A Cat in the Queen's Croquet Ground

The cat's grinning mouth slowly appeared in the air by Alice.

"How are you getting on?" It asked when it's entire mouth finally appeared. When it's eyes popped into being, Alice nodded, then waited for it's ears to come. It took at least a minute before she opened her mouth to speak.

"I don't think they play at all fairly," Alice whined, "they all quarrel so dreadfully one can't hear oneself speak - and they don't seem to have any rules in particular; at least, if there are, nobody attends to them - and you've no idea how confusing it is all things being alive: for instance, there's the arch I've got to go through next walking about at the other end of the ground - and I should have croqueted the Queen's hedgehog just now, only it ran away when it saw mine coming!"

The cat pretended to listed to all of this. She is a most remarkable child, it thought, being able to whine so much in so little time. Then the cat saw the Queen of Hearts come up behind Alice.

"How do you like the Queen," it whispered, glancing at her over Alice's shoulder. Alice didn't notice.

"Not at all," she declared. "She's so extremely -" She stopped. She must have noticed the Queen was behind her. The cat grinned even wider. This was fun. "-likely to win," Alice continued, "that it's hardly worth finishing the game." The Queen smiled at Alice and walked away towards her hedgehog, which had ferociously bitten another hedgehog on the paw and was refusing to let go.

"This truly is mayhem," the cat mumbled to itself, "I wonder how it is anyone can stand it."

It looked around itself at the scene. Alice was standing in front of it, hands on her hips, mouth moving, eyes indignant, but the cat tuned her out and looked over her shoulder. There were the people playing croquet, some yelling at their flamingos for their absolute refusal to hit the hedgehog, and some screeching instead at their hedgehogs, who simply would not stay still or curl up in a nice ball. As his eyes scanned further to the left, he saw the Queen still attempting to pry her hedgehog of the other. Cards were pacing all around, some dutifully keeping their eyes straight ahead and pacing the perimeter of the croquet ground, and some stopping to cheer for their favorite players every time the Queen's back was turned.

Just then the King, who must have been int the cat's blind spot, for the cat hadn't noticed him, came up to Alice and watched the cat's grinning head curiously. "Who are you talking to," he asked.

Alice turned to him with a smile. "It's a friend of mine," she said cheerily, "a Cheshire-Cat. Allow me to introduce it."

The cat grinned even wider and looked the King up and down. Pansy, he though to himself. Wouldn't know his shoes from his hat if he didn't have servants to help him out with that every day. It's a pity, really, if he was slightly more intelligent he could be an oaf at the circus, always tripping over his own feet and knocking into things...

The King scowled, his eyebrows knitting together on his forehead. "I don't like the looks of it at all," he said, "however, it may kiss my hand, if it likes." He held out his hand expectantly.

"I'd rather not," said the Cat cheekily, still grinning. It saw a vein in the King's left temple twitch and bulge out menacingly. The cat wasn't scared, on the contrary it was rather amused by the King's behavior.

The King shuddered. "Don't be impertinent," he said, moving behind Alice, "and don't look at me like that!"

I wonder how it is I am looking at him, wondered the cat, however it is, I feel no wish to change it.

"A cat may look at a king," Alice said, "I've read that in some book, but I don't remember where."

The cat grinned even wider, tilting its head and spinning one eye in an attempt to bother the King. He saw the King recoil as step or two in disgust and decided to push the envelope a tad. It lolled out its tongue and spun its whole head around a few times, stopping only because it was starting to get dizzy.

"Well, it must be removed," said the King firmly. "My dear," he called to the Queen, who was passing by with her hedgehog, "I wish you would have this cat removed!"

The cat grinned once more at the King, its whiskers quivering with amusement. Why, look at him, it remarked in tis own head. Calling on the woman to do the work for him! This is sad indeed! I wonder if all King's are like that. IN any case, this one is, and I haven't the slightest urge to go and meet one more king, let alone all of them there ever were! That would take the sheen right out of my coat, not that anyone sees it anyway.

"Off with its head!" The queen shrieked without looking over at them, stamping one foot on the ground.

"I'll fetch the executioner myself," the King said eagerly, and he hurried away. The cat watched as he tripped over a splayed-out hedgehog and tumbled to the ground. The King picked himself up and shook his fist at the hedgehog, who had been scooped up by one of the croquet players. The cat rolled its eyes. He was hilarious and exasperating at the same time. Now that takes skill, it thought to itself.

"I'm going to see how the game's going," Alice told the cat, "it was nice meeting you again!" She scurried away, leaving the cat's head behind.

The cat lolled its tongue out of its mouth. "It's a wonder," it remarked to no one in particular. "That the Queen hasn't beheaded herself by now."