Thursday, November 8, 2012

Freya's Blue Kittens

The next morning Clem paced around the condo quite uncertain as to what to do about this time-travel thing.  Was it real?  She had brought back a mouse; the yarn lady had touched the mouse, so it had to be real.  Dreams didn’t produce actual physical things.  If Clem followed that logic, then somehow she really was going somewhere, and that somewhere appeared to be back into the past and far, far away from where she lived in New Jersey.  And, darn it, Clem liked getting out of the condo.  It could get boring when all you did was move between the bedroom, living room, kitchen and bathroom, with the occasional foray out to the sunroom and garage.  It was great to be able to watch all the birds out on the lake.  Most indoor cats didn’t have anything like that to watch every day but that wasn’t the same as being outdoors and able to actually chase a bird or catch a mouse.  Clem smiled at the thought of the mouse she had caught yesterday.  What a great experience! 
After the yarn lady had left to take the noisy girl to class and visit some friends Clem clicked on the iPad.  God forbid the yarn lady took it with her, as she sometimes did.  She’d have to try to use the desktop computer, and that one was a lot harder to navigate, what with the monitor, keyboard and mouse all being on separate shelves, two of which slid out from under the monitor shelf.   Clem checked her email and found responses from Rudy and Emma.  She was disappointed to find that none of the other cats had ever experienced the time travel she appeared to be enjoying.  Well, maybe she could fix that.  She copied the link for the website that seemed to send her wherever she was researching and pasted it into an email to the three cat families, and included an explanation of how it worked for her.  She even included a couple of the ideas she’d found that she hadn’t looked into yet, as well as the three she had explored.  Maybe one of them could verify that it occurred by reproducing her results.  That was the hallmark of scientific research, wasn’t it?  Making a hypothesis, testing it out, reporting the results and then seeing if someone else could reproduce them was what science was all about.  Who knows, maybe she could write a monograph about her experiences and have it published in…well, she wasn’t sure what scientific journal would deal with time travel; probably not one of the big ones, but perhaps a smaller one.   She asked the others to try it out and report their results to her.  She really hoped at least one would try it out.  It probably wouldn’t be Tatum, he was too much of a scaredy-cat.  Kid seemed like the devil-may-care type.  She might be up to time-travel adventures. 
Meanwhile, what should she try today?  She’d visited a very specific historical figure and event when she saw the Prophet Mohammed.  She’d tracked down the origin of the Lucky Cat story in Japan, and she had witnessed the kissing of the cat in 16th century England, although she wasn’t positive it was the 16th century.  For that matter, she wasn’t even sure it was England, although they had been speaking with accents that sounded nothing like how the yarn lady and her friends talked. 
Looking down the list she noticed the item about Freya and the blue cats who pulled her golden chariot.  Clementine wasn’t entirely sure, but she thought that Freya was mythological, which meant that she probably hadn’t ever really existed.  Could she go somewhere that wasn’t even in actual history?  A brief series of searches showed that Freya was the Norse goddess of war and love, which Clem thought was an odd combination.  She was the leader of the Valkyries, a bunch of women who decided who would live or die in battles and then carried away the slain warriors.  They didn’t seem to fight on their own, but they did sometimes support the warriors to help them win.  Clem purposely didn’t do much in searching anything specifically about Freya, as if she managed to pop into Freya’s life she wanted to have the experience and then verify if sources had the same information.   She snickered to herself and thought that it was also like reading the book and then seeing the movie.  She wanted to be surprised by her adventure and not just walk through a recreation of something she knew all about. 
Taking a deep breath, Clem clicked on what she now considered her time travel link.  There was a graphic of two large blue-grey cats who were staring out of the monitor at her.  Her glance moved from one to the other, and out of the iPad’s speaker came a voice saying, “The decision to travel to a place that is not firmly anchored in history should not be made lightly, young cat.  Are you sure you wish to proceed?”  Clem took a deep breath and replied that she did.  As soon as the words left her mouth she was surrounded by a dense fog and the temperature dropped so that her breath came out in puffs.  She could no longer feel the bed underneath her…

…and Clem found herself riding in a chariot with a large man who had red hair and a red beard.  He seemed to be struggling to stay awake.  The chariot swerved as his eyes opened and closed, and Clem could hear a lovely soothing song coming from somewhere off to her left.  After a few more swerves and a near miss with a large tree the man stopped the chariot, which Clem noticed was pulled by two huge goats.  This obviously was not Freya, and her knowledge of Norse mythology (or any other mythology) was nil.  The man climbed out and staggered in the direction from which the singing seemed to be coming.  In a sheltered area on the other side of a large rock a very large tomcat sat singing to a pair of blue kittens.  The man leaned on the rock, pointed at the tomcat and demanded that he stop singing. 
The cat pulled himself upright and said in a haughty voice, “Excuse me, but I am trying to get these kittens to sleep.  They have been awake for far too long, and I need my beauty sleep.  You have no idea how hard it is to raise kittens on your own.  My lovely singing had them almost asleep before your loud and offensive outburst. Begone, human.”
The red haired man pulled a large weapon that looked kind of like a hammer out of his belt, brandished it and announced, “Cat, I am no human, I am Thor, son of Odin, and am chief among the gods.  How dare you speak that way to me!” 
The cat replied that he dared speak that was simply because he was a cat, and cats do not acknowledge gods, chief or otherwise.  He then said that if Thor was such a powerful god that perhaps he could find some kind woman who would raise the two kittens, as they really required a woman’s touch to make them into something other than mangy tomcats, which would not be good considering that one was female. 
Thor thought about it, and told the cat about his daughter, Freya, who was the goddess of love.  Who could be better to raise these kittens?  The cat thought about it for a moment and replied that she might just do, but that these kittens were quite unique, being blue and they deserved an especially fine home. Would Thor please describe Freya’s childrearing philosophy?  Thor’s response was a thunderous yell about the cat’s insolence.  Freya was a goddess, no further references or authentification was necessary.  The tomcat jumped into the air, transformed into a bird and flew away, leaving Thor and the two crying blue kittens. 
Finding they had been abandoned the kittens began to cry even louder.  Although Thor could not understand them, Clementine could.  They were saying, “I want my mommy, I want my mommy” over and over.  The poor little things were lonely and now even the tomcat had flown away.  She jumped out of the chariot and walked over to them.  Maybe they would be able to see her.  As she neared them she realized that although kittens, they were larger than she was.  Everything was on a larger scale here – the chariot, Thor, the tomcat, even the kittens.  All were huge compared to Clementine.  She began to sing a silly song to them that she remembered her mother singing to her when they were in the animal shelter.  It was about hushing and birds and diamonds and all sorts of other things.  It was soothing and repetitive and the kittens perked up their heads as she began to sing, but didn’t stop crying. 
Thor, meanwhile stood there wringing his hands, wondering what he should do.  He had offered to take the kittens to his daughter, so he supposed he should do that.  The tomcat might not come back, and it would not reflect well on him if he left and the kittens starved, but they were crying so loud it hurt his ears.  Well, the cat had been trying to sing them to sleep, he would do the same thing.  Thor launched into one of the few songs he could remember.  It had to do with the strength of warriors and how many enemies they could kill in one sweep of their weapons.  It described the blood and the screaming of the battle, and it horrified the kittens.  They scrambled over each other to get as far away as they could from the large man who couldn’t carry a tune and sang about dreadful things, ending up pressed into the side of the large rock.  Clementine ran and stood between them and Thor, telling the kittens that she would protect them.  
It was comical to think of a single cat, particularly such a small one, protecting kittens from a god, but the kittens accepted her words and huddled together behind her.  Although Thor couldn’t see Clem, he did seem to get the idea that his singing wasn’t helping.  He gestured with his hands, holding them palm out and told the kittens that he hadn’t meant to scare them and that he would take them to Freya.  Clem told the kittens it was okay and to calm down so the man could take them to a lady who had lots of food and nice places to sleep.  She remembered from her own kittenhood that simple words and short sentences would more likely be understood by upset kittens.  They gradually quieted, although one kept mewling almost silently, “I want my mommy, I want my mommy”.  Clem vowed to stick close to that one if she could. 
Thor slowly eased towards the kittens with tiny steps (for him).  The kittens stared at him with wide eyes and even the mewling one became silent, probably in fear.  He scooped up one kitten in each hand and carefully walked back in the direction of his chariot.  Clem ran alongside, easily keeping up with his slow, careful steps.  When they reached the chariot, Thor put the two kittens on his seat while he arranged a fur robe to make a bit of a nest.  Clem jumped up into the chariot as he placed the two kittens into the folds of the robe.  She snuggled down between the two and resumed singing her silly song. 
If Clem had any doubts as to whether she was in the real world and just sometime far back in history, in a few moments those doubts were gone.  Thor called to the goats pulling the chariot, flicked the reins and the goats and chariot rose into the air and flew rather than taking the roadway.  It was a lot smoother ride than it had been before they stopped, but to see trees rushing alongside as they gained altitude was terrifying.  The kittens didn’t find anything to be scared about, and demanded that she keep singing, so Clem distracted herself and them with the song. 
Mercifully, the way to Freya’s by air was much shorter than it would have been by land.  Within a few minutes Thor commanded the goats to land the chariot, and it bumped down in front of a large wooden structure.  Thor bellowed, “Freya, come out here, I’ve brought you a gift.”  The kittens and Clementine cowered as the sound of his voice echoed off the building and around the valley.  That man had a very healthy set of lungs. 
A lovely blond woman appeared in the doorway, dressed in flowing robes.  “Papa, how many times have I told you to come in or knock on the door.  When you yell like that you scare all the birds and animals for miles around.  Now what do you have for me?”  She looked into the chariot and saw the blue kittens in the fur robe.  “Are these your gift?  Oh, they are so beautiful, and a matched pair!”  She scooped up the kittens, who nestled into her chest, purring happily.  “Thank you, Papa.” 
Thor told her how he had been given the kittens and about the tomcat, who might or might not come back for them.  Freya bristled at that and told Thor that the cat would have to tangle with her if he came back.  Clementine followed them all into Freya’s home and watched as she made a nest for the large blue kittens and settled them into it.  As soon as she put them down they began to cry and tried to climb out.  Clem jumped into the nest and the kittens butted her with their heads, which knocked poor Clem this way and that.  Finally they settled down with her in the middle, almost buried in blue kitten fur and Clem told them stories to keep them amused until they fell asleep. 
Freya and Thor sat at a table near the fireplace and discussed what would be done with the kittens.  Thor declared that if she would just raise them he would be happy to take them off her hands when they were full grown, as they would make marvelous guard beasts for his lands.  Shaking her head, Freya replied that she wanted to keep them.  If they were as large as adults as they were as kittens she wanted to teach them to pull her chariot.  Every other one of the gods had exotic animals to pull their chariots, and she had mere horses.  With blue cats pulling her chariot, she would be the envy of the rest of the Valkyries and most of the other gods.  Thor grimaced, thinking that two huge blue cats were a lot more impressive than his goats, even if they were magnificent creatures. 
As soon as Clem heard Freya’s declaration about the cats pulling her chariot she prepared herself, figuring that she’d quickly be transported back home, but minutes and then hours passed.  The kittens woke up and Freya fed them meats that had been cooked into much.  Clem snuck a bit of their food, the kittens didn’t seem to mind.  The kittens were shown a sand tray that they could use for a bathroom and Freya found some items the kittens could use as toys.  There were several balls of yarn, which made Clem chuckle, except for their size (they were as large as Clem’s head).   Freya also tied together a number of ropes in a huge tangle for the kittens to play with.  They seemed to like that one the best.  They played tug of war with it, one on each of the long pieces.  Freya would swoop in and pick up a third end and both the kittens would be lifted off the ground a few inches, squirming and growling.  Clem watched from their nest, wondering when she would get to go home.  She remembered what the cat on the website had said to her.  The decision to go to a place not firmly anchored in history should not be made lightly.  Did that mean she’d be stuck here forever?  Might she never see the yarn lady and her lovely house again?  Clem certainly hoped not.  At bedtime, she was still with the goddess and the blue kittens.  They were happy to share their bed with her, and pestered her until she told them another bedtime story.  She decided to tell them about Kid and Lemuel the turkey, figuring that no matter how long the kittens stayed awake she’d have something to tell them about.  Although they were mesmerized by the story, the kittens fell asleep long before the turkeys were saved.  Clem felt her eyes getting heavy and surrendered to sleep.  She just hoped she would wake up in her own bed.  


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Kissing the Cat in Ye Olde Englande

Clementine was very confused by her recent dreams, or travels, or whatever they were.  If they were dreams, they weren’t like any she’d ever had.  Dreams usually didn’t make sense; cats and humans popped in and out with no rhyme or reason and they certainly didn’t start at point A and get to point B.  These ‘whatevers’ were perfectly sensible so long as she accepted that one minute she could be lying on the bed and the next be on a different continent hundreds of years in the past.  The dreams also had details in them she didn’t know, but were confirmed by further research when she returned from wherever she had been; things like the name of the cat who became the Japanese Lucky Cat, or that Mohammed wasn’t sleeping in his robe when he took the sleeve off. Oh, so confusing. 
Well, she was a young cat with very little practical experience.  Maybe this was the kind of thing that happened to other cats all the time.  She could ask the others if they had any similar experiences.  Between Rudy, LT, Emma, Kid, Buddy, Ursula and Tatum there had to be somecat who had this type of experience.  Well, if it was an experience or dream that did in fact occur with other cats at all.  A frightening thought occurred to Clementine.  Maybe she was going crazy.  Could cats become psychotic?  These could be very elaborate hallucinations.  Sometimes the yarn lady watched that TV show about the man who saw people who weren’t there, and look what happened to him.  He ended up shut in a hospital and was given medication that made his mind all fuzzy.  She didn’t want that to happen to her.  Quickly she composed an email to the other cats:
Subject: Time and space travel dreams

Do any of you ever have dreams where you end up at some other time and place in history where you see events that really occurred?  This has happened to me twice recently and I saw things I didn’t know about but later confirmed through more research.  Please answer me promptly as I’m afraid I’m going crazy.

Next the question was whether to stop the research altogether and hope she never did it again or proceed and perhaps do something to test if it was a dream or reality.  Opening Google Docs she perused her list of topics.  Hmm…one of them was pretty vague and obscure.  Visitors to homes in England during the 16th century would typically kiss the family cat.  If she popped into something like that it would be pretty generic.  Not a specific person or house in history like the last two.  And maybe there would be some way that she could change something or bring something back and that would prove that she’d been there for real, and not just in a dream.  Well, it was pretty clear she wasn’t going to give this up, since she was figuring out what she should do and where to go.  Clem ran a claw down the list.  Some of the topics looked really interesting, but also like they would keep her away from home for a good while if she had to wait for something to happen or for a whole story to run its course.  Those would have to wait a bit until she had more experience with this.  It would be terrible if it turned out that she really went to these places and she got stuck and couldn’t come back.  It would be horrible if she ended up in prehistoric times with saber-toothed tigers or something like that.  They’d eat her as an appetizer. 
So, Ye Olde Englande it was.  Before she clicked on the bookmark that seemed to start the adventures Clem figured she’d check her email in case someone had answered her.  There was one response from Tatum and Ursula.  She wasn’t sure which one had composed it, but the gist was that she should make sure she didn’t do anything that would possibly change the future because then it might cause her not to exist.  Whoever had written the email watched a lot of science fiction shows it seems.  The email was full of references to time paradoxes and the universe going *poof*.  Clem snickered a little bit.  If someone was able to make the universe go *poof* it would have already happened.  It wouldn’t be because a tortoise shell/tiger cat moved a chair cushion. 
The website that seemed to take her to the past had yet another cat on the webpage.  This one was asleep on a rug in front of a fireplace with a brightly burning fire that flickered.  Clem could even hear the crackle of the fire.  As she looked, the sleeping cat raised its head and made eye contact with her…

…and Clem found herself in the living room on the hearth next to the cat.  The other cat stretched and stood up.  Clem looked at the cat, wondering if she would be able to see her, but it appeared that either she was being ignored or was invisible.  Ignored was a definite possibility, since after all this was a cat.  While humans are not good at really ignoring anything cats can pull it off. 
Clem decided she’d push the envelope in trying to get the humans to see her.  Instead of sitting in a corner she’d romp, she’d sing, she’d climb the curtains - well she would if there were curtains.  Looking around the room she saw no curtains, but there were things that she could climb on and jump off of.  Maybe she’d even try jumping on one of the humans when she found them.  Right now she was all alone in the room, since the cat had left.  She left the room by the same door the cat had used and found herself in what she figured was a bedroom, except that it had several beds in it.  There was a large one and a small one and a cradle.  There was a tall cabinet with doors and a low one with drawers.  The cat had taken up residence on the smaller bed, so Clem decided to join her.  She landed next to the other cat and it seemed as though the covers dented a bit when she hit them.  Not as much as she thought her weight would warrant, but at least they moved.  Clem vaulted over the other cat, no response.  Well, she thought, let’s try something different.  She sat down next to the cat and experimentally began grooming the other’s tail.  The cat flicked her tail away in annoyance and looked around as though she were looking for a bug.  Clem pinned the tail with a paw and the cat sprang up and off the bed with a screech, running into the other room. 
A door opened in and two women walked in.  “Maysie, whatever are you caterwauling about?  Come here dear heart.  Let dear Lizzie give you a kiss.”  The woman who had not spoken walked up to Maysie and picked her up, giving her a peck on the forehead.  Maysie rolled her eyes skyward and squirmed until she was put down.  “Thank you, Lizzie.  Now let’s sit and have a bit of a talk.”  The two sat in chairs pulled up to the hearth, as it was a bit chilly.  Clem paid them little attention as their talk was about folks whose names she didn’t know and was mostly of the gossipy sort.  Nothing useful.  She roamed the room, looking for things to do.  Out of the corner of her eye she saw movement, and all the time she’d spent chasing yarnballs finally paid off.  She did a quick waggle and pounce and was rewarded by the feeling of a squirming mouse under her paws.  With a quick bite she killed it, deciding that it was better to rid these kind humans’ house of mice (and also so she could say she had her first kill). 
Lizzie remarked to the other woman, “Did you hear a mouse?  I swore I just heard one.  You are so lucky to have a cat who is such a good mouser.  I wish my Dirk would catch as many as yours does.”  The other woman replied that she’d heard a squeak also, but not to worry.  Clem picked up the mouse in her mouth and wondered how real this all was.  The mouse certainly felt and smelled real.  As she sat there, wondering what she should do next, she felt a wave of disorientation and began losing consciousness. 
Clem awoke to the yarn lady’s voice saying, “Clementine, I am so proud of you!  You caught a mouse, and I’ve never even heard one here.  However did this little fellow get in?  I’ll be he was an outdoor mouse taking refuge from the horrible storm last week.  Well, you are now officially a mouser, and not just a yarnball chaser.  Now, may I have that fine mouse?  Since you left it on the iPad, I assume it was a gift for my supper?”
Since she hadn’t purposely left it anywhere at all, Clem wasn’t awfully inclined to let anyone have her mouse.  She put her paw on it, but when the yarn lady gently tugged on the mousie’s tail, Clem let go.  Maybe the yarn lady was still short of food, and wanted to eat the mouse.  She knew that yesterday on the phone she’d said that the local grocery store still didn’t have power and she’d have to go to another one to get anything cold, so that could be the problem.  And protein is protein, whether it was chicken, turkey, beef or mouse.  As the yarn lady carried the mouse out, Clem thought about what had happened.  She’d been to England and witnessed a guest kissing a cat, just like in her research, but more to the point she’d managed to have an impact on both worlds.  That one had one less live mouse and this one had one more dead one. 
And she’d seen the dead mouse here at the yarn lady’s place and it had been sitting right on the iPad - for real, not just a dream.  The yarn lady had picked it up and carried it away.  Clem wasn’t sure all of a sudden if it was more or less reassuring to know that she’d really been to England and brought home a dead mouse.  What if that mouse had plague germs and everyone died?  Or conversely, what if the people in Olde Englande needed that mouse to spread disease to kill some horrible possible dictator or assassin or axe murderer or who knows what.  Clem squirmed herself in far under the covers, determined to drop this research and leave well enough alone.  


Monday, November 5, 2012

Tama, the Original Japanese Lucky Cat

The next afternoon Clem carefully typed up what she had witnessed during her visit with Mohammed and Muezza.  She loved the iPad’s large virtual keys, as they made typing merely a chore rather than an impossibility.  She finished, smiling a satisfied smile.  Her writing style might not be as good as the yarn lady’s but she also didn’t have someone who could proofread her work.  And anyway, it’s not like she was going to publish this like the yarn lady did with her blog and then the books when she’d written a whole story.  She saved the file and looked at her list for the next topic to research.  One of the first ones she had found was the story of the Japanese Lucky Cat, or Maneki Neko.  They were painted decorative cats with symbols painted on their chests and one paw held up in the air as though the cat was waving at someone.  People put them in Chinese restaurants (even though this happened in Japan) because it was supposed to make the restaurant prosperous.  Clem guessed that meant a lot of customers who bought lots of food. 
Clem read the brief story.  A cat who lived at the temple had raised her paw to a feudal lord as he walked by.  The lord, who was surprised to be greeted by a cat walked over to the temple entrance and out of nowhere a bolt of lightning struck the tree next to where he had been walking and it caught fire, falling to the ground.  If the lord hadn’t come over to the temple entrance he would have been killed.  The website didn’t explain how that related to prosperity.  Maybe he’d made a donation to the temple in thanks for it being there for him to walk into the entrance and not get hit by lightning or the tree. 
So, time for more research.  This time she went directly to the site that had the cat with hypnotic eyes and the words she couldn’t read at first, since she’d bookmarked the website.  The yarn lady never used the bookmark feature on the iPad, so she felt safe saving bookmarks.  Instead of the hypnotic eyes cat, today the website had an animation of a Japanese Lucky Cat that had golden coins pouring out of its upraised paw in an unending stream.  Clem stared at the coins as they poured out of Maneki Neko’s hands…

…and found herself inside an old rickety building that looked like nothing she had ever seen, even on television or the Internet.  The walls were whitewashed with dark brown wood posts and beams along with what looked like woven wood sliding panels where she would expect doors and windows.  The floor was made of or covered with mats that looked to be woven of grass.  She was sitting in the corner on one of those mats and she tried to dig her claws into it to see if it was grass, and also to see if she could actually effect the place she found herself in.  She could feel her claws digging into the mat, but as she pulled them out, the mat looked exactly the same.  That would have not been the case if she were really there and clawing the mat.  This must be another dream, Clem thought, and set out to explore.  
Since she had been reading about the Japanese Lucky Cat, the first thing she looked for was a white cat with its paw held up in the air sitting in a doorway.  Not only was there no cat, there was no doorway that she could find.  The light in the room came from a place where one of the woven panels had been slid back partway, and it was a bit high up for her to jump.  Clem started clawing at the panels, in hope that someone would hear her, or maybe she could claw through the panel.  She’d already forgotten about her experience with the floor mats, and there was neither sound nor movement produced by her claws.  Clem was about to leap through the slit in the kind-of window when the door panel slid back and an ancient man entered.  He was simply dressed in a dark grey kimono with a faded yellow or orange kashaya robe draped over one shoulder and wrapped around his body.  He was speaking what she assumed to be Japanese, but after a moment or two she began to understand what he was saying. 
“So cold, so cold.  I would like some tea, but I have no tea and no money to buy tea.  All I have are my duties here and you, Tama.”  The priest looked around and realized he was talking to himself.  “Tama, Tama!  Where are you?  Aiee, you leave me talking to myself, you silly cat.”  The old man shook his head, shuffled off into the corner furthest from any breeze that might blow in the doorway and sank to the floor, putting his head in his hands.  He began to cry silently, but a few sobs escaped as his shoulders shook with sadness and cold. 
A grey cat with a few orange patches that almost made the cat look like he was wearing his own kashaya jumped down into the room from the window slit.  Landing lightly he ran over to the old priest and nuzzled his arms until he could worm his way onto the old man’s lap.  Tama purred loudly and rocked slowly in the priest’s lap until his arms wound around the cat in an embrace.  “Oh Tama, I have no money to buy my tea and if I were not given rice by the neighbors I would starve.  Any money I have is spent to buy bits of fish or fowl for you.  I have cared for you since you were a tiny kitten, and I a much younger man.  Can you now care for me?  Oh, help me, Tama, or I will have to give you up, and that will be my death, as I will die from sorrow.”   
Tama sat in the old man’s embrace until his sobs slowed and his arms loosened from around the cat.  “My good Tama, go and catch yourself a mouse, as I cannot even buy you a bait fish today.  Take care of yourself, my dear friend.  I will be fine.”  The cat stood up in his lap and carefully washed away the tears from his master’s face, nuzzled him a few times and carefully climbed out of his lap.  Tama walked out of the room and Clementine followed.  He stopped just outside the doorway and moved to the side.  Clem followed and scooted past as she wanted to see the outside of the building.  She figured it had to be the Japanese temple of the story, and she wanted to know what a temple looked like. 
After completing a circuit of the outside of the temple she decided that if this wasn’t a run-down specimen of a temple then Japanese building or architecture left a lot to be desired.  The peaked roof was missing tiles, and several of the beams holding up the roof where it extended out from the walls were rotting away.  The floor of the wrap-around porch was soft in spots and in the back there was a section where the floor boards had broken through and not been replaced or repaired.  If she was a Buddhist, she probably wouldn’t want to visit this temple, so it was likely the neighbors weren’t giving money gifts for its maintenance, and probably only fed the poor old priest out of pity. 
Tama, the priest’s cat was sitting on the porch looking sadly out at the neighborhood.  He began to speak softly to himself.  “Oh master, I wish I could do something to help you.  When you were young the state started telling you what priests could do and not do, and stopped any government support of our little temple.  When I was a kitten and there were more Buddhists in this area, you and I both ate well.  But now our neighbors have little money and what they have they do not give to a temple that is in such bad repair.  Only the poorest even come to you for funerals – they prefer to visit the fancier temples in better parts of Edo.”  The cat shook his head and began to groom and straighten out his rumpled and tear stained fur.  He started with his hind quarters and tail and worked his way up his back as a storm neared.  Clem sensed that the part of the story she had read might soon occur, so she crouched on the opposite side of the open doorway and scanned the street for the feudal lord.  She guessed someone like that would be dressed in very fancy clothing and maybe even carry a sword, since after all this was Japan. 
A middle-aged man dressed in a plain black kimono was hurrying up the street, obviously anxious to get to shelter before the storm broke.  As he came nearer the rain began and large heavy raindrops pattered down.  The man stopped under a tree across the road.  Clem looked at him, and figured that this was no feudal lord.  He looked like the Japanese equivalent of a business man.  Still, she looked over at Tama, and noticed that he was licking his paws and rubbing them along the side of his head to clean and arrange his fur.  The man noticed Tama’s upraised paw and stared.  Again Tama licked his paw and rubbed along his face.  The man (who had obviously never watched a cat bathe before) hurried across the road in the rain and stepped up onto the porch and ducked into the doorway to keep dry.  At the moment he entered the temple a bolt of lightning hit the tree he had been standing under and it burst into flame.  Within seconds, burning branches rained down where the man had been standing. 
The man stared at the burning tree and then at the cat, who was frozen in surprise, paw held to the side of his head and very slowly bowed to the cat.  “I owe you a great debt, sir cat.  Your beckoning me to come over to this temple saved my life.  Please…take me to your master.”  He stepped to the side of the doorway, and swept his hand to invite the cat inside. 
This was an opportunity Tama realized was not to be missed.  The man’s kimono, although simple was made of fine cloth and his voice betrayed an educated accent.  Tama stood and regally walked inside, announcing his presence with a loud meow.  He walked towards the old priest, continuing to meow loudly.  It was dark inside the temple, as the clouds had limited what light was available to come in from outside.  Tama could see his master huddled in the corner, but probably the visitor could not. 
“Tama, is that you calling me?  Have you gotten wet from the rain?  Well, if you have, come here.  I may not have any food to give you, but I do have a cloth to dry you off with.”  The priest laughed, “It is my second-best kashaya, which means it is a rag rather than an almost rag.”  He reached out with his hands swathed in the ragged bit of robe and caught Tama in his arms.  “Eh, you seem dry to me.  Please do not tell me your hunting was unsuccessful, or we may both go hungry tonight.”  He cuddled the cat close to him, seeking reassurance from its presence.
The visitor cleared his throat and spoke.  “Excuse me, kind sir.  Are you the owner of this grey cat with the orange spots?  Your noble cat invited me into your temple and by doing so saved my life.  The tree I was standing beneath was hit by a bolt of lightning and I would have been killed by either the lightning or the burning branches that fell from the tree.  I owe the owner of this cat a great debt and I am a man who pays his debts.” 
The priest struggled to his feet, also recognizing a voice belonging to a man who was well-educated and sure of his own authority and importance.  “Kind sir, please allow me to light a lamp for you.  I usually sit in the dark, as it helps my meditations….”  The old man’s voice faltered.
“And I wager because you can’t afford lamp oil if you are unsure from where the evening meal for you and your cat is to come.  Light the lamp and let me see you.  Neither you nor your cat will ever lack for food or light again.”  As the priest lit the lamp he recognized the man standing in front of him as one of the daimyo of the Kanto region.  He nearly dropped the lamp in his haste to bow to the daimyo. 
“No, please do not bow to me.  If your cat had not summoned me, I would not be alive at this moment.  Let me and my people serve you and your fine cat.”  The daimyo walked to the doorway and was met by several anxious men who gathered around him all talking at once.  Clementine was able to determine from their conversation that they were servants of the daimyo (who did turn out to be a Japanese feudal lord) who had been aware that their master had left the house without them.  When they saw the storm approaching they rushed to follow him to his destination, carrying a jacket and umbrellas for him.  He dismissed their questions with a wave and gave them instructions to bring hot food, lights, warm clothing and a full set of bedding to the temple. 
Within a half-hour the old priest was dressed in warm clothing in a well-lit room eating the best meal he had eaten in years.  The daimyo walked around the temple and discreetly poked at rotting wood or damaged wood panels while the priest ate.  When the priest lay down the bowl with a satisfied sigh the lord dropped to sit on the mat next to the priest.  “As a daimyo of one of the largest han in Kanto, I have participated in many votes regarding the support of the Buddhist temples and voted to cut money for their maintenance.  Obviously although I saw no need to support those who teach the wheel of life, the wheel of life saw fit to allow my continued existence today.”  He laughed and shook his head.  “Although I cannot restore the government money that has been taken from you, I will pledge my personal support to repair this temple and provide ongoing support for you and your cat, who saved my life.”   He stood up and bowed down to Tama three times to show his appreciation.  Clementine, who had come inside and watched all of this, found her eyes misting over with tears at the beauty of this moment. 

When her eyes cleared, Clem found herself back on the yarn lady’s bed, sprawled across the iPad.  It was no longer on, but that made sense.  She’d been asleep…or gone…for quite a while.  She quickly turned it on and cleared all of the browser windows she’d opened and then sat and thought about what she’d observed.  The cat, Tama, had brought prosperity to her owner’s temple and it was because he’d had his paw up in the air as he washed his head.  Why hadn’t she thought of that?  No matter, and she began to type her observations before she forgot any of them…and before the yarn lady came home.