Chapter One – The Quieting
Mukwa was an exceptionally large cat with broad flat paws and claws that curled in and out of their sheathes when she purred. She was in the prime of her life and loved nothing better than sprawling out on in front of the window. Her ears tilted from side to side and were rounding like a bear cub. Mukwa well named and demanded the total adoration of her owners.
She watched as the cars drove by and innumerable pick-up trucks. Owners walked pesky barking dogs and she twitched her tail at them and sighed as she licked her paws. On one fine morning there was more traffic than usual. Children excitedly chased each other down the road.
“Good morning, Mukwa! Catch any mice last night?”
Mukwa purred as her friend reached down and gave her head a scratch and her belly a quick rub. Mukwa rolled over and swatted at the hand playfully. A second rub would have initiated a warning bite, but Alice new her well. She knew just how many pats and chin scratches were acceptable.
Alice turned on the radio and the end of an announcement filled the silent kitchen, “I repeat, all elderly and immune suppressed individuals are advised to stay in their homes for the next two weeks. We will update you as new information is released.”
“Time to put on a pot of cedar tea, don’t you think, Mukwa?”
Mukwa meowed a very loud and mournful response and Alice chuckled.
“All right, I’ll feed you first.”
The kibbles filled the dish and Mukwa dug in while Alice swayed and hummed under her breath while she made herself an egg with toast and put on a pot of water with cedar branches for tea. She spread a thick layer of strawberry jam on her toast and sat down at the table to read while she ate.
The phone rang, “Hello? … Enh, I have everything I need. My freezer is full of fish and I have plenty of toilet paper. What a silly thing to ask!”
Mukwa dantily licked her paws as she finished her meal. She left a few for later, but lapped up water to wash it down. “Mukwa may need some more food if you don’t mind picking some up when you get the chance, you can stop in for tea… All right dear, don’t worry about me. Mukwa and I will be find, just leave it on the deck.”
Alice hung up the phone and thoughtfully looked out the window while she ate and more while she cleaned up her dishes.
The cars were busy, but by evening the street got quiet. Only an occasional engine stirred the quiet. The phone was silent and the cat food was left on the deck as promised, but no one visited.
The next morning, there was nothing to watch out the window and Mukwa glared at the street hoping for even a dog to ignore. Nothing. The world had gone silent.
Alice scooped up Mukwa and stared out the window too. “Nothing, to see eh, Mukwa? It’s just you and me for a while. “The news says all events are cancelled and businesses are closed too. It’s just the two of us.”
So, Mukwa allowed the woman with the long grey speckled hair and soft hands to hold her on her lap and together they rocked and watched out the window. The woman smiled a little. She was enjoying this quiet. Only the birds sang, and one, just one stopped and stared into the window from the treetops. It was a raven, a raven who had bent down the tallest branch in a big arched swoop. The raven watched the woman and decided that she was the one he was looking for.
Sometimes Alice read, and she strung beads onto a project she was working on, but more often she set all that aside and watched. The more she sat and rocked with her cat, the more the raven was certain. The woman paused to sip from a mug but continued to rock with a little smile on her lips.
Only the wind stirred. Others had been send to look but Raven was sure he’d found the one.
He swooped down on her front doorstep and left seven feathers in a neat row on her welcome mat. Raven didn’t glance back as he flew away, it was another who would come for her during the quieting, he had to only leave a sign. Alice rocked until bed time when Mukwa followed her favourite person, purring as she went. She curled up beside the old woman and together they peacefully slept.
Copyright 2020 by Nadine Labelle