Crooked Elf

 There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile.

He found a crooked sixpence against a crooked stile.

He bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse,

And they all lived together in a little crooked house.

~ English Nursery Rhyme, There was a Crooked Man 

There once was a Crooked Elf who went by the name Kwissp E. Ceen. Not crooked in mind or deed, but in the spirit of the Bent, Slightly Twisted and Extremely Strange. He enjoyed many activities: walking crooked miles; finding crooked pennies to spend on smooshed glazed doughnuts or other irregular sweets; cataloging, archiving, and photographing all things crooked, bizarre and outlandish; getting lost in gardens and hothouses; and most especially playing hide-and-go-seek with his honorable friend, the most crooked and fluffy cat, Mimsy Poole.

Being a great appreciator of gardens, of course Kwissp tended to get lost in them. While rambling down some road or another he’d come across someone’s garden or hothouse and would be so enchanted by the sights and scents that he’d forget everything else. It always fell to Mimsy to find and bring him back home in order that he could get her supper and on occasion, a bit of catnap. This arrangement suited both of them. On one such day of rambles, Kwissp happened upon the garden belonging to Quentin the Vampire Botanist. And of course, he had never seen the like!

Magnificent flowers burst out of the ground in such a variety and a multitude of colors that Kwissp eyes crossed with delight. And what interesting flowers these were! Many of them had tiny vampire teeth or tiny vampire claws and some had both. How completely unexpected! How wonderfully, amazingly peculiar! And oh! He spotted a large conservatory. Imagine what might be growing in there! Like cream to pudding, he found himself deliciously drawn to the structure. Though he knew it was horribly impolite, he couldn’t help pressing his face to the glass and peering inside. Luckily Mimsy came to his rescue, for although she did share Kwissp’s admiration for gardens (what better place to take a well-deserved nap than under a lavender bush?), she couldn’t bear to see such an egregious breach of courtesy. Doing her cat best (which is infinitely better than a human’s), she urged him to knock on the owner’s door and gain permission to photograph, document, and classify each wondrous flora.

This could have turned out badly and may have even been the end of Kwissp. Quentin isn’t a social vampire, by any means. At best, he’s a recluse. At worse? Well, at worst let’s just say one should count themselves lucky indeed should they manage to even crawl away (with most body parts intact) from an encounter with Quentin. The only company he enjoys is that of his plants. Anyone or anything else is merely a nuisance…or lunch. Most fortunate for our crooked elf friend, it turned out that Quentin took a liking to him. This might be explained by their mutual affection and respect for plants. However, it didn’t hurt that the elf’s complexion was green as the leaves on the medicinal herb Groomwell. This could also mean that the Vampire Botanist may have devious (are there any other kind?) plans for Kwissp’s future.

I met Kwissp while sitting on a bench daydreaming in Quentin’s garden (I too, am allowed entry. Long story). He startled (nearly) the life out of me popping his little green face out of the orange, pink and golden tangle of some licorice vines (a new experiment of Quentin’s and exceptionally pretty). After I managed to get my heart out of my throat and back into my chest where it belongs, I asked if he minded that I sketch him. “Not a problem,” he says, “just so long as I can continue documenting these plants.” Since this bothered me not in the least, I sketched away. I think I captured his creepily soulful eyes quite well.

Unscaredy Cat

Do the thing you fear most and the death of fear is certain.

~Mark Twain

Penelope the Cat once lived in dread of nearly everything. Especially high on her list were: giant spiders, trees with faces, dangling Jack ‘O Lanterns, and cat-eating flowers. As illogical as her fears may have seemed to others, she spent every waking moment and many sleepless nights living with a terrible anxiety that started like a hard ball in her small belly and seemed to shoot out her paws, tail, and whiskers. The fears were so big, that she wasn’t able to enjoy the wonderful people and treats when they came her way: Colleen, the nice old lady who always gave her lovely bits of cheese or fish, Danny, the neighborhood boy who delivered the papers and made a point of scratching Penelope in just the right spot, right behind her ears, and Lopsing, the Owl who watched over her, so she could try to sleep without worry.  Colleen, Danny, and Lopsing always had a kind word or a cookie for her. And they all told her that she needed to let go of her fears. Lopsing said to her on many occasions, “Enjoy what life offers, rather than worry over what may never be.”

We can’t ever seem to learn from what others say, even when it’s your best friends who say it, though can we? Penelope stubbornly continued hold onto her fears, refusing to attend parties with neighbors or go anywhere with anyone. She even began to avoid her best friends, believing that she was right and that someday her fears would be realized. “Then they’ll believe me,” she thought to herself. “Then they’ll know I was right.”

Not-so-strangely, one day it happened. While rushing to avoid one of her neighbors (who carried yet another invitation to yet another party) Penelope was so busy stealing looks behind her that she didn’t notice where she was going. She headed straight into the Big-Bad-Forest that lurks behind the fair and fog of every neighborhood. By the time she realized where she was, of course it was far too late! Running quickly can make one clumsy and directionless and she found herself smacking into a giant spider that hung from a very large tree with a face that had Jack ‘O Lanterns dangling from her branches and was surrounded by cat-eating flowers! Except…the flowers, though they did have amazingly sharp teeth didn’t want to eat her. The Jack O’ Lanterns, only smiled while dancing and dangling. The tree’s face was quite large, but also quite friendly. And the giant spider? Well, she only wished to have a chat. After all, cats didn’t drop into her lap every day.

Now if Penelope isn’t found entertaining at home you’ll find her attending a party at one of her neighbor’s homes. Otherwise? She’ll be in the Big-Bad-Forest having a gabfest with her newly found friends.

As is often the case for every one of us, Penelope’s fears turned out to be nothing more than whispers from dark, unused corners. Although at times those whispers can get terribly loud…

Titled “Unscaredy Cat,” I hand doodled the scene, scanned to my computer then using GIMP, added one of my photos of some dark clouds as the background.