Alonzo looked at the calendar, frowning. The next Jellicle Ball was a few days away. The preparations were already taking place. Munkustrap had asked him to collect the kittens and entertain them tonight while the rest of the Jellicles gathered to put the lights up. Static electricity was all very well, but a electric shock could be fatal.
Alonzo groomed some mud from his paw and slipped into the kitchen and out via the catflap.
Bombalurina stepped up on an old car and draped the electric lights over the old drainage pipe. Below her Munkustrap held the rest of the lights to contain the weight. Bomba knelt down and slid gracefully off the car onto a old mattress. She was glad this was the last of the preparations, as she was all too eager for the night of the Jellicle Ball, where she planned to impress the toms with the new dance routine that she had been working on with Demeter and Jellylorum.
Jennyanydots was due to be sent to the Heaviside Layer this year, after Grizabella's sudden appearance and ascent the year previous. So Jenny was with Electra and Jemima right now, working out a brand new tap dance routine.
Bomba wondered what Demeter was up to now....she hadn't seen her all evening....
Bomba needn't have worried. Demeter was curled up with Skimbleshanks and Jellylorum, dozing fitfully. Her ears were on alert though, and at the sharp sound of other paws approaching, she sat up and stretched. Something furry brushed her rear, and Demeter's head snapped round to see the Rum Tum Tugger nuzzling her in a all-too-friendly 'hello' gesture.
Demeter was always a little scared at the prospect of Tugger. He was always overbearing, something she disliked instensely, and besides, Bombalurina was keen on Tugger. This meant it was dangerous for her to get involved. Still, there was no harm in teasing him.....
Demeter stretched again, yawned softly, and began gently washing. Tugger folded his paws and sat watching, ruffling his mane. Demeter could feel Tugger eyes on her as she licked her paw. It was sore from a nasty fall she had taken recently, and she winced, holding it out slightly.
"You okay Dem?" The gruff voice came.
"You don't seem it."
"Nah, it's okay. My paw's just bruised."
"Story of my life," Tugger muttered.
"What?" Demeter looked round at him.
"No one wants to know about me. Jellylorum," Tugger lowered his voice, since the queen was asleep nearby, "shunned me today. So did Cassi."
"I'm not surprised. Cassi's your step sister and Jelly's nearly got Skimble." Demeter threw back.
"Am I losing my touch then Dem?" Demeter's eyes flicked up and saw Tugger staring at her with huge brown eyes. And she KNEW that look....
"Um....er.......I......no......but...." stuttered Demeter, dropping her gaze. Again in a awkward position between Tugger and Bombalurina.
"So why are you avoiding my gaze Dem. Why are you avoiding me?"
"I can't do this!" Demeter thought. Tugger's question hung in the air as she turned and fled.
Tugger smiled softly to himself as Demeter ran off. He loved winding her up with false affections. He didn't really want her. He wanted another queen cat. But he didn't know which one. So he had decided to see which queen cat danced the best at the Jellicle Ball in two days' time. The Tugger was ready at last, to choose a mate.....who was the lucky queen to be?
*TWO DAYS LATER*
Old Deuteronomy sat on the tyre, watching the four queen kittens, Vicki, the white one, Etcetera, the white and striped one, and Electra and Jemima, both red and black tabbies, playing with Pouncival and Alonzo. They were the last of the offspring this year. He was expecting to pass to the Heaviside Layer anytime soon, and hoped Munkustrap, one of his eldest, to see to it that all of the cats found a mate.
Soon the beautiful pink-red-gold sunset was clear. Jellylorum and Jennyanydots appeared through an old pipe. Coricopat and Tantomile came out from the nearby shubbery, whilst Bombalurina and Demeter climbed over the wall. Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer appeared mysteriously from the shadows. A flash of light and a cloud of smoke and Mistoffelees appeared, startling everyone....and making them cough!
The kittens mewed frantically as Tugger sauntered through the crowd of Jellicles, but he just flicked his tail and swaggered off. (Etcetera, of course, fainted...)
Cassandra arrived, slinking up through the debris. Skimbleshanks was late as usual, gasping for breath.
Munkustrap was sitting up next to Old Deuteronomy, counting the assembled Jellicles. Now most of them were here, he slid down, narrowly missing Tumblebrutus, who appeared from nowhere to join the rest.
Munkustrap called the cats to alert them, and as midnight approached, the cats prepared for the big dance.
Jennyanydots, Electra and Jemima were up in the almost-midnight-moonlight first, and everyone gasped at the young kittens' new talent and saw how much Jenny had improved with her dancing.
From a distance Bomba watched Jemima and Electra tapping and elegantly spinning with Jenny. She was impressed, and knew that the eyes watching Jenny would soon be on her. Jenny and the kittens finished their dance, and weakly Jenny (now a year older than last year's Ball) stumbled over to Munkustrap, who bowed his head to her.
The moon above signalled midnight and the Jellicle Ball began in earnest, all the cats being aware of various smaller dances within the proceedings. The cats danced as a whole until two hours before dawn. Then Bombalurina, Demeter, and Jellylorum got ready to dance their solo. This year all three intended to mate, especially Jelly, who would be lonely since Jenny was to depart from her side.
On hearing her cue, Bombularina leapt out in full view of everyone, Demeter and Jelly trying their best to follow her lead. Bomba really knew how to flaunt and work a audience, and as she flounced and teased her way through the tricky routine, she grew more and more confident. On leaving the stage, many of the toms sidled around her, Pouncival nuzzling her. She'd mated with him last year, and so she nuzzled him back before looking around...but she did not see the tom she desperately wanted to see. Where was Tugger?
Tugger had not seen all the solo dances yet, and was impatiently waiting for the next group to perform. He wanted to make his choice fair. Eventually, Etcetera, Victoria, Alonzo and Pouncival got into the central part of the junkyard, but the kittens were too young for Tugger to bother with.....
In fact Tugger didn't show much interest until Tantomile and Coricopat sidled into the centre. It was rare for them to dance, much less in front of the Jellicle audience. There was a murmured whisper as Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer also ran out into the centre, and started to perform alongside the other two.
The four cats dancing never heard the cries of amazement at the skill in their dance routine. The movements were adept, graceful and each cat silhouetted each other perfectly. Tugger's eye was drawn to one of the queen cats. He'd never seen her so full of life before. He wanted her for his mate.....
Rumpleteazer worked her way quickly through the routine. Her sleek coat shone in the moonlight as she passed Mungojerrie, in unison with Tantomile (who passed Coricopat) and they slipped quietly into the shadows. Well Tantomile did. Teazer found Tugger in front of her, blocking her path, and brushing his warm furry paw softly against her cheek.
Then Mungojerrie was there, before Teazer had fully understood what was going on, and before she could utter a word....
"Wot's going on 'ere, Teazer?" he demanded.
Teazer, too scared between the two toms, cowered.
"Back off Tugger," Mungojerrie warned.
"Why?" spat Tugger. "Teazer doesn't belong to you!"
"Don't belong to you 'iffer. So clear orf!" Mungo returned.
In the midst of the argument, Teazer snuck off to weep. Her weeping was overheard by Demeter, who was sitting in the pipe underneath Teazer. She didn't move at first, but after a while she called softly.
Teazer looked round. Demeter crawled from the pipe and looked up at the other queen.
"Oh Dem. Hi."
"What's the matter?" Demeter asked, hopping up on the pipe beside Teazer. Teazer didn't say a word.
"Tugger, right? Or just toms in general?"
Teazer looked up. "Both. Kinda. 'Ow did you know?"
Demeter looked away uncomfortably. "Call it a wild hunch," she muttered.
"I can't go with 'im Dem," Teazer whispered. "'Jerrie would kill me. It would kill 'im too."
"Look, let me go and talk to 'Jerrie," Demeter offered, even though she was scared of 'Jerrie. "Maybe he'll change his mind."
Teazer looked at Demeter with sad eyes. "It won't work Dem....you see....."
"Well, at least let me try," Demeter insisted, interrupting the other queen. She wasn't going to let Teazer be forced to be Jerrie's mate only. She just didn't see the tears falling from Teazer's eyes, as she rushed to find Mungojerrie.
Mungojerrie was sitting watching the other cats dancing and flirting. Mistoffelees had vanished into a corner with Victoria, where they were playing with lightening blots (Misto's new speciality - lightening bolts that form a puddle of ink when they hit a surface...!)
Jellylorum and Skimble, were, once again, curled up together as well, but this year as lovers instead of friends. The kittens Jemima and Electra were watching Tugger jaunting about with the other toms, and 'Jerrie hissed inwardly. Looking round, almost all the cats were involved with someone or other. Jenny was talking eagerly to Old Deut, and not too far off from them, Etcetera was stalking Alonzo, trying to win his affections.....
Still, as Jerrie continued observing, he noticed Munkustrap and Bombalurina sitting together...just talking....
Mungo purred with delight and getting up, sauntered over to them....
"But when he didn't come near me.....oh Munku, what do I DO?" Bomba asked desperately.
"Bomb, you know as well as I do that Tugger's never attracted to one queen for long."
"But Munk, I dont care! All I ever dream about is Tugger." Bomba started to cry angry tears. Why didn't anyone understand her?
At that moment 'Jerrie sidled up. Munkustrap was about to tell Bomb exactly how she felt, and reveal his most precious secret, but he saw 'Jerrie in time, and raised himself up to his full height.
"Munkustrap," said 'Jerrie, with a hint of respect in his voice. Then he looked towards to Bombalurina.
"Hi Bombalurina...." he growled seductively, making sure to add the 'H' he often dropped when talking. Bomba's eyes flicked from 'Jerrie, to Munk, and back to 'Jerrie again.
"Okay, what do you want?" Munk asked suspiciously. He didn't trust 'Jerrie when he was like this.
"How about a chat with the loveliest queen cat around?" 'Jerrie asked. Bomba went quiet, staring at the toms.
Sensing Bomba didn't want 'Jerrie there, Munkustrap told Jerrie to 'sling his hook' politely. (Authors Note: Can you IMAGINE Munk saying THAT?)
"Hmmm." 'Jerrie considered using a threat. "What about Demeter?" Bomba looked up at the other queen's name.
"What about her?" Munk looked at Bomba.
"I'm sure you wouldn't like Macavity to get his hands on her, so I think you better step aside."
Munkustrap raised himself up and snarled at 'Jerrie. "Dont you DARE touch her."
"So move then," 'Jerrie vyed.
Defeated by 'Jerrie's threat about Demeter, Munk retreated to Old Deut's side.
Bombalurina watched 'Jerrie as he climbed up the junkyard piles to slip down beside her. 'Jerrie took Bomba's paw almost immediately after sitting down.
"Bombalurina, or......may I call you Bomba, or Bomb?" He asked, almost suavely, grappling with his language in order not to drop any letters. Then he had a spark of idea. "Or even, just Lady?"
Bomba, quite understandably, was completely taken aback by his words. No tom had ever treated her THIS nicely. Maybe she was quite a catch after all, just as she had always thought. She looked to see if anyone else had noticed 'Jerrie's display of affection. And saw Tugger across the yard, his fur raised on the back of his neck, and a ugly, angry expression on his face.
Bomba hadn't realised Demeter had seen too. Demeter took the news back to Teazer now, who, strangely, was absolutely inconsolable on hearing it. So Demeter decided to go and search for Munkustrap, and hid Teazer in the big pipe, left her to sob, and hurried to find the tom.
Munkustrap was still with Old Deut. and Jenny, who was gushing about how 'fabulous' it would be to ascend to the Heaviside Layer.
Rather embarrassingly, Munk had now got into a rather bad habit of dropping off to sleep when another cat was talking too much and for too long. In this case, he was in the latter stages of R.E.M....
Munk awoke with a jump when something or someone brushed against his leg. He looked and blushed at Demeter, who stared prettily up at him with round eyes and a smile on her dainty mouth.
"Asleep on the job again Munk?" she giggled, and Munk blushed even deeper.
"No seriously Munk," Demeter continued, "I need your advice. Have you got a minute?"
"Sure Demi. Up here." Munk slipped up the junkyard piles, Demeter following him. When they got up as high as Munk thought necessary, he stopped and turned to help the scrambling Demeter. His paw found hers, and a little snap of electricity ran between them.
But the moment passed, and a while later they could be seen discussing something. Demeter's ears twitched occasionally, and Munk' tail flopped lazily from side to side.
"Oh princess, you're beautiful, *kiss*, I'm enraptured, entranced, *kiss*, the most gorgeous queen on four paws, *kiss*....."
'Jerrie insisted, kissing Bomba's paw. Bomba stifled a yawn, trying to keep up her pretence and to keep Tugger jealous. She knew 'Jerrie was faking. He hadn't dropped a letter yet...
She looked around the junkyard, and to her disappointment Tugger was nowhere to be seen. And even more unfortunately, 'Jerrie was taking her ignorance for shyness and was becoming increasingly amorous....!
"Rumple?" Munk called softly. No answer.
Demeter and himself had been hunting for Rumpleteazer for over half a hour, and Munk's calling had come to nothing.
"Let me try Munk," said Demeter, and she called. "Teazer."
Almost immediately on hearing her name, Teazer came out from the shadows, and sat whimpering on the ground. She'd been so scared left alone, and Demeter hugged her.
"Dem, I gots to tell you....listen.."
"Oh Teazer," Demeter whispered. "It's okay, you're safe with us." She gestured towards Munkustrap, who sat down now with Teazer and Demeter.
"Come on," urged Munkustrap to Demeter. "We have to find Tugger."
"No!" Teazer covered her face with her paws.
"It's okay Teazer. We talked to Mistoffelees," Demeter comforted the queen.
Teazer's head bobbed up to look at Demeter and Munk. "You did?"
"Yeah, turns out Tugger has only ever had a soft spot for Bomba. Tugger confides in him. So we're going to get Tugger together with Bomba, and everything's sorted."
And before Teazer could protest, Munkus and Dem had dragged her off between them.
Tugger was furious at Mungojerrie for stealing Bomba from him. He liked Teazer, sure, but she couldnt stand up for herself, and he hated that. He hated protecting the weak female.
He sat in the shadows, still watching the two cats across the yard flirting. Bomba kept looking around, and that was annoying him, like she wanted him to be jealous. Like heck he was.
Munkustrap materialised next to Tugger. Tugger had not even seen him come up. Munk had to choose his words carefully.
"Tugg, you know Bomb's only doing that to make you jealous."
"So. Go get her and she'll leave Jerrie's side."
"Sure." The Tugger was not a great conversation seeker!
"You go and get Bomba, or I'll tell Etcetera what you said about her."
Tugger's head, complete with fur mane, whipped round. "You wouldn't."
Munk grinned. "Try me."
"All right." Tugger stressed, and fluffing his mane, sauntered off.
Munk waited until he was out of range, then bade Dem and Teazer out from the shadows.
Meanwhile, Tugger was taking deep breaths.
"Feline of my dreams, here I come," he muttered to himself. He kept walking until he was right in front of Bomba and Jerrie.
"Hand her over Jerrie," he hissed at the other tom.
Jerrie stopped his advances and glared at Tugger. Bomba was now shocked at seeing Tugger. She thought he wasn't interested.
"So you want this one now as well?" Jerrie spat at Tugger. "Ain't Teazer good enough for ya?"
Unknown to the two arguing males, Teazer had moved in closer, afraid of what she might hear, but not wanting to back down and flee.
"I don't want Teazer 'Jerrie."
"Sure. You mean you don't want just Teazer. Just like she doesn't just want you and me. She wants others. And she got 'em."
Teazer shrank back into the corner. Her secret was out.
"Don't be pathetic." Munkustrap came up behind Tugger to speak. "Any cat here knows you and Teazer are mates constantly Jerrie."
"Yeah? He didn't seem to think so."
"He?" Munkustrap turned to look at Teazer, who sobbed out a name.
Etcetera approached the black and white cat cautiously, her fur bristling in the breeze. The male cat took no notice, staring evenly out across the yard at the scene unfolding. Etcetera had not noticed anything today apart from her potential mate, who was by far the best male in her eyes.
She swatted his tail and it flicked casually from side to side, as the male started to feel her attentions. Then he moved suddenly to turn round, and started playing back to Etcetera, nuzzling her playfully and making her squeal.
Excited, Etcetera continued her affections, little knowing the trouble she could cause by this display.
"No," whispered Demeter and Bomba, staring at a now quite miserable Teazer. Even Munk and Tugger, who were quite used to surprises, looked shocked.
"Listen, it didnt 'ean anyfink," Teazer dropped several letters trying to rectify the situation, but 'Jerrie only got madder.
"You had a kitten Teazer, and you say it doesnt matter?" he hissed, venom oozing from his words. "What kind of mother are you?"
Teazer's temper rose and broke. "Better than the father, blood or otherwise!" She postively screamed at him.
'Jerrie looked hurt. Then suddenly, he rose to his feet, and walked away, not looking back.
"Jerrie! NO! I didn't mean it.....Jerrie! PLEASE!!!" Teazer fell over herself trying to make him turn back, but to no avail. He simply disappeared into the night shadows.
Teazer turned back. "I tried to tell you Dem," she whispered to the other queen. "But you wouldn't hear me." Then, she too, slunk away.
Munk now looked at Demeter too. She looked back. Munk blushed at her again. She smiled. He was kinda cute when he did that.
"So much for my plan," Munk' voice wafted to her pricked up ears.
"Yeah...so much....hey? What....where?" Demeter looked around. Bomba and Tugger had vanished. But in the half light she saw....no! Demeter immediately raised her hackles and snarled, hissing furiously.
Munkustrap looked in the same direction, and fled to remove the queen from her target.
"Alonzo!" squealed Etcetera in even more excitement. "Stop tickling!!!!"
"No!" cried Alonzo, and continued to flirt with the young queen. The two cats never saw Munkustrap approaching, raising his paw...to hit Alonzo.
The two cats fell apart, Alonzo steadying himself on all four paws until Munkustrap leapt at him. The two cats fought, trying to claim power over the other. Etcetera ran off, and hid behind Jellylorum.
Eventually Munkustrap overpowered Alonzo. "Why Alonzo?" growled Munk as he pinned Alonzo, trapping him. "Why don't you ADMIT what you did?!?"
Etcetera, confused and frightened, started to weep softly, and Demeter crept over to comfort her. From the crowd Teazer slipped out to beg Munkustrap to release Alonzo. Munk backed down a bit but kept himself tall over Alonzo's shuddering frame.
"What did I do?" The cats heard him whimper.
Jerrie butted in at that point. "You don't remember the kitten huh, Alonzo?"
"What kitten?" Alonzo stared at the others, as he pulled himself up.
"What kitten?????????" THAT KITTEN!!!!!" yelled Jerrie. His paw shot out to point at the kitten across the yard.....
Etcetera shrieked as Jerrie's paw pointed towards her. Alonzo's normally white face turned an even deeper shade of pale, and Teazer fled the scene. Demeter scurried after her, leaving Etcetera in the shadow of Jellylorum.
Jerrie looks pleased with himself, Bomba thought, giving him an angry, dirty stare. She didnt know it but inside Jerrie's heart was sinking fast, and when she turned and walked away he felt awful.
Half an hour later Demeter brought a still miserable, but somewhat gentler Teazer to the surface. Etcy saw her and padded over.
"I never knew Mummy or Daddy," she whispered softly. "Jelly told me I was abandoned and found by Tugger. That's why I always adored him. For bringing me to safety."
Teazer's brown eyes raised to meet her daughter's.
"So Alonzo's Daddy," whispered Etc. "Hi Mummy."
Teazer gave a huge sob and hugged Etc. Demeter slipped off as the newfound relationship started to work out.
"I need to tell you Etcetera," Teazer sat down, and Etcetera cuddled up to her side. "Alonzo took care of me when 'Jerrie was working for Macavity."
Etcetera's eyes widened. "Jerrie worked for Macavity?"
"Yes. Not for long. Anyway, one day - or should I say night - he did a job wrong, and Macavity nearly killed him. While he was recovering, Alonzo was by my side 24/7."
Teazer swallowed, drew breath, and continued.
"And then suddenly I was having these feelings for Alonzo, and I guess he got feelings for me too....and then.....and then I was a kitten with a kitten inside me, and I was so small then I could only carry one - you - and luckily 'Jerrie didn't realise, and neither did Alonzo. But I knew."
"So what did you do?" Etcetera's eyes were huge in her tiny face as she listened to Teazer.
"Well....I knew I couldn't keep you. But I went into birth whilst talking to Tugger. He saw me, and, to cut a long story short, I had to tell them what happened. Only Jellylorum and Tugger knew about you then. Jelly took you from me, and the secret was safe between the three of us."
Etcetera's paw found Teazer's as Teazer began to cry, her memories flooding back.
She convinced everyone that Tugger had found you in the rubbish dump not too far away from here, and you were from that moment passed off as Vicki's sister. So everyone celebrated Jellylorum's new kitten....and I faded into the background. I daresay she even thought of you of her own."
"But it KILLED me not telling 'Jerrie. So I did, about three months later, and he was furious. He took Macavity's lessons well. He laid into me."
"MOMMY!!!!" Etcetera screamed. "DON'T!" She covered her ears with her paws, and shuddered.
"Oh Heavisides, Etcetera, I'm sorry!" Teazer held her. " I wasn't thinking."
Etcetera snuffled weakly in her mother's arms. Then she sat up to talk.
"You're my mommy, Alonzo's Daddy, and you sheltered me here in the junkyard Mommy. At least you didn't abandon me. I can't repay that. So don't worry about anything Mommy...everything's fine....and stop being sorry."
Demeter watched the two queen cats, mother and daughter hugging each other from afar. She wished some tom would love her the way Rumple and Etcetera loved each other. She sighed.
Jerrie sat in the corner of the junkyard, his tail swishing angrily. His eyes narrowed.
He wanted something. He didn't know what though. Maybe Alonzo's head on a stick....
"Yo, Mungo." Something or someone called him from behind.
Jerrie immediately stiffened. Only ONE cat EVER called him by that name.....