Our cat was raptured up to heaven. He’d never liked heights, so he tried to sink his claws into whatever invisible snake, giant hand, or eagle was causing him to rise in this manner, but he had no luck.
When he got to heaven, it was a large field. There were a lot of little pink things running around that he thought at first were mice. Then he saw God sitting in a tree. Angels were flying around with fluttering white wings; they were making sounds like doves. Every once in a while, God would reach out with its large furry paw and snatch one of them out of the air and crunch it up. The ground under the tree was littered with bitten-off angel wings.
Our cat went politely over to the tree.
Meow, said our cat.
Meow, said God. Actually it was more like a roar.
I always thought you were a cat, said our cat, but I wasn’t sure.
In heaven all things are revealed, said God. This is the form in which I choose to appear to you.
I’m glad you aren’t a dog, said our cat. Do you think I could have my testicles back?
Of course, said God. They’re over behind that bush.
Our cat had always known his testicles must be somewhere. One day he’d woken up from a fairly bad dream and found them gone. He’d looked everywhere for them—under sofas, under beds, inside closets—and all the time, they were here, in heaven! He went over to the bush, and sure enough, there they were. They reattached themselves immediately.
Our cat was very pleased. Thank you, he said to God.
God was washing its elegant long whiskers. De rien, said God.
Would it be possible for me to help you catch some of those angels? said our cat.
You never liked heights, said God, stretching itself out along the branch, in the sunlight. I forgot to say there was sunlight.
True, said our cat. I never did. (He preferred to forget an episode with a fireman and a ladder.) Well, how about some of those mice?
They aren’t mice, said God. But catch as many as you like. Don’t kill them right away. Make them suffer.
You mean, play with them? said our cat. I used to get in trouble for that.
It’s a question of semantics, said God. You won’t get in trouble for that here.
Our cat chose to ignore this remark, as he did not know what “semantics” was. He did not intend to make a fool of himself. If they aren’t mice, what are they? he said. Already, he’d pounced on one. He held it down under his paw. It was kicking and uttering tiny shrieks.
They’re the souls of human beings who have been bad on earth, said God, half-closing its yellowy-green eyes. Now, if you don’t mind, it’s time for my nap.
What are they doing in heaven then? said our cat.
Our heaven is their hell, said God. I like a balanced universe.
Margaret Atwood will wrap up her Oryx and Crake trilogy with MaddAddam, due out in fall 2013 from McClelland & Stewart.