Wednesday, April 11, 2007

CATS! By Brian Hodgkinson

(The task set was to compose an original tale as it might have been told by an animal)

Grrrrr!! Cats!!! Don’t you just hate ‘em? Ever since I was a youngster, just with my eyes open and able to scramble for mother’s teat along with the rest of the litter – I never could abide cats.

It must have been something to do with heredity – I well remember mother telling us all that we should never trust a cat.

“Sly, crafty creatures they are”, she would say, “and never to be trusted. Never let one get near your food bowl, and never, ever, let one get behind you!”

Put me to some contortions at times, that has – but one does well to remember what one’s mother had said.

Father, too, on the rare occasions he deigned to visit us, was much of the same opinion.“Always skulking about, they are”, I recollect his saying once. “Can’t even get rid of their wastes in a healthy open manner – have to go digging holes and pretending they don’t have normal functions. And their language! Whoever can trust an animal that waves its tail and then lashes out at you? – it’s a contradiction in nature”.

So, being brought up the way I was, you can imagine that when I grew up and acquired a human family, I was very diligent in making sure that no hair or hide of a cat ever came anywhere near my house or garden. Even when I was exercising the male human in an extended trot along country lanes, I was always on the lookout for signs that a cat may have been in the area sometime.

Anyway – all that was perfectly satisfactory until one day a few months ago:-I was indulging in a post-lunch nap on the best corner of the sofa – having been busy all the morning burying bones at the bottom of the garden – and was really dozing off when I vaguely heard a knock on the door. I let the human answer it – after all they have to do some work for themselves sometimes.

Indistinctly I could hear voices, but I was busy enjoying my nap, and therefore didn’t stir when a young boy’s voice enquired:“I hear you’re looking for a kitten?”

“Well, yes,” replied my human.“I’ve got one here.”

“Oh, it’s so tiny – it’s eyes aren’t even open! You can’t take a kitten so small away from it’s mother!”

“No, it’s mother was killed by a truck in the lane this morning.”

“Well,” said my human, “I’ll try. I’ll give it some honey and milk through an eyedropper, and try and find it somewhere warm.”

I heard various noises going on, but really was so exhausted from the morning’s labours that I couldn’t be bothered to go and investigate. So – imagine my shock and horror when I felt my human sit beside me and place a weight as light as a feather on my side.

“There you are, Tiger,” he said, “you have to look after this tiny scrap of life. I am counting on you to do your best.”

Well – faced with such a request – nay, such a command – what could I do? After all, we dogs are renowned for keeping our word.

So, for the best part of a month, I lay on that sofa keeping that “scrap of life: alive. When it piddled on me (or did worse things) I heroically cleaned it up (after a sigh, I must say!); when it tried to find a nipple to suck on I even allowed it to chomp on a few hairs on my chest.

And then of course, it’s eyes opened after a few days, and as I was the first creature that it ever saw – horror to relate – it thought that I was it’s mother! Me, a self-respecting greyish-black male poodle with a pedigree going back to Bonaparte – being a mother to an inky black little creature which already showed signs of growing into a cat!

But – as I said – what could I do? A promise is a promise, after all.And that was four or five months ago. And now – look at us, the pair of us!

We share the sofa, we share the meal dish, we go for walks together with the human, we even share a bed at night.

And, believe it or not, I like him! And I think he likes me – at least if that funny growling noise is anything to go by as he rubs his chin against mine.

But – sorry, can’t stop now – I see a real cat in the garden! WOW! I must get rid of that – I’ll catch up with you later!

Brian Hodgkinson © 2007

THE VILLAGE ART SHOW by Brian Hodgkinson

A noisy, friendly, exuberant day.

A noisy, friendly, exuberant crowd.

The sun streamed down from a glorious sky on to a scene of tumultuous enjoyment in which every person from the entire little town seemed to have gathered.

Among the tumblers, the clowns, the side-shows, and the entertainers moved the villagers, their families, and their friends.

Between the displays, the tables and trestles the pigs and cows, the cocks and hens, the horses and goats all snuffled, lowed, cackled and crowed as they were driven into their allotted places.

Housewives clattered by with baskets of eggs; elders dozed on a bench outside the hostelry; children shrieked and ran amok everywhere, and the randy youths pawed and fondled the teen-aged girls in corners ands behind barns.

Serving girls, run off their feet, carried refreshments hither and thither; serious citizens studied displays of produce and of confectionery; and farmers considered the finer points of their beasts with rarefied deliberation.

The priest himself moved among his flock, beaming with good-will; and scattering benedictions together with alms on this wonderful day.

Mine host, at the door of his public house, and with his face as rosy as the apples tumbling in the fruit bowl, surveyed the scene with beaming satisfaction; and a few of his patrons, already a little the worse for wear, sprawled in the shade beneath the row of trees which sheltered the street.

A better-dressed gentleman, accompanied by his fashionable wife, was studying a small number of paintings which had been set up in a comparatively quiet corner. The hopeful artists looked at him with awe and reverence – a great man from the nearby city had condescended to view their efforts and to make a judgement on their results.

He moved from canvas to canvas, noting the crudely daubed and overcoloured vases of flowers, the badly-illuminated interiors, the sketchy landscapes. He passed over the distorted perspectives of some of the etchings. He sighed and looked at his wife, whose glance betrayed no inkling of her inner feelings.

And then he came to almost the last of the canvases. The shy face of a young teenage painter looked up at him from beside his offering.

The great man looked – and looked – and looked again. Here, on this canvas, was an almost exact representation of the scene before him.

A noisy, friendly and exuberant crowd were celebrating their holiday. Animals were driven along the street, lowing and cackling; small children were running amok between benches and trestles loaded with food and wine; drunkards sprawled on benches outside the inn, and lecherous youths were trying their luck with amorous girls behind the trees.

The gentleman looked at the young artist.

“I have to award you the prize,” he said. “You are sure that this is all your own work?”

The painter nodded shyly.

“If you carry on like this,” pontificated the great man “you have a wonderful future ahead of you. What did you say your name was?”

“Breugel, your honour. Pieter van Breugel.”

Brian Hodgkinson 2006 ©