“That Cat Needs a Job!”

Years ago, Mom and I were writing together, reading to each other and laughing our heads off about ideas for children’s books. This was long after our children’s book, “Shopping at the Ani-Mall,” was published in 1991.

We always liked funny story lines, and came up with the following story about an unemployed cat. I hope you enjoy it.

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That Cat Needs a Job!

Everybody said it: “That Cat needs a job! That Cat does nothing but eat, sleep, and stare at the wall. He clearly needs something to do.”

Having heard this for years now, That Cat thought it over. “Maybe they are right; perhaps I should get a job. I’ll take a look at the Classifieds in the newspaper today and see what jobs I should apply for. After all, how hard could it be?”

So after he had eaten his dinner, taken a long nap on the Classifieds, and stared at his wall for an hour or so, That Cat decided that this was the day he would get himself a job.

He applied for a job as a plumber’s assistant and was given a large wrench and a white cotton hat. He looked at himself in the shiny wrench and admired his new hat. However, after a whole day of leaky faucets and clogged-up drains, he realized that plumbing had too much to do with water, and he had never cared for water or wet paws.

Next, he found a job in a restaurant as a chef. He found that he loved cooking, and thought that this indeed might be his dream job. The only problem was that he put tuna in everything, even the chocolate pudding. The customers all said, “That Cat has got to go!” So that was the end of his cooking career.

Walking by an office building, That Cat noticed a Help Wanted sign. After a short interview, he was hired as a secretary. While he was very good at licking stamps and envelope flaps, he was clumsy using the computer. All his business letters looked something like this: “BimMVOT Sln so whymmmmmmmmmm #$%@!*&?*!” Needless to say, his employer didn’t care for that.

Some of That Cat’s friends suggested that, since he was so good-looking, he might be able to get a job on television. Sure enough, That Cat was hired as an anchor person on the nightly news for that very evening. Unfortunately, he chose to sit under the chair instead of on it, so all the people watching at home were puzzled by an empty chair reporting the news, and thought there was something wrong with their television sets. Needless to say, that Cat went off the air.

The next morning, That Cat followed some children to school, and decided he would be a teacher. Because the principal was away at a meeting in Cleveland, That Cat was able to teach for a whole week. All the children loved him. He taught them how to nap on top of their desks, chase bugs, and wash their faces. Even though he was fired, one of the mothers gave him a big kiss as she had never been able to get her son to wash his face.

“Perhaps I am not trying out just the right jobs for me,” That Cat said to himself over dinner that night. “I think I will try something completely different. After all, I am a cat and cats are very different than anyone else.” Satisfied with his decision, That Cat stared happily at his wall for a whole hour, and then took a long nap.

The next day, That Cat strolled into the circus that had come to town. He walked around and watched everyone working at their jobs and considered each one. First he saw the lion tamer with his whip and chair. Although That Cat admired the lion tamer’s shiny high boots and safari hat, he frankly thought that making a lot of big cats jump through hoops was beneath him.

The lady with the trained dog act bored him, and the clowns annoyed him, especially after one spritzed his tail with water from a big fake flower. He did like the ringmaster, who told everyone what to do. He was all set to ask for his job when he discovered that one of the duties of the ringmaster was to pay everyone. Since That Cat knew he wasn’t very good with numbers, he decided to look at some other circus jobs.

Finally he saw the bareback riders, trotting their ponies around and around the center ring, and doing all kinds of exciting tricks. He ran right up and asked for a job on the spot. They tried him out on one of the ponies, and, because of his superior sense of balance, he was quite good at bareback riding. He was performing wonderfully until in his enthusiasm he dug his claws into his pony’s back to get a better grip, and that was the end of his circus career.

That Cat decided he would try jobs that weren’t quite so glamorous, and went to work for the local telephone company. He was given a chair at a big switchboard with a lot of wires sticking out of it. While he enjoyed the comfortable chair, all those wires bothered his sense of neatness. He carefully tied all the wires together in a big bow, and, satisfied with his work, went to sleep in the comfortable chair.

Shortly after this, a lady trying to call her sister across town got a very angry man out of bed in another state. An old man calling the automobile club got the City Zoo instead, and the local police station kept getting calls about dance lessons. The problems were quickly traced to That Cat’s switchboard, where his big bow had mixed up all the calls. That day, That Cat was fired.

Undiscouraged, That Cat went to a large department store and got a job in the shipping room, where he was responsible for packing up items in boxes. There were hundreds of boxes in all sizes, rolls of string and plastic bubble wrap, and bins of plastic peanuts. He managed quite well on his first day, and packed up sets of dishes, ceramic angels, glass figurines, decorated baskets, and brass pots.

Then temptation got the better of him, and he had a fine time jumping in and out of the boxes, pulling all the string off the rolls, popping all the plastic bubble wrap, and scattering the plastic peanuts everywhere. Needless to say, he was asked to leave.

That Cat thought he might try his luck at selling. It looked easy enough; you just knocked on peoples’ doors and sold them things. He received his sample kit and looked it over. In it were dozens of toothbrushes, dental floss, and toothpaste. That Cat never brushed his teeth or used dental floss, much less toothpaste, so he couldn’t understand why anyone else would. So he left the sample kit sitting on the sidewalk, and quit sales work then and there.

That Cat thought about jobs while he stared at his wall. As he washed his paws, he noticed a mailman delivering mail from door to door. He didn’t think that looked too hard, so he went to the post office to sign up. He was disappointed to hear that he wouldn’t be a mailman right away, but first had to remove all the letters from the mailbags.

So he made the best of it, and spent the day happily digging all the letters out of every mailbag. Soon he had a nice big pile of empty mailbags, so he jumped up on top of them and went to sleep.

Later on, he was told that he was supposed to sort out the letters so that everyone would receive their mail. That Cat thought that was pretty stupid. All the cats he knew would have been delighted to receive a letter, and it wouldn’t have mattered what name was on it.

As he walked back to his wall, That Cat noticed a white truck with “FBI” in big blue letters printed on the side parked on his street. He wondered what the letters stood for, then decided it must mean Feline Bureau of Intelligence since he knew so many smart cats. He jumped up on the hood of the truck and tapped on the windshield with his paw. The startled driver stared at him for a moment, then opened the door. That Cat walked into the truck, and decided he liked what he saw, and asked for a job.

The driver explained that the truck contained lots of expensive spy equipment for listening to secrets. That Cat nodded; he knew all about secrets, having told many of them himself. The driver explained that, since That Cat was small, he might be able to work the tiny switches on the radar equipment in the truck. So he fitted That Cat with a tiny headset (which That Cat thought made him look very dashing indeed), and showed him how to work the switches.

Pretty soon That Cat was having a great time listening in on everyone’s phone conversations. He got so comfortable at it that he stretched out on the console, and in doing so, he accidently pushed the switch for the loudspeaker.

In a second, everyone’s conversations were blasted out over the neighborhood. The driver hastily grabbed That Cat, flipped the switch back, and put him firmly back outside on the sidewalk. That Cat watched as the white truck drove away, and said goodbye to another job.

That night That Cat watched television and saw the Major give a speech. All he did was stand in front of a big flag and talk. When he was done, he waved to everyone, and they waved back. He didn’t think that looked too difficult, so the next day he trotted down to the Major’s office and asked him for his job.

The Major was on his way out for a much-needed long weekend, so he told That Cat he could take over his job while he was gone. He figured that nothing much could happen over a weekend anyway.

That Cat loved the Major’s office. He settled into the Major’s nice brown leather chair, put his paws on the speaker phone and asked the secretary to please bring him a tuna sandwich and a glass of milk. Since the Major always yelled at her and made her run lots of errands all day and never said ‘please,’ the secretary was very happy to bring That Cat his lunch.

After finishing his sandwich and washing his face, That Cat noticed a very important-looking paper on the desk. The bottom part of the paper was empty, so he turned over
the Major’s inkwell, dipped a paw into the blue ink, and decorated the empty space with a neat line of his paw prints. That done, he took a long nap in the leather chair. When he woke up and stretched, he looked around for something else to do.

The longer he sat there, the more bored he became. So he called the Major’s secretary again, told her to give everyone the day off, and went home.

That Cat said to himself, “Well now, I have tried very hard to get a job, but so far not one of them has worked out. Worst of all, trying to get a job has kept me so busy that I have missed a great deal of naps. What’s the point of having a job that keeps me away from the things I like?”

After staring at his wall for two hours, That Cat decided that the jobs he was best at were these:

• Eating dinner
• Chasing bugs
• Washing
• Napping
• Staring at his wall

That Cat knew that no one could do those things as well as he could, so that’s exactly what he decided to do for work from then on. So the next time anyone said that he needed a job, he just smiled at them and told them that he was already hard at work.

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“The Night Singer”

The following short story is one I wrote years ago for a writing class. I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did writing it.

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Susie trembled in her sleep. The Bad Dream was coming and she couldn’t stop it. Since her parents had died in the car accident the Bad Dream came often.

Aunty Ruth, her father’s older sister, was her only relative and had grudgingly taken Susie in. The woman had lived a peaceful life with her two cats and was not happy about the sudden necessity of raising a 9-year old girl.

Susie wasn’t happy, either, especially when Aunt Ruth told her it was either live with her or go to an orphanage. Secretly, she felt that an orphanage might be preferable to being with Aunty Ruth and her endless nitpicky ways, but didn’t say so. Life had changed so quickly since the accident, and along with her constant sorrow, now there were many chores to do each day before she could go outside to play. Aunty liked the dishes washed, dried and put away after every meal, and the furniture had to be dusted daily. Susie also had to make her bed each morning and sweep the kitchen floor every other day.

“If you’re going to live here with me, you’ve got to pull your weight and help out,” said Aunty, her bristly gray-brown eyebrows pulled down to her small and rather beady eyes. “I’m not getting any younger.”

Two months to the day that her parents had been buried, Susie wanted to run away so badly her chest hurt. She had been washing a big platter the night before, and it had slipped out of her soapy hands and smashed to pieces on the floor. Aunty had sighed heavily and shooed her away when she tried to pick up the pieces.

“Don’t bother. It’s my fault—I should have known better than to let a child touch a valuable piece of china like that. Your great-grandfather, Josiah Wadlen, brought that from England for your great-grandmother. All these years it’s been in the family and never a chip—until now.”

“I-I’m sorry, Aunty—I didn’t mean to—“ Susie stuttered.

“Never mind. Just go up to bed.” Aunty turned and, without a good night to Susie, swept up the pieces of the platter.

“I hate her, I hate her!” Susie whispered to her favorite doll, Mrs. Lolly. “I want to go home! I want Mummy and Daddy!”

She sobbed her hurt and loneliness into Mrs. Lolly’s flowered dress. Gradually her tears tapered off, and she fell asleep with her thumb in her mouth, something she hadn’t done in years.

Downstairs, Aunty Ruth sat in her rocking chair in the living room and addressed her two cats.

“Heaven knows, I wish Bob and Lucy never had that accident. I’m as sorry as I can be for poor Susie, but what do I know about raising a child? What in the world am I going to do?”

The cats’ eyes glowed in the semi-darkness, and she went on.

“Look at me. I won’t see 50 again, and I never did want a husband and kids—and now I’ve got a 9-year old girl who missing her folks and I don’t know what to do to help her.”

The gray cat stretched and yawned, displaying sharp teeth. It curled up around the sleeping tiger cat and rumbled contentedly. Aunty Ruth rocked in her chair and watched them sleep.

Susie was having the Bad Dream again. She was in the middle of snarl of stairs, twisting and zig-zagging wildly in all directions. She was supposed to climb them all; for what reason, she never knew. In the dream she was always filled with fear and urgency, and as she climbed, the stairs grew splintery and dangerous.

Moaning softly, she twisted and turned in the sheets trying to escape. Then suddenly, the stairs were gone and she woke up. Her body was covered in a light sweat, and there were tears on her cheeks. Her chest hitched in jerky breaths, and her heart was pounding.

“I got away!” she said to herself. Her Minnie Mouse clock on the nightstand read 3:07 am. The house was quiet, and the light from the streetlamp poured over the end of her bed.

She was still trying to decide if she was really awake when a small kitten walked into the light and sat down near her knees.

“Where’d you come from, Pusscat?”

Susie was delighted. Neither of Aunty Ruth’s cats liked her and always hissed at her. Maybe Aunty had gotten her the kitten she’d begged for. She sat up and looked closely at it, then realized it wasn’t a kitten at all.

Its ears, although catlike, were set lower on the head than a cat’s, and curled up slightly on the ends. The eyes were the color of the deepest purply-blue crayon she owned, and the pupils were not slitted like a cat’s, but round. Its fur glowed in the half-light and looked iridescent, like the inside of a seashell. It sat with its plumy tail wrapped around its feet and regarded her. Delicately it extended a paw to her.

“You’re pretty!” breathed Susie, and touched the proffered paw. As soon as she did, she heard a soft, bell-like voice in her mind.

“W-what? Are you talking to me?” Her eyes opened wide. “You’re not a cat at all, are you? But where did you come from, what—“

The softly chiming voice told her not to be afraid. It knew all about her, it said, and all that had happened to her. Gently, it patted her cheek with its soft paw, put its head near Susie’s, and sang a Healing Song. Susie lay back against the pillow, smiling. This time her thumb wasn’t in her mouth when she fell asleep; she was too big a girl for that.

In the morning, Susie surprised Aunty Ruth by skipping down the stairs, singing “Old MacDonald.”

“Morning, Aunty!” Susie wrapped both arms around Aunty’s narrow waist and hugged her. “I’m awful sorry about breaking that platter last night. I promise I’ll be real careful from now on.”

Aunty Ruth awkwardly patted Susie’s back and said, “That’s all right, child. Now let’s see about breakfast.”

As she walked into the kitchen, she thought with some humility, “I ought to remember what my own momma used to say to me—things don’t matter, but people do.” She smiled at the thought of Susie’s unexpected hug.

That night, the kitten-like creature came to Susie again. It praised her for what she said to Aunty Ruth.

“Funny, she doesn’t seem to be so picky or mean today,” Susie mused. “Maybe we’re starting to get used to each other.”

The creature agreed, and said that trust and love can change people if they let it. Susie must be the one to reach out, it said, because Aunty Ruth wasn’t used to thinking about anyone but herself for so long. The indigo eyes glimmered with gentle humor. She had made a wonderful start, it said, and it walked up beside Susie’s head. It softly stroked her forehead and sang a Learning Song.

Weeks and months passed, and gradually Aunty and Susie became more comfortable with each other. Together they worked out a schedule for chores that seemed fair to them both. Susie got better at washing dishes, and Aunty Ruth became better at holding her tongue. They even discovered that they both liked playing Scrabble, and made time to play every evening.

Susie began to trust and then love her aunt, and the sorrow over her parents began to lessen. She never forgot them, but her sharp grief gradually softened. Astonishingly, Aunty Ruth became quite adept at reading stories with her, and even began a tradition of having a special tea party on Sundays. She took a new interest in making special treats for Susie, and it became harder for her to remember life without her. Even her cats began to warm to Susie; one day she came home to find both cats sound asleep on her bed.

The little creature visited Susie less and less. Sensing her new strength and happiness, it smiled to itself. One night it appeared for the last time when the girl was deep in dreams; good ones this time. It pressed its silky head to Susie’s, and sang a Growing Song.

Far away from Susie and Aunty Ruth, a small boy cried in his sleep, the tears soaking his pillow. The angry voices of his parents had kept him awake and afraid for hours, and his chest hurt from holding his breath. He was afraid that this time his father would leave and never come back. In his dream, he was all alone, and he sobbed in fear.

A soft paw reached out of the darkness and gently patted his tears away.