One day, a long time ago, I was walking in the forest near the town of Bremen, when I came across a very old cat, seemingly all alone and lost.
I rather like cats.
“Here, kitty, kitty”, I called out and from my pocket pulled out a bit of sandwich which was meant to be my lunch. I held it out in front of me and the cat came closer. I knelt down, still holding out a morsel, when I felt sharp teeth going into my leg through the cloth of my trousers. I yelped and looked round, seeing that a mangy cur had got hold of my leg, fangs bared and slobbering.
“Let go, you nasty beast”, I shouted, trying to kick at it with my free foot.
The dog held on. By now the cat had come close enough to snatch the bread;
it ignored the bread, however, and sank its teeth into my hand instead, causing me excruciating pain.
I shouted and screamed, kicked and cursed, the beasts held on.
“Hallo, hallo, hallo, what have we here”; a shrill voice rang out from the wood and a ragged donkey appeared.
“What’s all the fuss about”, the donkey brayed, ‘ you are making enough noise to wake the dead”. The donkey continued “ Griselda, Grimper, let go for now, but keep a close eye on this human; we know they can’t be trusted”.
Cat and dog let go. I sat on the ground, rubbing my wounds.
The donkey asked me what I was doing in the forest, so far from other humans.
“Walking, just walking”, I said. “Minding my own business and trying to be kind to the cat.”
“Walking? Just walking?” the donkey clearly didn’t believe me. “Just walking?” it repeated. “Being kind? Humans being kind?”
The donkey swished his tail, the dog scratched its flank, the cat yawned.
Finally the donkey said “ this is a matter to lay before the boss, let’s call him.”
The three produced the most earsplitting noise. it was worse than being mauled. The donkey noticed that I winced.
“We are singing to our conductor and soloist. When he comes he’ll sort this problem out for us. Conductors and soloists have special powers, you’ll see”.
Sure enough, a fourth creature appeared from the top of the trees, flying down to us, crashing into trunks and branches on the way. His coat was moth eaten and he’d lost most of his tail feathers a long time ago, his comb but a floppy semblance of his former crown.
The donkey cleared its throat. “This human was found trespassing. He says he was walking, just walking and being kind. What shall we do with him?”
The cock croaked. He cawed. He stalked up and down and round and round.
“He was being kind, you say? Hmmm”. The cock scratched at the ground.
He seemed to come to a decision.
“Humans are never kind”, he said. “All four of us were threatened with death by our former masters. Would you believe, they were going to turn me into soup? We all ran away before they could do for us; we decided to be our own boss, form a band and earn our living that way. Our kind of music is all the rage and we will soon have earned enough for homes in Florida, Acapulco, Paris and Berlin. In the meantime we live in a very desirable residence right here in the forest. The former owners, a band of robbers, kindly left it to us when they were suddenly called away.”
Hearing this sad story almost broke my heart.
“ I am so very sorry for the treatment you have received at the hand of humankind’” I said; “Let me make it up to you. You can trust me, I never hurt an animal.”
“And how would you do that, make it up to us, I mean,” the cock asked.
Out of nowhere, I had a brainwave. Sitting there on the ground, the idea hit me. I knew what I would do.
“I am going to become your manager,” I said.
And that’s why I now have second and third homes all over the world. The band? They’re doing fine, since you ask. Still in that wood near Bremen, but we’re getting there. We’re getting there.