A family chat.
Elsa was furious with Tembo! She’d watched how Tembi had suffered unnecessarily at the lion cub’s paws. Not a day went by without Tembo taking his anger out on the little lioness, Tembi being cuffed and generally knocked about by her older brother, who thought of her as a legitimate target on which to vent his frustration, walloping Tembi as a way of getting anger out of his system. Tembo would take any opportunity to take his anger out on his younger and smaller sister. She’d only have to whimper with pain as Elsa bathed her paws, sore from walking, for Tembo to clout her with a hard forepaw and tell her to shut up and cope in silence, even though Tembo himself complained incessantly when his paws were sore.
Hearing Elsa remonstrating with Tembo, who as usual seemed to be taking no notice, Clarence looked up at his mate and Tembo standing on the ledge above where he lay. His eyes growing hard with anger at Tembo’s conduct, Clarence dug the toes of his hind paws into the fabric of the sofa to stop himself from crawling up to Tembo and giving him a taste of what the male cub dealt out to Tembi. Clarence was strong, his paws large enough to wallop Tembo so hard he’d not forget his punishment for a long time.
Tembi felt her sire’s agitation.
“Tembo walloped me for whimpering with pain while having my paws bathed,” Tembi said. Clarence gently picked up one of Tembi’s forepaws and examined the sole of her paw, noticing the scarring from old wounds, as well as the thickening of the pads themselves. Tembi’s paw looked much as his did, and he was older than her by several years. Clarence knew of the pain gone through when the pads crack and split due to walking on unnaturally hard surfaces. He’d experienced it himself, and didn’t blame Tembi for whimpering while her mother bathed her paws.
“I know my paws are in a real state,” Tembi said. Clarence tenderly stroked the paw he held.
“You’ve been walking a long time, over ground not usually trodden by cubs,” the lion replied, “it’s no wonder your paws are like they are.”
“Tembo’s paws are just as bad, and so are mum’s,” Tembi replied, “I took a look one night while they were asleep. Tembo’s paws were sore, but not as bad as mum’s. Tembi became still, staring into the middle distance.
“Now I know!” the cub suddenly exclaimed. Then, almost in a whisper, as if she was afraid Elsa might overhear:
“I now know why mum splashed water on her face during her bath, and she would always turn away from us.” Elsa overheard Tembi’s words, and realised the cub had guessed what she’d been trying to hide. Elsa hid her head, afraid Tembi would see she’d overheard her words. Elsa, dreadfully ashamed she couldn’t show her cubs her pain, looked down, staring hard at her paws.
Tembo, watching all, guessed what his mother had been trying to hide. Spitting with contempt at Elsa, Tembo turned his back, angry with both his mother and Tembi for being, as he saw them, weak creatures.
Clarence suddenly leapt from where he’d been lying, grabbing Tembo by the scruff of his neck and dragging the male cub down with him, Tembo landing hard between Clarence’s forepaws. Tembo squealed with fear as he was confronted by the massive lion. Clarence inflated his lungs and roared into Tembo’s face! The sound reverberated around the room, and Tembi, along with Lewis, Carol, and the lynx cub, fled for cover under the dining table. Bruin, asleep until Clarence roared at Tembo, snapped into full wakefulness, demanding loudly to know what on earth was going on! Elsa watched what was happening, her mood still heavy with her own feelings of shame at her behaviour.
Tembo shrank back from Clarence, now very frightened. Clarence made his presence felt physically by walloping Tembo with the flat of his paw. Tembo yowled with pain and fear.
“You do not, not! Ever! Hit your sister, and nor do you ever spit at your mother!” Clarence yelled, “do you hear me Tembo!” Tembo whimpered a reply.
“Speak up, I can’t hear you!” Clarence shouted.
“Nor can we hear now you’re shouting your head off Clarence,” Hop along murmured. Clarence overheard |Hop along’s words, and rounding savagely on the huge male tiger, nearly threw Tembo at him!
“If you think you can discipline this blasted cub then you are welcome to try!” the lion screamed, “until then Hop along, I would keep your mouth shut!”
“That was ill advised and very stupid Hop along,” Matilda said to the large male tiger, “Clarence is far more mobile than you, and he can really use his paws.” Hop along knew well enough, and cursed himself for voicing his thoughts.
Clarence continued yelling at Tembo, while Tembi and the animals who lived in the rest of the room either cowered in corners and alcoves, hid their heads, or put their paws over their ears. Soon Clarence ran out of things to shout, and finished his tirade with one final cuff to Tembo’s ear. Almost throwing Tembo aside, Clarence flopped down exhausted on the sofa. Sensing the drama was at an end, the other animals crept from their hiding places and returned to their homes. Tembi returned to Clarence’s side, where she found the lion in a trance like state, and very close to tears.
“I can’t believe what I’ve just done,” Clarence whispered, tears rolling down his nose, “I lost it totally, totally lost control! I hit my own cub!”
“Tembo deserved it,” Kalahari said, “after all, words won’t change him. Only actions will change a cub like Tembo. He’s been in need of a lesson for a long time if what I’ve heard is correct. You gave him that lesson. Losing your temper with your cub is sometimes the only way. It seems talk and mediation doesn’t work with some cubs, and Tembo’s one of those. Well done to you is what I say.” Sounds of agreement from all the animals rippled round the room. Kalahari might have been small, but the meerkat talked sense. Tembo snarled and spat his disapproval at the room in general.
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