by Lida Broadhurst
©2008 Lida Broadhurst
In the small bedroom, Mattys two sons burrow into pillows piled in front of the fire. Thank goodness, theyre through bathing. She says, Tonight youre getting just one story.
Tibby, the elder by a few minutes, raises his head. Forgot to tell you, Ma, Ive got a school project about families. That Creator story would be great.
The younger, Kit, scampers around the room, chanting, A story, a story.
Matty thinks: Ive still got one baby.
Tibby frowns, skin wrinkling between his brows. Stupid, youll be worn out and asleep before Mas even started.
Will not, Kit pouts, swiping at his brother.
Matty knows a playful swat is the only answer Kit can think of, and she begins: Once upon a time.
And the boys curl up close to each other
Once upon a time, First Cat came to the Creator of All Creatures and rubbed against one of Its many legs. Creator reached down, and Its fingers tickled the bones of First Cats spine hidden under its fur. First Cats back arched, and purrs of delight made its body throb and tingle. Oh, Creator, if only I were a serpent. Then would I have length enough to twine about your whole being to show my love for you.
Creator laughed. First Cat, you are as transparent as First Rainfall! You care nothing for Me; My leg is only a thing for you to twist and turn against, stretching your muscles. And surely you are thinking how graceful you look.
The purring noise stopped abruptly. First Cat turned its back on Creator, ears flat against its head and whiskers stiffened into daggers.
Watching First Cat, Creator thought of Strong Elephant, Galloping Horse, Soaring Bird, and of course, Devoted Dog. Good animals all, but this world needed a creature whose nature no one would ever know. Thus It had allowed an errant thought to produce First Cat who now sat pretending to be vastly interested in the blankness of space where nothing yet bloomed or grew.
Creator hesitated. Perhaps First Cat saw something with its odd eyes..? Startled to realize It had no idea what that something could be, Creator said, First Cat, you are prickly as a plant I shall someday bring forth. Stop sulking and tell Me what you wish, without this absurd pretense of devotion.
First Cat did not deign to turn its head, but curled its tail more tightly around its body.
Creator lifted one of many feet, preparing to leave. The Whole World waited for Its touch, and all could not be at a standstill because of one creatures ill nature. But Creator knew It had created this nature. First Sigh came from Creators mouth. You will soon anger Me, First Cat, and I might forget to create any food for you.
First Cat leaped up with peculiar grace and gazed into Creators face. Oh, You would never do that. All Your ill nature went into Crocodile and Bee. First Cat lifted one paw and licked it, then glanced quickly at Creator. Oh very well, and perhaps just a drop into me. I like to show my claws now and again, especially when You least expect it.
Creator twisted Its face to anger. First Cat patted a paw against It, and Creator reached to feel the velvet of First Cats fur.
First Cat purred. You are so great, so grand, Creator, that surely it will not be beyond Your power to grant a small wish that has suddenly occurred to me.
Creator laughed. I do not know, First Cat. Of all My creatures, you seem capable of conceiving schemes that astonish even Me. Its myriad eyes grew thoughtful. Although I have imagined a being whose dreams would be boundless, whose plots would astonish even you.
First Cat nodded, as one who indulges anothers whim. Indeed, and may Your dreams come to fruition. Meanwhile, there is the matter of my size. You allow me to grow when my fur puffs out in fear. But I wish to be larger like Elephant or Rhino
First Cat said hastily, Or even like Horse. Yes, the size of Horse would do very nicely. I could frighten Pig and Deer, and Butterfly could not escape me.
The Creator of All Creatures shook one of Its many heads. I have made enough clawed creatures to chase the small, soft-skinned ones.
First Cat waved a paw in dismissal. But Bear and Tiger and Alligator are so clumsy. While I am of a neatness
Creator nodded, Because you are small and graceful, and will someday want to curl into Anothers lap. And I do not think the beings in My mind will cuddle Foxes and Wolves, at least not when they are fully grown. But you they will always welcome.
First Cats tail swished angrily. I do not wish to be cuddled like something cute and childish! I am First Cat, and my claws and teeth are sharp.
Creator held up a hand. So they are. And that is so you may keep Mouse and Rat at bay, and be well-fed and praised.
Like stupid, panting Dog, First Cat hissed.
Creator cradled First Cats head. I make you this Promise: No one in the World that is to Come will ever mistake you for Dog.
But First Cat tossed its head, and stalked angrily away. The Creator had much to occupy It. And First Cat had all the time that whirled into years to think. Surely, it would somehow produce some of its kind who would be larger and stronger. First Cat considered these new beings into which Creator would pour so much of Itself. Perhaps cats could join with them to
Mattys voice dies away. Just telling this story has wearied her.
Tibby asks, Did that really happen, Ma?
Mattys neck hair tingles. Her eldest takes everything seriously, and someday his questions will become more demanding. She strokes him gently, uncertain what to say.
Happily, Kit tosses crumpled paper at his brother. Stupid. Ma doesnt tell lies.
Tibby leaps, grabs his brother around the neck. Kit cries out shrilly.
Matty says, Stop that, into bed, both of you. She waits patiently while they roll about, settling into lumps of arms and legs. They wear only pajama bottoms, and she is grateful no bump protrudes through the cloth. Only soft fur clumps at the base of their spines.
Once Tibby called them feathers.
And Kit started whirling, yelling, Birdie, Im a birdie. His arms waved in odd alien motions.
Matty thinks, Theyre safe for now, and glides silently across the floor. Still outside in the hall, she takes one last glance before closing the door.
She stumbles as one toe nail tangles in the rug. But twisting with the grace bequeathed from First Cat, she pulls herself upright, grateful that her tail did not catch in the door.