About the book
Kita Pergi Hari Ini (So Long, Noisy Lane), at its very core, is a fable for adult. In The City of Sound, all the parents work day and night, and alll the children cry day and night. Thus, parents start seeking help and Mr. and Mrs. Mo asked a local Extraordinary Cat, Miss Gigi, to babysit.
Time flew as the children normally played, cried, argued, slept, until one day the beloved Miss Gigi invited the children to a field trip outside the City of Sound, to her hometown, the Floating City. And only when it’s already too late, we realised that Miss Gigi was not as lovable as she seemed. But also the parents of these children. But also the world these children lived in.
Kita Pergi Hari Ini is an allegory of the capitalistic Indonesia and how its systems fail countless lives.
What our readers say
This work discusses a prominent social issue in Indonesia, in a creative and staunchly Indonesian way, and has potential to invite discussions about how capitalism has influenced the way we perceive and care for children. Maintaining cultural signifiers to keep the original work’s Indonesian identity and message effectively is given special care; the way Pasaribu keeps the tone – from strong and witty to child-like innocence – is very appealing. The sample selected by them is outstanding.
– Anandita Budiman & Sekar Larasati Sulistya
Awards and press
Kita Pergi Hari Ini gained a cult following in Indonesia. It has sold 13k copies in its first year.
The Jakarta Post compared Ziggy to Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl. “However,” TJP wrote, “behind the innocent narratives were heavy and dark subjects such as gender stigma, animal abuse and class disparity.”
Far Away We Go – Beautiful Places from the Dreams of All the Well-behaved Children by Ziggy Zezsyazeoviennazabrizkie
Translated by Norman Erikson Pasaribu
Edited by Tiffany Tsao
Mr and Mrs Mo
The noise has completely swallowed the city’s name
The most spiteful of all: children. Just think of their screams. And their ceaseless whining. And their scurrying feet and their tricksy tongues, and – ugh – their savagery and greed. What lying snakes they are! Nimble swindlers! They wake you up at night and get no pangs of guilt. Go witness the horror that’s them. It’s horrendous to know that anyone, any unfortunate wretch, can get themselves trapped with several such creatures in the safety of their own homes.1 And that is the world we live in. Unbearable terror – everywhere, everywhere!
And that’s exactly how we should sell the idea of population control. ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged that two children are enough to make you vomit blood.’ But how sad. We usually realise the truth of such matters only after they’ve stuck a kitchen knife in our neck. That’s exactly why, once upon a time, in a certain city, there were children, lots of them. You could find three at that house, and five at this one, eight at the one next door, and twelve at the one on the corner at the junction. No one was happy about it, obviously, and nothing could be done except wait for these children to stop being children one day.
Many children make much chaos. And that place, at that time, became cacophonous beyond belief with sounds manufactured by children: screams, howls, laughs, cries, whimpers, sobs, snarls, hisses, sighs, demands, shouts, scolds, insults, babbles, grumbles, growls. Deafening! And how it went on and on, until one day people simply forgot the city’s name and started calling it Soundy.
And in Soundy City, the children outnumbered the adults. Worse, some of them were very young. And very young children require mummies and daddies to actively watch them. Or grannies or aunties. Or trustworthy strangers. To keep the little tykes away from tragic death – be it accidental or neatly planned. But, of course, mummies and daddies need to work to pay the bills. After all, in Soundy City at the time, banana peels had long ceased to be an acceptable means of payment for goods and services.
Long, long ago, money could always be found sleeping on the seabed, or hidden underground, or growing on the boughs of trees. But when the city lost its name, the money on the seabed was snatched up by pirates, the underground money by marauders, and the money on trees by wicked woodcutters. In the end, the only way to get money was to slave away and hope the pirates, the marauders, wicked woodcutters would take pity and give you some of the money they had pirated, marauded, and sawed off. It wasn’t an easy task. And it certainly required Time.
Now you see how hard it was to get money, and how much Time was needed to do so. Mummies and daddies had no choice but to leave their children at home. They couldn’t bring them to work, for the pirates liked to chew on little noses, and the marauders liked to pick their ears, and the wicked woodcutters liked to surreptitiously stir snot into their afternoon milk. Children, being naturally stupid, wouldn’t notice the snot in their milk, but the mummies and daddies would always find out because those who drank wicked woodcutters’ snot turned into naughty children who behaved cruelly towards living trees. So, no. That’s just the way it is. Children should never follow their mummies and daddies to work.
A predicament, no? If mummies and daddies have to go to work to pay the bills but children can’t follow them without incurring bites on their noses, constant earwax loss, or the unconscious ingestion of snot mixed with afternoon milk, then what is to be done with the very young children, who are in sore need of their mummies’ and daddies’ care? Grannies and aunties – yes, they existed. But didn’t they also have bills to pay, not to mention scream-free lives to live? And wasn’t it unfair to delegate this burden to others, who by right shouldn’t be burdened by the output of your own production?
There you had it. The mummies and daddies who had Time, they could choose to stay at home. The ones with no Time but enough money, they could use the money in their wallets to get a man, woman, or person willing to trade in their Time while they went off to find more and more money. The men, women, or persons willing to exchange their Time for the money in mummies’ and daddies’ wallets so they can mind the children while the mummies and daddies head off to find more and more money, these are the people whom we have dubbed ‘Nannies’.
Imagine how practical it would be if every mummy and daddy had a nanny. Sadly, not all mummies and daddies had the money. Not everyone is as lucky as That. For mummies and daddies who weren’t That lucky, they had to find Other Ways.
And these Other Ways – these were what Mr and Mrs Mo were searching for.
Many people lived in Soundy City. And among them were Mr and Mrs Mo, who were scrawny, somewhat ugly, and lived in Red House No. 17. They were so small and thin that sometimes the wind would try to carry them off. They were a lucky pair, though – Mr Mo’s bushy hair and Mrs Mo’s head scarf would snag on an electric pole, saving them from being completely blown away. But Mr Mo was a polite man, and Mrs Mo an elegant woman, so sometimes the wind would feel remorse and apologise for its attempt at murder.
Like all the adults in Soundy City, Mr and Mrs Mo had children. They were lucky people but it wasn’t that kind of luck. They didn’t have the money to hire Nannies – those men, women, and persons willing to trade their Time for money from Mr and Mrs Mo’s wallets while Mr and Mrs Mo went out searching for still more money. Three months after their third child was born, they decided they’d have to find Other Ways.
And so, on a blusteringly blustery day, Mr Mo set forth in search of Other Ways. Meanwhile, Mrs Mo stayed home with the children, praying Mr Mo would find Other Ways soon, for all the oil in the house was nearly used up, and all their savings were drained – not to mention the risk that Mr Mo might be blown all the way to the middle of Arafuru Sea if he stayed out for too long.
Mr Mo went to the Pelican Postman, who usually brought them their letters. ‘Other Ways only come in the rainy season,’ the Pelican Postman said. Beating his wings, he then informed Mr Mo, ‘Other Ways carry umbrellas.’ The Flying Squirrel came out of hiding and added, ‘Other Ways only knock on the doors of the beautiful, the bootlicking, and the financially blessed.’ (At this statement, Mr Mo nodded and replied, ‘So that’s how Auntie Bo found her Other Ways. She has a dog. And we all know dogs are expert lickers.’)
Their household finally ran out of oil, but Mr Mo still hadn’t turned up any Other Ways. For Mr Mo was somewhat ugly, unprosperous, and not a good licker, so for him, there was no way for these Other Ways to be found. To avoid being carried off by the wind, Mr Mo returned home. And when he did, he felt even uglier than before.
Luckily for Mr Mo, although he didn’t have a pretty face or wealth or a talent for licking, what he did have was Mrs Mo. And Mrs Mo may not have been pretty-faced or wealthy or adept at licking either, but on the day a woman is saddled with responsibility over others’ lives, she is granted a new skill: the uncanny ability to find things – all things – from missing left socks to lost neckerchiefs, to needles in haystacks, to warts lurking on the underside of every kind of foot. (In fact, Mrs Mo was a certified Finder of Foot Warts.2) So Mr Mo told Mrs Mo of his quandary. He had looked for Other Ways everywhere, but so far none had been found.
‘And I asked the Pelican Postman, but he said Other Ways only come in the rainy season. And, according to the Flying Squirrel, Other Ways only knock on the doors of the beautiful, the bootlicking, and the financially blessed.’ As Mr Mo spoke, he whined. (Most of Mr Mo’s words came out as whines or chirps.)
Mrs Mo looked worried. ‘But it’s not the rainy season. And none of us are pretty or rich or any good at licking stuff.’
‘I know, I know,’ Mr Mo chirped glumly. ‘I really have no idea how we’ll find Other Ways before the rainy season, given we’re not pretty faces, rich folk, or lickers of any sort.’
Mrs Mo fell into deep thought, then deeper thought still. Women, as we know, can spend hours swimming in seas of thoughts, since inside their heads are cupboards with many drawers, and it takes a great deal of time to sort out all their contents. For inside these drawers are endless stacks of cards of Precious Knowledge that have been stored away for a long time. (Naturally, all cards not in use are stashed in a room in the back and aren’t read anymore. But make no mistake, they’re all there: in Women’s Heads.) By and large, women are very meticulous in organising their head-drawers, as meticulous as they are in organising the ones for their undergarments. And so, Mrs Mo, who possessed great prowess in sorting her underwear according to colour, soon located the Precious Knowledge she needed, in the twenty-sixth drawer of cupboard number 1729.
It’s little known now, but any woman who uses her cupboard-head with consistency will remember that some cats make perfect nannies. Not only that, unlike humans, they don’t sweat, and therefore, don’t stink like humans do. Not just any old cat you’d find in the street, of course. Somewhere in the world lives a special species of cat: the Extraordinary Cat: Cats with a capital C. These Cats don’t meow, and they can bake cakes without the help of recipes. But the existence of these cats is only known by women who use their cupboard-heads consistently – like Mrs Mo, and Mrs Mo’s mummy, and Mrs Mo’s mummy’s mummy, and Mrs Mo’s mummy’s mummy’s mummy. (It’s possible that Women who don’t like maintaining their cupboard-heads can instead find Other Ways by way of Extraordinary Fried Chickens or Super-ordinary Starfruits. But sadly, the scientific data that would provide absolute support for this speculation isn’t available yet.3)
So Mrs Mo called the Pelican Postman, bribing him with a handful of anchovies. Mrs Mo inserted a dress button into the official satchel of the Pelican Post Expedition’s Express One-Day Service. Mrs Mo watched as the Pelican Postman flew out the window, hoping that an Other Way would soon arrive at their door, for they had run out of spinach and oil.
The day after, the morning was cold. And Mr Mo looked unbearably sad. Mrs Mo had to go out that day to get money. Mr Mo also had to look for money. They told Mi, their oldest, to take care of his younger siblings. However, Mi was a four-year-old, so he merely responded with a great gurgle, and ran away to his toy box.
Filled with anxiety, Mr and Mrs Mo were about to set off. But when Mr Mo opened the door for Mrs Mo, they both gasped, and almost burst with joy. For, in front of them stood the very thing that they had been searching for all along:
The Other Way was a Cat. A very lovely cat with very thick fur. She was carrying a covered basket that gave off the smell of afternoon delight. Mrs Mo noticed the tip of a baguette peeking out from beneath the basket’s cloth. But because Mrs Mo was an elegant woman, she kept her watering mouth shut.
‘Good morning,’ said the Other Way. She reached inside her basket, and Mrs Mo hoped she would be given the baguette for which she suddenly longed. But no. The Other Way took out a dress button – the one Mrs Mo had placed in the Pelican Postman’s satchel. ‘I had a sniff,’ said the Other Way. ‘This button came from you.’
Mrs Mo took an immediate shine to the Other Way. Her voice was tinged with arrogance and aloofness, but she also seemed assertive and smart. Just like Mrs Mo’s history teacher back when Mrs Mo was an aspiring scholar of waspology.4 And Mrs Mo was helpless when it came to the past.
Admittedly, Mrs Mo had failed to master the subject matter taught in her history of waspology classes. But she had other necessary knowledge under her belt – among them, the dynamics of buttons and cats. A button was a cry for help, a means of requesting assistance. It was why mummies kept so many boxes of them. In pressing times, mummies placed buttons into the beaks of birds (other valid couriers of buttons included calico cats and pangolins) and help would arrive. It would come from one of the two creatures who recognised these buttons for what they were: other mummies; or Extraordinary Cats.
Soundy City didn’t have many mothers, so Mrs Mo knew help would come from an Extraordinary Cat. But she had never witnessed their extraordinariness herself. She hadn’t known just how Extraordinary they were.
Mrs Mo elegantly wiped the drool from her lips and welcomed the Other Way into her home. She explained the situation: that she and Mr Mo had three children, that they weren’t That lucky, and they had to leave their children to go looking for money. The Other Way nodded and told Mrs Mo that she already knew. ‘A button’s smell reveals all,’ declared the Other Way. Mrs Mo hadn’t known about that.
‘What do we call you?’ asked Mrs Mo sweetly.
‘Miss Gigi,’ replied the Other Way. It was unclear whether ‘Miss’ was actually part of her name, or simply used to emphasise her unmarried state. But what was clear was that all children called her Miss Gigi because that was how she chose to be addressed.
‘This is Mi, our Oldest Child,’ said Mrs Mo, gesturing to Mi the Oldest to stand. Mi the Oldest was a small boy with a thick head of hair and a sugar-sweet smile. Mrs Mo was no fool; she was fully aware that Mi, despite his smile, was an exceptionally naughty boy. But Mrs Mo held herself back from disclosing this because she worried that Miss Gigi would dislike an Exceptionally Naughty Boy.
‘This is Ma, our Middle Child,’ said Mrs Mo. Ma the Middle was a three-year-old girl who liked to dress up. Ma the Middle enjoyed combing her hair and was prone to kicking up a fuss if there wasn’t a ribbon in it. But Mrs Mo held herself back from disclosing this because she knew: only a handful of people would be willing to take care of an Exceptionally Fussy Girl.
‘And this is Mo, our Youngest,’ whined Mr Mo, carrying Mo the Youngest in his arms. Mo the Youngest had just learned to roll over and often failed to return to his original position. In his favour, Mo the Youngest was a tough little lad who rarely cried. To Mr Mo, Mo the Youngest was a Rather Incomprehensible Child because he spoke in a language Mr Mo couldn’t catch. Mr Mo held himself back from disclosing this in case Miss Gigi disliked carrying Rather Incomprehensible Children.
‘Bnjr,’ said Mo the Youngest, drooling freely. Mr Mo didn’t understand that this was Mo the Youngest’s way of welcoming the Other Way. Fortunately, Miss Gigi – who wasn’t a Mr Mo in any sense – understood what Mo the Youngest had just said. She took Mo the Youngest from his father and nodded reassuringly at Mr and Mrs Mo. ‘Now, be off with you. Go find some money. I’ll see to the house and the children. From what I’ve heard about Soundy City, there’s no more money sleeping on the seabed, or hidden underground, or growing on the boughs of trees.’
What she’d heard was indeed true, for pirates, marauders, and wicked woodcutters had taken all the money. Mr and Mrs Mo kissed all their children goodbye and embarked on their search.
Mi, Ma, and Mo had never seen a cat like Miss Gigi. They’d met many ordinary cats. But never one like her, an Extraordinary Cat.
Like an ordinary cat, Miss Gigi had fur – it was long and thick, and grey with black stripes. Her eyes were green, like fresh grass, or the vivid hue of food deliberately dyed green. Unlike ordinary cats, though, Miss Gigi wore a headscarf and an elegant dress. A very fine dress indeed. It was moss green in colour, and if one touched it, it felt as if it were made of real moss! She also wore a white apron, which Ma the Middle knew women must wear to prevent their very fine dresses from getting dirty. Ma herself was a little woman who liked to wear very fine dresses – and who also owned a doll who was a little woman who wore a very fine dress.
Miss Gigi was enormous – far taller than Mi, and much plumper. Not to mention the fact that her voice struck terror into the hearts of Mi, Ma, and Mo. How fierce she sounded. As if her voice were a spear, and if they didn’t obey her, the spear would penetrate their ears, scraping at the wax within before plunging deeper still. So Mi, Ma, and Mo didn’t have the guts to talk to Miss Gigi. Or at least, this was how it was at the very start.
You see, Miss Gigi had brought a basket, and Mi knew it was the kind people brought on picnics. Mi had been to picnics held by adults of his acquaintance, which were often influenced by picnics they’d seen in films. A picnic basket was shaped like a box, with two hinged covers that could flap like Pelican Postman’s wings. And inside would be sausages, sandwiches, baguettes, klepon, and lemonade. A picnic basket meant good things were in store. As long as they didn’t belong to Uncle Po. It was known that his picnic baskets contained terrible things – even scarier than Miss Gigi’s voice. So Mi worked up the courage to ask, pointing to the basket, ‘Is that Uncle Po’s?’
‘No,’ said Miss Gigi. ‘It’s mine. I brought it.’
‘Uncle Po’s picnic baskets are full of Wicked Things,’ Mi explained.
‘What kind of things?’
‘Sausages, sandwiches, baguettes, klepon, and lemonade,’ Mi replied.
Miss Gigi approved. ‘That’s what a picnic basket should contain,’ she said with a nod.
‘But his picnic baskets are wicked!’ Mi spoke with some passion. ‘His sausages smell like toilet brushes; his egg sandwich filling is gooey like phlegm; his klepon stink, like dragonfly buttocks; and the lemonade bottle is filled with Grandpa Ko’s armpit sweat.’
‘How dreadful,’ Miss Gigi replied.
‘I know,’ said Mi, nodding his head. ‘But luckily, I can repel the picnic basket’s evil magic.’
Mi the Oldest raised one leg high and brought it down in a mighty stamp. He did this twice. And then, chest puffed, he put his hands on his hips. He bent forward and shouted, ‘HOOOHHHH!’
And that was that. Mi stood up straight again. ‘It was Uncle Po who told me of my superpower. I can repel evil magic.’ He pointed to Mo. ‘Mo doesn’t have a superpower yet. He’s still a baby.’
Ma pursed her lips. ‘Uncle Po lied. It was just a trick, so he could make you sniff his foul breath.’
Mi glared at Ma. ‘And you don’t have superpowers because they dislike Exceptionally Fussy Girls!’
Mi turned to Miss Gigi, ‘She’s just jealous. I have a superpower, and she doesn’t. That’s how Exceptionally Fussy Girls are.’
Ma lost her cool at Mi’s words. Her face went as crimson as corn deliberately dyed crimson. She jumped up and bit Mi, and they began wrestling with each other on the carpet, crying all the while.
Miss Gigi knew, of course, that Ma was right. But Mi, as An Exceptionally Naughty Boy, would never apologise. And the only thing that could end the fight between an Exceptionally Fussy Girl and An Exceptionally Naughty Boy was a picnic basket. (Which was why Miss Gigi had brought one in the first place.)
Miss Gigi opened the cover of her basket a little and the children stopped fighting at once. Intriguing aromas wafted out. Mi detected a grilled sausage smothered with a very seductive sauce. Meanwhile, Ma was enchanted by the sweet scent of the liquid palm sugar inside the klepon. And Mo was so transfixed by the smell of butter and garlic that his tummy rumbled in response. Mi, Ma, and Mo all knew that Miss Gigi’s basket must contain unimaginably pleasing delights. So, when Miss Gigi closed the cover, they began to protest. ‘Open it! Open it! Let’s get another whiff of those heavenly smells!’
(More precisely, what Mo said was, ‘Cst mnfq.’ Which was enough for Miss Gigi to know that the little dear desired to sniff the picnic basket aromas as well.)
‘Naturally, you’re welcome to eat all the delicious treats in my basket,’ said Miss Gigi. ‘But delicious treats are reserved for children who make amends after a quarrel. And since neither of you have said Sorry, I’m afraid you can’t touch anything in this basket.’ (Mo began to protest because he hadn’t quarrelled with anyone.)
‘But why?’ asked Mi, who didn’t want to say Sorry to Ma, yet yearned for the food in the basket.
‘Because if the treats in the basket are eaten by children who quarrel and refuse to make amends, the treats will themselves quarrel in the children’s tummies. Until the children do say Sorry. And food-on-food quarrels cause such severe pain!’
‘Do they always?’ asked Ma, who neither wanted to say Sorry nor endure stomach pain, yet yearned for the food in the basket.
‘Perhaps not,’ said Miss Gigi, nodding thoughtfully. ‘But it would last until one Poops. And that could take forever. A whole day even, if one doesn’t eat vegetables.’
Mi and Ma despised greens, so this scared them shitless. They decided respectively to say Sorry, for they both yearned very much for the food in the basket.
If you have never asked for forgiveness before, here’s a general how-to guide: first, go to the person who will receive your apology. Extend your hand, as if you intend to stab them in the stomach with your fingers, but restrain yourself so your fingers don’t do any such stabbing. (This is a very important step.) After that, you may touch the person’s hand, then hold it. (Please don’t grip too hard because it might mean you have to apologise again.) Then, bare your teeth. Finally, say: ‘I am sorry.’ (After which, you may add moves such as the following: 1. hug the person, 2. laugh with them, 3. do a back bend. Mi and Ma decided to refrain from these options.)
Now that Mi and Ma had apologised to one another, they could eat the food without worry of prolonged digestive torture. Miss Gigi brought the well-behaved children to the backyard, which was rather cramped. She brought out a round table and a yellow tablecloth and set them up on the green grass. Then she arranged the chairs. Mi sat in the purple one. Ma, the green. Mo, the blue. Miss Gigi picked the white one for herself. The basket bearing the delicious food was placed on the table. For table decor, Miss Gigi took out a plastic vase with a fake, pink rose. And she laid the table with plastic glasses and plates for all the children, and also herself. And, finally: she took out and arranged the delicious edibles from the basket.
They had long awaited the baguette. Now Miss Gigi cut the bread into slices, and spread a thin layer of garlic butter on each one. Mo, whose teeth still hadn’t come in, enjoyed his portion of the precious and succulent baguette as it melted in his mouth, along with the garlic butter, which was silky, savoury, and wonderfully creamy. He gurgled, meaning he was ready for the next dish.
And then Miss Gigi handed out sandwiches – chock full of chopped boiled eggs and fresh lettuce. She gave each child two grilled sausages with sauce. She filled their glasses with a fresh lemonade that didn’t resemble the acidic liquid from Grandpa Ko’s armpits in the least. Mi ate his sausage first – its fatty richness and meaty succulence sinking deep into the carpet of his tongue. Ma ate her sandwich first – the eggy, milky mixture tasting so warm and soft within the embrace of the twin bread slices, its flavour springing up and tickling Ma’s nose. Mo still had his doubts about the lemonade, but its sweet-sour taste clung to the tip of his tongue and, bit by bit, became a great source of joy.
For dessert, Miss Gigi took out a box of green klepon, glimmering like emeralds. As every child knows, the liquid palm sugar inside is the best part. The rule of thumb for a good klepon: the palm sugar should gush forth in a sweet explosion at first bite. (A bad klepon, on the other hand, will gush forth not liquid palm sugar but runny faeces. Not that we can blame them; we were the ones who bit them after all.) Ma ate her klepon whole, while Mi first sucked the inside dry before devouring the springy green skin. For fear of choking, Mo ate only the palm sugar filling, but ended up chewing a little of the skin too. It was slightly sweet, soft, and sticky, with a pleasing flavour overall.
As they ate in the backyard, they talked. Miss Gigi learned that Mi disliked washing his feet before bed. She told him how, on the island where she was born, grilled sausages were known to transform into wicked worms if they came near children who disliked washing their feet. Frightened, Mi made a solemn pact to wash his feet before bed from now on.
Miss Gigi also now knew that Ma had two dolls, and that the first one was a fairy with beautiful sparkling wings. Ma kept the doll inside a box inside a cupboard because she didn’t want to risk breaking the doll. The other doll was the one that Ma used for playing: a girl with brown, braided hair in a peasant outfit of red and green. Her name was Ra, and Ma considered Ra her own daughter. As a phoney mother, Ma ‘knew’ lots of phoney facts: for example, that Ra herded corn for a living and that scabies were slithering creatures who lived in the arseholes of horses.
Furthermore, Miss Gigi learned that Mo spoke fluent French. When Mo said, ‘Hjfrdmnmx,’ what he actually meant was, ‘Oh, oui, je ferai de mon mieux.’ Unfortunately, because he spoke French with an unfamiliar accent, people had a hard time understanding.
‘There really are babies who speak French exclusively for the first two years of their lives,’ explained Miss Gigi, who spoke French herself. ‘Some even speak Latin. It’s the Latin-proficient babies I despise. They like to lick their own armpits.’
But perhaps even more importantly, Mi, Ma, and Mo learned a lot themselves – about Miss Gigi and the Extraordinary Cats.
A long time ago, the Extraordinary Cats lived in a floating city near the shore. One day, the whole city decided to distance itself from the mainland and sailed into the middle of the sea. One by one, the humans decided to leave the city, leaving the cats in charge. The cats were already accustomed to taking care of tourists, so they were very polite and pleasant to be around. They could speak various languages. They were also skilled at paddling canoes, brewing coffee, and catching fish.
‘Some of the very successful ones relocated to America. One was even elected governor. There was one who even went to Japan and became a train stationmaster. In her photos, she wore a very fetching hat. Subsequently, we all caught hat fever, and the whole city began wearing very fetching hats. I asked the spiders to weave one for me.’
Because the city was now floating in the middle of the ocean, the cats began befriending the birds overhead and the fish underwater – and their mothers-in-law too. But the cats were so talented, especially in the art of coffee brewing, that people were desperate to hire them. (Soundy City was one of the few exceptions since children didn’t drink coffee.) To accommodate these people, the cats created a hiring system using the Pelican Postmen – a special breed of bird that could speak and provide one-day express delivery service to boot. When the cats received an offer they liked, they would paddle by boat to the mainland, or take a special train connecting their island to other cities. ‘Flying Squirrel is another option, but you have to be a Cornish Rex for it to work. We’re now trying to train the Flying Squirrels so the service will be accessible to the general public.’
The Extraordinary Cats, noted Miss Gigi, were perfectly capable of rejecting a person’s offer. But, if a button was sent, well! They would never say no! For a button meant help was desperately needed. ‘Whenever you need help,’ advised Miss Gigi, ‘just give your button to a Pelican Postman. Other valid couriers of buttons include cats (with a lowercase C) and pangolins.’
The children had lots of questions for Miss Gigi on this matter, but they also knew it was time for their afternoon nap. Miss Gigi cleared the table and brought the children to their bedroom. Briskly, she prepared their beds, but all three children wanted to sleep with Miss Gigi.
‘Children must sleep in their own beds,’ she said. But then she set to work fluffing three large pillows. She laid one child on top of each pillow, then tucked them in and curled up beside them.
Just that once. As an introductory gift.