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Once upon a time is an opening to a tale

Of one small cat and a mage whom I hail

As a man most unique in his quiet refinement,

A man who has love as his private assignment.

But his name Iíll retain Ďtill his time is at hand,

And Iíll turn to the cat, who looked rather bland.

She thought that she could not look good if she tried,

So she didnít, and that is the reason she cried.

     "Just once," she would think, "I wish I were great,

And I long for the fur that I could equate

To velvet or silk. But no, itís just plain.

Thick and all rumpled, especially in rain!"

She would find books of drawings and keep them nearby

And frequently look at the pages to try

To imagine herself as the creatures shown there --

As an eagle, or lion, a parrot, or bear.

She admired the grace of the thoroughbred horse,

And the zebraís white stripes were quite stunning, of course.

In short, there was nothing sheíd less rather be

Than the cat that she was, and this all could see.

      And now we shall leave our small cat for a while,

In order to watch down the road just a mile.

For in this short length walks the mage I admired.

When I mention his manner it must be required

To speak of his kindness, and emphasize valor.

Heís proudly attired in the red robes of power

Which signify balance between righteous and base,

And are indicative of kindness and grace.

Caleb, his name, suits none other than he,

Since itís meaning is "loyal", and fealtyís not free.

      So now weíll observe as he finds our sad cat

Alone by the road, near a tire that is flat.

He bends down before her, and touches her mind,

Hearing the thoughts to which she is inclined.

He tilts his head, considering her plight,

And decides to give her a gift on this night.

The mage picks her up, and she shakes in his arms,

Afraid that heíll give her some strange magic charms.

Her fears are unfounded, though she knows it not;

He means to show her what she needs to be taught.

The tall man is calming, talking in soft tones,

Asking what she wants most, deep in her bones.

Her mind flashes over all that sheís wished for;

He sees all her thoughts, and remembers the lore

That tells of a spell that will change form and looks,

So he goes home and gathers his myriad books.

He takes the cat with him, and leaves her alone

Where she can sleep and be safe on smooth granite stone.

Once she is dreaming, he combines all the parts

Of the animals she liked, with many false starts.

When he is finished, he stands back with a frown,

For she now has the look of a feral beast clown.

With the neck of a giraffe, and the hooves of a goat,

And a turkeyís sharp beak to sing a vile note.

She has the face of a rhino and lemurís huge eyes,

And donít forget the tail of the pig that nobody buys!

So now this poor cat is deformed and distorted,

With features that appear to be severely contorted.

The mage smiles sadly, knowing when she wakes

That all will be well, whatever it takes.

He turns and retreats, leaving her there

Offering up a quick, silent prayer

That sheíll understand the strategy he took

And come back to him, not go hide in a nook.

The catís eyes open slowly, she blinks quite a bit,

And then sees that most of her limbs just donít fit.

She frowns at herself, even worse than before,

And she takes off running, like a frightened wild boar.

She ends up in a circus, trapped in a cage,

And desperately wishing for that red robed tall mage.

People laugh and point, poking and insulting her,

Saying, "Would you look at that thing! Itís worse than a cur!"

The poor little cat, she sits all alone, hanging her head down low,

Until she decides to break free of freak row.

She puts down her horns and charges the wall,

Running as fast as she can in that stall.

She hits the partition with a force thatís astounding,

Scaring off all of the people surrounding.

She breaks free at last, and starts to run hard,

Only stopping when she sees the mageís yard.

She collapses, exhausted, worn out and afraid

That he too will mock her, and not give her aid.

She whimpers and weeps, lying at his feet,

And he stoops to pet her and give her a treat

Of unreserved love, no matter her appearance,

even though her horns cause some interference!

He bade her to follow him into his home,

So she quietly trails him, not wanting to roam.

When they both are inside, he closes the door,

He turns, and leaves her slumped on the floor.

He pulls out his books, and he finds the right place

That tells of the spell of the catís transposed face.

He reverses that spell; sheís a cat once again;

Not a horse or a bear or a dolphin or hen.

The mage picks her up, holding her near.

The cat starts to purr, and makes it quite clear

That she now is content to be just as she looks,

And not bits and pieces of pictures in books.

The mage shows he loves her -- the difference that makes!

It means more than the waters of a thousand clear lakes.

She feels that he cares, and she knows that itís true

That sheís gorgeous to him, and competent, too.

She now takes great pride in keeping all clean,

Grooming her fur and making it gleam.

She truly is lovely now, that is a fact

And all because he showed her just what she lacked.

Love is the reason this cat has her charm

And thus I will end my tale without harm.
This tale takes a bit of introduction. In my senior High School English class, we studied the Canterbury Tales, which was the fictional record of some travellers on a pilgrimage to the holy city of Canterbury. At their first meeting together, one man proposed a story-telling contest, and the prize for the best tale was dinner. So each pilgrim told a tale with a moral, and at the end of the journey, they were each judged, and the winner announced.

So my teacher assigned us to first create a character that would be travelling on a pilgrimage, and describe that character. Then we were to write the tale that our character would tell for the contest. It didn't have to be rhymed, but I did anyway. We each had to stand up in front of the class and tell our story, and we had a teacher who didn't know any of us judge the stories. Prizes were awarded as well, and I won first place, dinner at Marie Callender's. The class, most of whom never really paid any attention to me, was not only silenced, but very impressed, going so far as to applaud when I finished the tale, and I got many compliments from people who had never before talked to me. *grin* I was very pleased with myself.

I must admit that the basic story was not my idea -- the general plot was written in a wonderful story called The Whingdingdilly, by the magnificent children's author and illustrator Bill Peet. I asked my teacher if I could take his story and retell it, with some changes to characters and details, and she said yes. The character I created to tell this tale is a young woman named Raven, a quiet poet. So, with no further ado, I present Raven's Tale.
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