Brushtail thinks things over.
Brushtail woke slowly, feeling Snowy half tail’s paw holding hers. Brushtail, warmed by the snow tigress’s thick fur, thought about the journey on which she had embarked over two months previously. She had been pregnant at the time, and she’d walked until her paws were sore. Resting beneath a bush, Brushtail felt her cub’s moving inside her, and knew it was time for their birth. Stretching out on her side, Brushtail had given herself up to birthing her cubs, even though she had no den in which to protect them. Brushtail’s labour was fast, the cub emerging easily. Once she was sure she wasn’t going to give birth to a second cub, Brushtail examined her newborn cub. It was female, and a large cub. Guiding the cub to her milk, Brushtail realised afresh how defenceless she now was. Now she could no longer protect the cub as she’d used to. More frightened than she’d been, including during her labour, Brushtail had picked her cub up by the scruff of its neck and carried it to another bush. There, she’d lain down with her cub, trying not to feel fear, to think rationally. Brushtail had heard tales of a place where lost animals could find refuge and comfort, although the tales never told how to get to the place. The line “you will know the place when you find it,” sprang into her mind. Brushtail had looked about her, wondering if she would ever find the place. Her tiny cub looked even more defenceless, and Brushtail knew it would be a miracle if both of them got to safety.
Brushtail got to her feet, picking up her cub and running from the bush. Sprinting through a field, Brushtail slithered down a bank, her paws skidding in the wet grass. Hitting the road, Brushtail ran along the road, breathing hard as she ran with her cub. Brushtail ran with her cub for two weeks, raiding bins and the backs of restaurants for waste food. When her cub learned to run, Brushtail named her Tilly after reading the name on a scrap of newspaper while raiding bins at the back of a local restaurant. After Brushtail and Tilly were almost caught by humans who found them sheltering under a bridge, Brushtail knew things were really serious. Now desperate for refuge, Brushtail and Tilly ran out of the town centre and along a main road. Turning up a side road, Brushtail and Tilly banged on a door which caught their eye.
Now Brushtail and her cub were safe, warm and well fed. The badgers and otters cooked up good food, a fish and vegetable mix with chicken stock mixed in. Brushtail knew what it was to be hungry, and the food offered at the place where she and her cub now lived was good and wholesome. The rabbits, kangaroos and capybara ate the vegetables only, forgoing the meet.
Brushtail felt a nose brushing her cheek. Raising her eyes, she found herself looking into snowy half tail’s face.
“you were whimpering pitifully Brushtail,” snowy said. Brushtail snuggled up to the snow tigress. Snowy hugged Brushtail tightly.
“I didn’t know I was whimpering,” Brushtail replied, “I’m sorry snowy.”
“No need to be sorry,” snowy replied, “it’s all right to be upset.” Brushtail wiped her eyes with one paw.
“I was reliving mine and Tilly’s run from where Tilly came into the world,” Brushtail whimpered. Snowy hugged her tightly.
“You’re safe now,” Snowy purred. Tilly tickled the pads of Snowy’s right forepaw. Snowy yelped with surprise, whipping her paw away. Grinning at Tilly, snowy hugged the fox cub tightly.
“How dare you tickle my paws little one,” she purred. Tilly smiled at the snow tigress and licked her ear. Snowy stroked Tilly’s whiskers with one massive paw, the fox nibbling playfully at the tigress’s paw. Snowy growled in mock anger, briefly unsheathing her claws. Tilly drew back hurriedly.
“Hey!” she wined, “that’s too much, too much!” Snowy sheathed her claws once more, and showed Tilly her paw.
“You tickled my paw and then began biting at it!” Snowy mewed, “I was showing you I’m not all fluffy nothing.”
“I never thought you were fluffy nothing snowy!” Tilly replied, now very upset.
“just remember what I have hiding in these paws little fox,” snowy purred. Brushtail looked at Snowy’s face to see if she was genuinely threatening her cub. The snow tigress suddenly dropped her act and began to groom Tilly from nose to tail. Tilly submitted happily to this, her lesson over with.
“Can I stroke your paws Snowy?” Brushtail asked. Snowy scratched at Brushtail with the toes of one hind paw.
“Start with my hind paws,” the snow tigress said, “and thank you Brushtail.” Brushtail caught Snowy’s left hind paw in both her forepaws and began to stroke it. She examined the paw from toes to heel, taking in pads and claws on route. Brushtail then stroked Snowy’s paw, the snow tigress purring with contentment and wiggling the toes of the paw Brushtail was stroking.
“would you stroke my paws?” Brushtail asked
“Of course I will Brushtail cub,” snowy replied. Brushtail nearly cried. Snowy calling her “Brushtail cub made her want to cry every time. Sometimes Snowy called Brushtail “Brushy cub,” and this had the same affect on the vixen.
“I will tickle your paws too if you want Brushy cub,” snowy said. Brushtail remembered how snowy had tickled her paws when she and her sister had been cared for by her all that time ago. It had been wonderful then, and Brushtail wanted a reminder of that time.
In time, Brushtail stroked all four of Snowy half tail’s paws, the tigress finishing grooming Tilly just in time for the vixen to massage her forepaws. Snowy purred loudly as Brushtail worked her paws over her forepaws. When all was finished, Snowy turned her attention to Brushtail.
“Now Brushy cub,” Snowy said, “can I look at your paws?” Brushtail rolled onto her side, and snowy began to stroke the vixen’s tiny paws. Once she’d stroked all four paws, snowy tickled Brushtail’s right forepaw, the vixen laughing helplessly.
“This is as good as when I was a cub!” she barked, “go on snowy, tickle the other three paws!” Tilly watched what Snowy was doing, and grabbed her mother’s left forepaw, tickling it mercilessly. Brushtail, helpless with laughter, and now powerless to stop the situation from escalating, rolled and squirmed in an attempt to moderate the amount of tickling the two rogue animals put her through.
“Stop it! Stop it please!” Brushtail pleaded, laughing helplessly. Tilly and snowy stopped their assault on her paws and hugged her.
“We both love you dearly Brushtail,” Snowy purred. Brushtail buried her face in Snowy’s fur, Tilly burying her face in Brushtail’s. Snowy half tail purred with happiness as the two foxes and her remaining cub snuggled close to her on the soft, warm rug.
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Martin Wilsher © 2010
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