Tembo’s luck runs out.
A large female tabby cat watched the house from her vantage point on the top of the fence in the back garden. She was lonely, her mate killed beneath the wheels of a car not three days before.
Sitting on the fence, she thought about her mate, the pain of his death tearing her apart. Looking down at her paws, she tried to compose herself for what she was about to do. She had to find a home, and her mate had said that if she was in need of a home, to talk to the brown bear whom he’d helped in the woods some months back. The female tabby was named Tib, having adopted her mate’s name as a reminder of him, the only reminder she’d ever have now. She looked over at the back door of the house, thinking deeply about her now dead mate. After the accident which killed her mate outright, Tib had waited for the coast to clear, then she’d padded from the bushes where she’d hidden to wait for her mate’s return. Dragging his body off the road, Tib hid it in the bushes, before settling down to the old tabby death customs. She set to cleaning up her mate’s fur, licking the blood from his fur, smoothing over the fur, trying to provide her mate with some dignity in death. She couldn’t do much about the crushed ribs or scuffed pads and claws, but she groomed and cleaned her mate’s body from nose to tail as best she could. When she’d finished, he looked quite normal, that was if one ignored the crushed ribs and scuffed paws and claws. Tib looked down at her mate, thankful the car hadn’t damaged his face. His brown eyes looked at her with mute terror.
“You knew you were going to die,” she thought, “my poor dear, sweet mate. My Tib. She got up and dug a grave for her mate, her claws and paws in as much of a state as her dead mate’s by the time she’d finished. She dragged her mate’s body and placed it in the grave with as much ceremony as a cat can, which wasn’t much. Her mate’s body kind of fell into the grave, which upset her a great deal, but she couldn’t lift him, even if she’d wanted to. Once her mate lay in the grave, Tib covered his body with earth. It was then that she decided to adopt her mate’s name, so she could be reminded of him. Once she’d finished her work, Tib walked away, the full shock and horror of what had taken place hardly registering with her then.
On the fence two days later, the shock was registering, strong and powerful. Tib felt light headed, and then all at once she was on the grass! She’d fallen off the fence and landed on her back in the long grass in the garden. Winded and disorientated, Tib got to her paws and padded towards the back door of the house.
Theo, walking in the garden with Aslan, spotted the tabby cat and called to her.
“Are you lost?” Tib, concentrating on her paws, looked up, straight into the eyes of the king of beasts. Tib felt nervous as she looked into Theo’s eyes. Theo saw this cat was lonely, her eyes told him so.
“Can I help?” Theo asked. Tib found she couldn’t reply, her mouth had gone dry, and all she could do was stare at Theo. Mental shock had become physical shock, and Tib stood flat pawed on the grass, staring mutely at Theo, hoping he’d understand.
“Are you just going to stare at me, or will you answer my question!” Theo snapped. Aslan touched his sire’s paw.
“Theo,” he mewed, “I don’t think she’s in a position to answer. I think she’s in shock.” Theo hadn’t thought of this. Putting away thoughts of the flogging he might get from Leo for inviting a stranger into the house, Theo pointed at the back door.
“come in,” he said to the tabby, who nodded her thanks and followed them.
Once inside the house, They met Leo, who stared at Tib.
“Who’s this?” he asked Theo.
“A cat,” Theo replied, “tabby by the look of her.” Leo banged his paw on the lino floor of the hallway in frustration.
“I know that, I can see she’s a cat, and that she’s tabby too!” he snapped, “who is she? Where did you find her, and what the hell do you think you are doing bringing her in here without mine or Snowy’s say so!”
“She looked, well, upset,” Theo mewed, now wishing he’d never let the tabby in, “she’s, well, lost.”
“Go home and drink milk cat!” Leo snarled. Tib turned and made to leave.
“No Leo, please! Listen!” Aslan pleaded. Leo looked at his nephew.
“What?” he asked.
“I think, think she’s in shock,” Aslan said, “something awful has happened to her very recently.”
Yeah right,” Leo spat, “the only thing that has happened to her is that she’s been born a moggie!”
“You are horrible!” Aslan yelled, “Leo, how can you say such a thing! Are you totally stupid? Are you blind? For I can see she’s distressed, and I can’t bloody see her!”
“Don’t use that language!” Leo snapped, “I’m not stupid, nor am I blind Aslan, don’t ever accuse me of that!”
“Let me talk to her,” Aslan said, “please Leo.”
“No, I won’t!” Leo snarled, cuffing Aslan across his nose, “you don’t know anything about this, so keep your nose, and your paws off her!”
“My paws?” Aslan enquired, “why would I touch her?”
“Because you’re into that stuff!” Leo snapped.
“What’s come over you Leo?” Theo asked, “you believe as much in the power of touch as any animal here. Why are you denouncing it now?”
“I don’t want this cat here!” Leo yelled.
“if you’re angry at me for bringing her in, then I’m sorry, but she was in a bad way, still is! I found her in the garden Leo,” Theo mewed.
“You have overstepped the mark!” Leo yelled, “bringing a flea ridden moggie into the house!”
“But, well, we have to help her!” Theo whimpered, “if we don’t, then, then it’s not right. We’re a kind, tolerant community here, and since when have we ever turned an animal away who really needed our help. Leo, if you turn this cat away, I’ll leave and never return!” Leo knew Theo would carry out his threat, and it jerked him out of his rage.
“Okay,” he said, “let her say her piece.” Aslan went up to the tabby cat and touched her paw with his. Tib looked down into the closed eyes of a young lion cub.
“I’ll bet you are too young to be involved in all this little one,” she mewed. Aslan squeezed her paw. Tib leant down and licked Aslan’s ear.
“Come,” he said. The tabby turned and followed the tiny cub into the living room, where she found herself surrounded by many different types of animal.
“Lie down here and tell us your tale,” Leo said, indicating with his paw where Tib should lie. She collapsed onto the carpet, Aslan lying beside her and resting his paw on hers.
“Thank you little cub,” she mewed. Leo was about to tell Aslan to take his paw off the tabby’s when something stopped him. Aslan seemed to be the only one who knew this cat in any way. Leo looked at Tib.
“Tell us your tale,” he growled. Tib told her story.
“So your mate was the cat who helped me when I was cast out of the house?” Bruin asked. Tib nodded:
“he was,” she said, leaving it at that. She didn’t want to let on she’d been tipped off about the place she was now in, in case that big lion got angry again.
“Your tale is a sad one Tib,” Aslan said.
“I will go now,” Tib said, “I can’t stay here, I can see that.”
“Wait a minute!” Leo said.
“You of all the animals here want me to stay as little time as possible,” Tib replied.
“No, well, I was wrong, Aslan was right after all, Theo too. They’ve talked sense the whole time, and I’ve listened to fears. You’ve been through a lot, and I’m sorry for doubting you.” Leo couldn’t meet his brother’s eye. Theo knew his older brother felt terrible about his dreadful temper.
“You have been through a lot Tib,” Aslan said, gently stroking her paw. Tib touched Aslan’s nose with hers.
“Thank you little cub,” she said. Aslan snuggled up to Tib, her long fur warm against his. Theo watched Tib and his cub. They seemed content, Aslan snuggled up to the tabby as if he’d known her all his life. Tib began to purr contentedly as she became warmer and warmer. Resting her head on her forepaws, she closed her eyes.
“that cat knows what side her bread’s buttered,” Bruin remarked. Tib rolled onto her side and drew Aslan closer to her, caressing the lion cub in her warm paws. Aslan snuggled up to Tib, stroking her thick, warm fur with one tiny paw.
“Your cub seems to have taken a liking to that horrid scruffy moggie Tembi,” Tembo said.
“Scruffy moggie?” Tib asked, “who said that?”
“That was Tembo,” Aslan replied, “he’s a horrid creature.”
“Which one’s Tembo?” Tib asked, scanning the faces of the animals around her.
“He’s a lion cub, that’s all I know,” Aslan replied. Tib scanned the faces of the male lion cubs, looking for a signal as to which one called her scruffy. Her paws weren’t in very good shape, but that wasn’t surprising considering she’d buried her mate only a day or so before.
“Tembo,” Tib said to the room in general, “if I hear you making fun of me again, I’ll tear your paws off!”
“You wouldn’t dare,” Tembo replied, always wanting the last word. Tib now had a fix on him, and she sprang at the lion cub, gripping his head between both her huge forepaws!
“You listen to me!” Tib hissed, “you make comments like that again, and you’ll not see the sunrise! Okay?” Tembo whimpered with fear. This cat was dangerous!
“Let me go!” Tembo snapped. Tib let him go, but before she did, she back handed him across the mouth with her paw! Tembo screeched as Tib’s hard paw connected with his mouth.
“that’s only a taste,” Tib said. Walking back to Aslan, Tib sat down and began washing her face and paws.
“You haven’t heard the last of this!” Tembo yelled. Tib glared at Tembo, the expression in her eyes telling the cub far more than he wanted to know.
“I think you’ve made an enemy of her already Tembo,” Theo said. Tembo told Theo where he could shove his comments.
“right!” Tib yelled, “now you’re for it!” Theo threw himself at Tib, tackling her to the floor, the combined weight of their bodies slamming into Aslan! The cub screamed as he was rolled over by the two scrapping cats! Aslan crawled away, bruised and frightened. Theo clamped both Tib’s forepaws in one of his huge forepaws, his other paw clamping her mouth shut so she couldn’t bite him.
“You calm down right now!” Theo yelled. Tib snorted and blew through her nose, extending her claws to prick Theo’s pads.
“Hey!” Theo yelled as Tib’s claws dug into his paw, “that’s not nice!” Tib wrenched one paw free from Theo’s and brought it smashing down on his nose! Theo dropped her paw and threw up both his paws to shield his face!
“Maybe someone will teach Tembo a real lesson,” Salty mewed. Tib ran to Tembo and, picking him up off the floor, shook him like a dog does a rat! She then threw him hard across the room! Tembo smashed into the wall, his body crumpling to the carpet.
“You’ve killed him!” Elsa yelled.
“What if I have?” Tib snarled, “isn’t’ that what he wanted to do to Aslan?”
“But Tembo’s my cub!” Elsa sobbed.
“I’m sorry for you, but not for him,” Tib replied. Elsa went over to Tembo and touched him with her paw. He was unusually still. Elsa picked Tembo’s lifeless body up in her mouth and carried him out of the house. numb with shock, she laid Tembo on the floor of the shed. Elsa returned to the house, catching Clarence’s eye as she passed him. Clarence looked as shocked at the goings on as she felt.
“My cub’s dead!” Elsa sobbed. Tib looked at Leo, the lion’s face giving her no clue as to his feelings towards her. Elsa turned savagely on Tib.
“Why did you murder my cub!” she screamed.
“Tembo was bad to the bone Elsa,” Tib said, “he would have murdered Aslan just because he didn’t like him. Tembo wanted Aslan dead. I didn’t mean to kill your cub, but maybe it’s for the best. Tembo was a danger to us all.”
“You’ve never seen him before!” Elsa yelled.
“I’ve lived round here for years, I watched your arrival. I know your cub. I know Tembo’s behaviour towards his sister. I know he wanted her dead. This is the personality of the cub you’ve been protecting all this time. Tembo won’t be missed by many here.” Theo looked down at his paws, unable to look at Elsa, in case she realised that he would have killed Tembo if Tib hadn’t done it.
“What now?” Aslan asked.
“Tib leaves right now!” Leo yelled, “she can’t be allowed to stay!”
“no Leo,” Salty said, “Tib stays. It wasn’t her fault Tembo pushed his luck. If the truth be told, many here would have gladly done what she did. Even you would, if only you’d admit it to yourself.” Leo looked at the snow leopard.
“You mean you would too?” he asked. Salty looked Leo full in the face.
“Do I really need to answer that?” he asked. Leo clenched his paws, suddenly angry.
“So you’ve all had it in for Tembo?” he yelled.
“No Leo,” Clarence said, “He’s been destroying himself. He’s been provoking us beyond what we could stand. It is only because we are so comfortable here that we haven’t done what Tib did. We are no longer wild animals, we are comfortable, secure and warm. We let things go that wild animals don’t. Tib’s a wild cat, so she knew what Tembo was. She knew he’d kill Aslan if he got half a chance. Quite honestly, I knew it too. Tembo wanted Aslan dead.”
Elsa walked out of the house, then through the back gate to the wood. She didn’t want anything more to do with the animals in the house. they didn’t seem to care about Tembo. Picking up Tembo’s body, Elsa walked into the woods and buried him beneath a tree. Once this was done, she walked on into the wood, her mind numbed by what she’d seen.
Back in the house, Tib lay with her face buried in her paws.
“I just lost it,” she mewed, “I don’t know whether to be sorry or not.” Theo, seeing Elsa had disappeared, relaxed a little.
“I can’t say I’m sorry,” he said, “Tembo was heading for it all the time he was here.”
“We know that, but we don’t say it Theo,” Leo warned.
“I will say it Leo,” Theo replied, “for that cub nearly killed my cub. If Tib hadn’t done it, I would have! I don’t mind admitting it, there! I would have killed Tembo sooner or later.” Leo stared at his brother.
“How, how could you even think of it!” He yelled.
“When Tembo went after Aslan that first time, I saw the murderous intent in Tembo’s face. He wanted my cub dead Leo, my cub, who’d done nothing to harm anyone. If Tembo had killed Aslan, how would you feel now?” Leo looked at the tiny blind cub.
“I would rip his throat out!” Leo yelled.
“There,” Theo mewed, “I rest my case.” Leo looked at Tib.
“You can stay,” he said gruffly, “just don’t try anything like that ever again.”
Meanwhile, Elsa padded through the wood, her paws hardly feeling the ground beneath them. She’d seen her cub killed by a tabby cat, and although she knew she was much larger than Tib, Elsa dared not challenge the tabby. There was something about Tib, a wild power which Elsa could never match. Elsa admitted she’d become too soft, too habituated into soft living, what with the rugs and warmth in the house. now she was roaming alone, and wondering what would become of her.
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