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Fun and Games with Checkers the Cat! Chapters 1-13

Published Date: April 2, 2020

Sheila (Seamands) Lovell is the daughter of Methodist missionaries to India, J. T. and Ruth Seamands. She is a graduate of Asbury College (now University) and the University of Kentucky. She came to Asbury Seminary in to work with David L. McKenna when he became President in 1982. She has been with the Seminary for 38 years, having served five presidents as their Executive Assistant and currently works as a Special Assistant to the President and Grants Administrator in the Advancement Office. In thinking about how to help keep her six grandchildren from getting bored and looking forward to something every day during their time of self-isolation, she began writing this diary from the point of view of her cat, Checkers, who by her own admission is practically purr-fect in every way. 


Chapter 1

I came to live with my mommy just before Thanksgiving last year. Of course, I didn’t know what Thanksgiving was, except that it provided some yummy leftovers for me. My mommy was sick part of that time, but she was allowed to have Thanksgiving with the family, and that meant I could get those leftovers. 

For the past several months, we’ve been getting used to each other. I’ve learned several words in her language: “come on”; “breakfast”; “supper”; and “Checkers.” I guess that last one must be my name because she says it a lot. Another word I’ve learned but hate to hear is “No!” She says that a lot, too.

But things are a bit different right now. For some reason, Mommy is home all the time now. I don’t know what’s going on. I’m used to being by myself for several hours a day, but right now she’s here with me. It must be a vacation or something. She sorta cramps my style right now. I can’t get up on the table and the kitchen counter whenever I want to without her yelling “No!” at me. She even got some sort of tall bottle and began spraying me with water and some sort of citrussy stuff in it to squirt in my face when I get up on the dining room table. I hate that stuff! (Mommy’s note: cats don’t like citrus. It makes a great climbing-up-on-the-table deterrent!). Now all she has to do is reach for that squirt bottle and I run away fast. 

Yesterday I watched her go outside and stand in the driveway next to a big truck with flashing red lights. There were other vehicles with flashing lights there, too. I found out later that our neighbor, Pat, was taken away by ambulance; his peptic ulcer had caused internal hemorrhaging. I saw the people in blue uniforms wheel him away on some sort of tall bed. Mommy went inside the house next door, then, but came back out before long. She told me that my neighbor’s girlfriend, Barbara, had been with Pat when all this happened and she no doubt saved his life by calling for the ambulance. We’re praying for Pat but don’t know any more about his condition. 

Mommy read to me today out of a big book. She said it was Psalm 91. It begins, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” It talks about not being afraid “of the arrow that flies by day nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness.” She told me that a pestilence is a disease, like the Coronavirus that everybody is talking about right now. Mommy really loves that psalm because it gives her courage and peace that no matter what we may face in this world, the Lord Most High will see us through it. After reading it, she got down on her knees to pray for everyone affected by this disease and that God would keep her family safe. I helped by jumping onto the chair where she was kneeling. 

I’m helping mommy write this by hanging out on top of the desk while she’s typing on the computer. She moved the black thing she types on onto a shelf under the top of the desk so I can’t put my paw on it. I can’t imagine why; it’s such fun seeing things move on the screen when I hit some of those keys!

I’m going to sign off for now. Watch for Chapter 2 tomorrow.




I’ve buried myself in such an interesting place. It’s a big plastic bag filled with pieces of paper. Mommy calls them shreds. She has a huge pile of papers on her lap and she’s feeding them into a black box that makes a loud whiny noise while it eats the paper out of her hand. I’m helping by exploring what’s in the bag and pulling out the shreds. They’re in such interesting shapes and look so nice spread all over the carpet. Mommy has been cleaning out some of her files. She calls them taxes – whatever that is. Anyway, she only has to keep the receipts (what are those?) for 5 years so she’s shredding all the others. I guess she’s right to do that – she doesn’t want other people knowing all about her medical information and bills she’s paid. Anything that has her name and address on it goes into that black box and then into the black bag.

This morning my mommy did something I hadn’t seen her do before. She came into the dining room with a long skinny table on legs that made a horrible screeching noise when she pulled them out. Then she put water into a flat-bottomed thing that got hot and moved it around on a jacket and a blouse that were all wrinkled. When she got done, they were all smoothed out and looked ready for her to wear. I tried to help by chewing on the tag on the long black thing she sticks into the wall, but she told me to stop that. 

Mommy told me about that thing called a steam iron, and how when she was a little girl in India there was no such thing. The dhobhi (washerman) would wash the clothes (usually by beating them on a rock in the river – with no soap) and then iron them with a black iron that had a place to put hot coals in it. He would sprinkle the wrinkled clothes with water and then move that coal-heated iron around on them to get out the wrinkles. The original steam iron!

I follow my mommy everywhere in my house. She walks around it a lot. One of my favorite places is just off the room where she sleeps. I’ve heard her call it a “bathroom.” It has two rectangular depressions just my size and best of all, it has a shiny metal thing that sticks over the depressions and water comes out of it! I just love to sit in one of them and watch her fix her face in the mornings. The thing that I am really curious about, though, is the white chair with a lid. She sits on it often, and I can come around and rub on her legs when she does that. When she gets up, she pushes on something on the side and it makes a funny whooshing sound. I tried to get up on that chair one day before she put the lid down and she yelled at me really loud. I haven’t tried to do that again.

Last night a strange human came to see my mommy.  I usually run away when that happens, but this one spoke in a very soft voice and when I came around her I could smell cat on her, so I sniffed her fingers to be friendly. 

Well, I think that’s all for today. I’ll see what today brings and write about it for you tomorrow.

Chapter 3

My mommy read me something off the Internet today. It was an article on funny signs outside veterinary clinics. One of them said, “In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods. They have not forgotten!” They sure got that right. And I have found out that my mommy is a Star Trek fan. She and I watched an episode of “Star Trek: Picard” the other night. You know what I have to say about that? “Live long and pawsper!”

I told you yesterday that I follow my mommy all over the house. That really keeps me busy now that she’s here all day, instead of going to work in an office (whatever that is). Most of the time the doors in the house are all open so I can be right where she is. I really hate it when she shuts a door in my face. Why would she do that? If the door is latched, I can’t get it open, and all I can do is stand outside it and cry. But if it is just pulled to, then I’ve learned how to get in. I first stick my paw under the door and sweep it from side to side and usually the door will move just a little. Then I put my paw in between the door and the jamb and push with my head and I can usually squeeze through. 

Mommy has been closing the door a couple of times a day for a while now. She tells me that she has to change the white thing on the side of her face. I know that she fell on the sidewalk last week and someone she called a doctor put that thing (she calls it a bandage) on her. I really want to help her when she’s changing it, but she keeps telling me “No!” when I want to paly with the cotton balls or the little tube of medicine she puts on it. So she quit letting me in to watch her, but she tells me that early next week she’ll be able to get rid of it. 

I really startled mommy today. I was getting my usual exercise tearing around like mad and climbing on the lovely upholstered chairs. She was sitting in her office chair at the computer and I decided to see if I could get from my chair behind her to hers without having my paws touch the ground. I took a flying leap and stuck a perfect four-point landing on the back of her chair! She never saw it coming, but laughed about it afterwards. She told me it reminded her of the time in India when a large chameleon jumped from the tree she was standing under directly onto her back. She really was scared then and jumped and screamed, not knowing what had happened. But the lizard soon jumped off and when she got her breath back, she told me, she thought that maybe he had liked her bright-orange sweater and that’s why he leaped on her. I wish I had seen that big ol’ lizard – I bet he’d have made a great meal! 

My mommy again read aloud out of the big book today, the same Psalm 91 she read yesterday. She says it’s her theme song during this Coronavirus crisis. She read verses 4 and 5: “He will cover you with his feathers and under his wings you will find refuge.” She explained to me that a mama chicken can’t look up far enough to see the hudhu (hawk) flying high overhead looking hungrily at her chicks, but she can see his shadow on the ground. She gives a sudden cluck of  warning and all her chicks run to gather at her feet and she fluffs herself out and squats down on top of them so that nasty ol’ bird can’t get to them. She saw it happen lots of times with the chickens on the mission compound in India. Mommy said that’s what God does for us, too, so we must run to Him at the first sign of danger. 

I think that’s all for today. Look for Chapter 4.

Chapter 4

I’m making up for missing a few days today. Mommy has had Internet problems and I could hear her muttering to herself. It sure was quiet in the house. No Pandora to keep the music going. And no news or Acorn detective shows. Luckily she had loaded her Kindle with three detective story books so she did have something to read. Now the Internet is back up and she’s happy again. 

My mommy fussed at me today. I was having a wonderful leisurely time napping in the circular top of my scratching post. The whole thing is softly carpeted and sits right next to the window overlooking the bird feeders, so I can watch them anytime I want. Anyway, I was minding my own business snoozing when suddenly she began beating on the window and jerked me awake. Then she said, “You’re supposed to be watching out for that wretched squirrel, Checkers!” Squirrel? What squirrel? Where? “Yeah, you’re supposed to chase him off and keep him from eating all my birdseed!” He was gone by the time I looked up, so I just went back to snoozing. I can’t be on guard all the time, can I?

Mommy told me to keep watching out for that fat squirrel. She had seen him leaping in the trees beside our house. She told me about the three Japanese boys who came as Lions Club exchange students to visit for six weeks when Mommy’s kids were teenagers. At that time Mommy lived in a house with two big pin oak trees in the front yard. Several squirrels lived there and they had a grand time with all the acorns. One day, shortly after they got here, the three boys all rushed to the big picture window and stared out and pointed. “What is that?” they exclaimed excitedly. They said they had never seen a squirrel before. I guess they all lived in huge cities with no trees and so no place for a squirrel to live. The boys also marveled at the wide-open spaces along Kentucky highways. One of them said, “When I get back to Japan, I will feel so. . .” He paused, searching for the right word, and finally ended with, “Tight!” 

She gave me pate for breakfast this morning. I don’t like it nearly as well as the cat food shreds, so I just walked away after a few sniffs. Mommy said I was “purr-snickety.” Well, maybe I am but I know what I like and it isn’t pate. I don’t much like fish, either. She gave me fish one time and I just left it. Maybe after a few episodes like this she’ll get the message and buy me what I like. She does give me mid-day snacks, though, little pieces of ham or chicken. Once she tried to give me some shreds of masala chicken she had bought at Krogers. I didn’t like that at all – too spicy! She told me if I had grown up in India, like she did, I would really enjoy hot stuff. But I bet the mice and birds there aren’t covered in curry powder. So she needs to give me the bland stuff and eat the curried chicken herself (she did).

Mommy got her stitches out this morning so no more wearing that white thing on the side of her face. She said her eyebrow was depressed some – but she isn’t! She’s happy that it is healing up so well. Apparently she did have a mild concussion, but it seems to have gotten all better by itself.

I’ll write again tomorrow.

Chapter 5

Mommy was laughing at me this morning. While she was watching Dr. Tennent giving his chapel message, I was busy watching the birds out my sunroom window. There were lots of them this morning – cardinals, little sparrows, even a couple of mean ol’ blackbirds came to visit. I kept trying to get to them but the glass kept getting in my way. After thumping my head a few times, I decided to jump down and give it a rest. 

Mommy told me that the chapel message was about mountains, how they can be places of danger as well as refuge. The best part is that God used mountains to meet with His people. She said that must be why she’s always loved mountains. 

Her school in India was what the Indian people call a “hill station,” originally set up by the British to allow them to have some relief from the heat of the plains. Kodai School is 7,000 plus feet up, so it is a lot cooler there. At first there were no roads, so the original Britishers were carried up the mountain trails on litters hoisted by four coolies each. At that time, there were tigers and bears in the Palni Hills, so beaters had to go before and behind to flush out any dangerous game. The hotel that the British built was eventually transformed into the nucleus of Kodai School, which opened in 1901. Mommy even told me that she remembered the time that a tiger was killed in Kodai by a rajah. Nobody else had guns, but as a hunter he was well equipped. They displayed the dead tiger and Mommy remembers seeing it as a little girl. By the time she got to school there, most of the dangerous animals were gone, except for the jackals. 

The jackals were destructive as well as dangerous, Mommy said. They not only carried rabies, they would come into the town looking for food. Occasionally they even came to the Methodist compound where Mommy’s family would live when her parents came to visit her in boarding school. She could hear them howling outside the window and in the morning we’d discover they had ripped clothes off the clothesline. I didn’t like that part of her story, especially since I’ve heard that jackals like to eat furry little creatures like me!

Mommy loved Kodai School, jackals and all. She has a large oil painting of a Kodai scene over her fireplace. It features the town looking towards the highest peak in the Palni Hills, called Perumal. She said it is shaped 

In such a way that it could have been a volcano thousands of years ago, but nobody has ever said anything about it exploding. It was a favorite hiking spot, as you can see for miles down into the plains from up there. 

She was working this morning at a thin black thing she calls a laptop, trying to get it to link up with her work computer. Sadly, nothing worked, so the man helping her will have to keep at it. In the meantime, now that her Internet is back up, she has reloaded her Kindle with more juicy detective novels to keep her occupied. 

My morning has been full of life. The birds, my mommy, even the man outside who was spreading stuff in the small garden space around the sunroom. Also, the trains go by about every half hour or so – sometimes two of them at once. I’d love to see more of the world – maybe she’ll let me go outside sometime! (Note from Mommy – not!!)

Chapter 6

I’ve been busy all morning. I don’t know why Mommy is so griped at me. I’ve been doing the things I usually do – running like a furry banshee from one wonderfully upholstered chair to another, my claws digging into the glorious fabric, watching the birds out the window, and climbing into the wastebasket after she put some papers in there. Was it my fault I slipped when I was jumping off the router and knocked her off the Internet? Was it my fault that when I was exploring the big black bag full of shredded and torn paper that I was able to pull some of it out onto the carpet? Was it? Was it?!! I didn’t think so.

I think she’s just frustrated because she and William haven’t been able to connect her laptop to her Seminary computer, even with all his trying. He called again to try again this morning. I watched that little white arrow thingy move across the screen. How did it do that all by itself? Mommy didn’t even have her hands on the keyboard. Anyway, he had to go away for awhile and consult somebody else to see if they could fix her problem. 

Five hours later: Mommy is all smiles because she got her Internet problems fixed and is now up and running and all her desktop drives are available on her laptop. Hooray! She apologized to me for saying I knocked her off the Internet. It wasn’t me at all, but the router – so there! She had to get both Spectrum and Netgear to help her but she thinks it’s all fixed now. She says she has no excuse but to get to work now. 

Mommy and I watched a program on TV the other night. It was about lions in a particular part of Western India. They were smaller than their African cousins, she said, but I thought they were wonderful! It seems they lived in harmony with the people living in villages in the area. Even when they managed to bring down a cow in town, the villagers didn’t seem to get angry. There are a lot of big deer in the area and they are very destructive of the villages’ crops, so at night the villagers go out and herd the deer towards the lions who are out hunting. The deer population is controlled, the lions are fed, and the crops in the fields can grow, and everybody’s happy. The last scene in the program was of a trio of villagers squatting for a smoke about dawn after a successful night of chasing the deer away and behind them are a couple of lions lazing on the grass, their bellies full of venison. I was so entranced I just had to beg off my favorite chair and go sit in front of the screen to see them up close. I wonder what venison tastes like.

Since I liked the lions so much, Mommy told me about the time she and her whole family got to ride on an elephant’s back through a dense jungle in South India. They had to get up very early, before dawn, because this was a working elephant, who was used to pull felled trees out of the jungle. She climbed up a ladder to get on the howdah on his back. It was built like an open box with bench seats. She rode for a couple of hours hoping to see wildlife. She didn’t see much except deer, but once Mommy said she caught a glimpse of something sleek and black slinking through the jungle. She thinks it may have been a black panther, another big cat. Wish I could have seen it!

While waiting for her helpdesk calls to go through, Mommy made a blackberry cobbler from the berries she and Jessica and the kids picked last summer. Yummy. I especially like the whipped cream she puts on top.

See you again tomorrow!

Chapter 7

It’s been a lazy morning for me. I’m so enjoying the sunshine. I love to snooze on the couch right by the sunroom window. I’ve missed a few bird visits to the feeder, but I’ll catch them this afternoon, after my morning nap and my noon snack. 

I’m really proud of myself for training my mommy to give me a noontime snack. I even know the word, now, so when she says it, I’m right there, twining around her ankles. I know the sound the knife makes on the saucer when she cuts up the ham or chicken or steak she’s giving me. And I’ve taught her that when I get up from my nap around noon or 1 o’clock and give her a gentle meow of reminder she knows that it’s time for my snack. She’s so lucky to have me around to help her plan her day!

While I was snoozing this morning, I could hear her muttering to herself over her laptop. Apparently, it is finally up and running properly, but she isn’t real good at using it yet. Everything takes her twice as long to do, but at least she can get some work done from home. I helped her learn by jumping up on the card table and even putting a paw on the right place on the keyboard. For some reason she seemed to think she could do better all by herself, so I huffed and jumped down to play with her shoelaces. It’s really hard work, but somebody has to do it, right?

Last night Mommy and I watched a TV program about pangolins in Africa and Asia. I didn’t know what that scaley thing was and my mommy said she’d never seen one in real life. They curl up into a ball when threatened. She told me that they are the creatures that experts think carried the Coronavirus in China and passed it on to people. I couldn’t imagine how somebody could get close to a pangolin, but the woman in the TV program treated one of them like a pet. She called it Honeybun and carried it around draped over her shoulders. How anyone could choose a prehistoric-looking creature like that when they could have a nice soft thing like me to love is beyond me.

Mommy told me a story about one of her older sister’s classmates in India. Everybody called him Breezy. He could always be found to have a toad or lizard in his pocket and he kept pet snakes in his dorm room (against all the rules, Mommy said). In Kodai, there are very few snakes, if any (it’s too cold for most of them) and none of them are poisonous. No cobras or kraits up there. Breezy collected them all. Today he is one of the world’s leading herpetologists (that means he studies reptiles). (By the way, pangolins are mammals, Mommy said.) Breezy has created a snake farm in India to collect and sell venom and he has a crocodile refuge for a once-endangered family of crocodiles. He is an Emmy-award-winner documentarist and an all-round really interesting man. She says you can look him up on Wikipedia (Ram Whittaker).

I don’t know, though; I don’t much like the thought of being around king cobras. They really like small furry animals for lunch. 

Furr sure, my mommy has lots of stories to tell. I hope you’re enjoying them as much as she likes telling them.  

Chapter 8

When I sit in my perch by the window or on the windowsill itself, I can watch the trains go by, especially when the trees are bare in the winter. When I first heard that iron monster roaring by our front door, I ran and hid because it was so loud and scary. But Mommy explained what it was and that trains were one of the reasons she had bought our house, where the tracks run just over the berm outside our front door. 

Mommy told me she loves trains. When she was a little girl growing up in India, she could hear the shrill whistle of the coal-fired trains that huffed and chuffed in and out of her hometown of Belgaum. The British established the railway system in India, and it is still the most-used system of transportation there, carrying millions of passengers every year. 

When my mommy was seven, she and her older sister were put on the midnight train out of Belgaum one January night to head for boarding school in Kodai. It would be four months or so before she would see her mommy and daddy again. Other missionary children were already on the train from up the line. Mommy would spread her bedding roll out in her compartment and be rocked to sleep by the motion of the carriage. The brakeman was asked to check on the kids and had been told when the children would need to change trains and he saw to it that they got off at the right station. 

As the train headed south, other kids would board in other compartments until this particular “party” would arrive at Kodai Road station two-and-a-half days later. Mommy said she always had a lot of fun on those train rides – very little supervision with a bunch of elementary and high school kids traveling together. She remembers one particular time when one of her cousins (whose name she didn’t give me but said he used to teach at the Seminary) fed a banana into the fan at the top of compartment, spattering everyone with banana bits, which made her mad. She didn’t like banana bits in her long red hair! 

At the end of the train journey, everyone piled into buses for the half-day trip up the ghat (mountain) road to Kodai School, over seven thousand feet in elevation. The road was very narrow and wound among hundreds of switchbacks clinging to the side of the hills. Going up was scary because driving on the left meant the bus was on the cliff side of the road, where there were often no guardrails at all. Coming down was just as scary because if your brakes failed you were doomed. 

As the bus neared the town, Mommy said you could begin to smell the eucalyptus trees, which were planted by the British years ago to beautify their hill station. It was always cooler there because of the elevation. First stop at the school was always the “dishpan,” the medical dispensary on the school compound, where the kids would be checked out and checked in before heading up the hill to settle in to their dorms.

It sounds like my mommy had a lot of fun in India. She says she loved boarding school and didn’t seem to be too homesick there. Of course, she had an older sister nearby so that helped. She’s going to tell me lots more stories about her times there, especially since she and I are spending a lot of time together these days. I’m still not crazy about the rains that rumble by, but now I imagine her on them and feel better about it.

Chapter 9

Mommy asked me what I’ve been thinking lately. That got me to go back over my morning so far, so as I purr-sue those thoughts, I’ll share them with you.

When my mommy gets up, she makes me wait until she is dressed to give me my breakfast. (By the way, she’s very proud of me for learning so many words in the language she calls English. I know “breakfast” and “dinner” and especially “snack” which I usually get in the middle of the day. “No!” is also one I’ve learned, though I don’t like to hear it. I’ve also taught her some words in cat, like “feed me” or “pet me.”)

Mommy is staying home all day right now, and I’ve had to get used to her being around all the time. She usually goes away after my breakfast and then comes back to give me my snack at lunch. Plus she comes and goes during the rest of the day. But right now she’s not going anywhere at all, except she went out to get me some of my favorite cat food last night, when she said there weren’t many people in the grocery store. 

I like to sit and watch her get ready for her day. I often hang out in the other bathroom sink (I love the way it feels so cool on my tummy and sometimes she runs the water for me so I can play in it.) Other times I’m down on the floor, watching her routine. She calls it “putting on her face.” (Where does it go at night when she takes it off?) I was wondering why she does that these days when nobody can see her – she even puts those shiny things in her ears! (I’d love to get my paws on them, especially the ones that dangle so enticingly, but for some reason she won’t let me play with them.) Anyway, she told me that it makes her feel so much better to be fully dressed even if nobody sees her – she knows she’s looking her best. These humans are so funny – I always look my best. Just a few licks and every hair is in place and I can start my day instantly.  

Mommy’s “pet train” just went by and that reminded her of something else about Indian trains. When she was on the train returning from boarding school to Belgaum for her long vacation time (late October to early January) she told me they would always arrive in Belgaum early in the morning. While she was snuggled up in her bedding roll that last night on the train, she could always tell when they were getting closer to Belgaum, even in the dark, because the sound of the track changed. She said that as they were traveling through the Darwar jungle outside Belgaum the track had been prepared in such a way as to cause an unusually loud roaring sound. This was to warn any wild animals in the vicinity to get off the tracks so as not to cause an accident. And just after dawn, my mommy would open the carriage door and block it with a heavy piece of luggage and sit braced on the steps looking for the landmark that would tell her they were coming into Belgaum. It is a particular flat-topped hill that rises out of the plain. Even 50 years later, when she and her sisters made that same train trip overnight from Bangalore to Belgaum, she recognized that plateau and told her sisters she was coming home.  

I liked the part about the roaring train tracks, but thinking about the wild animals in the jungle made me shiver deliciously. I’m going to get my mommy to tell me more about the jungle so I can write about it later.


We had a thunderstorm last night. Did you hear it? I first heard this low rumbling and didn’t know what it was. Then light would flash in the sky and then be gone right away. It was scary. My mommy told me what it was. She’s not afraid of storms, she said. When she was a little girl growing up in India, there were lots of thunderstorms. When she was at boarding school, the monsoon season would begin in June and go until September. It rained continuously, she said, sometimes harder and sometimes more softly. Lots of thunder and lightning. Raincoats and umbrellas were just a part of life. 

Mommy told me that the town of Kodaikanal was full of eucalyptus trees, planted by the British who had originally discovered Kodai as a hill station to escape the heat of the Indian plains. The trees are hundreds of feet tall, with long straight trunks that have no branches until way at the top. Kodai has a going enterprise of pressing the eucy leaves to make the oil that has wonderful medicinal properties for chest congestion (it is the what makes Vicks Vaporub smell like it does). Many, many people in Kodai went around with soft cloths dipped in eucy oil pinned around their necks to ward off colds and other breathing problems. The eucy trees are generally pretty strong and can withstand heavy winds. When the wind makes the trees sway, they make a distinctive creaking noise. Mommy says she loved to hear the sounds of the rain on the tile roofs and the familiar eucy creaking noises during the rainy season. 

Usually, she said, the thunderstorms were of the normal variety, some stronger than others. But one memorable year Kodai was hit by the remnants of a cyclone. The rain lashed the town and the winds were howling. Mommy said they she and her sister were out of boarding school at the time, living with her family on the Methodist compound just across the road and around the corner from Kodai School. Back then they didn’t have weather forecasts like we do now and nobody knew that storm was coming. She remembers hunkering down in the darkness and hearing trees fall outside. 

Then came word that families from the Swedish mission in Kodai had gone out camping that day at Berijam Lake, a few miles outside town. One of the men had walked miles in the storm back to town to ask for help. The roads were completely blocked by fallen trees and they couldn’t get out. Nobody in Kodai had a chain saw, so all the able-bodied men and boys (and mommy’s older sister, too) grabbed up their flashlights and lanterns and all the axes and hatchets they could find and chopped their way through the trees to the lake to rescue those families. It took hours and hours, but everyone was safe when they got there. It was a night my mommy never forgot. 

I was glad that my mommy was there with me. I snuggled up at her feet first and then went to put my paw on her face to wake her up so she could pet on me and comfort me. She is still reading Psalm 91 aloud and told me especially about verse 4, which says, “His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” She said a rampart is a high and wide wall of protection around a castle. I don’t know what a castle is but a rampart must be something like my round perch on top of my scratching post. It has high sides that just fit me when I curl up in it. I think that psalm must have been written for me, too, since it makes me feel safe, like my mommy does when she reads it. 

Chapter 11

The windows are open! Actually, I didn’t even know what that meant, at first. I came to live with my mommy just before Thanksgiving (yum, she gave me turkey!) and the windows have been closed for the winter. But today they’re open to the fresh air. Yesterday, for the first time, I sat in the windowsill and felt what I now know is the breeze on my whiskers. 

It took me awhile to learn what the windows actually were. I’ve been sitting on the sills and on my carpeted perch just in front of the bird feeders. Mommy told me that the big red birds were daddy cardinals and the smaller, grayish-pinkish ones were the mommy cardinals. Besides that, there are all sorts of littler birds, and even some bigger ones that she said were dover and even black nasty grackles. All of them are right there and for some reason I can’t reach them. 

At first I kept jumping at them and would slam into some sort of hard invisible barrier. Once I actually fell on the floor. My mommy tried not to laugh but I could see that she thought it was funny. She told me that they were called windows; I could see through them but could not jump through them. Then she had the nerve to scold me for not watching out for the squirrels and scaring them into getting away from the bird feeders. I learned my lesson the day I bumped my head hard on the glass. I don’t do that any more. So I just watch them and now she has to get up and go bang on the window to scare them away. 

Today I saw another interesting sight. A strange man was moving back and forth outside the windows. He was sitting on a kind of metal chair that moved and it made a really loud purring noise. And I could smell something different outside, too. Mommy said it was the smell of fresh-cut grass. Wish I could get out there and roll in it! 

With the windows open, I can hear the birds sing much more loudly now. And Mommy’s trains are really loud when they go by. One sound I’m not used to is the barking of a dog, or so she told me. I’ve never seen a dog up close, but she said that’s a good thing. Apparently dogs don’t like cats and chase them and can really hurt them. Can you imagine! Why anyone wouldn’t love a sweet furry like creature like me is just beyond understanding! We are such good company. We don’t dig up the yard or relieve ourselves at just any old place. And we’re so quiet. Half the time mommy doesn’t even know where I’ve gotten to and has to come looking for me. But I have special places I hang out at different times of the day, so I’ve taught her where to look. Best of all, she likes for me to come sit on her lap when she’s watching that big black box with pictures that move on it. Or she’s reading or doing something called Facetiming on the black box that is small enough for her to hold in her hand.

Mommy told me one of the best decisions she ever made was to bring me home with her last Thanksgiving. She says I’ve been lots of company. I know she talks to me a lot. Wonder who she talked to here all by herself before I came? And she’s good company at night, when it’s dark. If I get lonesome and want some loving, I’ve taught her to wake up when I put a paw on her face. If she doesn’t respond I just unsheathe my claws a little and that gets her attention right away. She’s a fast learner!

Today Mommy used something called Zoom on the middle-sized black box she has on her card table (why are all those boxes black, anyway?) and talked to lots of different pictures on what she calls a screen. She said they’ve been reading my diary and today she even signed up several more! It’s fun to be famous. She read me something today that said, “Dogs have owners. Cats have staff!” I really like that. I guess those faces on the screen are my staff now. 

Chapter 12

When the windows were open yesterday, I heard something new. It was a series of 12 bongs and then a sweet melody. My mommy told me it was the chimes from Asbury University. They ring regularly and at noon, after striking 12, the carillon (the music part) plays a favorite hymn. I really enjoyed hearing it. Mommy went to high school and college in Wilmore and heard the chimes every day. She said that when she married and moved away to another place in Kentucky, two of the things she really missed were the sound of the trains going by and the ringing of the tower chimes.

That reminded her of another distinctive sound from her childhood. The British still held India during World War II. As the war progressed, it was a distinct possibility that the Japanese would overrun India. Warning systems were set up all over, even way up in the hill station of Kodaikanal. The air raid siren was a tall slender post anchored in concrete and set in a grassy space at the top of the hill going down to the bazaar. You could hear it all over town, which, mommy said, was the whole point of having it. When it was going off, you couldn’t hear yourself speak if you were nearby.

By the time my mommy got to school in Kodai in the 1950s, the war was long over but the town had kept the air raid siren in use. It became a timekeeper, Mommy said, for all those who didn’t have watches. It went off at 6:30 and 8:00 a.m., at 12:00 noon, and at 5:00 and 9:00 p.m. Kodai School had its own bell tower and class bells, but the siren really served the whole community. It woke everybody up in the morning and put them to bed at night. Mommy said that when she visited Kodai 50 years later, it made her sad to realize that the siren was no longer being used. She said Kodai has become such a resort for India’s new middle class that the town now caters to its tourists and so the siren had to go. It has been replaced by a call to prayer from the tower of the mosque in town. She said that was another new thing about Kodai – the last time she was there, it didn’t have a mosque. 

Usually it’s pretty quiet around my house, but I’m hearing new sounds almost every day now. Within the last couple of days, with the windows open, it was that noisy purring thing that chewed up the grass, then the carillon hymn, and then there was another man who came around the house holding a thing with a long nose that blew grass and leaves off the sidewalk. It made a huge scary growling noise and I ran away and hid. 

Mommy keeps reading me Psalm 91. I love to hear those words, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” Those words “shelter” and “rest” mean a lot to a little furry creature like me, especially as I sleep a lot and need to feel safe when I do. Mommy says she is thankful for the promise that says we are not to fear the “pestilence that stalks in the darkness nor the plague that destroys at midday.” She told me that those words help her heart, especially when there is a deadly virus making its way around the country, and even right here in Wilmore. I don’t know what a virus is, but it sounds scary, too. So my mommy and I both find comfort in those words from her big book. 

Chapter 13

One of my readers sent me a note saying that she loves the fact that I am learning the language my mommy calls English while at the same time teaching her to speak cat.

Mommy said that reminded her of a story her daddy used to tell. It seems that a cat was bothering a den of mice and they were discussing what to do about it. One little mouse didn’t say anything, but went out of the mousehole to see what he could do. When he spotted the cat creeping up towards him, the little mouse reared onto his hind legs and with all his might let out a sharp bark! The cat couldn’t get away fast enough, and when the other mice surrounded the hero with their congratulations, he said, “See, I told you it would come in handy to learn a second language!” My mommy laughs every time she tells that story, but I really don’t think it’s all that funny. I don’t think I’d like being barked at, even by a mouse. But I guess it really is a good idea to learn to speak someone else’s language – it sure helps when we’re all cooped up together during this virus thing! 

Mommy read me Psalm 91 again, as she does every day now. She says those words from the big book give her a lot of comfort during these fearful times. Verse 13 talks about victory over the lion and the cobra. I’ve never seen a real cobra but my mommy used to have two of them carved out of rosewood sitting in front of the fireplace. Their hoods were flaring and they looked really scary. She said that sometimes visitors would come in and be afraid them, so she gave them to her son, who likes Indian things. 

And then she told me a story about her grandfather, a wonderful man that the Indian people called “Thatha” – honored grandfather. He was a missionary in India too. One time he was visiting my mommy’s family at their Belgaum mission compound. For some reason that Sunday he was late getting to church, which was at the bottom of the hill. As he began walking towards the church, he suddenly stopped, alarmed. A large cobra was slithering into its hole at the base of a huge banyan tree in the front yard. Thatha realized that if he let it go down that hold, it would surely come out again and maybe even strike and kill someone on the compound.  He made a split-second decision and grabbed that cobra’s tail with both hands. Now he was really in trouble! If he let go, the snake would disappear into its hole; at the same time it was too heavy for him to pull it out by himself. The snake kept fighting him, but at least its business end was down the hole so Thatha wasn’t really in any danger. He kept holding on and began to yell, “Howu! Howu!” (“Snake, snake!”) Unfortunately the Methodists in the church down the hill were loudly playing and singing their bajana to the Lord and couldn’t hear him. But he kept shouting and eventually someone heard him through the church’s open window. Recognizing Thatha’s voice and hearing what he was saying, men piled out of the church and began running up the hill. No one had a weapon, of course, so they picked up big sticks and rocks as they ran. Several of them grabbed hold of that cobra and begin to slowly pull it out, while others beat at it with their rocks and sticks. By the time its head emerged from its hole, that cobra was pretty much dead already but they finished him off by beating its head in. There was much relieved laughter and joking after that, and Thatha promised never again to take a cobra by the tail. Mommy has several snake skins and one of them may even be that Sunday-morning cobra! 

I’m so lucky to be safe in a snug house with a mommy who is easily trained to give me what I need. I help her pray every day for those, people and little loveable furry animals alike, who don’t have as much. I’m sure you’re praying for them, too.

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