"Tale One - A New Home"
The year was nineteen seventy four; the day was a sultry Autumn blessing. A lone puff of breeze wound its way over the levee and into my yard. I was sitting in the swing on my front porch, sipping tea and reading a magazine. My children were playing in their sand box in the back yard. Since recently going through a difficult divorce, I tended to spend more and more of my Saturday afternoons just enjoying the peace and quiet. I was only twenty-three years old but I had already discovered the value of quiet days spent doing nothing at all! This particular day I was to meet, for the first time, a most remarkable being.
I noticed movement out of the corner of my eye, and glanced up to see a very beautiful lady cat walk up to my porch. I stopped the porch swing and put down my magazine and iced tea. I knew right away that this was not just an ordinary stray cat. There was something in her eyes, some gleam of inner amusement at our silly world, that gave her the look of an ancient sage. I knew instinctively that this was a very special little creature, a true southern belle of a cat.
She walked with sass in her step, almost prancing. The tip of her tail swayed lazily above her head while her nose prodded the air in delicate nudges. She looked like a queen surveying her realm. Her long, silky black fur shone in the afternoon sun. Each paw was a brilliant, snow white. There was a white crest on her proud little chest and a perfectly formed, white fleur-de-lis on her brow.
She walked calmly to where I was sitting and leapt gracefully to the seat next to mine. I leaned over and, in polite cat fashion, put my nose to hers in a cat-kiss of greeting. Not being very fluent in the language of cats, I could not understand her secret cat name (which was Aeryespa). However, she graciously agreed to let me pick my own name for her. After all, humans must be given some slack to make up for their sad deficiencies.
As simply as that, she adopted me. I decided to wait and study her a while before giving her a name. Until then, I would call her "Sassy" because of her pert, expressive tail. I arose from my porch swing and invited her inside for some afternoon refreshments.
True confession time, folks. I was known as the "cat lady" of the neighborhood. Though I did not officially house a cat since my beautiful Persian, Scarlett, had died, never-the-less, I kept a secret stash of kitty kibble in my bottom cabinet. Every cat within a ten mile radius of my home knew where to go for a handout or medical treatment - and they told their new buddies who arrived almost weekly!
I lived in lower St. Bernard Parish, about ten miles outside of New Orleans. My house was in a single circle of "subdivision" called Christie Park. It was surrounded on two sides by woods. Across the access road, running alongside it, was the levee that bordered the southernmost miles of the Mississippi river. Behind my home was a stable that played host to the horses, brought from around the world, who raced at nearby Jefferson Downs.
This must have seemed to be the ideal "dumping grounds" to every person in the Crescent City who became tired of his pet. There were far, far too many sad, frightened animals who ended up at my door. I could not take them all in, but I did catch, and have altered, as many as I could. I also fed them and got veterinary treatment for them when they were in need (a mighty feat for a young divorcee, struggling to support two children). The stable doubled as a home to a lot of those stray and feral cats.
Once inside, I pulled out a bowl of my best kitty china, filled it from my "stash", and placed it on the kitchen floor. Even though Sassy looked quite hungry, she took the time to politely nudge my leg with her head, in appreciation, before she settled down to eat. The little priss acted as if she had been tutored by Miss Manners herself! I put the bag of kibble back into the bottom cabinet and sat while she finished her meal.
The back door opened and my rambunctious, four-year-old daughter, Erin, entered, followed immediately by her two-year-old brother, Mark. They were just coming in from an industrious afternoon of sand castle building in the back yard. Erin spied the new member of our household and ran over to welcome her. Before I could warn her about the slashing talons of a surprised cat, she had scooped Sassy up into an exuberant hug. The cat did not unsheathe a single claw! She lay back in my daughter's arms like a ragdoll. When Erin put her face next to Sassy's, the cat leaned forward and gave her a gentle cat kiss on her runny little nose. Sassy licked the remains of my daughter's lunch from Erin's chin and glanced at me as if in rebuke for the ungroomed state of my kitten. I had the decency to look abashed.
"Who's dis?", Erin asked. "Well", I said, "this is our new kitty, Sassy. Do you like her?" "Ooooh yes, Sissy!", Erin squealed as she twisted around trying to keep Mark from grabbing her new friend. "No," I said, "not Sissy, S-aaah-ssy, Sassy, because she has a sassy tail and she acts so prissy." "Yeah, Sissy Prissy Sissy", Erin replied. Oh well, Sissy, Sassy, what's the difference, she was still a prissy little miss. Hmmm. "All right", I announced, "'Miss Prissy Sissy With The Sassy Tail' it will be!" "Prithy sisthy", Mark chimed in.
Prissy Sissy wriggled herself out of Erin's arms, expertly dodged between Mark's legs (without tripping him!) and sauntered over to the bottom cabinet. I watched in amazement as she pawed open the cabinet door, grabbed the bag of kibble in her teeth and dropped it on the kitchen floor. She pawed at the top of the bag until it opened and stuck her paw in to expertly spear out a piece of kibble with her claws. She placed the bit of food down, ate it, then grabbed another. After a few minutes, I remembered that it was impolite to stare in open-mouthed amazement at a dining guest. I walked over and refilled the bowl for her and filled another with fresh water from the tap. Again, she paused to thank me before daintily finishing her meal. What a wonderful new family member we had been gifted!
I quickly made up some "found cat" posters to assuage my conscience lest she really was just lost and not abandoned; but I knew in my heart that this was the special companion God had promised me when I had lost my sweet cat, "Scarlett".
I called my vet, Dr. Ted who maintained an office in the back of the feed store located on the access road next to my subdivision. He said he had some time that afternoon to look at her if I wanted to walk over. I pulled out the kids' wagon and bundled them and Prissy into it for the trek.
When we reached my next-door neighbor's house, Prissy jumped out of the wagon and sashayed over to the gate to make the acquaintance of Pete, the neighbor's Cocker Spaniel. Pete was a sweet old galumph, friendly, and always ready with a sloppy kiss for a child's booboo. He had a long, curly golden coat (liberally spiced with gray), and huge, soulful, brown eyes. Pete could beg the last lick of an ice cream cone from even the meanest two-year-old. This I know for a fact folks, he often got it from mine!
Pete jumped up, unlatched the gate with his nose and approached Prissy. His whole body was wigging in counterpoint to his tail's wagging. Old Pete could get quite excited, meeting a new friend. Prissy stopped and drew back her head in her most regal stance. She lifted her left front paw and gave a soft hiss of displeasure. Pete immediately crouched down and scooted forward on his belly. Prissy watched and then slowly bowed down to give him a soft, queenly kiss on his nose. Pete's writhing became even more frenzied with his pleasure at this royal beneficence. Having observed the proper obsequiousness, Prissy allowed Pete to stand up and properly make her acquaintance. After a few minutes of exchanging scents and chitchat, Prissy gave a little bow of her head, pranced back over to jump into the wagon. She looked at me as if to say, "Proceed please."
At the next house Prissy jumped down and strolled over to meet Alfalfa. Alfalfa was a male tabby cat whose long fur stood up in spikes and snarls. His coat was hopelessly matted with mud, thistle spurs, pieces of pine needles and various other bits of unspeakable detritus. Prissy wrinkled her dainty nose and tilted her head slightly downwind of Alfalfa. How appalling that a feline would allow himself to fall to such disarray. But as soon as Alfalfa spoke, Prissy forgave him all his faults. He was such a charming, endearing little fellow. He was gentle, honest and sincere in his love of all other creatures (sometime said love being that of a gourmet, however!). He told Prissy that his secret cat name was Rrzamiam.
Alfalfa wholeheartedly welcomed Prissy to her new realm with bows and head butts. He promised to show Prissy around to all the best hunting spots for barn and field mice. He proclaimed himself to be the fiercest hunter who ever roamed this wild territory. He said he was the best fighter of any cat in the neighborhood and decried that he would defend her highness against any foe. Prissy took all this in with a grain of salt, considering the look of him. In reality, Alfalfa was the kindest of creatures; he was always willing to share his prey or his last bit of kibble with any poor "dumped" cat who happened by.
Prissy spent a bit more time getting acquainted with Alfalfa before moving on. The following house belonged to Thistle. Thistle was a very fat, female Domestic Short Hair (DSH) breed of cat. Her fur was a solid, dark gray. Her pendulous stomach swayed beneath her as she waddled over. She must have weighed at least 20 pounds if not more! She stared suspiciously at Prissy with her tiny, yellow eyes. Who was this sleek, beautiful newcomer? Was she going to be a rival for Thistle's food supply (Thistle thought of little else)?
Prissy looked Thistle over with a hint of disgust. It seemed the feline population of this territory was utterly without pride in their cathood! This was something Prissy would have to do something about - and soon. Her subjects must be taught proper cat pride and behavior if she was going to take responsibility for their fortunes. She put aside her feelings about Thistle and walked over to greet her. Thistle was hesitant about giving Prissy her secret cat name. Prissy took umbrage at this and hissed at Thistle while hooking Thistle's ear with her talons. Thistle immediately recognized her superior and became quite contrite, bowing to Prissy in submission. Thistle told Prissy her real name was Hisspitatia, a fittingly acerbic moniker for such a sour puss! Ah well, time enough to deal with such a recalcitrant at a later date, Prissy must be on her way.
The houses along the way that did not boast an animal companion received the blessing of Prissy's scented cheek on porch newel or gate post. It took us quite some time to negotiate that very small subdivision. Prissy was determined to meet all of her new subjects. She met: Butch, a male Boxer who was black with a white face; Gaston, a male DSH cat, who was solid black with beautiful gray eyes; Micky, a male Chihuahua who was very neurotic; Misty, a shy little female Persian kitty whose light gray fur was very soft and fluffy; and finally Rocko, Lenny, and Mauler, three Pit Bulls who jumped and barked at her frenetically as she calmly observed them from the opposite side of the gate.
When we at last reached the front of the subdivision at the access road, I stopped at the little grocery store and hung two of my "found cat" posters. I was even fair enough to hang them where they could be seen. We continued on the half block to the feed store. I hung another two posters then went into the back to see Dr. Ted.
Dr. Ted was a very kind man who had a never-ending supply of patience and love for any and all animals. He was tall and lanky, 45 years old, and his black hair was just dusting to gray at his temples. He took one glance at Prissy and exclaimed in his thick southern accent, "Well, well, what have we heah? This is a gorgeous cat. Beautiful little lady. She don' look like most of the refugees you're always draggin' in heah. Don't tell me you gave up on adoptin' strays and actually bought a cat from a breeder." "No," I explained, "this one just found me on her own. I'm hoping .er, afraid she's been abandoned like all the rest."
Dr. Ted nodded wisely and talked to Prissy softly, introducing himself and letting her know exactly what needed to be done just then to make sure she stayed in excellent health. Prissy, being an extremely well mannered cat, allowed him to proceed without protest. After a very thorough examination, immunizations, and tests, Dr. Ted said, "I have some good .er, bad news for you, it looks to me like she is owned by someone. She's been well cared for. She's at least two years old and could be a bit older, but not much. I don't see any indication that she ever had kittens, and I think she may already have been spayed." "Oh, well," I said, "would you ask around and see if you can locate the owner - shouldn't be too hard. Heck, there are more animals living around here than people! I'll keep her at my house until someone shows up." (And they had better have very good proof of ownership and an explanation for how she had become "lost"!!)
Back out front, I bought cat food (a better, more expensive brand), some cat treats, several toys for her, a litter pan, and litter. I packed all my purchases into the wagon. The children hopped in followed closely by Prissy and we were on our way home again. Prissy sat proudly atop her belongings and regally surveyed her new realm as we paraded home. We managed to proceed much more quickly now that Prissy had already met all of her subjects. There was only one other person walking down the sidewalk. Mrs. Nicky Prindle.
Mrs. Prindle was 52 years old, 5 feet 9 inches tall, 300+ pounds, with steel gray hair and ice blue eyes. This stern matron was the captain of our Neighborhood Watch Program (funny, but the only one anyone thought to watch out for was Mrs. Prindle). She was also the official head of the unofficial neighborhood diary. If you could not run fast enough you were forced to stand and listen to tales of every flirtation and every gall stone attack our neighbors had experienced. Hours of tales!
A large shadow fell heavily on our shoulders as Mrs. Prindle approached. Attached to her right hand was a leash. Attached to the end of the leash was Micky. Micky was 7 years old, 6 inches tall, 3 pounds, with a light brown coat. Micky was a Chihuahua. He looked like a little stick dog that Erin had drawn for me. Every bone marked its existence on his scrawny little frame. His brown eyes were huge. Those and his ears were the only big things on him. Micky was a perpetual motion machine. He never for a moment stopped leaping, wagging, and nipping at his tail. What can I say about his personality? Picture Joan Rivers on acid. His shrill yapping could break fine crystal at 30 paces.
My only escape would be to watch closely for the tiniest twitch of Mrs. Prindle's nostril in preparation of her taking a breath. I concentrated intensely on this and readied my muscles. In this tiny pause I must say, "GeethatisveryinterestingbutIreallygottago..", and yank the wagon into motion without toppling my kids. No break yet; Mrs. Prindle must have the lungs of an elephant. As she stood there recounting her husband's recent colonoscopy, Micky jumped straight up into the air over and over again. He looked like he had springs on his paws. Just when Mrs. Prindle got to the most delicate part of the procedure, I happened to glance at my crew in the wagon. Erin, Mark and Prissy were following Micky's trajectory with their heads. All three were nodding up and down as if in parody of the agreeing yesses I supplied Mrs. Prindle. They looked like a crowd watching a vertical tennis match. I choked back a giggle and Mrs. Prindle must have thought I was gagging. She frowned in irritation at my weak stomach interrupting the best part of her story. My snort must have wakened Prissy from her trance. She suddenly thrust her body towards Micky and let out a mighty hiss-spit. Before the first drop of Prissy's saliva had hit his nose, Micky had wrapped his leash three times around Mrs. Prindle's ankles. Mrs. Prindle started to teeter.
Now folks, y'all do not want to be on the wrong side of a toppling semi. I had to skeedaddle. As I sprinted down the sidewalk, I turned back to ask her to keep an ear open for any news about a lost pet (this, of course, was quite unnecessary, Mrs. Prindle never let even a bit of news or gossip slip past her eager ears!). I continued along satisfied that I had done everything possible to assure Prissy would get back to any rightful owners.
By the time we got home again, it was getting dark. As I unlocked and opened the front door, Prissy jumped down and shot ahead of me. She stood in the middle of the living room and looked around, sniffing deeply for the scent of any intruders. Already, she had taken full responsibility for her human charges and was looking after them as was her duty as the new head of the family. She preceded us into each room and looked back over her shoulder giving me the "all clear" after each was checked.
After carefully watching me flip on the light switch in every other room, she surprised me by running over to the light switch on the opposite wall of the kitchen, jumping up to hit the switch with her paw and turning on the kitchen light for us. I watched her in amazement for a few moments, but she just looked at me as if to say, "Well, what's the big deal, let's get chow started!" I shook off my wonder and started dinner for the family.
After dinner Prissy, the children and I retired to the living room to read stories and play games. Prissy shared my lap with Erin and Mark as I read them tales of the great feats performed by daring princesses and dashing heroes. She closed her eyes and seemed to be reminiscing on her own adventures of derring do. I was sure she must have had many to dream about.
As I droned on in soothing tones to the children, Prissy drifted off into dreams of the warm, sweets days of her kittenhood. She was again frolicking in fields of wildflowers, chasing butterflies in and out of the long tufts of grass. Insects and birds chattered in singsong rhythms as she danced along with her brothers and sisters, tumbling and tussling like little balls of bouncy fur. She was distracted by a movement off to the right. Something scuttled into a cover of fallen leaves. She pounced over to investigate and saw just the tip of a mouse's tail slithering away. The chase was on! She ran madly in pursuit of the tiny brown creature, hopping over twigs and scurrying under larger branches. Leaping heedless and headlong into piles of leaves, she sent the golden, crisp droppings of fall flying up into the warm air. On my lap, her tiny paws twitched and a happy grin played on her lips as she dreamed.
Once the children were asleep and put to bed, Prissy and I walked into the kitchen (she again turned on the light for me rather than having this clumsy human stumble through the dark to the opposite wall). I filled her bowl with fresh tap water and added a few more bits of kibble to her dish. Prissy walked over to the dish and sniffed a bit, but obviously was not hungry at the moment. She looked around, then started scooping kibble out of her dish and onto the floor next to the mat on which her dishes lay. I did not think this small creature could astonish me more than she had, but I was wrong. As I watched, she lightly pulled up the corner of the mat, and pushed the kibble underneath. She smoothed the mat back over the kibble and then sniffed around to make sure it was well covered. Well! I guess she wanted to take no chances of her food being stolen in the night while she slept!
Finally, all was quiet and it was time for me to retire. Prissy followed me to bed and curled herself onto my pillow where she could purr her love and reassurance into my ear as I drifted into sleep. I slept soundly and well for the first time in over a year - since Scarlett had died. I had forgotten how the presence of a well-loved cat friend could soothe and calm one's fears and troubles and ease one into the land of nod.
Prissy stirred only once during the night, and being a new "meow-my" I got up with her to make sure everything was all right. She wandered into the kitchen, turned on the light for me, and unburied enough of her kibble for a decent midnight snack. I added to it by giving her some of the kitty treats I had purchased. She watched as I put the box back into the cabinet and this time I was sure she was noting the exact spot where it had gone lest she crave some when I was not around. I expected her to take a sip of water from her bowl to wash down the goodies, but I should have known better than to expect such a prosaic act from this fairy creature! Instead, she jumped up to the counter top and walked over to the sink. She started batting lightly with her paw at the cold water tap until a tiny stream of water was flowing into the sink. She then leaned over and daintily sipped from the fresh water. Now y'all, that was amazing enough in itself, but I was absolutely agape when she batted the tap off again. She did not give me a chance to recover from that before she walked over, jumped up and pawed the light switch off before sashaying back to bed. Well, well, this furry, little blessing was not only smart, but conservative too - that should help with my utility bills (now, if I could only teach her to turn things off that the children leave on!!)
As the weeks passed, my concern that her rightful owners would show up grew less and less. She was so fully integrated into my family by then, that I think I might even have lied had anyone else tried to claim her. We belonged to her highness, heart and soul.
During this time, the children and I discovered more and more of her talents. She would play "fetch" with a ball for hours on end, to the delight of my squealing moppets. She bounced off corners and ricocheted from wall to wall to pounce on the ball as if it were the last mouse on earth. She would jump up into my arms whenever I asked her.
As we grew to love her more and more, so she did too come to treasure her human family. One night she even gifted me with the hind half of a mouse (the most tender and delicious part) which she placed in my bedroom slipper. A tasty treat upon which to feast when I awoke! She was scrupulously diligent in her care and protection of her poor, physically challenged humans. Her boy and her girl were constantly watched over and groomed to perfection, no matter how much food "meow-my" may have missed cleaning off their chins. She was even kind enough not to chide me for this since she had seen the sorry state of my tongue - goodness, how could humans ever expect to get clean with such a poor excuse of an oral appendage!
Prissy had made herself a home.
"Tale Two - The Evil Greebles"
Every morning upon awakening, precisely at 5:00am, "Prissy Sissy With The Sassy Tail" would roam around the house checking to make sure her territory was adequately secure and safe for her family. Being a very conscientious "watch cat", she never skimped on this task. Indeed, she was always very thorough and ran through all her "check points" in precise sequence.
The kitchen was Prissy's first stop. She would jump up, flip on the light and take a general look around. Satisfied, she would walk over to her food bowl to make sure no one had filched her stash of dried food (which she kept hidden under the throw mat upon which her bowl rested). Next she would walk up to each cabinet, open it with a paw, and take several sniffs as well as making a sight check of the interior. When her kitchen inspection was complete she would jump up, switch off the light and head for the bathroom. She proceeded in this manner until every room in the house was checked out, each closet inspected, and each nook and cranny given the "all clear". Afterwards, she would come into my bedroom, switch on the light, jump up on the bed next to my ear, and give her "report" - letting me know that it was now safe for me to proceed with my day.
I am a bit obsessive/compulsive (OK, maybe more than a bit). I tend to do my "spring cleaning" 10 to 12 times a year. On this occasion I got really energetic and decided to re-arrange things in my house to a more efficient layout. I made one big mistake, however. I forgot to let Prissy in on my new arrangements!
The next morning Prissy entered the kitchen, turned on the light, gave her general "look around" and then stood stock still in disbelief, growling softly . Things did not look the same! Her big, round toy-things on the counter had been moved around - the table had different toy-things on it - and, worst of all, her food dish had been moved. She rushed over, checked under the mat and, sure enough, found that her food stash was gone! Some thief in the night had clearly been there, and might still be. It could even be the evil greebles she had heard about at her mother's knee! She had had deadly encounters with this menace in the past.
Still growling, louder now, Prissy started her cabinet check. Yep, just as she had thought, things were definitely misplaced - even her box of treats had been moved so that she would now have to jump up to a top cabinet in order to get a midnight snack! By now she was getting really perturbed , she even forgot to turn out the light before rushing into the bathroom.
In the bathroom, Prissy turned on the light and looked about her. Here, at least, things seemed to be pretty much undisturbed, although three of her toy-things on the sink counter had been moved or replaced. She jumped up to the sink, pawed the cold water tap on, and took a long drink while she thought about what to do. As she left the bathroom she stopped at her scratching post in the hall and slowly, deliberately sharpened her claws in preparation for battle.
When Prissy got to my daughter's bedroom she paused just outside the door and took a deep breath. With lightening speed, she launched herself at the light switch, flicked it on, and, with the momentum of her jump, ricocheted off the wall to land on the foot of my daughter's bed. She immediately hunched herself up "Halloween cat" style, puffed out her fur, and gave a great hiss/spit and growl. Three times she jumped straight up into the air, came down facing a different direction and repeated her warning. Assured that the unseen thief was sufficiently cowed she proceeded with her check of the room. Everything here seemed to be quiet and, except for the few toy-things on shelves being moved (this thief sure was cocky to so advertise his visit!), all looked to be well here - her girl was safe.
Prissy huffed a bit and left my daughter's bedroom (again forgetting, in her agitation, to turn out the light!) and padded down the hallway to my son's bedroom. Now this would be her biggest problem room. The toy-things in this room were quite numerous and always flung around the room in a haphazard manner. Every morning she was forced to update her mental map of what this room should look like. Cautiously, she lowered her body and poked her head around the door post to take a preliminary sniff. She crouched back and sprang for the light switch (intending to use the same "jump, flick-switch, land-on-bed, and snarl" tactic that she had used in my daughter's room). Imagine her surprise when she found herself landing on the floor instead of the bed!
The evil greebles (she was sure it was them by now, only greebles could be so insidiously evil and blatant) had moved the bed - with her boy still on it!! She leapt onto the dresser and skidded on the newly waxed surface. This, of course, was according to the plan of the evil greebles; that she be forced to collide with all the toy-things. She was sure they had been up all night carefully spreading butter over the entire surface of the dresser. One round toy-thing went sliding off onto the floor and its lid popped off. To Prissy's complete consternation, hundreds of evil greebles poured out onto the floor making a great, grinding-like noise. The evil greebles were in their hard, shiny, round transmutation! They rolled over the floor, heading in every direction and scattering under furniture. Now, Prissy's mother had been very careful to tell Prissy of all the many ways evil greebles could entrap and defeat the unwary cat; and Prissy had learned her lessons well. She knew that the evil greebles planned to surround her, cut her off from the rest of her family, and take them out one by one. She also knew that she was the only one capable of defeating this horrid horde (her human family members were just too slow and did not even have respectable claws with which to protect themselves!).
Prissy paused a moment to consider her strategy. First she had to get her boy out of harm's way. To do this she had to jump onto his bed, yowl loudly in his ear, and even give him a few nips on his rump to get him running for the door and safety. The evil greebles tried to thwart her plans of course; they quickly rolled themselves under her boy's feet and made him trip (well she should have expected this - her human family were extremely clumsy). She immediately jumped to his rescue, batting at the evil greebles, sending them flying in every direction. Prissy gave her boy a few extra nips on his rump to get him up and going again. She followed his running, crying little body into my bedroom, yowling the whole while, until he landed in a heap upon my bed and me. She then jumped on top the both of us and gave me a quick report before turning and running back to the battle.
Prissy stalked down the hall, hissing and growling, as I followed warily - baseball bat in hand (hey, this was a smart cat, y'all - I always took her warnings seriously). When she reached my son's door she paused for only a second before throwing herself into the midst of the evil greebles. They were fiendishly clever, rolling and careening into each other in order to confuse her, but she persevered! The evil greebles seemed to be multiplying even as she watched. Her efforts intensified. Each swipe of her paw sent evil greebles crashing off in new directions. Finally, all the greebles seemed to be dispatched, stopped dead in their tracks. Just to be sure, she sidled up to one and gave it a small nudge with her paw. Oh, her surprise when this evil, faking greeble rolled away into another greeble which also went rolling away. The battle was on again! She spent the next 15 minutes subduing evil greebles - spitting, hissing, yowling out her victory cry, and flying into the air in prodigious leaps intended to confuse and cow the enemy into submission. At last she was satisfied that all were quite dead. She walked back to me, tail held proudly high, and gave me the "all clear" report. By this time I was seated on the hallway floor, laughing until tears poured down my cheeks, and trying to figure out how I was going to find and gather up all those marbles! She kindly ignored my hysterical behavior, sure that it was only the pent-up fear and relief taking hold of me now that the battle was done.
Prissy, purring loudly, strolled over to her favorite napping spot and, with a sigh, lay down. She had faithfully performed her sworn duty and was secure in the knowledge that all was now well - once again she had saved her family, and the world, from the depredations of the evil greebles!
"Tale Three - Prissy Gets a Beau"
One day, after checking her house for evil greebles and then eating breakfast, Prissy sauntered outside to make sure that all in her domain was in proper order. As she walked down the street she caught a whiff of a strange scent. Well, well, there was a new cat in the neighborhood! She would certainly have to check this out.
Prissy gracefully leapt the fence of a neighbor's yard to investigate. On the other side she paused, too stunned to move; her breath caught in her throat. In front of her stood a large gentleman cat. Never had she seen such a magnificent specimen of feline power and attraction. He stood there quietly looking back at her, also impressed with what he saw.
This unknown newcomer was much larger than Prissy (who was a very dainty little feline). His long fur was colored a most beautiful, light orange, boasting black stripes which made him look like a fierce tiger on the prowl. He obviously took great care with his grooming; his fur glistened like gold in the sun. This handsome young cat quietly stared at Prissy with his bright green eyes which seemed to sparkle with amusement, and were alight with interest. He made no move toward her, but stood patiently, waiting for her to introduce herself.
Prissy shook off her stunned amazement and sashayed over to him. Respectfully, the young male turned and lifted his tail so she could catalogue his scent with all the others she kept track of. She then turned around and returned his courtesy. The big male introduced himself. He told her his human-given name was Tiger and then whispered into her ear that his secret cat name was Xandiamus. She touched his nose with hers in a regal kiss of welcome to her realm.
The formalities over, they began to get acquainted with one another, exchanging stories of their pasts. It seems that Tiger, along with the people he owned, had just moved into the house next door to hers. He had insisted that his human family move from his small apartment in the city; he wanted more room inside and he wanted to be able to roam about outside without the bother of dodging traffic. Even though he was a street smart young "tough", he still preferred the peace and quiet of the country.
Prissy asked Tiger if he would like to come along with her on her rounds, and he accepted with delight. They jumped the gate and headed north along the street, Prissy explaining the layout and composition of the subdivision. She was conscientious in giving Tiger a complete history of every animal who owned a family here.
Their first stop was at the house owned by Alfalfa. Alfalfa bowed to Prissy and welcomed them to his home. After making the acquaintance of Tiger he offered them refreshments (half of a field mouse that he had caught fresh that morning and a sip from the dripping water faucet in the back yard). Alfalfa reported that all was well within his territory. His humans were properly submissive and well trained, thus gave him no problems and little reason for discipline. Prissy approved and gave a slight tilt of her head in acknowledgment of a job well done.
Their next stop was at the home of Rocko, Lenny and Mauler, three pit-bulls who entertained Prissy greatly with their leaps and barks and growls of hysteria. Prissy and Tiger leapt to the top of the fence to peer down into their yard. Rocko was the leader of the group, always urging his fellows to greater and greater displays of canine fierceness. These three creatures provided Prissy with a great deal of amusement when she had nothing better to do. They acted like there was really a chance that they might get close enough to her to sink their deadly teeth into her tiny body. As if!! She ignored their barks of, "Just you come a little closer to us nasty cat.", from Rocko and, "We're gonna git ya and tear ya limb from limb!", from Mauler. Lenny was too frenzied to make any sense at all.
Prissy jumped down next to Lenny then dashed across the yard like a streak of black lightening. She stopped at their enormous food bowl and snatched a piece of doggy kibble then streaked off again. Tiger nervously watched her from the top of the tall wooden fence and prepared himself lest he need go to her rescue. He was greatly relieved when she jumped up beside him, unscathed. She leaned over and dropped the piece of kibble on the far side of the fence. They both laughed heartily at the scene created by the infuriated dogs below. Oh, such language!
Next on their route was the home of Thistle. Thistle jumped down from her favorite spot on the porch rail. She gave out a loud "uumph" and walked over to greet her guests. She apologized for having nothing to offer; her food bowl always seemed to be empty no matter how many times her humans filled it. Thistle blamed it on the rascally squirrels, but Prissy was not fooled. Prissy had known Thistle to EAT the occasional squirrel who wandered into her yard, those too slow or too stupid to flee from the enormous feline. Prissy disapproved of her, so they stayed only long enough for the daily report Thistle provided.
For the next couple of hours Prissy and Tiger went around to every house on the block. Tiger was introduced to all his neighbors and enjoyed sharing the treats that most had saved for Prissy's visit. His favorite new acquaintance was Micky, a neurotic little Chihuahua who liked to run in circles chasing his pointy little tail. Micky was "hyperactive", never standing still for even a moment. When he tried, his whole body would shiver with unexpressed anxiety. He was colored a light brown and his emaciated little body boasted ears that seemed two sizes too big for him.
Tiger was greatly amused by the little creature and Prissy had to gently chide him for expectorating a well-timed hiss and frightening Micky into running into a wall. The poor dog had added another small scar to the hundreds that marked his head where he had bashed himself in this manner time and time again.
At last the morning rounds were completed and Tiger had met many new friends who welcomed him to Prissy's realm. Tiger followed Prissy to her own home and was greatly impressed with how she had trained her humans to come and open the door after only a few taps. Tiger politely declined her invitation to lunch and instead made his way home to eat. He promised to come calling on Prissy after his noon repast.
Two hours later (cats like to take leisurely luncheons and contemptuously ignore time) Tiger showed up at Prissy's door and asked what she would like to do to while away the afternoon. Prissy turned to him and gave him a slow double-eyed wink in appreciation of his courtliness. She replied that she would like a bit of exercise to burn away the calories just consumed (she was always very conscientious about keeping her figure trim). She told him to follow her and they set off towards the nearby woods.
As they entered the canopy of giant oaks, laced delicately with Spanish moss, Prissy started to pick up the pace and soon they were streaking through the boughs in typical cat-like silence. Prissy was quite impressed with Tiger's speed and agility, he even surged ahead of her once or twice! No other cat had ever been able to match Prissy's gait. Finally they came to a halt at a particularly huge oak tree, both panting from the exertion. Shyly, Tiger leaned over and gently touched his nose to hers in a quick cat-kiss and then quickly turned away in embarrassment. Prissy was a little taken aback with his forwardness but secretly pleased none-the-less. Of course she could not let Tiger know this, so she gave him the requisite bat across his ear (with talons carefully sheathed). After that they just sat there and enjoyed the view for a few minutes in quiet companionship.
Tiger let out a startled hiss when a big acorn suddenly hit him on the top of his head. Prissy smothered a giggle and looked up to see Sheherazad, a sleek, fat squirrel friend, perched on one of the lower branches. Now you might find it odd to hear that Prissy had a friend who was a squirrel, but in all truth she loved the impish creatures, they were so much fun to watch and their antics and childish twittering gave her endless hours of delight. Tiger scowled up at Sheherazad, but in deference to Prissy, restrained himself to a low growl in his throat instead of charging up the tree to rend and tear the impudent twit to pieces with his formidable teeth and claws. Again Prissy thought, "What a magnificent specimen of a gentleman cat to be so manly and powerful, yet kind enough not to insult my gentle, southern sensibilities!". They spent the rest of the afternoon alternating between mad dashes and quiet strolls through woods, observing and wittily commenting upon the creatures therein. As the sun began to set they reluctantly set off for home.
In the weeks that followed Prissy and Tiger became inseparable companions. They took long strolls along the levy watching the swirling, muddy water of the Mississippi play with twigs and even large branches that were carried along in the mighty flow. They hunted the stables in search of the fat, juicy mice who liked to hide in the stacks of hay. They roamed the woods, climbing the trees and jumping from branch to branch showing off their athletic prowess. Prissy became more and more fond of Tiger and no longer reproached him for his gentle kisses.
One day Prissy awoke feeling very peculiar. She opened her jaws to yawn and was quite disconcerted when an unmelodious yowl issued from her throat instead. She felt itchy and nervous and quite uncomfortable, and stalked outside in a dangerous mood. Tiger was waiting for her outside the door, but for once she was not glad to see him. When he approached her she gave out a loud hiss and swatted his ear (this time with claws fully extended). Tiger looked a bit puzzled and hurt and intended to stalk away in a huff. Something strange happened instead. When he turned to walk away he was suddenly drawn back as if by an invisible string. It was then that he noticed a delicious aroma wafting on the breeze that had suddenly shifted. Was this some new perfume Prissy had applied to attract him? If so, why was she acting so moody and aggressive? As he approached her again she let out another warning hiss, so he backed off to a safe distance.
All day he trailed behind her and was quite nonplused when other gentlemen cats joined him. How dare they vie with him for Prissy's sweet (and not-so-sweet) attentions. A few tried to approach her but were even more viciously dissuaded than he had been. Well, at least she was not favoring one of these scruffy specimens of cat-hood over him! Even so, this became more and more annoying to him as the day progressed. Finally, able to take it no longer, he gave out a great yowl and turned on these unsuitable suitors. Fur began flying in all directions, blood spattered the pavement, ears were ripped and tails were bitten. Oh, what a riotous melee!
All through this Prissy sat watching with seeming boredom. At last all other suitors were conquered and Tiger, battered and torn (but you should have seen the other guys!), turned to Prissy with a victorious smile on his face. He expected her to swoon at his manly display of fighting skills and perhaps come over and help him lick his wounds. To his chagrin, when he neared her she spit in his face and bared her teeth! Talk about adding insult to injury, why all this trouble and pain was only for her! Tiger growled and was determined to walk off in a snit, but somehow he could never get more than a few wary feet away from her. Oh, what was happening to her, to him? His sweet young love was turning into a hellion, and he could not drag himself away from her side!
When Prissy finally returned home and went inside to bed, Tiger remained outside her door and wailed with loneliness and longing. He yearned for her to come out to him. A few of the other suitors tried to join him, but he quickly chased them back to their own homes. All night long he sang to her sweet serenades of love and devotion. He maintained his vigil in her yard until the sun rose in the morning. He did not even return home for a bite to eat, this yearning within him could not be assuaged by food.
At last he saw the door to her house open and the beautiful Prissy emerged. Oh sweet love, oh gentle mistress, oh heavenly-scented delight! He cautiously walked a few steps towards her but, again, was only rewarded by a warning growl from her lovely throat. To his dismay, she rolled sensuously on her back, writhed around a bit in the grass, and peeked at him through lowered eyelids. The tease! The hussy! How could she be so cruel in the face of his ardor? He gave out a little snort of indignation but could not seem to draw away from her.
Just when he thought his heart would tear out of his chest in passion, he saw Prissy arise and walk toward him. She lowered her eyes and smiled demurely. In dizzying, graceful beauty, she slowly touched her nose to his. "Oh Tiger, my hero," she breathed, "my love, let us take a leisurely walk through the woods today." Tiger swallowed the lump in his throat and followed.
For the sake of readers with such gentle, southern sensibilities as Prissy's (and to the dismay of those with more prurient interests) the curtain will fall here for a brief intermission.
"Tale Four - Prissy Adopts A Duck"
On the stable grounds was a pond which served the needs of the local fowl-life. Prissy, being a fastidious feline, never stooped to such crass behavior as chasing or attacking these visitors. Instead, she would sit on the back fence and watch their antics with a superior cat smirk, laughing to herself when a clumsy bird made a crash landing into the water.
One day she noticed a mother duck walking around with seven little ducklings following along behind her. Now, Prissy had never seen a baby duck before and decided to go and check it out for herself. The foolish mother duck mistook Prissy's interest as the stalking of a hungry predator. She let out a horrible, discordant quacking noise, fluttered her wings in agitation and chased her youngsters into the water. In her haste, however, the mother duck left one of her ducklings stranded on the shore between Prissy and the water.
Prissy walked over to the tiny bird and sniffed a bit to define and catalogue the new scent. She gave the duckling a few licks about his head (his mother must be awfully neglectful to leave one of her younglings so smelly and ungroomed!). Having had kittens of her own, who were now grown to fine specimens of young cat-hood, she was most disturbed by this obvious negligence. Prissy decided that this little being needed a proper mother - her own superior self! Since she was no longer able to have kittens of her own, she thought he would make a fine substitute.
Prissy gently lifted the young bird in her mouth and carried him back to her home. She brought the duckling over to her favorite napping nest, set him down and gave him a proper grooming. She lay down next to her new foundling and waited for him to snuggle up to her for a nice nap. Imagine her surprise when the errant youngster waddled over to her water dish and climbed in! Oh, this poor wretch was not only uncared-for and ungroomed, but was also woefully lacking in proper cat-like behavior. The idea of splashing around in one's water supply! Prissy got up and gently swatted the babe out of the bowl and back to her nest where she had to groom him all over again.
After a while Prissy began to feel a bit hungry and, being a conscientious mother cat, got up to go and find something to bring back to the nest for her new baby. She told the youngster, in the firmest tone of voice, to stay right where he was until she got back with some lunch. However, when she started to walk away the young scamp got up and followed along behind her! She turned around and head-butted him back into the nest and started to walk away again. The stubborn little fellow got up and followed. Oh well, she would deal with this misbehavior another time when she was not quite so hungry.
I heard a familiar tapping at the back door, put down the book I was reading, and went over to let Prissy in for lunch. I was quite amazed when I saw a tiny duckling trailing her into the kitchen and over to her food bowl. Prissy stopped at the bowl and patiently waited for her adopted son to take his fill before she herself ate. She seemed quite perplexed when her new babe did not even give a sniff at the food. Prissy had never had to cope with a kitten who would not eat (quite the opposite, in fact - all her kittens had been voracious eaters).
She walked over and swatted a morsel onto the floor in front of the duckling, thinking that he might be used to live food and would want it to be moving before he feasted upon it. When this did not work she looked up to me for help. I grabbed some bread from the pantry, broke it into bits, and put some into Prissy's water bowl. Prissy gave out a disgruntled meow and looked at me as if I had lost what little sense I may once have had. She was even more astounded when her new kit gobbled up the bread from the water. After watching him eat for a while, she gave a little cat shrug and ate her own lunch.
After they had eaten I decided I had better find the duckling's birth-mother and return him. I picked up the little fellow and started out the back door, Prissy at my heels meowing furiously at me to put down her kitten so she could give him a good after-lunch wash. I proceeded to the pond and spotted the mother duck on the opposite shore with her six little ducklings. After putting the little fellow down, I picked Prissy up (she was anxiously trying to reclaim her lost kit), backed off quite a bit and waited to see if the mother duck would reclaim her lost son. Sadly, mommy duck was not too swift in the brains department and had forgotten all about her missing child - she would have nothing to do with the youngster even after more than an hour of waiting. I sighed and returned home with Prissy in my arms, hoping that the little fowl would be reunited with his family after I was gone. Prissy, however, was not that dismissive of the situation. As soon as I set her down she started to run back towards the pond. I grabbed her up again and brought her inside, hoping she would forget about the duckling (oh how foolish I was!).
After listening to two hours of pitiful mewling and howling, I picked Prissy up and headed for the pond to see if our little visitor had found his rightful family. No such luck. The tiny foundling was hunched down at the edge of the water all alone. Who was I to mess with fate?! As soon as I put Prissy down she made a bee-line for her new baby, picked him up and ran back home to her nest. I walked over and looked down at her as she groomed "Quackers". Prissy looked up at me accusingly and gave a small huff. When I bent down to get a closer look at Quackers she put her paw over him protectively and gave a little growl of warning that I had better not try to take away her new kit again. Well friends, it seemed we had a new addition to our family - one with feathers.
Prissy reared Quackers as carefully and lovingly as she had her own birth-kittens and he grew to be a fine, healthy duck. It was quite the talk of the neighborhood to see Prissy sashaying down the sidewalk with her new kit waddling along behind her everywhere she went. Tigger, Fluffy and Muffin easily accepted their new brother and taught him how to tussle and run with them during playtime. They never could quite figure out why he would not share in their feasts of field mice, but what the hey, different strokes for different folks! They loved him in spite of his weird ways and always included him in their grooming and cuddling fests. There were times when I could almost hear Quackers purr!
"Tale Five - Mrs. Prindle"
Prissy Sissy with the Sassy Tail (Prissy
for short) would often ride in a little red wagon with my children, Erin
and Mark, whenever we ventured forth into the world. We would take
walks around the neighborhood, along paths in the adjoining woods, along
the levee of the Mississippi, and to nearby stores for supplies.
On this occasion we had gone to the combined Feed Store and Veterinary
Clinic (this was a very rural neighborhood) for Prissy's essentials.
At the store I bought cat food, some cat
treats, and litter and packed all my purchases into the wagon. The children,
three and four at the time, hopped in followed closely by Prissy and we
were on our way home again. Prissy sat proudly atop her belongings and
regally surveyed her realm as we paraded home. There was only one other
person walking down the sidewalk, Mrs. Nicky Prindle.
Mrs. Prindle was 52 years old, 5 feet 9 inches
tall, 300+ pounds, with steel gray hair and ice blue eyes. This stern
matron was the captain of our Neighborhood Watch Program (funny, but the
only one anyone thought to watch out for was Mrs. Prindle). She was also
the official head of the unofficial neighborhood diary. If you could not
run fast enough you were forced to stand and listen to tales of every
flirtation and every gall stone attack our neighbors had experienced.
Hours of tales! Unfortunately, I was pretty loaded down that day.
A large shadow fell heavily on our shoulders
as Mrs. Prindle approached. Attached to her right hand was a leash. Attached
to the end of the leash was Micky. Micky was 7 years old, 6 inches tall,
3 pounds, with a light brown coat. Micky was a Chihuahua. He looked like
a little stick dog that Erin had drawn for me. Every bone marked its existence
on his scrawny little frame. His brown eyes were huge. Those and his ears
were the only big things on him. Micky was a perpetual motion machine.
He never for a moment stopped leaping, wagging, and nipping at his tail.
What can I say about his personality? Picture Joan Rivers on acid. His
shrill yapping could break fine crystal at 30 paces.
Inevitably, we were caught. My only escape
would be to watch closely for the tiniest twitch of Mrs. Prindle's nostril
in preparation of her taking a breath as she launched into her latest
news. I concentrated intensely on this and readied my muscles. In this
tiny pause I must say, "Gee that is very interesting but I really
gotta go.", and yank the wagon into motion without toppling my children
off the back. No break yet; Mrs. Prindle must have the lungs of an elephant.
As she stood there recounting her husband's
recent colonoscopy, Micky was jumping three feet straight up into the
air over and over again. He looked like he had springs on his paws. Just
when Mrs. Prindle got to the most delicate part of the procedure, I happened
to glance at my crew in the wagon. Erin, Mark and Prissy were following
Micky's trajectory with their heads. All three were nodding up and down
as if in parody of the agreeing yes's I was supplying Mrs. Prindle. They
looked like a crowd watching a vertical tennis match, hypnotized by the
I had to choke back a giggle and Mrs. Prindle
must have thought I was gagging. She frowned in irritation at my weak
stomach interrupting the best part of her story. My snort must have wakened
Prissy from her trance. She suddenly thrust her body towards Micky and
let out a mighty hiss-spit. Before the first drop of Prissy's saliva had
hit his nose, Micky had wrapped his leash three times around Mrs. Prindle's
ankles. Mrs. Prindle started to teeter.
Now folks, y'all do not want to be on the
wrong side of a toppling semi. I had to skeedaddle. As it happened, Mrs.
Prindle suffered only minor injuries and major indignity (and everyone
in the neighborhood had to hear her outraged tale, of course). The good
part was that Mrs. Prindle refused to talk to me for a whole week!