Thump!  A yellow cat named Honey jumped onto a bed in the Girls Room of the orphanage.  She climbed on top of a pillow and rested her chin on the windowsill.  Whiskers twitching, she turned toward the road outside where a loud argument was going on. 

Thump!  Her daughter, Song of Songs, joined her on the bed.   Stretched out on the other edge of the pillow, Song put her chin too on the windowsill.  And both cats listened as a woman’s voice shouted, “Does the rabbi’s wife want miracles?  She asked me to make a match for the blind girl who lives here.  How can I make a match for a blind girl?  Is there a deaf man in the village to make a pair with her?”

Although the cats only knew cat-talk, they understood that the lady was yelling about their beloved Malkah.  Mewing softly at one another, they looked down at the pillow, where fifteen-year-old Malkah was sleeping.  Because she had a slight fever, she hadn’t gotten up today.  As the woman’s voice rose again, she turned restlessly and plucked at the blanket. 

“And those cats of hers.. . “ the voice growled.

With one impulse, Honey and Song jumped over the windowsill.  They landed in the grass and darted over to the woman, who pointed at them with a sharp finger.  “They’re the ones!” she said to the tall young man standing beside her.  “What man wants a wife with no eyes and two cats?” 

“Mom, they’re kosher cats,” the young man smiled.  His mouth turned up as easily as his mother’s turned down.  He knelt on the grass and stroked Honey, while Song shoved her face into his hand and purred. 

“Besides,” he added, “I know the perfect match for Malkah.  So your problem is solved!”  He stood up and grinned at his mother.

“Who is it?” the matchmaker asked suspiciously.

“Me!” said her son.  

Turning on her heel, his mother stalked off.  It was obvious she wasn’t going to marry her only son to a blind orphan. 

The young man, whose name was Menashe, knelt down again.  “I want to marry Malkah,” he told the cats.  “And I’ve made a plan to trick my mother into saying yes.  But I’ll need your help and Sadie’s.”

The cats blinked at one another.   Sadie was the youngest child in the orphanage.  She was only five years old.  How could she help?

“Stay here,” he told Honey and Song.  “I’ll find Sadie and come right back.”  He was back in a minute with curly-headed Sadie running happily beside him.  The little girl loved Menashe almost as she loved Malkah.  When she plopped down on the grass, Song of Songs climbed into her lap and Honey butted her head against Sadie’s knee.

“Now listen,” said Menashe to the three of them.  “I have a plan, a plot so brilliant it could have come straight from the brain of King Solomon.  We’re going to the widows and get them to spin my mother around.”

The widows were three middle-aged women who visited the orphanage on holidays to bring the children little treats.  Their names were Mrs. Leib, Mrs. Szabo and Mrs. Peretz. 

Sadie gurgled with happiness at helping Menashe, but the cats exchanged doubtful looks.  Big question marks floated above their heads. 

“I know what you’re thinking,” said Menashe to Honey and Song.  “The widows are just like my mother,” he admitted.  “They don’t like to say yes, but you’re going to change that.”  Whistling cheerfully, Menashe led the little girl and the two cats down the road to find the three women. 

To his surprise, they were standing together, arguing loudly outside the butcher’s shop.   

While Mrs. Leib, Mrs. Szabo and Mrs. Peretz stared at him, Menashe outlined his plan.  When he finished, each of the women snapped, “NO.”  Menashe then glanced at Sadie, who threw her arms around Mrs. Leib’s knees and buried her curly head in her skirt.  “Please, please, please,” she begged.  When she looked up at the widow with her eyes shining, like someone seeing angels, the woman’s heart melted.

“Well, I don’t know,” said Mrs. Leib.

That was the signal for the cats to go into action.  Song of Songs crawled under Mrs. Szabo’s skirt and pressed herself against the widow’s ankles, while Honey leaped into Mrs. Peretz’s arms and licked away at her neck.  “Oh, these silly cats,” said the women, but they sounded amused rather than angry.  “Cats don’t usually like me,” they added.  “I wonder what’s different about these two.”

Menashe said nothing.  He just smiled as though he too were seeing angels.  And finally, the women gave in.  “All right,” they said, “tell us what you want us to say.”  So Menashe told them.

The next day Mrs. Leib put on a sad face.  She went to Menashe’s mother and groaned, “Esther, Esther, I don’t know what to do.  You remember my son who’s living in Cracow?  His wife has gone crazy.  She won’t do any work.  She just sits and looks out the window all day long.  Just sits and LOOKS.” 

“Her eyes follow everybody who goes past, and she does this as long as it’s light.  When my son complains, she says to him, ‘But there’s so much to SEE, Shlomo.  So much to SEE.’  Esther, what should I do?”

The matchmaker’s mouth dropped open.  “I don’t know,” she said honestly.

Mrs. Leib was barely out the door, when Mrs. Szabo showed up.  “Esther,” she cried, “I don’t know what to do. You remember my son who lives in Warsaw?  His wife is driving him crazy.  She wants everything she sees.  Whether it’s a dress, a shawl, a table - if she SEES it, she wants it.

“She’s nagging my son to death,” said Mrs. Szabo.  “All he hears is, ‘I SAW this today, I SAW that today.’”

 “Terrible, terrible,” said the matchmaker.  But she had no solutions to offer.  She tossed and turned, thinking about both those situations all night.  “I’ll talk it over with Mrs. Peretz,” she decided with relief, as she saw Mrs. Peretz approaching her door. 

But to her great surprise, Mrs. Peretz didn’t let her get a word in edgewise.  Right away, she moaned, “Esther, Esther, I don’t know what to do.  You remember my son who went to New York?  Well, he wrote to me that his wife won’t look at him anymore.”  She said again, “Won’t LOOK at him.”

Mrs. Peretz went on.  “She told him she doesn’t like his looks.  Well, he isn’t handsome, that’s true.  But she told him to put a towel over his face when he comes into the house.  He refused, so she won’t go near him.  And you know what that means!”

The matchmaker nodded.  It meant no grandchildren.  How can little ones be born when parents won’t stay in the same room with each other? 

As Mrs. Peretz went on moaning, there came into the matchmaker’s mind a picture of her own son.  He had a face like a monkey and ears that stuck out like pump handles.  A bride might not like his looks.

After Mrs. Peretz went away, the matchmaker wrung her hands.  What could be done for Menashe?  And then, like a burst of light from heaven, or a bright idea from King Solomon’s own head, came an idea.  And off she went to the rabbi’s wife. 

“I have found a husband for Malkah,” she shouted with joy.  “It’s my own son, my beloved Menashe.”

Mazel tov!” cried the rebbetzin.  She went off to find Malkah, and the two of them grabbed Sadie.  They danced and clapped while Honey sat on Malkah’s shoulder and Song on the rebbetzin’s. 

As the cats purred with pride, the village began the preparations for the wedding.

 ~~~~~~~

Standing next to Malkah under the chupa, the wedding canopy, Menashe lifted his shoe and stamped it down – Crack -- on a drinking glass lying on the carpet.  When the glass broke, the crowd roared.  The village men seized Menashe, and as soon as Malkah sat down in a chair, the village women seized the chair.  Up, up went the bridal couple, laughing and singing above the shoulders of the crowd. 

When Malkah was back on the ground, she slipped out of her chair and went to the rabbi.  She begged him for a special favor, but the rabbi frowned.  “It’s not customary,” he objected. 

“Please,” begged Malkah, while Honey patted his shoe with her paw.  And Menashe added, “They were our matchmakers.” 

When the rabbi nodded, Malkah grabbed Sadie and pushed her into the bridal chair.  Honey and Song leaped onto the arms of the chair, and all three of them were lifted up.  As the guests cheered, they were carried around the room, while Sadie burst into giggles and kicked her feet until her shoes flew off. 

But the cats sat upright with great dignity, like the lions on King Solomon’s throne.  

© Lynn Butler Schiffhorst 2008

 

   

A Cats Prayer

Lead me down all the right paths,
Keep me from fleas, bees, and baths.
Let me in should it storm,
Keep me safe, fed, and warm.

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