Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: CAT (11/08/18)
TITLE: Painting Peace
By Francy Judge
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Mrs. Rouge lived alone ever since her husband, Dr. Rouge, and her teenage son, Christopher, died in a car accident ten years ago. Behind her back, children and even a few adults called her Mrs. Scrooge. She earned her nickname after slamming her door too many times.
“Why do people come knocking at my door when they weren’t invited?” She would say.
When Girl Scouts knocked…slam!
When Christmas carolers sang…slam!
When little Jack asked if he could find a frisbee he accidentally tossed in her backyard…she scolded him. “Next time be careful where you throw it. I’ll keep whatever lands on my property.” Slam!
Everyone on the street learned not to bother Mrs. Rouge…everyone except a long haired stray calico cat.
Each day, the cat weaved her way through the poplar trees, scratching her back at each trunk. She slinked down the long driveway and stopped at the front door. She would then meow until Mrs. Rouge peered outside.
“Good grief. Can’t you find another house to beg for food?”
The calico cat looked up with shiny, reflective green eyes.
“Oh, alright.” Mrs. Rouge opened a can of Fancy Feast Ocean Fish and dumped it in a plastic bowl. “I’m only feeding you so you stop your whiny meowing and I can get some sleep. Next time, bother the house with the noisy kids next door. I’m not buying any more cans of smelly cat food. My kitchen reeks of tuna.”
One cold day—a wrap yourself in a fuzzy blanket and sip hot cocoa kind of day—the calico cat scratched at Mrs. Rouge’s door. And meowed. And scratched some more. And meowed again.
Mrs. Rouge grumbled. “You woke me up. It’s two o’clock in the morning.” This time, as she opened the door to put the bowl of food out, the calico cat leaped inside and ran, hiding under the couch.
Mrs. Rouge laughed. “Aren’t you the devious one! I’ll let you stay inside tonight. Only one night…and it’s not because I care about you…I just can’t sleep with you scratching at my door.”
The next day she woke up to find six inches of snow had fallen. Mrs. Rouge looked at her unwelcome guest curled up on her husband’s recliner chair. She kept the old recliner in good condition and didn’t want it covered in cat fur.
“Well, look at you. I’ll let you stay another day since the snow is over your head.” Mrs. Rouge nudged the cat over and sat next to her. She picked up the family photo from the Christmas before the accident. Her heart still ached. She should have been with them in the car on the way to church, but had stayed home to finish her commissioned painting. She hadn’t painted anything since, and she stopped going to church.
She wiped a tear away, and the cat licked her hand. Mrs. Rouge found a comb and stroked the cat’s fur. The cat purred.
“I’m only combing you to get rid of your extra fur so you don’t shed on my furniture or wake me by coughing up a hairball. This is not your home.” After a good combing, the cat’s fur felt like silk.
As Mrs. Rouge watched the cat sleep peacefully, she had a sudden urge to set up a canvas and paint her furry guest. The cat didn’t move other than the rise and fall of her heartbeat, as she dabbed burnt sienna and yellow ochre on her painting and quickly sketched her subject. She finished one of her best pieces and felt like singing. “You do make a beautiful cat model, but I can’t call the painting ‘Cat.’ I’ll have to give you a name.”
She stared at her painting. She stared at her calico cat. She stared at the Bible on the bookshelf and pulled it out. Mrs. Rouge dusted it and flipped it open to Psalm 29:11. “The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.”
“I’ll call you Ms. Peace.”
The next day, the sun shined, melting the snow into puddles. “I’ll be right back, Ms. Peace.”
Mrs. Rouge shuffled over to her noisy neighbors to buy some Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies.
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