I’m writing this story, and I’m like, WTF? Because we’re practically vegetarian and we know vegetarians, and they aren’t wackadoo. Charlie isn’t wackadoo. I’m not speaking for myself. Then I remembered that I actually have gone online to see whether cats can be fed a vegetarian diet. That’s where I got the term “obligate carnivore.”
So, if you ever wonder where writers get ideas, they get some of them by being, well, a little bit wackadoo.
Mr. Sugar vs the Vegetarian Fiend
by Marian Allen
When Sweetheart and Darling (my humans) went vegetarian, I nearly left home. For months, I had detected a diminution of appeal in the food they took turns cooking; there was a lack of a certain rich, earthy undertone and a multiplicity of new scents.
Not that they ever fed me human food. For that, I had to visit Mrs. DiMarco, my (I admit it) friend on the lower-socio-economic end of the street, who knew no better than to feed a cat table scraps. A sterling woman, for all her faults.
So the change in my humans made no difference to me, other than the olfactory aesthetics. What I resented was the difference with which they presented my meals to me.
Formerly, Sweetheart would scoop kibble into my dish with expressions of delight and envy, or Darling would pretend to take a bite and smack his lips with relish. We all knew they found the kibble as dry and dull as I (though, admittedly, I enjoyed the flavor and crunch, monotonous as it had become over the years).
Now, they wore gloves when they served me, and dropped the pleasant fiction that they longed for a feast that was too good for humans. It put me off my food, to be honest.
One day, as I sprawled between them on the special blanket they spread on the couch in order to keep my flowing white locks pristine, I heard my name and pricked up my ears.
Sweetheart had said something I had missed until she mentioned me, and Darling replied, “There’s no such thing. Cats are obligate carnivores. Mr. Sugar has to have meat in his food. At least his kibble isn’t recognizable as meat.”
I could have told them that, had they understood my language as well as I understood theirs. I hoped they weren’t going to change my food again; uninspiring as it was, it was the best of the variety they had tried me with.
“Still,” Sweetheart said, “maybe there’s some vegetable and grain blend that, you know, would supply all his vital nutrients. Maybe with a chemical supplement?”
She tucked her hair, even longer than mine, behind her ear, and that was when I saw IT. Perched on her shoulder was a creature the size and shape of a baby eggplant. It had green tendrils like arms and legs connecting it to Sweetheart’s shoulder and neck, and it was whispering into her ear, though its eyes were on me.
Darling argued against the chemicals. Good man.
Sweetheart said, “Not, you know, chemical chemicals. Something organic and natural.”
I said, “Arsenic is organic and natural, but one wouldn’t want it in one’s food.”
Darling stroked my fur, making it crackle, and said, “Don’t worry, old man. We won’t take your yummy kibble away.”
The fiend on Sweetheart’s shoulder seemed to think otherwise, leering at me with malice until I simply had to exercise my cat-flap prerogative and leave the house.
I went to Mrs. DiMarco’s, of course. I followed the sound of her voice around the house to the back. She was taking a break from her usual selections and was howling, “Hard times, hard times, come again no more,” with enough coloratura to supply any seven other songs. When she paused for breath – fairly soon, considering the volume and enthusiasm of her singing and the number of cigarettes she smoked in a day – I called to her.
“Mrs. DiMarco! May I come in? I have a problem I need to talk out.”
This was true, but I won’t deny that I detected in the air pouring out of her kitchen vent the rich goodness I had been missing from our own kitchen: the scent of cooking meat.
She opened the back door and motioned me in with her beer bottle.
“Ragmop, you old rascal!” Although my name, for obvious reasons, is Mr. Sugar, Mrs. DiMarco has always called me Ragmop. I indulge her, and have even come to have a certain rough fondness for the nickname. “How’d you know I was making chicken soup? Is that your favorite? Hmm? You want some scrippy-scraps, Mister Ragmop?”
Mrs. DiMarco is possibly the best cook I know, or perhaps she simply understands me. She had a bowl filled with the best bits of the chicken – skin, gristle, and those little squishy bits. She spooned some of the steaming broth over it.
“Now let that cool, Raggers. That’ll burn your kitty-cat mouth right off your face.”
“You’re most kind,” I said.
“No,” she said, wagging a finger at me, “just wait a li’l bit. Just keep your kitten britches on, fella.”
I told her about Sweetheart and Darling, and about the fiend who, I feared, would lead to my demise – or, at the very least, to an embarrassing form of indigestion. She sang through it all, but I didn’t really expect her to understand me; I only wanted a sounding board. From the number of bottles on the table, I judged that she was firmly in board territory and well on her way to brick wall.
Her doorbell rang.
“Gotta go,” she said to me. She waggled a finger again. “No jumping up to get that food, right? It’s still scorchy hot.”
Naturally, I followed her.
Her visitor was Sweetheart. My nemesis grinned at me, and my blood ran chill.
“Is Mr. Sugar here? He ran out of the house as if the Fiend, himself, were after him. It was so funny: We were talking about switching him to a vegetarian plus supplements diet, and you would think he understood.”
“He’s no fool,” said my friend. “I don’t blame him.”
Sweetheart wrinkled her nose at the delicious aroma that filled the house and said, “I was afraid he’d come down here to bother you again.”
“He don’t bother me. We’re pals.”
“Yes. Well. Oh, there he is!”
I crouched and dug my claws into the rug. I had no desire to be within cuddling distance of the purple creature on Sweetheart’s shoulder.
Except … it was no longer on her shoulder! It had switched to Mrs. DiMarco’s!
“Aw,” Mrs. Dimarco said, “let ‘im stay. He keeps me company. I’ll send him home before dark. I’ll walk him down.”
If she had another beer or two, I could ride her as she crawled, but I didn’t say that aloud.
Sweetheart, without the vegetarian fiend on her shoulder, became reasonable. She smiled, bent to stroke my silken, shining head, and said, “If you’re sure. It’s so sweet, the way he’s taken to you.”
Mrs. DiMarco snorted. “I’m the cat whisperer.” She laughed until she gave herself a coughing fit, showing Sweetheart out the door and wiping tears from her own eyes with a muffler from the hat rack by the door.
In the kitchen, the fiend on Mrs. DiMarco’s shoulder whispered furiously while I looked on in helpless despair.
“You know, Ragmop,” Mrs. DiMarco said, “vegetarian is a pretty good idea, really. Poor li’l cows and pigs and chickens. And fish and whatnot. What if people tasted as good as animals? What if people went around eating people? How would we like that, huh? Or what if we ate cats and all? It makes you think.”
I shuddered to see the seeds of my destruction being sown in the mind of my friend. No more “scrippy-scraps”? No more “snicky-snacks”?
She stirred her soup, sniffed it, and said, “Tell you what: I’m gonna be a vegetarian. Yep, I sure am. The day animals stop eating each other, I’ll stop eating ’em, too.” She put my bowl on the floor. As she stooped toward me, I was delighted to see the fiend on her shoulder snarl and shrivel away.
“There you go, Ragmop,” my dining companion said. “Eat ’til ya bust.”
MY PROMPTS TODAY: hirsute, elder, chicken and rice soup, vegetarian