The Tiger's Brainstorm
The sky was still grey over the valley, but the driving rain had stopped and patches of blue played hide-and-seek amid the clouds. The wind had diminished to a gentle breeze, just visible in the leaves of the giant oaks. Birds and small animals poked their heads out from a myriad of hiding places; a few mustered the courage to return to their normal routine. None bothered to glance up at the rocky wall that formed one side of the valley, much less notice the hairline crack that outlined the door to the cozy apartments of the valley's sole human inhabitant.
Inside, a huge tiger, wearing a jewel-encrusted golden collar, paced feverishly to and fro. The fair form of his mistress, the woman Darla, lay silent and supine on her bed. For weeks he had kept a lonely vigil, powerless to help, as his lady slept. He was sure that some great evil had befallen her; and were he a man, he could try to rescue her in numerous ways. But his shape, for all its power and elegance, made him impotent to do what he desired the most.
But wait! An idea filled his mind as suddenly as a paddle finds its target (Note: ObSpankingRef). It would take superfeline effort; but he thought he could just possibly do it if he stretched all his faculties to the limit.
First he would need money. The apartments were rich in furnishings and beautiful art; but cash was another matter. He padded to the jeweled box that served as a petty cash drawer and pushed the lid open with his paw. It was empty. Were he and his lady totally strapped (Note: ObSpankingRef) for cash? Fortunately, he remembered the small leather pouch that hung on the wall next to Darla's breastplate. His paws were too big to reach inside it; but he was able to tip it up and enjoy the feeling of accomplishment as notes and coins fell out. The coins he could never manage, but a small wad of notes fell on its edge, easy pickings for his teeth.
The next step was easier. As he padded to the phone, he blessed his lady for having recently installed an instrument with Speakerphone and Speed-Dial. He carefully pressed the proper buttons with a single claw. The speaker burred softly twice, and then a familiar voice spoke:
"Imperial Garden...may I help you?"
The tiger growled softly.
"Ah! Mister Tiger! You have been away a long time. Is the lady there? What would you like?"
Now came the moment of uncertainty. Would his plan work? He drew a deep breath and unleashed a great dragon-blast into the phone.
From the other end of the line came a fit of coughing, and then the voice, a bit raspier:
"Ahhh! Hot and sour...of course! Fifteen minutes, Mister Tiger."
A wave of joy swept over him. His brainstorm had worked! In a flash he had picked up the wad of paper money and vanished through an air vent that led to a fissure in the rock, far from the sealed front door.
Half an hour later he returned, a carrier bag held carefully in his teeth. He set it down by his lady's side and pried open the lid. The pungent odor of sesame oil wafted up to her nostrils. The tiger watched her with bated breath.
Slowly, slowly, she began to move: first a twitch of her nose, then a tiny shake of her head. Almost imperceptibly her eyelids fluttered; her head shook again, and her eyes opened. Her head turned, and she looked at him.
"Soup? Ohhh, my darling tiger...you brought me soup! How did you know what I needed?"
I just knew, he thought, unsure of whether her mind could hear him.
Carefully she raised herself to a sitting position and reached for the soup.
"It's all right, furry one...everything is all right. I had a strange and vivid dream...it seemed to go on for days." (It did, my lady, he thought.) "I can't begin to describe everything that happened...but I remembered who I really am. I am the reincarnation of the great goddess Bast! I am a cat myself...no wonder you and I understand one another so well!"
I knew it must be so, he thought...that, or something very like it. Do you have the strength to tell your friends in the next valley that you're all right?
"Not yet, my dear...I need to sit up for a little while and get used to being awake again...and get used to being a goddess. Then I shall need to closet myself with my magic picture for a time, and learn what the denizens of A.s.s.ville have been doing in my absence. But then, my striped one...then I can proudly take my place among them once more!"
The tiger licked the soup from his paw, where it had spilled on the way home, and purred happily. His lady was herself again!