The fruit trees of Bothell are putting on their annual show. Every year, I take about twelve kajillion photos of them, and share a few of the best with you. This year, thee shall have lots of beautiful flowers, as well as the story of that one time my mama cat Flower hated on the Book of Mormon, thus saving me from some of the worst prose ever written.
I spent my high school years in a small town on the Arizona-Utah border. There were two enormous Mormon churches in a town of roughly 6,000 people. High school was filled with fresh-faced Mormon kids, who all had to troop across the street for seminary in yet another Mormon church building. What I’m saying is, there were many Mormons.
One of those Mormons was a best friend of mine. I shall call her J. She was one of the best people in town, a sweet, somewhat shy person who had a sharp mind and even sharper sense of humor. Her mom was one of the teachers and a character in her own right, one of the strongest-willed people I’ve ever known. Some of the Mormons I knew were snooty in their faith, but not that family. No, they were the salt-of-the-earth type folks who make you believe a religion can’t be that bad if it contains people like them.
Still, I had absolutely no interest in becoming a Mormon. I found organized religion to be a bit of a bore to start with. I didn’t like Christianity much anyway, and a variety of Christianity that had you in church for dozens of hours a week sounded perfectly awful. Also, I knew who I’d be spending my weekends with if I converted, and I didn’t like 90% of them. People like Julie, our neighbors, and a few other Mormons I knew were utterly awesome, but they were embedded with a lot of folks who loved to lord it over all and sundry because their truth was the only truth, so naw.
Alas, Mormonism is one of those Christian varietals that insists on its members foisting the faith on hapless heathens such as myself. So one day, J cringed up to me with a black book in her hands, and thrust it at me with a mumbled, “I want you to read this so you can understand my faith better.” It was one of those plain-jane Book of Mormons you get when you call the 800 number. I took it, looked at the gold letters stamped across the front of it, and said, “Sure, I’ll read it sometime.”
And I kinda-sorta meant it, because I was researching religions in an effort to create ones for my story-worlds anyway, and poor J might feel better about her heathen friend going to hell if she could say she’d tried to stop it, so okay. But I wasn’t enthusiastic about the project. When I got home, I tossed the wretched tome down on my bedroom floor, and promptly went on to other things.
Sometime either that evening or shortly after, our mama cat came home. Flower was a quite large calico who brooked no nonsense. Until Misha, she was one of the meanest cats I’d ever known. She’d managed to get knocked up in the ten minutes between turning old enough to be fixed and us making the appointment to get it done, and ever since, she treated the humans of the world like unruly kittens she had to smack into line. She was the hunter who’d dragged a jackrabbit twice her size home. She took control of my little dog and held her down for baths until she gave the poor wee thing Stockholm Syndrome. Barely anything ever frightened that cat. She was mean, and she was tough, and she brooked no nonsense. I don’t know if anything really scared her. In her opinion, fear was what happened when she caused it in other creatures.
She came strutting into my room, and paused. She stared at the Book of Mormon lying upon the floor. She puffed up, hissed, walked waaaay around it in a stance that said she would claw it to death if it so much as twitched in her direction, then jumped up on the bed and sat down. She gave me a stern stare that said, “What are you going to do about that horrid evil thing?”
I did the only sensible thing I could think of: threw it in my bottomless pit of a closet, where it would never be seen again.
Flower approved this course. She settled down on my bed, serenely washing herself, and we never spoke of it again.
Some weeks later, J asked me if I’d read the book. “No,” I said.
“Because my cat said it was evil.”
J had particular way of expressing surprise and disbelief. She had some of the best skeptical eyebrows in town. She unleashed them upon me, so I explained what had happened. She may never have quite believed me, but she at least pretended to, and allowed that it was all right if I never read the book.
Hence, I was saved from having to endure some of the worst prose on the planet. How do I know it was this bad if I never read it? I’ve been reading it through Dwindling in Unbelief. I also read An American Fraud, in which an ex-Mormon lawyer puts the faith on trial, and The Complete Heretic’s Guide to Western Religion: the Mormons, which I wish I’d had when J asked me to learn more. Oh, what interesting religious conversations we would’ve had then! I wonder if she ever found out her faith was founded by a fraud? Would her cat have told her not to read either book had I given them to her?
As for Flower, she lived a long and happy life preventing me from reading badly-written holy books. She had a small stroke a few years before she died, which caused her to go from nasty to nice literally overnight. She ended up sitting on the split-rail fence every day, waiting for the kids to come by to and from school and give her some luvvins, and became quite well-known for being the most affectionate cat on the block. Her name seemed rather more appropriate than it had when she was in her “I will end you if you try to pet me” years. I don’t even know how old she was when she finally died, but she had to have been pushing twenty at least.
The Book of Mormon was never seen again.
There are about nine trillion more photos (okay, only 76 total) on Flickr. Let me know if there are any you think would make amazing prints, or look snazzy on a shirt, and I will make it so once I have finished preparing my book for publication!