The Last Cat — Part 1

The cats want to imitate the wild geese and move south

The fact that the wild geese leave for the south every year and the cats have to stay here runs deep. Discord about this has been building up for generations. Especially the younger ones are becoming increasingly rebellious, they don’t understand why they have to stay here in the cold, uncomfortable winter while the geese fly off to the warm, horny south. Already last year a large part of the cats was almost ready to go, but then it failed because of organizational details, such as the route. But this year it was different. They had infiltrated a spy with the geese, who had scouted out the long-standing tips and tricks of the geese for them. Now there was actually nothing standing in the way of the big trip, which was also the reason for the aggressive mood among the cats. They did not want to be stopped again in any case.

Marlene, the strict, venerable leader of the street cats, notices this all the more when she goes around the houses, as she does every evening. It is heated. In between, one or the other wild goose struts past them with a packed travel bag and throws them haughty looks. That doesn’t exactly help. Marlene is an old Persian cat, descended from the Persian family, the founders of the carpet company. She has seen a lot, witnessed many fashions and trends. She doesn’t give it too much importance, but of course order must be maintained. The little cat Button stumbles at her feet. A faithful little cat, he staggers rather than plods and means no harm to anyone. But even he looks up at Marlene, uncertain. “Are we going south?” He asks, meowing miserably. “Everyone says there are mice there that are as huge as car tires and still catch well and taste good, too.” “Ah yes. And what are they supposed to taste like, please?” Karl asks, joining them from a dark side alley. Marlene and Button look up in amazement. It is unusual to find Karl here, since he is the aforementioned spy. Actually, it’s too dangerous for him to be seen in public with the cats, especially after all the effort it took to gain the geese’s trust and be recognized as a full-fledged goose. For example, explaining to the geese why he didn’t fly — “fear of heights” — that had already made them quite suspicious. Plus his four legs and short fur, whiskers and tail, all highly suspicious. But in the meantime, Karl had been able to earn the trust of the geese through his endearing charisma, for which he was highly respected in the cat community. It was a particular triumph when he was allowed to be present for the first time during the planning of the trip, a very very closely guarded secret where only the most important geese were present. That’s why, in any case, Marlene and Button were all the more surprised to find Karl here today.

Unsure, Button looks at Marlene, and then back at Karl. He murmurs softly, “Well, they say these huge mice taste like Hollandaise sauce.” Karl nods. “Yeah, I’ve heard that too, but you shouldn’t take everything at face value.” Then he turns directly to Marlene. “The geese are leaving tomorrow morning, at dawn. If we want to move south, too, we’d best follow them. Time is short. Have you talked to Sophie, Till and Marie yet? Besides, what does Willi say?” Sophie, an impressive Siamese cat, is the leader of all the cats. Till is the shy representative of the house cats who have never entered the outside world, and Marie is the envoy of the very special furry and bushy cats who therefore don’t move so well and would rather stay here. All of them are currently swarming out to catch up with their people’s respective positions and then pass them on to Sophie, who is sitting alone on a rock waiting.

The street cats run in twos and threes over the dirty sidewalks, hissing and snarling, crouching in their holes and corners with rebellious smoldering eyes, something menacing in the air. Marlene has to go on. She sighs. “Karl, I’ll keep asking around. When the stomach growls the first time is meeting at the big stone, on the factory site on the outskirts of town. Be there, too. Then we will decide. Personally, I think the whole thing is a big mischief, but unfortunately I’m not the biggest cat here.” Karl raises his clawed paw (part of his goose camouflage) and plods off, clacking. Button looks unhappy. His eyes are all black, like two buttons, and his white fur dirty and disheveled. He’s an orphan and doesn’t have it easy in the community, so Marlene holds a protective paw over him when she can and sometimes lets him gnaw on her mouse.

“Gustav, Lisa, what do you think? Should we move south?” Marlene asks two disheveled cats whispering against a house wall, who fall directly silent. “Sure!!!” Says the one named Lisa aggressively. “We need to move south. It’s warm down there and there’s food and no one wants to exterminate us.” Says she belligerently. “No one wants to exterminate us here either.” Says Gustav placatingly. “Yes, they do, us alley cats.” Lisa stares angrily at Gustav. Marlene sighs again and plods on, little Button in tow.

Across the street, once again, a wild goose with sunglasses and a wheeled suitcase strolls by, basking in the attention and envious glances of all the cats. “Only the ones who really want to beat us up do that!” Comes a bitter voice from the side, it’s Till, the actually so shy representative of the house cats, but now bitterly chasing after the wild goose, which wobbles away on high heels. “Let the geese be geese.” Says Marlene sadly, but she knows it’s hopeless. “Till, how do you see the situation?” She asks. Till is a very clean cat who always wears white gloves, like the Queen, says please and thank you, and eats his mice with a knife and fork. He looks around slightly piqued, as if what he sees somehow disgusts him, and then replies, “Most of them are scared, of course. They don’t even know what it’s like outside, so how can they move south. Many only know the world outside through the window, and that’s so abstract it could be a painting. Some are curious, of course. But it’s difficult to find a common attitude. I’ve come here to have a quick chat, but I can already guess what people are saying.” A repeated disdainful glance at the scruffy, cigarette-smoking cats in the doorways. “Well, I’ll see you at the rock later.” “Right, when your stomach growls for the first time.” Reminds Marlene. Till nods and walks away in a hurry.

Gertrud the cat lives in the best part of town with the Wummlinger family. She’s fine there, but sometimes she wonders what the world is like out there and what else is lurking that she has no idea about. All she knows is that through the glass windows of the apartment where she lives, green leaves blow auspiciously in the wind, sometimes resting, then blowing again, and occasionally reflecting a ray of sunlight. Sometimes Gertrud sits at the window for hours just looking at it. Of course, she doesn’t know why the leaves are moving, and she doesn’t know that the brightness there is sunlight. So sometimes she sits rigidly at the window forever. Most of the time, however, Gertrud is not thinking about the world outside. She is busy running around the apartment and lying curled up on the cream-colored armchair and being petted by Tobias, the youngest of the family, and also being served tasty meat in the best curry cream sauce three times a day. Gertrud is a house cat, as it is written in the book. She came to the Wummlinger family when she was just a baby, and because they live in the middle of the city, she is not allowed out — that would be far too dangerous.

Just as Gertrud is gleefully eating canard a l’orange from her bowl, there is a knock on the window. It’s Lutz, the philosopher, one of the more free-spirited house cats, who sometimes drops by and annoys her with abstruse theories about the world and life. The window is tilted and Gertrud hops onto the sill so that her little gray cat head peeks through the crack. Cold air tickles her whiskers, she shivers briefly. Lutz grins and bangs his paw against the window pane, she flinches: “Hey Trudi. Have you heard? We’re all thinking of moving south, like the wild geese. We want to lie on the beach, drink cocktails and listen to music, too, instead of being stuck here in the winter.” Gertrud doesn’t know what the south is, or what winter is, or what the geese are, and neither does she know what a beach is. She’s heard of cocktails and music before, but those things never seemed so desirable to her. At such moments she always tries to mask her lack of knowledge with arrogance, “Um and what do I have to do with it?” She therefore asks slightly from above and turns away to signal that she really has no interest in this conversation. Lutz shows his pointy little teeth and meows, “Well we all want to go!!! You have to come with us when we go, of course!!! A big cat migration! I mean, maybe we’ll come back sometime, the geese will come back too, but let’s see!!!” He looks furtively to the left and right and then says quietly: “To be honest, I have the hope of perhaps being allowed to fly on the back of a goose, then I would be much faster and could also clarify the mysteries about the sky and the clouds, for example, whether there is a God, I would then see. I wanted to ask Willi the wild goose secretly later, but the others must not find out, otherwise they would think I am a traitor! A deserter! …Oh, I’ve got to stop using this war jargon, nobody can stand it. Well, so how about it, are you in? Life’s too short for idleness.” “What?” Snaps Gertrud unnerved, her afternoon snack is getting cold and besides she has no idea what this Dude is talking about again. On the back of what does he want to fly, and how does flying even work, and huh, deserter, migration, war jargon, what’s going on now. “Ahh how could I forget!!!” Exclaims Lutz there loudly. “OF COURSE, you are a limited house cat and have no idea. Well, tutoring in “What-is-the-world” I really can’t give you now” — “I didn’t ask for that at all!” — “I wouldn’t even know where to start. Anyway, you can see through the window, here, where I am, there’s something, isn’t there? Trees, green leaves, maybe you can feel the wind on your whiskers? The air? Well, it’s all part of the world, and in the world there aren’t just these things you see here, there’s a lot more.” Gertrud’s curiosity is now aroused after all, and involuntarily she stops and continues to listen. “For example, the south! Imagine, there everything looks like here. Only much friendlier. And lots of water. Water you know.” — “I’m not stupid!!!” Snaps Gertrud again, but Lutz isn’t fazed. “…And it’s nice and warm. And you can go anywhere and not get run over. That’s where we’re going.” “and what is a goose?” Gertrud now asks reluctantly after all. “A big bird! You sometimes see them flying along up there in the sky! They do that every year, that’s why we got the idea! Flying means they stay in the air and don’t fall down. No one can explain how they do it, but we’ll figure it out, at the latest when I’m flying along on a goose, I’ll take notes in the air on a big clipboard and write an epic about it.” Gertrud rolls her eyes. So much bullshit. Lithely, she leaps from the windowsill to the cream-colored armchair. There she feels a hand on her fur, it’s Tobi stroking her, over her head, between her ears and her back. Often she is annoyed by Tobi, but now it is nice. She closes her eyes and purrs comfortably. The south is forgotten.

Marlene’s stomach growls. It’s time. Gathering at the big stone, where Sophie is already sitting and waiting.

It’s very chummy, many cats stand together in groups and talk, about the south or the latest gossip. The gray tomcat Ulf mews with his smoky voice: “When they told me to go to hell, I left, you can believe me. And I won’t be back, I won’t be back.” “But what are you going to eat?!” Another, higher voice asks reverently. “Well, whatever comes my way just now. But I’m out of that.” “I’m telling you, we HAVE to go.” Scrawls a very cheeky cat from another direction. “We can’t spend YEARS watching other people model the good life for us!!! It’s right under our noses, people!!!” “Abbbbb in den Süüüüden” sings a small group of young cats in German, however they know that language. Another group waves a banner that says: “we are the (k)ATZEN. DISCO POGO” To this they have practiced a small choreography. Dream. Two older long-haired cats squat on the ground a little distance away and lick their fur, while one whispers, “I don’t know if I want to take on another arduous journey like this. I’m actually fine here.” “But do you want to stay behind alone?” Replies the other with eyes widened in horror. “So if everyone’s going, I’m going too.”

Relatively far ahead at the stone where Sophie is sitting, Marlene sees Willi whispering with Lutz. Willi is the only wild goose. He is a defector and, together with Karl, the spy, the cats’ best informant. He already told them about the so-called “inner restlessness” that seizes the wild geese at a certain time, which is why they know when it is time to fly. He also told them that they had made their first big journey with their parents when they were small children, and that was how they learned the route.

Therefore, his suggestion was to follow the geese as best they could, since they also knew the best nesting sites and landmarks: Landscape features, the sky, the stars.

But apart from his usefulness, Willi is a strange contemporary. He’s a bit inscrutable and rather over the top and weird, and he’s also visually ugly. But nobody can do anything about that.

Sophie lets out her shrillest meow. Everyone startles and is suddenly silent.

Gracefully she rises. Her black fur shines in the evening light and her eyes sparkle with will and wisdom. She is an impressive figure, not for nothing is she the leader.

“Good evening.” She wishes everyone. “Since we are a species that strives to continuously evolve, it is not left out to think outside the box to see how other populations live. It is then up to us to evaluate whether, or to what extent, that way of life is transferable to us. It is for this assessment that we are now gathered here today. Every year, when the wild geese fly south and have the time of their lives there, the discussion reignites among us as to whether we should take them as an example. After all, it’s not just about sun, beach and sea — no, it’s also about possible evolutionary advantages that could help us become more survivable. Perhaps you remember the concept of democracy, which we have copied from humans. For a number of years now, it has become common practice to elect representatives of different interest groups and to decide things together. There is no more primitive fighting, instead we discuss. In this way, we not only avoid injuries and deaths, we also achieve a serious understanding of each other and make wiser decisions in the long run. We rethink, we evolve. This process is an evolutionary advantage that has had a lasting impact on making us a more survivable species. The question now is: Will migrating south every year, like the wild geese, have a similar effect? For what reason do the wild geese migrate south? Right. They are a party people, and as a party people you really can’t use northern winters. But are we a party people, too?”

“YES, YES, YES, we are a party people HURRA” sing the young cats, dancing a certain Greek folk dance, also a legacy of democracy.

The two older longhaired cats, sitting a little off to the side, mutter : “Just leave me alone with that, party people.” “Look at those house cats over there — “ says the other, pointing contemptuously at a cluster of snow-white, distraught, young, downy kittens clinging to each other, all now seeming irreparably damaged from their trip outside.

“Let’s listen to Willi the wild goose and Karl our spy for a moment, and then we can vote together.”