Leisure time.


The day was warm, and all round the house, cubs of various animals, from tigers to otters, were wondering what to do with their day.  There were three otter cubs, all from different families, two common snow leopard cubs, polar bear cubs from various families, as well as tiger cubs and one lion cub.  Two snow leopard cubs, two young rabbits, and two capybara  rounded off the tally of young animals.  Then their were the parents of the cubs, some birth parents, others adoptive parents.  The cubs sometimes involved them in their play, with varying rates of success.  It was known, for example, that Tigger, a large Bengal tiger who resided on the quilt upstairs, would play with any cubs, be they his own species or those of another species entirely.  Arki, a large female polar bear, and Brunetta, a large female brown bear, were of much the same mind as Tigger.  Amber, an adult  female snow leopard, would also play with other animals cubs, but preferred to play with her own snow leopard cubs, or the cubs of Snowy half tail, two fine snow tiger cubs.  Isaac, Arki’s mate, would also play with the cubs, but Stifftail, Amber’s mate, would not.  He hated their games.  Be they chasing each other, or playing tag, or the worst game of all, the game where each cub would tickle the other’s paws until both cubs were laughing helplessly.  Then, worst of all, if it was possible to get much worse, the cubs might set upon the adults and try to tickle their paws.  Stifftail hated it when any cub tried it on with him, Dealing out harsh punishment to any cub who dared to ask him if they could play with him.  Soon no cub asked Stifftail to play.  Stifftail had once publicly walloped Blanche, his own cub, for attempting to tickle the pads of one of his forepaws.  The paw the cub had targeted was used to wallop her forcibly.  Many of the adult animals thought Stifftail’s aversion to playing with the cubs extreme and punishments he dealt out, totally disproportionate to the supposed crime.  Soon all the cubs feared him, even Stifftail’s own cubs wouldn’t go near him for fear of reprisal.


Tigger loved the cubs, he wanted to play with all of them, some of which he’d never seen the like of before.  He’d never met an otter cub, and when he did, he was enchanted by them.  Tigger would let the cubs clamber all over him in play, letting them stand on his back as they played a version of king of the castle, a favourite game among the cubs.  Tigger would also let the cubs stroke and tickle his paws, and they’d let him stroke and tickle theirs.  The cubs loved Tigger, for he was so large, but so gentle, and would always join in their games.


Arki, Isaac, Brunetta, and Bruin were not averse to playing with the cubs, also going so far as letting them scramble onto their backs to claim their patch.  Clarence, the huge male lion, didn’t so much resent the cubs play, as not know how to play with them.  He would attempt to play, but felt awkward and self conscious.  He couldn’t abandon himself to rolling on the carpet while a cub or two, or even, in extreme cases,  four cubs tickled his paws.


Clarence wanted to play, but he didn’t know how.


Tigger, knowing of Clarence’s wish to play with the cubs, decided he would try and help the huge lion.  Tigger and Clarence had been firm friends ever since the tiger had extended the paw of friendship to the lion when they’d first met after Clarence had been turned out of his pride.  Clarence had been somewhat surprised when the huge male tiger had quite literally thrust a paw through the bars of the cage Clarence was in and taken his.  Clarence had been offended at first, but found he couldn’t pull his paw away.  Something in the tiger’s eyes had told the lion that he should trust him.  The tiger, whom Clarence now knew as Tigger, had stuck by the huge lion from that day on.  Clarence had been terrified the day they were moved from their holding place, in case Tigger and he should be separated, but to his great relief they weren’t, ending up going to the same new home.


Clarence had found himself weeping with relief when he realised he and Tigger weren’t to be parted.  Clarence, a he lion, once master of a pride numbering seven lioness and ten cubs, found himself crying with relief that he’d not been separated from his friend, who happened to be a huge male tiger.


One day, Tigger and Clarence met for a chat.  Little was Clarence to know, that Tigger would start that very day to show him how to play together with another animal.


  Tigger was a very paws on tiger, not afraid of letting others practise what he taught them, as well as getting into the lessons himself.

     “So you want to learn to play with these cubs Clarence,”  Tigger said.  Clarence looked at his friend.

      “I’d like to,”  the lion said, “but how do I do it?  I mean, you play with the cubs all the time, any cubs, be they those of tigers or of other animals entirely.  I used to know how to play, how to be gentle with cubs, even how to enjoy playing with the cubs, but now I’ve been out of it for so long.”  Tigger smiled:

     “I’ll teach you how,”  he said, “we’ll take things nice and slowly, so that you learn to play gently, and also know how it is to have cubs playing with you.  There are older cubs who are tough as nails, who will help me.  First though, how about if we try a game or two.  The easiest games to learn are tag, or the paw tickling game.  Of course, if you don’t want your paws tickled, you can always learn what it is to have them stroked.  The cubs spend most of their time just stroking each other’s paws.”  Clarence looked down at his forepaws.

       “I used to like having my paws stroked,”  he said, “though I don’t know if I still would like it.”

     “Would you let me stroke your left forepaw?”  Tigger asked.  Clarence looked at the tiger.

      “Well, yes okay,”  he said, offering Tigger his paw.  Tigger took the proffered forepaw in both of his and began to stroke it gently.  Clarence closed his eyes as Tigger’s paw massage soothed him.  Stretching out on the carpet, Clarence breathed deeply, beginning to enjoy the paw massage.  Tigger massaged first Clarence’s left forepaw, then his right, then moved to the lion’s hind paws.  Clarence no longer cared about what others thought, all he wanted was more paw massage, lots more massage.  So when Tigger transferred his attention to Clarence’s hind paws, the lion pressed the pads of his paw hard against Tigger’s.  Tigger took this signal for what it was, and began to massage even more slowly, sending Clarence to sleep.  Tigger had wanted Clarence to have a go at massaging his paws, but now the lion was sleeping peacefully.  He knew he could wake him by rubbing the fur on the sole of one paw the wrong direction, but that would only upset Clarence, and there was all the time in the world for the lion to learn to stroke the paws of another animal.


Clarence woke feeling well rested, with all four paws invigorated by Tigger’s massaging.  Languidly stretching each paw, Clarence looked round him, spotting Tigger.

      “That was wonderful Tigger,”  Clarence said.  Tigger’s smile would have lit up a street.

      “We are from the same area Clarence,”  Tigger said.  Clarence looked at Tigger in a mirror on the wall and saw some of what the tiger meant.

      “We do have very similar faces,”  the lion said.

     “Our paws too,”  Tigger said, waving one of his forepaws, “they’re similar too.  All right, the fur on the soles of your paws is slightly silkier than mine, but our paws are similar in structure.  So I thought we were from the same area of jungle.”  Clarence managed to explore one of his hind paws with his forepaw.  Then Tigger let him examine one of his hind paws.  The paws of the lion and tiger were similar in so many ways.  So were their forepaws.  Clarence examined Tigger with his eyes and paws, realising how similar they both were.  The same facial structure, the same short tail, the same structure to the fore and hind paws.  Of course, Clarence was a lion and Tigger a tiger, there were differences between them, but there were similarities too.  This made Clarence feel better to know there were others like him.  Tigger seemed to enjoy Clarence’s examination of him.

     “I can see how the cubs win him over now,”  the lion thought, gently massaging one of Tigger’s hind paws.  Clarence knew he’d not yet learned how to play with another animal, but he’d learned an awful lot even so.  He now had an animal trusting him with its life, letting him take hold of and within reason, do what he wished with its paws, the very things it used for getting about and catching its food.  Tigger was letting a lion, his sworn enemy,  handle his paws, stroke and massage them until he was asleep.  Clarence felt honoured Tigger should trust him with so much.


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Martin Wilsher © 2005


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