Back in February, I wrote this legend as a way to find comfort after the loss of my sweet cat Squeaky. It’s one of my favorite pieces of writing I’ve ever come up with. I’ve been working on illustrations because I plan to eventually publish it as an illuminated text, but I’ve been encouraged to go ahead and share it in the meantime for those of you who have also lost a furry friend.
The Legend of Saint Squeakus and the Maine Coon of the Moon
In loving memory of my dearest Squeaky
Once upon a time, on a small red boat in a bayou in Louisiana, there lived a cat so gentle and loving that all who met him called him Saint Squeakus. He was such a kind soul that even the timid wood mice and the nervous little sandpipers would come out of their hiding places to pass the time of day with him.
Unlike his brother, a renowned hunter, Saint Squeakus wouldn’t hurt a fly or even a pesky flea. He preferred to pass his time in more peaceful pursuits. He would lie on the deck of his small boat home and admire the ivory ibis rustling among the reeds or tell tall tales to the schools of young glass minnow who would visit him when he walked along the banks of the bayou.
Saint Squeakus was admired by all who met him, and not only for his gentle nature. His handsome coat was thick and softer than dandelion tufts, and his ears were velvety and straight. His white whiskers were long and elegant, and his tail was full and expressive. Despite his beauty, Saint Squeakus was a humble cat, never boastful or proud like most of his kin.
Whereas many cats are aloof, Saint Squeakus enjoyed nothing so much as a conversation with a good friend, and he had many. He didn’t judge creatures by their appearance or their reputation or where they lived or who they knew. He was as delighted to spend the day with grizzled old Mother Buzzard as with handsome Father Rooster. He was as amicable with Sister Catfish as he was with his own furry brethren.
Of course, he was a cat, and so he, naturally, had cat-like traits. For one thing, he was curious. For another, he was magical.
All cats have magical gifts. Some can render themselves invisible, and others can leap to the tops of cathedral towers and down again without so much as a bruise or a scrape. Some can sing ballads that lull restless spirits into a deep sleep while others have the ability to talk to walls, for whatever good that does.
Saint Squeakus was no exception.
He was born with the rarest of magical gifts bequeathed upon cats, a gift called The Trespasser’s Trick. Using this unique talent, he was able to travel instantaneously between one place and another through twilight portals unseen by ordinary creatures. He might slip into a shadow on the other side of a trash can in New Orleans and emerge from a deep woven basket in a market in Marrakesh. From Marrakesh, he might materialize in the blink of an eye in a pile of fresh hay in an old, red barn in Albany.
As a curious cat, he made the most of this skill. He was eager to see all that the world had to offer. He spent nearly a decade journeying during the evenings when his two brothers and his sister and his mother and father slept, and during that time, he saw all that there was to see of the world.
Being of an adventurous nature, Saint Squeakus wasn’t content to rest on his laurels. Once he’d explored every corner of his earthly home, he was ready to make a more dramatic and purposeful pilgrimage. He wanted to go somewhere he had never gone before, and he knew the journey might be more treacherous than any other. Yet he believed it would be worth all of the risks involved.
You see, due to the singular nature of his skill, during all of his evening voyages, the young cat had only one companion capable of joining him – the moon. Having the soul of a poet, he had spent many nights pondering her pale, buttery glow, and being an observant creature with a keen eye, he had detected what most never will. High above on the sloping surface of the moon was the faint silhouette of a most bewitching cat.
Of course, he couldn’t be certain that she was as lovely as he imagined, but he felt it in his heart. He was sure that this distant creature was the source of the insatiable curiosity that had compelled him to travel to every corner of the earth. He felt an irresistible longing to meet this other cat. It was his destiny. He knew it.
And so one night when the full moon was reflected in the water that cradled his boat home, he leapt directly into its center, where he had detected a faintly glimmering twilight portal.
Sure enough, when he passed through the portal, he found himself on the highest perch he’d ever experienced. Far below, he could see the blue green orb of his earthly home where his family lie sleeping in their beds. The sight was so beautiful that he nearly forgot why he’d come so far, but then he heard a voice like a lullaby call his name.
“At last, Saint Squeakus! Dear, you can’t imagine how long I’ve waited for you here.”
When he turned, he was greeted by the most enchanting sight he’d ever seen. A lovely lady cat with eyes like glistening sapphires and fur like white fire. She was much larger than he, but her pale pink nose reminded him of a one day old kitten. He felt an instant desire to love and protect her for the rest of his life.
“My lady,” he said and bowed because he sensed by her poise that she must be royalty. “I am your humble servant. But please, tell me your name.”
“I am Estellena, the Maine Coon of the Moon and Celestial Queen Mother of the Viking Cats of the Cold Northern Climes. But you may call me Dearest.”
“Dearest,” Saint Squeakus said. “How did you come to be here so far away from your queendom?”
“Like you, I was born with The Trespasser’s Trick, and like you, out of curiosity, I leapt through the moon’s reflection in a pool of still water. I’ve been here ever since.”
“Alone?” Saint Squeakus asked, sensing a sadness in her voice.
“Even with such a beautiful view, it must be lonely.”
“It is, but from this lofty spot, I’m able to watch over all of my kittens wherever they roam. And,” she added with a demure purr, “I’ve felt less alone these last few years. I’ve traveled with you when I could, at least in spirit.”
“Me?” Saint Squeakus said. “But why me? Someone as beautiful as you could have your pick of the litter.”
Estellena smiled and curled herself around Saint Squeakus, who had grown chilly in the dark moon landscape. “Perhaps there are more handsome cats. Perhaps there are even wiser cats. But no cats are as loving as you, Saint Squeakus. You are a loyal friend and a kind-hearted companion, and I’ve often seen you admire me from afar when many cats are so busy chasing mice they never even bother to look up.”
Beneath his whiskers, Saint Squeakus blushed and warmed. He sank into her otherworldly coat and breathed in her intoxicating scent that called to mind the violet shadows of the Taj Mahal and the deep indigo silences of the canyons of the southwest.
They fell into intimate conversation as if they’d known one another their whole lives, and they whittled the night away with philosophical musings and poetic speculations. Before long, the sun had begun to creep around the curvature of the earth.
“My dear Saint Squeakus, it’s time for you to return home. Your family will wonder where you have gone off to,” she said, her voice tinged with regret.
“Dearest, may I come back to you?”
“I hope you will,” she said. “But only one night each month and only when the moon is at its fullest. The portal will be too small for you to squeeze through any other night.”
Saint Squeakus was sorry to say goodbye to the beautiful Maine Coon of the Moon, Celestial Queen Mother of the Viking Cats of the Cold Northern Climes, but he promised to return at the next full moon.
And he did.
In fact, he returned every full moon for a year, and with each visit, the pair became closer. Parting became more difficult with each visit, and the nights between their evenings together grew longer. They felt colder to Saint Squeakus, and his heart ached for her.
When mid-winter came, and the nights really were longer, it was unbearable to Saint Squeakus. He waited as long as he could, but he was sure his heart would break in half if he didn’t return to his Dearest.
“The moon is nearly full,” he thought to himself, measuring its diameter with his discerning eye.
“A few nights couldn’t make that much difference. I might lose a hair or two, maybe even a whisker,” he reasoned, “but what’s a lost whisker compared to one more night with my beloved?”
With that, he leapt through the reflection of the moon in the bayou, and just as he suspected, he arrived safe and sound on the moon. He felt perfectly fine, and he was certain he hadn’t lost even a hair in his daring transit.
In fact, as he drew nearer to Estellena, he noted that he seemed to have grown quite a bit, which was strange given his loss of appetite while he pined for his beloved. He was now eye to eye with the lovely Maine Coon of the Moon, and his beautiful coat was even more luxurious than before. It glowed with a silver-gray opalescence in the moon’s pale light.
But when he saw the look on his Dearest’s face, he knew something had gone amiss.
“What is it, my love? Don’t look that way! I couldn’t wait another night to be with you.”
A tear fell from her eye and trailed the length of her fine, long whisker, where it hung like a diamond in the sky. “Oh, Saint Squeakus. I’ve missed you so, but can’t you see? Look back. You’ve left your poor body behind.”
“Don’t be silly!” Saint Squeakus cried, for he was certain he would know if he didn’t have a body. But when he turned and peered back at the earth, he saw indeed that his body was cold and wet and slowly sinking into the river.
“Without your body, you’ll have nowhere to live when you return home, my love. Your parents and your brothers and your sister will never be able to hold you again in their arms.”
“Never fear,” Saint Squeakus said. He’d been in tight spots before during his travels, and he was an adept at navigating the odd conundrum. “I’ll simply dash back down before it sinks and return again when the moon is full. I’ll know to listen better in the future, my love. I should have trusted you all along.”
She wept openly for her sweetheart now. “Saint Squeakus, it cannot be. If you leap back to earth, you may sheer off your spirit as well, and then I couldn’t live with myself. I’m so sorry, my dear. You may never return to your earthly home again.”
She curled around him and comforted him as he wept for his lost family and friends.
Back on earth, Sister Catfish was the first to discover Saint Squeakus’ cold, limp body as it descended into the dark depths of the bayou. She swam under him and lifted him up, carrying him to the water’s surface on her silvery back.
Father Rooster, who was asleep nearby, heard Sister Catfish calling out to him. “Pa Rooster! Pa Rooster! Young Saint Squeakus has fallen into the bayou and drowned! Call out to Mother Buzzard, who understands the mysteries of death! Perhaps she can bring him back to life!”
Father Rooster puffed up his chest and cried out to Mother Buzzard. His voice was so powerful and filled with sorrow that he woke all of the creatures of the bayou. Hearing that Saint Squeakus had passed into the beyond, they began to mourn and to gather together to console one another.
His family pulled his still, cold body from the water and wept over him, telling him over and over what a good boy he was. The glass minnow’s eyes were more damp from tears than from the bayou waters, and the ibis and sandpipers bowed their heads in grief.
Old Mother Buzzard arrived quickly and nodded sorrowfully as if poor Saint Squeakus’ demise came as no surprise to her. In truth, it didn’t. She was the most observant of all creatures in the bayou, and she knew the secret affairs of each of its inhabitants. She knew, for instance, that Sister Catfish was in love with Young Joseph Red Drum, and she knew that several little glass minnows had been skipping their arithmetic lessons to nibble at fishing lures.
Saint Squeakus’ family and all of his friends turned to Mother Buzzard for wisdom in this dark hour, and this is what she told them. “As happens, ain’t so much Saint Squeakus is dead as he is departed. Y’see, children, he done gone and fell in love with the Maine Coon of the Moon, way high up there in the nighttime sky. He been going back and forth between here and there for a year now, I reckon. I myself done noticed that he ain’t been eating right lately. He was looking awful gaunt and lonely. I reckon he was so lovelorn that he done jumped through the Moon-in-the-Bayou Door afore it was all the way to the full, and it done clean popped his spirit out of his body, what with it being not quite wide enough for both.”
All of the creatures of the bayou squinted and strained at the nearly full moon, and with the eyes of affection, they just could see the silhouette of their dear departed friend.
Father Rooster, being a confident sort of fellow, felt sure there must be a solution. “Mother Buzzard, your wings are are so strong, and you can fly so high. Don’t you reckon you could carry Saint Squeakus’ body up to him there on the moon?”
All eyes turned to Mother Buzzard, who did some calculating and finally nodded. “I reckon it’s worth a try anyhow. Not much worse that could happen.”
Saint Squeakus’ brothers placed his body gently on Mother Buzzard’s feathered back. She took three deep breaths before lifting off and climbing as carefully as she could with her precious cargo. She searched for just the right air vent that would take her to the highest point in the sky, and when she found it, she spread her wings wide and let it lift her up, up, and up.
The higher she climbed into the atmosphere, the colder the air became, and while Mother Buzzard was acclimated to the chilly temperatures of the winter air, Saint Squeakus’ poor damp body was not. It began to freeze through and through. Mother Buzzard pressed harder into the air vent to move more quickly into the upper reaches of the atmosphere, hoping to get the body to Saint Squeakus’ spirit before it was too cold to do him any good.
But alas, it froze so thoroughly that it shattered into a million pieces of ice that lit up the night sky with celestial dust. All that remained visible to the watchful eyes of his friends below were three large pieces of his collar. While some call these remnants Orion’s Belt, those in the know call this constellation by its true name: Saint Squeakus’ Collar.
Mother Buzzard was so close to the moon and her friend Saint Squeakus that she continued on without his body. She landed with a gentle thump upon the moon’s silver gray surface and bowed her head to the Celestial Queen Mother of the Viking Cats of the Cold Northern Climes, the only creature who could match the old mother in watchfulness.
“Welcome, Mother Buzzard,” Estellena said. “And thank you for your efforts on our mutual friend’s behalf. It was a noble attempt.”
“It’s just a shame is all,” said Mother Buzzard, “to lose such a good boy so young and his folks having no time what to say goodbye to him. Ain’t no way at all to get him back down through that Hole-in-the-Bayou Door, Madam Queen?”
“I’m afraid not, Mother,” Estellena said. “Without a body to hold in his large soul, he’s much too big to slip back through, even when the moon is at its fullest.”
Mother Buzzard thought on that and began to concoct a plan. “I reckon Saint Squeakus has a good many friends willing to lend him some of their parts just to get their arms around his neck one more time. You suppose we could cobble him together a body that’d do, at least for one night?”
Saint Squeakus, who’d been pining for his family back home, brightened up and looked at his Dearest with a glimmer of hope in his eyes.
Estellena considered Mother Buzzard’s proposition and agreed that it might be possible as the moon would be very close to earth this time of year, and the journey would be much shorter.
She instructed Mother Buzzard to fly to her queendom in the Cold Northern Climes and ask her two sons to lend their Coats of Comfort for warmth and their Sharpened Claws of Protection to guard him on his travels, which she promptly did.
The two large Viking cats were more than eager to help however they could. They’d been worried about their mother up there on the moon alone for so long, and they were relieved to know that she had a chance at true love and happiness with such a noble and respected cat as Saint Squeakus, even if he wasn’t a Viking.
With the coat and the claws of the Viking Cats of the Cold Northern Climes in her talons, Mother Buzzard flew back to the bayou where she explained her plan to Saint Squeakus’ friends. Father Rooster volunteered his Crown of Confidence to steel his friend in the face of certain danger, and Sister Catfish offered her Eyes of the Abyss so that he could see on his perilous journey as well as her Silver Scales of Faith so that he would have hope in his darkest hour.
By the time Mother Buzzard had gathered all that she required, it was the night of the full moon, and so she hurried back to her friend Saint Squeakus. She and Estellena cloaked him in his motley attire, squeezing his large soul into its temporary home. Mother Buzzard secured her own Wings of Transformation onto Saint Squeakus’ shoulders and her Feathers of Enlightenment to his tail to soften his descent back towards earth.
With a final kiss from his beloved queen, Saint Squeakus leapt through the indigo night sky towards the moon’s reflection far below in the bayou.
The Coats of Comfort fit snugly and kept him warm even in the chilly upper atmosphere, and with the Viking Cats’ Sharpened Claws of Protection, he batted away fiery asteroids as easily as a kitten swats at a toy mouse. Mother Buzzard’s Wings of Transformation allowed Saint Squeakus to make use of the hidden air vents to buffet his fall. Remembering her Feathers of Enlightenment secured to his tail and Father Rooster’s crimson Crown of Confidence affixed to his head, Saint Squeakus felt not a hint of fear despite the perils he faced. He knew without doubt that he was held aloft by goodwill and friendship.
As he neared the moon’s reflection, the most dangerous part of the leap he’d taken, he relied on Sister Catfish’s Eyes of the Abyss and her Silver Scales of Faith to deftly dive through the narrow Hole-in-the-Bayou Door. Miraculously, he survived the trip without even a scratch to his borrowed attire.
He spent the night with his friends and family, who had prepared a hearty Moon in the Bayou Soup in his honor and gathered all of their musical instruments to serenade him with love songs. The night was just long enough for everyone who cared for Saint Squeakus to say so, but not one minute longer. Just before the twilight portal in the bayou closed, Saint Squeakus hugged his mother and his father, his brothers and his sister once more, and then leapt back through to return to Estellena and his new home on the moon.
There, he returned the wings to Mother Buzzard, and she gathered the remainder of his borrowed body parts to return each to its rightful owner. Being a generous old soul, she instructed him to keep her Feathers of Enlightenment to make a soft bed for his new home, and that is why Mother Buzzard is bald.
Saint Squeakus was once more a large, handsome spirit, shining brightly against the dark night sky with his beloved Estellena by his side.
“Adieu, dear friend,” Mother Buzzard said. “We’re gonna miss you down there something awful, but you two do make a pretty pair. Many blessings to you both.”
“And to you also, Mother,” said Saint Squeakus. “And to all of my friends and family, and to those who find themselves in distant ports and dark waters, and to those who travel and to those who go where they’re told not to go, and to all my brethren everywhere. Many blessings.”
And that is why on the night of the mid-winter full moon, we celebrate Saint Squeakus, Protector of Sailors upon Dark Waters, Travelers and Trespassers, and Good Cats Everywhere. Many blessings.