Saturday, April 28, 2007

Where Cats Come From

“ Grandpa’s coming over to read you a story.”

“ Oh no, mom! I’m sick, I’ll probably just fall asleep on him. Or even worse, he’ll fall asleep on me!”

“ Mason - just humor him. He’s your grandpa! Ooh, here he comes. Be nice!”

“ Ugh.”

“ Well helloooooo! How’s the turtle today? A bird told me he was sick, so I came fast as I could!

“ You didn’t have to.”

“ Oh sure I did! When your 8 years old, the best thing for the flu is a story!”

“ I’m 9, and I’ve probably already heard it.”

“ Well, we’ll see. Hmmm, you see this book? It’s older than me, older than my dad, and his dad, and even his dad.”

“ So its about dinosaurs?”

“ No.”

“ Good. I’m too old for dinosaurs.”

“ Of course you are. Hmmm. Ah yes, cats.”

“ What? Cats? Oh please, grandpa, I’ll listen to a dinosaur story, any one! Just not cats! That’s for girls!”

“ You know so much about cats? OK - where did they come from?”

“ Huh? I don’t know, from the forest, or whatever!”

“ Wrong!”

“ Wrong?”

“ Wrong!”

“ OK - I give up. Where did they come from?”

“ That just happens to be what this story is about!”


There was a time, long ago, when the world was just a big forest and men rode around in suits of armor on big horses who also were wearing armor chasing down villains in black. With all this chasing going on no one noticed that in a dark part of the land there sat a crumbling castle where the most dastardly of these villains lived. He was a powerful sorcerer who had spent his years searching for all of the magic rings, talismans, hats, swords, shoes, spoons, you know, anything that had the power of magic he collected and hid in caves all over the world. To guard these treasures he captured all the dragons and convinced them to guard the valuables he had stashed away. They did so willingly, because as everyone knows dragons are attracted to shiny metals and glittering jewels, and take very seriously the threat that someone might come and take what is theirs cause they’re so greedy. So the evil sorcerer scoured the world and hoarded all that he found, until the only magic that was left was that which was found in the hearts of the wizards themselves.

No one knew why he did what he did. He was angry and short, so everyone expected that any conversation with him would be likewise. One day when he was walking through his part of the forest plotting the ruin of the land while turning humming birds into toads ( just for the fun of it ) a boy happened upon him, startling him.

“ What are you doing here, child!” he asked with a low growl, angry and short as he was.

“ I was chasing a hawk lost by my master. There it sits upon the limb of that tree.”

“ How convenient. I will get it down for you.” And with a flick of his wrist the stately bird transformed into a slimy toad. A toad that sits high upon a tree limb finds itself in a very precarious position, to be sure. Almost instantly it’s bloated pimpled body tumbled from the branch, for a brief moment a heroic effort had it dangling on high from an outstretched toe until down it came, crashing upon the river stones below and leaving quite a rude stain. The boy was shocked. The sorcerer was amused. The forest was silent between the two of them. Then the boy spoke.

“ I say, sir, that was quite terrible of you! My master loved that bird, and now I will bear the punishment for your crime!”

“ You know not of who you speak to, boy. But as I am not all bad, I will save you from the switch you most likely deserve.” And with that, he turned the boy into a toad and walked off, leaving the unfortunate toad struggling to work his way out of his own smelly boot.

The boy’s master realized after a night passing without his company something terrible had befallen him, so he pulled on his robe and his tall pointy hat and headed into the forest. As he walked along he inquired with the birds and the squirrels if they had seen the boy. Of course they had, said the squirrels, who talked much but actually said very little, which is just like them if you know what I mean. The fox agreed to take him to where he had seen the young one last, and before long a train of curious and dutiful creatures were leading the wizard to his lost pupil. Except that where they said he was there sat only a sad looking toad who smelled like an stinky boot.

“ Gads boy! You smell terrible!” was all the wizard could think to say at seeing his friend.

“ Croaaaaaaaak!”replied the boy.

“ Who did this?”the old man asked aloud, but no one said a thing except for the toad, who nobody could understand anyway. After a long while of pondering he had an idea, and coming to the nearest tallest oak he laid his hand upon it and said a long and interesting spell. With all the animals lined up and the frog still croaking ( he was starting to annoy even the squirrels ) it looked like the wizard was going to put on quite a show. Suddenly the tree shuddered and among the falling leaves sprouted a voice, a deep and wise voice, and it spoke to the wizard about what it had seen. Then it talked of what the sorcerer spoke of as he walked the forest, of how he plotted how he was going to banish the white magic ( that’s the good stuff ) from the world now that he had stolen all of the magical tokens. When the new moon rose he was going to unleash his dragons and have them eat every wizard alive!

Dragons are fearsome creatures. Scaly. Sharp teeth. Long tails. Breathe fire. Say a lot of bad words. They’re bad folk if your stuck in front of one of them. The wizard thought long and hard about what to do. All the way back to his home he pondered an answer to the terrible danger that was coming. Then he came up with an idea! He called all the wizards who could to come to his house, and for those who could not, he sent by owl the plan. Of course once he told them the plan there was much bickering and prancing, because that’s what wizards do when they are together, but finally they agreed and headed in every direction getting the ingredients they needed.

The day came, and the sorcerer was done plotting evil deeds. He was in quite a foul mood today, with the whole forest croaking night and day, he hardly got any sleep and cursed the day he learned that toad spell. As the day wore on he prepared, and when night fell and the new moon rose he unleashed his dragons by way of a great horn that blew itself. All over the land the sky filled with the winged beasts, swooping low over trees and tight over mountain tops. They each had a wizard to eat and for many, after a long winters nap, a wizard actually sounded pretty tasty right about now.

But they were in for a big surprise. As they landed with a thud before the wizards they had come to dine on they must have thought it was all too easy. The magicians stood alone, ripe for the taking, and they did, scooping them up with their giant talons and opening their jaws wide. All they got was a tiny vile of a bitter green concoction. Needless to say they were quite upset, and with much gnashing of teeth and streams of dragon fire they coughed and rolled upon the ground with terrible stomach pains. Then the spell began its work. Scales turned to fur, claws turned to paws, wings disappeared and their tails shrank. Before long in the place where once stood a massive beast sat a new addition to the animal kingdom. The cat.

You say you don’t believe me? Just look at their eyes! Are those not dragon’s eyes? Are not those claws needlessly sharp and are not these creatures in a foul mood so much of the time? They have not changed much since they were fearsome beasts, still demanding, arrogant and if they could eat us rest assured they would. That’s why they scratch and bite all the time, they're just reminding us what they think of us!

The evil sorcerer was so angry that his plan had been foiled he jumped up and down all night ( it wasn’t like he was going to get any sleep ). When he finally decided to stop his jumping and find a wizard himself to eat, he was greeted at his door by the pointy hatted man himself, holding a purring black cat who looked quite content. When the sorcerer tried to blast the wizard with blue fireballs or shards of ice, it affected him not, for he was impervious to whatever the sorcerer could throw at him. As this occurred to him the man with the cat fur tickling his nose spoke for the first time.

“ Sorcerer. You have two choices. Change back those in the forest you have spelled and commit yourself to me for your punishment or deny me and find yourself only a memory in the minds of old men and old trees. Your choice?”

The sorcerer, slouched shoulders and beady eyes looked around frantically for a way out but knew that there was no way to hide from a wizard. His plans had all come to not, and he was looking very sorry indeed. With a wave of his hand and an ugly incantation ( it sounded like he was burping and gurgling ) nearly all the croaking stopped, the sound of a thousand wings flapping rang through the forest, and then the sound of one boy yelling for joy and running as fast as he could all the way home. When the sorcerer looked back at the wizard he pleaded for mercy. It was all just a big misunderstanding he said. Besides, he had realized pretty quickly that a world full of toads wasn’t all it was croaked up to be.

“ How convenient.” said the wizard, and instantly the sorcerer was turned into a toad.

What about all the treasure you ask? Ahh, now that’s the interesting thing about cats. You see, they know where it all is! You just have to get them to tell you! Some say that is why they are so uppity, they know something you don’t, and wouldn’t what they know make your life a living dream! There are those that have succeeded in getting them to tell them where a stash lays hidden, but to get that information you must practically abandon all dignity and serve your cat as if they are bejeweled royalty! It’s a high price. I hear even the wizards lament the day they created them for all the scratches and bites they endured.

But life as a living dream is just a cat away, so mind what yours wants and maybe someday, if you are good to your cat and do everything they demand of you, yours might tell you where a stash of magic rings are!

It could happen!


“ So there you go, where cats came from. Any questions?”

“ Hmmm. Yea. Where do dogs come from?”

“ Ah, now that’s an interesting story! And a story is the best thing for an 8 year old boy with the flu!”

“ Your right grandpa. You’re the best thing for a boy with the flu!”

Friday, April 20, 2007

An Eye Toward Freedom

I remember feeling the sunlight once. They say it was the sun, though all I can remember was a golden streak of warmth that found it’s way through the ceiling of the cell I lay in. I watched the twirling performers dance through the beam, each one with only a second on the stage. My eye followed every one. When you are the only spectator you must watch every dance, for the tumblers know you are there and they dance only for you. The show ended so suddenly, I felt bad for them, spinning acrobats riding on the breeze.

The coldest I ever felt was when they took me from my cell and dropped me in this dark room for the first time. It has no color, a lone light somewhere teases me with shadows, winged actors silhouetted against the wall, thumping their hollow bodies against the glowing orb that hangs somewhere above me. I cannot move, I lay as they left me. To be left in the dark, my body always limp and powerless, all I know is what I can see. Then the white coats come in. They ponder over me, muttering questions, their gloved hands scratching covered faces, I can do nothing but stare back at them. I cannot speak. They have taken it all from me. Is it that they fear me? Am I so different from them? I have never seen myself, never used my hands nor walked on my feet. I only lay on the cold floor, unmoving, unknowing. Always before they leave one of them slides a silver thread into me. I see the white coat measure it out and the thread burns as he touches me with it. I wonder at what I cannot see, but I feel the coldness seep into my arm and spread throughout my muscles, inching across my chest and down my legs. One time, before the weakness took me and left me paralyzed I moved a toe. I wiggled it again to prove it was me that had done it. I kept it moving until the numbness reached it, then it slept like the rest of me. For that moment I was the dancer, my every movement meant to tell a story, spread a message.

This morning I awoke with a start. A dream of meandering through bright green hills swaying with yellow poppies, beneath my feet I could feel the sun warmed soil give, pushing up between my toes. I stopped at a babbling creek, the water was so cool, clear. Just when I reached to touch a creature hovering against the current, a bird landed next to me, it’s side long glance studying me as I studied it. This world and it’s inhabitants were alien to me, for I have never been beyond the walls of my cell, but somewhere deep inside me a voice whispered the names of all I saw. The bird shrieked with such piercing alarm it broke me from voices in my dreams and from my sleep. When I opened my eye I knew something was different. My toes were tingling! When I bid it move, it did!I thrilled at the freedom! Such a marvelous large toe I had, to move with such authority. Each time it moved the others could not help but to follow. Apparently jealously drove my other foot to release its toes, and back and forth they vied for my attention. Slumped against wall I had a perfect view, eight toes performing on my command. When my ankles joined in I was alarmed at the possibilities. Warmth enveloped my knees, my thighs began to itch, I waited with nervousness as my body unlocked itself, strength filling my chest and coursing down my arms until my hands unfolded, eight fingers outstretched. Then my neck grew stiff, and I lifted my head for the first time. My hands, what contraptions these were! Able to grip and touch, so sensitive were the tips of its fingers. I drag my tongue across my lips, tasting the mucus that drains from my nose, what smells I could savor! I ran my fingers through my hair, pulling back the long, tangled black strands that fell in front of my face, so many times had they stolen from me my only respite. My eye. I touched the lashes, blinked back the tears. I was whole again.

I hear footsteps behind the door. They come for me. To stare at me and ponder what I am. Then the silver thread that will put my body and mind to sleep. Such freedom I have known, to move on my own and feel through my feet and my hands. The knob turns. I can hear the clanging of the metal plate that carries the thread that binds me as the masked man struggles to force the old door open. I will refuse the thread today. I want to always feel these sensations my body gives me, and I have so much to learn. I stand on my feet, but it is difficult, my balance suffers. The door swings open, the eyes above the mask widen in shock as they look up at me. The plate drops. He tries to flee but I am falling and I reach to him for support. He will not support me, he only falls beneath me, squirming and grunting under my weight until he moves no longer. He is a selfish creature.

Time passes. I gain strength and raise myself from the floor. The man remains. Thoughts fill my head, the mist of the world around me lifts, urging me to move. I take one step at a time. It comes back to me, I have done this before. More is coming back to me, my mind thaws like a river at the beginning of spring, memories flow and remind me of who I am and how I got here. What I realize infuses me with terrible anger. The river becomes a torrent of memories flooding my drugged mind all at once. From incoherent childishness to wordly wise I grow! It all is coming back to me now!

I am a Cyclops, destroyer of Titans, welders of the weapons of Zeus, descendant of Polyphemus, the son of Poseidon, and mankind’s worst enemy since that lying Odysseus! Tandera is my name, and only in freedom can I thrive! It all comes back to me now! I am the fury below volcanoes, not some specimen to be studied, some ignorant creature to be chained! Boundless fury roils me and revenge drives me down the hall. I burst through the door and grasp the first neck within reach. The little female squeaks in protest, her bulging bloodshot eyes pulse with dread. Her last sight is of my jaws gripping her head, cracking her skull like the white shell of an egg, flooding my mouth with the warm, salty taste of brain and hot blood. I stride through the room to the next door, pulling it open I find many men fill the hallway as they are running toward me, I cannot let them touch me with their lightening sticks. I turn back and tear the door from its hinges, it serves as a shield and a ram as I push the frantic crowd before me like the shepherd forces his flock into his cave for the night. I must get to the door at the end of this hall, something tells me it is my release. It stays open for only a moment as another measly form slams it, in this he only consigns his trapped brethren to crushing death. The screams that fill the hall cannot match my own, I have had my life stolen from me and I will take it back!

The door gives, bloody bodies bursting through it as it explodes from its hinges. The sunlight blinds me for an instant. I feel the shock of lightening sticks as they dig into my skin, ravaging my muscles with hellish spasms. It draws the strength from me, my arms flailing, but these little men, they keep their distance, such cowards! Just as I fall toward that dark abyss that means my end I hear a call, the shriek of a bird, aloft in flight, she screams like one who sees her quarry and targets it with such cunning granted to her by the goddess Athena herself. Behind her call rise the hoarse answering cries of my people, streaming from the forests until one and all they thrash my tormentors into quivering skins of crushed bone and pulverized muscle. Into the ugly square building they rage, dragging out more cringing humans and bolting them down raw. Escaping through the bloody orgy are other creatures once imprisoned that at another time we Cyclops may have hunted for sport or met in fierce battle but today, today our only enemy is mortal man and all can find blessed unity in the destruction of this pitiful, thoughtless creature. I am Tandera, mother Cyclops and forger of thunderbolts. Once my kind were imprisoned by the ancient King of Gods Kronos for fear of our battling strength, none can expect that the Cyclops will ever live in fear of mankind, a mongrel race unworthy of little but the spit! You have deigned to challenge us? With this great eye I will find you! With this great eye I will watch you fed to my children!