The Daddy had left the fan on in the living room for the cats, and Rudy arranged herself so that her belly would get the full force of its breeze. This was heavenly…exactly how a summer day should be spent. She dozed off and drifted into dreamland.
Rudy walked through a field of catnip heading in the direction of a giant pile of tuna, fresh out of the can. She bit off a leaf or two of herb as she walked, but the smell of the tuna was too alluring to stop for a good ‘nip roll. Her head began to swim a bit as her feet bruised more and more of the catnip leaves, sending its smell to compete with the aroma of tuna. She walked, but didn’t seem to be getting any closer to the tuna, and realized every step was taking a very long time. She was moving in slow motion, each leg stretching out or bending back slower and slower. Although her legs were barely moving her stomach was growling at double pace. She hadn’t eaten for hours, maybe days even – she’d been walking that long. The tuna glistened with moisture in the sunlight and she made her snail’s pace way to it.
Finally she could nearly touch it with her tongue. One more step…
A familiar but dreaded voice boomed at her, “No tuna for you, Rudy. This tuna is reserved for cats who are doing the jobs they agreed to do. It’s their reward for a solid day’s work.”
The only body part Rudy could move was her head, so she swiveled it around, looking for whoever was speaking. No one to the left, to the right, or in front of her. The voice didn’t seem to be from behind her, so she looked up and saw Fuzzy perched on top of the tuna. He was his usual mangy, scruffy self. Part of one ear was missing, his coat was uneven and his tail full of brambles.
As she stood there unable to move, the other members of the Cat Club began arriving. They ran up to the giant pile of tuna and gorged themselves on it, making appreciative comments with very full mouths. “Can you believe this?” “Man, I needed this.” “I’ve never had tuna this good!” They obviously could see each other, because they replied to some of the other cats, but they didn’t seem to see Rudy, still down in the catnip. “Hey, where’s Rudy? I can’t believe she’s not here. She’d love a snoot of this stuff.” “Yeah, she’s never slow to arrive when there’s food involved.”
Rudy called out, “I’m right down here guys. I seem to be stuck. Can someone bring me some tuna? I’m starving down here.”
Although there had been only the sound of cats noshing on tuna while she’d spoken, none of the cats replied or even looked in her direction. From the top of the tuna Fuzzy said, “They can’t see me or you, fuzzball. The Great Cat is rewarding their diligence and providing you with an instructive lesson on something. I’m not sure if it’s sticking to your promises, helping your friends, or maybe just being nice. They get tuna and time with each other to rest, and you get the torment of being near the tuna without getting any as well as being completely unnoticed.”
“Well, I don’t see you eating any of this tuna either, Fuzzy.” Rudy was getting angry at the stray. It was bad enough to be in this situation, but to be told off by Fuzzy, that was too much. Fuzzy replied that he’d eaten long before she arrived and turned around, ignoring her.
The cats finished their tuna and descended from the tuna hill and noticed that instead of grass the ground cover was catnip. They chewed and rolled and ran and had a generally outrageous time playing with each other. Rudy watched and wondered if maybe somebody would come close enough to bump into her. Then they’d have to notice her. The cats slowly calmed down, sated with tuna and catnip. They carefully groomed themselves, cleaning crumbs of tuna and bits of catnip leaves from their fur.
“Ok, this was fun, but it’s time to get back to the job at hand.” LT gathered the group easily to Rudy’s surprise. She figured some of the cats would want to stay longer, maybe have another try at the tuna, but they all followed LT as he walked away.
Rudy called one more time, trying to get their attention. No one answered or even turned a head. She was truly alone. Even Fuzzy was gone from the top of the pile of tuna. Her legs were stuck mid-step and she wondered if she’d stay this way forever. She’d die of starvation and dehydration and become a cat mummy, or perhaps a skeleton, still frozen in the act of walking to get a bite of tuna. Her eyes misted and she said quietly to herself, “I know I should have been helping. I just wanted a few hours for myself. If only I could get back home I’d look for Fuzzy all day. I wouldn’t even need a tuna and catnip reward. Maybe some treats from the Daddy…no, not even treats. I’d search for nothing.”
Rudy woke with a strange cramp in her legs, as though she’d been sleeping in one position too long. Her thoughts were slow and confused and it took her a few moments to shake out the cramp and realize where she was and what she was supposed to be doing. Right, looking for Fuzzy. She found Greymalkin outside studying the scent map, received her assignment for the day and headed off to check around someone’s chicken coop.
That night the Daddy came home late from a job and announced that he was out of cat food, and they were going to have to make do with tuna for the night. He’d get squishy food in the morning, but he was too tired right now.
Rudy looked at the pile of tuna on the plate and slowly the dream came back to her. She stared at the plate and wondered if she’d dare eat it. Would the Great Cat come and smack her upside the head? She looked around furtively and quickly ate her portion. Ah, heavenly tuna.