Sunday, January 13, 2019

Just Do It Yourself


The cats who lived under the ice house on the farm had grown overnight from two to six. Mama Kitty spent the night and early morning cleaning her offspring as they, two males and two females, suckled at her nipples. Father Cat was off hunting, bringing Mama what he could to feed her until she could hunt again.

These cats were a rare breed. They had powers that scared humans which was why they lived under the ice house. The humans who owned the farm were kind to the cats but not enough to let them live in the house. Cats like these were nearly extinct with only a few thousand still living. The cats rarely used their magic anymore for fear of bringing attention to themselves. The cats were content to live a simple, domesticated life.

Nine months had passed since the kitten’s birth. At a year old, they could be sent off to find their own place in life, or stay with the family. The four kittens were growing up well. They were playful, smart, and kind and they loved making their Mama laugh. A normal pastime of these cats was telling stories. Usually stories about their heroic ancestors and how they would use their powers to help humans.

“Tell us the story about the dragon,” the gray male kitten pleaded one afternoon. His brother and sisters excitedly agreed with him.

Mama Kitty chuckled. “The dragon? You’ve already heard that story this week.”

“We love that story, Mama,” the tabby female kitten mewed.

“Okay,” Mama Kitty chuckled again. “Hundreds of years ago, there was a cat who belonged to a little girl. The girl was the princess of a small kingdom called Lasia. The girl’s father, the King, loved his daughter very much and she loved her cat very much. Sadly, in the nearby lake, there lived a dragon--one of the last dragons in the world. The dragon terrorized Lasia but brought it no harm because the citizens would appease the dragon by feeding it two sheep every day.

“Then, one day, Lasia ran out of sheep. It was decided, although it was a tough decision, to give the dragon one of the children every day. The townspeople chose the child through a lottery and this worked well for a couple of years until the King’s daughter’s name was pulled. Being a fair and just leader, the King reluctantly sent his daughter out to the lake for the dragon. The princess was dressed in her best dress and sent out to the lake to await the dragon.

“The cat, wanting to be with his beloved owner, left the castle and followed the princess to the shores of the lake. Shortly after arriving, a knight was passing through Lasia and happened upon the lake, the princess, and the cat. After hearing her story, the knight decided to lie in wait and attempt to slay the dragon. The knight went to hide while the princess and cat stood their ground. The dragon appeared and immediately went for the princess. She screamed in fear and the knight leapt out from where he was hiding. But the dragon was knocked back and landed hard on the ground. Now vulnerable, the knight plunged his sword into the dragon’s heart.

“The knight got all the accolades for freeing Lasia from the dragon but neither the knight nor the princess could figure out what really happened with the dragon but the cat, keeping his magical abilities secret, saved the princess’s life using a spell to knock the dragon back and put it off-balance. Despite the knight become a hero and a legend, if it wasn’t for the cat, both the knight and the princess would’ve been eaten.”

The kittens exclaimed in astonishment at the story they’ve now heard dozens of times. “Why didn’t the cat come forward about his powers?” “Did no one really see the cat use his powers?” “Tell it again, the long way this time.”

“Come on, get washed up for Father,” Mama said, giving the kitten closest to her a couple of licks with her tongue.

The kittens went off to the other side of the ice house and began washing. “I want to be a hero,” the tabby male kitten said, still in awe at the story.

“You wouldn’t know the first thing about it,” the gray female kitten sneered.

“Would too,” tabby male kitten sneered back.

“You’d have to go far away from here. There are no dragons out here. There are barely any people,” the gray male kitten said.

“I’m still going to be a hero. Heroes don’t just save people.”

“According to all the stories Mama tells us, that’s all they do,” tabby female kitten reasoned.

After washing up, Father Cat returned home with dinner. The cats ate and then washed up again. They then gathered together like they always did to continue telling stories. “Mama? Heroes don’t just save people do they?” the tabby female kitten asked.

“Heroes do more than just help other people,” Father Cat said. “That’s a big part but being a hero can be as much as saving another’s life or just being a friend and being there for somebody. There are many kinds of heroes in this world and not all of them slaughter child-eating dragons.”

The kittens were almost a year old. Almost ready to go out in the world by themselves. Mama and Father still doted on them but continued to tell them that all kittens leave the home after a year. The biggest change was that the farm, and therefore the ice house, had been sold to new owners. Neither Mama or Father knew what happened to the old owners but watched with unease.

“Will we have to leave, Mama?” the gray female kitten asked.

“I hope not,” Mama sighed. “Father and I are keeping an eye on the new humans. We don’t think they know we’re here and if they do, they don’t seem to care. If we can stay here until you four leave then that will be fine.”

For the next few days everything was normal. Then late at night, or early in the morning, the cats were awakened by hammering. At first they thought the humans were doing work on the ice house until they saw the bright light of fire and smelled the smoke.

“They’re burning us alive,” the boy cats shrieked.

“Everyone split up,” Father remained calm but the kittens could still hear the panic in his voice. “If we lose one another, go to the creek in the woods, to the fallen tree.”

The six cats ran to each side of the ice house--one side was engulfed in flames so only three were accessible. “They trapped us in,” the gray female kitten screamed. A piece of wood blocked each of the exits from under the ice house.

“Push. Dig your way,” Father shouted.

The gray male kitten found a small hole that wasn’t covered in a corner by the front where the fire was. He was still just a bit big so he dug for a few seconds and attempted to squeeze through. When he was out, he shouted to alert the rest of his family but the hole became overcome with fire. The gray kitten ran from the ice house and to the tree line where the creek would be. He looked back and saw the whole ice house engulfed in flames. As he ran into the woods, he hoped someone from his family would meet him at the tree.   ■

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I...What? First of all, why is Brutus putting Wilberforce to work counting pennies? Second, why does Wilberforce think if there are fifty pennies then there must be 500? Third, it doesn't take that long to count 500 pennies if you do it right. Fourth, why is Brutus dressed like the Vault Boy from the Fallout video game series?