Re: Tanada Tells a Tail (long)
- From: Sam <nsw1@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Sun, 25 May 2008 16:08:44 -0700
Two nights ago, Tanada stopped in the kitten cabin to check on them. All of the kittens were restless and mewling their boredom. "Tell us a story, Tanada, please," mewed the kitten called Stripes by the other cats on the ship. Every year a lot of kittens without humans shipped aboard The Mouser. "Please, please," the other kittens in the cabin mewed as well.Another wonderful example of Pam's writing at her best. Has anybody seen my Kleenex?
"Ok, come sit in a circle around me," Tanada. "First of all, why do we sit in a circle of some sort when we are gathered? Yes Errol?"
"We sit in a circle so that we can keep watch in all directions. It is also why we have the pregnant queens and kittens in the center of our defensive formations," Errol purred. "Cap'n Pine Cone told me."
"Right, by being in a circle we have some one looking in every direction," Tanada acknowledged Errol's correct answer with a lick between his ears. "Who is the most dangerous predator we have to fear?" She asked as she looked at the ten kittens gathered around her. Cries of "Dogs, other cats, bears, cars, and snakes," were offered by nine of the eager kits. Except for one small scared little orange and white tom crouched on the outskirts of the circle. His whiskers drooped in a woeful and pathetic face. His green eyes were sad and his fur was ragged and slightly matted in spite of the humans' best efforts to get the snarled fur off of him.
"Humans," he murmured. "Only humans would be that evil."
"I'm afraid you're right, Sherbet." Tanada looked sadly at him. "My story is about how humans came to be both the saviors and bane of feline kind. Can you stay to listen? It may help you in the future."
"I'll try, Miss Tanada. It won't be easy though," Sherbet whispered to her. The entire cabin had become so quiet that all of the kittens had heard his answer.
"Very well. Listen to me kits, as I tell a tail of your ancestors.
"Once all cats and kits were wild, living on what prey they could catch and digging their dens out of the ground in the manner of foxes, badgers, and other wild predators. Their life was hard and cruel and many cats never made it through the cold times. While cats were predators, they were also prey, being considered delicious by foxes, wolves, larger cats, and other predators. Wild d-things were especially vicious and willing to live on a diet of felines. Our lives were filled with terror as we lived from paw to mouth with many of our members becoming dog food.
"Then dogs began to disappear from the forest. Our sages chanted to Bast and asked the elders to tell them what was happening. There was no answer at first. Then, one day, a little orange and white kitten saw something from the shelter of a tree branch where he was hiding from a dog pack. He waited until he was safe and hurried back to his clowder, shivering and shaking in fear.
"The older cats purred and licked his fur until he was calm enough to tell his story.
"It was terrible, he yowled. I was hiding on the branches of an acacia tree while the d-things circled around underneath howling and barking at me. I had dug in and was laughing at the d-things when a monster came running over to the pack and grabbed one. It shouted something at it and the d-thing backed away from the tree. It grabbed the d-thing by a vine around it's neck and pulled it away. The d-thing complained and tried to join the other d-things at the tree, but the monster wouldn't let it. It lead it away and the other d-things followed them. I waited and tried to become part of the branch, but I couldn't. The monster came back and tried to talk to me. I cowered and it finally went away.
"It smelled like grain and mice and good things to eat, and I really wanted to go with it, but I knew that I had to come back and tell you about it. I am sorry, the kit mewed sadly.
"The clowder decided to have a paw of their best hunters track the monsters from the tree that the kit had hidden in and see where they were and what had happened to the d-things. The five hunters were gone for almost a moon's worth of time. When they came back they told stories about the monsters and how they lived. The monsters wore different colored not-fur, kept d-things as hunting and herding companions, and had places with lots of grain. Many mice and rats lived in the grain and the monsters were dismayed by the destruction caused by the rodents. Some of the d-things would hunt for the rodents, but the rodents were very good at hiding from the d-things.
"The clowders sent members to talk to each other about the monsters. They discussed the meaning of the monsters for a long time before deciding to keep an eye on the monsters and how they treated the d-things. Each clowder kept two hunters watching the monsters, humans the monsters called themselves, and learned more and more about them and the ways that they lived. Many of the things the humans did were very cat like. They cared for their young and liked to keep warm and fed. Some of the things the humans did were strange and scary to the clowder. They used what they called weapons to kill prey instead of their claws and teeth. Humans wore not-fur and used water to keep themselves clean (and not very often at that) rather than their paws and tongue. Some of the things humans did were incomprehensible to the cats and caused much debate within the clowders.
"Then came the cold and starving time. The clowder huddled together to keep warm in the snow. The dens were warm, but stuffy and sometimes cats would die from the air going bad. Cave-ins happened on occasion, burying cats alive. The clowder suffered.
"One day, the orange and white kitten, who'd grown up into one of the clowder's best hunters, decided to range farther than usual in search of prey for the clowder to eat. When he came close to the humans den he smelled the scents of many rodents and knew there was enough food there to keep his clowder fed through the cold times. As he crouched in the rocks trying to think of the best way to get some of that mouth watering prey back to his clowder, a darkness went over him and he found himself covered by not-fur. He clawed at the not-fur and fought for his life. Something hit his head and he didn't remember anything more.
"When the orange and white cat came too, he found himself in a place made of sticks tied together with strips made out of fur. He tried to get out of the place, but the strips were hard and dug into the sticks so that the cat couldn't bite or claw through them. The noise he made attracted the attention of the humans who came over to see what he was doing. In his anger and fear he sprayed the sticks behind him, which caused the humans to wrinkle their noses. One of the humans yelled at him and the other human made the first human stop. Later, the first human came over, took him out of the stick place and was going to hit him with a rock, but again the other human stopped him. The first human left the human place, so the orange and white cat was left with the other human, who touched him gently and fed him part of the meat the other humans in the human place gave her.
"After a while, the orange and white cat felt comfortable with the human and she let him out of the cage (as she called it) more and more. The cat was smart and bided his time. After a moon or two, he escaped and went back to his clowder with an amazing tail and as much prey as he could carry at one time. It was the height of the starving time and the clowder was happy to see their friend again, even though he smelled wrong. The prey he'd brought was the most the clowder had seen in a long time.
"The orange and white cat told the clowder all about the human place he'd lived in and how there was enough prey to feed the clowder through the starving time and beyond. He urged the clowder to stay with the humans in order to survive. The clowder gathered in debate for several days, but couldn't agree on a course of action. Frustrated, the orange and white cat left and went back to the human place. A few days later, other cats, most of them pregnant queens, joined him. Most of the queens were tired of not being able to feed their kits after the harsh winters. "Too many of my kits have died," several queens moaned when asked by the toms why they'd left. Some of the toms joined the queens, but not all of them. Not all of the queens had joined either. Those who remained in their clowder valued their freedom too much to give up to the humans.
"Not all the humans welcomed the cats to their dwellings. Most understood how important the clowder was to keeping their food free of mice, rats, and other vermin. Others did not. Unlike d-things, humans tended (and still do) to have extreme opinions about cats. They either loved or hated them. The cats were not stupid and tended to stay away from the bad humans, but not all were safe from them. Some humans would kill any cats they found, and some humans would watch and let them. Other humans would protect the clowder as much as possible and we would revere them for the way they cared for us. It never took us away from our independence though. We chose which humans we loved and who we wanted to stay with. And so it is today."
Tanada finished her story with a lick to her paw and listened as the kits commented on her tail. Sherbet shyly came up to her and asked if she thought that any humans would want him some day.
"Sherbet, my clowder mates and I are all rescued from somewhere. Some day, you may meet a human who will be just the human that you want and will want you. Let us help you and you will see," Tanada said gently. "We love you and want you to have a home with the best humans possible."
She tucked Sherbet gently between her paws as she lay down with the kittens to nap. A tear ran down her fur to drop beside her on the deck of the cabin.
Submitted on Tanada's behalf by.
Sam, supervised by Mistletoe
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