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  • Mark Whitworth

A Cat Named Tigger

Updated: Aug 8, 2023

Tails of the Unexpected

There was little to stop the ginger cat from sliding, at full speed, and head first, into the granite pillar that propped up the corner of the unit supporting the kitchen sink. The stone surface was smooth, icy smooth, and almost as slippery as the floor that had betrayed the feline's paws and claws.

Of course, rocketing down the stairs and performing a high-speed, one-hundred-and-eighty-degree turn was one thing. It was quite another that at no point were the brakes applied. Compounding the issue with further acceleration applied through its powerful rear leg muscles would not make the situation any easier. A reasonable assessment of the moggie's speed would have put it at something in excess of forty kilometres per hour by the time the wannabe cheetah entered the kitchen. From that point on, there were only two possible conclusions.

Unable to brake or turn, the pussy's trajectory was headed directly for the smooth igneous outcrop that held in place the most domestic of items, the kitchen sink. The first possibility was that Tigger would severely injure himself; the second and, truthfully, the most likely was that he would die.

Tigger had not had an entirely happy life, and it had not been that long. He had planned to spend his remaining years on Earth raising kittens or, to be brutally honest, not so much in raising them but in procreating so as to give them life, himself a degree of happiness and a leisurely time while his girlfriends raised his offspring.

His actual interest in kittens was confined to those he had drawn on the four hundred and thirty-six Valentine cards he posted each year to imaginary objects of his affection. It had not always been four hundred and thirty-six, the previous month, it had been one or two less, and next month it might be one or two more, but four hundred and thirty-six was a nice round number, and it seemed an ideal number of girlfriends for a decidedly lonely cat.

At this stage, it should be pointed out that there was a Valentine's Day every month in Tigger's world.

Tigger was born in the basement of a factory and was abandoned by his mother when he was four weeks old. He grew up on a diet of slugs and beetles, the only food he was fast enough to catch; as he grew older and more agile, he moved on to mice. Later, when he was six months old, he caught his first rat.

He didn't drink much in that first six months, for his only water source had been a stream of raw sewage that flowed past his den. In fact, the sewage rarely flowed; like thick porridge, it edged past his abode; the aromas emanating from the waste were decidedly unpleasant, but that was when he had been happiest.

It was the day after his six-month birthday that Tigger heard the voices. It seemed they were in his head; although that wasn't possible, they must come from the outside world. But Tigger had never known the outside world. Unbeknownst to him, he had inhabited an abandoned swimming pool basement for his entire life; there were no exits unless you were rat size and no entrances. Until today.

Although he had heard vibrations above his head, he had paid no heed. In his world, nothing could harm him apart from the sewage. He had no direct, audial experience of a shovel hitting compacted dirt and did not know that it might pose some sort of threat. If anything, the clank, clank, clank was new music to his uncultured ears and certainly a lot more interesting than listening to the scurry of the tasteless cockroaches. Tigger remained rolled in a ball, a position that was to have unfortunate consequences.

It took Tigger with a degree of surprise when the shovel finally penetrated the overhead dirt of his den and, in the process, neatly sliced off one of his ears, a significant portion of his frontal lobes, half his tail and his two front paws. Life had certainly taken a downward turn.

Tigger would have died, there and then, if a kindly lady called Catatonia hadn't insisted on saving him; it cost much of her fortune to have him rebuilt. He spent two and half weeks in an induced coma while the veterinary artificial limb specialist went to work.

When he awoke, another two weeks were to pass, two weeks of constant pain and misery before he regained the ability to walk. His only happiness came from the broken dreams of his previous basement home. After another two weeks, he could almost run. Another two, and he was on solids, some turgid mush that came from a can and tasted slightly worse than slug's eggs.

Catatonia was a kindly woman, as has been pointed out before, but she did want something in return. She wanted Tigger to sit on her lap quietly, although she would have preferred a little purring. She wanted to be allowed to run her fingers through his fur, although this was only possible in areas that had not been shaved. Unfortunately, she liked to play with the stump of his tail, which irritated Tigger more than being poked in the eyes with needles. Tigger knew which was more irritating, for as part of his recovery package, he had to face the indignity and screaming horror of the needles in his eyes, and the stump twiddling was decidedly much worse.

But Tigger had been too ill to resist at first and found, after time, that he was forced to accept the lady's thin spindly legs, lap up her smelly perfume, and dodge her incessant dribbling.

Three more weeks passed before Tigger recovered his strength and could chase his first mouse. It was the mouse that led him down the stairs, the mouse that turned the hairpin, and the mouse that first crossed the highly polished kitchen floor. That Tigger followed at an incredible pace was solely the mouse's fault.

However, having two steel front legs most definitely had nothing to do with the mouse; that had been the vet. Having a ravenous hunger for live vermin was hardly the mouse's fault; that fault attached to the old lady, who fed him nothing but jellied canned meat. Having only half a brain, and the inability to compute correctly, was not the fault of the mouse; it was that ignorant worker with the shovel.

From the first contact with the kitchen floor to the impact with the granite upright would take roughly 1.67 seconds. Tigger's brain did not work in seconds, and he wouldn't have known one even if you had taught him for thirteen years at an outstanding school. Even before the shovel removed a proportion of his mental processing, Tigger had not been a bright cat.

They say that your life flashes before you when you approach death. The only reason we know this is that many people survive close-death experiences. We have no idea if your life flashes before you if you die because dead people can't tell us. We know even less about cats, but for the sake of the story, whatever its possible outcome, Tigger's life flashed before him.

The first, somewhat warm and friendly thoughts were of the sewage, the slugs, a fleeting picture of his mother, his first mouse, his only rat and the comfort of the dirty rags he had slept in. That took 0.78 seconds. Those with fine brains will realise that 0.89 seconds remain before the inevitable collision point.

The memories of the shovel flooded in, a life-defining moment but a somewhat curtailed thought. Then the poking and prodding entered his mind. The eye needles were worst, but the regular sharp pricks of the injections, putting him in and out of sleep, had been horrific. However, there was no doubt that canned cat food was the worst memory. It was even worse than the old lady's minty breath; something was seriously wrong there. Finally, there was her lap, and the strokes, and the "here, Kitty, Kitty" and, worse, much worse, the tail stump twiddling that had driven him to the point of insanity. Another 0.63 seconds, leaving 0.26 seconds, or just over a quarter of a second, although Tigger did not know that—only a quarter of a second lay between the damaged cat and inevitable further extreme damage.

Even in his sensory-deprived state, he knew what to do. Tigger curled his spine, twisted violently against his own mass, and prepared his body for contact. This part of his life would conclude with something of his choosing.


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