Although I have been an employee of Globes and Maps for twenty years I had never felt as inadequate as I had in the past six months. As executive in charge of new ideas I had to continually come up with new places to put maps as well as create new maps themselves. Lately the well had run dry. My last three ideas, the Sahara desert on an electric blanket, the Himalayas as a coat rack, and the roll of toilet paper with a different country on each sheet had all been resounding disasters. I dreaded our monthly meetings and whether he was looking at me or not I felt Mr. Karl’s eyes on me every time he entered the office.
My co-workers were sympathetic and took it upon themselves to help me. Mr. Chang bought me strange fish which was supposed to energize my brain. Ms. Snickety bought me a book of crossword puzzles and Ms. Graben said that I should stand in front of the mirror and repeat: I DO have a brain and today I will use it to come up with fresh brilliant ideas, fifty times every morning before breakfast. I followed all three suggestions sometimes by themselves and once, in desperation, all together. But other than spewing fish juice on the crossword while I was reciting my mantra nothing happened. In the end it was Jonesy who came to my rescue.
Mr. V was in trouble. It had been building over the past couple of months until it was right in my face. I could always tell when he was in trouble because he ate lots of sardines. I like fish, but sardines? Pul-ease! They’re oily and afterwards your breath smells like…well sardines. That wasn’t all. Last week he wore the same shirt three days running. I know because I slept on it and let me tell you it was funky before I got there. This last week he didn’t shave for two days. He used to pick me up at least once a day but he had hardly picked me up in the past month. And as for my daily massage…I’d forgotten what it felt like.
Three nights running, I’d come home at different times of the night and each time he was staring at his computer. Yesterday evening, he was mumbling to himself. I had to do something. First I rubbed against his legs to let him know I was there.
He said, Hi Jonesy, but he didn’t bother to stroke me. So I jumped up on the table. I’m not supposed to do that but he didn’t say anything…just stared at the computer screen. So I did too.
It’s a map of all the rock festivals around the globe, he explained. I can’t stand the music, but millions of people love it and they go to the festivals so I thought perhaps some of them would like a map as a souvenir. What do you think?
I thought it was the worst idea I’d ever heard but I didn’t want to dampen his spirits – he’s an artist, or he thinks he is, and artists can be very sensitive. Not as sensitive as cats of course but still I had to tell him in a firm but subtle way that his idea was crap. Because if you don’t say anything artists take to drink and drugs and jump out of windows – it’s a proven fact – and I didn’t want that on my paws. So I scratched myself as if I was thinking and then I just walked across the keyboard which threw the whole thing into the recycle bin.
Whenever I’d done this in the past Mr. V had always had a fit but this time he picked me up and said, You little rascal! I was so relieved I started purring. He flipped me on my back. My little tiger, he said scratching my neck. Or are you a lion? Hmm? Which is it? Suddenly, he stopped. His eyes grew big! My goodness! He said. That’s it! Cats of the World. A map of the world featuring all the different species of cats and the countries they are found in. It’ll go to zoos and schools and kids and everything! He put me down and began banging at the computer. I hadn’t seen him so excited in a long time. I never thought of myself as a muse before but if that’s to be my role in life, so be it. Anything for Mr. V.