You kids asked me why I insist on getting all my pets from the animal shelter? Let me tell you why:
She wasn’t a purebred cat, just a smallish white cat, with winter blue eyes and a sweet, soft trill for a mew. She appeared at the cannery at the beginning of third shift one Friday night as the rain poured down and the temperature dropped. One of the ladies in prep, Anne, smuggled her in, in her oversize purse, and the wee kit was adopted by third shift.
She filled out on a diet of trim from the meats canned, treats from the workers, and steadily increasing diet of unwanted rodents. She would appear as soon as second shift had all left, and disappear before first shift started arriving. As she hunted the entire cannery, she would stop at each station and accept the attention she knew was her due. She seemed to be happy with her life, and the humans that loved her dearly even the professed cat-haters warmed up to her.
She was so important to third shift that she was taken to the vet, spayed, and given all her shots as well as the microchip tag under her skin. She never grew big or bulky so she fit the name she answered to; ‘Miss Wisp’ made the lonely hours of third shift sunshiny and more than bearable.
The myth that third-shifters were a pack of insensitive loners was proven wrong by the tender care they showered on Wisp; that crock was started by those lazy lumpuses on first shift that left their work for second shift to finish, who then had no choice but to leave their work for third shift (without apologies or thank you’s).
Third shift had been finishing all of their work and part of second’s for years, without complaint, for one big reason- The Boss, he was a wise boss, he kept an eye on everything that went on with ‘his people’; he knew what first and second shift did to his night crew. He made a point to come in to work very early and help the night folks finish up, as well as bonuses for everyone on the roster. He made a point to thank everyone personally, and shake their hands while praising their tolerance and hard work.
If you had a boss like that wouldn’t you be willing to go the extra mile for ‘em? He met Wisp one night, and instead of telling third shift to get rid of her, he praised them for their love of God’s Creatures, and their foresight in adding a cat to hunt rodents to their crew. When he arrived early in the morning Wisp would greet him with silken head-butts, and a sweet flurry of delighted trills. She would then lead him to her pile of dead rodents; The Boss would then pet her and praise her effusively.
Well, time does what it does and passed. One morning The Boss didn’t come in, and by third shift everyone knew that he had died peacefully in his sleep. Not only had he been a well liked and respected boss, he was a true family man, and good neighbour, as well as being a philanthropist for the whole town.
On the day he was buried nearly every one in the whole town showed up at his funeral, and everyone had kind words to say. The students from the art camp he funded had painted a mural of his life for the library that bore his name. All of the musicians in town that he had funded their education and instruments played for him that day, and the testimonials went on for hours, with a lot of sniffling, and outright tears. No one noticed a dainty white cat watching from the distance, with downcast ears and half-lidded eyes.
When the cannery started back up, with a new boss, things began changing for the worse, quotas were upped to almost impossible levels, and all shifts were stripped to the bone. Third shift tried courageously to do all the work they were burdened with, and Wisp would pass the now-empty stations crying pitifully and searching for friends that would never return. Soon the ‘New Boss’ (the epithet was rife with anger and frustration now) hired men to ‘keep an eye’ on every shift and report directly back to him.
Third shift was cursed with a hulking, callous brute who found black amusement in catching people in embarrassing situations, and laughed when he caught animals and threw them into the steam cleaner. Wisp became painfully wary, and she slinked through the factory, eyes, nose, and ears always ready to catch the slightest hint of The New Boss. Her fur began to look bedraggled, and there were nights she didn’t appear at all. Those sweet blue eyes were filled with sorrow and fear when she did appear, and her voice was almost soundless, when she did speak.
Anne had smuggled her in, years ago, now she began to ask Wisp, “Sweet kitty-girl, would you like to come and live with me? You can stay inside where it is warm, and be safe for the rest of your life.” Everyone agreed that would be the best thing for their Wisp.
At last, the time was short, Anne was told she was to take early retirement, so she made a point to bring in a cat carrier, with warm, soft bedding and a tempting catnip toy in the back.
As Fate so often does, The Old Hag conspired against Wisp, and her salvation. Not only did the the Boss’ Snitch come in early, Wisp was delayed by a particularly sneaky rat, that she didn’t catch until it was almost time for the night crew to sign out.
As Wisp was racing across the floor with her trophy, she was yanked unceremoniously up by her scruff and swung in a dizzying circle. She wailed and struggled, but the Boss’ Snitch had her in a tight hold and refused to give up his toy. “Ah finally gotcha, ya worthless bag a fur!!” His coarse voice rose in delight.
He had known of the third shift cat for months, and had been trying to catch it since he had first seen it. Eyes glowing with soul-deep meanness he flung the cat onto the toothed conveyor to the steam cleaner.
As Wisp was dragged closer to the steam, impaled on steel teeth, and unable to free herself, the Boss’ Snitch laughed aloud. The crew heard Wisp’s cries and ran to the cleaner, in time to see her dragged into the steam chamber, and heard the despairing wails, they mercifully stopped quickly.
As Anne screamed in horror and ran to rescue the cat, although she knew it to be too late for Wisp, a deep low growl filled the cannery as the mist from the steam began to coalesce. Gradually the form of a gigantic white cat, with baleful eyes like embers of a funeral pyre bared teeth that were nearly four feet long.
Anne spoke to the giant Mist-Cat. “I tried to save her but I am too damn old to run fast…” A gentle brush of the Mist-Cat’s cheek, so like Wisp that the lady began to weep silenced her. The third shift handyman put a shaking arm around her waist, as he too, wept for one little white cat.
The Mist-Cat turned her attention to the Boss’ Snitch; she began to stalk him with intent motions. Before anyone could say or do anything, the Mist-Cat caught the Snitch by the back of his neck and shook him violently, before impaling him on the steam cleaner’s conveyor.
The entire third shift heard an imperious “get out” in their minds, and they felt/knew/understood that the warning was from the Mist-Cat. As they all fled the factory, they could hear steam valves screaming under increased pressure, and machines juddering apart.
Without knowing why, Anne took a moment to claim the cat carrier, now closed, as she ran for her car. Anne looked back, and saw the form of the gigantic cat pouncing the cannery to rubble. She started the car and sped towards home, praying aloud as she drove.
She put her car in park when she was in her driveway, and found she was shaking too badly to stand. She froze when she heard something moving in the back seat, and was sure she had gone mad when she heard a tiny mew, eerily like Wisp’s. She opened the back door, and gently removed the cat carrier, staring in wonder through the barred door.
There, sitting patiently was a tiny kitten, who could have been Wisp when she was still with her Momma Cat. Anne stared in wonder, as three more faces appeared from the shadows, all white, with light blue eyes, watching her with expectant faces.
“Welcome home babies!” The minute she opened the carrier door the four kittens tumbled out and surrounded her feet, mewing happily. Over the next hour, her three best friends from work all stopped by, and went home with one of the kittens, each of whom chose their person before they stepped through the door.
Across town, an eerie mist hovered over the remains of the cannery, eerily similar to a cat in shape, until the draggled remains of one tiny white cat were removed, and given a loving burial by the third shift crew.
Nowadays, there is no sign that the cannery ever existed; no business was ever built on those haunted grounds.
Today an animal shelter thrives there; “White Cat Animal Rescue” is a no-kill shelter that is well known for the gentleness and dedication of its volunteers. Anne and ‘Wispetta’ are the Grand Dames, loved by everyone who has ever come to them for help or to adopt an animal.