Letting the cat out of the bag.
Leo released Ellie and she settled down on her side, closing her eyes. Leo knew what was about to happen and braced himself for witnessing what he’d dreaded for years. Leo saw Clarence watching, gripping the carpet with the toes of all four paws. Ellie suddenly tensed all her muscles, gasping with pain from the first of many contractions which would bring her imaginary cubs into the world. Clenching her paws, Ellie breathed hard as she came down from her first real effort.
The sound of banging on the door put an end to Ellie’s acting. Ellie sprang to her paws, eager to see who was hammering on the door.
“You’re meant to be having cubs!” Theodore mewed.
“they can wait!” Ellie replied, “there’s someone at the door and they’re battering it down, how on earth can I concentrate on cubbing with that rumpus going on I ask you!” Ellie fled for the door. Leo, relieved the cubbing was over for now, relaxed gratefully onto the rug on which he lay. Clarence gently eased his toes loose from the carpet, as relieved as Leo that the mock cubbing had only got so far.
“What I saw and heard was bad enough,” Leo said.
Meanwhile, Ellie had leapt up at the door and dragged down the handle to let in a bedraggled looking dog, who carried in his mouth a bag, which seemed to have something living inside it.
“Can I, and, my friend come in for a minute,” The dog asked, speaking round the cord which he held in his teeth.
“You Can, I suppose,” Ellie replied, confused, stepping back into the hallway.
“My friend, in here,” the dog said, putting down the bag and waving a paw at it, “he’s trapped, someone put him in here, and he can’t get out, I can’t free him either. Not with paws like mine.” Ellie looked at the bag. It was pinned at the top, and Ellie could see through a tiny window into the interior of the bag. A tiny tiger cub crouched in the depths, staring out with pleading, Terrified eyes, pressing his tiny forepaws against the window as he tried to force his way out in a final desperate bid for freedom. Ellie looked at the cub, at his desperate expression, pleading eyes and desperately scrabbling paws. She heard them scrabbling as the cub tried to grip with his toes, his paws damp with sweat from struggling against the restraining bag. Ellie looked up into the dog’s face. His eyes were almost as desperate as those of the trapped tiger cub.
“Look,” she said, “I don’t know if I can help. Maybe others here might be able to.” The dog looked down at the bag in which the tiger was now lying on his back, scrabbling at the window with the toes of his hind paws, pressing them against the plastic window in an attempt to force just the toes of one paw into the open.
“I found him like this,” the dog said, “he was rolling and kicking inside that bag, as now, unable to free himself. We got talking, and he begged me to help him find someone to release him. So we wandered for days, me carrying him. I’m just a stray dog, but he’s a tiger cub, trapped in a bag. The dog watched as, mewing pitifully, the tiger cub kicked violently at the walls of his prison, the heavy duty plastic preventing him even forcing the toes of one tiny paw through to the outside world. The cub, now exhausted, sank down onto the floor of the bag, crying with fatigue and terror.
“Please help him!” the dog begged. Ellie looked at the dog. He had a name tag, “rocky” it said.
“Let’s bring him indoors,” Ellie suggested, “you come too Rocky, and we’ll see what we can do.” Rocky padded into the living room and looked about him in amazement!
“My friends,” Ellie said, waving an expansive paw round the room. The cabinet polar bears spat with disgust, but everyone else smiled at Ellie.
“Could someone take a look at this bag?” Ellie asked, “there’s a tiny tiger cub in there, and he’s desperate to get out. Some human put him in there, and his friend here can’t free him. We need someone with dextrous paws and some strength. Tigger wandered in, and, overhearing what Ellie had said, went to take a look at the bag containing the now exhausted tiger cub, which lay on the floor, twitching and shaking whenever the cub inside it made a fresh attempt to break free. Tigger watched the tiny cub lying in the depths of the bag for several minutes, deeply moved by the cub’s predicament. Coupled with his tiny stature, his tiny ears, tiny paws, and those eyes, staring desperately at Tigger through the plastic window, the cub touched Tigger deeply.
Snarling with anger, the cub suddenly pressed his hind paws against the window and scrabbled at it with the toes of his fore, trying to fight his way free. Tigger looked at the bag, at the bottom end, where he found no way in, and finally at the closed top end of the bag, the cub all the while kicking and scrabbling with all four of his tiny paws. Tigger saw something then, at the top end of the bag, there was something holding it shut. Tigger took the top of the bag between his teeth and paws and pulled hard. The bag split open, Tigger putting his paw inside and feeling the cub’s tiny forepaws take hold of his large one. Gripping Tigger’s paw, the tiger cub released his grip on the bag which he’d maintained with his hind paws, letting Tigger draw him fourth.
The tiny tiger cub slithered from the bag, trying to help Tigger by pushing with the toes of each hind paw in turn. Once in the open, the shivering, sweat soaked cub looked even more pathetic. His fur plastered to his skin, the tiger cub lay staring wildly about him and shaking from his ears to his paws.
“hello little one,” Tigger purred, taking the tiny sweat soaked bundle of fur in his paws and hugging him.
“I wouldn’t hug that!” Tinka spat, “he’s all dirty Tigger! His fur and paws are drenched!”
“sometimes a wash is not the first priority Tinka,” Tigger replied, hugging the cub tightly. Tinka spat on the floor.
“At least dry him off before you hug him!” She pleaded, “how disgusting!”
“Drying the sweat off him would kill him Tinka,” Tigger replied, “he needs to cool down naturally. Please, let me deal with him.” Ellie looked at the tiny cub in Tigger’s paws.
“You’re safe here little one,” Tigger purred. The cub, now almost dry, snuggled up to Tigger, purring for the first time in many long and terrifying weeks.
“Who put you in a bag little cub?” Tigger asked. The tiny tiger cub took Tigger’s left forepaw in his and held on with such strength Tigger nearly cried out.
“Okay little one,” he said, squeeze my paw, squeeze away. The cub closed his eyes, struggling to hold back tears, his grip on Tigger’s paw stronger than ever as he fought not to cry, not to show how terrified he was.
“You can cry little one,” Tigger said gently, feeling the cub’s tiny paws tightening on his larger one as, claws sheathed, the cub dug his toes into Tigger’s pads in an attempt to take his mind off his ordeal.
“if you don’t want to tell me, you don’t have to little cub,” Tigger said gently. The cub fought harder than ever to control his emotions, squeezing Tigger’s paw, but in the end the tiny creature gave up the struggle. Tears rolling down his face, the tiny tiger cub let go of Tigger’s paw and buried his face in the huge tiger’s shoulder.
“It’s okay to cry little cub,” Tigger purred. The cub, his tiny forepaws clinging to Tigger’s fur, cried for a long time. Once his tears dried, the cub rubbed clenched paws over red eyes.
“I was loved once,” the cub sniffed, “once a human child loved me. But the child grew up, and no longer wanted me. I was put into an old bag which had contained gloves or something, and, they, they,” tears welled in the cub’s eyes once more, “they threw me out! What had I done wrong Tigger? Please tell me, and I’ll never do it again, I promise!” Tigger hid his face in his paws to hide his own welling tears from the tiny cub. The bit about him being thrown out was hard enough, but Tigger understood humans grew up and sometimes no longer wanted soft toys like the cub now weeping pitifully beside him. What really upset Tigger was that the cub thought it was something he’d done which had made the humans throw him out like the boss threw out old cans and things. Tigger had seen his own carrying box dumped, and that looked pretty final. To throw out a tiny soft toy tiger cub though? Who would think of, let alone do something like that? Tigger felt the cub’s tiny paw scrabbling at his. Letting the tiny tiger cub take his left forepaw in both his tiny ones, Tigger looked at him.
“You are upset too,” the cub stated, “so you’ve been thrown out too?” Tigger shook his head.
“No, thank goodness,” he sniffed, “listen little cub,” Tigger continued, “and remember this. No matter what you think you might have done, the humans knew what they were doing. What happened to you was not your fault little cub.” The tiger cub looked into Tigger’s face. He liked this huge tiger, who was so gentle towards him. Rocky was a dear friend, and wonderful company, without whom he wouldn’t be here now, but he was no tiger, and what the cub needed now was a tiger to look after him. Tigger saw the look in the cub’s eyes.
“Shall we clean you up little one?” He asked gently. The cub hesitated slightly, then nodded. Tigger began grooming the tiny creature from the tips of his impossibly small ears, to the soles of four tiny paws. The cub, feeling Tigger working on him, purred contentedly.
“That’s the sound I want to hear,” Tigger purred. The cub smiled up at his new found friend.
“Thank you Tigger,” The cub Whispered. Tigger, only half hearing the cub’s words, thought he’d called him “Tiggie.” Almost crying himself now, Tigger finished checking the pads on the sole of the cub’s right hind paw, checked over his tail, then lay down and embraced him tightly. Snuggling into Tigger’s hug, the cub began stroking Tigger’s right forepaw.
“I won’t throw you out little cub,” Tigger purred, “that’s a promise.” The cub buried his face in Tigger’s shoulder.
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Martin Wilsher © 2005
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