Kyra Lennon has generously volunteered to host a cat-themed blogfest to support Teignbridge and Totnes Cats Protection. The stories will be collected into an anthology. All entrants will be entered to win a $10 Amazon Gift Card. Everyone will be sharing a cat-themed story or poem, maximum 2,500 words.
This is a story about my very own Velveteen Rabbit, Davy, and a few of his friends. My froggy Simon had his surgery last October, and made a speedy, complete recovery. I hope it’s up to snuff.
Once upon a time, a grandmother made red tabby twins for her eight-year-old granddaughter. They were fraternal twins, a queen and a tom. The tom was quickly named Davy, after Davy Jones, and the queen was named Davina. The Girl believed, as many children do, that twins are supposed to have matching or rhyming names, and so gave the queen a feminine form of the tom’s name.
Davy was always loved much more than Davina. When Davy was still young, he went on a boat ride on Lake George, on a paddlewheeler boat called The Minne-Ha-Ha. That was much nicer than the time he was sent to the emergency room when he was fifteen. The Girl, who was no longer a girl, had asked for him for comfort, and there he was sent. He was so special he’d even been the subject of a speech the Girl had given in a public speaking class when she was twenty. Every year, he showed his age more and more, while Davina still looked as young as the day she’d been made.
The Girl loved collecting stuffed animals, perhaps because she had no pets of her own. When Davy was five years old and still young-looking, he got a new friend, a grey cat named John who’d come to the Girl secondhand. Not so long afterwards, she got another secondhand cat, a small caramel-coloured tabby named Paul. By the time Davy was in his twenties, his friends also included a Husky named Keith, a tiger named Roger, a chipmunk named Jerome, a very small French Bulldog named Roscoe, a very small fellow red tabby named Manfred, a pale brown dog named Jack (who doubled as a neck pillow), a big tuxedo cat named George, and an absolutely gigantic frog named Simon.
Since the Girl was in her thirties, she didn’t really play with her old friends anymore. They just sat on the bed, and had a lot of time to talk while she was out, or busy doing other things.
“Aren’t you jealous of that frog?” John asked. “He’s only been with us for a few years, and he already got plastic surgery. The Girl even performed the surgery on his namesake’s birthday, while his namesake sang in the background. You’re a lot older and more valuable, and you’ve never had surgery or gone to an animal hospital. Maybe if the Girl had fixed you a lot sooner, you wouldn’t be so worn-out now. Even I’m not nearly as worn-out as you.”
“She’s always cuddling and kissing on that frog,” Paul agreed. “What has he done to displace you? And she’s loved our namesakes a whole lot longer.”
“You don’t have very good memories,” Davy said. “She has researched stuffed animal hospitals. The one time she got a response, she was told I can’t be repaired since I’m not plush like yous guys. Simon only had a tear in his side, with some stuffing poking out. That can easily be fixed. You can’t easily fix yellowed fabric and threadbare patches. It’s who I am at this age.”
John looked down at his paw and rubbed it across his nose. “I’ve gotten used to my missing whiskers and toe dividers, but I still look mostly normal without them. You don’t look anything like you used to.” He stretched out in the autumn sunshine, happily remembering that day when the Girl, aged thirteen, had reached into the barrel of free stuffed animals by the checkout and pulled him and Roscoe out. He’d had such a good life with the Girl, after his previous owner had thrown him away.
“I look how I look. The Girl doesn’t care how I look. I know she still loves me most of all, even if she mostly cuddles the frog now. He’s still soft and cuddly, and won’t easily rip if he’s cuddled too hard or picked up the wrong way. Only toys who don’t easily break or wear out get to become Real, and once you’re Real, only people who don’t know you think you’re ugly.”
Paul swatted at a dragonfly. “If the Girl ever has children, I don’t want her to give us to them. They deserve their own toys to make Real, not someone else’s hand-me-downs. Although we know she’d never give you to a child when you’re so fragile and old.”
Davy gave a glance back to their building, where Simon was recovering from his recent surgery. “The Girl is really sorry she left me alone that night she went back to her parents’ house to feel safe. She was really worried the scary person would come into the room while she was gone and hurt me. I’m so fragile, I’d easily be torn apart.”
“She took the frog and not you,” John said. “Why aren’t you more upset about that?”
“The second time she went to her parents’ house to be safe, she left both of us. That was a really scary night, but I felt safe with Simon watching over me. He’s my frog brother. The Girl wouldn’t leave me alone with him so much if she didn’t think he were capable of looking after me. He’s a very good babysitter and frog brother. We had lots of nice conversations while you two were still in storage.”
“He makes me feel like a dwarf,” Paul complained. “I know I’m still kitten-sized even now that I’m over twenty years old, but he’s the biggest stuffed animal she’s ever brought home.”
“You’re still bigger than Manfred and Roscoe,” Davy reminded him.
“Normal stuffed animals aren’t that big. I bet he’ll keep his age better than any of us too, since big animals age slower than small animals.”
“Plush eventually wears down. It takes longer than it does for fabric like mine, but it’ll happen. He’s already well on the way to becoming Real, after the Girl thought he was important enough to give surgery to.”
The late October air grew chilly, and the three old friends headed back inside. They all moved much slower than they used to, but they weren’t ready to hobble off to the cat old age home quite yet. They still had plenty of life in them, and had every reason to believe they’d still have more adventures together.
Davy curled up on the bed and looked at Simon’s incision site, which was healing nicely. The Girl had done such a good job, it didn’t even look like there were any stitches.
“Have you had enough to eat?” Davy asked. “You need to eat a lot when you’re recovering from surgery, to get your strength back. When I was with the Girl after her first surgery, she needed a lot of food to get back her energy and health.”
“I caught plenty of flies. Each one was more delicious than the last.”
“Cats are smarter than frogs,” John said. “We don’t eat flies. We eat substantial food. Flies must taste disgusting.”
“It’s how frogs were made. Flies taste as good to me as fish must taste to you.”
“I’m glad I’m not a frog,” Paul said.
“And I’m glad I’m not a cat. Frogs are more interesting than cats.”
Keith, the dog, rose from his place on the floor to bark at a car driving by. “My species has been with humans longer than yours, but that doesn’t mean I think I’m superior. We were each created with different purposes, and we’re here to fulfill that purpose, not wish we were different or to feel superior to everyone else.”
Davy moved to a sunny spot in the window to warm his old bones. “The most important thing is that we’re all Real, in our own special way, and we know we’re not fated to be stuffed under the bed, given away, or thrown out.”
Just then the Girl came in, and the animals moved back to their original places. Today all three cats got a scratch behind the ears, and a cuddle. The Girl had never had children of her own, so these were the closest substitutes.
Davy felt so much love radiating from those hands. Even if the Girl paid more attention to Simon because he was newer, bigger, and cuddlier, Davy knew he would always be first in her heart. Only the best-loved toys can hope to become Real, and by the time that Magickal process is complete, it no longer matters that the toy looks old and worn. Only Love matters.
My other babies!
Carrie-Anne Brownian, who also writes as Ursula Hartlein, earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in History and Russian and East European Studies, and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in library science. Her areas of historical expertise are Russian history, the World War II/Shoah era, and 20th century American history. Her ultimate goal is to one day have a Ph.D. in Russian history, with a focus on GULAG and the Great Terror.
She has had work published in the anthologies Campaigner Challenges 2011, edited by Katharina Gerlach and Rachael Harrie, and Overcoming Adversity: An Anthology for Andrew, edited by Nick Wilford. As Ursula Hartlein, she has published And Jakob Flew
The Fiend Away, a WWII Bildungsroman, and as Carrie-Anne Brownian, she has published Little Ragdoll, a Bildungsroman spanning the years 1959-74. An epic Russian historical, You Cannot Kill a Swan: The Love Story of Lyuba and Ivan, written as Ursula Hartlein, is slated for a November 2014 release.
I give permission for this work to be used in the anthology.
I can be found at https://carrieannebrownian.wordpress.com/.