The Cat Who Walked a Thousand Miles

The Cat Who Walked a Thousand Miles

illustration by goni montes

This story is also available for download from major ebook retailers.

The Garden
 

At a time now past, a cat was born. This was not so long after the first cats came to Japan, so they were rare and mostly lived near the capital city.

This cat was the smallest of her litter of four. Her fur had been dark when she was born, but as she grew it changed to black with speckles of gold and cinnamon and ivory, and a little gold-colored chin. Her eyes were gold, like a fox’s.

She lived in the gardens of a great house in the capital. They filled a city block and the house had been very fine once, but that was many years ago. The owners moved to a new home in a more important part of the city, and left the house to suffer fires and droughts and earthquakes and neglect. Now there was very little left that a person might think of as home. The main house still stood, but the roofs leaked and had fallen in places. Furry green moss covered the walls. Many of the storehouses and other buildings were barely more than piles of wood. Ivy filled the garden, and water weeds choked the three little lakes and the stream.

But it was a perfect home for cats. The stone wall around the garden kept people and dogs away. Inside, cats could find ten thousand things to do—trees and walls to climb, bushes to hide under, corners to sleep in.There was food everywhere. Delicious mice skittered across the ground and crunchy crickets hopped in the grass. The stream was full of slow, fat frogs. Birds lived in the trees, and occasionally a stupid one came within reach.

The little cat shared the grounds with a handful of other female cats. Each adult claimed part of the gardens, where she hunted and bore her kittens alone. The private places all met at the center like petals on a flower, in a courtyard beside the main house. The cats liked to gather here and sleep on sunny days, or to groom or watch the kittens playing. No males lived in the garden, except for boy-kittens who had not gotten old enough to start their prowling; but tomcats visited, and a while later there were new kittens.

The cats shared another thing: their fudoki. The fudoki was the collection of stories about all the cats who had lived in a place. It described what made it a home, and what made the cats a family. Mothers taught their kittens the fudoki. If the mother died too soon, the other cats, the aunts and cousins, would teach the kittens. A cat with no fudoki was a cat with no family, no home, and no roots. The small cat’s fudoki was many cats long, and she knew them all—The Cat From The North, The Cat Born The Year The Star Fell, The Dog-Chasing Cat.

Her favorite was The Cat From The North. She had been her mother’s mother’s mother’s aunt, and her life seemed very exciting. As a kitten she lived beside a great hill to the north. She got lost when a dog chased her and tried to find her way home. She escaped many adventures. Giant oxen nearly stepped on her, and cart-wheels almost crushed her. A pack of wild dogs chased her into a tree and waited an entire day for her to come down. She was insulted by a goat that lived in a park, and stole food from people. She met a boy, but she ran away when he tried to pull her tail.

At last she came to the garden. The cats there called her The Cat From The North, and as such she became part of the little cat’s fudoki.

The ancestors and the aunts were all clever and strong and resourceful. More than anything, the little cat wanted to earn the right for her story and name to be remembered alongside theirs. And when she had kittens, she would be part of the fudoki that they would pass on to their own kittens.

The other cats had started calling her Small Cat. It wasn’t an actual name; but it was the beginning. She knew she would have a story worth telling someday.

48 comments
Irene Gallo
2. Irene
FYI: Unlike most tor.com images, you can enlarge these. (Thank you, Torie!) Goni Montes did an amazing job -- click on each chapter drawing to see them larger.
riclov
3. riclov
Beautiful work, Goñi! But I'm not surprised. The use of negative shapes on some of the spots is especially effective!
riclov
4. Bill Maer
Really brilliant illustrations Goñi, love your sense of color.
Kate Nepveu
5. katenepveu
That was very charming.

(Small typo on page 8: "Could that be where The Cat From The North had begun? She had come from a big hell, the story said."--should be "hill"

Also there seems to be a link to http://www.tor.com/images/phocagallery/ at the bottom of each page which doesn't work.)
Torie Atkinson
6. Torie
@ 5 katenepveu

Fixed, thanks. I'm not seeing the link you're talking about--can you e-mail me a screenshot?
Kate Nepveu
7. katenepveu
Misspoke, not a link but a broken image tag, and done.
Jason Henninger
8. jasonhenninger
Charming story, wonderfully illustrated. Well done, all!

I'm curious about one detail. You say the monk's robes are red and yellow. I can't help but wonder what school of Buddhism he'd belong to.
riclov
9. jessicareisman
Oh, wonderful, most wonderful!
riclov
10. JayMontgomery
These are truly engaging and well thought out illustrations. Isn't having them online in a large format dangerous for stealing the illustrations and the story?
riclov
11. Nadyne Mielke
What a wonderful story. I'm very glad I read it.
Nicole Cardiff
12. NicoleCardiff
A lovely story, and the illustrations are a great complement to it. Goni's design sense is excellent.
riclov
13. GS Dastur
Entrancing story, beautifully illustrated.
Azara microphylla
16. Azara
This is a lovely story, and the illustrations are beautiful.
riclov
17. Janice in GA
Also, many, MANY thanks for the downloadable ebook versions! I read the story on my Sony Reader yesterday afternoon.

I am a BIG fan of Kij Johnson. Thank you for the story.
Caryn Cameron
18. Caryn
What a marvelous story/fable. Thank you.
riclov
19. ~ Sil in Corea
Wonderful story! This is a marvel, with all the details about traditional life in Japan, as well as a heroine who really acts like a cat! The author knows her cats as well as the culture. I'm left smiling, and wanting more.
riclov
20. Lamah1
Absolutely charming story! Small typo:

Inside was an even smaller building inside, barely bigger than she was.

That's probably one too many 'inside's.
riclov
21. Shireling
This story brought tears to my eyes. Thank you both for adding it to our fudoki.
Eirin Saeves
22. Eirin
Wonderful story and wonderful art. Thanks to both writer and illustrator.

And now; off to buy Fudoki to add to my fudoki.
riclov
23. Patricia Lemon
Sweet!
riclov
24. Wilson Fowlie
Oddly, the downloadable MP3 only seems to go to the end of chapter 6. Are there more sections available somewhere?
riclov
25. Melissa J Mead
What a wonderful story!
riclov
26. Jared Millet
Fantastic story!
riclov
27. Rachyl
I am not ashamed to say I teared up at the end! I really loved this! :)
riclov
28. The Good Doctor
A very nice road story. I found it quite elegant. And with a lot of heart. I really appreciate this website. Can't wait to read more.
riclov
29. AndrewN
Isn't this the story that was publsihed as the novel "Fudoki" a few years back- got it on my bookshelf, great book--but why basically recycle it again? So I'll probably go for something 'fresh' in Nebula terms.
riclov
30. Debbi W
Thank you to both writer and artist for this story, I enjoyed it very much and will look for more work from both of you.
riclov
31. 'Astrophe
Nice story.
But a shame we can't listen to all of it; the listen options to 'play' and 'download' finish at end of page 6. Another poster mentions this.

24. Wilson Fowlie
Monday July 20, 2009 05:00pm EDT
"Oddly, the downloadable MP3 only seems to go to the end of chapter 6. Are there more sections available somewhere?"
riclov
33. An Animal Lover
Thanks. A sweet story that I enjoyed a lot.
Florian Schmitz
39. KalaNag
A very nice story. The cats depicted are really cats. Love the insights to historic Japan.
James Johnson
40. james069
Great Story!! Keep up writing, I truly enjoyed it.
Floyd Looney
41. geronl
Very well done, story and art meld splendidly.
Justin Kem
42. JustinKem
What a wonderful story it was. really tanks for sharing such an amazing stuff.
Marina Lowell
43. catwithpen
This is a wonderful story! I really enjoyed it; it's nice to read about cats that really act like cats. And the images are also very beautiful.
riclov
44. spacegirl
Thank you very much for the story.

It reminds me on how animals can change peoples lives. Some have the luck of being chosen by an animal. However some people just send it off as if they chase a demon.

Cats are very independent. They come and go as they will. You can have a cat in your nap purring with satisfaction for 5 minutes and then they might just bite you and leave. It's nice to see this freedom in the decisions of small cat too.
Cory Skerry
46. pussinboots
This was an awesome way to teach me the meaning of 'fudoki.' Thank you.
riclov
48. Douglas McKinney
I discovered this after reading Kij Johnson's "Ponies" and was surpised by how it spoke to the troubles in Japan today in its own way. Like any good story, it stays true even as the times change, or repeat themselves. Marvelous read!
riclov
49. KEL1
Loved this story with the illustrations! I already owned Kij Johnson's Fudoki in hard copy and went shopping for it on my NOOK as a take-to-the-desert-island backup, but could only find this shorter precursor story available in e-format. So thank you Tor, and thank you Goni Montes for exceptional visual presentation. Just one heart-felt request [well, two]: this little book SHOULD be in a hard version in full color somewhere - it's a generational keeper! And I would really, really , really treasure that cover plate of Small Cat against Fuji-san, as a full size high-quality print ...
Odette Mohammed
50. odettem
A beautiful story. This reminded me of some of the fables I read as a child.
riclov
51. Claudine
This is such an uplifting story... it's been a while since I read anything like this.
riclov
52. rastronomicals
Wonderful.
riclov
53. Chagall
Hi, I have an italian blog about illustrations and fairy tales.
Can I try to translate the story and share it for free? Obviously, crediting it all to you.
Bridget McGovern
54. BMcGovern
@Chagall: Please contact Kij Johnson directly with your request--as the author, she holds the translation rights for this story. Thanks!
riclov
55. Chagall
@BMcGovern
Oh, but she\he is an published author.
I don't want to be a bother, the story is delightful, anyway.

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