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The Badger and the Mongoose

Professor Minsky

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Why did the cat sit on the mat?


There must be a reason why 'the cat sat on the mat'. Here is the real one, explained to kittens by Professor Minsky, ruler of many back gardens with which he is acquainted.

Click to hear (.mp3)


Professor Minsky coolly clawed
the stanchions of the blackened board,
and turned to face the cute brigade -
for kittens into cats he made,
by educating them with wiles -
all of the tomcat’s golden guiles.
But still they whispered, “Is he yet
quite smart enough to cheat the vet?”

“I hear you doubt,” the half-whole cat
rebuked the unvoiced kitten chat.
They gasped; his whiskers knew their thoughts,
and bristled with such sage retorts
they fell to licking paws and ears -
their own, or those of kitten peers -
and whispered to each other, “Shush,
his tail is like a bottle brush!”

He strolled the stage a little while,
the more to make young Heidi smile,
whose ears now pointed fore and back -
an art at which she had the knack -
watching her tom whilst scratching claws,
keeping late-comers from the doors,
in case his proud, dismissive hiss
should warn them they had been remiss.

Then suddenly he turned and grinned;
the kittens each felt grimly pinned
in place, as if his look was made
for them alone; respect they paid
by looking slightly by his side -
for meet his eyes? They’d think they’d died.
And so all ears and eyes ensnared,
Professor Minsky’s fangs were bared.

“The cat sat on the mat,” he said.
“But what, young kittens, can be read
with surety about a mat
on which is sat some noble cat?”
The kittens blinked, and tried to look
for answers in the Kitty-Book
that Heidi writes about her mate;
but none were found that they could state.

“Come, come,” miaowed Minsky. “Think it through.
Whatever is a mat to you?
What do you want with bristly things,
to which the muck and rubbish clings?
Why would you sit on such a spot -
to clean yourself? Oh, surely not!
You’d sit on linen piled up high,
whenever it was safely dry.”

The kittens thought, and Heidi smiled
to reassure each feline child
that each in time would pass the test -
so one by one, they sat and guessed.
But last of all, one little tom
stared into space, and missed his mom -
then into place whirred every cog:
“The mat belonged to someone’s dog!”

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