The Secret Cat
by Valerie L. Egar
When Uncle Tasher said he was bringing Julie a cat he’d found in Egypt, she wondered how he managed to bring it home on the airplane. Then, she wondered how he persuaded her parents to allow a cat in the house. She’d asked for a kitten over and over and they always said, “No!”
Julie couldn’t wait to see it, but when Uncle Tasher arrived, all he carried with him was a small painting of a ruddy colored kitten with large green eyes. Julie thought she might cry. It wasn’t what she was expecting at all. She wanted a real cat, not a picture of one.
“Let me hang the picture for you,” said Uncle Tasher. Julie pointed to a place on the wall in her bedroom. While he hammered the hook into the sheetrock, he explained that he bought the painting from a mysterious man in crowded bazaar. “He assured me it’s magic, “ Uncle Tasher said. “Just wait until tonight.”
Julie rolled her eyes. Uncle Tasher was always making jokes.
That night, when the moon shone on the picture, the cat’s eyes seemed to glow. Julie thought she saw its head move, but maybe it was a shadow from the tree outside her window. She stared at the painting and watched, fascinated, as the kitten stood and stretched. Then, with a great leap he jumped onto her bed.
“Oh my!” Julia said. She scratched him under the chin and he purred happily.
“Do you need something to eat?” she whispered. She wasn’t sure whether magical cats needed food and water. She sneaked into the kitchen and got a tiny cup of water and a piece of cheese, but he didn’t want any. Instead, he explored the room, rolled a few pencils off her desk and batted at the cord hanging from the blinds. Then he settled on the windowsill, bathing in the moonlight.
“You need a name,” said Julie. She tried to remember some of the Egyptian names Uncle Tasher mentioned. He’d talked about kings, queens and ancient gods and goddesses, but Julie couldn’t remember any of them. She loved his description of a boat ride on a river called the Nile, and that’s what she decided to call the kitten.
When Julie woke up, Nile was gone. Julie glanced at the painting. There he was, still and quiet.
Never had Julie been so anxious to get to bed as she was that night. She didn’t ask for a second bedtime story. She didn’t say she was thirsty.
When she put the light out, she stared and stared at the picture. At first it seemed like nothing was going to happen. Then, Nile’s tail curled and he yawned. A great leap and he was on the bed, purring and rubbing his head on Julie’s face.
Julie wiggled her toes and Nile pounced on them. Julie giggled. She fell asleep with Nile curled beside her on the pillow. When she woke, Nile was gone, back inside the painting.
Every night Julie and Nile played and enjoyed each other’s company. Every morning, Nile was back inside the picture frame, silent and still.
One day as Mom vacuumed the bedroom carpet as Julie dusted. Mom noticed what seemed to be cat hair on the deep blue rug. She was puzzled. “Can’t be,” she said.
Julie looked at the picture on the wall and the mysterious little cat winked. Julie winked back at her special, secret cat.
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Copyright 2016 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied, reproduced or distributed without permission from the author.
Published May 8, 2016, Biddeford Journal Tribune (Biddeford, ME).