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Hiring the New Staff

Lynne Lumsden Green is enjoying the aging process, contrary to all expectations. She writes both fiction and nonfiction, and owns more books than bookshelves. She has had stories and articles accepted by Queensland Writing magazine, Aurealis magazine, AntipodeanSF, and by over a dozen anthologies of fiction.
"We could try growing our own fingers and thumbs," suggested a shaggy marmalade tom, who styled himself as Aslan the Brave.
Gloriana, the tabby queen, sneered at him, "That would mean we would have to do all the work of rebuilding."
"Unacceptable," growled a grey wisp of a kitten, who was yet to choose a name. Several others added their own displeasure at the idea of working.
"Well, does anyone have a better suggestion?" asked Aslan.
It had been twenty generations since the collapse of the human beings' civilization. There were elderly cats who could still remember what it was like before, with effortless food, soft beds, and no fleas. They told stories of that utopia. This created discontent among the younger animals, who only knew ruins and lived on vermin. They itched, physically and psychically.
Something had to be done. Cats knew they were never meant to live like this. And so, a collection of the finest feline minds had come together, inside an old stone church. It was a structure that had survived hundreds of years of weathering and was likely to survive a hundred more. Even rare panels of the stained glass were intact, and the cats luxuriated in the patches of sunlight while sheltered from the chill wind.
The individuals of think tank were spread out, so that every cat could keep an eye on every other cat. They weren't social creatures, even under these trying circumstances.
"We domesticated the humans in a relatively short time," said Areli, an elderly queen with thousands of descendants. "We should be able to do it again."
"Not apes again. Look how that ended up," said Gloriana. "We need to domesticate something more reliable."
A black and white tuxedo cat commenced washing her whiskers, and she paused to comment. "We need candidates of a useful size with clever paws. It's a pity the giant pandas went extinct."
Aslan's whiskers bristled and he flattened his ears. "So did most of the great apes. The humans wiped out most of the animals of a useful size."
"Not all of them."
"Yes. But we don't want anything that might eat us. That means the remaining bears are out of the question," said the tuxedo cat.
Areli sighed. "Oh, can you imagine bears wanting to share pull-top cans of salmon. It was so delicious." The old cat slit her eyes, recalling the taste of tinned fish. She purred.
The younger cats had never seen any sort of can opened and could only dream of such wonders.
"It would nearly be worth the trouble of evolving thumbs," said Aslan. He had tasted salmon, just the once.
"Oh, half the fun was manipulating the humans into feeding us," Areli said, kneading invisible bread. She had retreated to a time when she had been a pampered darling of a rich woman.
Gloriana yawned, with attitude. "I think we can all agree that bears aren't an option. What about raccoons?"
"They do have clever hands," said the tuxedo cat.
"They are bullies," said the grey kitten, "and thieves."
There was a murmur of agreement from a couple of the younger cats. A tiny spotted female growled, "Untrustworthy."
"Just a little too clever," suggested the tuxedo cat.
There was a contemplative silence, and the tuxedo cat washed her ears. An idea struck her. 'You know," she said, "we are missing the obvious candidates. They have already been domesticated, are social, bred to be obedient, and we know how to control them."
"Well? Enlighten us," demanded Gloriana.
"Dogs."
"But dogs don't have thumbs," pointed out Aslan. "Same as us."
"Yes. But it would be so easy to manipulate them into turning their dews claws into thumbs and toes into fingers."
"Oh, I like it," said the grey kitten. "They are much more dependable than raccoons. Less scary than bears. And they didn't go extinct when the humans did, so they are hardy."
"They are loyal, almost to a fault," said the tuxedo cat. "They want to please. We just need them to want to please us."
"Puppies are so sweet," observed Gloriana. Whether she meant as meals or pets wasn't exactly clear.
There was a chorus of approval. Not that the cats believed in voting; civilization shouldn't be a popularity contest.
The tip of Aslan's tail flicked with pleasure. His descendants would again live like royalty. After all, dogs wanted owners as much as cats wanted staff.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, July 13th, 2020


Motivation: The irony? The first draft of this story was written before the events of 2020. Humanity was ignoring any issues relating to self-destruction, and I wondered about that. How could we be so clever and yet so dumb? The obvious answer was that we weren't the ones in charge. Not a new concept, but still an intriguing concept... and I am owned by two cats. It wasn't a huge mental jump to make the connections.

- Lynne Lumsden Green
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