The True Tall Tale of the Blue Sky, the Sun, the Ginger Cat, the Birds, the Wee Mouse Family, the Snail,
the 10 Children Who Live at No. 12 Deep End Street, the Children’s Mother, and, in a small but noisome bit part,
the Neighborhood Skunk
It is a typical Summer Day at the home of the Ten Children who live at No. 12 Deep End Street in the town of Deep End. A cloudless day, the Blue Sky, delighted to have the heavens to itself with no Pushy Clouds or Puffy Clouds or Black Rain Clouds to get in its way, carries the Sun, Benign Ruler of all that lies far below, who is riding toward the crest of the Blue Sky. The Wind is quiet while frisky Breezes play tag in and out of treetops, stir up sand in sand boxes, slap waves in big and small bodies of water, and generally make things flap and sail around so every person is kept busy grabbing and catching and holding and snatching and trying to bring or keep order to their hair and clothes and belongings.
At No. 12 Deep End Street, the Children’s Mother is busy cleaning the house. From time to time, the back door opens as she steps outside to shake a dust mop, slapping shut behind her as she hurries back in. Soon an upstairs window flies open to let in one of the quieter Breezes to help air out the Children’s bedrooms while she changes sheets and dusts.
The Ginger Cat stalks the Wee Mice of the Wee Mouse Family that live in the cellar of the house. All members of the Wee Mouse Family are, I must tell you, too smart for the Ginger Cat. But the Ginger Cat doesn’t know it, so the Wee Mice enjoy playing endless games of Tease the Cat, which will last until Mother Mouse calls them in for lunch or a nap or bedtime. Which she now does, calling them in for a tail and tooth check, thus ending the games on both sides.
Deprived of that source of fun, the Ginger Cat immediately sets about chasing its tail, whirling so rapidly it ends up in a heap from which it emerges only a bit flustered to immediately begin a thorough Wash and Tidying Session. This all to show the World that a) it never intended to catch a mouse, b) it has just presented a wonderful display of Cat Dervish Showmanship, and now c) it is presently showcasing Proper Cat Grooming.
The Ginger Cat it must be said has something of a feline ego -- well, all right - something of a big feline ego. A fact noted by all and sundry. Though all and sundry also agree that, in truth, the Ginger Cat’s a pussy cat. And a very well fed one, so hunting food was and is never a serious risk to any creature the Ginger Cat chases. Besides, if the Ginger Cat’s most secret thoughts were known, they would confirm the Ginger Cat does what it does simply to demonstrate its Great and Rare Cat Skills. Of which, admittedly, the Ginger Cat has some - just perhaps not as many as it thinks.
However, since the Ginger Cat does not know this, it is not bothered by it.
Toilette complete, the Ginger Cat now sets about chasing the Birds. The Birds, who always delight in taking time out from their own activities to play their version of Tease the Cat, immediately start their flirting. One flies close and then away, another lands near and then soars off. As things heat up, one dive-bombs while another flutters helplessly nearby and then zooms off, close enough to ruffle the Ginger Cat’s luxuriant set ofwhiskers, easily escaping to enjoy the resultant fit of sneezing - nothing like a Cat Sneeze to set the Birds chortling.
When it gets to be time to get back to Bird Life for some taxing nest repair or to feed the babies or themselves or just because they are now bored, the Birds taunt the Ginger Cat into running halfway up a very tall tree, whereupon the whole Bird Community watches for awhile as the Ginger Cat -- who, under stress, it is true, suffers a bit of agoraphobia -- carefully and a bit awkwardly shimmies its way back down to ground level.
Now the Ginger Cat considers itself a Cat of Great Agility and Care. It knows that it is not only careful placement of each claw-hold that is the Intelligent and Prudent way to back down a tall tree, but also that any cat in that position should remain alert to any Bird foolish enough to get close enough to risk being chased or worse caught. Which is how it explains its slow progress, saying that in this whole matter of tree climbing thing - both going up and coming down - it is a self-evident truth that considerable Clever-Cat Concentration is demanded. A Rare Skill possessed only by the adept and the Ginger Cat holds itself not only an adept but a Master. Though it doesn’t wish to brag.
So it would seem that most everyone is happy to play with the Ginger Cat. All, that is, but the Snail. Who lives tucked underneath the back porch steps of No. 12 Deep End Street.
With the Snail, it is different. For the Snail, it is Simply Awful. The Ginger Cat has no understanding of this. None at all. The game it plays with the Snail is called Snail Ball, and consists of nothing more taxing for the Ginger Cat than paw-batting the Snail about. Loop-de-Loop, Over and Under and Around and Around. Tiring of these, the Ginger Cat finishes by taking long swats, which it thinks of as Hither and Yon.
Snail Ball leaves the Snail no option but to seal itself securely inside its shell and just wait things out. And the Ginger Cat is now well into its game of Snail Ball, has been batting the Snail around and around and around the dooryard - dizzying the Snail as never before - and is readying to end the game with some long swats when -- gingered up by accumulated exhilaration from lengthy Mouse Stalking and Bird Chasing together with all the attendant accumulated adrenaline -- the Ginger Cat, with an impressively beautiful paw-swat, sends the Snail sailing, sailing, sailing way past the Vegetable Beds, down the entire length of the yard, to land, in a long slow glide and plop, at the very back of the Way Way back of the Flower Beds.
Where it is left by the Ginger Cat.
Now, there is a reason that the Ginger Cat doesn’t bother to go and look for the Snail, which is because the Ginger Cat doesn’t like the Way Way back of the Flower Beds, and it doesn’t like the Way Way back of the Flower Beds because that is where it once met up with the Neighborhood Skunk. Or rather, it is where the Ginger Cat happened upon the Neighborhood Skunk while it was napping. And the Ginger Cat learned then, the hard way, that the cost of surprising a napping Skunk is a Sick-Making Long Lasting HORRID SMELL that sticks to fur. For a lonnnnnggg time.
Now clearly, the Neighborhood Skunk did only what Skunks are wired to do and it involved no hard feelings as it was simply an automatic reaction. The fact of the Ginger Cat’s being sprayed quite thoroughly is due its panic, expressed by twirling as if on a Lazy Susan, thus presenting front, back and both sides of for a comprehensive drenching before the Neighborhood Skunk’s reserves emptied and the Ginger Cat, blind in one eye and highly repellant even to itself - no, especially to itself - managed to wobble off. In the Ginger Cat’s view, another meeting - EVER - would be too soon.
This not so much a result of hard feeling as hard-wired memory and a deep wish for no part of a second meeting. So it is left now to the Snail to find its way home. If it can. If it survives the journey.
It does. Comparatively young and never away from its home before - assuredly never to the way back of the Way Way back of the Flower Beds, it took the Snail the better part of two whole days to find its way back to its home beneath the steps of the back porch at No. 12 Deep End Street. Where it has remained for an additional 2 days, making do with whatever it finds to eat - little enough - but needing Time to help gather itself, calm its nerves, realize the verity of its survival and to develop a respect and trust for its hitherto unrealized navigational skills. -- Well, it’s an ill wind ... .
Once prepared to again venture forth, it finds itself confined to quarters for another 2 whole days. This because, to its dread and despair, it finds the Ginger Cat waiting for it. Two more days of dismal foraging and the Snail has all but given up, thinking dark thoughts about Life as it Must be Lived by a Snail, regretting never imagining the need to forage for sustenance under its door step, and wondering if this is going to be - well - a long slow Snail Death, when it overhears the Brown Spider gossiping with the Wee Mouse family about the Ginger Cat being off its game, lying about, napping a lot, not eating, in a funk of some kind.
Actually, what it can’t know is that the Ginger Cat has been thinking. A lot. Not a common activity. The Ginger Cat admits to rather liking the Snail. Further, just as the Ginger Cat loves its own home, it feels slightly sick at the idea of having violently thrown the Snail so far from its digs under the doorstep, never mind into the Way Way Back of the Flower Beds -- allowing itself no thoughts of what might happen if the Snail runs into the Neighborhood Skunk!
The Ginger Cat is feeling more than a smidgeon of shame at having caused someone to lose its home, maybe to be lost forever, maybe to suffer, maybe, worst of all, to die. It hopes, very much, the Snail will reappear. And, if only reluctantly, the Ginger Cat does admit that batting the Snail around demands very little in the way of Rare Cat Skills. All told, it has reached a decision that should the Snail make it back safely, the Ginger Cat will do what it can to make it up to the Snail. For one thing, in future it will never give it more than just a bat or two. Or, well, maybe a few more. Twelve? Only just around the dooryard. --- Well, we are dealing with the Ginger Cat, here. ---
But right now the Snail is right, the Ginger Cat is doing what it’s been doing for the last four days. Watching and waiting outside the Snail’s doorway, determined to make up for its thoughtlessness. If the Snail gets back. Safe. And Sound.
Now as has been said, the Snail is weak. At the edge of being famished. But it has reached a kind of madness in which it declares to itself that if its long Hero’s Journey is to end in this way - in Death - even Death wrought by a vengeful cat with no reason for vengeance - well then, let it be. But first, FIRST, the Snail will at least have had a minute or two more of being free, living large - well, snail-sized large - Outside and in the Open.
So. When the Snail chances its long-delayed coming-out, weak and more than a bit miffed at All and Everything but determined to face Death with dignity even if it has the face of the Ginger Cat, it is appalled to find the Ginger Cat so close. Not a slime trail’s distance from its doorway, crouched down, chin on the ground, tail waving high above raised rump, front paws either side of its chin, eyes not slitted nor ears pinned back, but seeming in all aspects quite, well, quite benign.
The next thing the Snail experiences is an accelerated push-ride across the grass, powered by a gentle cat’s paw, that ends with the Snail being not so much shoved as deposited into the side of a squishy, dissolving, half-rotted pumpkin squash.
O Frabjous day -- as the Snail has heard the oldest of the 10 children who live at No. 12 Deep End Street quote from something called a Lewis Carroll -- and ending in Callooh! Callay! Which is quite how the Snail is feeling. Soft squash - sumptuous feast for a snail. Close to home. Result of Ginger Cat Gentility. It does not compute, coming so close upon near death, near starvation, and well, just now, it prefers to eat itself into oblivion and then let Morpheus have its way. And so it does.
The Ginger Cat, good deed done, pauses only to assure itself that the bottom of the Snail’s head is snugged against the yucky squash so it can rasp in the squishy squash. Then, turning tail, leaping and jumping and twirling as only an Agile and Gifted Cat can do it dashed its way to the house, appetite for life and food fully restored, where, on the back porch steps are all 10 of the children who live at No. 12 Deep End Street, of a sudden and irregularly and with much to-ing and fro-ing, finally gathered and now seated in tiers by the Children’s Mother who sets out amongst them a feast of Cold Milk and Freshly Baked Ginger Cookies, saying, DON’T FORGET TO SHARE, before reentering the house, the slap of the door punctuating her departure.
The Blue Sky, silent but radiant way high overhead, remains supreme, serene and remote, holding the Sun, who, as is Her wont, beams down upon everything below, while the Breezy Breezes and Gusty Gusts drowse in the heat and brilliance of Blue Sky and Regal Sun. The Children’s Mother slaps back open the door to say, DON’T FORGET TO CLEAN UP AFTER YOURSELVES. The Ginger Cat fervently hopes that they don’t, contemplating the many luscious dropped crumbs and crumbles and even mayhap a splash or two of spilled milk. The Birds, eyeing the selfsame falling crumbs and crumbles of Ginger Cookies, decide they like their chances. The Wee Mouse Family is more than content with the sifting of eensy bits, falling through the cracks. The Snail, presently full of squooshed squash, tucks itself securely beneath a large rhubarb leaf and thinks the Vegetable Beds may make a superb Summer Home for a Snail. And, in the Way Way back of the Flower Beds, the Neighborhood Skunk settles more comfortably into sleep and even snores a bit.