The Cat and the Gambler

WriYe has another challenge that takes place monthly, other than the Hint Fiction Challenge.  It’s called the Genre Stretch.  The challenge for January was to write a fable, with the bonus genre being “romance” (It’s going to be romance all year).

I did just fine with the fable half of things, but couldn’t get romance into the story.  Anyway, I’m using a different set of characters here – an original set.  The only one named in this story is the cat, Mischief.  The others will be named in later stories.

Mischief sat by the door of the saloon, watching as people passed her by.  Most didn’t spare her more than a single glance.  After all, she was nothing more than a cat – and a small one at that.  She was so small, in fact, that she couldn’t make her home in the barn.  The mice were too large for her to hunt.  Instead, she hunted the fields for crickets and grasshoppers.

While nearly everyone ignored her, one person in the town always noticed her.  He made his living in the saloon.  Like her, most people didn’t give him a second glance.  He was a gambler and good for nothing.  He didn’t know how to make an honest living.

Each time the gambler passed through the doors, he would pause to greet Mischief.  Some days, he would speak to her in a soft, gentle voice.  Sometimes, he would reach down to smooth her fur.  Other times, he would give her a bit of meat from his lunch.

Whenever the man drew near, Mischief would purr to tell him that she appreciated his care and attention.  He seemed to enjoy her soft purr as much as she enjoyed his company.  Mischief felt proud to make the gambler smile.  She was too small to catch the mice, but this much she could do.

One day, while the man was seated at a table, playing cards, Mischief became bold.  She slipped inside.  She dodged around the feet of the men.  Soon, she had made her way to where her friend sat.  She curled up under his chair and set her head on his feet.  Where some would push her away, he sat still and let her rest in the shade for a time.

From under the table, Mischief purred.  The gambler smiled to himself.  When people asked him why he was smiling, he would say that it was because he knew he had a friend.

As night fell and the saloon emptied, the gambler lifted Mischief into his arms and brought her up to his room.  The other men in the saloon laughed at him.  “What use is such a small cat?” they asked.  “She can’t even catch mice.  She’s as useless as you are.”

The gambler shook their words away and smoothed Mischief’s fur as he held her close.  When they reached his room, the gambler settled Mischief in a basket near the fire.  “My life is harsh at times,” he told her.  “People are often cruel to me.  However, you are always kind and loving.  You may not be much, but you bring me peace.  That’s something more precious than all the money I win at the table.”

Mischief curled down in the warm basket on the hearth and fell asleep.  As she purred loudly, the gambler settled down in his bed to sleep.  For the first time in his life, he wasn’t trouble in his sleep.

Small things can mean much to those that have but a little.


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