FOLLOWING THE CAT
He stood on the sidewalk at the corner of the street. The matted reddish hair, the great green eyes, the head too big for the body. The stray cat had greeted him with an angry meow.
“Poor kitty, you’re hungry” Peter had said, giving him a bite of the cheese and onion sandwich he was eating. That morning he had gotten up late and so he hadn’t been able to eat ( have) breakfast sitting at the table.
The cat devoured the morsel and meowed, an imperious meow, as for an urgent request. Peter handed him another bite which the cat grab from his hands, swallowing it. “ You’re really hungry, kitty,” Peter said, leaving the cat the rest of his sandwich.
Peter continued on his way at a good pace but the cat run after him, grabbing him by the trousers, meowing angrily, and pulling Peter back. It seemed he ( the cat) had to say or ask him ( Peter) something of utmost urgency. Peter couldn’t get rid of the little animal. “ I can’t take you with me,” he said, trying to pick the cat up but he wriggled and jumped to the ground, still grabbing Peter by the trousers and meowing furiously. It really looked like the cat didn’t want to go with Peter, but rather wanted Peter to go with him.
He, Peter, was almost irritated but also intrigued. So he decided he would follow that strange cat. Who knows where he would have taken him? It seemed to Peter that this strange cat wanted to show him something. “ Okay, I’ll come WHERE you want to take me,” Peter said, his face near the muzzle of the cat, patting him on the head. The cat, which seemed to understand what he had said, meowed joyfully. “ I’ll call you Pippo,” Peter said. The cat, whether he understood his name or not, walked quickly up the sidewalk, after making sure Peter was following him. Pippo scampered quickly down the sidewalk, went from sidewalk to sidewalk, turned, slipping between the feet of the passers-by. Every now and then the cat looked back, turning his head, to make sure Peter was following. Then, each time he meowed with a determined and triumphant meow as if to say to Peter that here, he was fine, that’s how he had to keep doing: go after him.
After a fairly long journey, Pippo left the town and started walking along a country road that led to a few old houses on a small hill, not even a village. On the small hill, there was also an old church where Mass only rarely was celebrated. Pippo headed straight toward the church and entered defiantly, pushing the door with his muzzle. It seemed to be a place that was familiar to him. Entering the church, where there was only an old woman kneeling in front of the altar, the cat meowed imperiously and tugged Peter’s trousers again. He wanted Peter to follow him, He ordered Peter to follow him. On one side of the altar, there was a confessional. Pippo began to rub against the confessional, meowing. And he tried, pushing its walls with his muzzle and paws, to open the confessional. Peter was embarrassed, to say the least, and he was going to come out of the church when the old woman kneeling in front of the altar stood up and approached him. “ Wait, wait for a moment, “ she said. “ Oh, excuse me, I’m so much sorry….This damned cat is disturbing this holy place….Excuse me” Peter said, all awed. The old woman smiled at him. “This cat, if you knew…the cat is meowing because he wants to show you WHO is inside the confessional, but he can’t open it.” Peter was stunned, confused. How WHO’s inside the confessional? That he knew Inside the confessional had to be the confessor, but now there was no one to confess.
The old woman opened the door of the confessional while Pippo continued to meow and fidget.
A white cat with black patches, lying on one side, belly out ( up) , was suckling four little kittens. The cat and the kittens were in a wicker basket, inside the confessional. “ Here, isn’t wonderful? I think it’s a miracle!” The old woman said, looking at Peter radiantly, smiling.
“It was this cat ___we call him Melindo ____who brought here the cat when she was pregnant and undernourished. Oh, she was all skin and bones! We cared for her and she gave us these magnificent puppies!” Peter was stunned, if even amazed, ecstatic. But how, the cat with her litter in the confessional! Did she stay there even during confessions? “ Oh, but no one confesses here anymore. We placed the cat inside the confessional because it’s a sheltered space, to assure the cat and her kittens to have a protected place.” That old woman was incredible! She kept talking about the need for a protected space for the cat and her puppies….But that was a church! Oh, the old woman told him, in the church, even if it remains a church in all respects____ it hadn’t been deconsecrated___ Mass was celebrated only for Christmas and Easter. Sometimes weddings, baptisms, and funerals were also held there but rarely. “ Well, the ideal place to become a shelter for stray animals, perhaps a colony of cats,” Peter thought.
Pippo, or Melindo, that was busy licking the puppies and the cat that nursed them started meowing furiously again when Peter walked away, heading for the exit. The cat seemed to want to keep him there in the church. As if there was more to show him. “ Oh, our cat would like you to stay here, he doesn’t want you to leave. Isn’t good here? Isn’t a marvel, a miracle what happens in this church?” The old woman said, who spoke as in ecstasy, spellbound.
Peter back in town couldn’t stop thinking about Pippo’s behavior when he was about to leave the church. The cat had pulled him by the trousers, scratched him, bit him. It just looked like Pippo did not want to let him go ( away). Of course, it was a strange cat….but perhaps, it occurred to Peter, there was something else in that church that the cat wanted him to see.
During the night he dreamed of Pippo leading him to that church and bustling around the confessional. In the dream, it was he, Peter, who opened the confessional. The moment the confessional door opened he heard a solemn organ playing. Inside the confessional there was a young woman lying on the floor, her chest horribly open. It was following that dream that Peter remember in that church, several years earlier a girl, who had disappeared, had been seen for the last time. The 16-year-old girl, Lilly, had gone to the church for the wedding of a friend of hers. But at the end of the Mass, no one knew where she had gone. No one hadn’t seen her again.
Peter, even if embarrassed and, above all, afraid of being taken for crazy, went to the police and told of the cat which had led him to that church. He told of the cat’s behavior that didn’t want him to leave the church. And he told of his dream. They looked at him suspiciously but they didn’t think he was crazy. The church was searched from top to bottom. In the attic of the church were found the remains of the girl who had disappeared several years ago.