The Wizard’s Cat
Part Three of Three
by Rose Guildenstern
I pick up Ferocious despite yowls of protest and hurry the cat with Papa’s second-best wand back down his winding staircase to the kitchen.
It’s exactly as I left it, except the pot of med’cine has cooled down.
I look closely around the room, but no Nana. “So, you’re saying that Nana is somewhere in this kitchen.”
Mud rides Dog straight up the side of Nana’s kitchen counter to stop just to the left of Nana’s med’cine pot. “It probably seems to you that my mighty charger’s ability to climb this vertical surface is like magic, but each cockroach actually has six sharp claws that it inserts into the irregularities in the wood—like a rock climber with six axes. He can even appear to float across your ceiling, effortlessly hanging upside down, using the same technique. It is only your incorrect belief that climbing a vertical wall is impossible and your own inability to walk across the ceiling that makes Dog’s climb seem magical.”
I’ll never look at a cockroach quite the same way again.
In fact, I may never sleep again for fear of a random cockroach waving six petite axes as it falls into my snoring wide-open mouth.
Ferocious seems bored as she leaps out of my arms and lazily makes a show of circling around and around until settling herself back down in the largest patch of sunlight on the kitchen floor.
Holding only Papa’s wand in my right hand, I don’t know what to think. I can’t find Papa or Nana, but Ferocious doesn’t seem anxious about either one of them, which is completely out of character if one of them is in any danger.
Now I am sure that Papa has concocted this entire set-up.
“It makes no sense,” I say aloud more to myself than to anyone else, “where are Nana and Papa?”
“You’re not asking the correct question, my dear Justcat,” Dog says in his cordial insectoid voice. “The problem is not where, but why?”
“Why are they missing?”
“No, why can’t you find them?”
Mud looks at Dog with a knowing grin as he says, “Well said, my friend.”
Very well, why can’t I find them? I’m only thirteen, for starters. With a remarkably good education, but no magic. Hmm. This lesson must be pretty important if Papa talked Nana into joining in his shenanigans.
So, what would Papa and Nana both want me to learn?
Maybe I have magic and just don’t know it yet? Excited, I hold out Papa’s second-best wand and wave it at the cold pot of med’cine.
Oh, well, a girl can wish.
Then I notice something rather strange about the wand in my hand: It’s warm. Too warm for a piece of wood. Warm as a human being, actually. I look more closely at the fine woodgrain on its surface, and make out two arms, two legs, and a bearded face in its pattern.
Topped by a wizard’s hat.
Sighing, I lay the wand on the floor and speak to it: “I know you’ve transformed yourself into a wand, Papa. You may as well show yourself.”
With a great poof of sparkles and smoke that sets Mud and me coughing, the wand transforms into Papa, dressed in his second-best robe. “Well done, Justcat, well done. You’ve seen through my magic. Now can you see through Nana’s?”
I look around the room. If Papa was a wand, what would Nana disguise herself as?
“Nana, I know you’re the pot of med’cine.”
Without Papa’s pomp and flourish (and no smoke, thank goodness), the pot of med’cine morphs into my cantankerous old Nana, sitting on the cold stovetop and wearing her characteristic scowl.
I wonder how she was able to stand it when the heat was on?
Nana looks directly at Papa as she hops off the stovetop, her scowl growing larger by the second. “She’s a clever one, but she doesn’t know what she knows. I told you your cockamamie idea wouldn’t work.”
Five sets of eyes—two very small, two human-sized, and one cat-sized—round on me in expectation.
Ferocious chirrups at me the way a mother cat tells her kitten to pay attention.
Wait a minute—mother cat?
If Papa became a wand and Nana became a pot, could I become something, too?
What was it Mud said about lies and biases? Could my own beliefs about myself be concealing the truth of myself from myself?
I look down at my hands, my apparently human hands, and at last see beyond their façade.
They begin to change before my newly feline eyes. They grow black hair, fingernails recede into retractable points, and fingers shorten as plush pads rise from my palms. I feel myself shrinking as it seems more natural to place them on the floor with my back legs for stability.
At last, I grow a long black tail.
Mud claps his hands in delight.
Ferocious starts purring.
I shift back into my chubby human-girl form, standing upright and momentarily uncomfortable not by the alteration, but with the weight of this larger body of lies.
Papa puts his arm around my shoulders and says, “Welcome to the family, Justcat the Shapeshifter. Yours is the rarest of gifts.”
Nana harrumphs. “Rarest of gifts, bah! Shapeshifting ain’t that rare. Now, her willingness to listen to what she knows in her gut despite what others have decided and what she’s decided herself, that’s what’s rare.”
Rare. I’m gifted and rare.
I have two pimples, and I may not know my mother, but I know who I am.
I’m my own familiar.
Thanks for reading!–Rose