What You Wish For...
An Old Jellicle Fable
By Rheow

The dusk had set over London. The day was done.

Except for the creatures that thrived in the night. They awoke and stretched as the moon succeeded the sun in the sky.

In the junkyard that was home to the Jellicles, various felines stalked amidst the odds and ends of human refuse, doing whatever cats did.

One kitten did not participate in the games of hide and seek. She sat by the old tire and watched instead.

This went by unnoticed until the Jellicle Leader appeared. His wise eyes took in the entire junkyard and noted the discrepancy.

"Whatever's the matter, Electra?" Old Deuteronomy asked as he settled onto his usual perch on the old tire.

"Nothing . . . I just didn't feel like it," the calico queen said softly.

"Really? Then why such a long face?" Old Deuteronomy was the kind of cat who could listen very well and usually, cats would confide in him--eventually.

"I-I . . . Well, I'm just an ordinary queen . . . Sometimes I just feel so plain--"

"That's not true!" Etcetera had skidded by and she halted when she heard Electra's words. "You're smarter than me! And no one ever tells you to stop talking!"

"I wish I was as smart as you make me out to be," Electra said with sigh. "It's not like I've got any talent like Misto or the Twins--"

"But no one would call *you* silly. I wish they would take me more seriously. I mean, I can't sing like Jemima--"

"You could have my voice--I only wish I wasn't so shy. You're never shy about speaking your mind," Jemima said, popping up on the other side of the tire. She climbed over to where the others were, closely followed by Victoria.

"She's right," the white queen said. "I wish I was that outgoing."

"You can dance--and, well, you're *striking* . . . Nothing remarkable about plain old me--if I had a wish, I would wish that I could change the way I was," Electra said wistfully.

The Jellicle Leader had been listening to this exchange. "Is that so? Well, well--we shall see . . ." And Old Deuteronomy beckoned to his second-in-command--Munkustrap. "Call the kittens and any who want to listen--I think we have time for a story . . ."

The grey tabby did so and soon, the others--young and old--were streaming in to sit down before the old tire. They all liked a good story-telling, the adults themselves were not so old as to forget the days when they were all young kits awaiting the story-telling to start.

Munkustrap smiled indulgently as the kittens and the young cats gathered around Old Deuteronomy, eager at the prospect of a story from the Jellicle Leader.

"What story are you going to tell, Old D.? The one about the cat and the fox?"

"A new one this time . . . though it is an old fable." Old Deuteronomy gazed the ranks of kittens fondly. "This is a story of long ago--when the world was young . . ."

"In the beginning, the Everlasting Cat made the creatures of the earth and sky. There were creatures that swam, crawled, ran and hopped. The Everlasting Cat Named all of them and all was well.

Now, one of the Everlasting Cat's first creations was Cat--Named so on a sudden whim as the Everlasting Cat was rather fond of him.

Cat was strong and swift--a sleek predator of the jungle and plains. Cat was intelligent and cunning--thus he could hunt well and stake out a large territory. With his fine coat, shapely ears and bright eyes, he was considered one of the most handsome creatures around. And he knew it too.

Because of this, Cat got just a little too arrogant for his neat little paw pads.

One day, Cat went to the sacred groove where the Everlasting Cat would hold audience. He had been recently dissatisfied with his lot in life and sought certain changes.

There in the evergreen glade, by the tinkling stream of crystal clear water, Cat put forth his petition. And he was rewarded when the presence of the Everlasting Cat permeated the grove.

"Great Everlasting Cat, it has been noted that I am one of your finest creations," Cat began.

The Everlasting Cat had to concede that this was true. "What brings you here today, Cat?"

"I was thinking, Great One, that perhaps a few changes could be made to your humble creation--improvements of a sort."

"And what might you want improved?" asked the Everlasting Cat.

"Well, my fine coat has been admired far and wide for it's texture and warmth but would not a thicker pelt be better when winter comes? Or for hunting in the cold places?"

"True . . ."

"I am a skillful hunter, but I would be truly great if my sense of smell were sharper and my ears were larger--all the better to hear the movement of prey with."

The Everlasting Cat indicated that that might be so.

"And my tail--my proud tail, can it not be longer so that I might have more to show when I am pleased?"

"I see . . . Go on . . ."

"You have equipped me with a most useful tongue," Cat said. "Very good for washing and cleaning--but would it not be better if it was larger so that my bath becomes more efficient?"

The Everlasting Cat considered this for a moment and then said, "Very well then."

And there was a flash of brilliant light as the Everlasting Cat worked the Creation Magic.

When the light had faded away, Cat blinked and opened his eyes again. There was a new creature standing before him.

And what a strange creature it was!

It had a shaggy coat, a long plumy tail and large floppy ears. It had a moist nose and a large pink tongue that was hanging out of its mouth as it panted. And it appeared to be drooling.

In short, it looked revolting and smelt even worse.

"What is it?" Cat asked, half-horrified and half-curious because that was the nature of Cat.

"It's what you asked for," the Everlasting Cat said. "A longer coat for warmth. A longer tail and larger ears--just as you said. And a keen nose and a long tongue for washing."

"B-but . . . it's ugly," Cat said and added hastily, "No disrespect meant, but I do not think I want to be like *that*!"

And the Everlasting Cat smiled and said, "Then you should have learned new wisdom today, favoured creation of mine. You are smart and well-equipped--all that you wish for should be within your abilities."

So Cat emerged from the sacred grove, wiser now than he had been before because he realised that what he wanted had always been there. Afterwards, the Everlasting Cat decided to keep this new creation as a reminder of Cat's folly and Named it a dog--or a Pollicle as we know it."

Old Deuteronomy took a deep breath and looked at the attentive crowd of Jellicles. "So, who can tell me the lesson behind this old tale?"

"I think it's meant to tell us to be happy with what we are," Etcetera piped up hesitantly.

"True," Old Deuteronomy said with a smile. "We're all different and that's what makes us unique. It's not wrong to ask for more, but be careful of what you wish for--it might not be what you truly want."

"What I truly want is for all these kittens to be in bed and asleep--it's past two already!" Jennyanydots exclaimed and the gathering broke up with good-natured laughter.

Later, in the shelter of the old oven, Electra turned over and stared into the comfortable darkness. "You know what I *really* want?"

"What?" Vicky asked sleepily.

"That everything would remain the same as always--that I'd still have all my friends with me no matter what . . ."

"Me too," Jemima whispered. "I wouldn't trade you for all the salmon paste in London!"

"I wouldn't either," Cety said stoutly. "Not even if I could become smarter or prettier."

And so that night, a pact was made--to be renewed time and time again as they grew and thrived in the light of their friendship.

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