STORY BY SHIRL A. STEWARD

Wishful Willy

Wilfred didnít know much about the way cats were supposed to be. In fact, he didnít even know he was a cat. You see . . . the truth is that no one had ever gotten around to telling him he was one. He lived near the town of Elfsden and all the town folks were elves. Of course, being elves, none of the other Elfsden residents looked like him . . . except, of course, his father. So his parents believed it best not to tell Wilfred anything about his heritage which had originated outside the elf realms . . . at least not until the time he was old enough to understand it all.

Their silence, though, didnít stop Wilfred from being curious. He found it very odd that he and his father were so different from the rest of the townís residents. Why did his father Karrem have so much longer fur on his body than he did? And, why did his mother look so much like the others in town? She had no fur and had very short ears which were pointed. She, of course, was a woodland elf. She didnít stand out the way Wilfred did and Wilfred noticed this. He wondered, ĎWhy didnít anyone ever say anything about all this?í

Not telling Wilfred the truth bore heavily on his mother, Ketonia. She wanted to tell him about his fatherís ancestors and the caves they had lived in . . . and how, she and his father had eventually come to live in a cave on a mountainside near Elfsden. It was very peaceful there but she knew how lonely it was for poor Wilfred. He didnít have any contact with the other youth in town. It was just too far away and the place brought with it sad memories for the little cat. Her mother had taught her the fine art of weaving beautiful silken cloths. Once a month she would take them to the marketplace and sell them. She remembered how Wilfred had loved going with her at first. But it always made him so sad . . .no matter how hard little Wilfred tried to be friendly, the town folk never returned even a simple word of greeting or kindness. They just stared and pointed. In Elfsden Wilfredís larger, flared ears, whiskers and furry face never went unnoticed.

Finally that fateful day came when Wilfred questioned his mom about it all, "Why do they look at me and stare? They act SO strange. Some narrow their eyes like I am hurting them or something. Others roll their eyes, look at each other or giggle. Why do they do that? And, why donít I ever see anyone else who looks like dad or me?"

"Oh dear. I knew youíd ask me this someday, Willy. Alright. Well, I think you deserve to hear the story that brought your dad and me to this valley and then to our mountain cave."

"Your dad was once a king. He was king of the cat Kingdom of Sharlon. Sharlon was all that was left of an ancient tribe of highly intelligent beings called Cattertonians. Legend says that the Cattertonians, or Cats, as they came to be called, came from a far away land in a ship which sailed through the airs. That land was said to exist even beyond the moon and the stars we see in our night skies. So, my son you should be very proud. You come from a long line of Cattertonian Kings. They are unfortunately a dying race because many of their females could not have children. King Karrem had to look beyond his kingdom to find a suitable bride who could bring him an heir.

I was a princess and daughter of Rulouff, the Elf King of Skewar. It was the elf custom for a princess to marry a king of a neighbor elf tribe and I was set to wed Arrom. I was ready to accept that fate and wed someone I had never even met. Then one day your father visited our realm and, naturally, wanted to meet Rulouff. Karrem came to the palace and saw me sitting beside my father. He asked of my father, ĎWho is this one of such great beauty?í To which, my father replied, ĎOh, this is my daughter, Ketonia. She is soon to be wed to King Arrom of Relfand.í He took my hand and kissed it lightly but I could see sadness in his eyes, ĎA pleasure to meet you, my lady.í, he said.

After a grand feast in his honor, he left and returned to his own kingdom. I never quite forgot the way he looked at me. I donít think he took his eyes off me even once. He fascinated me too. There was a gentleness in his manner that deeply touched my heart. Plus, I had only heard of the Cattertonians before this and didnít know they could be so handsome.

The event of my wedding came all too soon then. Before I knew it, it was upon me. Although I knew it to be my duty as a princess, I still prayed the night before that something would happen to stop it. I even imagined your father making a grand entrance and saving me. Ha! Little did I know . . . but Karrem was thinking that very thing.

Before long, there was a tap on my window. It was Karrem and it was the midnight of the day just before the day of my destined marriage. Not quite the grand entrance I had imagined but I was still delighted. So, it came to be that I, a princess sworn to marry, snuck away in the middle of the night with a Cattertonian I barely knew. We knew that neither or us could ever go back to our homes or see our parents again. Both of us had betrayed the laws of our lands . . . Karrem had stolen another kingís betroth and I had run away from my sacred calling . . . crimes both punishable by beheading. We never spoke of it ever after that. It was a life each of us knew was no longer ours. We just knew we had to find some place where no one knew of us or where we had come from . . . Elfsden seemed perfect. It was away from the Cattertonian world where Karrem was known far and wide. And, without my fancy clothes, in Elfsden I was just another woodland elf. And, it required that they travel through the land of the humans. A place that every Cattertonian was afraid to go alone.

But even in Elfsden, an elf marrying outside her kind and then having a child was much frowned upon. So, my dear one, you are a true rarity. You are one of a kind, you are not only the son of a great king but also, the only mix of Cattertonian and elf in existence. I am so sorry Willy. Neither I or Karrem had ever given much thought to the problems our child might encounter. We didnít think that others would have trouble accepting you. We always thought that if we loved you enough, no one would notice that you were so different. Please forgive us Willy."

Wilfred was stunned but not surprised by his motherís words. The story bit hard into the core of his heart. He knew the answer to his own question but he asked anyway, "Mom, I do understand that you had to do what made you happy. But, . . . I keep wondering. Will things ever change for me? Will they, mom?"

"No, probably not . . . perhaps if you return to the Cattertonian kingdom . . . they would see you as more of their own. Your father canít go back with you, though. Youíd have to go on your own, son.", Ketonia knew she had to say the words but she hoped her son wouldnít want to go.

"Though, when you travel through the land of the humans be most careful!", warned his mom. "They can not see us elves for they do not believe we exist and we are beyond their visual spectrum. But they do have a tiny creature know as a cat. They were named such because at one time long ago the Cattertonians had lived side by side with the humans. The resemblance was so striking the little creature soon were known as kitty cats. Kitty meant Ďtinyí in the language of the Cattertonians. They may even be related in some way to your tribe. Anyway, these little ones are very commonplace in the human world. They invade human yards, tear up their trash bags searching for food, meow all night and are generally seen as a nuisance. I donít know what theyíd think of you. And, remember always that you are half elf. A little magic runs through your veins as it does with all elves. So, you CAN make yourself invisible to humans if you so desire. Well, you already know this. I made your father invisible when we had to pass through their lands."

"I will go and find the Cattertonian kingdom . . . after the snows melt. Do not worry. I will be careful and watch out for these humans.", he looked and saw tears in his momís eyes. "I have to go mom. You and dad are the only ones who will talk to me. I have only read in books about what having a friend is like. Iíve never known what it is like. I want to have a friend. I want to know what it is to be happy. Iíve been alone for so long."

"Yes, I know. I love you Willy. Always my blessings will go with you.", Ketonia paused for a moment and continued, "There is something I must tell you also. True happiness can not be found in the eyes or companionship of another. It is something you must find within yourself. I learned that myself the hard way. Find happiness inside your heart first and then share it with others."

Wilfred did not understand what she meant but he welcomed his motherís arms now encircling him. Ketonia held her son close. It was time for her son to learn about the world entirely on his own. She was proud because she knew he was ready. Wilfred returned her hug and his eyes filled with tears. "I love you mom.", he whispered softly. It was a special moment both knew they would cherish forever.

And, until spring came and the snows receded, Willie began to dream about what it would be like to have a real friend. He wished so hard that he could almost see the face of what his new friend might look like. Sometimes heíd add fur and big cat ears so that his new friend would look just like him. Sometimes heíd make his friend an elf . . . hoping that the next time he went into town, some elf might smile and he wonít have to leave the land of his birth. And, sometimes heíd just imagine a smile without seeing a face . . . or a warm heart without seeing a body . . . calling him from somewhere afar. He didnít care what they would look like . . . after all, a friend is a friend. ĎA smile isnít any warmer just because it comes from a face full of furí, he surmised. With that happy thought, Wilfred fell asleep each night, holding tightly a small cloth Cattertonian doll his mom had made for him. It was getting very ragged these days because it was his nightly companion since birth. But, now it was even more important to him for he came to see it as symbolic of the new friends he hoped to find on his journey. "Freddy, weíre going to be just fine.", he told the doll as he sleep overtook him.

He grew more and more anxious as the days passed. Spring thaw would soon be here and it would be time to go.

On the first warm day after the snows were gone Wilfred started out on his journey. Several days went by and Wilfred passed many elf villages along the way. In none of them, though, had he seen any other cats. By this time, he was very tired, hungry and feeling more lonely than he had ever felt before. He was beginning to wonder if heíd ever find a friendly face.

As this thought entered his mind, a very large house came into view. It was much larger than the many elf houses he had seen in his travels and made much differently. It had a thatched roof and was made of a colored substance with which he was unfamiliar. He knew he must still be in the land of the humans. He was very tired and hungry so he decided to go for it and went up to the door. He knocked and waited. While he did, he noticed he was surrounded by beautiful flowers. They were everywhere in large pots and in the ground. A large bunch were even hanging from the door. It warmed his heart and took away a bit of his anxiety. ĎHow could someone have such wonderful flowers and be anything but kind?,í thought he.

Lost in such a pleasant thought, he did not notice that the door knob had turned and the door had swung open. Suddenly before him appeared a huge smile. It belonged to the tall woman who now greeted him, "Hello, little fellow."

And, to his amazement, she invited him to come in!!! "You look so tired. Please come in. Would you like some tea and cookies?", said the woman.

He was in shock. Never had anyone been so warm and receptive to him. "Yes, I would love some tea and cookies. In Elfsden my mother used to make me tea and cookies."

"Oh, my goodness. Iíve never heard of Elfsden. It must be very far away. I know all the places around here. Iíve lived here a very long time. What has possessed you to make such a long journey, little boy?", asked the woman, "By the way, my name is Elsie Runiksy."

"Pleased to meet you, Elsie Runiksy. My name is Wilfred Sharlon.", Wilfred let her take his hand and lead him inside. Heíd never been called a little boy before and it feel funny but he felt it better not to ask what it meant. "Well, itís sort of a long story. You must have noticed that I am part cat. Doesnít that bother you?"

"Oh, my heavens! Now, why should that bother me? You are part human too. I can see that in you as well."

"Human? What is a human? My mom warned me about them. She said they might try to hurt me because they see my kind as a nuisance. My mother was an elf. She had pointy ears and was small in build. Though in elf standards she was a giant because she was a princess of the royal family. I do not know why that is. My dad was King of Sharlon. He was a Cattertonian. We look like your cats but weíre not.

You are so tall. You donít have pointy ears or fur either. You are human, right?", asked Wilfred.

"Yes, I am.", she said with a big smile. "Iíd dare say that you have a bit of human in you as well, yes?."

Well, my mom told me that my dad was considered unusually large in size even in his kingdom and it was rumored that he was part giant or something else."

"Interesting. So what brought you here and so far from your home? You have me very curious."

"I came in search of a smile. You see, where I come from, I am a freak. I am only half cat and only half elf. Anyway, I was on my way to Sharlon. The elves donít accept me and my mom thought my dadís family might. I am really hoping they will. Iíve never had a friend. Other elf youngers were never allowed to play with me. I was shunned by all the elves. The only ones who spoke to me were my mom and dad. So, I am here in search of a friend."

"Oh, that is so terrible. How could any creature be so cruel? Well, young man, be you half cat or not, we shall see to getting you a friend. No, no. Weíre going to get you . . . not just ONE friend but many friends. Youíll have so many friends before long that you wonít be able to remember when you never had one. YOU, young one, are going to go to school!!!! I bet youíve never been to school, have you?" Elsie continued, without waiting for an answer. "And, you know what too? . . . Youíre welcome to live here for as long as you want. Let me be your first friend.", Elsie was radiating with warmth and drew little Wilfred into her arms into the biggest hug he had ever experienced. It felt SO good, thought Wilfred.

 

Wilfred was so excited AND . . . scared, he could hardly breathe. It was the first day of school. "What if they donít like me?", he asked Elsie.

"Donít be silly. How could they not like you? Just be yourself. In this particular school there are children from families from all over the world. People who are different are the ones who are accepting you because you are just like them . . . different! Being different is the common factor. Well, you are REALLY different now, arenít you? I see you are worried, yes? Allow your differences to define you and make you unique. Everyone wants interesting and unique friends.", she smiles at the bewildered look on Wilfredís face. "Just decide to . . . go and have fun!!! Okay?"

"Okay. For you I will try to do my best.", he hugged. kissed her goodbye and went into the classroom.

"Good morning class. I see we have a new student. Would you stand up and tell us your name and a little about yourself?"

Wilfred stood up. "Well, my name is Wilfred Sharlon but everyone just calls me Willy. . . . Ugh. . . ." Wilfred paused frozen because several people had giggled when they heard his name.

"Donít pay them no mind, Willy. Wilfred is a fine name. Itís just not one theyíre used to hearing. So, Willy . . . where did you move from?", asked Ms. Higgins.

Wilfred was tongue tied again. He didnít know what to say to this question. "Well, I . . . ugh . . . lived on a mountain with my mom and dad. There was no one living hereby so I never got to be around other young people.", Elsie had explained to him the importance of using the word people to refer to others like himself.

"Oh, what a shame, Willy. Well, welcome to Daher School. Iím sure everyone here will make you feel at home soon enough. Wonít you class?"

Everyone stood and caroled in a cheerful, "yes."

One young girl raised her hand.

"Yes, Cnythia?"

"I have a question for Willy.", she turns to Willy and asks, "Willy, why do you have such strange ears and fur? I really like it because you are so uniquely different . . . well, I was just wondering."

Ms. Higgins laughed. "Willy, you want to answer that question?"

"Okay. You really like it?", he asked the girl. He didnít like being made fun of.

"Yeah, I think itís really great!", said Cnythia.

"Me too!" "Awesome!" "I love it!", Ginger, Mark and Mary joined in agreement. Soon everyone was smiling and cheering.

"Well, Iím part cat and part elf. Thatís why I look like a cat but also am a bit like you."

"Thatís so cool!", said a boy named Donny. "Wow. I didnít know that was possible."

"Would it be okay if I made mask so I could look just like Willy, Ms. Higgins?"

"Yeah, letís all make masks so we can all look alike."

"Oh, I donít know. What do you think, Willy?"

Wilfred looked around the room. Everyone was looking at him. It was a strange feeling to suddenly go from being alone to the center of attention. "Well, nobodyís ever wanted to look like me before."

"Well, I think itís time to do the welcome song and dance.", Ms. Higgins said with a grin. She put on a record.

They began to sing a song that Wilfred had never heard before. It brought tears to his eyes. It was about caring and loving people just the way they are no matter who they are or what they look like. It was a beautiful, joyful song, thought Wilfred.

Wilfred felt so good, he got up to dance. And, soon he was teaching everyone else how to do Ďhis dance.í He loved it.

Excited requests filled the air., "Willy, show me. Show me." If nothing else, Willy knew he was a great dancer. All the lonely hours he spent studying and dancing in front of a mirror was finally paying off. He had learned so many wonderful things from his mother. Having been really great at making cloths for the market, she had also known how to make crafts and had taught her son.

By the end of the week, Wilfred was teaching everyone how to make paper mache masks and loving every minute of it. Except for differences in color, very mask was the same . . . a cat face just like Wilfredís. They all wanted to be just like their new friend Willy.

Wilfred was soon the most popular boy in class because of all his talents. He could dance. He could draw. He could tell wonderful stories about elves and cats that his parents had once told to him. He was a natural at everything he tried. And so, without exception, everyone wanted to be Wilfredís friend.

Back home at Elsieís, he gave her a big hug and kiss. "Thank you so much for taking me to school. You were right about everything. And, itís even better than you said it would be."

Life was magical and wonderful for Wilfred now because he was happy. He was doing all the things he loved doing alone but now he was doing it all with friends. Wishful Willy didnít need to wish any more.

He also learned a very important lesson. A friend cares about who you are . . . the real you . . . the person you are inside. And, differences are what make others interesting, unique and worth getting to know. He now had many new wishes. He knew he had to go on to Sharlon and find those of his own kind. It didnít matter, though, any more whether or not they accepted him. He had really good friends back in Daher he could always come back and visit.

He also wished to return to Elfsden to tell his mother how happy he now was. He knew it would make her happy also. He wished too, that he could someday be able to teach the other elves all that he had learned . . . That was his biggest dream. And, of all of it, the most important thing he wanted to say?. . . It was that our differences, no matter who we chose to be, when woven together make a beautiful and lasting fabric which is indestructible. And, why is it so indestructible? Well, simply because it is built entirely from the threads of love.

Wilfred was finally happy. He knew, that even if he never returned to Daher, he would carry the warmth of his friendsí hearts with him always, especially of his dearest friend, Elsie.

 

The End.