The Rum Tum Tugger opened one eye lazily and glared at the sun, whose rays were shining through the window full in his face. Getting no response, the mostly-black cat stood up, stretched, and began grooming his light brown mane. When he finished, he jumped down from the sofa and walked out the cat door.
"Lesse, what should I do today?" he asked himself. He thought of the Junkyard, and grinned. "Well, I guess the Junkyard it is!" He trotted around the side of the house, into the backyard, then wriggled through the hole in the fence behind the azalea bushes. He shook out his mane to make sure he hadn’t messed it up too much.
Once through, he made his way through the paths known only to cats. Tugger continued on in this manner until he came to a place where the paths forked.
"Go to the left…or go to the right…" he mused. To the left was a house with dogs, to the right a construction site. Never liked Pollicles much, thought Tugger. Since both ways led to the Junkyard, he chose the path to the right.
A few minutes later, Tugger was still dodging around parked machinery, climbing over piles of wood, and weaving through closed cans of paint. He panted for a few moments, then continued over the pile of wood he had been struggling to climb. Tugger finally came to the top, then looked down to the ground. He didn’t feel up to climbing back down as he had climbed up, so he gathered his haunches beneath him and jumped.
As he landed, he knocked over a can of paint…only this can was open. Slipping on the liquid, Tugger tripped and fell paws over tail in a heap on top of it. He hurried to his feet and kept going. As he saw it, the liquid staining his body felt like thick water, and water would come off. He had no time to worry about it, however. He had to get to the Junkyard before all the other toms showed up.
Munkustrap sat on the red car in the Junkyard, with Demeter at his side. Bombalurina was sitting in another corner of the Junkyard, watching Jennyanydots and Jellylorum taking care of the kittens. They heard pawsteps on newspaper, and all turned to see Rum Tum Tugger, his body strewn with some hot-pink substance.
"Tugger, what did you do to yourself?" asked Munkustrap, wrinkling his nose.
"What do you mean, what did I do to myself?" asked Tugger. "Hiya, Bomb!"
Bombalurina didn’t answer him. "You must know what he means. The stuff…all over you."
Tugger looked confused. "Isn’t it water?"
"NO!" chorused every cat present, in one voice.
"What is it, then?" he whined. He heard the sound of chatting cats walking in behind him, and he groaned.
"And then we went—great Heaviside, Tugger, what did you do to yourself?"
The lion-like cat sighed as he turned to face the two cats. Cassandra and Exotica. Could have been worse.
"I dunno what I did to myself," he moaned. Cassandra walked up and felt it.
"Whatever it is, it’s starting to dry," she said.
"NO! YOU MEAN I’M STUCK LIKE THIS FOREVER?" Tugger screeched.
"Calm down," said Jellylorum, taking her leave of the kittens.
"I AM CALM!" he yelled. Jemima scampered away from Jennyanydots, sitting in front of Tugger.
"You’re pink!" she said, though most knew it by now.
This was too much for Rum Tum Tugger. "PINK? OH NO!"
"Where did this happen?" asked Munkustrap.
"In the construction site," said Tugger.
"I’ll take a few cats to figure out what this is," volunteered Cassandra.
"Okay," said Munkustrap. Cassandra nodded.
"Exotica, Bombalurina, Jellylorum, and…Demeter, come with me," said Cassandra. The cats in question got up and followed the sleek female out of the Junkyard. Rum Tum Tugger watched them go, and lay down on a pile of papers.
"Watch it, Bombi!" commanded Jellylorum, as the red female jumped down from a pile of wood, narrowly missing the older feline.
"Excuse me, Jellylorum, I beg forgiveness," said Bombalurina sarcastically.
"Quit clowning and be serious," ordered Cassandra.
Their little feud was interrupted by Exotica’s call. "Cassie! Over here! We’ve found something!"
The three females dashed over, examining the piece of paper Demeter was pawing. When she saw the others watching, Demeter jabbed a paw at the label.
"Look. There’s one on the bucket with the stuff Tugger’s got on him over there. See what it says?" she said. This fragment of a label had been scratched and knocked about quite a bit before the cats had found it, but there was section still quite legible. It read: TOXIC.
"Toxic means poison, right?" asked Bombalurina. Cassandra nodded.
"We have to get back to the Junkyard, and fast!"
As they were leaving, Bombalurina attempted to take a shortcut by leaping over a stack of wood that the others chose to walk around. She leapt off and made a perfect landing—into an open can of paint.
The others heard the shriek and raced to where Bombalurina was trapped in the can. She jerked her body about wildly, trying to free herself. The other four queens stood uncertainly by, wanting to help Bombalurina but loathe to risk death by toxin.
She finally managed to get free, and she lay sprawled on the ground, the hot-pink coloring staining her fur. Demeter nudged a still-red section of her sister.
"I’M DYING!" yelped Bombalurina. "NOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!"
Cassandra burrowed under her, lifting the red cat onto her back, then slowly began the trek back towards the Junkyard.
Munkustrap saw the party returning and went to greet them. He spotted Bombalurina lying across Cassandra. She had fainted earlier on, and Cassandra wasn’t too pleased about that.
"News? And what happened to Bombalurina?" he asked.
"The stuff’s toxic. And Bombi fell in some."
"Does this mean—," Munkustrap began.
"Unless we can find a cure," said Cassandra, slipping out from under Bombalurina.
Munkustrap nodded, then turned to the rest of the Jellicles. Since the group had left, a few more cats had shown up—Mungojerrie, Rumpelteazer, Alonzo, and Skimbleshanks.
"Has anyone seen Coricopat and Tantomile?" he asked, loudly enough for all to hear. Unfortunately, no one had. "How about Mistoffelees?"
"His humans took him on that trip, and he hasn’t come back yet," answered Victoria.
"Okay. I need a few cats to go to where Coricopat and Tantomile live, and check out a few of their favorite hangouts. Hmm…Mungo, Rumpel, Jenny, and Skimble, you four go."
The four cats in question nodded and left the Junkyard. Munkustrap cleared off a section of the car, and lifted Bombalurina onto it. He turned to Cassandra.
"You can go n—what’s that on your back?"
"What’s the what on my where?" Cassandra asked. She craned her head back, and she could just make out a few pink spots. "Oh no!"
"You’d better come up here, too," offered Munkustrap. "Demeter, Jellylorum, and Exotica, try to explain this to Tugger, WITHOUT him getting hysterical." Demeter thought of the movie her humans had watched a few days ago, and decided to quote from it.
"But you ask the impossible, sir," she said, in a voice very unlike her normal one.
"Goody. Just TRY. The others will know eventually, if we can’t find Coricopat and Tantomile."
"All right, great and wondrous leader," answered Exotica. The three females bobbed their heads to Munkustrap and trotted off.
Victoria, no longer under any sort of guidance, convinced the other three kittens to follow her to another corner of the Junkyard, where she explained her plan.
"I heard them say that stuff on Tugger is poisonous," she began.
"You mean he’s gonna die?" whined Etcetera.
"Not if we go to that construction place and find an antidote," countered Victoria.
"I dunno…what if we get it on us?" cautioned Electra.
"Oh, c’mon…it’s for the Tugger. We’d be heroes!" pleased Etcetera.
"Well, fine. Just for the record, it wasn’t my idea," Electra agreed. The other three kittens nodded.
"Do we even know the way to the construction place?" asked Jemima. Victoria, Electra, and Etcetera exchanged glances. The thought hadn’t occurred to any of them. The white kitten stamped one of her forepaws in frustration.
"Oh, forget that! We’ll find it!" she said encouragingly. Jemima shrugged, and followed Victoria as the white kitten scampered out of the Junkyard, unnoticed by all the other cats.
"Vicki, are you sure you know what you’re doing?" Electra asked a few minutes later, wriggling through a hole in a wooden fence.
"’Course I know what I’m doing," said Victoria, exasperated. "I should have come alone. Just get through the hole and be quick about it!" Electra squeezed through, followed by Etcetera, Jemima, and Victoria. They tumbled to the ground, and looked up.
"Told ya I’d find the construction site," bragged Victoria, gesturing ahead of them.
"Now, to find the cure for Tugger," sighed Etcetera. Poor Tugger.
The four kittens moved quickly, taking advantage of every available cover as they moved closer to the site. Once they were reasonably close, Victoria stopped them.
"All right, we’ll split up. Etcetera, you come with me this way. Electra and Jemima, you go that way. We’ll meet up back here in a little bit. Got it?" ordered the white kitten.
"Gottit," said Jemima. "C’mon, Electra." The two kittens slunk off, examining everything critically. Victoria watched them go, then motioned to Etcetera.
"Well, Etcetera, we’d best be getting along now," she began. Etcetera nodded, and the two began to investigate the nearest woodpile, searching for anything that would be of help to Tugger.
"Hmmm….Vicki, come look at this!" said Etcetera finally, critically studying a container of hot-pink liquid. "D’you think this is what got him?"
"Probably," answered Victoria. "It looks like it." She bent in closer to take a better look, when Etcetera jostled her off-balance and she went tumbling into the can.
Etcetera jumped back as the displaced hot-pink stuff came flying out. Victoria sloshed about, and her head appeared suddenly above the edge of the can.
"Etcetera," she growled, "What was that for?"
"Sorry, Vicki…" stammered Etcetera. The formerly-white kitten clambered out of the can, spilling hot-pink stains onto the ground. Paint dripped off her fur.
"I’ll take you back to the Junkyard. They’ll find Coricopat and Tantomile, and they’ll make ya better. I’ll…" Etcetera fell silent as she realized there was no way for her to carry Victoria back without getting the deadly stuff on her own fur, and risking her own death.
Victoria seemed to have realized that too, and sat down, tears slipping down her pink-stained cheeks. Etcetera watched her friend for a few moments, then sat down as close as the pink stains would allow.
"It’s all right, Vicki. It’ll come out all right. Somehow…"
Jemima and Electra had found nothing on their trip, and were coming back to the rendezvous point, disappointed at arriving empty-pawed.
"Maybe Victoria and Etcetera had better luck than we did," suggested Jemima hopefully.
"Maybe," agreed Electra, thought the expression on her face plainly showed that she didn’t believe it. The two kittens trudged dejectedly back to where they had last seen Victoria and Etcetera, only to find that no one was there. They were trying to figure out what to do next when Etcetera came running up.
"Victoria fell in the stuff!" cried the nervous kitten. Jemima gasped.
"We can’t exactly carry her back, though," reasoned Electra. "Could she walk?"
"Yeah, I think so. I’ll take you to her," babbled Etcetera.
The other two followed Etcetera to where Victoria still sat, her blue eyes sad. Electra walked as close as possible and explained her idea. Victoria nodded slowly, got up, and began walking, letting Electra lead the way back to the Junkyard.
"Now ‘is is wot Oi calls a ‘ouse!" exclaimed Mungojerrie in amazement. The house in which Coricopat and Tantomile lived was large, with well-kept gardens, a neat lawn, and impressive marble steps leading up the porch. His sister was already there, nudging the mahogany cat-door with her nose. She giggled excitedly.
"Enough clowning, you two. We’re here on business. We’ve got to find those two, get them back to the Junkyard, and save Tugger and Bombi," chided Jennyanydots. Skimbleshanks nodded.
"Aye, lissen t’the lassie, nae arg’ments heer," he agreed. "Coom on noo, intae the house." The ginger and brown tom leapt up the steps two at a time and pushed the cat-door open. In a quick, fluid, movement, he was in the house, the other three cats at his heels.
"Whoa," gasped Mungojerrie. "’is is wot Oi calls a ‘ouse!" The inside of the house was even more impressive than the outside. Everything was polished, or dusted, or whatever it took to ensure that it was neat and well kept. Rumpelteazer leapt up onto a couch and admired the material. The walls were covered with paintings and stitchings, with Jennyanydots examined critically, all perfectly in place. Skimbleshanks eyed the crystal chandelier and smiled.
"Now ‘at we’re ‘ere, where is Co’icopat and Tan’omile?" inquired Rumpelteazer, leaping down from her perch on the couch.
"Ruffians!" came an amazingly well-cultured voice.
All heads turned in the direction of the sound. A metal cage was positioned on a wooden table, so that its occupant could just make himself seen to the cats below. It was a guinea pig, mostly white with ginger-red patches. He snorted.
"Do you have any idea how expensive this place is? No, you have to come in and mess around with everything you find! Have you no respect?" the creature would have continued, but Mungojerrie stopped him.
"’O are you?" he asked, in a very forward manner.
"A cockney cat," sneered the guinea pig. "There’s something new. I am Lord Fluffernutter, to you pathetic felines."
"’O’re YOU callin’ pathetic?" screamed Rumpelteazer.
"PLEASE!" interrupted Jennyanydots. "I’m sure this could get very interesting. However, Lord Fluffernutter, we have no wish to bother you. We are looking for two cats by the names of Coricopat and Tantomile."
"Never heard of them," began Fluffernutter. "However, if you’re looking for Mokkan and Lantur…"
"Who are they, laddie?" inquired Skimbleshanks, scratching his head.
"The two cats that live here. The pet’s daughter read some book with these beasts called Marlfoxes, they could vanish like magic. The two pussies do that, so she named them after the two main Marlfoxes: Mokkan and Lantur. Are they who you’re looking for?" offered the guinea pig.
"I s’pose," said a baffled Skimbleshanks. "D’ye ken where they be?"
"No, haven’t seen them since morning," continued Fluffernutter. "Sorry I can’t be of more help to you fine kitties. Go outside, lie in the sun, enjoy yourselves…"
"But our friends will die if we don’t find them!" protested Jennyanydots.
"Sorry, can’t be of any more help than that," insisted the guinea pig. "Now, if you’ll excuse me…" He turned around in his cage and began snoring faintly.
"Why, you…" Jennyanydots exclaimed. Rumpelteazer leapt onto the table and began shaking the cage, but to no avail. Lord Fluffernutter was well and truly asleep.
"Well, g’bye then, Lord Fluffynutty," she snarled. She hopped down and the four cats exited the house. Once outside, they regrouped to decide what would happen next.
Munkustrap was pacing irritably back and forth near the old car, when he heard the sound of approaching cats. He looked up and blinked. Etcetera, Electra, and Jemima. He hadn’t even noticed them leaving. But where was the fourth kitten?
Victoria peeked sheepishly out from behind Etcetera, and the silver tabby groaned when he noticed what had happened. Victoria was covered in the same hot-pink stuff that stained the coats of Tugger, Bombalurina, and Cassandra.
"What did you do?!" he practically yelled. Victoria quivered where she stood. Maybe it had been Etcetera that had pushed her into the paint, but she had been the one who had prompted the others to go to the construction site.
Jellylorum rushed to the kitten, glaring at Munkustrap. "You’ll frighten the poor thing, Munkustrap," she chided. "Come now, Victoria, what happened?" Demeter and Exotica, who were sitting near the car staring at the prone forms of their friends, turned their heads, as did Alonzo. They all wanted to hear what had happened.
"I…I…I…" stuttered Victoria. Her voice was ragged, and a few sobs rose in her throat. "I…wanted to h-h-help…T-t-t-t-tugger," she continued. "W-w-we went to the c-c-c-c-construction site. Etcetera…" here she flat out started crying.
"Oh, you poor dear," crooned Jellylorum. "Come onto the car now, and lie down with the others, there’s a good kitten." Victoria obeyed and slowly climbed up onto the car, her head bowed. Once she was settled, she shot Etcetera a venomous look. The other kitten studied the ground.
"I don’t know what we’ll do if the others don’t find Coricopat and Tantomile," whispered Demeter.
"Neither do I," answered Exotica.
"Wot ot’er places are t’ere fer psychic twins t’go?" complained Mungojerrie. He and the others had searched virtually every place that Coricopat and Tantomile had ever been seen, to no avail. The twins were nowhere to be found.
"’Ow in the name of ‘eaviside should Oi know?" snarled Rumpelteazer.
"Noo, nae more fightin’ ‘mongst yerselves," interceded Skimbleshanks.
"That’s right," agreed Jennyanydots. "We’ve got to keep looking."
"But they cou’be anywhere," protested Mungojerrie.
"Well, then we’ll have to look everywhere," countered Jennyanydots.
The four cats trudged along in silence, not speaking to one another, and determined not to so unless absolute need arose.
The workers soon found themselves with mostly-empty paint cans, and were at a loss as to what to do with them. It was then that one of them remembered the nearby junkyard, and suggested tossing the cans in there. The suggestion was agreed upon, and they set off.
Munkustrap opened one eye sleepily and looked around. A large silver thing was flying through the air—some of the hot-pink stuff just visible inside. He mentally charted its course, then called out a warning.
"Demeter! Exotica! Look out!"
The females looked up; it was too late. The thing crashed into the car nearby them, splattering the stuff all over them. Munkustrap groaned as he saw Demeter, her coat splattered with pink dots, and Exotica, a large patch of pink staining her head.
Etcetera was screaming. "Incoming!" she yelled. Another can came flying in, hitting the ground near Jellylorum. She turned a sour face in its direction, her whiskers dropping pinks splatters onto the ground.
"Her face is pink," gasped Electra.
"Incoming again!" called Alonzo, leaping off his perch on a crate as the bucket hit his back legs and he tumbled to the ground.
Munkustrap hurried over to the kittens, the only others with no pink on them.
"What’s gonna happen?" whispered Jemima.
"I don’t know," answered Munkustrap.
One more can flew into the Junkyard, then all was quiet.
"Take that! Get it, Corico!"
"I will, Tant, don’t you worry!"
Jennyanydots, Mungojerrie, Rumpelteazer, and Skimbleshanks looked at each other.
"We’ve found them!" whispered Jennyanydots.
"C’mon!" called Rumpelteazer. The four cats broke into a run, shoving their way past the interwoven branches of the large bush, their eyes meeting a welcome sight.
A pair of mostly black cats, with white markings on their faces, heads, backs, chests, and feet, were batting a ball of red yarn around on the grass.
"Hi, Coricopat, Tantomile," greeted Jennyanydots.
"Hello," said Coricopat.
"Nice to see you," continued Tantomile.
"Are y’doin’ some psychic thing wi’ that yarn?" inquired Rumpelteazer.
"No, we’re playing with it," laughed Coricopat.
"It’s fun," said Tantomile.
"Wouldn’t coming back to the Junkyard and saving some Jellicles from death be more fun?" pressed Jennyanydots. Coricopat and Tantomile looked at each other.
"Death? What happened?" they asked simultaneously.
The four cats explained what had happened. The twins exchanged looks.
"I think I know how to fix this," answered Tantomile. Coricopat nodded.
"Take us to the Junkyard."
Munkustrap was about to give up when he noticed the search party returning…with Coricopat and Tantomile! He jumped up and ran to meet them.
"What happened?" exclaimed Jennyanydots.
"More cans flew in. All but me, Electra, Etcetera, and Jemima have been stricken with it," he explained.
"Let us through," said Tantomile. She and her brother moved in closer, examined the cats lying where they had fallen…and burst out laughing.
"What?" said Munkustrap, mystified. Tantomile wiped a tear of mirth from her eye.
"It’s paint. It’s only toxic if you eat it. It should come out with a good wash," answered Tantomile.
The other cats looked at each other, burst out laughing as well, then went to tell the others the good news.
"Tugger, weren’t you scared?" asked Etcetera, some time later. The Rum Tum Tugger laughed.
"Who, me? I knew all along," he answered. Demeter, Jellylorum, and Exotica exchanged looks. Tugger raised an eyebrow.
"You doubt the Great One? Hah!" he said. Bombalurina laughed and snuggled in closer to him, as Tugger continued talking.
But you can be sure of one thing: Tugger never went near a construction site again.
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