Flea Tale Part II - Tom

The squirrel bound along the branch at speed, acorn in mouth, cat in tail. He believed this cat was after his acorn, when in fact, the cat just wanted to sink his teeth into the squirrel’s neck and make the last moments of his life as amusing as squirrely possible.

Before I continue, let’s quickly say something about squirrels; completely off the point and not really relevant, but necessary to fill a few lines and grab a few cheap laughs: squirrels aren’t particularly clever creatures, just very random; the sheer volume and speed of their randomness giving rise to the impression that they can be really smart. They can’t. They do lots of mindless random things constantly which we all dismiss as squirrelness, and sometimes one of these millions upon millions of mindless squirrel actions appears to be something really clever and logical. It’s not. It’s a squirrel being lucky. Don’t let this lead you into believing that they are particularly lucky animals. They’re not. It just seems that way because they all look the same. For example, let’s say 50 million people play the lottery and 10 win the jackpot; you dismiss the losers just as you dismiss the sillyness of the squirrels; you don’t assume that some people won because humans are generally smart creatures; or lucky.

So anyway, “Thesquirrelboundalongthebranchatspeed, nutinmouth, catintail.” He believed that the cat wanted his acorn, and was ready to defend this particular acorn with his life. As an example of squirrel mentality, this squirrel was in an oak tree…if you don’t get the point of me saying that, you should be guarding acorns. I am getting off the point though. The point is that this squirrel was not the one of the few randomly chosen squirrels who were lucky enough for their mindless random actions to work to their advantage. This squirrel decided to stop running away and face his attacker, who was a big tabby tom, looking for a bloody, intestine-trailing prize to leave on his master’s freshly cleaned sheets. Within minutes the squirrel’s chewed-up body was being dragged across a set-square mowed lawn towards a rather nicely built house. As the squirrel took his last few breaths, something really annoyed him. It was a flea, nosing around and leaking irritating saliva onto the corner of the death-wound in his throat. The adrenaline pumping round his squirrel body had all but relinquished the pain, and he had sunk into as comfortable a state of dying as is possible for adrenaline to induce, and now the bloody wound was itching! If he had been smart enough to construct an emotion resembling annoyance, the squirrel would have been extremely annoyed at his death being ruined so.

As is the way of the world, the squirrel’s uncomfortable death paved the way for some contentness for the little flea. It also gave some short-lived pride to the cat as he dragged the carcass through the cat flap, across the hall and upstairs to the bed of his owner; spreading a thin stream of blood and mud throughout the beautifully cream-carpeted house. Pride was very abruptly replaced with confusion when his owner seemed to lose his mind for no particular reason at all…

…”My master is not pleased with my gift,” thought the Tom. “I must find a bigger kill, with more meat and blood,” and he skulked off to hunt, in as much as a hurry as you can when you’re skulking.

Nestled on the tip of his ear, a little flea; one we have met before; rode the Tom proudly with a content sense of freedom. He had spent some time with the squirrels, observing their lives, living in their thick warm furs, and surviving off of their nutty blood. He spent a short time before that with his first mate, before abandoning her prior to her giving birth. He had felt some unnamed undescribable feelings for her that humans might compare to love, but as soon as they had mated she quickly swelled with eggs which started dropping from her everywhere they went, and he left, partly through instinct, and partly through a sense of adventure, and found himself where he was now. He was hunting with Tom, and he had a front-row corporate box to the show of carnage that was to follow…

Tom was your typical Tom. His strongly built frame was unnecessarily exaggerated further by his dense stripy ginger coat, which thickened slightly as it approached the neck; a valuable gift passed down from his deadly feline ancestors. His cat mouth turned down at the edges in a perpetual frown, as did his whiskers, giving every creature that encountered him the impression that he hated them – and the world – with a dull resolve, and it was with effortless consistency. His cheeks sagged like an old man’s after an entire lifetime of disapproving head-shaking. His lion-like paws made it seem he walked upon his fists, never running unless engaging a victim. He sauntered around like the world was his own, unwittingly frowning malevolently at everyone and everything. This had inflicted an unwanted life of solitude upon poor Tom, which his personality had adapted to by becoming increasingly reclusive and nihilistic. Really he was just lonely, and the external offensiveness and his subsequent defensiveness had reinforced this feeling, and built it into a vicious circle he could find no way out of.

“I’m a nice cat really,” tom would have told himself, “but if you keep stroking me like I’m a fwuffy-wuffy-kitty-cat, making those silly human baby-noises, I will literally rip your face off”, and he would.

The garden was fairly large. Beginning with a perfectly laid patio at the front, a rose framed, perfectly mowed, parallel-lined lawn led 30 metres down the garden, ended by a large barrier of shrub at the bottom. Birds had long ago given up setting up nest in this shrub, on account of Tom’s feline addiction to gift-shopping for his master. Hidden behind the shrub, accessible through a subtle archway in the corner, the garden spread out into acres of wild woodland, complete with rabbits, squirrels, foxes, hedgehogs; a not-so-modest ecosystem of wildlife; and a large lake which had covered Tom with slimy green gunk on many of his unsuccessful fishing attempts. Past this, farmland; tall crops and wonderful fields full of mice rats and birds; which Tom avoided after a scare from the farm’s red-eyed foamy-mouthed dogs.

On the far bank of the lake Tom sat, upright and austere, calmly watching large multicoloured carp swim in directionless patterns, a prang of instinct within him fighting a losing battle with a sensible, hard learned fact which reminded him that wet and slimy is not nice. Every now and then birds flew over, snatching his attention for a moment, before realisation dragged him back to the closer, yet equally unattainable fish. He tired of watching, folded his legs under his body and lay down, feeling a slight bruise on his ribs where his owner had kicked him. He shuffled his position a little to avoid it, and relaxed. Looking through the dandylion seeds floating across the lake, which glistened as the sun burst through the trees, his blinking grew increasingly delayed, until his eyes were closed, and he was nodding off to the edge of sleep. The sounds of the world still registered subtly. Different birds sang their songs over each other, some whistling across the trees, sweetly and mysteriously, and some of the larger blacker creatures occasionally cackling menacingly. The light air he felt creeping through his fur was warm but refreshing, bringing a scent of spring flowers mingled faintly with the fishy, soggy undertone of the lake. His mind began putting colour to the lonely sounds and sensations as he drifted, the colours slowly taking on shape and form until he was bordering on the world of the dream. Through the myriad of colours and sounds he gradually found himself chasing a fish through a pitch-black world, but could not get any closer to it. His paws charged away from him as he swiped at the shiny tail, but never close enough to get a grip. As his swipes missed, he had the unnerving sensation of falling, and his heart skipped a beat every time. The fish suddenly turned tail and headed for him, and he saw that it had the beak of a bird snapping open and shut at him, shining bright in the darkness. Behind the beak bright green human eyes scrunched aggressively, a face of pure malice advancing towards him. He felt immensely afraid and alone and tried to turn, but could not, and as quickly as it had come for him his assailant turned away and drifted into obscurity. His pulse slowed and he took a deep unconscious breath. He was asleep.

A flea tickle on his ear. A slight shuffle of fur as a wisp of air brushed against the back of his neck. The cackle of a magpie in the trees above him. None of these disturbed Tom. If any single one of them he recognised as a threat, even in his unconscious state, he would have been on his feet in a second, alert and aware. But his unconscious mind recognised these subtle disturbances as having no resemblance to any threat he had encountered in his life, and so let him sleep on.

From the depths of sleep his mind began to ascend, his thoughts shyly appearing like little eddying currents in an otherwise calm river. Thoughts swirled and disappeared. Some grew but then vanished like they had never been there. And then some collided and joined forces to create ideas and images, which then took on the appearance of more complex thoughts themselves, interacting with each other to create a world in his mind which mingled with the sounds and senses around him to propel him once again into the world of the dreams.

He was hunting, but this time he was in a more complex world than his last brief dream, and this made him more comfortable and confident, even though the surroundings were not completely familiar to him. The scenery would change as he slowly and cautiously advanced. One moment he would be in a twisted backward representation of his familiar garden and woodland, then could emerge from a shrub or depression to unexpectedly find himself on the edge of a road or in an alley. A man, shabbily clothed, with a sad but friendly face, would always appear somewhere and look at him quietly. He would always stop to consider the man, before an uncomfortable feeling set in moving him on. The urban environment was a sidetrack though, the dominant environment being his familiar garden backdrop, where he was now hunting. He was looking for something big, a baby fox maybe, a crow would be a prize to be proud of…he moved dreamily through the dream world, looking for a victim, but the dream world had nothing to offer him today. He soon tired of searching the random, illogically positioned environment of his mind, and in his dream he fell asleep. In the world, he woke up.

His eyes opened slowly, the low sun across the lake making him squint through his lashes. In the hazy light he sensed a grasshopper in the grass ahead and his eyes opened wide. His paw shot out instinctively, trapping it to the ground. His claws held the creature in place as he pulled it into his mouth whereupon he crunched it to pieces with wide deliberate snaps of his jaw. Feeling the creature moving in his mouth as he chewed woke him up and he spat the unsavoury insect pieces onto the ground and stood up. He licked his lips of the tiny entrails and armoured limbs, and stretched his legs, one at a time behind him. He then put his front legs forward and stretched them towards the ground. He brushed a few remaining pieces of grasshopper from the corner of his mouth with a paw and raised himself to his full height, looking across the lake. He could not see the house properly for the glare of the sun setting behind it, and so looked down upon the surface of the lake. Still squinting he saw the fish swimming slowly in random circles, occasionally popping their mouths out of the water to snap something off the surface. The dandylion seeds which had filled the air a little earlier formed a sparse carpet across the surface, the threads balancing precariously on the surface tension waiting to be engulfed by a stray drop.

Tom heard the cackle of a large bird and turned quickly to face away from the lake and the house. His pupils contracted to their favourite position and his eyesight quickly adjusted to the lack of direct sunshine. He saw a large crow in the trees a little way off and some smaller birds fluttering from the same tree to the ground below. Something was on the ground which they were feeding off. He quickly lowered himself onto his haunches and slowly advanced, making no sound whatsoever on the leafy ground. The hunt was on…

Flea Tale Part II - Tom


Barnet, United Kingdom

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Artist's Description

This is the second part of a story I am writing which began about a flea. This part centres around the cat the flea found himself living on :)

Artwork Comments

  • Purrnickerty
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  • SamBarnet
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