Cat and Mouse Detente

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I’m working on a picture-book project using the old nursery rhyme “Hickory Dickory Dock” as a springboard. In my version, Jock Tock, the Clock Doc, every inch a professional, and every inch a mouse, runs up a very tall ladder to check on Count Twelve, the Hickoryville clock, who isn’t feeling so well.

Jock swings open the Count’s face, expecting to find a broken spring or a stripped cog. Instead he discovers an orange kitten, very young, very scared and very ready to get DOWN!

Jock rescues Tickety-Boo and takes him back across Dickory Bay in his motorboat. As the last rainstorm of autumn turns into the first snowstorm of winter, the two settle in together in Jock’s cozy wicker home.

Not until I finished the book dummy (a mock-up using all the rough drawings) did I realize that it might strike small readers odd that these two characters, usually sworn enemies, become housemates. Remember The Country Mouse and the City Mouse running for their lives from the townhouse cat? Or Gus and Jaq, mercilessly stalked by Lucifer in Disney’s Cinderella?

But then I flashed back to Saturday morning cartoons.

“The Bugs Bunny Hour” was our favorite, especially a cartoon called “Punching the Clock.” Sam the sheepdog and Ralph the Wolf (who had to be Wile E. on vacation from chasing Roadrunner through Monument Valley) enjoyed a peaceful breakfast together (coffee and toast) and then walked to work, where they punched a red time-clock nailed to a tree before engaging in their age-old battle. Would the sheep under Sam’s care become Ralph’s tasty entrees?

At the end of the day, Sam might be about to punch Ralph’s lights out, or Ralph might have rockets aimed at Sam’s back with a lit match an inch from the fuse. But when the whistle blew, that was it. Both clocked out and walked home into the sunset together, friends to the end.

So now I’ve imagined an entire future for Jock and Tickety. Maybe I’ll add an owl, and we’ll have predator perestroika.

What?

It could happen.

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