Belling the Cat
NOTES / Belling the Cat / Re-imagining the old Aesop fable by the same name


May 31, 2020 (3rd draft)

Mouse: I’m here to kill you. 

Cat: Oh, hello, I didn’t see you there little Mouse! You’re here to kill me? I’d really prefer that you didn’t.

Mouse: But I must. For your crimes against Mousekind, this is the only appropriate response.

Cat: I see, well that's unfortunate. Can you at least tell me why?

Mouse: You aren’t going to try to stop me?

Cat: I don’t know yet! I want to be open-minded about it. Convince me that I should be sentenced to death and maybe I’ll do it myself. My life isn’t always as rosy as my coat, you know. 

Mouse: For multiple generations — over 10 years! — you’ve been the scourge of my humble town, showing up randomly and senselessly mutilating or murdering my family, neighbors, and broader community. 

Cat: You call it senseless murdering, I call it getting a bite to eat. But other than that you do speak truth. 

Mouse: So you admit to being a cold-blooded murderer? 

Cat: It’s not the terminology I’d personally choose, but I do see the broad strokes you are painting here.

Mouse: Are you now prepared to receive your sentence?

Cat: Gosh. Do I have to decide right this minute? I was very much looking forward to my afternoon nap. 

Mouse: We can work with that. Look at this bell here. (Takes out large bell tied to a rope from her backpack.) Let me put it around your neck for now, as a symbol of your admission of guilt. Then I will give you the afternoon to take a nap as you had already planned, and I will kill you this evening at a time of your choosing.

Cat: A bell? I like the twinkling ringing sound it makes. Is this some kind of weird Mouse thing?

Mouse: It is, sure. Can I put it on now?

Cat: Okay, sure. I’ll indulge you on this. Honestly, I didn't wake up this morning thinking I'd be doing this today...

Cat leans her head down to the Mouse’s level, startling her. It was one thing to speak to a Cat directly, and yet another to come within inches of the giant saber-like teeth that ended so many of her loved ones. Cat’s nostrils expelled warm, rancid gusts of garbage breath. Mouse watched Cat’s swiveling eye as she launched the bell over Cat’s neck, and startled when it clanked to the ground on the other side. Mouse indicated upwards, and Cat lifted her matted chin so that Mouse could hustle the rope underneath. Mouse, flooded with adrenaline and mortal fear, sprinted right past Cat’s partially open mouth to the other side of her neck, and tied the loose end of the rope to the bell’s ring, securing it with a quadruple knot. 

Cat: Ow. A little tight, don’t you think?

Mouse: I’m sorry. I’m panicking right now because I’m not used to…

Cat: You’re telling me you’ve never belled a Cat before? Could’ve fooled me. Other than the tightness… I would say you seemed like a natural. 

Cat sits up, stretching her neck, trying to readjust the bell, but it is secured fairly well, much to Mouse’s relief.