Katie and the Cat Teacher

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Katie is learning Latin - the language of the ancient Romans - at school. What's the point of this deadbeat language? Her mother says there is every point to learning Latin, especially if you are a witch who needs to understand magic. And as Katie is not making much progress, her mother finds her a Latin Tutor - a highly unusual one as it turns out.

Read by Natasha
Written by Bertie

Katie and the cat teacher
Hello, This is Natasha and I’m here with a story about Katie, who is an ordinary schoolgirl apart from one things, she’s a witch and can do magic tricks

Katie had been learning Latin at school for a year. When I say 'learning,' that might not be quite the right word because, to tell you the truth, she had hardly learned any Latin. She knew that “Grumio est in horto” meant “Grumio is in the garden,” but what was the use of that to anyone nowadays?

Katie couldn't wait to drop this deadbeat language and learn something more useful, like Spanish. But when she told her mother, she received a big NO .
Katie had to learn Latin because it was the most useful school subject if you are a witch.

“Why, Mum?” pleaded Katie. “Hardly anyone casts spells in Latin anymore. They've all been translated into English.”

“Well, maybe, but Latin makes the past come alive,” her mum said, gesturing with a wooden spoon and accidentally flicking some drops of sorrel soup onto Katie's forehead without seeming to notice. “When you read Latin, people from a whole different world speak to you like they are alive today, only in a parallel universe. To do magic, you need to understand how the past and the present live alongside one another and their energies intertwine.”

Katie sighed, not entirely convinced. “You make it sound so interesting, but our Latin teacher is about as interesting as a statue of some dead Roman dude.”

“That’s a pity,” her mum replied, the wooden spoon now tapping rhythmically against the side of the pot. “We’ll have to get you a private Latin tutor.”

“But you are always saying we need to save money,” Katie protested, her arms crossing over her chest in a defiant stance.

“It won’t cost a thing. I’ll ask Solomon to teach you Latin.”

“Solomon? He’s a cat! How can he teach Latin?”

“Ah, but as you know, he’s a magical cat, and he knows Latin very well indeed.”

And so, every weekday evening at 6 pm, except on Thursdays when Katie had a dance class, Solomon and Katie learned Latin. Not just to read and write it, but to speak it because, if you can do magic, you will know that Latin is a living language. Solomon would sit on Katie’s bed and ask:

“Salve, Catharina, quid agis?” which means, “Hello Katie, how are you?”

“Eh... Bene, et tu?” Katie responded, meaning, “Er, well, and you?”

“Optime!” Solomon purred. "Fantastic. Today, we are learning magical words. They are small but powerful."

“Magical?” Katie said with eyes wide open. . “Quae verba?” - "Which magical words?"

“Primum, ‘Feles’,” Solomon began.

“Er, ‘Feles’ means cat, doesn’t it?”

“Too right. You are making progress.”

And then he would give her some homework. She would have to learn to conjugate verbs like incantare - to cast a spell.

I cast a spell
You cast a spell
He casts a spell.

You get the idea.

And slowly but surely, Katie got better and better at Latin. She was even outshining her friend Isis, who had a very expensive Latin tutor. It turned out that Solomon the cat was a more effective teacher than a young graduate with a first-class degree from Oxford University.

As for Mr. Case, her Latin teacher at school, he was over the moon with Katie and Isis's steady progress. They were his star pupils, the shining beacon of success for his time-honoured teaching methods in a modern school setting.

Solomon, on the other hand, secretly enjoyed teaching Katie Latin. It wasn't just about the lessons; it was the chance to showcase his unparalleled feline intelligence. But, true to his nature as a professional grumbler, he kept badgering Katie's mum, "I'm saving you a fortune by teaching Katie. Surely, that's worth something?"

Katie’s mum wagged a finger at her cheeky cat, "Solomon, you're living a cat’s dream here, all expenses paid. Isn't it about time you pitched in?"

Solomon huffed, his whiskers twitching in indignation. "Most cats are revered as the majestic beings they are, lounging and being adored. Take that indulged feline next door. His day consists of stretching on a luxurious sheepskin rug and sauntering to the kitchen for gourmet lamb’s liver. And what heroic deeds does he perform for such royal treatment? Meanwhile, my life consists of nothing but work, work, work.”

"Work? You call that work?" Katie’s mum laughed. "The odd spell to keep the house clean and gathering herbs is hardly too much to ask."

"Just last week, you had me scale the roof to clear the gutters. If that's not perilous, I don't know what is," Solomon retorted.

"A cat of your talents? Danger is but an adventure," she quipped. "Besides, you have nine lives to spare."

Solomon's eyes glinted with catty annoyance "You know, when the folks next door jet off on holiday, their cat checks into the Feline Luxe Retreat. It's a veritable spa for cats where he's pampered to the point of absurdity."

“Lucky him,” said Katie’s mum, sarcastically, “You know we can’t remotely afford luxury like that for ourselves, let alone for our cat.”

The conversation always ended the same way, with Solomon sloping off in a huff, muttering how he would just like to be paid a little something for all his time teaching Katie Latin. After all, human teachers get paid, don’t they?

Now, as it happened, the following term at school, Katie’s human teacher took a sabbatical - which meant he had some time off from teaching while still getting paid. In addition to the long summer holidays when - well, the same thing. So Katie’s Latin class recruited a temporary replacement for that term.

He turned out to be an odd creature. His name was Mr. Felix, and he was quite a fancy dresser. He wore a black velvet smoking jacket, a flamboyant silk handkerchief in his breast pocket, skinny white trousers, and white pointed shoes. He had a long face, accentuated by a pointed beard, which he was in the habit of stroking thoughtfully. His pupils soon got the idea that they would sit and stroke their chins all through the lessons. He didn’t seem to notice or care.

But he did insist on the class learning their Latin grammar. He was far, far stricter than Mr. Case had ever been, and anyone who did not get at least 9 out of 10 in a Latin test was given detention.

The only members of the class to escape detention were Katie and Isis, who always got full marks on their Latin tests.

Samantha, who was always getting detention, liked to call them “The Teacher’s pets.” But Katie whispered to Isis, “If only she knew, I suspect that he’s our pet.”

Because her witch's senses told her that Mr. Felix and Solomon were not entirely unrelated.

When she went home, she would ask Solomon, “What did you do today, Solomon?” And he would reply, “Oh, the usual, helping with magic around the house, doing the laundry, cleaning the dishes, a cat’s housework is never done.”

And Katie would smile to herself because she knew he wasn’t being entirely truthful.

One day, at school, after a particularly gruelling test that left more than half the class with the prospect of detention, Samantha raised her hand. Mr. Felix, who was in the midst of a dramatic explanation of the passive periphrastic, paused and nodded at her to speak.

"Why are we even bothering with this, sir?" Samantha asked, her voice laced with genuine curiosity but edged with frustration. "What's the point of learning Latin? It's not like we're going to use it to text our friends or anything."

And Mr. Felix, who really did not like Samantha at the best of times, positively roared back, “What’s the point of learning Latin? I’ll tell you what the point of learning Latin is. Students who don’t learn their Latin verbs will be thrown to the lions.”

And for a few moments, Mr. Felix seemed to turn into a lion. Not just to Samantha but to all the students. And the class seemed to turn into a Roman arena. There were crowds of people seated all around them, gasping and cheering as the Lion came closer and closer to Samantha, seemingly about to pounce and eat her.

All the children were screaming their heads off, apart from Katie, who was thinking, “Oh no, Solomon, now you’ve torn it.”

She said a spell that brought them all back to the Latin class. But it was too late. Miss Hepworth, the headteacher, came rushing in to see what all the screaming was about. She found the entire Latin class as white as sheets, as if they had seen a ghost. Some of them muttered something about a lion in the room. Nothing seemed to make any sense, especially Mr. Felix, who spat out, “That will teach them to learn their Latin verbs!”

And Miss Hepworth, who already had some serious doubts about the strange Mr. Felix, went back to her office and called the Teaching Agency to ask for another temporary Latin teacher. The next day they sent Miss Aquila, who was much more boring, much to the relief of Miss Hepworth and the Latin class.

Mr. Felix was indignant at being fired. “Don’t you know, kids like being frightened,” he insisted.

“Not at this school,” said Miss Hepworth.

But of course, she had to pay Mr. Felix for his time at the school. Six weeks' salary in all. And secretly, he was very pleased with the money.

And oddly enough, when the holidays came, Katie and her mum went to stay with Great Aunt Chloe in the countryside because they couldn’t afford flights and hotels and meals out. But their pet cat, Solomon, checked himself into the Feline Luxe Retreat. So finally, he received the treatment he felt he deserved.