Saturday, February 11, 2023

“A Can of Piskies” • by Andrew Jensen

With near-immortality comes patience. You might expect wisdom as well, and subtlety. And with a royal court system that would make Machiavelli blanch, how could anything be as it appears?

That’s why the invasion plans were not straightforward. The humans had dominated the world for too long. The Elves, weakened by centuries of hiding in the shadows, decided to undermine the human race by exploiting their weaknesses. It would be an invasion that started at home, and wouldn’t be noticed until it was over.

Deviously, it would enlist the creatures most sympathetic to the Elves: creatures most attuned to the old magic, and held dear to human hearts. An obvious vulnerability.

* * *

“Reginald, you silly man! What on earth have you done?” The plaintive question echoed down the hall from the kitchen.

“What do you mean? I’ve done nothing wrong. I never do.” Reg came smoothly down the hall to see what the fuss was about.

“This cat food. ‘Piskies.’ It rhymes with her normal food, but it’s not the same. You know how fussy Magnificat is! She’ll never eat this!” Larry looked distressed.

“It was an introductory offer: less than half the price of her usual food. Look at the ad that popped up on my phone: I kept it, knowing how inflexible you can be. ‘Piskies: Fine Feline Food from the Fairy Folk for the Fae and the Fey at heart!’  Perfect, isn’t it?”

“Reg,” Larry frowned. “That’s just tacky. It’s the worst kind of  targeted marketing. It’s not like you to fall for something so… No, I take it back. It’s exactly like you. It’s the Gay Curling Club all over again.”

“Now who’s being catty? You had fun curling, admit it.” Reg didn’t look the least bit offended. “Anyway, I tried it out on her already. She loved it. Look.” He started calling: “Mags! Magnificat! Supper!”

A huge tortoise-shell cat trotted into the kitchen. Larry raised his eyebrows. This was an unusual display of enthusiasm from Mags.

The cat went straight for the bowl, and ate up the food with unaccustomed speed.

“Well!” Larry was almost speechless. “I suppose you’re right. For once.”

“You’re so gracious.”

* * *

Over the next few weeks Magnificat seemed to grow more alert, more focused, and brighter. She lost a bit of weight, but nothing she couldn’t spare. In fact, she became able to jump up to the counter again: a feat she hadn’t managed in three years. Her ability to focus, always excellent, grew profoundly, so that her stare seemed to gain a life of its own. You would swear she was plotting something.

Then it happened. Larry and Reg came home from work, and found the kitchen in chaos. A cupboard door stood open, and several cans of Piskies were scattered about the countertop and floor. One can had been peeled open somehow, obviously with the help of a spoon fished out of the cutlery drawer. The can was licked clean.

Magnificat was curled up on her favorite windowsill beside the radiator. She slept the self-satisfied sleep of the triumphant. Her contented purr almost made the window rattle.

* * *

To the dismay of devoted cat owners across the land, Piskies vanished overnight from the shelves, never to return.

* * *

The Elves read their field reports with dismay. Even the mandatory iambic pentameter of the lines couldn’t conceal the failure of the plan.

Oh, there had been results. A surfeit of them! Cat-proof bird cages found open, their occupants missing. Valuable figurines knocked down from impossibly high shelves, or mysteriously removed from locked glass cabinets, shattered on the floor, the pieces scattered under furniture up to three rooms distant. Huge Rottweilers humiliated and traumatized, no longer able to look at a cat without cowering. Poisonous houseplants chewed to their roots, without ill effect. Rude squirrels unpleasantly surprised to discover how quickly some cats could climb. The upholstery of an entire sofa shredded in less than an hour. In one notable case, a back-alley fight had risen to such a level of yowling and trash-can destruction that the Animal Control officers had needed to call for police backup. That was the closest anyone had come to overthrowing the humans.

Clearly, the reports concluded, the cats had absorbed the magical benefits of the food, but completely ignored the magical instructions in the gravy.

Grumbling about feline perfidy, the Elves went away to create a new plan. This time, they swore, they’d remember the old adage:

      Choose your allies carefully:

      Their agendas are not your own.


Andrew Jensen lives in rural Ontario with his family and too many dogs and cats. He is the minister at Knox United Church, Nepean.

Over twenty of his stories have appeared in Canada, the USA and New Zealand. His two most recent stories have been published in Tree & Stone Magazine and Cosmic Roots & Eldritch Shores.

Andrew plays trumpet, impersonates Kermit the Frog, and performs in musical theatre. You should have seen him as Henry Higgins…