cacciatore and sausage laden spaghetti, her mother called Fresco’s supremo.  She could almost smell the sauce and savor the wine that her grandfather claimed to have made himself.

          “Quel gusto meraviglioso!” Irma murmured in her sleep.



          On his way home from ministering on the street—hungry, tired and footsore, Elijah Gray, self-styled missionary for the homeless and misbegotten, was ready, as Irma Fresco had been, for a hot meal and long night’s sleep.  As he sat behind the steering wheel listening to the Trinity Gospel Hour, he longed for the roast he had left simmering in the crock-pot this morning.  It should be nice and tender about now, he thought, humming along with Sister Mildred Sterling’s rendition of The Old Rugged Cross.  His entire life was now devoted to the Word.  After being a down-and-out drunk for several years, himself, and then being saved by missionaries on skid row, he always felt guilty driving so quickly through this sector of town.  There were hundreds of lost souls in this neck of the woods, who were just like he used to be and who needed salvation too.  But unlike the teams of missionaries who came out here in the daytime, he was but one soldier for the Lord; and, more importantly, it was evening now.  It was also quite dark.  No one in their right mind would attempt to preach to the derelicts down here at night.

When he looked ahead and saw a man stagger out of the alley toward the street, he instinctively pressed the accelerator with his foot, looked the other way and began singing along with the radio, “There’s an old rugged cross on a hill far away, a symbol of suffering and shame.”

As a bloodied man staggered out on the road in the path of his car, however, Elijah stopped in mid-verse, stomped his breaks, a stream of blasphemies flowing out of his mouth.  His headlights now captured the gory visage of an elderly man who seemed dazed and disoriented in the light.  Sticking his head out the window as he pulled his vehicle to the side of the road, Elijah asked the man, in a croaking voice, if he was all right, feeling very foolish when he knew very well he was not.

Grabbing his good luck baseball bat that he used when playing on the Missionary Fellowship League and praying for forgiveness for the blasphemies he had leveled at the man, Elijah assumed a defensive posture as he approached the man.  Knowing this neighborhood as he did, he trusted no one.  Suddenly, only a short ways ahead, the man collapsed onto the pavement, which could, he told himself, be another trick.  On the other hand, he felt obliged, as a God-fearing Christian, to play the Good Samaritan now. 

Coming forward slowly and peering down at the injured man, Elijah saw that the stranger was bleeding from the head and apparently unconscious.  Steadily lowering his club, he bent down as slowly, laid the bat aside, mere inches from his hand, and reached out carefully toward the man. 

“Mister,… hey mister,” he murmured, touching the man’s sleeve.  In apparent response, the man’s hand twitched and his leg shook uncontrollably now. “Lord, help this poor man,” Elijah prayed, jumping up and running to his car.

“I’ve got a first aid kit,” he called back shakily, wondering if the man was having some sort of fit.

At just that moment another pair of headlights broke the darkness.  Elijah now hoped that, in spite of his old distrust of the police, it was a patrol car and not a car load of thugs on the prowl.  Easing his bat down so it sat beside the car, he reached down shakily below the front seat, found the first aid kit he kept handy for emergencies, which had only been used once (for a paper cut he received during the mission’s paper drive), pulled open the plastic lid, and rummaged around for band aides, bandages, and clips.  He heard, though didn’t see, someone walking toward his automobile, his destination, he hoped, the stricken man.  Because the stranger had stopped his vehicle in back of his and not in front of his car, all he saw was a shadow moving in his direction.  The shadow called out something, either to himself or to the man lying in the road, but Elijah couldn’t make out the words.  He now cursed the fact that his police record prohibited him from owning a gun.  The next best thing, he realized, was his trusty bats, which lie next to the car.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,” he prayed feverishly now.

Tucking the bat below his arm pit so it stuck out menacingly in plain sight, he continued with a free hand to search for a pack of gauze and antiseptic to clean wounds, ready to bring his weapon out and club the stranger senseless if he tried to attack.  His street instincts were strong now.  His heart was beating so loudly he could barely breath.  For a long, terrible moment, he forgot completely about the first aid kit and concentrated only upon the baseball bat pressing against his ribs.  Before long, the incorporeal being materialized as a human being in his headlights.  Though Elijah felt cowardly, he continued to hold the first aid kit, ready to drop it instantly and brandish his bat, as the stranger bent down and looked at the man on the ground.

It was not a policeman, as Elijah had hoped.  There was no way of knowing, in fact, whether the stranger meant him mischief or not, until he turned to face him now.

          “I think the old fellow is all right,” he called back in a deep, baritone voice reassuringly, after moving into the lamplight to inspect the man.  “He’s probably just a local drunk.”  “….Yes, I can see that most of the gore on him is really just grime,” the stranger added reassuringly, straightening up and walking his way.

“Yes,… of course,” Elijah mumbled breathlessly. 

He couldn’t seem to find his voice now as the other man moved toward him.

“Here, let’s bandage this old timer’s head up,” the stranger said, reaching for the first aid kit clutched awkwardly in Elijah’s hand.

Self-conscious of the baseball bat tucked under his arm, Elijah tossed the weapon into the car, but held protectively onto the kit with one hand, afterwards shakily doling out band aides, bandages, and gauze.

“No, no, we don’t need all that,” the stranger laughed softly, pointing into the box “this little band aide should do it,”  “and maybe one of those,” he reached in and pulled out an antiseptic tube.

Gathering his wits, Elijah held onto the antiseptic in order to directly assist the old man.  He felt ashamed for his cowardice and wanted to make amends, but he also wanted to show the pushy stranger who was in charge.  Had he not stopped his car first and brought out his first aid kit?  Why had this strange man felt obliged to stop?

The old man’s jerky motions earlier had evidently been his efforts to get onto his feet, for he rose up finally when he saw the two men approach.

“Get your hands off me; I ain’t done nothing,” he snapped querulously, as they advanced. “I tripped over a cat, I did, ran into a trash can and fell flat onto my face.” “No, no, back off,” he waved irritably, “I don’t need no band aid or none of that burny stuff.  I just got a little cut.” 

“Please.” Elijah reached out with his antiseptic. “Let us not forget the Good Samaritan.  The Lord wants us to tend lost sheep!”

“Hell, preacher,” snickered the old man, “I ain’t no lost sheep.”  “I got slimed when I fell down in that alley,” he explained, wiping offal from his face, “I was in there dumping garbage.  I do it every night for extra cash to pay for food.  Shoot, this little cut on my forehead ain’t nothing.  Last month, I got mugged by a bunch of kids up on Fifth.  Took all my earnings, they did.  Don’t you fellahs concern yourselves about me.  You scared me half to death!

As the old man rambled on about his plight on the street, the stranger offered him some gauze to wipe his face.  In spite of his initial refusal to accept help, the old man took the gauze as well as the band aide and antiseptic from him, bowed politely and, shaking his head at the short prayer offered by Elijah, ambled back toward the alley from which he had emerged.  There was, in fact, Elijah recalled, a restaurant on the other side of these buildings that had been in this neighborhood for many years, but he found it hard to believe they would hire a local derelict to dump their trash.

“The old man’s proud,” he said to the stranger, stretching out his hand. “My name is Elijah Gray.  I used to live on the street, myself, before I turned to God.”

“Blaze O’Dare.” the other man shook his hand vigorously. “I’m glad to be of assistance to you.”

In the glow of the street light Elijah could see the Egyptian ankh medallion around the man’s neck and an astrological pendant on his coat: badges that the preacher immediately recognized as symbols of the occult.  The darkly clad man, he also noted, had the small crafted goatee associated with sorcerers and necromancers, his complimentary dark hair and eyes contrasting the red-headed and beardless Elijah, whose steel blue eyes burned with suspicion now.  In turn, with equal wariness, the stranger noticed Elijah’s dark suit and the small gold cross around his neck.  As if to make this discovery even more portentous to Elijah, a small black cat trotted out of the alley shortly after the old man re-entered, tippy-toeing anxiously into the light.  Elijah could not think of anything clever to say to such a man and sensed a similar reaction from him.  Already, however, as his pulse quickened and mind raced, Elijah felt something providential in this encounter, as if his ordered and uneventful life was about to take a drastic turn.

          At that point, the little black cat bumped a bottle sitting on the sidewalk that chimed against the wall.  Blaze O’Dare, who was startled this time, gasped, uttered a little laugh and followed Elijah’s gaze to the creature, as she stepped off the curb and walked toward the two men.

          “What else should we expect?” He forced out another laugh. “Wasn’t last night Halloween?”

          “I see you’re in the spirit,” Elijah snarled faintly, motioning to the pendant on his chest.

          “Oh this,” Blaze replied with a shrug, “I was at a sort of Halloween party myself—a conference uptown.”

          “I can imagine, “Elijah said with unveiled contempt, “what sort of the conference that might be!”

          “As a matter of fact,” Blaze started to say, but then, thinking better of it, looked down at the small cat approaching them now.

The cat was moving fearlessly toward them, purring loudly and holding its tail high.

          “I’ll be damned!” He said, whistling under his breath.

          You probably will!  Elijah thought to himself, as he studied the little cat.  Shrugging his shoulders at the preacher’s self-righteous attitude, Blaze mumbled good night and began walking back to his car.  Elijah, who had always been found of cats, felt sudden compassion for the little beast.  He wondered now if this had been the cat that had spooked the old man.

          The cat had the characteristics of the Devon Rex breed: a pixie-like feline with huge fox-like, ears, an elfin face, large round eyes, and a sturdy little body that was covered with soft wavy black fur.  Though Elijah was unfamiliar with cat breeds, he realized, even from a short distance, that this was an unusual cat.

          “Meow!  Meeoww!” came its plaintive reply.

          “A cat,… a black cat too,” he said, bending down hesitantly now.  “What else on a night like this?” he laughed giddily. “But kitty,” he knelt down and reached out his hand, “Halloween is over.  Where will you now go?  What will you eat?”

          Immediately, quite unlike most alley cats, she trotted over to his extended hand, rubbed it with the side of her face, and then looked up to him with big blue eyes.  Moved by this simple gesture, Elijah picked up the strange little cat and carried her back to his car.

          “What is your name kitty?” he asked in singsong voice.

          Gently setting her on the hood of his car, he rummaged around in his pocket for something for her to eat.

          “Irma Fresco,” she responded hopefully, purring loudly as he searched for food.

          “Sorry kitty,” he declared finally, “I just remembered: I ate those Twinkies with my lunch.”

          “I don’t want your Twinkies,” she mentally cried. “I hate Twinkies!  I want a Big Mac.  I want a shake so thick you can eat it with a spoon!”

          She wanted very much for this kind man to somehow read her mind, but when she tried to talk, her pleas came out as so many meows: the typical sound of a hungry cat.  Although it seemed foolish, she continued to meow plaintively to Elijah now.  She also attempted to plant thoughts in his mind, as she would a confessor, everything that happened to her on Halloween night, the morning after, and her ordeal on the street.  She was tired, hungry, and in constant danger around larger and less friendly cats.  But the man wasn’t telepathic, she thought bitterly, or, after recalling the rude way he treated one of the strangers, apparently very bright.

          Early this morning, before beginning an agonizingly long day of wandering through town and hunting for food and shelter, the realization grew in Irma that India’s spell could only be cancelled out in two ways.  Either she must be killed to end her bewitchment or Irma needed to find a formula to reverse the spell.  It had seemed so hopeless for her this afternoon that her only concern had been that she would not starve to death before she could find such a cure.  As night came again, however, she was reminded once again that she was running out of time.  Unless the witch was dead, India’s curse, she realized bleakly, must be broken by another person: a white witch or sorcerer with equal powers.  India had told Irma enough about witchcraft for her to know these facts, but how could she impart this information to someone else and actually be helped by such a person before it was too late?



          In the background the other man, Blaze O’Dare, had stopped in the middle of the street to survey this scene.  Elijah Gray, Blaze marveled, had been terrified after stopping to help the old man, and yet he took time now to comfort a stray cat.  The little cat, desperate to communicate, sat on her hind legs and moved her paws up and down as would a pony.  Elijah began to laugh with amazement, especially when she meowed furiously to get his attention.  Blaze, however, didn’t laugh.  The hairs on the back of his neck prickled up as he considered what he had just seen.  But there was more; Irma, realizing she had gotten their attention, did a little dance, her meows coming out in a singsong fashion that also stopped the preacher cold.

          It was Blaze’s turn to laugh as he studied the cavorting cat.

          “I’ll be damned!” He cried with delight. “I’ll be god damned!”

          “It gives me the creeps,” Elijah fingered his cross. 

          “Meow, mew-mew, meeeeeeeow, mewowowowowowow!” Irma continued to utter, almost out of breath.

          Striking Irma as very hopeful now, as she performed, was the other man approaching and his apparent curiosity for the unknown.  He seemed to be the smartest of the two.      Although they couldn’t hear her thoughts or understand her meows, she felt better now.  It seemed more difficult, with each passing hour for her to recall the events of last night.  It was as if she was becoming a cat mentally as well as physically.  She had found herself purring inexplicably and licking her paws.  She had humped her back and hissed in feline fashion several times in reaction to fear or irritation.  These natural feline instincts, she feared, would gradually replace her humanity, until she was nothing more than a feral, dimwitted beast.  But Irma Fresco knew that there were countless ways to communicate with humans.  After being surrounded by drunks for so many hours, she had found two kindly souls, not only sober but with automobiles to spirit her away.

          She would do everything she could think of to prove how human she was.  As both men looked down in awe, she covered her eyes with her paws, then covered her ears and mouth.  Afterwards, she rubbed her tummy, growled like a dog and then wiggled her scratchy little tongue.

          “I assume she’s been trained to do that stuff,” Elijah blurted anxiously, “but I’ve never seen a cat do that!

          Suddenly she jumped off the hood and, for a few seconds, the two men were afraid she would run away.  After dipping her paws into water in the gutter, though, Irma was trying to write something.  This was immediately evident to the two men.  The large swath of letters, however, were impossible for them to decipher, especially now that Irma was on the verge of exhaustion and she was too weak from lack of food to adequately move her paws.  After trying to write a quick SOS, she collapsed onto the pavement and meowed softly to herself.  I need a computer or large piece of cardboard and something to paint with, she thought to herself…. I need food…and sleep.

          Reaching down with a mixture of compassion and wonder Elijah picked up the little black cat.

          “This is no ordinary beast!” Blaze exclaimed, reaching out to pet the purring cat.

          “No, it’s certainly not,” Elijah agreed, feeling her little heart pounding in her chest.

Cradling her gently in his arms, he felt her body trembling, not from fear he was certain, but from lack of nourishment and fatigue.  Elijah harbored suspicions for Blaze O’Dare, in spite of the miraculous event they both shared.  The perceptive mister O’Dare noted that the preacher was holding the black cat protectively, not merely affectionately in his arms.  Elijah was, in fact, remembering how important the black cat was in witchcraft and the occult.  He wondered now if the stranger had this in mind as he marveled at the cat.

          “Please, I’m interested in these sort of things,” Blaze said delicately. “Let us share this event, my friend.  I have a lot of contacts for such matters.”

          “What sort of contacts,” Elijah’s distrust deepened. “I believe in the Good Book, sir.  You seem to be someone who dabbles in the occult.”

          “I’m a good sorcerer,” Blaze blurted. “I don’t consort with evil spirits, nor do I mock God.”

          “So you admit it, do you?” Elijah looked at him incredulously now. “You admit using the black arts!”

          “No, I admit to no such thing,” Blaze explained tersely. “I believe in God’s powers and the magic of other holy books too.  In fact, I’m a Roman Catholic.  I just know there are other spirits and forces that can be harnessed as well.”

          “Sir,” Elijah held firm, “if you play with the Devil, you’re gonna get burned!”

          “Poppycock!” Blaze said, stomping his foot.     

          During their conversation, Irma searched her tired mind for a way to communicate with these men.  Elijah now stuck the little cat into his jacket as if to protect her from this man.  Irma stuck her little black head out and meowed.

          “Oh please,” she thought frantically, “give me something to communicate with.  “In God’s name, help me before its too late!”

          Irma’s shoulder now rubbed against something in his pocket that beeped when she placed her paws on it.  At first she thought it might be his cell phone, which would be useless to her now.  Then, it dawned upon her what the object might be.  The two men ceased arguing about whether or not the sorcerer was evil or not and listened to the sound.

          “What’s that noise?” Blaze asked, watching the cat poke her head out and meow.

          “It sounded like the little calculator I bought last week,” Elijah smiled, reaching in to grab the cat. “My little friend has found itself a toy.”

          “How very strange.” Blaze frowned, as the preacher lifted her back out. “It’s holding onto the calculator with its paws.”

          “Let go kitty,” Elijah tried to pull the calculator from her paws. “Why it’s holding on for dear life!”

          “Oh yes, it’s definitely trying to communicate with us,” Blaze clapped his hands in delight. “Set it on the ground and see what it’ll do.”

          “It’s so exhausted,” the preacher protested. “Will it have the strength?”

          “We owe it to the cat, reverend,” the sorcerer insisted. “Let’s put it in the light and see what it does.”

          As Elijah and Blaze watched in wonderment, Irma began inputting numbers into the calculator that equaled letters of the alphabet.  It was very difficult with cat paws, especially in her current physical state.  She found the five on the keyboard and then tapped the zero, followed by another five.       

“Lemme see,” “Elijah said, squinting down at the tiny calculator screen, “it looks like 505.”

          “No,” Blaze exclaimed, slapping his forehead with his hand, “it’s an SOS.  It just gave us a distress call!”

          “Nonsense,” Elijah shook his head, “it’s just playing with it.  A cat can’t do that!

          “Okay, let’s try something else,” Blaze clasped his hands excitedly. “Kitty, if you were giving us a distress call, press the following series of numbers: 5, 7, 3, 2, 8.”  That’s the pin number for my debit card.”

          As she punched the numbers into the calculator exactly as Blaze directed, Irma realized that she was making a breakthrough.  Still not believing his own senses, Blaze insisted on performing an even more definitive test.  This time, as she sat serenely in the lamplight, he told her to do a mathematical problem.  Irma, after remembering her high school math, pressed the square root key and squared the number 8.  She then divided the result, 64, by 8 and then divided random numbers into each other and then multiplied the dividend by the divider to achieve the same result.  For dramatic effect she bowed to them in the most human-like pose possible and waited with her paws folded for their response.  The two men stared at her in even greater disbelief.  Elijah reached down and picked her up, not even bothering to also retrieve the calculator on the ground.  Blaze picked up the device and looked at the numbers and placed it with great reverence into the preachers vest pocket.

          “Isn’t that the most amazing thing you’ve ever seen?” he asked the preacher now.

          “Yes,… it’s a miracle,” Elijah said, analyzing the cat.

          “This is a remarkable beast,” Blaze declared, pulling her gently from his hands. “Fear not my little friend, you are among friends!”

          “But this can’t be possible:” Elijah muttered with a dumbfounded expression “a cat who does mathematical problems and writes words?”

          “This,” Blaze said, holding her up to the light “is no ordinary cat, reverend.  Look at those fox-like ears and those big blue eyes.  I’ve never seen a cat like this before.  Although you can’t tell by its anatomy, this poor beast was once a human.  It’s under a witch’s spell!

          Irma mewed softly in protest as she was held up to the glow and was studied by the men.  The sorcerer was hurting her fragile ribs, and yet he understood her dilemma the best.  Unable to cry like a human or express her thanks, Irma Fresco did the next best thing when he sat her back on the hood and began licking his hand.  In order not to hurt the kind man who first gave her notice, she licked his hand too.  With great affection, her original rescuer picked her up again, rubbed her head and gave her a kiss.  As Blaze marveled at how powerful such a witch must be, the preacher remained silent.  Obviously unwilling to look to a supernatural cause, himself, Elijah found her existence too inexplicable to attempt such an explanation. 

          It did not matter to Irma what the self-proclaimed sorcerer believed.  Thanks to his perceptiveness after the good preacher discovered her on the street, she now had two protectors and advocates.  She didn’t need vocal chords or mental telepathy to talk to humans.  She could communicate with her paws.

          After being placed back inside the first man’s jacket, she continued purring loudly, waiting impatiently for another miracle to happen in her life: to be changed back into her human form.



          For a moment, as the preacher and sorcerer discussed this marvelous cat, Blaze argued on behalf of it’s humanity.  The preacher, on the other hand, stubbornly refused to believe such a thing.  It seemed to Elijah Gray that the basic Biblical premise of man’s uniqueness was at stake now.  There was nothing in the Holy Bible about such transformations.  But it was an argument that he couldn’t win.  There were no verses from the Bible he could quote to support himself or religious counter-arguments he could use.  Deep down in the rational part of his mind, he could find no other explanation for the cat’s performance tonight except for the blasphemous one uttered from Blaze’s mouth: it was under a witches spell! 

          “Well,” he confessed wearily, “I would rather believe it was actually human than an infernal spirit.”

          “Believe two things reverend:” Blaze spoke with great respect, “I am not a servant of Satan and this little cat is no infernal spirit.  It is, you of all people should know, a creature of God!

          Seeing conviction in the sorcerer’s words, Elijah shrugged, yet shook his red head in despair.  Under normal circumstances, he would have held up a cross to this man and recited Christ’s exhortation “Get thee behind me Satan!”  But the preacher, like the cat, was exhausted after such a long day... and something else, he would not admit even to himself, played in his conscious mind... . Was it excitement, an inexplicable wonder lust for the unknown?  Was it the Devil, himself tempting his logic now?

          Whatever it was, he now had a miraculous cat!



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