“Thump!” We hit something. My wife gave me her, “Oh, my gosh, what do we do now?” look as we pulled to the curb. I was prepared for the worst, but not for what lay on the road. It looked sort of like a cat, but not like any cat I had seen before.
Long, pointed ears; spots on its pale blue coat like jigsaw puzzle pieces; deep blue eyes calm, but intense, as though they could melt ice. And around it’s body was draped a vine with figs hanging off.
When I touched it, looking for broken bones, the animal hissed, “Easy there, fellow. I can rip your heart out, you know.” producing claws that looked like switch blades. I backed away, “Cats don’t talk.” I said, “and you just talked.” It smiled, “The answer, my friend, is easy, I’m not a cat. Now pick me up gently. And because you feel so guilty, take me home and feed me a bowl of warm milk before I move on.”
“Cats don’t talk.” I repeated, standing my ground. “So, what are you?” The what-ever-it-was twitched its tail teasingly, “No, no, the milk first.” As I picked my new acquaintance up sand fell from its coat, a trail of sand following us to the car, then into the back seat. “Sorry about that,” the what-ever-it-was licked its paws. “Been living in the desert for thousands of years, sleeping on sand, eating sand. The worst part is when it gets into my ears. Hard to clean out.”
So we drove home, heated some milk, then sat and watched the what-ever-it-was lap the milk up in front of the hearth fire, seeming to enjoy each mouthful, seeming to enjoy the warmth. “I could get used to this, I really could.” It paused; then it shook its head, “But I have to be on my way.” When I asked, “Why?” our guest gave me a hard look with its icy blues, “You ask a lot of questions, don’t you?” “Yes, I responded, “but if you had run into you on the road, wouldn’t you be curious about what you are?” The what-ever-it-was smiled, “I guess so. I am indeed rather unique, aren’t I?”
Sitting up and clearing its throat, our guest announced smugly, “I am…” It hesitated for effect. “I am a feloid fig faun.” Silence. Finally, my wife asked, “A what?” A feloid fig faun,” our visitor repeated carefully. Silence. Then the creature bowed it head and sighed, “Okay, okay, I guess I owe you.” It sighed again. “…Thousands of years ago, in the days of the Pharaohs, cats were worshiped. Some of our girls got mixed up with real Egyptian gods and produced strange-looking offspring. One type of offspring was the feloid. It looked like me, but without the fig vine.
My ancestors could eat anything, and did--bread, melons, vegetables, meat. They kept multiplying and eating. Eventually, they overran the cities, angering the merchants because they stole food. So they were banished to the desert. Many died; but then the gods took pity and changed our punishment.
Draping each feloid with a vine, the gods lengthened our name and ordered us to travel the world, digging holes in the sand and dropping in figs so that trees would grow. That’s where the oases came from,” the feloid fig faun said proudly, “We’ve planted thousands of future trees in what is now India, across the deserts of Persia and North Africa, across southern Europe to the Atlantic, generation after generation of my ancestors, hiding during the day, traveling by night, planting future fig trees. And now we have crossed the ocean. If you look carefully in Central Park you will find young saplings.”
When it stopped talking the feloid fig faun looked at me, “What? No questions this time?” “Nope,” I shook my head. “Okay, then,” It stood, “I have to go, get back to work. Thanks for the milk.” The feloid fig faun walked to the door. “Eat lots of figs, they’re good for you.” It hesitated, “and call NPR, they might be interested in a story like this. We deserve some publicity.”