Monday, December 15, 2008

Is the world coming to an end?

Misty and Benji were huddled in the shed. Outside each time a breeze came up the icicles hit against each other with a musical sound. Unfortunately, if a stronger wind blew they broke and hit the ground with an explosion of ice shards. It was Sunday, and since Thursday the world had been encased in ice. It was bitterly cold and the two half-grown kittens snuggled as close as they could to try and keep warm.

"I think the world is ending, Benji." Misty was terrified, pupils so wide that her irises couldn't be seen. "First the trees all died. The grass died too, but that took longer. Then the water in the pond was turned into that cold horrible stuff that we can't drink, and the sky started shedding. Krishna said it was just like rain, but rain doesn't lie there on the ground! Now the whole world is covered in shiny stuff and it's breaking!"

"Maybe you're right, Misty. It's just gotten worse and worse for so long now. It was beautiful when I came here to live with the Lovely Lady. It was warm all the time, and the sun licked my fur every day. Even when it was dark it was beautiful. The stars twinkled happily at me. Now they are sharp and mock me. The sun, when it's even out doesn't warm me. I don't like it here anymore, except when we're inside." Benji was plainly miserable.

A gust of wind came up, breaking a branch off a tree outside of the shed. It fell to the ground and shattered against the coating of ice that covered the grass. Both cats jumped and ran to the kitchen door, scratching frantically.

The door opened, and the Lovely Lady let them in. They ran by her at full speed, both with their fur standing straight out. "Did that scare you Benji, Misty? This weather is terrible, isn't it? We haven't had an ice storm like this in ten years. I don't know when they're going to get our power back on, but I hope it's soon. You two should stay inside as much as you can. It's cold and dangerous out there." The Lovely Lady walked to the refrigerator and grabbed the food container off the top. It wasn't quite supper time, but the kittens looked like they needed a treat. For that matter, so did she.

They had been without power for three days now, and even with the wood stove going, it was pretty cold in the house. Then again, she thought, old houses aren't known for their insulation, so she shouldn't be surprised that the house wasn't holding the heat. She headed back upstairs to get under the down comforter and read for a while. If she was lucky, she'd fall asleep for a while.

Benji and Misty polished off their snack and headed to the living room to snuggle in the blankets there. They found Krishna already cocooned in one and joined him. It was cold enough that none of the cats wanted to fight for dominance. Warmth was much more important right now.

"Krishna, we think the world is ending. The trees died, the grass died, the pond got hard, the sky started shedding, and now the world is breaking. Tell us the truth - is this the end of the world?" Misty turned despairing eyes on Krishna, hoping he'd tell her it wasn't so, but sure that he wouldn't.

Krishna sat up and struck a pose. He cleared his throat and declaimed:

“Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

“That's a poem by Robert Frost, and I've been thinking a lot about it over the last couple of days. I never knew what it meant by ice being destructive, but now I do. No, kittens, the world isn’t coming to an end.”

Benji looked at him totally confused. “But you just said that that ice could destroy the world!”

“Yeah, but I didn’t say it was doing it right now, and it’s just a poem anyway. Poems are pretty words that talk about how things might be. Nope, the world isn’t ending. It’s just winter.” Krishna looked smug. He’d lived through several winters and felt quite superior to these kittens who’d never seen winter before.

“The trees didn’t die. They do this every year. The leaves fall off, but they grow back every year. I have no clue why they do that, but it’s true. Same with the grass. It turns brown, but in spring it gets green again. No mysteries there, just winter.”

Both kittens just sat thinking for a few minutes. Misty spoke up, “But why is the pond hard and cold? And what’s with the world breaking? If I go out there I could get hurt!”

“The hard stuff on the pond is ice. It happens to water when it gets really cold. Even a bowl of water will do it if it’s left outside. It can be kind of fun, if you’re brave. When it’s been cold for long enough, you can go sliding on the pond. You run down the bank and jump and when you land you can slide almost all the way across the pond. It’s way fun, but it has to be really cold for a long time, so that it’s frozen to the edges, and you have to stay away from the part where the beavers dam the outflow. That doesn’t freeze. We can do that together in a few weeks.” Krishna personally loved winter. He loved jumping in snow over his head, fighting his way out and then batting the snow around. It flew all over the place. When he got too cold, he went and snuggled with Sheep, if he couldn’t get in the house. Sheep was warm. He had been looking forward to sharing his winter fun with the kittens, but they looked so scared he wasn’t sure they’d ever leave the house. “The sky doesn’t shed, either. That’s snow, and it’s even more fun that ice. I’ll show you when we get enough of it. You’ll like it, trust me.”

As he was talking, the Lovely Lady came into the living room. “You three have the right idea. Keep each other warm for a little longer and the power will come back on and the heat will come back.” The kittens looked at her with a worried look. The loved Lovely Lady, but still weren’t completely trusting where humans were involved. “It’s just winter, kitties, along with a bad storm. The ice will melt and it will be safe outside. Summer will even come again, but not for a long time. I forget that you guys have never seen it like this. New Hampshire is cold in the winter. Your mothers probably told you about this, but it’s hard to believe until you see it. We’ll all be okay.”

Misty meowed at the Lovely Lady. She did love her, and felt she needed to trust her. If both she and Krishna said that this would all end, then it wasn’t the end of the world. With that settled, now she could sleep, so she did.





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