Perdita puts her paw in it.

 

Cold winds blew through the woods at the back of the house, where a female snow leopard named Perdy cowered beneath a bush trying to shelter from the wind.  Despite her thick fur coat, Perdy shivered with cold.  It was the wind which made the cold unbearable for her, the wind chilling her to the bone.  Getting to her paws, Perdy raised each paw from the ground in turn and flexed her toes to stimulate  some circulation to them.  Clenching her teeth against the cold, she padded towards the house.

 

“Kalahari watched the garden from the rear window of the house.  He knew the weather was bad, and was glad he was indoors.  Kalahari then saw something, a large snow white cat with black spots and a long tail.  Recognising what this animal was, Kalahari scampered up the stairs and burst into the bedroom.

    “there’s a snow leopard outside!”  he panted, the run leaving him slightly breathless.  Stifftail looked at Amber, and Amber looked at her cubs, just in case they’d ventured outside.  Everyone was accounted for, so the snow leopard Kalahari had seen must be a newcomer.

     “Is it showing any sign of coming closer?”  Tigger asked.  Kalahari turned and ran to another window.

      “I’ll take a look,”  he said, “um, well, it looks pretty desperate, tail down and ears laid back, that kind of thing.”

      “it might be furious because it can’t find food,”  Amber said, “It’ll be okay.”  Kalahari watched the snow leopard go to the back door.  Frantic banging on the door told the animals in the house that the snow leopard wanted to come in.  Amber leapt from her place and crawled downstairs, Kalahari and Tigger following.  Amber opened the back door, to be faced with a shivering, bedraggled female snow leopard.

      “Are you all right my dear?”  Amber asked.  The newcomer sneezed and clung to the raised step into the house with the toes of her forepaws for support, digging them into the concrete.

     “I’m so cold!”  the poor cat mewed.  Amber placed a paw on that of the newcomer.

     “Come in and we’ll help you,”  she said.

     “The boss will go crazy!”  Tarker yelled, “You can’t just let anyone in!”

     “This poor snow leopard is cold and wet,”  amber replied, “would you like it if you were cold and wet and noone helped you Tarker?”  The female snow leopard followed amber into the house, where Tigger was already filling the bath in preparation for washing the snow leopard’s fur.

     “What’s your name?”  Amber asked.  The female snow leopard looked at her.      “Perdita,”  the snow leopard replied, “though everyone calls me Perdy, My parents thought they’d give me a grand name, but I don’t really like it.  Perdy’s better.”  Amber smiled:

    “Well Perdy,”  she said, “go into the bathroom, and Tigger will help you wash your fur and paws.  Perdy padded into the bathroom, the steam from the bathtub swirling round her.  Tigger smiled at Perdy, extending a paw towards her.  Perdy took his paw in hers and Tigger hugged her.  Perdy, taken by surprise, didn’t know what to make of the huge tiger’s conduct.  His hug was warm and comforting, but she wasn’t used to physical contact.  Tigger guided Perdy towards the bathtub, the female snow leopard stepping cautiously into the bathtub.  The warm water caressed her paws as she waded deeper.  Tigger stroked Perdy’s left forepaw beneath the water, the snow leopard lying down in the warm water.  Perdy, the water working its magic on her, purred contentedly as things warmed up.  Tigger began massaging Perdy’s paws, the female snow leopard submitting happily to his attentions.  By degrees, Tigger’s paws worked their way over every inch of Perdy’s Body, from her nose to the end of her long tail.  Perdy hadn’t been so warm, or felt so relaxed for a long time, and this tiger certainly knew how to massage life back into her frozen paws.  All too soon, the massage and bath were over, and Tigger was helping Perdy out of the tub, water streaming from her water repellent fur.  Padding into the kitchen, Tigger and Perdy stopped where a thick and very soft towel had been spread on the floor.  Here Tigger asked Perdy to lift each paw in turn.  Perdy complied, and the tiger wrapped each paw in the towel, rubbing them gently until they were dry.  Perdy smiled as she felt the affects of the massage.  Once her paws were dry, Tigger took Perdy’s left forepaw in his and guided her into the lounge, where he motioned to her to lie down.  Throughout all this, Tigger said nothing, preferring to remain silent until Perdy was warm and dry, and possibly more amenable to answering questions.  Perdy curled up beside the radiator, her fur steaming as the heat worked on the remaining water held in it.

 

“is that better Perdy?”  Tigger asked.  Perdy smiled at the Bengal tiger.

     “It is, thank you,”  she replied.  Tigger smiled, patting Perdy’s paw reassuringly.

     “You’re safe here,”  Tigger said.  Perdy stared at him.

     “You, mean, mean, I, I can stay?”  she asked.  Tigger squeezed the paw he’d patted.

      “Of course,”  he said.  Perdy looked round her, seeing many animals, another male Bengal tiger, a Bengal tigress, a kangaroo, and several lions, as well as  contingents of polar bears and otters.  There were tiger cubs, and lots of other cubs. other  big cats included  two lynx, one of which was a cub, and to Perdy’s surprise and delight, a huge male snow leopard.  Perdy had already met a female snow leopard, for it was she who’d beckoned her into the house.  Maybe this huge male was her mate?  Perdy kept her head down, not wanting to attract the attentions of anyone other than Tigger, whom she felt safe with as he’d helped her.  Salty saw the large female snow leopard, and smiled at her.

     “She’s lovely,”  he thought, padding over to Perdy and touching her paw with his.

     “What’s your name dear?”  Salty purred.  Perdy looked up into Salty’s face.

      “My name?”  she asked, overwhelmed by the size of the male snow leopard who’s paw touched hers.

      “yes dear,” Salty said gently.  Perdy lowered her head and looked at Salty out of the corner of her eye,, trying to gauge the snow leopard’s character without him realising she was watching him.

    “My name’s Perdy,”  Perdy replied.

    “Look at me Perdy dear,”  Salty said gently.  Perdy raised her head and looked at Salty.

    “You are safe here,”  Salty said.  Perdy impulsively took hold of Salty’s paw, Salty smiling broadly.

    “You haven’t even asked me my name yet!”  Salty laughed.  Perdy hesitated:

     “What’s your name?”  She asked.  Salty grinned:

    “My name’s Salty,”  the male snow leopard replied.  Perdy held Salty’s paw, liking what she felt, Salty’s soft warm paw comforting to her.

     “Is the female snow leopard I met your mate?””  Perdy asked. Salty shook his head.

    “I don’t have a mate yet,”  Salty said, “Amber’s, well, unattached last time I knew, though that might be wrong, who knows.”  Perdy looked down at her paws, hoping Salty didn’t see her real feelings.  She wanted to be close to him, but how could she tell him?

 

“Are you okay Perdy?”  Salty asked.  Perdy smiled at him and touched his nose with her paw.  Salty laughed merrily, playfully sticking his tongue out at her.  Perdy grinned and embraced Salty tightly.

      “hang on a minute!”  Tarker yelled, “it’s a bit soon for that isn’t it?”  Salty grinned at the otter cub, but basically ignored him.  Perdy’s large padded paws held Salty tenderly.  Salty looked into Perdy’s blue eyes.

     “you are beautiful Perdy dear,”  Salty purred.  Perdy smiled as rain hit the windows of the house.

    “We’re warm and safe in here,”  she said.

 

Sam lay in his shed.  He’d been there for a week now, and knew of Isaac’s narrow escape from the wardrobe.  He knew the reason for Leo’s clemency was that Isaac had confessed to his crime, knowing the evidence was stacked against him.  Sam hadn’t confessed, denying everything, hoping noone would find out.  The problem was, there were only a few animals who actively showed their true feelings towards those whom they didn’t like.  Tarker was one, and amber too, Stifftail also, but that was about the sum total.  All the others were too grateful to the boss for letting them into the house to show their true feelings.  Sam felt the concrete beneath his paws, the cold wind ripping into him.

     “I hate them all!”  Sam thought.  Then he thought about his old life, the heat of the Florida summer, and his wish to get back to the cooler weather of the British isles.  This made Sam regret his previous thoughts, for he’d got what he wanted, and hadn’t realised it until it was nearly too late.  Stretching out on the concrete, Sam waited for his next meal, the highlight of his day now all else was denied him.  Even then, the experience was painful to Sam, a bear who’d been so used to contact of all sorts, be it visual or physical.  The otter who came twice a day and dumped the bowl of fish and rice in front of Sam made a deliberate point of not making eye contact with him, let alone touching him.  As far as she was concerned, he wasn’t there, and this was the worst of it.  Sam wondered when Leo would release him.  Or would the huge lion just forget about him?

 

Sam lay on the concrete dreaming about a warm place to sleep.  He’d not had much in the way of sleep since he’d been thrown into the shed, and now all he wanted to do was curl up on a soft warm quilt, or on one of the blankets snowy favoured, even that would do.  In an ideal world Sam knew he wanted the quilt.

 

The bitch otter came with Sam’s evening meal, and Sam, in a desperate bid for freedom launched himself at her and knocked her down!  Scrambling over her body, Sam ran for the open back door.  Winifred got to her paws and watched Sam disappear into the house.  She knew she could not catch the polar bear, so she didn’t even try.

 

Sam burst into the house and crawled as quickly as he could towards the living room.  Salty saw him coming and brought his paw smashing down on Sam’s nose, instantly immobilising the polar bear.

      “What the hell’s going on!”  Perdy demanded, now terrified by Sam’s sudden appearance on the scene.

     “I don’t know,”  Salty replied, “but whatever it is, I’ve just stopped it.”  Leo crawled over and took a look at Sam, who glared back at him.

      “You aren’t meant to be here!”  Leo yelled.  Winifred padded stiffly into the room then.

     “Sam went crazy!”  she yinnied.  Leo looked at the bitch otter.

    “Did he harm you?”  The lion asked.  Winifred shook her head.

      “Knocked me down, that’s all,”  she replied, “I think he was more intent on getting away from the shed than doing me harm.”  Sam, now beginning to recover, moaned pitifully as sensation returned to his body.

      “I don’t want to go back to the shed Leo, I can’t stand it in there any more!”  Sam whimpered.  Leo growled deep in his throat, the sound making Perdy nervous.

      “You are a real pawful to deal with Sam!”  Leo yelled.  “I don’t know what I can do to you that will make you see the seriousness of what you did to Hazel!”  Sam begged Leo for mercy.  Leo suddenly looked exhausted.

     “just get out of my sight!”  he snarled.

 

Perdy listened to Sam’s paws scuffing on the carpet as he fled.  Turning, she saw Tigger lying beside her, and reached out a paw to touch his.  Feeling the female snow leopard’s paw enveloping his, Tigger smiled with pleasure.  Perdy attempted to hug Tigger, the Bengal tiger submitting happily to her embrace.  Perdy thought hard about Tigger.  Throughout her treatment, he’d never once made eye contact with her.  Maybe this was the way things worked, so she focused more on what her body was telling her rather than on Tigger himself.  Another puzzling realisation was that Tigger seemed to find her with his paws, rather than looking at what he was doing.  Perdy looked into the tiger’s eyes, but the tiger seemed not to notice her.

     “Are you in there Tigger?”  Perdy asked.  Tigger replied that he was awake, and that he was paying attention.

      “I’ve been looking into your eyes for the last five minutes and you’ve not reacted to me!”  Perdy spat.  Salty touched her paw, but she shook him off.

      “Are you impolite, disrespectful or just plain ignorant!”

      “Perdy!”  Salty pleaded.  Perdy spun round on the large male snow leopard.

      “What!”  she snarled, now furious with Salty.

      “Tigger, he can’t see you Perdy,”  salty said, “he wasn’t being disrespectful, lazy or anything else.”

      “Why didn’t you say something Tigger?”  Perdy snapped.

      “Why should I mention anything about my disability if it isn’t affecting my work?”  Tigger asked.  Perdy didn’t know what to say after this, so she changed the subject.

     “So how many other disabled animals have we here?”  Perdy asked, “is this a place for cripples?”  Salty backhanded Perdy across her nose with his paw to shut her up.

      “if you’re going to be like that,”  Hop along said, “you will be out of this place before your paws have touched the carpet!”  Perdy spun round on Hop along and stared at the huge Bengal tiger.  Hop-along met her gaze, but knew he couldn’t hide the almost permanent look of discomfort in his eyes.  Snowy’s paw massages only went so far to help with the pain from his injured leg.  The leg had healed, but not correctly, and caused Hop-along permanent pain.  Even so, the Bengal tiger was happy enough with his life, he could now get about slowly, limping carefully towards wherever he wanted to get to.  Perdy saw Hop-along’s huge form, his huge paws and long tail.  She then looked back at Salty, finally registering how powerful he was.

     “There are many animals with disabilities here Perdy,”  snowy Half-tail said, “I am disabled myself, but you wouldn’t know it at first glance.  You carry on as you are doing, and you  will not know how good and kind these animals are.  We have our disagreements, but on the whole we get on well, otters with badgers, polar bears with tigers, snow leopards with brown bears, brown bears with raccoons, and snow tigers with common leopards and everyone else.  Life is good here, and we will stick by those who play by the rules, even if they are disabled.  You know nothing of our lives, nothing of our history.  You don’t know me, and I don’t know you.  I’ll bet that before you knew Tigger was blind, you quite liked him.  Now though, you feel uneasy about him?”  Perdy looked away, ashamed to admit this was exactly how she felt.

 

“Perdy will learn soon enough who she can and can’t trust in this place,”  Portia mewed.  Tarker spat on the carpet.

     “I rest my case,”  Portia added.  Winifred ran to her cub and walloped him for spitting.

     “That’s a disgusting habit Tarker!”  She yinnied.  Tarker tissed and yinnied with pain and embarrassment at the public walloping.

     “So now what do we do?”  Portia asked, “Perdy doesn’t like Tigger, and when she realises there are more blind animals, Whitie and blanche to name two, she’ll go crazy!”  Perdy looked at Portia.

     “Who are Whitie and Blanche?”  She asked.

      “Two snow leopard cubs,”  Portia replied, regretting saying what she had.

     “Snow leopard cubs?”  Perdy asked, “Amber’s cubs?”  Snowy’s fur stood on end, and she growled a warning to Perdy.

     “My cubs too,!”  she snarled.

      “Your cubs?”  Perdy asked, “the only snow tigress I ever heard of who took in cubs and looked after them was snowy Half-tail, but she features in folk lore, she lived ages ago!  If at all that is.  It was said this snow tigress, though very unwell herself, found two snow leopard cubs and looked after them until their mother returned to them some months after snowy  found them.”  Snowy smiled.

     “I wonder who’s the blind one here,”  she said, “Perdy, did the storyteller describe snowy Half-tail to you?”  Perdy, now confused, blurted:

     “Yes, well, kind of.  My mother said that Snowy was large, fat she said, with big paws and a short tail.  She also said she couldn’t move very quickly because of some kind of problem with her breathing.  It was said when snowy had cubs of her own, she only just about survived their birth.  Snowy’s long dead though, she has to be!  She was very ill so the stories say.”

       “Perdy,”  snowy said, “do your eyes not see me?”  Perdy stared at the snow tigress.

      “I see you, but I don’t know your name,”  Perdy replied.

     “Ah, but you do,”  Snowy replied, “you know it very well indeed.”

       “I don’t know your name!”  Perdy yelled, now more furious than ever.

      “a snow tigress, with a short tail and  fat paws?”  snowy asked, “surely you know one of that description?”

      “Well, yes, snowy half-tail, but you’re not her, are you?”

       “I am snowy,”  snowy replied, “the same as in the stories you were told.  I have been here for years, longer than you or your mother have lived.  I am very unwell, it is true, but it is also true that I took in two defenceless snow leopard cubs and looked after them.  Their names were Whitie and blanche, and Amber was, and still is their mother, for she lives here too.  You met her a while ago.”  Perdy felt a strange feeling come over her.  To find Snowy still living in a house with other animals felt very strange, for her mother had told her snowy had died.  Now though, this was plainly untrue, for the real Snowy Half-tail was alive, very alive, and had spoken to her.

     “Snowy?”  Perdy said, her voice shaking uncontrollably, “I’m sorry, I didn’t realise.”  Snowy looked severely at Perdy.

     “I am leader here now,”  snowy said, “Leo and myself lead the community here.”  Perdy looked at Leo, the huge lion looking back at her with mild interest.

      “I always looked up to Snowy, the one in the stories,”  Perdy gabbled, “I wished I could be like her, look after lost cubs, that kind of thing.”

      “Snowy is no super cat,”  Leo said, “it was her will to survive which has brought her to where she is today.  Now Perdy, I suggest you start looking to what really matters.  Tigger was kind to you, and you were relaxed with him, that was before you learned of his sight problems.  Now I ask you, what shows the real Tigger, the fact he can’t see you, or the way he cared for you when you first got here?”  Perdy knew what Leo was getting at.

      “I’m sorry Tigger,”  Perdy said.

     “I think you need to apologise to Hop-along, Pipin, Whitie, Blanche and snowy too,”  Tigger said.  Perdy knew she’d really put her paw in it.

      “I shouldn’t have said what I did,”  Perdy mewed, “I’m sorry, I feel dreadful now!”  Portia padded up to Tigger, put her paws round his neck and hugged him.  Perdy stared at them!

      “You, you two are, are, I mean, Tigger’s your mate?”  Perdy babbled.  Portia smiled as Tigger’s paws embraced her.

     “He is,”  she said, “I’m his, he’s mine.”  Tigger began to purr contentedly.

     “I wouldn’t be surprised if Leo and snowy now get together!”  Perdy yelled, now totally confused by the whole arrangement.

      “Too late,”  Leo said smiling, “we are together.”  Perdy ran from the room, up the stairs and into the main bedroom, where she saw many other animals, more snow leopards, polar bears, and brown bears.

    “Ah Perdy,”  Amber said, “now you know where you stand here, welcome.”  Perdy threw herself onto the quilt, where resided two brown bears and one polar bear.

     “This place is crazy!”  Perdy yelled.

     “Be quiet please,”  Kodiak said, “I’m trying to sleep.”  Perdy worked her paws into a fold of the quilt and rested her head on them, unable to work out what kind of a place she’d come to.

 

 

 

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