The power of the bath.
Aslan and the yet unnamed white female lion cub settled down curled together. Theo and Tembi watched them, marvelling at how Aslan had warmed to the white cub. He lay curled round her, one of her tiny forepaws held firmly in both of his. The female cub snuggled as close to Aslan as she could, burying her free paw in his mane. Aslan purred as he felt the white cub’s paw working into his mane.
“Are you all right my pet?” Aslan purred. The white female cub buried her face in Aslan’s fur.
“I’m okay now,” she mewed, “I’m fed, warm and safe.” Aslan felt the white cub’s tongue licking his ear. He smiled, embracing her tenderly.
“You can sleep easily tonight,” Aslan whispered, “I promise you that.” The white cub wiggled the toes of the paw Aslan held, making the male lion cub smile.
“Go to sleep little’n,” he yawned.
“I don’t want to,” the cub mewed, “I’d rather stay awake, that way I don’t miss a minute with you.” Her words made Aslan want to cry. He realised every minute with this cub was precious, for she nearly didn’t make it. Aslan embraced the white cub tenderly.
“You need to sleep little one,” he mewed. The white female lion cub touched Aslan’s nose with one tiny paw. Aslan wanted to tell her to take her paw away, as he didn’t like anyone touching his face, but something stopped him. The tiny cub examined Aslan’s ears, closed eyes, nose and mouth with her paw, Aslan sneezing as the fur of her paw touched his nose. The white cub laughed merrily.
“You are so funny,” she mewed. Aslan licked her paw, the cub smiling at him, though he couldn’t see it.
“Anyone for a bath?” Tigger asked. This call always came around sundown, and many animals looked forward to it, for Tigger was famous for his massages. The white cub, hearing this, was curious.
“Come on Aslan, let’s try this,” she said, eager to try anything new. Aslan hesitated, he’d never had one of Tigger’s so called baths before, though he’d heard of them.
“You can, but I’m not going to,” he said. Then he realised he’d have to have a bath, for if the white cub was going to have one, he’d have to go with her, just in case anything happened, and she obviously wanted him close by her at all times.
“Oh, all right,” he said gruffly. Making their way to the bathroom, they passed Tigger who smiled as he caught the scent of the two cubs who’d accepted his invitation.
“Aslan and the little white female lion cub,” he purred. Aslan mumbled something under his breath, which Tigger heard.
“You need not be frightened,” Tigger replied. Aslan felt the heat of the water hit him as he entered the bathroom. The white cub was full of questions.
“What’s going to happen?” She asked.
“Well,” Tigger replied, “in front of you is a bathtub, I will help you into it, then you can swim about a bit. The water’s not deep, so you won’t be in any danger. I’ll be here all the time. Aslan got in first, the warm water caressing his paws. Tigger turned something on the side of the bath, and the water came to life! Aslan felt his paws getting the most wonderful massage they’d ever had! In fact his whole body was getting it! Aslan, despite his aversion to getting his face wet, plunged his head beneath the water to find out what it felt like. The water roared in his ears, and it was very strange. Aslan suddenly squealed with fear! Something was hurting his eyes! A bright thing, too bright! Aslan closed his eyes, hardly realising what he’d done. Darkness returned. Tigger pulled Aslan out of the water, anxious the cub had been injured.
“Are you all right?” Tigger asked. Aslan mewed something about pain in his eyes.
“What?” Tembi demanded, having bounded in when she heard Aslan’s scream.
“My eyes,” Aslan mewed, something’s happened to them!” Involuntarily, Aslan relaxed, his eyes opening naturally. He found the new world not as scary as he had before. He couldn’t understand what he was seeing, but he was, there was no doubt about that! Aslan reached out and touched Tembi’s paw, identifying her. He then looked at her.
“You’re my mum,” he said. Tembi then realised what the cub was doing.
“You can see me Aslan?” She asked. Aslan hesitated:
“I think so,” he said, “your paw feels like my mum’s, and your scent tells me who you are, so, well, yes, I suppose I am looking at you.” Tembi threw her paws round Aslan and hugged him, weeping into his fur.
“How did this happen?” she asked.
“Aslan’s eyes were gummed shut by the mucus and stuff which protects them in the first few weeks of life,” Tigger replied, “his eyes were never washed as he didn’t like having his face touched or getting it wet. When he felt the massage of the water though, he tried ducking his head beneath the water, and bang! What did he get? All the washes his face ever wanted in one go. Now he can see properly. Tigger placed his paw gently over Aslan’s left eye, the cub instinctively raising his own paw to remove Tigger’s.
“There,” Tigger said, “my paw wasn’t touching Aslan, but he saw it and wanted to remove it. Tembi was speechless with excitement!
“so who have we here?” Aslan asked, curiosity overcoming fear.
“Feel our paws first,” Tigger replied. Aslan got the Tiger’s drift. Tigger gave Aslan his left forepaw.
“I’d say this was Tigger’s paw,” he said. Tigger grinned.
“It is,” he mewed. Aslan threw his paws round the tiger’s neck, hugging him. Tigger purred contentedly.
“Now for the other cub here,” Aslan said, taking the white cub’s paw.
“I know you,” he said, “you’re the tiny white cub whom my mum’s adopted. The white cub smiled.
“I am,” she mewed.
“So, I take white to mean what your fur is,” Aslan said, touching her shoulder. The cub nodded:
“I suppose it is,” she said. Aslan turned the white cub’s paw over and looked at it.
“I can feel your pads,” Aslan said, “and, if Theo said correctly, your pads were black? So this is what black is.” The white cub curled her toes round Aslan’s.
“You are looking at her paw,” Tembi said. Aslan dropped the cub’s paw and looked at Tembi.
“This is going to be very weird,” he said, “I’m going to have to touch you, and you will have to explain what I’m seeing as I touch you. That way I will learn what I’m seeing. Tembi smiled.
“This is so wonderful!” She whooped. Theo ran in then.
“What the hell’s going on!” he demanded. Aslan, catching the scent of his sire, looked at Theo. Theo nearly fell over when he realised his cub was looking at him!
“That’s what’s going on,” Tembi replied. Theo’s eyes filled with tears.
“This is a miracle!” He choked.
“Not really,” Tigger mewed.
“Oh shut it!” Theo snapped, “I don’t want any of your scientific rubbish!”
“But it’s no miracle,” Tigger persisted, “Aslan’s just experiencing what most cubs do when their eyes open for the first time.”
“Tigger said Aslan never washed his face,” the white cub mewed, “he’s a dirty cub!” Aslan could tell she was only half serious, “the water washed his face, and his eyes opened like they were meant to.”
“All right, it’s not a miracle,” Theo mewed, “but it’s wonderful all the same!
“I’m wondering if when I get into the water,” the white cub said, “the same won’t happen to me.”
“Not yet little one,” Tigger said, “your eyes aren’t ready yet.” Aslan went to Theo and took his paw, just to confirm who he was.
“Hello Theo,” Aslan said. Theo threw his paws round his cub, hugging him tightly.
“There’re those whiskers that tickle me,” Aslan mewed. Aslan tickled the pads of Theo’s right forepaw with the toes of his left, Theo laughing helplessly.
“There are those ticklish paws too,” Aslan laughed. Theo licked his cub’s ear and rubbed noses with him.
“You young rogue!” Theo laughed, embracing his cub.
Aslan guided the white female lion cub into the bath, the water massaging their paws as they entered. Aslan and the white cub played together, each enthusiastically splashing the other.
“Those two are inseparable,” Tigger mewed. Tembi touched Tigger’s paw.
“I wish you could see them,” she said, “for they look so happy.” Tigger suddenly looked very sad.
“I wish I could too,” he said, “but that won’t happen. There’s no cure for me.” Tembi and Theo’s elation was suddenly tempered with sadness for Tigger. The tiger had said he was at peace with his disability, but the truth, as they now saw, was anything but peaceful.
“I’m glad for your cub Theo, Tembi, and I will be glad for the white cub when her eyes open and she can see the world. For me though, there’s nothing to see any more, and never will be.” Tigger was always so cheerful and ready to roll onto his back and play with the cubs, that rarely did anyone give a thought to what went on in the mind of the large Bengal tiger. Tigger listened to Aslan and the white lion cub’s play. Shaking himself, and sighing regretfully, he rested his forepaws on the rim of the bathtub, resting his chin on them and closing his eyes. Tigger stayed like this for several minutes, his mood affecting everyone, including the two cubs playing in the warm water. Aslan and the white cub stopped their play, turning towards Tigger. They placed their damp forepaws on Tigger’s, Aslan’s paws on Tigger’s left forepaw, and the white cub’s on his right, then lowered their heads until their whiskers touched the Bengal tiger’s nose. Aslan, who’d known Tigger’s world, but now knew the world of the sighted, felt the tiger’s mood more keenly than any other animal in that small room. the white cub’s mood was affected by Aslan’s, though she knew that one day she would see all her friend could. Tigger felt the cub’s paws and whiskers on his, and their presence comforted him.
“Thank you both,” Tigger mewed. Tigger began to cry, his tears splashing into the water.
“What’s wrong Tigger?” the white cub asked.
“I’ll be all right in a minute,” Tigger sniffed. Aslan knew what was upsetting the Bengal tiger, but dared not put it into words.
“Are you unwell?” The white cub asked. Tigger sniffed, fiercely gripping the rim of the tub with both paws.
“Not unwell,” Tigger sobbed, “just very sad.” Tembi felt dreadful.
“I shouldn’t have said anything,” she mewed, “for all I’ve done is upset you Tigger.” Tigger took a deep breath.
“You only put into words that which I wish for every day,” he said, “no, your words made me think of something witch I suppress deep inside, or maybe not so deep inside.”
“We will do anything to help you Tigger,” the white cub said. At her words, Aslan tried to turn a sob into a cough, but it didn’t fool Tigger.
“come here Aslan,” Tigger said. The white cub withdrew a little, knowing Tigger wanted Aslan directly in front of him.
“Listen to me Aslan my friend,” Tigger mewed, “We both know the dark place and that of light, and I know you are entering the place of light, a place in which I have been, but will never be again. It is a rich place, a wonderful place too, and I want you to take everything it has to offer with both paws and embrace it. Will you do this for me? Look around you little cub, see everything you can see, enjoy and love the world you see, and when your white friend comes to see her surroundings, tell her what I say.” Aslan tried not to cry, but he felt his eyes grow wet with tears, and his whole body fill with sadness for Tigger. Throwing his paws round Tigger’s neck, Aslan wept into the tiger’s fur, Tigger letting him cry.
When Aslan’s tears dried, Tigger took his tiny paw in his and stroked it.
“go now Aslan,” Tigger said, “and do what I asked of you.” Aslan looked at Tigger:
“I will Tigger, I will,” he replied.
“Come,” Aslan said to the white female lion cub, “let’s go from here.”
The two cubs made their way back to the living room, their hearts as heavy as lead.
“Where the hell have you two been?” Tarker asked.
“It’s a long story,” Aslan replied, looking Tarker in the face. Tarker suddenly realised what he was seeing.
“Aslan!” he mewed, “you, you’re looking at me!”
“yes,” Aslan replied, “I had My eyes opened by a bath time massage.”
“This is wonderful!” Tarker mewed.
“It is,” Aslan said, “I think.”
“What do you mean you think it is wonderful?” Tarker enquired, “it’s amazing you can see when we thought you’d never be able to. Stop complaining!”
“I’m not,” Aslan replied, “it’s, well, just that Tigger can’t see what I can now.”
“Oh him,” Tarker said, “he’s old and silly! He’s losing his sight because he’s getting on a bit.”
“He’s not old,” Aslan mewed, “he’s only two years old! He’s not meant to lose his sight, not yet!”
“You’re upset because of something that’s happening to him, which you have no control over, and won’t affect you?” Tarker spat, “that’s silly, as silly as Tigger is!”
“It’s called being concerned about other animals Tarker, and I’m sorry that you seem not to be!” Aslan sobbed, greatly upset by Tarker’s words.
“Let Tigger do his own thing and you do yours,” Tarker snapped, “it’s not your business to be medalling in his life. He’s the past, we’re the future. Let him grow old and die. We don’t need him!”
“You might not need him,” Aslan sobbed, his breath coming in short gasps, “but I do, I like him!” Aslan focused on Tarker, and ran at the otter cub! When he judged he was within pouncing range, Aslan extended his claws and sprang!
A set of huge paws caught Aslan in mid air, bringing him down to the carpet and holding him firmly.
“Don’t do it Aslan, it’s not worth it!” someone yelled. Aslan knew to whom the large paws holding him belonged, and screaming, beat upon them with his own tiny ones.
“It is worth it Theo!” Aslan sobbed, “it’s worth it when Tarker’s insulting Tigger! Tigger doesn’t need it, and neither do I! I won’t have it!” Theo Turned Aslan in his paws so the cub was looking into his face.
“Tarker’s not worth it little cub,” Theo said gently.
“but, but Theo, I can’t let Tarker say things like that! It’s wrong, it’s so wrong!” Aslan mewed.
“I know Aslan my cub, I know,” Theo said softly, “but sometimes we need to let those things go over our heads. You are right to feel for Tigger. You are right to get angry at Tarker for what he says about him, but you must realise this. We cannot do anything to help those like Tarker. He is poisoned in his mind Aslan. By what he is poisoned I don’t know, but he is, and nothing we can do will change that. Springing on him and tearing his throat out would have solved nothing.”
“It would have stopped him saying dreadful things!” Aslan sniffed.
“I know, I know,” Theo replied, “but taking your claws to him isn’t the way to solve the problem.”
“I know what Tigger’s going through,” Aslan sobbed, “and it’s horrible!” Aslan paused, Theo Feeling the cub’s emotions rising, suddenly they burst from him!
“,If, if I could tear Tarker’s eyes out I would! Just to show him!” Aslan yelled, his body vibrating with anger.
“don’t ever let me hear you talking like that again Aslan!” Theo shouted. Aslan buried his face in Theo’s shoulder, crying pitifully. Theo knew Aslan’s words were born of anger, not malice.
“I know it’s hard little cub,” Theo mewed.
“No Theo, fortunately you don’t’ know,” Aslan sobbed, “What Tarker says is horrible, what he makes light of is horrible! I’d wish noone to go through what Tigger’s going through. It’s too much to hear some jumped up cub talking about things of which he knows nothing. I know Tigger’s made a life for himself after he lost his sight, but that’s not the point! We’re not discussing that!” Theo held his sobbing cub tightly.
“come home little cub,” Theo mewed. Aslan let himself be carried back to the rug on which he, the white cub and his parents lived.
Once there, Aslan found his younger sister, the so called white cub, lying on the rug. When she sensed Aslan’s presence, she rolled over and took him in her tiny paws in an attempt to hug him. Aslan threw his paws around her and held her close.
“Now we have had our baths, we can sleep,” the white cub said.
“Not me,” Aslan mewed, “I can’t sleep, not after what’s happened tonight.”
“We’ll both stay up then,” the white cub said, “for if you can’t sleep, then I won’t either.”
“But you must,” Tembi yawned, “both of you.”
“but mum!” both cubs said in unison. Tembi couldn’t decide whether to laugh or be angry.
“Go to sleep,” she said, “or you’ll be fractious and bad tempered in the morning.”
“What did mum say?” the white cub asked Aslan.
“Mum used a word that I’ve never heard before,” Aslan replied. “Let’s talk to Kalahari about it in the morning. That’s if we’re not already, um, fractious of course.” Tembi laughed merrily at her cub’s attempts to work out the meaning of the words she used.
“I’m sure Kalahari will tell you what fractious means in the morning,” she said.
When morning came, Aslan and the white cub were surprised to find they’d slept well. Of course, they were eager to ask Kalahari what fractious meant. The meerkat, frustrated at being woken at such an early hour, but amused by the two cub’s enthusiasm for the word fractious, told them what it meant.
“Kalahari intoned, “the dictionary definition of fractious is, either stubbornly resistant to authority or control, or, easily irritated or annoyed, or, unpredictably difficult in operation; likely to be troublesome. If you are either of those three, you’ll be frustrating to either me or your poor mum, so go to sleep both of you.” Aslan and the white cub laughed merrily at the meerkat’s words.
“Thanks Kalahari,” Aslan said. The meerkat smiled at the male lion cub.
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