- Rich Williams
The Canterfurry Tales - Chapter 1: Knighttime
Dappled sunlight lazily filters through the branches and leaves before kissing the morning dew. Songbirds dart amongst the trees, singing all the while. Somewhere in the distance a trumpet can be heard. Morning has broken upon the grounds of Buttresses of Yesteryear, a Renaissance-era themed restaurant and dinner theatre in Chicago, Illinois.
As the world welcomes a new day, two hairy, adumbral figures, obscured by mist, emerge from the forest behind Parking Garage 1B. One, sleek and black, moves with pure feline fluidity. It’s a tiny black cat with saucer eyes holding a lifeless mouse in his razor-sharp teeth. Snackies. The other is a strange cat. Sleek does not describe her; she’s far hairier and stomps around like a Clydesdale. She’s got something very bloody and very dead hanging from her mouth. Ugh, gross, there’s some flesh in her mane, too. The teeny beast pauses at the forest’s edge and finishes her meal in two large, unceremonious bites. A quick, violent, Chris Farley-like body shake from her head through her plume tail transforms her into the most regal animal in all the land. Magic. Real regal magic.
Leaving the woods behind, these two early-morning adventurers cross the grassy expanse towards their lair deep within the bowels of Floor 2 Parking Garage 1B. Without warning from high above a shadow zips across the grass. Overhead, a chilling screech can be heard piercing the early morning splendor. The songbirds have ominously fallen silent. In an instant, the shadow is gone. Suddenly it passes overhead once more, moving with incredible speed. Again and again the shadow flashes across the grass.
The two cats press on, mostly undaunted. The tiny one with the mouth full of mouse speaks first.
“Oh great, this stupid guy.” Blurts Mikita
“Mikita, why do you hate him so much?” Dahlia questions.
“Ever seen his stupid falcon face or heard his stupid falcon screaming? The guy is a jerk, plain and simple.” Says a visibly annoyed Mikita.
“At least his handler is nice. She’s always got some food hidden on her. Elizabeth is my kind of people. ” Said Dahlia.
“Also, ‘Grinning Perry the Peregrine Falcon’ is by far the dumbest name I’ve ever heard.” Mikita said with a hint of jealousy. Well, Dahlia thought she heard jealousy, it was a little hard to tell with the mouse in Mikita’s mouth. Dahlia had long wondered what Perry and Mikita’s deal was.
“Look!” an excitedly Dahlia exclaimed, “Elizabeth is over there and I haven’t seen Perry’s shadow in a minute. Let’s go see if she has anything to eat.”
Mikita, still carrying his breakfast mouse, ran to catch up to Dahlia. He was a fast eater, but he simply couldn’t compete with the sheer volume of food Dahlia put away. She’d had 3 mice and some bugs all ready this morning and now she wanted meat chunks from Elizabeth, Buttresses’ falconer. Mikita really appreciated her passion for food and knew after hunting with her countless times that for all the floof, she was pure muscle.
Elizabeth, coffee in hand, stood at the edge of the field as the two black cats bounded towards her. She was ready with treats. Dahlia reached Elizabeth first, placing her big, outstretched paws on the falconer’s thigh and looked right into the birder’s eyes. Mikita, quickly behind, rubbed up against Elizabeth’s ankle as a hello then sat down to eat his mouse meal. And to sulk. Mikita loved to sulk, especially around anything that had to do with Perry. Elizabeth really looked forward to her brief mornings with Mikita and Dahlia as Perry was off hunting.
Elizabeth talked to all the birds, cats, horses, frogs, dogs and other animals at Buttresses of Yesteryear. She felt that they could somehow understand her, even though she knew that was impossible. Other times she felt like the animals communicated back and she completely understood, but she also knew that wasn’t possible either. Regardless, she liked talking to them, they were her friends.
“You two hear they finally hired a new knight? Hopefully this one will be less knight-like than Pete was.” Gossiped Elizabeth. “That guy was a jackass.”
Knights were indeed jackasses. Fighter pilot-level confidence with toddler-like need for attention. They drank, fought and yelled at cats. That was the knightlife. Elizabeth, Mikita and Dahlia collectively sighed at the idea of a new armor-clad meathead trying to assert their dominance at Buttresses. People wanted aggressive meatheads when they came to Buttresses of Yesteryear; just like they wanted a roast chicken dinner and flagons of ale. Falcons and horses were cool, too. Knights were the annoying rock stars of the show and they carried that attitude with them all day.
Elizabeth continued on talking to the cats.
“Supposedly this new guy is from the Edmonton branch, way up in Canada. No one here knows anyone from that Buttresses. Phil, the maintenance guy, said he worked with a Canadian Buttresses employee for a while. Said he was weird and very Canadian. Whatever that means. Phil eats raw eggs though, so it’s hard to listen to his opinion on things. I bet you’d eat raw eggs.” Elizabeth cooed to Dahlia as the furry, beautiful little beast ate the last of the meat treats Elizabeth had brought for her.
“I’d eat raw eggs.” Dahlia thought to herself as she licked something fleshy from her mane.
Mikita had finished his breakfast and was desperately in need of a nap. Dahlia could see Mikita’s eyes were getting heavy and she could use a nap herself after her prodigious breakfast. With a quick rub against Elizabeth’s legs both cats were off to the lair, deep within the bowels of Floor 2 Parking Garage 1B. Not a moment too soon, either, as overhead the shadow of Perry returned. With a great whoosh he landed on Elizabeth’s outstretched arm.
“Hey, Mikita! Screw you, buddy!” Cawed the bird of prey.
“Hey, Perry! Your name sucks, buddy!” Howled the annoyed feline.
As an intense staring contest began to take place Dahlia and Elizabeth stepped in to break the tensions between the two.
“Let’s go Mik, you’re cranky.” Dahlia urged.
“Enough, Perry! You look so much cuter when you smile.” Chided Elizabeth.
The brooding boys broke their gaze and decided to fight another day. Off everyone went, but Dahlia kept thinking about this new knight. That had been news to the cats, and it wasn’t necessarily welcome. Peter, or “Petorian of Welthington” as he insisted everyone call him, really sucked. He was outright mean to the animals at Buttresses of Yesteryear. Dahlia learned to be weary of knights, never trusting them, even if they had treats. Mikita felt similarly. Truth be told, Mikita also disliked knights because they were always trying to run the place even though everyone knew Mikita was the alpha male of all alpha males at Buttresses of Yesteryear. That they dared view him as merely a small, cute cat and not the menacing panther he was just pissed him off. Knights sucked.
Dahlia was worrying about the new guy as they entered their little lair on Floor 2. It was actually just a very rarely used electrical closet next to the completely unused stairwell. Their homebase had plenty of cozy places to lounge thanks to the many pilfered t-shirts and other soft clothing items Mikita and Dahlia had freed from the gift shop’s storage room. Bellies full, the two cats laid down to nap for a few hours, as cats do.
It was quiet and the two were drifting off when the door to the closet burst open. Dahlia and Mikita froze with fear, hoping the backlit figure in the doorway couldn’t see them. Neither cat recognized the person towering before them.
“Uh oh, it’s the new knight” Realized Dahlia.
And the cats were alone with him.