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A Day at the Races
by
Samantha Hartridge

Mischief was in a good mood.  She had been well fed this morning and had already had her early morning nap.  It was time to go out and have some fun.  As the weather was particularly nice today, mummy had left the back door open so Mischief, Scoobey and Jock were able to come and go as they pleased.  This suited Mischief greatly as she hated to use the cat flap.

Mischief decided to go collect her best friend Mrs Butterworth.  Off she went, across the garden, up the fence, down the other side and across the next garden to the back door.  Finding it open, Mischief trotted in merrily calling out Mrs Butterworth's name.  Mrs Snekia, the owner of the house, had no objections to Mischief trotting into the house in this fashion.  The fact that Mrs Snekia lived next door and was best friends with mummy could account for it, but Mischief knew that Mrs Snekia was also a great cat lover.  Mrs Snekia was also well aware that Mischief and Mrs Butterworth were great friends.  

Mischief went through the kitchen and into the lounge and seeing Mrs Snekia curled up on the couch, quickly went over to say hello.  Mrs Snekia gave Mischief a cuddle and called on Mrs Butterworth to come down from the bedroom as her friend was here.  Mrs Butterworth scampered down the stairs and on seeing Mischief literally ran down the last few steps and jumped up in the air, such was her excitement.  

Mischief asked whether or not she wanted to come out to play.  Mrs Butterworth loved her outings with Mischief and jumped at the invitation.  She asked Mischief what the plan for the day was and what they would be doing.  Mischief did not have any real plans, but she didn't want Mrs Butterworth to know that, so she told her friend that it was a surprise and she would have to wait and see.  Mrs Butterworth trusted her friend completely, and she loved surprises.  With this in mind she was more than happy to go along with Mischief's suggestion.

As they set off towards the fields, side-by-side, ready for any and all adventures that might come their way, Mrs Snekia called out to remind them to be on time for tea.  It was going to be a fairly long walk to the end of the fields and as it was quite warm, they set off at a steady pace, rather than their normal racing speed.  They both had six fences to climb up and over and that was even before they got to the field.

Fortunately for them both, the warm weather meant that most of the dogs that would normally chase them across the gardens were fast asleep in the shade.  The dogs were not fond of the heat as it made them pant.  Mischief's own brother, Jock, was a good example of this.  Mischief had left Jock in the garden lying under the big tree grumbling about how hot he was and how maybe it was time mummy took him to the hairdressers so he could have a shorter coat for summer.

So far, their walk was proving rather uneventful.  They had successfully managed to get across all the gardens and had just arrived in the field.  They both loved the field as the grass was very long at this time of year and they were able to hide themselves very easily and watch the world go by.  If they were feeling particularly mischievous, they would lie in wait for some poor unsuspecting dog to go past, jump out from behind, say boo and hide themselves again.  The dogs would go quite mad, barking in fright and running off so fast their owners would get cross and shout at them to come back.  Mischief and Mrs Butterworth would roll about in the grass laughing so hard that their sides would ache.

"But none of this for today" thought Mischief.  She just wanted to take it easy for the time being.  Maybe they would ambush the dogs later on, on their way back home.  

Across the field they went and eventually came across the Dear family who were resting gracefully in the long grass, unseen by the human eye.  As the two approached the always so gentle Mr & Mrs Dear, they stopped to exchange a polite hello and enquire as to how Dear Junior, or DJ as his parents affectionately called him, was doing and would it be possible for him to join the two cats on their walk.  Mr and Mrs Dear thought it was a marvellous idea and not only could DJ join them but they would love to accompany the pair as well.  Mischief was very happy about that and the five of them set off.

Before long, they all came across Mr and Mrs Hedgehog and their spinster daughter Primrose.  After a polite "how do you do", Mr and Mrs Hedgehog asked them where they were all going.  Mischief cheerfully told them that they were going for a walk across the field and that they were welcome to join them - the more the merrier.  And so off they all went, Mischief in the lead, followed by Mrs Butterworth, Mr and Mrs Dear and DJ with Mr and Mrs Hedgehog and Primrose bringing up the rear.

Now this was turning in to quite a procession.  The birds flying above them started to wonder what it was all about.  Not wanting to miss out on any of the fun they all decided to follow the procession too.  Mr & Mrs Blackbird and their four children and Mr & Mrs Pigeon and their two sons flew above the walkers.  They were all making such a noise that Mr Hoot the owl was woken from his day sleep and, grumbling to himself about the lack of consideration today's youngsters had for their elders, decided to follow the procession as well.

It was not much longer before they all came to the far side of the field and they decided to sit down for a rest.  The field was close to the canal and those who needed to drink did so, while the others just sat in the shade and cooled off.  They had worked up quite a sweat from all that walking and they needed a few minutes to catch their breaths.  Mischief and Mrs Butterworth were thirsty and they went across the path to the canal and had a little sip of water.  How refreshing it was!  Mischief felt quite revived by the drink and thought that maybe they could walk even further.  She was just about to suggest this to the others when she spied some horses on the other side of the fence.

Now Mischief was a very friendly cat and so it came as no surprise to Mrs Butterworth when Mischief climbed up the gate of the paddock to say hello to the horses.  Mr and Mrs Dear knew the horses quite well and suggested to the others that they all join Mischief.  And so it was that Mischief soon found all her friends surrounding her.  Mrs Butterworth joined her at the top of the gate, as did Mrs & Mrs Blackbird and their 4 children, Mr & Mrs Pigeon and their two sons and not forgetting Mr Hoot the owl too.  Mr & Mrs Hedgehog and Primrose sat at the base of the gate and Mr & Mrs Dear, along with DJ, leapt over the gate and sat just inside the paddock.

Mischief had never met the horses before and, after introducing all her friends, she asked what their names were.  The big horse, who was black and white, said his name was Piebald and the little horse, who was in fact a pony, was called Dillon.  Mischief, having an enquiring mind, asked why the horse was called Piebald, as he neither looked like a pie, nor was he bald.  Piebald neighed out loud and told the little cat that even though he was called Piebald, this was in fact the type of breed he came from and the family who owned him thought it would be clever to name him that.  Mischief felt a little embarrassed at having made such a stupid comment, but Piebald assured her that everyone made the same mistake and Mischief felt somewhat better.

Piebald asked them what they were all doing over this side of the field and it was Mr & Mrs Dear who explained that Mischief and Mrs Butterworth had decided to take a walk and they had all decided to join them.  Piebald asked Mischief if she had ever been for a ride on a horse.  Mischief, deciding that honesty was probably the best course of action here, said No she had not, but she would be willing to have a go.

Of course, the gauntlet had been thrown down.  Piebald, realising this, offered to take Mischief for a ride on his back.  Mrs Butterworth thought this was a bad idea and told Mischief as much, but Mischief, being much bolder than Mrs Butterworth, jumped at the chance and accepted Piebald's offer.

The trip round the field was over far too quickly for Mischief and she asked if Piebald would take her round again, this time at a faster pace.  Piebald was quite happy to do this and so off he trotted again, with Mischief on his back, who, by now, was smiling from ear to ear.  She was enjoying this immensely.  Back at the gate, Mischief jumped off Piebald's back and told Mrs Butterworth that she should have a go, as it was great fun.  Mrs Butterworth was not so sure.  The horse seemed so big whereas Mrs Butterworth was quite small and it all seemed a little bit daunting to her.  Seeing that Mrs Butterworth was unsure about the idea, Dillon, the pony, offered to take her instead.  He suggested that Mischief could go on Piebald's back at the same time and therefore Mrs Butterworth would have her friend at close hand should she need support and encouragement.

Mrs Butterworth was much happier with this arrangement and so, very tentatively, she climbed on to the pony's back and Mischief, feeling much braver now, leapt on to Piebald's back.  Before they set off, Mischief told Mrs Butterworth that she should wrap her paws around Dillon's mane so she wouldn't fall off.  Off they then went.  It was a slow walk round the field and the rest of the animals looked on cheering them as they went.

By the time they got back to the fence, Mrs Butterworth was feeling much more confident about the whole thing and she asked to be taken round again at a faster pace.  So off they went again at a slow trot, building up to a fast trot as they came down the back straight towards their friends waiting at the gate.  The friends were making quite a bit of noise by now and were attracting a fair bit of interest from some of the other animals that lived in and by the canal.  It wasn't long before there were a whole host of animals watching the two little cats.  Included in this new crowd were the Swans, the Otters, the Voles, the Rabbits and many more besides, all wanting to know what was going on.

It was Mr Blackbird who answered telling them that Mischief and Mrs Butterworth were riding around the field on the backs of Piebald and Dillon and it was a sight not to be missed.  When the two cats got back to the fence, Mr Dear suggested that the two cats and their partners should have a race around the field and the winner would be awarded a daisy chain to go round their neck as a prize.  Mischief and Mrs Butterworth looked at each other quickly before agreeing.  It was a brilliant idea and why hadn't they thought of it.  Mrs Butterworth asked Dillon and Piebald if they were up to having a race.  The horse and pony looked at each other very briefly before saying Yes!

And so the scene was set.  All the friends and other animals were either sat on the fence or at the bottom of it and were jostling each other for the best view.  Other birds had flown in and were watching from the top of the hedges.  More rabbits came out of their burrows and sat atop their mounds looking on.  Quite a large crowd indeed had gathered to see the race.  

It was decided that the race would consist of two laps of the field and the first past the post would be the winner.  Mr Dear, being the most senior was to start the race and Mr Hoot, the owl, would be the referee.  

Mr Dear counted down.  Three!  Two!  One! GO!!!!!  Off they went!  Mischief and Piebald got away first while Mrs Butterworth and Dillon started off slowly.  Mischief was calling out to Piebald to go faster and faster and soon they were up to a canter.  Mischief and Piebald finished the first lap just ahead of Mrs Butterworth and Dillon, who were now gaining ground.  Even though Dillon had short legs, he was very fast indeed and half way round the second lap he and Mrs Butterworth over took Mischief and Piebald.  

Mischief did not want to lose this race and she spurred Piebald on to go even faster.  It was all the encouragement Piebald needed and he upped a gear and soon they were galloping round the field.  It was all Mischief could do to hang on.  The last bend was coming up and Mischief looked over her shoulder to see if she could catch a glimpse of Mrs Butterworth.  Dillon was up to a gallop too and Mrs Butterworth was losing her grip on his mane.  Mischief and Piebald made it round the last bend, with Mischief hanging on by her claws.  The mane seemed to be slipping through her paws, but she hung on for dear life knowing there was not much further to go.  

As the finish line approached, Mischief glanced behind her to see Dillon and Mrs Butterworth about to round the last bend.  Dillon was going so fast by now that when he rounded the corner, he lost his footing and started to slide.  Mrs Butterworth, who had been trying to hold on for dear life, couldn't keep her balance and as Dillon slid, she lost her grip and came flying off only to land head first in a pile of horse manure.

Oh No!  Mischief couldn't believe her eyes!  She shouted at Piebald to slow down and turn back as Mrs Butterworth had had an accident and come off Dillon.  Piebald whirled round on the spot and went galloping back to where Mrs Butterworth and Dillon were.  Mischief, calling out her friend's name, was worried that something serious had happened to her.  As Piebald neared the panting Dillon, he came to an abrupt stop and Mischief, who was not concentrating on what she was doing, suddenly found herself flying over his head towards the same pile of manure that Mrs Butterworth had landed in!

Oh Dear!  What a spectacle it was!  Mischief and Mrs Butterworth were covered from head to paw in horse manure.  Mrs Butterworth surfaced by the side of Mischief and took one look at her friend and burst out laughing at the sight before her.  Mischief was glad to see her friend was not hurt in any way and she started to giggle too.  The other animals, who had been watching all this, ran over to where they were.  They could not believe their eyes, both cats were sat on top of the pile of manure, covered in muck, laughing away.  The other animals could not stop themselves and soon they all joined in the laughter.

Piebald and Dillon felt very sorry for what they had done to the two cats, but Mischief told them it was not their fault and they were not to blame.  It had served Mischief right.  She had got so carried away with the race and winning, she had overlooked the danger of what they were doing.  And anyway, she said, at least they had had a soft landing, albeit a smelly one!

As soon as the laughter died down, the seriousness of the situation became apparent.  Mrs Butterworth started to cry.  Her long beautiful fur was ruined.  What was her mummy going to say when she got back home?  Mischief too was worried and she voiced her concerns to the other animals.  Mrs Dear suggested that maybe the two little cats should try and clean as much of the muck off their fur as they could by rinsing off in the canal.  As neither of the two little cats had been in water before, the Swans offered to help and act as lifeguards just in case they ran into any trouble and the Ducks offered to help preen their fur to ensure that as much of the muck as possible was removed.

The two cats started to panic as soon as they realised that they had more than one problem on their paws.  Not only were they covered in muck, but also the town clock had just struck 5 o'clock and they were now late for their tea as well.  There was no time to take up the Swans and Ducks offers to help get them clean.  They were going to have run home at full speed and face the music or their mummies were going to get worried about where they were.  Mischief and Mrs Butterworth bade their friends a hasty goodbye and started to run home.  
Once they got back to Mrs Butterworth's house the two friends said their goodbyes.  Mischief wished her best friend "good luck" and was just about to jump up over the fence into her own garden when she heard Mrs Snekia scream.  Mischief cringed at the noise and reluctantly she jumped over the fence into her own garden.  Mummy, who was sitting outside enjoying the evening sun, looked up when she heard the scream and at that exact second Mischief sailed over the fence.  As soon as mummy saw the state that Mischief was in, she let out a scream of her own.  Mischief was in big trouble!

Mummy picked Mischief up by the scruff of her neck and started to lecture Mischief on the perils of getting so dirty and her poor time keeping, all whilst she carried the filthy cat up the stairs and into the bathroom.  Mummy locked the door behind her and plonked Mischief, rather unceremoniously, into the bath.

There was no getting out of this thought Mischief.  She was going to have to stand there and take whatever punishment mummy was going to give her.  Bravely, she stood in the bath, whilst mummy, muttering under her breath about how could she be so naughty and why did she never listen, proceeded to wash the muck off her.  Mischief knew that mummy was really upset.

It took two washes before mummy was satisfied that Mischief was clean and that the smell of horse manure had been washed away.  At this point Mischief's thoughts turned to Mrs Butterworth and her long hair.  She dearly hoped her friend's ordeal was no worse than hers.  

Mummy then wrapped Mischief in a towel and began to dry the cat's fur.  Mischief, wanting to let mummy know how sorry she was for all the upset, started purring.  Mischief knew from past experience that her purring might coax mummy to forgive her.  However, this time, mummy was having none of it and she threatened to make Mischief go without dinner.  On hearing this Mischief started to plead with mummy and began making all sorts of promises.  She even promised not to see Mrs Butterworth for a week!   A great feat for Mischief!

Eventually mummy calmed down and agreed that Mischief could still have her dinner, however, she would not go unpunished.  Mischief was grounded for a week.  She would not be allowed outside to play and there would be no contact with Mrs Butterworth during this time.  Mischief was grateful that the punishment was not more severe and as soon as she was dry she tucked into her dinner with gusto.  All the excitement of the day had made her very hungry indeed.

Later that evening Mischief found herself on mummy's lap having a cuddle.  Contented, she snuggled deeper into mummy's lap and whilst deep in slumber the events of the day started to unfurl in her mind.  The little cat thought of her dear friend Mrs Butterworth and a tiny sigh escaped her……….

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