I love Sunday mornings in Spring. I usually get up as soon as it’s light and walk around the village, enjoying the new life budding on the trees, shrubs, and flowers. The morning air is still crisp, showing no signs of the oppressive heat and humidity that’s in store for us.
On this particular morning I walked along the familiar footpaths and sidewalks, greeting and chatting with other early morning risers. I made a left turn into an alley I’d never explored before. Looking back, I’m not sure why I chose to explore that particular alley. But, I did. So, there you have it.
As alleys go, this one was rather tidy. I smiled at all the bins with their lids securely fastened in place. The back fences on both sides were garnished with new growth ivy. It was like walking between two green, living walls, giving the alley an inviting air. Other than the tidiness, nothing seemed strange, odd, or curious here.
I paused to admire a largish pot filled with sassy, colorful pansies. “They really are quite lovely, aren’t they?”
My head snapped around. I hadn’t noticed anyone in the alley with me. No one was in front of, or behind me. From where did that voice come?
After ascertaining no one was nearby, I decided I had imagined the voice as I admired the showy flowers.
“They don’t always do that well back here, but this winter they’ve really outdone themselves.”
Frantically, I scanned the alley again for the source of the voice. Just as before, no one presented themselves. The only company I had here was a largish calico Tomcat.
“Yes, it is me talking to you. Don’t look so surprised!”
Well now, I’m willing to entertain many new and interesting ideas, but a talking cat was never one of those ideas. Until this morning, that is.
The realization slowly settled on me. “Well, I’ll be damned. I never expected this!”
The cat, sitting on his haunches, extended his right fore-paw. Without thinking, as if it were the most natural thing in the world, I took it and gave him a hearty hand(paw?) shake. “I’m Winston” offered the cat. “I’m Jim, and I’m very happy to make your acquaintance!”
I studied him a bit longer. “Now, how is it that you’ve got the gift of gab, so to speak, and how have you decided to share it with me?”
After gazing at me for some seconds, Winston said “I’ve noticed you walking around the village, and your interactions with your friends and neighbors. I’ve also noticed how you treat my friends in the animal world.
“Oh yes, I’ve seen you slipping tins of tuna near the old house where my friend Ajax lives. I’ve noticed many things about you.”
Well, I just stood there with my face hanging out for the longest time. I wasn’t sure how to respond to him; or if this was really even happening at all!
“What’s the matter? Cat got your tongue?” He fell over with uproarious laughter at his little joke.
When Winston finally got ahold of his composure, and I’d gotten a tenuous grip on mine, I asked him, “Since you’ve sprung this on me, why don’t you come back to my place for a nice cuppa…” I was about to say “tea” when the image of Winston sitting in my dining room, sipping a cup of Earl Grey sprung into my mind. “…milk?” I finally got out.
Winston was agreeable, so we began to make our way back to my little Arts and Crafts style bungalow in Ladiga Street.
When we arrived at my house, I put on the kettle and poured a generous helping of milk in a pan to warm. When everything was ready, we sat down; me in my chair and Winston on the table. I had a small plate of biscuits and cakes while my new friend daintily tasted his treats of sardines and a scrambled egg.
Winston’s smooth, cultured voice broke the companionable silence. “You are, no doubt, expecting some kind of magic from me because I can talk.”
“Hmph! I can’t say the thought hadn’t crossed my mind. After all, it’s not every day you run across a chatty Calico.”
He seemed to get a chuckle out of that. I eyed him over the rim of my cup. Could it be that talking was the only magic he possessed?
“Well, if there’s no three wishes, then what do you have on offer?”
I swear to you, Gentle Reader, I don’t know what was wrong with my thinking ability! Here I am, sat calmly at my kitchen table chatting with a Calico cat and carping because there are no magic wishes.
I finally gave myself a mental kick up the backside. “Well, if you’re here to offer your friendship, then I’m your man!”
We went on with our tea, chatting amiably about everything and nothing.
Weeks rolled past. Our walks grew longer and longer. Winston seemed able to hold his own in any subject. He drew me close one afternoon, about two and a half months after we met, with a conspiratorial look in his eyes. “I’ll tell you a little secret about Ladiga Street, but it’s just between us; you got it? I’ve carried this secret for all nine of my lives. It’s time to pass it on before my days are done.”
“You’ve asked me about the magic. To your credit, you only asked once and never brought up the subject again.”
He was right. I’d never mentioned it again. I’d thought about it a hundred thousand times. Somehow, though, I knew the subject shouldn’t be mentioned again by me, but by Winston. Don’t ask how I knew that. I just did.
So, here we were, stood at the top of Ladiga Street; the part where the old Ice Plant stood many years ago.
“Ladiga Street is where the real magic resides in Piedmont.” His voice was barely above a whisper. His eyes seemed to be looking at something beyond me. After an interminably long pause, Winston walked in measured paces until he reached a spot that only he knew was there.
“Under this spot a river slows, Jim. Not merely a river of water, but a river of magic.” He noticed the confused expression on my face and stopped what he was saying.
“That’s right, Sir. The practice of magic isn’t limited to Witches and Wizards. Those special few who are given the location of the magical rivers and schooled in their use can also practice magic. Powerful magic.
Y’all come back to see me real soon!