Friday, January 6, 2017


During the war I could seldom reach the imaginary castle where I stored most of my memories, and years passed afterwards in which the present did not loosen its urgent grip on me. When finally I made the long journey, over a road filled with deep craters, driving an oxcart my greatgrandmother had once described to my mother, there were boards over most of the windows and the great door was nailed shut. There was a servants' entrance, though it had never been much used. I had few servants and they weren't the sort who bother with doors. I tied the ox to a tree and it started grazing while I picked the lock.

Inside, my former self was exactly where I'd last seen him 12 years before, asleep in my memory of a comfortable chair. I looked at him for a few moments. He hadn't aged, of course, but the dust in his hair made it grey. There was a cat in his lap -- one of the memories I had inherited from my father. None of the cats who have lived with me have talked -- not to me, at any rate.

I grew up without cats because my brother was allergic to them, so  had never witnessed my father having a conversation with one. Still, I had seen dogs bring him their woes, so I no more doubted his claim that the cats with whom he grew up spoke than that he had flown with angels. He was an unusually truthful man, using up my family's store of honesty so his children could manage only the occasional true word.

After he died, most of my father's memories had wandered off into this world or that, but some had wound up mixed with mine, which was why there were talking cats in my castle and a rather surly angel who didn't talk. Anyway, she didn't talk to me. None of the cats had been given names since my grandfather had felt they might consider it an insult. (The dogs had names, but dogs are less touchy about such things.) There was usually just one cat, who was referred to as "the cat." If a second one moved in, it was "the other cat."

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