There’s Nothing Like It.
This week: A fairy tale involving a witch and a talking cat. Include a jar of marmalade and a bottle of sake.
“What, you stupid, mangy, flea-bitten mutt?” It was obvious that Mouse was not pleased with her erstwhile companion. She sat down in a huff on the side of the road. Or rather, what would have been a huff in any animal other than an extra fluffy, gray and white cat with well-bred, dignified manners, that is.
“Mouthe, I have had an idea!” Rockefeller skidded to a halt in front of her in a great cloud of dust, pink bows akimbo, ears a-flopping, and tail, as ever, wagging fit to fall off.
Oh for the love of cat treats. Mouse sighed and started licking her paws. Rockefeller was fairly dancing in excitement, making little leaps into the air and making noises that sounded nothing more than “Hurrraawweerrhhhhh!”
Mouse spent an uncharitable moment wondering how on earth she got saddled with this ridiculously inept companion for her quest. For she definitely considered it her quest. They’d been on the road for a little over a week now, searching for their lost mistress, and Mouse was getting frustrated. They had been searching all over the kingdom, it seemed, in all the inns and taverns, and had found nothing.
“Mouthe, I think we should go thee the…the…the…” he lowered his voice dramatically, “the witch!”
“What?!” Mouse paused in her grooming, sniffing the air in suprise. She considered the idea, turning it over in her mind. The witch Hagatha might be able to help them, it was true! She was rumored to know magic! Maybe she actually couldhelp them! Maybe the mutt was right!
Mouse’s euphoria faded, though, as she remembered that the witch was reputed to be a foul-tempered, nasty-breathed, warty-nosed harridan. There were no rumors of her ever helping anyone without getting something in return. Usually five years of manual labor or an arm or a leg or something. Mouse was worried that what she required in return for her assistance would turn out to be more than she and Rockefeller were prepared to pay. On the other paw, this was their mistress they were talking about. Was any price too steep to get her back?
“What do you think, Mouthe? Thould we try?” Mouse gazed in mild consternation at her companion, lingering on his ridiculous pink bows and lolling tongue to match. His white teeth gleamed against the darkness of his gums in a deceptively dangerous-looking grin. His black ears flapped as he bobbed up and down, and his huge paws scrabbled at the dry dirt as he boxed with his shadow.
Mouse made her decision. For better or worse, they would seek out Hagatha and try to win her help.
“What sort of gift should we take her, Rockefeller?” Mouse asked her doggy companion as they resumed their trek down the country lane. “Should we take her an apple?”
Rockefeller thought hard. Mouse could almost see the gears churning as his brain chugged through one thought after another. “I could give her my bowthe, Mouthe,” Rockefeller offered after significant thought, sounding reluctant but determined to help. “Do you think thee would like my bowthe?”
Mouse’s whiskers twitched in almost-concealed amusement at Rockefeller’s willingness to part with his beloved bows. They were looking a little worse for the wear, but Rockefeller still prized them, even above his Frosty the Snowman chew toy. “No, Rockefeller,” she said with unwonted gentleness, “I don’t beleive that will be necessary. I am sure we can find something less…precious…to offer her for her help. Now let’s think. If you were a witch, what sort of gift would you like?”
“A collar! A pretty pink collar with thparkly thingth on it!” Rockefeller capered in glee, simple mind filled with visions of pink bows and collars. Mouse sighed in resignation. This was going to be a long day.
They discussed their present the whole rest of the trip into the village. As they strolled through the town, Rockefeller jumped around when he saw the town’s marketplace. Mouse saw it at the same moment, and by unspoken accord, they headed to the rows of stalls. They passed bead makers, and swordsmiths, ribbon vendors, sausage makers, and all manner of other merchandise. The fabulous array of colors and scents was almost overwhelming.
“Mouthe! Look! Honey!” Rockefeller had his black nose stuffed into a sample jar at a stall across the way from where Mouse was considering a barrel of swords and daggers. Honey, hmmm. Mouse sauntered over to check the sample jar, but Rockefeller had his nose stuck in it and was waving it over his head.
Mouse asked the proprietor what else he had, turned down the bottle of sake and the container of honey-scented hand lotion (you had to have hands to fully appreciate hand lotion), but soon found something that she knew was perfect. In short order they were strolling away with several honeycombs and a huge jar of marmalade. The shopkeeper had contrived a pack for Rockefeller that he sported with overweening pride, prancing along like a big, black… well, a big black dog with a backpack. A black lab that thought he was a pit bull.