October 23rd 2007 1:48 pm
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*** This chapter really had those supercalifragicapacitors working overtime! ***
“Cat-Mouse-Seed is the game we play
To celebrate Bast’s gifts today ...”
The seed circle defined the area of play. The circle was bounded at one point by the big oak and at another by the creek, and it encompassed a couple of small bay laurels and flowering manzanitas.
I knew Bella would be coming for me, but I was pretty sure I could evade her until either Baby Girl or Ham took her out. The rules say that all chasing and catching must take place on the ground; trees and other climbing areas are out of bounds. That put me at a slight disadvantage, but I still felt confident that I’d be a cat in the second round.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Mama Kitty bunch her haunches, her tail shimmering, for a pounce at Tibby. I knocked him out of the way with a leap of my own, and we both rolled away from the spot where Mama Kitty landed in a furious puff of orange and white.
“Thanks, Jubilee,” Tibby gasped. He glanced over my shoulder and his pupils dilated. “Duck!”
I lowered my head in time to narrowly miss Bella’s pounce. She sailed over me and skidded to a halt in the carpet of leaves.
Jack made a token lunge towards Mama Kitty that landed a full cat-length from her tail. Mama Kitty shook herself off and prepared for another leap.
“Seeds make mice grow tasty and fat
To nourish every growing cat ...”
Tibby and I were pinned between Bella and Mama Kitty. We turned and ran towards the center of the circle as they both pounced at us.
On the other side of the circle, Tweak made a long leap towards Felix. He saw her coming and sprang aside. Orangina held her body low to the ground as she crept silently after Tweak.
“I’m coming to get you!” Wiggy chuckled at Pepper, chasing her playfully as she giggled and effortlessly evaded him. With a war cry, Fafnir hurled himself onto Wiggy’s back -- the first capture of the game. Wiggy would become a seed in the next round, and Fafnir would stay a cat.
I jumped over Captain Tommaso’s back as he dashed across the circle with Gromit at his heels. Tibby cut to the left, Mama Kitty in hot pursuit. Bella ignored a clear shot at Captain Tommaso to spring at me, landing so close that her claws almost brushed the end of my tail.
Ham and Baby Girl both charged towards Bella, Ham from the left and Baby Girl from the right. Ham was so intent on Bella that he didn’t notice Hudson, coming around a manzanita bush to ambush Gromit. He and Hudson collided in a spinning squall.
Baby Girl leaped at Bella, but Bella dodged her, and I darted away before Bella could pounce again.
“Cats control the mouse population
Thinning the numbers of each generation ...”
Diego launched himself at Toffy, who hopped aside. Diego crashed into the manzanita bush. Toffy laughed and trotted away, making a face at Diego over his shoulder as Diego shook manzanita pollen from his ear-tufts.
Mama Kitty pounced at Tibby, and he barely twisted out of her reach. His claws skidded on the dry leaves. She gathered herself for another leap.
Tweak cornered Felix against the slim trunk of a bay laurel and tagged him lightly on the shoulder with her paw, grinning.
Felix smiled back at her. “Well played,” he said graciously, not betraying that Orangina was sneaking up behind Tweak.
Ham and Hudson untangled themselves. Gromit leaped at Captain Tommaso, and Captain Tommaso skipped lightly away from Gromit’s grasping paws.
“Arrivederci!” Captain Tommaso laughed, as Gromit sprawled in the leaves behind him.
Ham, still slightly dizzy, staggered after Bella.
“Too many mice means not enough seeds
To satisfy their nutritional needs ...”
With a growl, Diego sailed at Toffy again, this time knocking the orange cat to the ground, where they wrestled, laughing.
Gromit scrambled to his feet and galloped after Captain Tommaso. Hudson lurched towards Gromit.
While Felix distracted Tweak with a few playful swats, Orangina lowered her head, gathered her haunches, and prepared to strike.
I sprang and dodged around the circle, trying to keep cats between Bella and me, but Bella was right behind me with every move. Ham made a few clumsy lunges that she easily evaded. Baby Girl stalked Bella patiently now, waiting for the perfect moment to attack. I cut behind Gromit as he ran by with Hudson a length behind him.
“You might as well lay down, housecat,” Bella taunted, dodging around Hudson, who swatted at her but continued to chase his brother. “You’re just wasting energy.”
“Getting tired already?” I shot back at her, prancing in place, ready to leap.
“Too few seeds for mice to munch
Means cats go hungry when it’s time for lunch ...”
Across the playing field, Mama Kitty chased Tibby in narrowing circles around her recumbent brother. “Help me out here, Jack,” Tibby begged. “Just tag her!”
“Don’t you dare!” Mama Kitty snapped.
Jack shrugged. “Sorry, Tibs, she’s my sister.”
Orangina pounced. She slid through the air like an arrow, straight towards Tweak’s back. Her paws extended, reaching, in the same instant that Tweak’s whiskers went tense and her pupils ballooned. Tweak shot away, and Orangina hit the ground, barely avoiding crashing into Felix and the trunk of the bay laurel.
Tweak paused, giggling, to watch Orangina pick a couple of laurel leaves from her whiskers. “Give me a break! Did you really think I’d fall for --” Tweak’s words were cut off as Fafnir tackled her from behind.
“Gotcha, Tweak!” Fafnir crowed.
Captain Tommaso darted behind a rock near the creek and made a u-turn. He nimbly dodged the oncoming Hudson, leaving Hudson and Gromit on a collision course as Gromit rounded the rock and Hudson bounded towards it.
Bella’s main flaw as a Cat-Mouse-Seed player is that it’s easy to get her riled up and distract her. I may not be the world’s best hunter, but I am an excellent evader. I danced around bushes and trees, away from her leaps and pounces, while Ham kept her busily avoiding attacks from all sides. Meanwhile, Baby Girl hovered nearby, biding her time.
“Without enough mice, cats starve and die
And they become seeds themselves bye and bye ...”
Gromit and Hudson were headed straight for each other. Hudson grinned, and launched himself at his brother. But Gromit had predicted what Hudson would do, and he ducked under Hudson’s paws without breaking stride. As Hudson slid across the leaves behind him, Gromit sprang into a long, graceful running leap, surging through the air, and landed with his front paws squarely on Captain Tommaso’s rump, bringing the brown tabby down like a gazelle.
“Almost got me that time,” I said generously as I bobbed to avoid a paw-swipe from Bella.
“One group struggles, one group thrives
Without enough resources, no one stays alive ...”
Mama Kitty feinted as if she were about to pounce left, then swiftly leaped over Jack and onto Tibby as Tibby ducked right. Tibby was down. Mama Kitty danced around him, preening and shaking her orange and white booty until her tail-plumage rippled.
Hudson got up and started after Gromit again. Gromit cut short his celebratory wrestling match with Captain Tommaso and was on the run once more.
I darted away from a wild pounce and came up short at the steep drop-off of the creek’s bank. I had inadvertently pinned myself at the edge of the circle that ended at the creek. Bella approached, readying to leap.
“No one loses because no one wins
Every day of hunting means we live to play again ...”
Gromit led Hudson on a romping zigzag across the circle, always just ahead of his brother’s paws.
Bella lowered her head, her tail vibrating, coiled to spring. I hesitated. Bella pounced, and I jumped to the side. Ham leaped to intercept Bella. At the same moment, Baby Girl pounced from a nearby clump of weeds, and pinned Bella as she dodged to avoid Ham.
I was panting a little, but I had survived the round!
“You still don’t have a mouse, Ham,” Bella pointed out.
“The round’s not over yet.” Ham’s green eyes twinkled.
“Cat-Mouse-Seed is the game we play ..."
“Hey, Diego,” Ham said, as we strolled past the manzanita bush that Diego and Toffy were lying under, having a companionable grooming.
"To celebrate Bast’s gifts today."
When Diego turned around, Ham tapped him lightly on the back with one paw as we sang the last words of the first verse.
Toffy laughed. “Well played, Ham.”
The chorus began, and we formed ourselves into circles again:
“Don’t want to be a seed? Want to stay a cat?
Better catch a mouse in no time flat!
If you’re a mouse, better catch a seed
And if you don’t get caught you’ll be a cat indeed!
If you are a seed, you’d better run fast
Don’t get caught and be a child of Lady Bast!”
STAY TUNED!!!! Whew!
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