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´╗┐Title: Kreativity For Kats
Author: Leiber, Fritz
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Kreativity For Kats" ***

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                          KREATIVITY FOR KATS

                            By FRITZ LEIBER

                      Illustrated by DICK FRANCIS

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
                      Galaxy Magazine April 1961.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]



                   They are the aliens among us--and
                      their ways and wonders are
                   stranger than extraterrestrials!


Gummitch peered thoughtfully at the molten silver image of the sun in
his little bowl of water on the floor inside the kitchen window. He
knew from experience that it would make dark ghost suns swim in front
of his eyes for a few moments, and that was mildly interesting. Then he
slowly thrust his head out over the water, careful not to ruffle its
surface by rough breathing, and stared down at the mirror cat--the
Gummitch Double--staring up at him.

Gummitch had early discovered that water mirrors are very different
from most glass mirrors. The scentless spirit world behind glass
mirrors is an upright one sharing our gravity system, its floor a
continuation of the floor in the so-called real world. But the world in
a water mirror has reverse gravity. One looks down into it, but the
spirit-doubles in it look _up_ at one. In a way water mirrors are holes
or pits in the world, leading down to a spirit infinity or ghostly
nadir.

Gummitch had pondered as to whether, if he plunged into such a pit,
he would be sustained by the spirit gravity or fall forever. (It may
well be that speculations of this sort account for the caution about
swimming characteristic of most cats.)

There was at least one exception to the general rule. The looking glass
on Kitty-Come-Here's dressing table also opened into a spirit world of
reverse gravity, as Gummitch had discovered when he happened to look
into it during one of the regular visits he made to the dressing table
top, to enjoy the delightful flowery and musky odors emanating from the
fragile bottles assembled there.

But exceptions to general rules, as Gummitch knew well, are only
doorways to further knowledge and finer classifications. The wind
could not get into the spirit world below Kitty-Come-Here's looking
glass, while one of the definitive characteristics of water mirrors
is that movement can very easily enter the spirit world below them,
rhythmically disturbing it throughout, producing the most surreal
effects, and even reducing it to chaos. Such disturbances exist only
in the spirit world and are in no way a mirroring of anything in the
real world: Gummitch knew that his paw did not change when it flicked
the surface of the water, although the image of his paw burst into
a hundred flickering fragments. (Both cats and primitive men first
deduced that the world in a water mirror is a spirit world because they
saw that its inhabitants were easily blown apart by the wind and must
therefore be highly tenuous, though capable of regeneration.)

Gummitch mildly enjoyed creating rhythmic disturbances in the spirit
worlds below water mirrors. He wished there were some way to bring
their excitement and weird beauty into the real world.

       *       *       *       *       *

On this sunny day when our story begins, the spirit world below the
water mirror in his drinking bowl was particularly vivid and bright.
Gummitch stared for a while longer at the Gummitch Double and then
thrust down his tongue to quench his thirst. Curling swiftly upward,
it conveyed a splash of water into his mouth and also flicked a single
drop of water into the air before his nose. The sun struck the drop and
it flashed like a diamond. In fact, it seemed to Gummitch that for a
moment he had juggled the sun on his tongue. He shook his head amazedly
and touched the side of the bowl with his paw. The bowl was brimful
and a few drops fell out; they also flashed like tiny suns as they
fell. Gummitch had a fleeting vision, a momentary creative impulse,
that was gone from his mind before he could seize it. He shook his head
once more, backed away from the bowl, and then lay down with his head
pillowed on his paws to contemplate the matter. The room darkened as
the sun went under a cloud and the young golden dark-barred cat looked
like a pool of sunlight left behind.

Kitty-Come-Here had watched the whole performance from the door to the
dining room and that evening she commented on it to Old Horsemeat.

"He backed away from the water as if it were poison," she said. "They
have been putting more chlorine in it lately, you know, and maybe he
can taste the fluorides they put in for dental decay."

Old Horsemeat doubted that, but his wife went on, "I can't figure out
where Gummitch does his drinking these days. There never seems to be
any water gone from his bowl. And we haven't had any cut flowers. And
none of the faucets drip."

"He probably does his drinking somewhere outside," Old Horsemeat
guessed.

"But he doesn't go outside very often these days," Kitty-Come-Here
countered. "Scarface and the Mad Eunuch, you know. Besides, it hasn't
rained for weeks. It's certainly a mystery to me where he gets his
liquids. Boiling gets the chlorine out of water, doesn't it? I think
I'll try him on some tomorrow."

"Maybe he's depressed," Old Horsemeat suggested. "That often leads to
secret drinking."

This baroque witticism hit fairly close to the truth. Gummitch _was_
depressed--had been depressed ever since he had lost his kittenish
dreams of turning into a man, achieving spaceflight, learning and
publishing all the secrets of the fourth dimension, and similar
marvels. The black cloud of disillusionment at realizing he could only
be a cat had lightened somewhat, but he was still feeling dull and
unfulfilled.

Gummitch was at that difficult age for he-cats, between First Puberty,
when the cat achieves essential maleness, and Second Puberty, when he
gets broad-chested, jowly and thick-ruffed, becoming a fully armed
sexual competitor. In the ordinary course of things he would have been
spending much of his time exploring the outer world, detail-mapping the
immediate vicinity, spying on other cats, making cautious approaches
to unescorted females and in all ways comporting himself like a
fledgling male. But this was prevented by the two burly toms who lived
in the houses next door and who, far more interested in murder than the
pursuit of mates, had entered into partnership with the sole object of
bushwacking Gummitch. Gummitch's household had nicknamed them Scarface
and the Mad Eunuch, the latter being one of those males whom "fixing"
turns, not placid, but homicidally maniacal. Compared to these seasoned
heavyweights, Gummitch was a welterweight at most. Scarface and the Mad
Eunuch lay in wait for him by turns just beyond the kitchen door, so
that his forays into the outside world were largely reduced to dashes
for some hiding hole, followed by long, boring but perilous sieges.

He often wished that old Horsemeat's two older cats, Ashurbanipal and
Cleopatra, had not gone to the country to live with Old Horsemeat's
mother. They would have shown the evil bushwackers a thing or two!

       *       *       *       *       *

Because of Scarface and the Mad Eunuch, Gummitch spent most of his
time indoors. Since a cat is made for a half-and-half existence--half
in the wild forest, half in the secure cave--he took to brooding quite
morbidly. He thought over-much of ghost cats in the mirror world
and of the Skeleton Cat who starved to death in a locked closet and
similar grisly legends. He immersed himself in racial memories, not so
much of Ancient Egypt where cats were prized as minions of the lovely
cat-goddess Bast and ceremoniously mummified at the end of tranquil
lives, as of the Middle Ages, when European mankind waged a genocidal
war against felines as being the familiars of witches. (He thought
briefly of turning Kitty-Come-Here into a witch, but his hypnotic
staring and tentative ritualistic mewing only made her fidgety.) And he
devoted more and more time to devising dark versions of the theory of
transmigration, picturing cats as Silent Souls, Gagged People of Great
Talent, and the like.

He had become too self-conscious to re-enter often the make-believe
world of the kitten, yet his imagination remained as active as ever. It
was a truly frustrating predicament.

More and more often and for longer periods he retired to meditate in
a corrugated cardboard shoebox, open only at one end. The cramped
quarters made it easier for him to think. Old Horsemeat called it the
Cat Orgone Box after the famed Orgone Energy Accumulators of the late
wildcat psychoanalyst Dr. Wilhelm Reich.

If only, Gummitch thought, he could devise some way of objectifying
the intimations of beauty that flitted through his darkly clouded
mind! Now, on the evening of the sunny day when he had backed away
from his water bowl, he attacked the problem anew. He knew he had been
fleetingly on the verge of a great idea, an idea involving water, light
and movement. An idea he had unfortunately forgotten. He closed his
eyes and twitched his nose. I must concentrate, he thought to himself,
concentrate....

       *       *       *       *       *

Next day Kitty-Come-Here remembered her idea about Gummitch's water.
She boiled two cupfuls in a spotless enamelware saucepan, letting
it cool for half an hour before using it to replace the seemingly
offensive water in the young cat's bowl. It was only then she noticed
that the bowl had been upset.

She casually assumed that big-footed Old Horsemeat must have
been responsible for the accident, or possibly one of the two
children--darting Sissy or blundering Baby. She wiped the bowl and
filled it with the water she had dechlorinated.

"Come here, Kitty, come here," she called to Gummitch, who had been
watching her actions attentively from the dining room door. The young
cat stayed where he was. "Oh, well, if you want to be coy," she said,
shrugging her shoulders.

There was a mystery about the spilled water. It had apparently
disappeared entirely, though the day seemed hardly dry enough for total
evaporation. Then she saw it standing in a puddle by the wall fully ten
feet away from the bowl. She made a quick deduction and frowned a bit
worriedly.

"I never realized the kitchen floor sloped _that_ much," she told Old
Horsemeat after dinner. "Maybe some beams need to be jacked up in
the basement. I'd hate to think of collapsing into it while I cooked
dinner."

"I'm sure this house finished all its settling thirty years ago," her
husband assured her hurriedly. "That slope's always been there."

"Well, if you say so," Kitty-Come-Here allowed doubtfully.

Next day she found Gummitch's bowl upset again and the remains of the
boiled water in a puddle across the room. As she mopped it up, she
began to do some thinking without benefit of Concentration Box.

       *       *       *       *       *

That evening, after Old Horsemeat and Sissy had vehemently denied
kicking into the water bowl or stepping on its edge, she voiced her
conclusions. "I think _Gummitch_ upsets it," she said. "He's rejecting
it. It still doesn't taste right to him and he wants to show us."

"Maybe he only likes it after it's run across the floor and got
seasoned with household dust and the corpses of germs," suggested Old
Horsemeat, who believed most cats were bohemian types.

"I'll have you know I _scrub_ that linoleum," Kitty-Come-Here asserted.

"Well, with detergent and scouring powder, then," Old Horsemeat amended
resourcefully.

Kitty-Come-Here made a scornful noise. "I still want to know where he
gets his liquids," she said. "He's been off milk for weeks, you know,
and he only drinks a little broth when I give him that. Yet he doesn't
seem dehydrated. It's a real mystery and--"

"Maybe he's built a still in the attic," Old Horsemeat interjected.

"--and I'm going to find the answers," Kitty-Come-Here concluded,
ignoring the facetious interruption. "I'm going to find out _where_
he gets the water he does drink and _why_ he rejects the water I give
him. This time I'm going to boil it and put in a pinch of salt. Just a
pinch."

"You make animals sound more delicate about food and drink than
humans," Old Horsemeat observed.

"They probably are," his wife countered. "For one thing they don't
smoke, or drink Martinis. It's my firm belief that animals--cats,
anyway--like good food just as much as we do. And the same sort of good
food. They don't enjoy canned catfood any more than we would, though
they _can_ eat it. Just as we could if we had to. I really don't think
Gummitch would have such a passion for raw horsemeat except you started
him on it so early."

"He probably thinks of it as steak tartare," Old Horsemeat said.

Next day Kitty-Come-Here found her salted offering upset just as the
two previous bowls had been.

       *       *       *       *       *

Such were the beginnings of the Great Spilled Water Mystery that
preoccupied the human members of the Gummitch household for weeks. Not
every day, but frequently, and sometimes two and three times a day,
Gummitch's little bowl was upset. No one ever saw the young cat do it.
But it was generally accepted that he was responsible, though for a
time Old Horsemeat had theories that he did not voice involving Sissy
and Baby.

Kitty-Come-Here bought Gummitch a firm-footed rubber bowl for his
water, though she hesitated over the purchase for some time, certain he
would be able to taste the rubber. This bowl was found upset just like
his regular china one and like the tin one she briefly revived from his
kitten days.

All sorts of clues and possibly related circumstances were seized upon
and dissected. For instance, after about a month of the mysterious
spillings, Kitty-Come-Here announced, "I've been thinking back and as
far as I can remember it never happens except on sunny days."

"Oh, Good Lord!" Old Horsemeat reacted.

Meanwhile Kitty-Come-Here continued to try to concoct a kind of water
that would be palatable to Gummitch. As she continued without success,
her formulas became more fantastic. She quit boiling it for the most
part but added a pinch of sugar, a spoonful of beer, a few flakes of
oregano, a green leaf, a violet, a drop of vanilla extract, a drop of
iodine....

"No wonder he rejects the stuff," Old Horsemeat was tempted to say, but
didn't.

Finally Kitty-Come-Here, inspired by the sight of a greenly glittering
rack of it at the supermarket, purchased a half gallon of bottled water
from a famous spring. She wondered why she hadn't thought of this step
earlier--it certainly ought to take care of her haunting convictions
about the unpalatableness of chlorine or fluorides. (She herself could
distinctly taste the fluorides in the tap water, though she never
mentioned this to Old Horsemeat.)

One other development during the Great Spilled Water Mystery was that
Gummitch gradually emerged from depression and became quite gay. He
took to dancing cat schottisches and gigues impromptu in the living
room of an evening and so forgot his dignity as to battle joyously with
the vacuum-cleaner dragon when Old Horsemeat used one of the smaller
attachments to curry him; the young cat clutched the hairy round brush
to his stomach and madly clawed it as it _whuffled_ menacingly. Even
the afternoon he came home with a shoulder gashed by the Mad Eunuch he
seemed strangely light-hearted and debonair.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Mystery was abruptly solved one sunny Sunday afternoon. Going
into the bathroom in her stocking feet, Kitty-Come-Here saw Gummitch
apparently trying to drown himself in the toilet. His hindquarters were
on the seat but the rest of his body went down into the bowl. Coming
closer, she saw that his forelegs were braced against the opposite
side of the bowl, just above the water surface, while his head thrust
down sharply between his shoulders. She could distinctly hear rhythmic
lapping.

To tell the truth, Kitty-Come-Here was rather shocked. She had certain
rather fixed ideas about the delicacy of cats. It speaks well for her
progressive grounding that she did not shout at Gummitch but softly
summoned her husband.

By the time Old Horsemeat arrived the young cat had refreshed himself
and was coming out of his "well" with a sudden backward undulation. He
passed them in the doorway with a single mew and upward look and then
made off for the kitchen.

The blue and white room was bright with sunlight. Outside the sky was
blue and the leaves were rustling in a stiff breeze. Gummitch looked
back once, as if to make sure his human congeners had followed, mewed
again, and then advanced briskly toward his little bowl with the air of
one who proposes to reveal all mysteries at once.

Kitty-Come-Here had almost outdone herself. She had for the first time
poured him the bottled water, and she had floated a few rose petals on
the surface.

Gummitch regarded them carefully, sniffed at them, and then proceeded
to fish them out one by one and shake them off his paw. Old Horsemeat
repressed the urge to say, "I told you so."

When the water surface was completely free and winking in the sunlight,
Gummitch curved one paw under the side of the bowl and jerked.

Half the water spilled out, gathered itself, and then began to flow
across the floor in little rushes, a silver ribbon sparkling with
sunlight that divided and subdivided and reunited as it followed the
slope. Gummitch crouched to one side, watching it intensely, following
its progress inch by inch and foot by foot, almost pouncing on the
little temporary pools that formed, but not quite touching them. Twice
he mewed faintly in excitement.

       *       *       *       *       *

"He's _playing_ with it," Old Horsemeat said incredulously.

"No," Kitty-Come-Here countered wide-eyed, "he's _creating_ something.
Silver mice. Water-snakes. Twinkling vines."

"Good Lord, you're right," Old Horsemeat agreed. "It's a new art form.
Would you call it water painting? Or water sculpture? Somehow I think
that's best. As if a sculptor made mobiles out of molten tin."

"It's gone so quickly, though," Kitty-Come-Here objected, a little
sadly. "Art ought to last. Look, it's almost all flowed over to the
wall now."

"Some of the best art forms are completely fugitive," Old Horsemeat
argued. "What about improvisation in music and dancing? What about
jam sessions and shadow figures on the wall? Gummitch can always do
it again--in fact, he must have been doing it again and again this
last month. It's never exactly the same, like waves or fires. But it's
beautiful."

"I suppose so," Kitty-Come-Here said. Then coming to herself, she
continued, "But I don't think it can be healthy for him to go on
drinking water out of the toilet. Really."

Old Horsemeat shrugged. He had an insight about the artistic
temperament and the need to dig for inspiration into the smelly
fundamentals of life, but it was difficult to express delicately.

Kitty-Come-Here sighed, as if bidding farewell to all her efforts with
rose petals and crystalline bottled purity and vanilla extract and the
soda water which had amazed Gummitch by faintly spitting and purring at
him.

"Oh, well," she said, "I can scrub it out more often, I suppose."

Meanwhile, Gummitch had gone back to his bowl and, using both paws,
overset it completely. Now, nose a-twitch, he once more pursued the
silver streams alive with suns, refreshing his spirit with the sight
of them. He was fretted by no problems about what he was doing. He had
solved them all with one of his characteristically sharp distinctions:
there was the _sacred_ water, the sparklingly clear water to create
with, and there was the water with character, the water to _drink_.





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