Roustabout is written in memory of an animal I only “met” over the internet. He was a sweetie. The carousel is actually mine, made by my mother to her own design. It used to be fancier, but the grandkids loved it so much all the decorations have fallen off. 😀 We used to have mice, and I could hear them running in their wheel long after they had passed away and the wheel was gone; the “sound” gave me a great feeling of contentment.
by Marian Allen
Two other things were actual and literal about him: He was late (as in “shuffled off this mortal coil”) and he was bored.
At first, it had been great to be late. Rats have lamentably short life spans, so Humphrey’s memories, while lovely, were relatively few. Paradise was … well, paradisical, but it just wasn’t Humphrey’s idea of a good time. It just wasn’t.
One night, in the bar, over a foaming mug of raisin juice, Humphrey spilled his lament to a fellow patron.
“Go back, then,” his confidant said.
Humphrey brightened. “Can I? May I?”
“Sure! Nothing simpler. Dive off a cloud and bing bam boom you’re wherever you most want to be.”
“Seen it happen many times.”
“You done it?”
“Not me, mate. I like it here.”
“To each his own,” said Humphrey, in the ritual that followed souls even into the afterlife.
“Be a funny old world if we were all alike,” his confidant responded.
Dear, innocent Humphrey knew no better than to take the advice of someone he met in a bar. Luckily for him, this particular advice was good.
Humphrey dove off a cloud and bing bang boom he was back in the home of his late human. It was the middle of the night, perfect for poking about.
But where was the rat cage? Where was the flannel he used to curl up in? Where was the familiar smell of clean rattiness that only the nose of a rat could detect? And what was the smell of clean something-elsiness that his sensitive whiffley nose picked up now?
Two black forms crept out of the night, patches of white glowing on one of them. They were much larger than Humphrey, and their noses were shorter, and they had weird, hairy tales.
“Wh-what are you?” Humphrey asked.
“We’re cats,” said the totally black one. “Thomas and T.C. What are you?”
“I’m a late rat. Humphrey.”
“Humphrey?” The one with white on him said. “Get away, not really? Andrea’s Humphrey? Pull the other one; it’s got bells on.”
Humphrey was flooded with joy. “You know about me?”
That was enough to make the cats laugh, which Humphrey took in the affirmative. He smiled a sweetly ratty smile.
But, it turned out, the cats were bored at night. Andrea, otherwise perfect as she was, slept the entire night away, and got cross when the cats woke her up to have fun.
“Wait here,” said Humphrey. “I’ll be right back.”
He popped back to the bar to consult his new friend.
“Nothing simpler,” said his resource. “Tell ’em to pop out o’ them bodies and they can play without breakin’ nothin’.” Then he added, in the cryptic code Americans found so puzzling, “Bob’s yer uncle.”
Humphrey jumped back to Earth and reported his finding.
The cats looked at one another and, in the same breath, said, “Carousel!”
Andrea had a beautiful, hand-made stained-glass carousel music box she absolutely forbade the cats to play with, although it fascinated them. It had four figures on it: a black horse running all-out, a rocking horse, a unicorn, and a pegasus.
Now, with Humphrey’s muscular little soul’s help, they wound it up and, after a bit of good-natured squabbling over who got to ride what, the three animal’s spirits jumped on and rode, over and over, to their hearts’ content.
This was only one of the delights Humphrey brought with him.
Andrea could never figure out why small things were moved in the morning but nothing was ever broken, but she knew the cats slept a lot during the day, and she knew she felt unaccountably, peacefully, furrily happy.
~ * ~
A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Carousel, horse, unicorn, rocking horse, pegasus, pets, the afterlife.