Caruthers P. Cat (Part 2 of 3)
By Larry, California
Editor's Note: This story appears in the May, June, and July 2010 issues.
Caruthers strolled to the far end of the commons, a distance he had never gone before, knowing each step he took brought him further and further from his comfortable living, from the safety of his known world. Well, here goes, he thought to himself, as he leapt onto the top of the wooden fence that bordered the commons. For a moment he stood teetering between two worlds, that of which he knew, and that of which he dreamed. The hesitation was momentary. He jumped down into a world he knew very little about.
He strolled down the sidewalk cautiously, looking everywhere. Caruthers knew to cross the streets with caution to avoid the motorcars that zoomed past. But the strange scents, the noises, the scenery - all was new to him. It was a lot to take in at once, but he reveled in it. He felt a freedom that he had never experienced before. Gathering his courage, he began to strut with his tail in the air.
His elation was short lived. "Hey. Look at the runaway!" a hidden cat hissed from inside an abandoned lot.
Caruthers looked around, his heart beat faster. "Who is there?"
"Runaway, Runaway! I think he's scared," taunted a second cat.
"Show yourselves! Who are you?" Caruthers said.
A big tomcat stepped out of the shadows, followed by a slightly smaller, yet still very large tomcat. "Who are we? We should be asking who are you that strolls through our territory?" the first cat said.
"I'm sorry. I didn't know this was your territory. I am Caruthers P. Cat. Pleased to meet you. How do you do?"
"So polite, eh? Okay, I can play that game. My name is Diablo, and this here is my companion, Loco," the first cat said.
"Yeah," Loco said with a jittery laugh, "Loco, as in I'm crazy. So don't make me mad, I might go nutso on you!" he threatened, with a snicker in his voice.
"See how neatly groomed he is?" Diablo said derisively as he and Loco circled around Caruthers, sniffing and prodding. "See how well fed he is? Look at his pretty collar. So, this begs the question, why exactly is a house cat wandering around my territory?"
"I am looking for other cats that can run. Can you run?" Caruthers asked.
"What do I need to run for?" Diablo said. "I have everything I need here."
"Yeah!" Loco said. "We have every thing we need here!"
"You mean you only stay here, in this lot?" Caruthers asked.
"What part of my territory don't you understand? I stay in my territory," Diablo said.
"My territory, my territory, my territory," Loco repeated, all the while laughing.
"But why is this your territory?" Caruthers asked.
"Because I stay here," Diablo said. "What are you? Thick?"
"Yeah. Thick!" Loco repeated with a giggle.
"So this is your territory because you stay here. But you stay here because this is your territory?" Caruthers asked.
"Yeah, so? What is your problem, Caruthers P? And what does that P stand for anyway?" Diablo asked.
Loco danced around, still uttering "Thick, thick" while laughing uncontrollably. Diablo swatted him with a big furry paw and Loco sat down, mumbling under his breath.
"The P is for 'purr-plexed'," Caruthers said.
As he walked away, Caruthers pondered Diablo's circular logic. It seems that someone could get stuck in a situation and remain there, trapped, thinking they belonged there in the first place. Diablo had become so comfortable in his territory, his zone, that he dared not venture beyond it. Unlike Mouser, who limited himself to others' expectations, Diablo limited himself to his own self-built boundaries. Very different situations, Caruthers contemplated, yet the same sad result.
Two schoolgirls were passing by; one squealed, "Look! A kitty!"
Caruthers was no kitten, so being called a 'kitty' was in and of itself quite irritating. But these were just young girls, human kittens really. So Caruthers stopped for a moment, mainly out of curiosity.
"Here, kitty, kitty, kitty," the second girl said. She held out a piece of beef jerky she had been nibbling.
Caruthers thought about running for a second, but the temptation of the meat was too great. He cautiously stepped toward the girls. One of the girls grabbed him, lifted him up, and gave him a squeeze. Caruthers pretended to struggle, but relaxed when the girl broke off a piece of meat for him to eat.
The girls shrieked and giggled and chattered in baby talk to Caruthers until he began to feel exceedingly annoyed. He squirmed to show his irritation, causing them to put him back down onto the sidewalk. Still, the young schoolgirls didn't release him, instead tying a pink bow to his collar.
"Look, there's some writing on his collar. What's this? Caruthers P?" said the first girl.
"I wonder what the 'P' stands for," the second little girl said.
It stands for 'purr-turbed', thought Caruthers as he wriggled free, not even looking back as he dashed away, sprinting down the street. Several blocks slid under his frenzied paws before he slowed to a normal pace. In time, he came to a rough wall where he was able to scrape off the girl's pink bow from his collar. While taking in the sights of the surrounding neighborhood, he thought about the carefree nature of the schoolgirls. It is important not to be too serious in life, he thought to himself. There is a time to work, for sure, but it is also important to make a little time for play.
Caruthers P Cat walked onward. By and by he came upon a dog in a yard surrounded by a chain-linked fence. He approached the fence with caution, and watched as the dog ran around in circles. Here, at last, was someone who liked to run, Caruthers thought to himself!
"Excuse me," Caruthers said, but to no avail. "Excuse me! EXCUSE ME!"
Finally the dog stopped long enough to acknowledge the cat. "Go away! I'm busy."
"Busy doing what? I see you running. I am looking for someone who can run," Caruthers said to the now-panting dog.
"I run. I like running. I'm the fastest. That's why they call me Champ!" the dog said.
"Pleased to meet you, Champ. I am called Caruthers P. Cat. I have taught myself to run, but I am looking for others who can show me more."
"If that be your mission, then watch," Champ said as he began to run in circles again.
Caruthers did indeed watch, but Champ didn't seem to have any technique to his running. In fact, he wasn't even that quick about it. Champ appeared to be just spinning around trying to catch his elusive tail in his mouth which was always just out of reach.
"But you are only going in circles," Caruthers finally said.
"Why must I go anywhere?" Champ paused, seemingly stunned by the question. "I'm the fastest there is!"
Caruthers laughed. "What makes you the fastest?"
"I have seen no other that can run faster!" Champ barked proudly.
That was all the impetus Caruthers would need. He leaped over the fence, dashed across the yard to where Champ was standing, nipped the dog's tail with one claw, and continued sprinting to the other side of the yard where he bounded over the fence before ultimately coming to a halt.
Champ howled. "What was that? Wait ... Come back! I wasn't ready! You cheated!"
Without saying anything, Caruthers waved goodbye, leaving the whining dog behind. Caruthers was dismayed. He finally met someone who claimed they liked to run, but in reality knew nothing about it. Champ was limited by his own lack of knowledge. He thought he knew what he was doing, but when confronted with the fact that someone else knew more about the subject, he went into denial. Instead of learning from the situation, he resorted to complaining and whining. Poor Champ was forever fated to fruitlessly chase his own tail. Caruthers wondered how many lost opportunities for self-education he himself had missed.
End of part 2. The story concludes in the July issue, with part 3 (The Master).