Words and illustration by Kamalini Govender.
There was once a little flower. A beautiful, scared, tender flower. She lived at the edge of a little stream deep in the woods where nothing ever happened. She had many questions concerning life and the nature of people. Her Papa was brutally plucked one sunny morning in early Spring and the pain of watching the horrendous experience had never quite left her. Her Mama soothed her with promises that her Papa was taken to a better place where women held grand parties and men wrote odes to the greatness of flowers. Yet something sinister lurked in the little flower’s mind. She doubted these ‘men and women’ her Mama spoke of and couldn’t understand them. They came often to the stream, sullen travelers or bearded giants in search of water. They held sharp, gleaming objects that hurt the tree folk or ate her friends the berries like ravenous wolves. Even the wolves she understood…but not these men and women. For when they came to sit near the stream they spoke of absurd things and their souls were drenched in a blackness that didn’t seem in balance with nature. Her Mama told her to ignore them and concentrate on more important things like learning French from the black cat, Monsieur Kitty, that would often come to visit them. He was always running away from the wealth and boredom of his master’s house and sought refuge in the serenity of the woods.
“Monsieur Kitty, why are humans so often sad or angry?” the little flower asked one day when conjugating French verbs became too tiresome for her little flower brain.
“Humans are sad and angry because they have lost their tails,” the cat replied.
After some quiet reflection, the little flower responded, “How did they lose their tails?”.
“It happened a very long time ago when they stopped understanding kindness. Before that, we were equal and they didn’t try to trap us or kill us for sport. You see, they developed the seed of wanting within themselves. And their want grew and grew at a ferocious pace, and as it grew they became selfish and started to forget what nature taught them. They stopped understanding the animals and plants. And when they could no longer understand us, they began to attack us. Soon, their tails just fell off. Tails are most important dear. It’s where you keep your soul’s plans.”
The little flower became despondent, “But I don’t have a tail!”
“Aaaah, but you do! Yours is green and long.It flows down into the soil.” Monsieur Kitty laughed as the flower chew on this revelation.
The little flower thought about this conversation for many nights and many days. When her Papa was plucked, he was taken from his tail. Did his soul no longer have plans? Is a soul still a soul without its plans? Is that what humans do with their sadness and anger?
She developed more and more questions she wished to ask the distinguished old cat who seemed to be the wisest creature she had ever met. Many moons passed and her French was starting to get rusty, but Monsieur Kitty did not reveal himself. She thought this very odd and pestered her Mama daily. But her Mama told her that cats are free spirits, they come and go: one could never comprehend their ways.
The little flower grew sad as the days passed on and Monsieur Kitty remained elusive. Then one evening, after many months had passed, the little flower was startled by mysterious, green eyes peering at her from a nearby bush.
“Hello there! Who are you?” she called hesitantly. Her Mama had taught her to be wary of strangers.
The eyes just continued to stare.
The little flower grew uncomfortable and was about to wake her Mama when she saw the familiar sleek coat of Monsieur Kitty surface from behind the bush.
“Monsieur! There you finally are! Wherever have you been? I am so behind in my lessons!” she babbled.
The cat looked at her curiously.
“Have you gone deaf?” the little flower exclaimed.
And that was when she saw it. The cat had crept to the edge of the stream to sip the delicate, blue water and as he lowered himself she noticed…his tail was gone. It had been chopped off, rather painfully from the looks of the now healed wound.
” Oh dear, who would do such an awful thing?” she asked the black cat, as tears flooded her petals. But she already knew the answer.
He lifted his head, looked right at her and opened his mouth. The little flower did not understand anything he said. Where words once tossed back and forth between them, now there were just strange noises that sounded like many babies crying. He looked at her for a long time. His eyes seemed different somehow. Shadowed. Far away.
The little flower understood. He had lost his soul.