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Words... Short Fiction... Chester the Third

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A slice of life in a fantasy world. This is an early story, written around 2003. It was the first I could re-read without cringing.

Chester the Third

"You sit there with your soft fluffy coat and innocent eyes, thinking the world will always revolve around you. Let me tell you now, the moment you start to grow, it will no longer be good enough. They'll expect you to earn your keep.

"Your mother should be teaching you this. I would leave you to work it out, but we can't have you ruining the reputation of Lower Gurtwort Farm. I, Chester the Third, am descended from the great Tiggy of Ruttersby, the most renowned hunter in the entire region! I expect you to uphold our history of hunting prowess."

The black kitten gives no sign of hearing a word I've said. It is not a surprise, coming from such a poor line. If he were a Lower Gurtwort tabby, I'm sure things would be different. The rumours say he came from Uckfold Farm. Those cats have always been known for their unseemly behaviour.

He follows me as I trot towards the barn.

"This is the grain barn. Hmm, interruptions."

The obstruction is a human wearing a pointed hat and a robe. He is shouting at the barn. The kitten is staring at the bird on the human's shoulder. A bright green thing, with a hooked beak.

Oh dear, the kitten is shouting 'Parri! Parri!' at the bird.

"Hush now, we will inquire about what is going on." I turn to the bird. "Hail there, bird. What brings you and your human to this place?"

I do not like the way the bird is looking at me. Evil things birds, always plotting against cats. It replies, "You ain't doin' your job, gotta anti-mice the door." The bird sounds smug about this.

"As if a bird would understand the fine art of a cat's work. Come Sooty, we will not let our lesson be delayed any further." I flick my tail at the bird as we pass.

The kitten keeps looking back at the bird as we move into the barn.

"We will deal with birds in a future lesson. Stop starring. A cat should never look interested.

"Today's lesson will be in the art of hunting mice. I will begin with the basics of hunting common mice. We will move onto more advanced breeds if you grasp...

"No! That's my tail! Sit still... Wretched kitt... Argh!"

I sniff the work boots in the stable. Finding the pair belonging to a certain farmhand, I deposit a dead mouse in the left boot.

"The owner of these boots attempted to kick me three days ago. Watch for your moment of revenge and strike. A good hunter is patient."

The last candle is extinguished in the farmhouse. It is time. I usher the kitten towards the grain barn.

"Bury yourself in the grain and do not move." I demonstrate, wriggling my shoulders until I sink into the pile.

The grain is making my skin itch under my fur. My nose is filled with dust. I hope they arrive soon. Ah, what was that sound? Yes, a squeak. One of them is inside.

A squeak above me.

In an explosion of grain and mice, I leap onto my target. I jerk it into the air. The mouse shrieks as I slam it on the ground.

Once the mouse stops moving, I open my jaws, dropping it at my feet.

"Sooty, you may move now. Observe our greatest enemy."

The kitten is shouting 'Fay-ree! Fay-ree!' Why does he always repeat words? It is as though the first time of saying it isn't enough.

"Mouse," I correct him. "Albeit, a mouse far more devious than the average mouse." I look down at the mouse. Its gossamer wings hang in shreds after the attack. The sparkle of its fur is already fading. "Now Sooty, how do you think this mouse got in, when all the mouse holes are blocked, and the doors sealed against mice with enchantments?"

A dog could have worked this out, yet he sits there, puzzled.

"Look up. See that hole, by the third rafter? You understand now?"

Sooty shakes his head.

"The mouse has wings. It flies. There's a hole in the roof. You see?"

For a moment, I wonder if I went too quickly. Perhaps this is too difficult for a weak mind to understand. Then he shouts 'FayaREE!' which I hope means he understood.

"Good. Remember, these mice require cunning. Should you miss, they will throw glittering dust in your eyes and laugh at you. No one laughs at a cat."

The kitten nods.

"Our job is almost complete, but there is one last step. Follow me."

I lift the mouse by the tatters of its wings, carrying it across the farmyard. The warmth of the farmhouse beckons us home.

Once inside, I alight on the kitchen table. The kitten takes his time following. I'm surprised his scrambling doesn't wake the whole house. I drop the mouse on the table cloth.

I arrange it so that the tattered wings are smoothed out. "Now we offer the mouse as proof of our hard work. See how the blood compliments the pure white of the table cloth, how the wings seem to glow with such a backdrop. Presenting an offering is an art. The grey stone of the floor would not have created this effect. Presentation is everything."

"Now it is time to rest young Sooty. No, not too close to me. There are chairs on the other side of the fire. Tomorrow, we will wake to the praise of the humans. Then you will appreciate what it is to be a Lower Gurtwort cat."

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