In 1929 at Princeton University, two scientists successfully developed the means to transform a living cat into a functional telephone. Through the decades, the experiments continued until someone finally decided to examine the ethics of their research. After that, the remaining cats were put up for adoption. The plan had been to keep the experimental felines in the possession of project researchers, but cats are always cats and some were sure to be confused in those final days. That was how the feline telephone unit designated Experiment 1-B found her way to the home of Alice Turner, 67-year-old pensioner and proud mother of 5 cats besides 1-B, whom she whimsically named Danger Bear.
“Kibby! Mister Socks! Danger Bear! Alfalfa! Poindexter!”
Alice shook the kitty kibble box and shuffled over to the neat row of bowls, pouring food for each one. She was a tottering old woman in a sweater of questionable age and sweatpants over house slippers. The cats came as they were called, eagerly devouring their dinners. It was then that Alice heard a sound she had never before heard in this manner. It was as clear as day. One of the cats was ringing, sounding like the old black tabletop telephone her husband had kept on his desk when he’d still been alive. It was a loud sound, jarring even, but none of the cats seemed bothered.
“Oh!” She gasped, the box of kibble falling from her hands. “What on God’s green Earth?”
As quickly as she could, Alice made for the sleek new mobile phone her son had gotten her and pushed the button to call him.
“Sean? Sean, you have to come. One of the cats is ringing. No, like the phone, Sean.”
She looked down at the cats around her feet.
“I have not lost it, young man. That cat was ringing clear as day and- No, I will not talk to my doctor about it.”
The sudden voice startled her and Alice hung up on her son.
“Who was that? Kibby? Mister Socks?”
Looking around, she saw Danger Bear sitting on the counter with her mouth wide open.
“Hello? Is someone there?”
Without a doubt, the voice was issuing from the cat’s mouth. Alice bent down, closer to her cat.
“Bear? Have you learned to talk?”
“Bear?” She could hear the rustling of paper. “I thought this number was for the unit designated 1-B…Oh.” There was a paused and Alice heard the man yell to someone else. “Sophie! I think we’ve got a problem!”
“Excuse me, young man?”
There was another pause and the man speaking the cat responded uncertainly.
“I don’t suppose you could hang up for a bit and let poor Bear eat. It’s her dinner time, you see, and she’s just sitting here on the counter with her mouth open and all.”
“Sure. Can you just give me your name first?”
“My name is Alice, young man. And it’s been delightful to speak with you.”
“Thank you, Ma’am. Sorry to bother you.”
There was an audible click and Danger Bear leaped off the counter to shove the other cats away from her food bowl.
It was a few hours later when Alice heard the knock on the door. She had settled in for an evening of television with her cats settled on the couch around her.
“Just a moment!”
Carefully readjusting cats and blankets, Alice pulled herself to standing and tottered towards the door. Opening it wide, she found two strangers on her stoop. The man wore a dark purple polo shirt and a pair of black pants, an uncertain expression on his face as he looked around. The woman wore a black t-shirt with a cartoon cat skeleton on the front and had was already looking past Alice to try and see the cats inside.
“Are you Alice Turner?” She asked the question quickly. “We’re here about the cat you adopted from the Princeton biology program.”
Alice smiled brightly.
“You mean Danger Bear. She’s a very nice little cat, very well behaved. Come in and I’ll put on a pot of coffee. To you take cream and sugar?”
Before either of the scientists could really do or say anything else, they’d been bustled into a tidy kitchen and each had a steaming mug and a plate of cookies. Alice puttered about, putting things away. Then she sat with them.
“Are you the young man who was speaking through my Bear?”
He grinned at her. “Yeah, that was me.” Then he looked at his partner, shrugging a little, before looking back at Alice. “You seem to be taking this fairly well in stride.”
“Well, it isn’t every day your cat starts talking, but I figured it’s just one of those phone app things my grandkids are always going on about.” She looked sternly at the two of them. “You two had best not be here to take Danger Bear because I won’t give her up.”
Since they, of course, had been here for just that, both scientists exchanged a slightly alarmed look.
“You realize you can’t tell anyone about this, right?”
Sophie said it matter of factly, a frown on her face.
“I tried to tell my boy and he didn’t listen to a word I said. Don’t think I’ll be trying that again, no I won’t.” Then Alice smiled. “Have another cookie, dear. If you’re worried about Bear, you can stop in anytime you like. Just ring first and I’ll have fresh cookies.”
The cat in question was ringing again. She jumped up on the table and sat, opening her mouth. All three humans turned to watch her as a new voice, this one female and worried, came from the cat’s throat.
“Lewis, Sophie, are you there? Have you got the cat yet?”
It was Lewis who responded.
“We’re letting her keep the cat. 1-B is safe here and being kept secret. I think it’s alright, Zarra.”
“If you say so. We’ll just have to take that number off the list. And can you pick up some fertilizer before you come back to the lab? We’re out again.”
“Got it. We’ll be back in a bit.”
The click sounded again and Bear closed her mouth, hopping off the table. Alice watched the cat trot off and shook her head slightly.
“Funniest thing, she only jumps on tables and counters when someone’s calling.” Then she shrugged. “More coffee, either of you?”