Clarance of Belden and I Weren't Actually the Stars of the Show....
I should not have been surprised when Raymond Hazelwitz, rodent activist, showed up, scratching at the computer room window. It was that time of year when plans are being made to help out the feral cats of the Evergreen Lake Colony. The planning however would revolve around none other than Raymond's arch enemy, Dexter, the thespian rodent.
This would be "break time from studies" for the rat that Raymond so disliked.
"He's spoiled rotten! He's demanding! Everything has to be his way or he has a temper tantrum! All the females love him and do everything they can to please him! It's so unfair. When Dexter is in town for the holidays, doesn't pay any attention to me! It's just not right!"
After I opened the window to let Raymond in, his ranting started as soon as he had gotten his breath. "Dexter is coming next week! And Brenda says he can stay with us! I have to look at the little twerp for the entire holiday break. Of course he wants to put on another play! Of course it will be one of his choosing! No other rat will have a say in anthing!"
I listened patiently to Raymond's ranting. "Since Cinderatta was so popular, I would have thought he would want to mount it again. He could reuse the same costumes and stage designs. The script is written. All the actors are still around except for Clarence and me. We wouldn't be playing the parts of the carriage horses again. It was really much to difficult for us cats, you know, all the prancing and neighing and stuff."
Raymond shook his head. "My costume doesn't fit me anymore. I tried it on a month ago and it is little tight through the rear.....Besides, Brenda said that Dexter wants to do "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs". Naturally, Dexter will be Snow White and he wants me to be the Wicked Queen. You know, the one who says, "Mirror, mirror on the wall,,,,,Who is fairest of them all?" That one!"
"Yes," I nodded. "I am familiar with the fairy tale," I meowed. "That sounds as if it would be a very good role. Lots of drama and stuff like that."
"Well," huffed Raymond, "if I decide to accept the role, I am going to get my own dress designer! I am not going to appear onstage as "miss frump of 2008"!" Raymond and I chatted for awhile about Dexter and the traditional Christmas play and then Clarence dropped by to meow about the cancellation of his favorite T.V show.. Since Raymond couldn't compete with Clarence's hisses and growls he decided to leave and finish some chores he had started earlier.
Helen, and Stella, my house mates, came out onto the deck to purr with Clarence. "I don't know why Raymond is so upset over the play Dexter has chosen for the cat colony fund raiser. He should be a good sport and wear whatever garment is made for him," meowed Helen. "After all, the play is for the benefit of the colony. By the way, you two toms are going to be ushers and help to seat the guests."
"Says who!" demanded Clarence.
"Says me!" answered Helen, taking a swipe at my buddy's nose.
For about a week, I completely forgot about the "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" and Raymond anger about being chosen to play the role of the wicked stepmother. Then Raymond Hazelwitz arrived one morning, his face beaming with smiles. "I found the best dress designer in all of Hamden," he chattered loudly. "Her name is Isabella. She has made me the most beautiful garment in all ratdom! And she had her mate design a tiara for me! I'm going to be the most beautiful 'wicked queen' in town, doncha know, Henri!! All the other rats in the play will enry me!" he chortled.
"I'm so happy for you, Raymond," I purred. "I am sure, the night of the play, you will look lovely in your gown and tiara." Actually, I couldn't understand why a male rat would care so much about how he looked on stage in a dress. Where was his masculine pride?
"It's because he dislikes Dexter so much that Raymond reacts this way," noted Clarence. "I don't care for the miserable little runt either but I don't get so upset about it. A fairy tale is just that, a fairy tale. It is on stage to benefit the Evergreen Lake Cat Colony. I will offer my paw in help to aid the production. I will help to collect canned and dry cat food from our feline neighbors and do it gladly!"
That's the spirit! That was my thought as well. Now that we had settled the issue, we both took a nice, long nap.
I should have known that things seemed to be too simple. Like Raymond found some rat to design and make his gown and some rat to hammer his tiara out of tin cans and then stud it with bits of polished glass pieces. And some other designing rat fabricated the outfits for the seven dwarves. I don't know who did Snow White's costume but I heard that it was spectacular. Then a few days before the big event, catastrophe struck! Dexter the show's star took ill! I mean he came down with the very worst cold to ever befall a rodent! He wheezed and sneezed! He coughed! He gasped! He choked! He wept and sobbed. Poor rat! There would be no play! Poor Raymond! There was no place for our friend to wear his newly created gown and sparkling tiara!
He sat on the desk in front of the computer. His tears flowed. His moans filled the air. I have never seen the rat so distraught. Carefully, I patted the top of his head. "Whatever is wrong, Raymond?" I meowed.
"Everything!" he sobbed. "The show has been cancelled! Since Dexter can't go on, he decided no one can go on! No one will see my beautiful gown and tiara! It's just not fair!"
Helen ran into the computer room. She stared at Raymond and shook her head. "Nonsense!" she hissed. "Haven't you heard of understudy? Any rat about the same size and coloring as Dexter could play the role of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs". I don't think the character has too much to say anyway. I will take this up with your mate, Brenda."
Helen, being Helen and the type of pussycat that she is, wasted no time in doing just that. And Brenda being Brenda, wasted no time in finding a replacement for the ailing Dexter. Her name was Brunhilde and she was a bit broad in the rear but careful fur trimming with the Ashley's clippers (Ashley is our house mate dog) eased her fit into the costume designed for the more slender Dexter.
The days seemed to speed by as Carlyle, Clarence and I and some other neighborhood cats came together to help in setting up the stage and the seating arrangements (pillows)for the guests. Boxes were brought in by Frank, Rumsfeld and some other friends to collect the donated cat food tins and packages. And then the day arrived!
The event had generated great excitement among the feline population. They lined up with their contributions of cat food and treats. Several of the playgoers had included catnip toys with their donations. We were overwhelmed with the quantity and quality given so cheerfully. Frank agreed to help Clarence and I sort the cans and boxes of food. We were feeling very happy at this time and then I saw Helen my house mate approaching at a very brisk pace. She had that evil look in her eyes. I shuddered! A few steps behind her was Raymond Hazelwitz, rodent activist, resplendent in his gown and tiara. Whatever pronouncement Helen would make, I knew this rodent would be behind it!
Helen sat down before us. "Leave Frank here to sort the boxes and cans. I want you three toms to come with me right now!" Well orders are orders. Meekly, Clarence, Carlyle and I followed her to an area behind the stage. "Now I want you boys to stand up on your hind legs."
"What!" demanded Clarence. "We cats are supposed to stand up on our hind legs? You know how difficult it is for us cats to stand on our hind legs! And why in catnip should we have to do that, anyway?"
Helen hissed at us. "Because, I said so!" she growled, "You cats will then have branches, like these," (she held up a large twig,) "which were carefully picked by the rat scouts, tethered to your front paws. Snow White will run through the forest to escape the wicked queen. You, Henri and you, Clarence with an assist from Frank and our good friend, Abbott will become the forest. It's all settled." With that statement, Helen left backstage to the dressing room to help the rats with their garments. Clarence and I fumed and hissed and spit until our fur stood on end.
"We just won't do it!" I growled. "No cat with any self respect would agree to perform as a tree in a forest!"
Raymond, grabbing onto his tiara, shook his head.
"Oh yes you will, Pussycat! I don't think you and your buddies would like the entire feline neighborhood to know that you refused to help out at the fund raiser for the Evergreen Lake Cat Colony, now would you? And you do know how quickly rats can spread gossip, don't you? And how we can embellish on the gossip and make you kitties sound really, really awful?"
There isn't a cat in Hamden who doesn't know about a rat's ability at reputation plundering as well as seed plundering and bedding plundering. What could we cats do? If we don't agree, we will be known as selfish, self centered, indulgent and self-centered. No other cats will agree to join us for dinner at The Dumpster. No other cats will agree to join us in serenading the neighborhood with seasonal carols. No other cats will join us for an evening of poker on my deck. We will be ostracized by every feline who ever and will ever walk the streets of our fair town. "We will be trees in the forest in which Snow White flees the evil queen," I announced. "Yes we will."
"I knew you would see things my way," beamed Raymond.
It wasn't all that bad. We couldn't stand up on our hind legs very well with branches tied to our front paws but we were able to use the large branches as props. We could also hide behind them. I think we four cats made an effective forest. Abbott decided to add a few lines and meowed out loudly, "Run Snow White, run! Flee from the wicked queen!"
Raymond made his entrance to the stage, all chattering and baring his gleaming teeth. The audience hissed and growled appropriately. When as the wicked queen, he challenged the magic mirror with a biting "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?" he got a little to exuberant with gown and head swishing, and his tiara tumbled to the floor. It rolled across the stage and dropped to the ground. A cat in the front row picked it up and hurled it back. It struck the 'wicked queen' in the butt. A stunned Raymond retrieved his tiara and promptly put it back on his head. The rat scouts performed fairly well but their rendition of "Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work we go" was a bit shrill. The scout who played the role of Sleepy actually did fall asleep during the second act. Snow White waddled through the forest and constantly clutched at her chest. At one point her dress caught on one of Clarence's branches and he had to help her get untangled.
The audience seemed to enjoy themselves. They meowed loudly after the end of each scene. Whether or not this latest drama had the impact of last year's production, "Cinderatta" I don't know but I do think it was a success. Our presence as the trees of the forest added excitement, when Clarence, Abbott and I decided to do a "fox trot" together and Abbott decided to "waltz" Snow White out of the forest. The audience did seem to enjoy it! They showered us with catnip! The cats of Hamden may remember this production for months to come for many reasons, but at least they won't "neigh" when they see Clarence and me walking together.