The Belle of City Hall

On my Facebook page Tuesday, I posted a comment about stepping up to the challenge of writing a short story that was clever and funny — and doing it on a day when I didn’t feel very clever or funny.

In newspaper-speak, stories of this sort are often called brites. What follows is the 300-word brite I wrote about a cat for the West Liberty Index:

At City Hall, members of the West Liberty City Council come and go.

The cats, however, stay for keeps.

It all started in 2007, when Pete wandered into City Hall after having roamed back and forth from the Dollar General store and West Liberty Veterinary Clinic, where he had been brought as a stray. He reigned as West Liberty’s No. 1 cat until his death in 2008, when city workers found his body on the sidewalk outside City Hall.

And that created the crack of opportunity Belle needed to slink in and claim the purr-fect position.

“Right after Pete died, she just showed up,” said Karen Thurness, the deputy city clerk.

In the four years since then, Belle has put her paw prints all over the place.

“The police take care of her. The ladies here in the office take care of her,” City Manager Chris Ward said. He was quick to add no tax money is spent to care for Belle. Cash to buy her cat food and kitty litter is donated by her colleagues at City Hall.

And Belle – who comes and goes as she pleases — has no problem with going outside to hunt for an occasional meal.

Recalling a Sunday when she had gone in to catch up on some work, Thurness said: “I looked up (from my desk) and (Belle) had brought a baby bunny to play with.”

Other employees at City Hall say the cat is especially attached to Thurness – so much so they wonder how the cat will react when the deputy clerk retires in March.

With any luck, after Thurness is gone, the cat won’t react the way she does whenever the City Council goes into an executive session.

“She’s pretty vocal if she’s locked out of the meetings,” Thurness said.

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