Monday, June 21, 2010

The Cat Who Circled Ankles

Once upon a time there was a princess who lived in a castle.  Life was good.  Food was plentiful.  There was always a dance or a puppet play or a book to entertain the people who lived in the kingdom.  There were always good things to eat, and plenty of wood for the fires.  The princess had a cat who she loved very much and the cat was very smart.


Every Saturday night all the people of the kingdom would gather for a fine feast together.  Everyone prepared food to share and entertainments with which to delight each other.  They would laugh and eat and sing long into the night.  The princess enjoyed her life and was always happy.  So was the cat... though it did wish for more challenging tasks than following the princess and acting adoring.  True, there was much waste, but everything seemd fine and no one really worried.

Then, one fateful Saturday night, a wicked witch showed up at the weekly celebration. 


When she saw all the dancing and singing, and especially the waste, it put her into a foul mood, and she cast an economic recession spell on the kingdom.  Soon the firewood became scant.  The pantry shelves were empty.  And singing and dancing just seemed too difficult.

The king decreed that everyone in his kingdom needed to work to turn the recession around.  They would grow food in gardens and recycle their rubbish to make compost.  They would stay together in small rooms and conserve heat.  They would thatch their roofs carefully to help keep warm.  Everyone obeyed, because he was the king and, in times of an economic recession spell, it just seemed like a good idea.


The decree included the princess and her cat.  The princess was at a bit of a disadvantage here, as she had never really done anything but sing and dance and read and eat and play.  But she was willing to give all this a try.  Together, the king insisted, they would all lift the spell, and the princess was determined to do her part.

Out into the field she went, ready to raise food in her garden.  She remembered how much the villagers enjoyed roasted chickens at the feast, and so she decided to plant some eggs to make chickens.  The cat circled her legs, behind her left ankle and back around the front, and then behind her right ankle, and around the front.  She planted and planted.  But, the next week, when she checked on the eggs, she discovered they had become quite disgusting and not a single chicken had grown.  Next she tried planting fish, with similar disappointing results.  She tried digging holes and placing logs in the ground to make firewood, and she attempted to catch butterflies for butter.  With each unsuccessful attempt she wondered at her failures, and her cat circled her ankles.  With each unsuccessul attempt, the princess asked, "How many times must I do this wrong before I get it right, and lift the spell?"


She interred rocks and bottles of wine.  She even tried growing new clothing.  The economic recession curse and her frustration continued.  Finally one day, as she terminated another unsuccesul growing experiment, she turned to her cat and once again asked, "How many times must I do this wrong before I get it right, and lift the spell?"

And finally she realized... her cat was providing the answer.  He was making an 8, over and over, circling between her ankles.

"Eight mistakes!" she cried.  "I must be close!  Soon our troubles will be over."  She started to count her mistakes: the eggs, the logs, the butterflies, the rocks, the bottles of wine, the clothing...  Quickly she planted a puppet to make a puppet show and a book to make a library.  "Our troubles are over!" she exclaimed.

The cat stopped circling briefly and gave her a look.  At first she thought it was a look of pride: she had figured out not only the message but the curse.  But as the cat sadly shook his head the princess realized the cat had not been making an 8 at all, but the symbol for infinity.

Here's the smart cat.  The princess is still out in the field.


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