Some people were more bothered about it than others. But as sure as the sun came up in the east, no one really questioned that Mr. Smats hated cats.
It became more tangible when you saw his tombstone. The infamous mausoleum projected an eerie gloom on the horizon of the town. It became almost a rhythmic reminder, every time you passed that way. The sheer number of repetitions beat on our brains the melody of unrivaled truth...Mr. Smats Hated Cats.
But a dead man feels no wrath or indignation.
The objects of the venom of reprisal were his sons. Their last name was forever forced into the rhyme..."Smats" and "Cats".
Sam and Will Smats had consciously and unconsciously done all they could to escape the mantra.
Sam Smats had climbed a tree to rescue a frightened kitty only to have fallen and broken his leg so severely that he walked with a limp. It was so peculiar that you could identify Sam Smats from as far a distance as his dad's eternal resting place.
Will Smats kept cats in his home. But no one bought it. It took a good bit of looking, but Will Smats' cats were not cared for. Often people commented on the ragged fur, hungry eyes, timidity, and poor health of any poor cat in the care of Will Smats.
One day a report exploded on the town square that Will Smats had buried a cat in his backyard. The pressure on City Hall to investigate was immense and an investigator was dispatched to collect information on the abuse.
Sam Smats limped and Will Smats pleaded for folks to stop with the nonsense.
"Yes, our dad hated cats.... but we reject such a horrible view. Will someone please stand up for us?"
I thought about it for many days. I talked to a friend over coffee...
"What if Sam were trying to help that kitten?"
He looked at me in disbelief. "You are kidding me..right? Didn't you hear what the people said about his features? He was angry. He was going to kill that cat. Thank the Lord, that he fell out of that tree before harming him!"
I tried again... "But we weren't there! What if he wasn't mad? What if he was just scared of heights?"
My friend interrupted again in a huff! 'So why was he climbing that tree? Why go to all that trouble if he didn't just HATE that poor creature!"
I tried again....
"What if he was so sad about how his dad treated cats, that he wanted to go out of his way to help one?"
He glanced at me with a suspicious eye as he sipped again on his brew.
One day I did find someone who agreed with me!
As I slowly approached the subject, I felt his support rather energizing!
He had the biggest smile I had ever seen!
"Yes, yes, yes! Mr. Smats hated cats - but Sam and Will Smats love cats!"
We laughed together.
'Crazy!, why don't people see that?"
"Maybe it will just take time!"
But that concerned me... I don't think time was going to help us. I had heard it on the playground one day... 'Sam Smats hates cats' by a little girl jumping rope. A little boy echoed a similar song "I step on a crack and Will breaks my cat."
I looked at my new friend... "Will you come to the coffee shop and talk to my friend? Maybe he will listen to us together?"
A block down the road, the coffee always smelled so good and fresh!
We sat down and laid out the best argument we could..... 'Mr. Smats hated cats. Will and Sam did not'.
My newfound friend shook the hand of my old friend and walked out, confident that we had made some progress for truth and good.
But I now saw two suspicious eyes over the coffee cup!
"What! Why do you not believe us!"
"Why should I? You have no clue who that was...do you?"
"Well, I just met him", I replied, "his name is Mark."
"Ha! You fool!" He smirked. "You have been deceived by no other than Mark SMATS... and a nephew hates cats as much as a son."
And I just stared in disillusionment... why even try?