Under the awning, in the Arasta Bazaar in Istanbul, my daughter and I pawed through the display in front of one of the silk shops. Dozens of soft, splendid scarves hung on a round rack. They waved in the breeze and their colors shimmered at us in the afternoon sun.
I spied among them, a silken swath replete with feline images, simple black cats on white silk.
“Look, it’s as if Pepper’s whole family posed for the scarf maker.”
My daughter draped the piece over her smooth shoulders.
“I can hear these smiling kitties meowing sweetly in my ear,” she assured me.
“What are they saying to you, my dear?”
“They’re singing the many joys of ancestor cats who, likely, in Sultan’s time draped themselves around shoulders of those who fed them.”
“What do you think Pepper will say if you come home with a scarf full of pictures of cats who are not him?”
My daughter laughed. “What will my budget say if I buy another scarf?”
As we chatted about the merits of purchasing the scarf, a large orange tabby padded up and stopped to stare at my lovely girl.
“Do you think he is telling us to buy it?”
“I think he wants us to buy that one—I pointed to a scarf covered with images of marmalade-colored tabbies.”
Jennie looked down at the orange cat. “No, my friend, I’m taking home this one—the one that has cats that look like my own dear Pepper.”
The scarf shopkeeper poked his head out calling to us,
“Lovely! A bargain too,” he proclaimed.
I bought the scarf for my daughter. “After all, on this whole trip, one thing after another, little things, have gone wrong.”
“And when I get home I have to face taking my oral exams over again because of a stupid error in the university’s grading system. I am on a bad luck track.
“Then this black cat scarf is just what you need. Your own dear little Pepper has been a consolation, right?”
“This black cat scarf with all the kitties on it will magnify the good –dozens of loving you-kitties.”
Tabby purred approval, nodded his head, and moved on to the next booth where they sold cat toys.
We bought a tiny black kitten toy and an orange one so we would not forget to tell Pepper about the new friend who had tried to convince us to buy a cat scarf that looked like him.
“Maybe this way, Pepper will know that I thought of him when you bought me the scarf.”
“I think so.”
For the rest of the trip, whenever Jennie wore the black cat scarf, our way was made easier. We were the last allowed into the museum. The restaurant owner brought us a free desert. Jennie wore the scarf on the way home and then when she got home, to her oral exams which she passed with high honors.
“Mom, you were right. This black cat scarf has brought me good luck. And you know what, Pepper likes it—she hasn’t tried to claw or shred it even once.”
“So, maybe it is pictures of her ancestors. Didn’t you get her from a litter of kittens found behind a Turkish restaurant in DC?”
Feral cats are beloved in Istanbul. People “adopt” several by feeding and caring for one or more—shopkeepers too often care for several cats near their stalls or stores.
Joan Leotta plays with words on page and stage. Her work, including poems, essays, short stories, and articles, has been widely published. Some journals are: Pine Song, Anti-Heroin Chic, Drunk Monekeys, Peacock Review, Visual Verse, Verse Virtual, Silver Birch, and Stanzaic Stylings. She performs folk and original tales of food, family and strong women. Her chapbook, Languid Lusciousness with Lemon is out with Finishing LIne Press. Her collection, Nature's Gifts is online with Stanzaic Stylings. She was nominated for a Pushcart for a short fiction piece this year.