“The Cat Who Invented Plastic”: A Story for Cats and Children

[A scene from The Seventh Effect (Melange Publishers) – available on Amazon]

The motel room wasn’t very clean. That bothered me but it didn’t bother Catspaw at all as she explored the variety of smells, both human and animal in origin. Finally she asked me to tell her a story so she could get to sleep. I lifted her up beside me and told her an edifying yarn about the achievements of a brilliant cat named Snuffy, and how Snuffy lost his chance to become rich and famous because he was cat-stubborn, just like Catspaw.

“Once upon a time there was a place called The Very Large R&D Lab. It developed new things that people would buy, and then even newer things that people would buy, throwing away their old new things, and making a great deal of money for the lab’s owner, The General Eclectic Company. Scientists in sterile white coats walked the lab experimenting, and observing, and poking, and making notes on their clipboards, and writing long papers full of very long words to read to their colleagues. They invented the light bulb, and the self-reeling fishing pole, and the auto-flush toilet.

“But what they really wanted to invent was plastic. This would be the greatest invention of all, and would make even more money for the Company. The scientists experimented, and poured chemicals into beakers and out of beakers, and stood back and observed, and poked, and mixed, and made lots of notes and wrote lots of long papers with very long words, and long paragraphs, and long sentences. But no plastic did they invent. Their mixtures sometimes turned different colors, or emitted foul odors, or melted their beakers, but never turned into plastic.

“But one night, when the scientists had gone home, the lab’s cat, Snuffy, who was employed by the Company to advise them on the Mouse Project, was prowling the lab looking for good research subjects to eat. As Snuffy was lurking on a table-top he accidentally knocked over two beakers full of clear liquid. The contents of the beakers ran together, interacted and reacted and synergized, and what dripped onto the floor was — plastic!

“Snuffy looked around at the mess, and he thought ‘I am a cat. Cats are not clumsy. Cats do not upset or spill things. If anything is upset or spilled, it must have been the people’s fault.’

“So Snuffy sat down and waited for the people to return, so he could complain to them about their sloppy habits and how they had knocked two beakers over and startled him in the middle of the night when they were gone, and scared all the mice away which left Catspaw without his dinner.

“Early next morning, the scientists returned. They found the mess, saw which two beakers had fallen together, and poked and tested and then loudly proclaimed, with leaping and huzzahs, that plastic had finally been invented, Snuffy coldly observing them all the while.

“The scientists, having more sense than most people, realized that Snuffy was the true inventor of plastic. So they gathered around him and expressed their gratitude with gifts of tuna, and chicken bits, and milk. After eating his fill, Snuffy turned to the chief scientist and said ‘Thank you for the excellent food, but you must be mistaken. I am a cat. Cats are not clumsy. Cats do not upset or spill things. If anything is upset or spilled, a cat didn’t do it. It must have been your fault.’ ”

“So then the scientists took credit for inventing plastic. They wrote very long papers with very long words, and people threw away their old things and bought shiny new plastic things, and General Eclectic grew even richer.

“But we know that Snuffy was really The Cat Who Invented Plastic.”   <END>

Terence Kuch’s writing has been published in the U.S., U.K., France, Ireland, Canada, Australia, and Thailand, and has appeared in numerous periodicals including Commonweal, Diagram, Dissent, New Scientist, New York magazine, North American Review, Timber Creek Review, Washington Post Book World, Washington Post Magazine, and has been anthologized in books from Random House and other publishers. His work has been praised in the New York Times and by Kirkus Reviews.


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