Aslan woke in the late morning. Feeling someone large lying beside him, he opened his eyes to find Tigger lying on the carpet. The tiger had obviously wanted to settle down to sleep in the living room rather than in his usual place. Seeing Tigger brought back the memory of the tiger’s tears as Tigger realised what he’d miss out on. Aslan touched Tigger’s huge right forepaw, the tiger stirring and turning his head towards him.
“Aslan?” Tigger asked.
“yes Tigger,” Aslan replied, “It’s me my friend.” Tigger couldn’t see anything any more, no light, no shadows, nothing. He felt Aslan’s paw take hold of his and begin to stroke it.
“I’m grateful to you Tigger,” Aslan said. Tigger gulped hard:
“I did nothing,” the tiger choked, “I was the weak one yesterday.”
“No Tigger,” Aslan replied, “you weren’t weak at all. You have a right to cry, for you have lost much.”
“I shouldn’t have shown my feelings in front of you cubs though,” Tigger mewed, “it’s not right, not right at all.”
“Nonsense Tiggie,” Aslan said, “you do so much for us, and we rarely think of what losing your sight meant for you personally.” Tigger began to cry, his tears splashing onto the carpet.
“What did I say?” Aslan asked.
“It’s nothing, nothing,” Tigger sobbed.
“But I must have said something really bad to upset you so much,” Aslan said, feeling dreadful.
“No, not really,” Tigger sniffed, “it’s, it’s me being a silly old tiger, that’s all.”
“No you’re not,” Aslan replied, “what’s wrong? What did I say?”
“You don’t know the full story of my life,” Tigger said, “it wasn’t just me having lost my sight which caused me to lose it yesterday, there was, was something else! It was something Tembi said, about you cubs playing in the water. It made me think of my own cubs.”
“You had cubs?” Aslan asked, “but you’re only two or three years old aren’t you?”
“No, nearer five,” Tigger said, “and yes I had cubs, a mate too. They’re all dead now. Dead, because, because I couldn’t save them! Hunters came one day, and we fled for our lives. My mate was shot, I heard that. The hunters then went for my cubs, and I couldn’t help them. You know why that was?” Aslan knew well enough, and it made him feel sick.
“You couldn’t see enough to rescue them,” he said softly. Tigger whimpered with misery, a sound of pure pain.
“I’m sorry,” Aslan said, “Tigger, there’s one more thing, why did you get all upset when I called you Tiggie, for that’s the only thing I can think of that I said differently.”
“can’t you guess,” Tigger sniffed.
“Tiggie was what your mate and cubs used to call you?” Aslan asked, “a kind of pet name they had for you?” Tigger nodded.
“It gets me every time,” Tigger sobbed.
“I won’t call you Tiggie again,” Aslan said gently. Tigger sniffed and rubbed his eyes with clenched paws.
“I don’t mind,” he sniffed, “I quite like it, it just makes me remember sometimes, the way, that, that,,,”
“I’m sorry,” Aslan mewed, “I’ll never call you Tiggie again, I promise.
“I’m not making much sense,” Tigger said, “I’m sounding silly!”
“no Tigger you’re not,” Aslan replied.
“I’m a silly old tiger who hangs onto the past with both paws,” Tigger sobbed. Aslan hugged Tigger tightly, the tiger letting the lion cub hug him for as long as he wished. Tigger held the lion cub with both paws, releasing him when Aslan moved away slightly. Tigger felt isolated, and Aslan knew it.
“Isn’t there anything we can do to help?” He asked. Tigger shook his head.
“I wish there was,” he replied, “I can’t seem to get on with anyone other than when I’m working. Then it’s all massage and that’s all well and good n’all, but when it’s over, it’s over, and I’m alone again. Getting a mate is out of the question, because whenever I stroke the paws of other animals they seem to get upset, as if I will run off with every animal who’s paws I stroke, no matter who they are. That’s just madness!”
“So you’re lonely?” Aslan asked, feeling his question to be rather a silly one.
“Yes, I suppose I am,” Tigger replied, “my mates have all died or left me, and now I don’t know why I bother looking for another mate, as they’ll only object to my line of work. What other job could I do? My jobs need to be paws on, for how else am I going to work?”
“I understand better than most Tigger,” Aslan replied.
“I know you do little cub, I know,” Tigger mewed, “and ordinarily I wouldn’t go on about it like this, but these last few days, it’s hit home to me how my life’s changed. I can’t touch another animal without people getting the wrong idea!”
“I know what they’re catching on to,” Aslan said, “you’re too personal with everyone, as if their massage is the only thing which matters to you. Some animals don’t like it, they want to be bathed and go, not to have an all over body massage. All right, a proper bath necessitates it, but I think they feel something in your touch which frightens them.”
“How can I frighten anyone!” Tigger mewed, now very upset, “I mean them no harm!”
“No, I didn’t mean it like that,” Aslan replied, “There’s something in your touch, something which frightens them beyond reason. It’s as if your paws are exploring their inner being, as if you can tell things by just touching their paws.”
“Well, I can,” Tigger replied, “I can tell if they’re nervous, anxious, relaxed of mind, tense, frightened, all that, and more. I can often tell, if a female is in cub that is, whether the cubs are stressed or not.”
“I was certainly stressed when I was born,” Aslan mewed, I got my paws wet the second I was born! It was horrible!”
“I know,” Tigger mewed, “I was there, not that Theo or Tembi knew it. I listened to everything, just in case your mum needed help.” Aslan stared at Tigger.
“do mum and Theo know about this?” He asked.
“No, I don’t think so,” Tigger mewed, “you see, I knew Tembi was in cub, I could feel it. She was nervous, jumpy, hiding something. Of course, I’m not going to crawl up to her and ask her straight out if she’s in cub, because that’s not my way. When she ran for the back door, I disappeared out the front, crawled round to the side gate into the wood and through that to the track into the garden, I hid in a thicket there, and waited. Tembi gave birth to you on the track, her labour too advanced for her to walk any further. She lay down and had you on the track, with Theo helping you into the world by pulling when Tembi pushed. Tembi wasn’t very strong you see, and if Theo hadn’t helped her, you might not be here now. You were a big cub Aslan, and she had difficulty giving birth to you.”
“Mum never told me this,” Aslan mewed.
“She won’t, not until you’re older anyway,” Tigger replied.
“It’s all true Aslan dear,” Tembi said, crawling up to her cub, “you were a big cub, and I had a hard job birthing you. Theo did what he could, but I was exhausted and very weak by the time you were born. As for Tigger listening in, I don’t know if I’m angry or not. Why Tigger? Why did you do it?”
“I was concerned,” Tigger mewed.
“Well, next time, take your concern somewhere else!” Tembi yelled, smacking Tigger across the mouth with her paw! Tigger whimpered with pain.
“do you know anything about how to care for a lioness in labour?” Tembi asked crossly, hoping to trip Tigger up.
“I know a little,” Tigger replied, “about as much as Theo knew when he helped you. I know how to pull a cub who’s stuck or to deliver a breach cub if that’s what you mean. I also know about massage and how that can help. So what more do you want?”
“All right, all right!” Tembi snapped, “it’s just that, well, we wanted it to be private, and I now find that it wasn’t.”
“Aslan was your first cub!” Tigger mewed, “what if anything dreadful had happened, Theo would have had to go for help, and where would you be then?” Tembi knew the tiger was right.
“How long before Aslan was born did you know I was in cub?” Tembi asked Tigger.
“about three weeks before his birth,” Tigger replied, “ever since you came to me for that paw massage. I felt tension within you, a secret you were desperately keeping under wraps, and that could only mean one thing.” Tembi stamped her paw in anger!
“All right you stripy overgrown mind reader, what can you tell by stroking my paw this time!” She angrily thrust her paw at Tigger, who took it.
“You’re not angry with me,” he said, “rather you’re scared of me. Also, you want more cubs.” Tembi stared into Tigger’s sightless eyes.
“there’s no point in pretending,” she said, “no wonder most of the household are terrified of you!” Tembi began to shake from nose to tail!
“Is anything sacred!” She yelled.
“Everything’s safe with me Tembi,” Tigger mewed, “I won’t tell anyone other than yourself. For who, other than you needs to know? You will tell anyone anything you want them to know.” Tembi dug her toes into the carpet.
“No wonder you don’t have a mate!” She yelled, “Tigger, you’re the scariest animal in this place!”
“Now that’s not fair mum!” Aslan yelled.
“Oh it is, it’s fair when you find that some bloody great tiger knew you were in cub just by stroking your paws Aslan! Tigger is dangerous!” Tembi yelled. Aslan watched Tigger crawl away from them, the tiger’s body language telling him he was very upset.
“Look mum,” Aslan said, “leave poor Tigger alone!”
“You reduced that tiger to tears yourself Aslan, so don’t give me the innocent cub look!” Tembi snapped.
“I said something to him which triggered off memories of his former mate and cubs, that’s all I did, and I apologised,” Aslan replied.
“Tigger’s weird Aslan, I don’t want you associating with him, and I’ll tell Theo this too!” Tembi exploded.
“Tigger’s not strange,” Theo said, “he’s intuitive, switched on and a very clever and knowledgeable tiger.”
“I’ll bet you’ve had your paws stroked by that striped misfit!” Tembi yelled, “what has he told you?”
“He’s told me many things about my early life, helping me cope,” Theo said, “I’ve had my paws stroked by Tigger, and it was very pleasurable indeed.” Tembi rounded on her mate, walloping him with all her force! Theo whimpered as if he’d been injured, which he felt he had. He’d never been hit by his mate before, and the fact of Tembi walloping him hurt more than did the physical blow.
“Tigger’s a sorcerer!” Tembi yelled.
“he’s not! He’s not!” The white cub mewed, jumping up and down with anger, ”he’s a very nice tiger!”
“Shut up!” Tembi snapped, “what would you know anyway, you’re just a cub!” The white cub ran from the room, and they heard her paws scuffing and scrabbling as she fought to negotiate the stairs. Tembi ran after her, but Theo stopped her.
“Let her go,” he said.
“No!” Tembi yelled, “she might drum up support for this, this misfit here!” Tembi ran up to Tigger and belted him across the face with her paw, the tiger screeching with fear and pain and curling into a miserable heap.
“Mum,” Aslan said, “why did you hit Tigger? You know he can’t fight back!”
“That was it I think,” Theo said, “he can’t fight back, so Tembi hits him, just to show him who’s really boss here.” Theo’s voice was calm, but his eyes were sad and angry.
“Why hit a defenceless tiger who’s done you no harm Tembi?” he asked.
“Tigger scares me!” Tembi mewed, “he’s weird!”
Meanwhile, the white cub struggled up the stairs, her face hot with emotion and wet with tears. She didn’t believe for one second Tigger was a sorcerer, whatever one of those was. It sounded bad, and Tigger wasn’t a bad tiger. She wanted to get into the room where Kodiak, the large brown bear lived. he’d been kind to her, and he might know Tigger too, and be able to confirm or change her impressions of the Bengal tiger. Stumbling along the landing, almost tripping over her own paws, the white cub made it to the room where the quilt was.
“I need help!” the poor cub mewed, “or rather Tigger does. Well, we both do. Mum’s trying to get Tigger thrown out of the house because, because he knew she was in cub with Aslan, even though she never told noone!” Stifftail snorted:
“Will these cubs ever learn to speak English properly!” He snapped, “it’s didn’t tell anyone you disgusting white scrap! Not, ”never told noone!” The cub ignored the snow leopard.
“Can anyone help me and Tigger?” She asked, “mum’s calling him a saucer, whatever one of those is, it sounds bad!”
“I think you mean sorcerer little one,” Kodiak replied, trying not to show how much her little mistake amused him, ”Tigger’s no sorcerer,” Kodiak said, the sound of his voice giving the white cub hope, “he’s just in tune with the inner feelings of animals. I know, he rescued me from the wood. He seemed to me to be a very kind and caring tiger, so I threw my lot in with him, and he was and is very kind and caring. He took me in and washed my face, fur and paws. I’ve never forgotten that. NO little one, Tembi can’t say those things.”
“She hit Tigger too!” the white cub mewed, “Tigger’s curled in a heap on the floor! Before I left, I felt one of his paws, it was hot, and shaking. I don’t think he’s very well.” Kodiak knew what the cub had felt, the beginnings of shock induced by fear.
“Who will help me resolve this!” Kodiak called out to the room in general.
“Tigger’s always been a kind and gentle tiger,” Amber said, “I’ll help.”
“So will me and Blanche,” Whitie said. Stifftail snorted once more.
“More bad English!” he snapped.
“Shut it!” Amber commanded. Arki also joined the growing group of Tigger’s supporters.
They trooped downstairs as one, the tiny white lion cub riding on Amber’s back.
Once downstairs they met Clarence, who’d overpowered Tembi single pawed, or so it seemed. Tembi was shaking in one corner of the room, Tigger in Clarence’s paws, the lion hugging him tenderly.
“I thought it would be a case of fisty paws!” Kodiak said, obviously regretting the loss of the chance to give Tembi a hiding for beating up Tigger.
“No,” Clarence said, stroking Tigger’s back with a forepaw, “Tembi forgot something. She forgot that Tigger saved my sanity when I was caged during my journey here. Now I’ve repaid his kindness in some small measure. I’m sorry my own cub was involved. Tembi should have known better than to hit Tigger. Now it’s all sorted, Tembi knows she’s done wrong, and that she isn’t to infer, or accuse Tigger of being a sorcerer or anything of that sort. She will not trouble him again, leaving him to do his own thing. It’s not his fault he can see into the minds of other animals. That was indeed how he found me, then I was a distressed and confused lion. Tigger picked me up and carried me through everything. Now I get the chance to repay him in some small way for what he did for me.” Theo looked at the white cub.
“You marshalled these animals little one?” He asked.
“I did,” the white cub replied, “I asked them to help Tigger, and they came with me.” Theo didn’t know whether to be proud of his cub for her initiative, or angry at her for running off.
“All’s sorted now though,” Theo said, “now can we get back to something like normality?”
“NO we can’t!” Tembi mewed, “this place isn’t normal, especially with magicians and sorcerers all over the place!”
“don’t talk about Tigger like that!” The white cub mewed, jumping up and down with rage.
“Keep your paws on the floor little white one and stop jumping about like a spoilt cub!” Tembi snapped.
“We haven’t thought of a name for you yet little cub,” Clarence said. The white cub turned an ear in his direction.
“No,” she replied, “I haven’t got a name yet.”
“How about the name Petra,” Tigger suggested.
“Shut your mouth Tigger!” Tembi snapped.
“Right, I’m leaving,” Tigger said, shaking himself free of Clarence’s embrace and crawling towards the back door. Clarence watched him go, knowing it would be futile to try and reason with the Bengal tiger.
“Now look what you’ve done!” Clarence yelled at Tembi, “Tigger’s lost it totally!”
“I don’t care,” Tembi replied, “he can crawl into the woods and die as far as I’m concerned. He’s a misfit, even more of one than Stifftail is. Tigger’s pretending to be nice to us, then when he has us all under his paw, he’ll pick us off one by one. I’m glad he’s gone.”
“I think he’s a nice tiger,” Petra mewed. Clarence crawled to the back window and looked out of it. He could see Tigger’s tail disappearing into the wood. Clarence gripped the window sill with both forepaws, fighting an urge to weep.
“I’m going with him!” Clarence yelled, crawling quickly after Tigger.
Clarence caught up with the Bengal tiger in the wood. Tigger had collapsed onto the track, sobbing bitterly. Tigger hardly noticed Clarence’s arrival. He only registered the lion’s presence when Clarence took his paw and began to stroke it. Tigger clung to Clarence’s paw with the strength of desperation.
“I’m not going back there Clarence,” Tigger sobbed, “never ever again! They don’t want me. Aslan will do well with Theo helping him, so will Petra. I’m no use to anyone any more. I’m branded a sorcerer and a misfit because I can see into the minds of animals. That’s just what I do. Maybe I shouldn’t have listened during Aslan’s birth, maybe I should have let things take whatever course they might have taken, but I couldn’t! With the knowledge I had of how large Aslan was, and how difficult the birth could be for Tembi, I couldn’t let her and Theo face that alone!”
“You are the best of tigers Tigger,” Clarence said, “and the best of friends too. You were right to listen in, to make sure everything was okay. Tembi’s just frightened of you because she doesn’t understand you.”
“The worst of it is,” Tigger sniffed, “she won’t make the effort to understand me. All I wanted to do was help her Clarence!”
“I know that, and so do Theo and Aslan,” Clarence replied, “but you won’t convince Tembi of that.”
“I’m leaving here,” Tigger sniffed, “I don’t want anything to do with that house any more.”
“If you must go,” Clarence said, “I won’t stop you Tigger. What I will ask is that you let me come with you if you’re bent on leaving.” Tigger sighed deeply.
“I don’t want anyone to know where I’m going,” he said, “I want to disappear forever.” Clarence looked into the tiger’s face.
“Where would you run to?” he asked.
“Away, to a place where noone knows me, where I can disappear into oblivion. My life is crap Clarence,” Tigger said, “I have no home, no security any more. You’re the only real friend I have left in the whole world, and I can’t let you come with me. You need to look after Petra. It’s over for me here Clarence.” Clarence looked into Tigger’s eyes. The tiger was close to breaking point.
“I’ll go,” Clarence said, “but Tigger, I’ll never forget what you did for me all those years ago. I can’t help now, much as I’d like to, as I can’t convince Tembi to let you have another chance. She could just leave you alone, but she won’t, she’s my cub and I know her too well. If she hates someone, she’ll let them know until they run away.” Tigger mewed with misery, the sound tearing at Clarence.
“I’m coming with you,” the lion sobbed, “I don’t care what you say Tigger, I’m with you.” Tigger held Clarence’s paw in his, gripping it tightly.
“You are the truest and best friend I’ve ever had,” Tigger said, “If you will come with me Clarence, then I’d be glad of your company.” Clarence hugged Tigger tightly, the Tiger sobbing into his fur.
“Let’s go from here,” Clarence said, “we need to get away quickly.” The two friends walked along the track, their paws soon covered in mud and leaves. Soon they reached the road, and paralleled it until they reached a place where they could cross. Crossing the road as quickly as a tiger and lion can, they made their way into the nearby town.
Clarence’s and Tigger’s paws quickly became sore, as they weren’t used to walking on hard ground. The two big cats became more and more miserable as their journey continued. In the early afternoon, it began to rain. Soon wet through, the two friends made their way into a dark alleyway where Clarence saw an awning under which to shelter from the weather.
Meanwhile, back in the house, the realisation that Clarence had left with Tigger was sinking in. Elsa was furious with him for leaving her and their cubs, branding Clarence a deserter. Leo was immensely sad, trying not to cry when he heard of the goings on earlier that day. He and snowy had been out of the house in conference with the local representatives of the woodlanders. Tib had spoken for the feral cats, as she still had connections in that community. The conference had gone well, though it overran by an hour or so. This meant that when snowy and Leo returned, Clarence and Tigger were long gone, the drama was long over with.
“So you say that Tembi insulted Tigger in such a way that he left the house, and so did Clarence?” Leo asked Salty, who’d relayed everything to the community leaders.
“yes,” Salty replied, “Tembi assaulted Tigger, and that was when he decided to leave. He crawled out the back door and though we searched for him in the woods, both he and Clarence have disappeared!” Leo looked at snowy.
“What is to be done about this?” he asked, “Tembi should be punished for her actions, but while that’s happening, two of our family are roaming the country. Who knows what might happen to them!”
“We can’t go looking for them,” Snowy replied, “we’re not worldly wise, not like Amber or Elsa. We need either to hope they return, or send those animals we know have some street know-how to find out what they can about the last known movements of Tigger and Clarence. If we don’t send search parties, we’d be neglecting our friends.
Aslan was very upset by Tigger’s disappearance. For days he didn’t sleep and hardly ate
Back in the town, Clarence took Tigger’s paw and led the blind tiger into shelter. There he saw the awning’s purpose, to keep the rain off prospective customers of a tiny, down trodden establishment which sold pets. This shop was like nothing they’d ever seen before, and it reminded them of what they truly were, captive in a house. Clarence could hardly bring himself to look into the window. The animals looked so lonely and depressed. There were baby polar bears, dogs, rabbits, and even one extremely sad looking lion cub. Clarence’s eye fell on him, and he couldn’t stand the look in the poor creature’s eyes. He looked so unhappy, so fearful that Clarence couldn’t make eye contact with the lion, so ashamed was he of leaving his home. He’d been looking for better places to live, not places like this. Clarence was about to turn and tell Tigger to leave when the lion banged on the window with his paw.
“What’s that?” Tigger asked.
“it’s nothing,” Clarence lied, hating himself for it, “let’s go Tigger.” The banging continued, and Clarence was forced to look up at the lion, who was now scratching at the window with the toes of one paw.
“Let’s go!” Clarence yelled, but his paws seemed stuck to the wet concrete, he couldn’t move, his eyes glued to that poor lion, still scrabbling at the glass with his paw.
“Please, let us out of here!” the lion yelled. Tigger then knew what was happening.
“Captive animals??” he asked. Clarence swore viciously.
“It’s my fault,” he said, “now we’re committed. We have to go in.”
“Into where?” Tigger asked.
“there’s a shop full of baby animals,” Clarence replied, “many animals, and one of them is a lion, who’s been banging on and scratching at the glass window with his paw. It was he who yelled at us. We have to go in.” they entered the shop through a back door. The place was disused, the previous owners having just upped and left the stock as it was, their business having gone bust. The remaining residents had been proud of their looks once, but now were dusty, dirty and dispirited. The lion, named Simba after a Disney character, leapt off the shelf he was sitting on when Clarence and Tigger entered.
“You two look dreadful,” he said.
“Not as bad as you look,” Clarence thought, but said nothing.
“We’re homeless,” Tigger said. Simba looked at him.
“You look well fed to be homeless,” he said, “have you just been thrown out?”
“No,” Clarence replied, “We left. Tigger here was getting fierce abuse from a lioness in the house we were living in, and he decided to leave. We have been friends for ages, so I went with him.”
“And what’s your name?” Simba asked.
“Clarence,” Clarence replied.
“Well I’m Simba,” the lion said, “we live here because we have nowhere else to go. It seems you two don’t either now. This place is all we have, take it or leave it.” Clarence looked into the lion’s face. He no longer looked depressed, but it was still there, under the surface.
“What is your story Simba?” Tigger asked.
“My story is none of your business tiger!” Simba snapped.
“It’s Tigger,” Tigger said softly.
“You have no
right to ask me my story when you’re a newcomer to this place!” Simba yelled, lashing out at Tigger! The blind
“You blind or something Tigger?” Simba asked.
“I am,” Tigger replied.
“Oh wonderful!” Simba spat, “a blind tiger, how fantastic! No wonder you were thrown out of your old home. You’re probably no use to anyone!”
“I had a good job,” Tigger mewed, “I used to,,,” Clarence stopped Tigger from saying more by resting his paw on the tiger’s.
“NO Clarence, don’t shelter him,” Simba said, “let Tigger tell us what his job was.” Clarence knew he couldn’t talk Simba round to ignoring Tigger’s job.
“I used to help other animals clean their fur and paws,” Tigger said, “I was in charge of the bath.” Simba spat at Tigger.
“You did what?” he laughed, “you were in charge of the, what was that you said? A bath?”
“yes,” Tigger replied, now unable to stop himself, “I massaged the paws of the other animals too.” Clarence knew this revelation could get them both into a lot of trouble.
“Paw massage?” Simba asked, “what’s that? It sounds very cubbish, very silly!”
“It’s something we did at our old home,” Clarence replied, “we won’t do it here.”
“We?” Simba asked, “you did it too? You, um, massaged the paws of other animals too?” Clarence knew he was trapped.
“yes,” Clarence admitted, staring at his paws, “I did, I used to stroke the paws of a polar bear who had poor circulation in his paws.” Simba turned to the other animals in the room.
“We have a couple of pansies here,” he said, “two animals who like stroking the paws of other animals, including each others paws I don’t doubt!” Simba turned savagely on Clarence.
“Go on, show us!” he demanded.
“What?” Tigger asked.
“it’s pardon,” Simba snapped, “and look at me when I’m talking to you you insolent cub! Oh, I forgot,” he sniggered, “you’re as blind as a bat!”
“Oi!” someone near the ceiling yelled, “that’s quite enough of that!”
“Oh, that’s Boris,” Simba said, “he’s a bat, and probably as blind as you are Tigger. Anyway, how does this paw massage thing work? Show me!”
“Well, if you’d like to give me your paw, I will,” Tigger replied.
“NO, not you!” Simba snapped, “I’m not giving my paw to a blind tiger, yuck! No, I meant, as you’re such good friends, you could show us by massaging each other’s paws. Clarence looked at Tigger.
“I don’t like this!” Tigger whispered.
“I heard that!” Simba yelled, clouting Tigger across his nose! Tigger, his eyes watering, whimpered with fear, and went to wipe his eyes with a dirty forepaw. Simba slapped at his raised paw, making Tigger place it on the ground for support as the lion had very nearly knocked him over.
“No,” Simba said, “I want you two to stroke and massage each other’s paws. Noone here is going to submit themselves to such treatment. And as you are such good friends, such very good friends, if you know what I mean,” here he was playing to the rest of the animals in the shop, “you would go in for stroking each other’s paws quite a bit, as a form of love play maybe?” Clarence had heard enough. Snarling, he attacked Simba, throwing him to the floor!
“We’re just good friends,” Tigger mewed, “there’s nothing more to it. And no, we will not stroke each other’s paws for your pleasure. We do massage each other’s paws, but for our own pleasure, not for public spectacle!”
“Well, if you come to live here, you’ll be doing a lot of that, for that’s all there is to do here,” Simba spat, “and if you refuse to do as I ask, we will force you to. For I know Tigger’s blind, and that I can overpower him. I will break his paws if you don’t do as I tell you. Go on, stroke each other’s paws you horrid animals!”
“Let’s go!” Clarence yelled, turning and running for the door, dragging Tigger with him. The door was suddenly barred by a huge polar bear, who raised a massive paw and smashed it down on Clarence’s head! Clarence fell without a sound, the huge polar bear bundling Tigger onto one of the shelves, then quite literally throwing Clarence on top of him! Clarence began to wake up, feeling dreadful. Tigger, with his friend’s entire weight on top of him, could hardly breathe.
“Clarence, please!” Tigger begged. Clarence shifted, then lost his balance and fell four feet to the floor! Clarence hit the rough wooden floorboards and lay winded and helpless.
“Welcome to our world,” the polar bear said, kicking Clarence in the belly. Clarence moaned with pain.
“We call this place hotel California,” the polar bear said, “you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.” This was obviously an old joke, but the animals all laughed dutifully.
“You came to the wrong place. Simba did his thing, and now you’re here, with no hope of rescue, as noone knows where you are. Clarence realised he couldn’t remember the way home, and how he wanted to go home! Even Tigger, now disorientated and frightened beyond anything he’d ever experienced, was wishing to go back to the house.
“Let us go!” Tigger pleaded.
“No blind one, you ain’t going nowhere,” the polar bear snarled.
“What will happen to us?” Clarence asked.
“I don’t know,” the polar bear replied, “but you must do what we tell you, remember what you have to do? A little tantrum isn’t going to relieve you of that obligation. Go on Tigger,” he said to the tiger, tugging at his paw, “come down here and stroke the paws of your injured friend, I’m sure he’d like that.” Tigger heard the polar bear’s mocking tone, and knew it was useless trying to explain the benefits and pleasures of paw massage.
“Get up off that shelf and do your job!” The polar bear commanded. Tigger, now completely broken in spirit, crawled off the shelf hind paws first. When the polar bear caught sight of the pads on the sole of Tigger’s right hind paw, he brought the toes of his own forepaw smashing down on them. Tigger screamed!
“Quickly now you insignificant piece of scum!” The bear yelled at Tigger. Crying, Tigger dropped to the floor, crawling over to Clarence, who lay blearily watching proceedings. When he saw Tigger, he made a quick move to hug the tiger, which was misconstrued by the polar bear and earned Clarence a beating. The bear laid into him with his paws, slapping and stamping on Clarence until the lion was out for the count. Tigger had to listen to his friend getting filled in, and he didn’t like it one bit.
“Leave him alone!” Tigger mewed.
“Shut it, or you’ll be getting it too!” Simba yelled. Clarence, now badly hurt, surfaced for a second time, his whole body aching.
“You won’t make sudden moves again lion,” the polar bear snarled, “just make nice slow movements. Oh by the way, what were you about to do when I stopped you?”
“I was, was going to hug Tigger,” Clarence said thickly, for his lips were badly bruised.
“Well now,” the polar bear said, “Tigger will massage your paws, just as he’s been told to. Then you’ll feel a lot better won’t you.” Tigger started massaging Clarence’s left forepaw, the lion fighting not to pull his paw away, as his pads were bruised. Tigger tried to go gently, but he could sense how much the ;lightest touch hurt Clarence.
“So that’s how it’s done,” Simba said, “he takes a paw in both of his and strokes the pads and toes of that paw.”
“You have done well Tigger,” The polar bear said, “now Clarence will massage your paws.”
“Clarence is too injured to do that,” Tigger said. He soon realised he’d made a wrong move. The polar bear’s paw smashed into his shoulder.
“Clarence will do as we tell him,” the polar bear snarled, and so will you!” Clarence suddenly screamed at the top of his voice:
“Let us go! We’ve done nothing to you, and you’re torturing us!”
“We don’t like your sort,” Simba said, “we don’t like those who massage the paws of other animals. It’s not the done thing. Clarence, your blind tiger friend has caused you all this pain, just by opening his mouth. If he’d shut up when I asked him about his job, he would have been fine, and so would you. Now you are not, for we hate people like you!”
“We, know, how, to, deal, with, your, sort!” The polar bear yelled, slapping Tigger!
“As a matter of fact, so do we!” someone yelled. Clarence heard a crash and then someone screaming! It wasn’t Tigger, it was the polar bear! Clarence raised his eyes to see Leo dragging the polar bear out of the shop by his hind paws! Then someone Else ran in and grabbed hold of Tigger’s forepaws, Clarence saw it was Kodiak, one of the brown bears! Dragging the sobbing tiger out of the shop, Kodiak dumped him beside Salty, who guarded him carefully. Meanwhile, Simba fled to the back of the shop, hotly pursued by Aslan, who bowled the larger lion over and winded him! Leo then came for Clarence, dragging the injured lion out into the daylight! The shop was cleared within ten minutes, all the animals who resided in that place having either fled or been captured.
“What now!” Matilda asked, for it was she who’d broken down the door, which the polar bear had locked just before attacking Clarence for the first time.
“We give these two troublemakers what for when we get back into the garden,” Leo said. Clarence lay, his paws aching and whole body throbbing with pain.
“I can’t, can’t crawl,” Clarence sobbed. Leo looked down at the injured lion.
“I’m sorry Clarence, but you’ll have to walk, we haven’t got any means of transport. When we found you here, we weren’t expecting a fight, until we saw what was going on of course.”
“That polar bear just laid into you!” Aslan mewed. Clarence looked at the lion cub.
“How the hell did you get involved in a job like this?” he asked.
“I asked if I could go along and rescue you two, and I was included, just like that!” Aslan said.
“Theo didn’t want him to go,” Matilda said, “but he was insistent, and in the end, Theo agreed, as long as Aslan didn’t get into trouble, he could come along.”
“and he ends up chasing down Simba,” Tigger mewed, “if that’s not getting into trouble I don’t know what is.”
“Aslan did a courageous thing,” Matilda said, “now, let’s get home and deal with these two reprobates.” Mile by painful mile, the rescue party made their way back to the house, their captives stumbling along with one paw tied to that of a larger animal, such as a snow leopard or another polar bear. Isaac dragged Simba’s enforcer along by his left forepaw, the huge polar bear now very subdued. He realised he wasn’t going to get an easy time of it from these quiet people. Their lack of violence unnerved him, how quiet they were also terrified him. It was the huge lion he feared the most, for he was scary in the extreme.
Once they were back in the garden, the rescue party split up, leaving Leo, snowy, who’d joined him on his return, Salty, Aslan and Matilda, as well as Clarence and Tigger, to deal with the small lion and somewhat larger polar bear. Isaac aimed a kick at the captured polar bear’s belly, winding him.
“You will learn what it is to be punished!” Isaac Yelled, “you bring my species into disrepute!” the polar bear gasped and moaned with pain.
“right!” Leo snarled, “you will all tell your tale, leave nothing out, for we saw most of it! Tell on, first you Clarence.” Clarence told his tale, then Tigger told his, then Simba his. There was no point in indulging in fabrication, for the rescue party had seen most of it anyway, or rather Tib had, through a skylight. She’d relayed everything to the others, and only gave the go ahead when she thought Simba and his polar friend were most off their guard.
Now Simba and the polar bear, who’s name was Bruno, were getting punishment community style.
“Why did you beat Tigger and Clarence up?” Snowy asked.
“Don’t say anything!” Simba warned Bruno, but the polar bear, now remorseful, and realising what Simba had tricked him into doing, spilt the beans.
“We were happy once,” the polar bear said, “we used to be as loved in our place as you are here, but then the place closed down, and we were left. Simba assumed command, he’s clever you see, I’m not. He told me that we should enliven our lives by enticing other animals into our homes, that way we could grow our community. We were lonely, for the rabbits and other animals weren’t much fun. Simba would watch out for a likely candidate and do his best to lure them in. Once they were in, we wouldn’t let them go. We called the shop Hotel California for that very reason.”
“Hotel California?” Aslan asked, not understanding.
“It’s a song, a very depressing song if you ask me,” Bruno said, “so when the tiger and the lion came into our home, we imprisoned them.”
“Their names are Clarence and Tigger,” Snowy snapped, “we use names here Bruno, hence why we asked you what yours was.”
“My job was to keep those we let in to the shop in at all costs,” Bruno said, “so when Clarence tried to get out, I let him have it. Then things got very out of paw. I did things which I now regret. I am sorry for what I did to Tigger and Clarence, truly I am.”
Clarence snarled at the polar bear.
“You could have attacked Simba,” he said.
“I’m sorry,” Bruno whimpered, “I know I could have, but I didn’t think I had the courage to, I’m not a brave bear, not really.”
“Despite your remorse, you should be punished for what you did,” Leo said. Bruno buried his face in his paws.
“I’m sorry!” he whimpered, “I’ll never do anything like that again!”
“I know Simba’s the instigator of all this, what with his misunderstanding of the ways of our community members. We are a very tactile family, always touching each other’s paws, whether for reassurance or for pleasure. It’s not strange to us to massage each other’s paws,” Leo said. Bruno looked at Tigger, who’d stayed behind to listen to his and Simba’s justification for what they did to himself and Clarence.
“I hate all that paw massage stuff!” Simba wined, “it’s all wrong, all so strange to me!”
“You’ve never experienced it,” Leo said, “so how do you know what it’s like? You, who think it’s unnatural and dangerous should try it for yourself. I dare you to try it, and then see if you still hate it.”
“Who will be massaging our paws?” Bruno asked.
“Tigger of course,” Leo replied, “he’s the expert. Of course we could ask Kodiak to do it, but he’s better with the smaller animals you know. Tigger’s great at his job. As he said, he had, and still has a good job here. Now he can return to his work. Tembi’s still incarcerated, and will be so for some time to come yet, as her crimes are of such gravity. We will make one adjustment to her conditions though, that Simba joins her in the wardrobe, as he has committed the worst crimes of all. Bruno, while you were stupid and naive, you also could have said no to Simba’s orders. For you I will proscribe a paws on punishment. This will be to work with Tigger and learn his trade. You will have to get your paws dirty then, but in a good cause. Simba won’t have this luxury, he’ll be imprisoned with Tembi for as long as we see fit, and then he will be booted from our community. You Bruno, because of your remorse, will be allowed to continue on here as long as you keep our laws and respect everyone, from the eldest member of the community, right down to the youngest cub. I don’t know why I’m giving you a chance to prove yourself, but with Tigger and Clarence’s blessing I will do so. Clarence knew the polar bear had only waded in when he and Tigger had tried to run, and that he’d taken his cue from Simba. Simba painting such a terrible picture of paw massage that it had horrified Bruno into reacting to anything the lion dreamt up. Bruno was paid in food to do a job of brute strength, and he’d done it.
Bruno looked into Tigger’s sightless eyes.
“I’m sorry for hitting you,” the polar bear said, touching Tigger’s paw. Tigger took Bruno’s paw in his and held it.
“Say that again,” Tigger said. Bruno realised what the tiger was doing.
“I’m sorry Tigger,” Bruno said, hoping the Bengal tiger could feel how wretched he now was.
“Is he sincere?” Clarence asked.
“Bruno’s sincere Clarence,” Tigger replied. Bruno did something then which he’d not done since he was a cub. Overcome with emotions he never knew he had, he hugged Tigger and wept into the tiger’s thick fur. Tigger held the weeping polar bear close until Bruno’s tears dried.
“Now for you Clarence,” Bruno said, his eyes downcast. He knew he’d done the lion a lot of harm.
“Can you ever forgive me for what I did to you and your friend?” Bruno asked Clarence.
“in time, maybe,” Clarence replied, “but not being a brave bear is no defence against taking responsibility for your actions Bruno. You hit me, you stamped on me, you beat Tigger up. You could have stopped, but you didn’t. It is only because Leo sees some good in you that Tigger and I do not tear your throat out now. It is only because we will give second chances to those who show true remorse, that you are still alive today. Simba might have been strong, but he was overpowered by a tiny cub. A cub who had the backing of the whole community who reside within these walls. Aslan took Simba down and cut him to size, the size of the cub he is. Aslan, the cub who did the right thing when duty called, took down your most feared master. Now Simba’s shown for what he is, a snivelling, wining, scrap! You could have done this yourself, but you chose not to. You could see Tigger was no threat to you or Simba. You could see that Bruno, but you attacked him! I might forgive you for what you did to me, but not for what you did to Tigger. I can’t let that go! You beat up an innocent, lost and lonely tiger, who would have given you everything he had if you’d asked. Now you’ve possibly lost him, definitely lost me, and are on probation with Leo and the rest of us. You need to start building bridges, but right now, you haven’t even got the manual to build one, let alone the materials. You need to forge links with some of the animals here, though they will all know what you did. Your saving grace will be that it will be known that you were paid to do a job. Of course, it will be known that you beat Tigger up, and that you also beat me up. Now I will finish here.” Tigger felt Clarence take hold of his paw.
“let it go Clarence, please,” Tigger mewed. Clarence tried to suppress a sob.
“But, but he attacked you!” the lion cried.
“I know he did,” Tigger replied, “but if you harbour that forever, he’s won. His poison is inside you, eating at you forever.” Clarence threw his paws round Tigger’s neck and buried his head in the tiger’s shoulder.
“you are right Tigger,” Clarence sobbed. Tigger worked his paws into Clarence’s mane, the lion calming considerably as he felt the tiger’s touch.
“Let it all go,” Tigger said gently, stroking Clarence’s neck. Clarence breathed deeply, feeling the tension flowing from his body.
The question as to how the members of the community had found Tigger and Clarence hadn’t yet been asked. Everyone was waiting for the situation to settle down before answering Tigger and Clarence’s questions.
Bruno and Simba went to their respective places of residence, Simba to the wardrobe, Bruno to a place in the living room. Bruno, determined to better himself, couldn’t wait for the first day of his training with Tigger. Before Bruno could start his training, there was one question he wanted to ask, in fact the whole community wanted to ask the question. How did the rescue party find the shop where Tigger and Clarence were imprisoned.
The whole community gathered in the living room to hear how the rescue attempt had been executed. All bar two were there, the two excluded from the meeting were Simba and Tembi.
While Tembi was in the prison, she was quite literally milked to feed Petra. The white cub got used to lapping from a small bowl, but Tembi never got used to being milked like a bovine. Complaining bitterly, Tembi ended up more often than not screaming at Ringo, who was detailed to take the milk. Once he’d got all the milk for Petra he wanted, Tembi booted him out of the room where the wardrobe was. Ringo fled with the milk for Petra, who drank it thirstily.
Back in the living room, the meeting began, Petra having drank her fill of milk.
“Right!” snowy said, “I know you are all desperate to find out how we found Clarence and Tigger. Well, it’s all down to one animal, Tib. Tib was able to track their movements. She found them within ten minutes of being called out. Tib made sure the animals in the shop weren’t going to move her friends, then she reported back to the house. Leo and Salty planned the rescue mission, using the various abilities of the larger animals to help them. Matilda was detailed to take the door in, for Tib had tested the door, which had been locked by Bruno only a minute before. Tib pressed against the door and found it gave under pressure from her paw. She found the door to be half rotten, and of poor construction. Easy for a kangaroo to break down. Returning to the community, Tib made her report to her leaders. Once they knew the construction of the door, the planners put their plan into action, moving to the shop with all claws ready. Matilda put the door in on Tib’s command and the rest is history.”
Tigger settled down comfortably, knowing he was secure and that Tembi and Simba wouldn’t be bothering him for a long time. Bruno settled down beside Tigger and took the tiger’s paw in his, massaging Tigger’s paw with those same paws Bruno had used to beat the tiger up only hours before.
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Martin Wilsher © 2010
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