.The Club of Hearts
By Bea Magnan
The whole thing happened because of the Professor, – Professor Paws, that is. I mean, sure, he was bored, but it was a snowy day in February and we were all feeling kind of down.
I’m a part of a menagerie of four cats, two dogs, and two snacks-with-wings. That’s birds, for the uninitiated.
Anyhow, Isis, the senior cat, decided that we all needed some kind of a purpose that we could feel passionate about to lift us out of the doldrums. In this house, what Isis says goes.
Personally, I think it’s because she overheard Milady talking with the Nightingale about the need everyone has for passion and a sense of purpose in their lives.
All of us were sitting there trying to come up with some purpose that we could all get equally passionate about. I thought about mentioning an up-close-and-personal introduction to the snacks-with-wings, but I knew if I suggested it I’d get swatted by the Professor’s sister, Speed Bump. Let me tell you something, until you’ve been swatted by an eighteen-pound Maine Coon Cat, you don’t know the meaning of the word ‘pain’.
Fortunately, I was spared having to pay for the consequences of the only contribution I could come up with when Milady and Attila came back from their short walk. Attila the Honey is a Miniature Pinscher, and he’s my BFF.
You see, I spent the first five months of my life on the mean streets before Milady took me in. Believe me, I had trust issues, and the other pets didn’t quite know how to deal with me. Attila loved me right away, though. I think at first it’s because I was smaller than him. I grew, of course, but so did our friendship.
“You’ll never guess what happened on our walk,” Attila said, as he jumped up beside me on the couch. I curled myself around him to help him warm up.
“What?” Everyone asked.
TEARS FROM THE CATNIP LADY
“We met the Catnip Lady, and she was crying. Real tears in her eyes and everything.”
“Oh, that’s so sad.” We all liked the Catnip Lady. She’s a retired teacher who moved into our building not too long ago, and she often brings us treats. Chewy stuff for the dogs, catnip for us cats, and even honey seed sticks for the snacks-with-wings. I hoped she wasn’t just trying to fatten them up. I could have told her it was pointless, and potentially painful.
“Why was she sad?” I asked.
“She’s sad because Valentine’s Day is almost here, and she doesn’t feel loved because the man she was married to left because he found another passion. I don’t understand it too well.”
“I don’t either. Did she say what the passion was?”
“I dunno for sure. Maybe he decided to join a circus and be a clown with one of those big red noses. I think that’s what they’re made of. Mind you,” I said, “I didn’t know they were permanent. I thought they could take them off.”
Speed Bump said, “Wow. Humans can sure be weird.”
We all agreed with that.
“But where would he go,” asked Attila, directing his question to the Professor. “There aren’t any circuses around here.”
Professor Paws said, “It’s really not my field of expertise, Attila.”
Mattie gave a gentle lick to his paws. “Of course not, Professor. But at the moment your field of expertise is covered in three feet of snow.”
Choosing his words carefully, the Professor said, “Well, I have heard of a Silly Con Valley somewhere in California. I mean, I guess that’s where he’d have to go. Apparently, there’s a lot of money to be made with that stuff.”
“Whoa, are you saying he left her because he could make better money as a clown?” Speed Bump was shocked. “I don’t even know the guy and I can feel my claws unsheathing.” She flexed her formidable paws and showed us. “Gee, I wish there was something we could do to help her.”
That’s when Isis got all enthusiastic and said, “That’s it. That’s what we’ll do. It’ll be our purpose to help her find love.” She explained everything she had decided to Attila. He agreed, of course. That’s what you do with Isis, you agree.
“Uh, okay. I’m in of course. But does anybody have an idea what exactly we’re going to do?”
“Simple,” said Isis. “We’re going to let her know she’s loved.”
“Okay, we’ll let her know she’s loved by dogs and cats, etc., but how’s that going to bring love into her life. I mean, from what Attila says, she’s looking for someone and it’s all tied up with this Valentine’s Day thing. Does anybody here have any idea what that’s all about?” I asked.
We all looked towards Professor Paws.
He looked helpless.
Isis said, “Professor, you know how much we depend on your knowledge to help us with these things. You don’t have to get it perfect, you just have to tell us what you think it means.”
He blinked, cleared his throat, and nodded. “Well, Valentine’s Day is always on February 14th, so as far as I can figure out, that’s when human females are overtaken by the Primal Need, which causes the males to experience the Primal Urge.”
“All of them? On that exact same date?” Speed Bump’s eyes were as big as saucers. “Wow. That’s pretty amazing.”
Attila asked, “What are the Primal Urge and the Primal Need?”
Mattie said, “That’s when a female knows she needs to have puppies.”
“Or kittens,” Speed Bump chimed in.
“And the male has to help her.”
“What if he doesn’t want to,” Attila asked.
Professor Paws explained. “He has no choice in the matter. That’s why it’s called Primal.”
“Oh,” Attila said. “She mentioned something about chocolates and flowers. I don’t like flowers. When I ate some from Milady’s bouquet, they gave me the hiccups. And that made Milady really sad.”
“Actually, Attila, what made Milady sad was that you ruined her nice bouquet.” I tried to be gentle as I broke this piece of news to him.
“Oh.” Attila put his muzzle down between his paws. “Sorry about that.”
“Okay,” Isis stood up to face us all. “We need a plan.”
We all looked at one another, and then away. It’s as I was looking away that my eyes caught a glimpse of one of Milady’s favorite Cds. It’s called Love, and that’s what it says on the cover.
“You can’t do that. It belongs to Milady. And it was a gift from her friend, the Nightingale.”
“So maybe we can find a way to convince Milady to give it to her.”
“Wait a minute,” said the Professor. “We don’t have to give it to her. We just have to show it to her so she can see the word Love, and that it’s us wanting to let her know we love her.”
Everyone agreed, although I must admit I had some nagging doubts about the plan they came up with.
It just so happened that this Valentine’s Day was also recycling day, and both Milady and the Catnip Lady always took out their recycling at the same time. It never took long, and on recycling day Milady always opened the door to the balcony, to air out the house.
In wintertime we all took cover in another room to keep nice and warm, but this time we would all walk out onto the balcony. Attila was supposed to sit on Mattie’s back and give out a couple of sharp barks to get the Catnip Lady to turn her head towards us. Then Speed Bump would hand him the Love CD so he could hold it up and she would see the Love we all had for her.
Okay, it was a plan. But to me there was something wrong with it, – something I just couldn’t put my paw on, but that nagging feeling just wouldn’t go away. Something told me we hadn’t taken everything into account.
We had a blizzard overnight, and by morning everything was covered in ice. It would have been freezing cold even without the wind that blew so strong the windows rattled. Personally, I was hoping that Milady would skip the whole idea of airing out the apartment. I mean, to my way of thinking, if the litter box is clean, so is the air.
There was no such luck. At 10:30 a.m. sharp, Milady got her winter clothes on, opened the door to the balcony and put the old planter in place to keep it open, then grabbed her recycling and left with it.
I couldn’t help it. “Yeow. It’s freezing. Are you guys sure you want to go through with this.”
“Of course we do,” said Isis.
I felt a sinking sensation as Speed Bump got a good grip on the Love CD, and we all trudged out onto the balcony.
As soon as we spotted Milady and Catnip Lady in front of the recycling bins, Mattie laid down and Attila stood on her. As the wind whipped around the building in a huge gust, I saw Attila get ready to bark that fierce, sharp bark that only he could do. And that’s when it hit me.
The wind. We hadn’t taken the way the wind gusts around our building into account. It was dangerous.
I was just about to tell the others that I had finally figured out the flaw in their plan when sure enough, out came the bark and Speed Bump tried to pass the CD to Attila. Both Milady and Catnip Lady turned and stared, at first in amazement and then in horror.
The wind blew against the door so hard that the old planter cracked and broke. Pieces of it flew everywhere. The door whacked into Speed Bump who whacked into both Mattie and Attila, while the CD blew over the balcony. Attila started to slide off of Mattie’s back. If something didn’t stop him, he would go right over the balcony.
I jumped up, hooked my back paws under Mattie’s collar, and grabbed Attila around the neck with my front paws. I grabbed his collar with my teeth. He only weighed five pounds, but that was half my weight and I could feel my hold starting to slip.
I held on tighter. No way was I going to let the little fella go. Like I said, he was my BFF.
Milady and Catnip Lady had already grabbed the communal ladder from behind the recycling bins and leaned it up against our balcony floor, and while Milady held it, Catnip Lady started to climb, only with the wind blowing so hard, she was having a really tough time.
Out of nowhere came another one of our neighbors, who immediately ran over to help. He was pretty big, and he took Catnip Lady’s place and rushed up to grab Attila. It was not a moment too soon, either, because I could feel that I was losing my hold.
We all watched the neighbor as he cradled Attila gently in one arm and climbed back down.
He handed Attila to Milady, and I watched while she thanked him and then entered our apartment building. The others started to go inside, but I couldn’t help watching the neighbor as he handed Catnip Lady the Love CD. I found it strange that it had flown to him. They were still talking when Milady came to get me and shoo me inside, so she could pull the door shut.
Milady was shaking so hard it took us awhile to calm her down. She sat down with Attila in her lap and she kept asking us what we thought we were doing out on the balcony, especially since we’d never done that before.
We kept trying to explain.
She kept not understanding.
Finally she put Attila down on the couch and made herself some tea.
I crawled up beside Attila and curled around him. We both needed each other’s warmth…and I needed to know he was okay.
None of the others said anything. The realization of what had almost happened was still sinking in.
I watched over Attila as he fell asleep and then settled into a catnap myself.
I slept soundly until I heard the buzzer.
“It’s Catnip Lady,” Attila barked, jumped down, and ran around in circles.
He was right, as always.
She was smiling and happy as she came in and handed Milady the Love CD.
After petting all of us, especially me and Attila, she told Milady, “George told me he couldn’t get over how brave I was, ready to climb a ladder in that awful wind. I mean, I’m not really brave, but I couldn’t let something happen to our little Attila, could I?” She petted Attila again.
“Anyhow, he’s invited me out to dinner tonight. To the Three Oaks Restaurant.”
“That’s wonderful,” said Milady. “The Three Oaks always puts on something really special for Valentine’s Day.”
“Why, yes, I believe they do.” Catnip Lady’s cheeks went pink. I hoped it wasn’t a sign that our mishap had put her under too much stress.
After she left I decided on another catnap, and I was just about to close my eyes when Isis made another of her pronouncements.
“Well, that settles it.”
“Settles what?” we asked in unison.
“We’ve found our purpose. “
I didn’t like the sound of that. “Which is?”
“We’re here to spread love and help humans to experience it.”
“Um, Isis,” I said, in a rare moment of defiance, “you do realize that we almost lost Attila today, don’t you?”
“But we didn’t. I’m not saying our plan was perfect, but it certainly worked out even better than we thought it would. The more we do it, the better at it we’ll get. Now, we need a name for our little group.”
I let the others decide. I didn’t want to get involved.
And that’s how we came to call ourselves the Club of Hearts.
And once that was decided, I closed my eyes for my catnap and give thanks that Valentine’s Day only comes once a year.
– Bea Magnan is a writer and columnist who is currently working on a series of fictional short stories (Traces Of Love). See her other very popular articles on this Web site: Schizophrenia, And My Father’s Nightmare Life and The Birth of the Universe.