Did you ever wonder what became of Peeps, poor cat who was lost in the woods? I did. I knew she had come home, but I did not know how she managed to escape the clutches of Old King Fisher. I had asked Peeps many times to finish the tale, but she was not ready to tell the most harrowing part of her adventure, until now. Note: If you start at the link above, and then follow the link at the bottom of each installment, you can read the whole story.
“Your Majesty, please allow me to introduce to you this lovely cat, Peeps, from one of the lower marsh houses.”
Old Fisher sized the cat up. She was smaller than he, but not too much smaller. He said, “Hmm. What kind of name is Peeps? It sounds mischievous. You’re not a troublemaker, are you?”
Before Peeps could answer, the toad broke in, saying, “Oh, no, Majesty. Peeps is a very respectable cat. But she is lost, Majesty, and you are her best hope for finding her home. No one knows these woods and marshes better than you do, O Magnificent One.”
“Lost, eh? Well, Toad, I’m sure this cat can speak for herself.” He turned to Peeps. “Is what he says true?”
Peeps only nodded her head, feeling suddenly shy, because she did not know how to address a king. The King said, “Very good. I will help you tomorrow. Now, you must be tired, so let us set you up for the night. You may stay in the Den.”
The Toad looked anxiously at the king and cleared his throat, hoping the invitation would be extended to him, as well. “You, too, Toad, as thanks for introducing me to your friend.”
The king suddenly snarled, which made Peeps jump, but it was just his way of summoning his squirrel servants. The squirrels hurried over. The king instructed them to prepare sleeping areas for Peeps and the Toad.
The Toad could barely contain himself. “We’re going to the Den, Peeps! What an honor! The other toads will be so jealous. They’ll come to see what a worthy member of the community I am, and I’ll be able to wear the finest party scarves!”
As the squirrels led Peeps and the Toad away, the party began again. The animals of the court gossiped among themselves. But Old Fisher silently celebrated by himself as he settled back into his throne, smiling over his own rotten thoughts. He pretended to watch and enjoy the dance that had resumed, but in reality he was carefully laying his plans and readying any excuses he might need later.
He would have to silence the Toad, of course. He grinned at the thought. He did not like the toads or their arrogant, scarf-wearing ways. Squashing that particular one would give him great pleasure, even if it were no good for eating.
Peeps awoke at first light, refreshed and ready to start her journey home. Servants brought her some kind of gamy meat for her breakfast. She ate it without complaint. She was so happy to be going home. She said good-bye to the toad and thanked him for his help. Then the king arrived and led her into the woods.
She was still feeling tongue-tied around the King, and she was relieved when he didn’t seem to expect her to talk. He moved slowly, and she struggled to keep her pace slow enough for him. She not only felt that time was dragging, but soon she got the strange feeling of something about to go wrong.
If there was one thing she had learned from living with two other cats, it was the sense of being about to be jumped. She had it now. She knew instinctively that at any second she would feel the weight of another animal on her back and the sharp press of teeth into her neck. She was afraid. And at the very moment that her conscious mind registered that fact, she also realized that the king was no longer next to her. She did not see him, but she could hear him and smell him, and she knew that he was the source of the danger, even though she did not understand why. She tensed, waiting.
That Old King Fisher expected no challenge from a simple house cat. He was tough and quick, so he thought he had the advantage as he prepared to attack. But Peeps, as you may recall, was a champion mouser, and she could whack a mouse down before it had time to blink. When Old King Fisher launched himself at her, she was ready. Her swipe caught him in the face and knocked him flat on his back.
For a moment he was too shocked and dazed to react to her counterattack, and that’s what saved the smaller Peeps from becoming that mean old king’s coat, because she ran and ran for all that she was worth. By the time the king picked himself up, she was long gone. With blood dripping into his eye, he’d lost the desire to chase her, at least for now. But he would get her later, he vowed to himself as he slunk back to the Den.
Peeps wandered in the woods all day. Soon she found herself in the same situation as the evening before, because night was falling and she was still lost. As she sat there being eaten by mosquitoes, feeling sorry for herself, and about to start yowling her misery, the chorus of peepers began. Once again their song seemed to form itself into words.
“The cat has many senses
But she does not see, see, see.
Eyes and ears and nose
Among them be, be, be.
By look and listen and smell,
That is the way to tell, tell, tell.”
Peeps listened and wondered again if the peepers were talking about her. Could it be that they were telling her to use her senses? Why, that made sense!
As the peepers’ song dissolved into random chirps, she tuned her ears in to the other sounds of the night. Far away, past the crickets and the mosquitoes, but closer than the hum of street traffic, she heard a voice calling a name. She couldn’t tell whose name it was, but she headed toward the sound, and as she walked, she lifted her head to sniff the night air. She smelled flowers from the garden and oil from the truck and sawdust from the father’s workroom in the garage. She followed the path of these scents for a long time and then suddenly, just when she thought they had led her nowhere, the outdoor lights turned on and she could see that her senses had brought her home.
Then she heard people calling her name. It was her family who, unknown to Peeps, had been calling for her at the top of each hour since she had gotten lost. The mother was leaning out the front door, and Peeps ran to her and jumped inside, away from the toads and tree frogs and fisher cats, away from the hunger and the fear and the lonesome night. She was safe! The family all gathered around happily to welcome her home.
The white cat slunk over and whispered, “Go away! Again!” The black smiled slyly at her, as if to say, “They’re happy to see you now, but I’m still the favorite!” Then he turned his back on her and sauntered over to inspect his food dish, just in case anyone had left him some wet food. Peeps followed him and nosed around at her own empty dish, and before she could wish for it to be filled, it was. She was home, and it was good to be home, even if she had to share it with the two most annoying cats on earth.
As for what happened to Old King Fisher, he got older and meaner and he never forgot about the house cat with the pretty coat of fur. He haunted the area around her house, waiting for her to come back outside. But she never did (and never will again, we hope!).