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Our Cat Enters Heaven

In the Great Beyond, God is a tough feline that likes a balanced universe.

By Margaret Atwood

Our cat was raptured up to heaven. He’d never liked heights, so he tried to sink his claws into whatever invisible snake, giant hand, or eagle was causing him to rise in this manner, but he had no luck.

When he got to heaven, it was a large field. There were a lot of little pink things running around that he thought at first were mice. Then he saw God sitting in a tree. Angels were flying here and there with their fluttering white wings; they were making sounds like doves. Every once in a while God would reach out with its large furry paw and snatch one of them out of the air and crunch it up. The ground under the tree was littered with bitten-off angel wings.

Our cat went politely over to the tree.

Meow, said our cat.

Meow, said God. Actually it was more like a roar.

I always thought you were a cat, said our cat, but I wasn’t sure.

In heaven all things are revealed, said God. This is the form in which I choose to appear to you.

I’m glad you aren’t a dog, said our cat. Do you think I could have my testicles back?

Of course, said God. They’re over behind that bush.

Our cat was very pleased. Thank you, he said to God.

God was washing its elegant long whiskers. De rien, said God.

Would it be possible for me to help you catch some of those angels? said our cat.

You never liked heights, said God, stretching itself out along the branch, in the sunlight. I forgot to say there was sunlight.

True, said our cat. I never did. There were a few disconcerting episodes he preferred to forget. Well, how about some of those mice?

They aren’t mice, said God. But catch as many as you like. Don’t kill them right away. Make them suffer.

You mean, play with them? said our cat. I used to get in trouble for that.

It’s a question of semantics, said God. You won’t get in trouble for that here.

Our cat chose to ignore this remark, as he did not know what “semantics” was. He did not intend to make a fool of himself. If they aren’t mice, what are they? he said. Already he’d pounced on one. He held it down under his paw. It was kicking, and uttering tiny shrieks.

They’re the souls of human beings who have been bad on Earth, said God, half-closing its yellowy-green eyes. Now if you don’t mind, it’s time for my nap.

What are they doing in heaven, then? said our cat.

Our heaven is their hell, said God. I like a balanced universe.

 

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Margaret Atwood’s books have been published in more than 35 countries. Her novels “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Cat’s Eye” were shortlisted for the Booker Prize; “The Blind Assassin” was awarded the Booker Prize in 2000; “Alias Grace” won the Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy; her most recent novel, “Oryx and Crake” was shortlisted for the Giller Prize and the Orange Prize. She lives in Toronto with writer Graeme Gibson. Read her piece, "Salome Was a Dancer," at SoMA here.

Excerpted from The Tent, by Margaret Atwood. Published by Nan A. Talese, an imprint of Doubleday. Copyright 2006. Reprinted with permission of the author.

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