By Max Bowen
Suzanne Gill arrived for her shift at the Mansfield Animal Shelter when she heard a plaintive mewling coming from a dilapidated cat carrier sitting on the steps.
The cat was around 12 years old and malnourished. She was taken in an
d examined by a veterinarian, who said the animal tested positive for feline leukemia virus, which can be contagious to other cats even if they are vaccinated. At the time—approximately 20 years ago—the shelter wasn’t yet a no-kill facility, and given the cat’s sickness, it was recommended the animal be euthanized.
Instead, the cat, later named Princess because of the way she owned a room, came to live with Gill, of North Attleborough. Due to her sickness, Princess had to be kept in a shed, but the Gills gave her every comfort. Her short story, “From Princess to Queen,” is a heartfelt tale about how Gill and her husband fell in love with Princess and kept her until something most unexpected happened.
The following is an excerpt from the story:
Jody, the Sunday morning volunteer, arrived and introduced me to her fiancé, Eric. We chatted for a while, and Jody excused herself to get a bite to eat. Since the activity around the shed had quieted down, Eric asked if he could “check out the tenant.”
I was totally unprepared for what happened next. Princess dashed over to him as she did to others, but there was obviously something special about this man. With innocent eyes, she gazed up at him, rubbing against his leg, and refused to leave his side.
He scrutinized her a little closer and then scooped her up in his arms. “This is my cat,” he said calmly, never taking his eyes off her.
I replied, “Oh, I know. I have a cat like this, too, with all the light colors and the…”
He interrupted. “No, no, you don’t understand. This is my cat.”
The words rang in my head until I finally grasped what he said.
A happy ending, with the cat—whose real name, ironically, was Queenie—returned to her owners. Gill said that she was shocked when Eric told her that the cat was his, and it was assumed that Queenie had run away when his family had moved.
“When it’s a true story it just kind of flows naturally,” said Gill.
Gill had this story written shortly afterward and knew she wanted to share it with the world. She submitted it to different publications and sites, though none expressed interest. She eventually heard that the company that publishes the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books was looking for true stories. She sent hers in and waited.
“I submitted it and forgot about it. A year later they contacted me and wanted to include it,” she said. “They didn’t really have any cat stories.”
It’s not her first run as a writer. Gill and her mother Ann have written screenplays under their company Screenfems, since 1999. They’ve completed five screenplays, one of which—a family-friendly kid’s story—is currently under option. She’s currently working on a new story, which will have a Christmas theme.
The ending of “From Princess to Queen,” sums up the theme nicely.
“It took almost a year for my miracle to happen, but it was worth the wait.”