After traveling across the countryside, Boris the Bat stopped to say hello to the gracious Fat Mama Rat. Her private mountain cave was the perfect place for him to rest and safely hide from the rising sun.
She sat in her rocking chair surrounded by spools of sparkling green thread and asked the paper thin, black bat to tell her a story of heroic deeds, adventure in strange lands and to add a bit of magical mystery. Boris stayed at the top of the cave flying in circles where it was cool and dark. He did not like the brightness of her candlestick and was glad that she, wisely, wore tinted lavender glasses to protect her itty bitty black eyes from the blinding glare of the flickering flame. He wondered why she was wide awake because daylight was the best time for her to sleep.
"Relax Boris, hang upside down if you like, but don’t go to sleep. Please enchant me with your clever poetry and prose while I tat lace, and trim this hat of straw." The giant hat blocked more than half of the entrance to her cave.
"I’m very tired dear Fat Mama Rat, I need to sleep. Besides, I told you a wonderful story last week.”
"Yes, that’s true kind sir, but please, I need your help." She wiped away tears that splashed upon her cheeks and dripped down each quivering whisker. She sighed deeply, blew her nose on a pale pink handkerchief and hiccupped. "Boris, I’m so afraid. I wish I was as courageous as you. But, as you can see I tremble in fear.
“Why? Ooooooh, aauuuugh, excuse me, I can’t stop yawning. How can that be? You are safe and cozy in this cave hidden by bushes and trees.”
“I promised the Green Eyed Tabby Cat that I would trim her hat with an intricate pattern of lace before sunset. If I complete my task on time, she promised to leave my children unharmed. I’m afraid I’ll fall asleep, and if I fall asleep I will not finish the hat before the ferocious feline returns. I begged, trembled and cried when she refused to give me more time. If I fail, that unforgiving beast will torture my children with her razor sharp claws and fangs."
Boris found his favorite spot in the cave and hung himself upside down. He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly before he spoke again. "I saw a Green Eyed Tabby Cat chasing after a gnat near the creek. It was very funny. The gnat buzzed around the cat’s head zooming quickly to the right ear, then to the left one where it hovered and buzzed in a high pitched tone. Suddenly, the gnat dived down between the cat’s legs. At first, I thought it was trying to escape from the cat’s strong paws and claws until, I saw a giant smile on the gnat’s miniature face. The gnat moved as fast as a jet and as skillful as an acrobat. It reminded me of circus men swinging on ropes and leaping through hoops, and bouncing up and down on trampolines.
Well, that crazy cat twisted and turned as it chased and swatted at the irritating gnat. She zigged and zagged keeping her slanted green eyes focused on that microscopic bug. Finally, she whirled in dizziness and fell down to the ground completely out of breath. I was amazed to see such a small insect harass and tease an agile creature like that. Just imagine if an entire swarm of gnats attacked that finicky feline and chased her into the icy cold creek.”
The deep, soothing voice of Boris the Bat reminded Fat Mama Rat of a resonating symphonic cello. She listened to his tale as she carefully twisted, looped and knotted the sparkling green thread with her tatting hook. She was proud of every stitch that slowly grew into lacey hearts, circles, flowers and leaves.
Her patient grandmother taught her how to tat when she was a little girl. First she learned simple combinations, practicing over and over until she could make each loop, twist and knot the correct size and shape. Year after year, she learned new techniques and gained enough experience to create patterns and designs of her own. Now, she was famous for her masterful delicate and intricate lace.
“Dear me, dear me,” whimpered Fat Mama Rat. “My experience and talent never prepared me for a project as difficult as this. Oh me, oh my, deadlines, threats and punishment … an unbearable nightmare. It’s too much to ask of poor little me.”
She was in a race against time with a desperate need to reach the finish line. She concentrated, and tried not to fret as seconds, minutes and hours ticked by. She ignored the blood blister swelling up on her thumb and the stiffness in her knuckles and joints. No matter what, she would not give up. She continued in an efficient, precise manner, moving faster than a wizard's wand. Her only desire was to keep her children safe from that scary furry monster.
Boris was not in the mood to tell a story but was having lots of fun with words that rhymed with CAT. At first he spewed out a jumble of nonsense making Fat Mama Rat laugh so hard she made a mistake in her tatting and had to re-do five inches of lace. Boris added a bit of rhythm to his silliness but was unable to make a lyrical poem. He was just too tired. It didn’t matter, Fat Mama Rat delighted in his melodic voice as she focused on her goal.
“At which tree will the cat find a tasty bird or two to chew? I wonder if cats purr when they bat their prey with leathery padded paws. I think our cat is just too fat to move very fast. She’ll never catch a bird no matter how high she climbs. Doesn’t she know that nobody wants to pat the tummy of a deceitful unfriendly bundle of fur?
After you tat and finish decorating the cat’s new hat, why don’t you ask a swarm of gnats to snuggle under and in between the new green lace. When your wicked cat takes a nap on her fancy quilted mat, let your bravest men chew holes in her favorite toys and clothes. Make sure you wait until she’s fast asleep and dreaming of a gentle pat along her back and a tickle or two under her chin. If you dare to scream and scare that furry beast out of her wits, beware, beware and sound the alarm! She’ll swing and swipe, and swat and bat every single rat within her reach. Run and hide is my only advice, and let the clever cloud of gritty gnats chase the pretty big kitty into the Wacky Wizard’s vat of stinky, smoky, syrupy goo."
His voice rang out, encouraging Fat Mama Rat. His playfulness made her giggle and eased her worried heart. When the sun began its decent, she proudly finished the last glamorous millinery stitch. Boris celebrated with a long noisy yawn before he glided down from his perch. He latched onto the bonnet with his scrawny skeletal feet, flew outside and laid the hat atop a berry bush. He did not want that beastly cat to cross the threshold and bully Fat Mama Rat all over again. Most of all, he wanted to close his eyes and fall into a deep dreamless sleep.
Boris the bat snored and snored as eleven baby rats cuddled around their mother. Together, they watched the Terrible Tabby proudly strut and prance like a peacock in the farmer’s strawberry patch. Her tail gently swayed and she held her head up high just like a queen leading a parade. With arrogant elegance she showed off her stylish chapeau.
The few who glanced her way admired the hat, but ignored the gorgeous green eyed cat. It was absolutely true , she was a stunning beauty. Unfortunately, all the creatures on the farm, in the woods and in the mountains knew that she was mean and cruel. Needless to say, they were not impressed. A charming bonnet does not have the power to enhance or change the prickly personality of a growling grimacing glamour-puss.
When the friendless feline grew sick and old, no one offered her a helping hand, not even her siblings who had been dazzled by her finesse for years. When they were young, they followed her everywhere until, she scorned their steadfast devotion and rejected their faithful companionship. The foolish finicky feline never learned that a kind heart and inner strength is far grander than a fabulous façade.
by Sophia Ann Montoya 01.08.2009
Word Count 1454