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Goodbye, Mr. Murphy

It never would have happened if Mersina had had a good night's sleep. But her cousin Melvin had been visiting the day before, and he left his toy telescope behind. Late that night, when her mother was asleep, Mersina slipped downstairs.

She took Melvin's telescope out on the back porch and looked at the sky. There were so many interesting things to look at -- the mon, a shower of shooting stars… By the time she went back in, the sun was almost ready to come up. And before she knew it, her mother was shaking her, "Mersina, you'll be late for school!"

All day at school, Mersina could hardly keep her eyes open. When she got home, her mother was dressed to go out. "Would you like to come downtown shopping with me, dear?" she asked.

Mersina yawned. "I think I'll take a nap this afternoon."

Her mother stared at her. "A nap? Without my even telling you to?" She shook her head. "Well, have a good sleep. I won't be long."

Mersina stretched out on the bed. But as soon as she started to doze, the doorbell rang. Then it rang again, harder.

"All right," Mersina grumbled as she went down to answer the door. "Hello, little girl," said the man at the door. "Would your mother like to buy some brushes?"

"No, thank you," said Mersina and she closed the door. She hurried back to her room and lay down on the bed again. Then the doorbell rang again. She buried her head under the pillow. But the bell kept on ringing. Finally she went down again. There was a different man at the door this time.

"Now you look like a smart little girl," he said. "I'm sure your mother would like to buy you a set of encyclopedias."

"We already have one," said Mersina, closing the door. She stamped up the stairs to her room and threw herself on the bed. She lay there, staring at the wall. She was still tired, but she wasn't sleepy any more. "If one more salesman rings that bell," she thought, "he'd better watch out!"

The doorbell rang.

The man at the door this time was holding a sample case. "I'm Mr. Murphy," he said. "I'd like to show your mother our new Handy Dandy can openers."

"That does it!" Mersina exclaimed. Stamping her foot, she pointed at Mr. Murphy and said a magic word. In an instant, Mr. Murphy disappeared. In his place stood a black and white tom cat.

The cat meowed plaintively.

Martina sighed. "I'm sorry, Mr. Murphy. I shouldn't have done that. I'd better change you back now."

But just as she was pointing at the cat, there was a popping noise behind her. "Boo!" someone shouted.

Mersina whirled around. It was Melvin.

"I'm getting pretty good at that," he grinned. "Just dropped in for my telescope." He scooped it up from the hall table and disappeared.

"Now, where was I?" said Martina, looking at the cat. But she couldn't remember the spell she was going to use to change him back. She couldn't even remember the spell she used to change him into a cat. Melvin had startled it right out of her mind.

Just then Mersina caught sight of her mother coming down the street. She snatched up the sample case and shoved it into the hall closet, behind the boots and umbrellas.

"Oh, you're up already," said Mersina's mother. "Were did that cat come from?"

"He just, uh, walked up to our door," said Mersina. "Can we keep him? Please?"

"Mersina," her mother began, "you already have a parrot, and a horse ..."

Mersina glanced quickly at the tiny horse on the mantel. "What horse?" she asked innocently.

"Did you really think I didn't know about the horse?" her mother asked.

"I've seen you slipping oatmeal to it every morning."

"But I never had a cat," Mersina said quickly. "And all witches are supposed to have cats!"

"All right," said her mother. "As long as he isn't any bother."

For the next two weeks, Mersina tried to remember the spell to change Mr. Murphy back to his human form. After a while, she began to hope she would never remember it. He was such a nice cat. She wondered if he remembered anything about his life before he rang her doorbell. He seemed happy enough.

Then one day, while Mersina's mother was sweeping the hall, she noticed the cat sniffing at the hall closet. "He's always sniffing and scratching around there," she thought. "I wonder if there's a mouse in the closet." She opened the door and pulled out the boots at the bottom of the closet. Then she spotted the sample case.

"Handy Dandy can openers!" Mersina's mother exclaimed. "What's this sample case doing here?" The cat meowed eagerly.

When Mersina got home from school, her mother showed her the sample case. "Do you have something to do with this?" she demanded.

Mersina looked down at her feet. "Well, um, ..." she mumbled.


Finally Mersina told her mother about how Mr. Murphy had rung the doorbell and what had happened to him. "But can't we keep him?" she begged.

"Mersina. I'm ashamed of you! He is a person!" She shook her head. "Now, don't start crying. Are you sure you can't remember the spell? Then we'll have to try Grandma's remedy."

Mersina's mother marched briskly into the kitchen and got out her recipe book. She mixed some herbs in a saucepan and heated them gently on the stove. Reading a magic formula out of the recipe book, she poured some of the steaming liquid into a saucer. "Here you are, Mr. Murphy," she called. "We'll have you fixed up in a jiffy."

The cat looked at the liquid nervously. Then he began to lap at it. Nothing happened until the saucer was empty. Then ...

"You!" The real Mr. Murphy, dressed in a neat pin-striped suit, looked around wildly, then grabbed up his sample case and dashed out the back door.

"Goodbye, Mr. Murphy," Mersina called. But the next day she was sad.

"I miss Mr. Murphy," she said. "He was such a nice cat." She grew sadder and sadder each day. Her mother suggested that they go down to the Animal Shelter and pick out a new cat. But Mersina just shook her head. "He wouldn't be like Mr. Murphy."

Then one day, when Mersina got home from school, her mother met her with a smile. "I was talking to Mrs. Berk next door today," she announced. "Her tabby just had kittens. And she says you can have any one you want, as soon as they're old enough to leave their mother."

"He wouldn't be like," Morning began. But her mother pulled her down the path to Mrs. Berk's house. There were the kittens in a basket on the porch. And as soon as Mersina saw the little black-and-white one, she knew.

"Hello, Mr. Murphy," she whispered.


©1973, 2013 The Silversteins