The great tragedy that decimated so many of our brave brothers and sisters befell on a splendid Spring day without warning so innocuously that we failed to notice the darkness descend on us but descend it did. A giant calico cat, not black like Bulgakov’s Behemoth but equally evil in its cruel tricks, emerged slowly in a stately fashion out of a field drunk with poppies, their orange heads waving above a thick verdure of stems that provided cover enabling the cat’s surprise entrance.
The owner, as was her habit, sat reading in the booth by the front door while an idle waitress sat across the table folding napkins the color of clotted blood. The owner, Marlene, was reading Chekhov’s The Sea-Gull, an inferior translation I’m afraid to say. Chekhov had his doubts that his work could be effectively translated from the Russian. I agree with him. That is why I am writing this report in English even though English is a language seldom read today. Accuracy must outweigh convenience if I am to have any hope of conveying to you the details of what actually happened during this sad time and why my companions and I were forced to take such drastic actions.
Marlene was reading Chekhov, as I said, when this wild calico monster first appeared as if out of nowhere. Humans are so gullible when it comes to cats. They unfairly dislike us mice. I mean, whatever have we done to deserve such … Oh well, forget it. The woman’s husband, Martin, appeared almost at the same time as the feline fiend. They thought it was a male and named him Chekhov in honor of the author of The Sea-Gull. Later it was decided, how is a mystery to me, that the cat was a female, and the name immediately became Chekhova.
How quaint. Little Chekhov. There was nothing little about that Behemoth, him/her, who cares? Now, I must warn you about what I’m about to say. I looked into this play of Chekhov’s and found that one of the characters, an aspiring author, claimed “life must be represented not as it is, but as it ought to be; as it appears in dreams.” I’m afraid I cannot do that for you. What happened over the next few years was horrible, ghastly, grotesque. I must tell it like it is.
When no one claimed Chekhova, the beast was officially adopted and given the run of the place. She came and went as she pleased and did as she pleased. It was La Terreur all over again. Chekhova demanded new victims unceasingly. Nervous excitability reigned throughout the mouse den, suspicions flew with abandon, accusations, investigations until one after another of our clan was offered up to placate her insatiable appetite. But, it was never enough.
Sometimes the owners of the restaurant fed her, but more often than not she appeared taking her magnificent strides, mouth full of the meat of one of our comrades, the tail of the unsuspecting dupe hanging from her mouth. It was disgusting.
At first, the humans took perverse pleasure in such goings on. They praised her, coddled her. The owners refused to chase her away even when eventually some of the more refined customers began to complain. Slowly, methodically she began to cross the line. There were reports that she snapped at little children, that she would bite grown men, and that she abhorred being petted and would attack anyone who dared to do so.
Such reports were ignored by the humans but not by the mice. We suffered. Oh, how we suffered! There was no more leisurely munching on crumbs or the occasional and welcome slurping of leftover beer. It was too dangerous. Not only would Chekhova snap up any unsuspecting mouse for an easy snack, she would insensitively disable an errant mouse on his way home and play with him for hours as if he were no more than a toy without life, without feelings. It was a horror. Horror of horrors!
A plan was devised. We had no choice. We asked for mouse martyrs and assured them a special place in mouse heaven for their sacrifice. These victims would be offered up only in full public view. We waited until a table of diners was comfortably seated, the orders delivered, and the process of eating begun. We then arranged for Chekhova to crunch down on one of our brave martyrs, blood and guts streaming down from her jaws, in front of those in the midst of enjoying their breakfast or lunch or dinner.
In this way, we finally stumbled onto the means to arouse the long dormant feeling of pity, perhaps it was just disgust, for our mouse kind in the insensitive hearts of the humans. The children were the first to start screaming and crying. The adults were more likely to gag and wretch after they stopped cajoling each other with language insulting to us mice.
We celebrated our victory. The owners would have to get rid of the dreaded Chekhova. We were sure. But, we were wrong. The owners placated the customers with free hot chocolate and other giveaways. Humans, being greedy, responded positively and learned to put up with Chekhova’s antics and even began to encourage them hoping they would be offered free beer and wine.
It was the profit motive and simple allergies that finally did in Chekhova. Martin and Marlene sold the restaurant to a new owner who was allergic to cats. He was also poorly financed and couldn’t afford the endless free hot chocolate, beer and wine. In a strange case of fiction mimicking reality the new owner’s name was Constantine. He shot Chekhova dead, stuffed her, and kept her on a shelf in a dark corner of the restaurant. There her stuffed corpse remained until the restaurant burned down on December 12, 1976.
That was forty years ago but I’m sure I’ve seen Chekhova on the streets of Mendocino. They have nine lives you know, those cats. But we poor mice have only one. I’m always on my guard. It’s a crazy way to live. Some say there’s life after death but I believe in the one bird in the hand point of view.