The odd creature sat on a sunny windowsill, staring out of it as if bored. Sam, standing in the shadow of a pillar, looked at it with indecision in his eyes.
“What is it?” he asked, looking up at his guide.
“It’s a cat.”
Sam examined the face of the Vala carefully, his disbelief obvious. “That’s a cat? Never seen no cat what looked like that, and that’s a fact!” He looked back at the creature. “Well,” he finally said uncertainly, “maybe if you look at it sort of sidewise, maybe it just might look somethin’ like a cat. But I still never seen no cat like that one--not in either Middle Earth nor on Tol Eressëa.”
“Well, part of the problem, I suppose, is that he started as a drawing of a cat. It’s only because we’re in the Jasper Fforde Addition to the Halls that you’d be in a position to meet him to begin with, you see. But he’s the real reason I asked you here.”
“Why’d you want me to meet a cat, and one as looks like that to begin with?” the gardener asked.
“He’s not been terrifically happy to be here, we’ve found, and we’re hoping you might assist him to find a level of contentment.”
“What’s his problem--don’t like the food?” Sam suggested with a soft laugh.
Sam looked up sharply. “I was only jokin’, Lord Námo,” he explained, again uncertain.
“Well, I’m not. He’s not happy at all with the food, and we’re hoping against hope you might be able to learn how to fix the one dish he keeps insisting on.”
The Hobbit looked about the large chamber in which they found themselves. “You mean that of all of those as is here in this room, there’s no other cooks?”
“Oh, there are other cooks, but each tied to his own time and culture; there’s no one here willing to attempt the dish he craves.”
“No. The best cook we have here is that rat over there,” with a wave of his hand toward the rather odd-looking rat in the far corner who was busy working over a cooking hearth covered with various pots and kettles and so on. “However, as he is from Paris he refuses to study Italian-American cuisine such as the cat prefers.”
The Lord of Mandos sighed. “Never mind, Lord Perhael--that’s unimportant at the moment. Plus, being a rat to begin with he’s not comfortable working for a cat anyway.”
“What kind of food does he like?”
“It’s a dish made with layers of large flat noodles between more layers of soft cheeses and tomato sauces with spices and often onions and usually ground or shredded beef. It’s very popular in some lands, you understand. If you’d be willing to try cooking a new dish, it would be greatly appreciated.”
Sam was looking far more interested now. “Well, I’ll admit as I like tryin’ my hand at new dishes--certainly picked up a fair number there in Gondor and Rohan and all. If’n you can get me the ingredients and have someone teach me as how it’s done, I’ll be more’n willin’ to give it a try.”
Lord Námo smiled with relief. “Oh, I’m so glad you’ve agreed--do come this way and meet him.” And as they approached the windowsill the Vala called out, “Oh, Garfield, Lord Perhael here has agreed to learn how to cook up a pan of lasagne.”
Sam didn’t think he’d ever seen anything more melting than the hope in the odd cat’s eyes.