For a while now, I’ve been kicking around an idea for a dark little collection of seven cautionary tales with ‘family-unfriendly’ morals. I imagine it garnished with a slew of watercolor illustrations like the kind of children’s books I grew up with. Frankly, I don’t have the slightest idea how to sell something like this, and that’s made me hold off on actually writing the fables down in full.
However, better to have it out somewhere than to just let it get dusty in my head.
So here’s Broken Aesops part 1 of 7.
A Place of Her Own
Once upon a time there was a white cat named Taffeta. Taffeta had three kittens: Satin, Lace, and little Velvet who was the smallest and bravest of her children (even though he couldn’t quite keep up with his sisters).
Taffeta and her kittens lived in the old gardening shed at the back of the yard. It was cold during the night, hot during the day, and wet when it rained. The walls were rusty tin, and the roof was a stiff plastic sheet filled with holes.
At night, Taffeta could hear rats sneaking around the base of the shack. The rats would whisper to each other, arguing about what kind of reward the Rat King would give them if they stole a juicy kitten for him. Taffeta would cover her kittens’ ears and keep watch all through the night as raindrops dripped in from the leaky roof.
One morning Taffeta felt exhausted from staying up all night, and she decided she’d had enough. She was sick and tired of being hot in the summer and cold in the winter and wet when it rained.
“Come on,” she said to her kittens. “It’s time for us to find a new home.”
Taffeta and her kittens ventured out into the old, overgrown yard. They saw a birdbath with lots of birds, but a birdbath was no place for a cat to live. They saw a clover patch with lots of bees, but clover was no place for a cat to live. They even saw an muddy sandbox littered with half-buried toys, but a sandbox was no place for a cat to live either.
Taffeta began to lose hope. They had looked all over the yard, and no place looked any better than the leaky, dank shed.
At that moment an owl landed on the birdbath to wash his face.
“Wise owl,” said Taffeta, “my children and I are searching for a new home. Have you seen any suitable place for us in your flights?”
“I have seen one such place,” said the owl. “There is a treehouse up in the dead oak at the corner of the yard. But don’t you already have a home, white cat?”
“Our home is hot and cold and wet,” said Taffeta, “and rats creep around it at night.”
The owl shrugged. “Sounds nice to me. I sleep standing up on a branch. But what do I know about the needs of cats?” And with that, the owl flew off.
Taffeta led her kittens to the old dead oak. Sure enough, hidden in its gnarled branches was a rickety tree-house. Taffeta had to carry her kittens up one by one, because it was far too high for them to climb on their own.
Taffeta and the kittens loved their new home. It was cool during the day and warm during the night. When it rained, the solid wooden roof kept all the water out, and there were plenty of bugs for Satin, Lace, and Velvet to play with. Without the threat of rats, Taffeta could actually get some sleep.
But then, one night a terrible storm boiled up. Lightning lit the sky purple and sheets of hard rain beat down on the treehouse’s roof. The wind made the oak creak and moan and sway.
Taffeta gathered her kittens close to her, and they all huddled in the middle of the treehouse, waiting for the storm to pass.
But it didn’t pass. The rain fell harder, and the lightning flashed brighter, and the old dead oak buckled and bent and finally fell, taking the treehouse with it.
Taffeta woke up in the pounding rain surrounded by broken boards and heavy fallen limbs. Her children were shouting for her, and she had to look for them in the shattered remains of the tree-house. All of them were soaking wet.
A falling board had broken Velvet’s paw, but he was being very brave about it and hardly crying at all. “What do we do now?” he asked.
“We’re going back home,” Taffeta said, picking him up by the scruff of his neck.
They journeyed back across the yard with the wind and rain howling all around them. But when Taffeta stuck her head inside the shed, something bit her right on the nose. She stumbled back, surprised.
“This is our home now,” said a nasty voice. “Get out of here.”
Taffeta squinted into the dark. A flash of lightning glinted off dozens of beady rat eyes glaring at her from inside the shed. Far too many rats for just a cat and her kittens to chase off.
Not knowing what else to do, Taffeta brought her children back to the bird bath. They huddled under the cement rim, trying to stay as dry as they could. All of them were very cold and very wet.
Velvet was licking his hurt paw. “What do we do now?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” said Taffeta.