My grandmother had no affection for my lovely feline friends. She had a particular and a serious dislike for one such friend of mine that had a dark complexion. This jolly good friend had often found a way to enter my house in search of food and, if I may say so, love. I liked it immensely and named it Darkie. For giving such a name, I could have been accused of being a racist, I could have been tried in a court of law as well, but it was a cat and I knew cats could file no law suit; all they can do is say ‘meow!’ So every time I called Darkie by its name, it meowed!
The dark complexion of the cat, said my grandmother, was a sign of pure evil. To get some attention when Darkie came to me and purred and rubbed its body against my legs, my grandmother would say that the cat was cursing me in its language, that it was spreading its nefarious power over me, and that something bad would now befall me. She used to scold me whenever I had walked past a path that the cat had crossed before me. She used to say that I must call the names of all the gods and goddesses before I dare to take a step ahead. “But, granny,” I had objected, “the cat is going its way, and I, mine.”
She did not like the way I gave my time and attention to Darkie and she made faces and said that I had no respect for her, that I was arrogant for not heeding the words of a wise old woman. I knew, like any other cat, Darkie had a heart as well, and I could vouch for the fact that Darkie had a heart of gold. But my grandma said that if Darkie had a heart at all, it would be darker than its complexion!
My grandmother was unreformable. Her beliefs and opinions, though superstitious, were strongly held and she had lived with her opinions for over 80 years, so any newfangled idea hardly mattered to her. Before my grandmother bid adieu to the world, her last piece of advice for me was: “Be careful of cats, particularly black cats.”
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