You Could Say That By and Large
This had gone on long enough. Skimbleshanks, the railway cat, had never seen so many of his species in his station and he didn't like it. He jumped from his perch in the switch house to run across the gravelly yard and stand in front of the narrow alley between two hulking locomotives.
"Stop," he snarled at the approaching male quartet. "What are you doing here...again?"
Rumpuscat growled deep in his throat because he was always spoiling for a fight; Munkustrap growled because he was tired of delays. Mistoffeles was quiet, as usual, but his paws twitched, as if ready to fire his sparks at the orange, vested train cop. Only the Rum Tum Tugger seemed keen to keep peace.
He stood between the would-be combatants under the full moon and myriad stars that appeared to turn his mane into a halo. The steam from the locomotive engines gathered around him like an ethereal mist.
"Friends," he said. "Let's remember that we are dignified cats, not quick-to-rile dogs or men. Else how can we keep up our tails perpendicular, or cherish our pride?"
He introduced his group to Skimbleshanks and said, "We are on a quest. We search for the catta that Munkustrap, here, loves. She and her friend might have been here earlier today."
Skimble's glass-green eyes lit with understanding as his mouth twisted in a grin. "Ahh, the red and gold teases," he growled knowingly. The big silver cat stopped his pacing to glare at him, flashing his ready claws. "Which one is yours?" Skimble goaded him.
At Munk's snarl The Tugger inserted quickly, "The black and gold—Demeter. We're afraid they might have met Macavity."
Skimbleshanks gasped upon hearing the notorious four syllables. "No," he whispered in horror, just as the whistle blew for the Night Mail train.
Tugger nodded. "Then you understand how anxious we are to find them."
" 'Course," Skimble muttered, moving out of the way so the four could pass. He raised his head at the sound of the station master's summons. "I'd join ye m'self, if not for m'duties. I hope ye find 'em before...well..."
Munkustrap bolted past Skimble and sprinted across the switch yard, leaping the maze of tracks, as if guided by Demeter's call for him. If he touches her, he vowed to himself, as the guerilla cats hurried to catch up, he'll think the last time was just a romp!
Stretched over the floor of their makeshift bed, the cats in Macavity's lair resembled a hairy, multi-colored giant in early hibernation.
Two glittering black eyes in the midst watched as the outlandish ginger cat rose from the pile to arch his back and yawn, then nimbly walk through and around them so that none were disturbed in their repose. He settled himself on his pillow and began a thorough cleaning.
The smell of coffee from the room above them burned Rumpleteazer's tiny pink triangle of a nose. She glanced at Mungojerrie beside her to see if the acridity or the plodding steps of the human hungover were disturbing his slumber. His smile and purr told her how obliviously content he was, so she got up to move gracefully around the cat nappers and face the most infamous one in England.
He halted mid-lick to stare at her. "Yes?"
The young tiger hadn't felt intimidated by him before but now, seeing him alone, sunken eyes and wild, jagged pattern in his fur that seemed to match his personality, she could feel her nerves. She stiffened her muscles to stifle the trembling in her paws and small body and swallowed hard, forcing herself to maintain the gaze. Some things, after all, were more important than her comfort.
"Does Mungojerrie know you're his father?" She was proud that her voice didn't shake like the rest of her when she asked.
He grinned, stretching his face like a rubber band. When he saw though that she wouldn't cower, the face snapped back to a pinched scowl.
"What are you talking about?" He returned to his toilette as though she weren't there, like a flea he could tolerate rather than waste his time biting.
His dismissal infuriated and emboldened Rumpleteazer. She lifted her chin higher and laughed only loud enough for him to hear, causing him to turn back to her with renewed concentration.
"It's quite obvious," she said, "not only the resemblance, but the way you talk to him. I can see that you're proud, as you should be."
Macavity's dark eyes again stared into hers to prompt a fluster, but she sat squarely in front of him, her striped shoulders pulled back in defiance.
"No," he finally answered. "He doesn't know. The only one who does is Bones."
She dropped her eyes and her voice. "Were there others?"
He snickered. "You mean a litter? Of course there were others. Mungo was the best of 'em though. The mother died so I gave away the rest. It was hard enough finding a molly who could feed him."
Teazer nervously scratched her side and took a deep breath before her next question. "Were there any...girl kittens?"
Ahh, Mac said to himself. So that's it. "One," he answered with a renewed smirk. "Are you worried that it might have been you? Would it matter to you if you and Mungo are from the same birthing?"
She gave a small shake of her head, as her lips jutted in a stubborn pout. "No."
"But you're afraid it might make a difference to him."
She looked to the spot where she'd left Mungo, hoping he wouldn't decide to wake up and hear this conversation.
Mac's serpentine smile fixed on her. "Don't worry your pretty little head...Daughter."
Her pout became more pronounced and whiskers twitched in irritation at that address.
"The tam of the bunch wasn't striped like you, just a drab brown, like the mother. She had other qualities I liked," he said, arching his brow in lascivious memory.
Teazer's tremor gave way to relief and her tensed tail resumed a more natural motion. With that out of the way, she posed her last query. "What do you plan to do about him?"
Macavity had trained as an actor under Asparagus. He knew how to play a scene. He betrayed no expression to Teazer as he rose from his cushion and glanced first at his sleeping son, then Demeter's corner.