Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Taffy has a conversation

I had no idea that Taffy could understand Elfin. Or Welfin. Whichever it was. I don't know if this is something that all cats are born with or if she was simply a fairy in disguise living off my generous hospitality. I have heard that fairies can do that - take animal shapes, I mean. But Taffy, though unusually intelligent and good-natured, has always seemed perfectly cat-like to me so I think that she is probably just what she appears to be. Besides, our life together is so boring that I can't imagine a fairy sticking around this long.

In any case, our visitor turned to Taffy and began to speak directly to her. Taffy cocked her head and twitched her tail and made all manner of encouraging noises. She seemed to understand everything. Then she replied in a series of mews and trills. The two of them carried on this conversation with great earnestness for so long that I finally became bored. I decided to leave them to it and clear away the breakfast things, then prepare a meal for myself. All I had had since waking was coffee and excitement, both of which leave one feeling rather hollow.

I fixed my breakfast and brought it on a tray into the study to eat at my desk. Taffy and the elf were gone but the casement window was open and I could see Taffy's striped back as she loped through the garden to the hydrangea bush. The elf must be showing her something, I thought, feeling very left out. When I was finished eating, I went back into the miniature room, dusted off the Sugarplum Cottage, furnished it and then covered the open backside and roof with pieces of foam board. It was a makeshift fix but would give the occupant some privacy. I must admit that I felt less satisfaction than I had expected at finally having an occupant for the little Tudor-style cottage. Initially I had been so proud of my creation, but suddenly everything looked crude and clumsy. Nevertheless, it would have to do.

Gingerly I carried the cottage into the study and placed it on a little table. The elf returned with Taffy, looking decidedly weary from all her adventures. Taffy's face was drawn up into an expression that I wouldn't quite describe as a frown - for cats can't frown - but rather a brown study. She was certainly chewing on something in her little brain, and every few moments her tail would twitch like an injured snake.

Our visitor, upon seeing the house, jumped up and down with glee, clapping her little hands and uttering her thanks profusely. Taffy was clearly not impressed; she began to wash her hindquarters with deliberate preoccupation. The elf went up to the little front door, pushed it open and went inside. I could barely restrain myself from peering in the windows like an ogre, but I could see her moving around. Then she didn't move at all. I waited a few minutes, then looked as discreetly as possible through the upstairs window. She had fallen asleep in the bed with the white crocheted coverlet. Her little hat had tumbled to the floor; her eyes were closed and her mouth was open. I don't mind admitting that I felt tears pressing behind my eyes at the sight. To see one's miniature house occupied is the secret dream of every miniaturist.

I spent the next several hours in my workroom, trying to piece together some garments for our visitor from the softest, lightest fabrics I had. Taffy dozed in the sunshine, her tail still twitching at intervals. I couldn't help wondering what she and the elf had talked about for so long. What had happened to this tiny visitor and how long would she stay? It was clear that she was in some kind of trouble. I wondered what it was and if there was any way at all that I could help. But unless I learned to speak Elfin or feline, or unless one of them learned English, I doubted that I would ever find out.

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