Bandito Learns a Lesson, By Dawn Corrigan
Editor's note: This charming little story almost doesn't qualify as a fairy tale -- it's really more of a fable. But I am a cat lover, so just one time, here's a little kitty tale, rather than a classic fairy story. As of today, EC is caught up with contest winning stories and poems.
Once there was a kitten named Bandito. He had six toes on each paw and was colored orange and white, like a Creamsicle. He was an appealing creature in every way.
Bandito lived with a little girl named Princess. Princess had long black braids and a smile like New Year’s Eve. She was appealing, too.
Bandito and Princess met one Saturday afternoon when she lifted him out of the cardboard box in front of the SuperTarget that formed his temporary home. After a brief exchange of compliments, they agreed to move in together.
Since Princess’s lodgings were roomier than the box, it only made sense Bandito would join her there. Princess lived in a rancher with her parents and younger brother Victor. Bandito followed her without looking back, though the box was full of his squirming siblings. His was not a melancholy nature.
For a while, Princess and Bandito were very happy in the rancher. Princess fed Bandito Waldorf salad three times a day, and he drank water from a perpetual fountain. In the afternoon they played with string, then had a nap.
Bandito quickly grew into a handsome adolescent cat. He was dignified but knew how to have fun. One Saturday afternoon Princess went out with her mother to take care of some household errands. Bandito took a nap in the pool of sunlight at the foot of her bed. He was awakened by a nose. A wet black nose, stuck right in his eye. Bandito hissed and leapt to his feet and arched his back. Then he took a closer look at the nose.
The nose was attached to a dog. A completely ridiculous dog, wearing a penguin suit. Bandito prepared to dispense with the dog, but his paw was stopped mid-swipe.
“Bandito, no! Bad cat!” a voice said. A familiar, beloved voice.
Bandito looked up at Princess. Surely there must be some mistake. But no. She was gazing at the dog with a fawning look that, frankly, didn’t suit her at all. “This is Marty,” she gushed. “Your new little brother. Isn’t he adorable?”
Adorable wasn’t the word that came to mind. Twitching his tail in disgust, Bandito stalked away as Princess lovingly squashed the puppy.
Bandito hid under a dresser to think things over. He thought long and he thought hard. Finally he reached a conclusion: he had to be nice to the dog. It pained him to think so, but clearly Princess loved the silly thing, and he loved Princess. If he took the high road, maybe with time she would see the error of her ways.
Pleased with his own wisdom, Bandito emerged from under the dresser. He was feeling a little hungry and thought he could use a bite. Ah, there was the dog. He was staring at Victor with an idiotic expression. Well, that was no concern of Bandito’s. He’d just stroll on by, on his way to delicious …
“Bandito, no!” This time it was Victor who stopped Bandito. The cat didn’t know what had happened. One moment he was walking by, minding his own business, and the next moment he had the dog pinned on the ground, his teeth snapping at a black and white throat as Victor dragged him off.
Without even a mouthful of chicken salad, Bandito retreated under the dresser again to think some more. When he reemerged, it was with the sad conclusion that he must to leave the rancher.
Suppressing the urge to run to Princess and rub against her legs—his was not, after all, a melancholy nature—Bandito waited in the kitchen until the door was left open, then dashed out.
It had been several months since Bandito had been outside. The world had grown colder in the meantime. This seemed ominous, but Bandito tried to look on the bright side. Perhaps cooler weather meant fewer fleas. Bandito had the impression there’d been fleas back in the cardboard box.
In fact, outside the rancher, he found himself thinking about the box a lot. What had become of his siblings? Why hadn’t he thought about them, once Princess picked him?
The truth was, he’d been so proud to be the first one picked, he hadn’t considered what it meant for the others to be left behind.
But he would make up for that now. He would make it his mission to find all his brothers and sisters. He would reunite the family and together they would prosper, enjoying life’s pleasures in a carefree, dog-free environment. True, maybe there wouldn’t be as much chicken salad as in his previous existence, but chicken salad wasn’t every … Zing!
This lofty train of thought was interrupted by the force of a trash can lid, smacking down on Bandito’s head. Ow! Who hits people in the head with a trash can lid?
“Scat, cat!” said an old hag in a housecoat. Bandito staggered away.
He dragged himself under a car and plopped down. He needed to rest. It felt like maybe he had a concussion. “I thought old ladies were supposed to love cats,” he muttered.
“They either love ‘em or hate ‘em, it’s like anything, really,” said an amused voice behind him. Bandito turned his weary head. A giant tabby Tom crouched behind him.
“Do I know you?” Bandito asked.
“No, but I know you,” the Tom said. “Mr. Cat of the Manor.”
“Bite me,” said Bandito. “I came from the streets, just like you.”
“Maybe so, but you haven’t been back for a while.”
“It’s that obvious, huh?”
“It’s that obvious, huh?”
“Yup. What happened, did your people downgrade your kibble?”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” the Tom said. “Still, a dog can be managed.”
“I’m beginning to realize that,” Bandito admitted. “Still, now that I’m out here I’d like to find my brothers and sisters.”
The Tom laughed. “Might as well try to visit all the stars in the sky,” he said. “Go home.”
Bandito thought that was pretty good advice, so he did.
Dawn Corrigan has published poems and prose in a number of print and online journals. Some of her other fairy tales previously appeared at 10x10x10 and Pindeldyboz.
Altered image originally by John Batten.