Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Mouse-Cat

I read a story a great many years ago which I wanted to recommend. However, I've long ago misplaced the book in which I thought I read it. Astonishingly, I haven't been able to find any direct references to this story on the Internet!  Not just the Web, mind you, but Usenet, IRC, and those places we dare not name. Nor did it show up in a search of Google Books. This is all the more astonishing in that, if a thing exists at all I can generally find it in 5 minutes or less. Not only that, but I found the book that I thought it was in, and the story's not there!!

After much consternation, vexation, investigation and search, I found it re-printed in a Malaysian newspaper from 1983. This just very recently (as in, today) popped up in a Google News search. And now having found the story, and being unsure as to how long it will remain visible this time; I am, for the purpose of preservation and scholarly critique under Fair Use in accordance with Title 17 of the US Code, going to reproduce it here in its entirety. I do not recall the original title, so I'm going with, "The Mouse-Cat".
After the unsuccessful colonial revolt, the British colonies in the New World were organized into the United States of Canada. In time, this vast and peaceful nation grew to include the entire North American continent. One of its most famous heroes was the Cisco Kid of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Strange reports were coming in from prospectors in the Yukon. A new animal had been seen, a swift, elusive beast that the miners called a mouse-cat.
What made the reports so remarkable was the news that the mouse-cat, unique among mammals, had three ears. The Cisco Kid was sent to investigate.
The Cisco Kid returned from the Yukon empty-handed. The mouse-cat had proved too shy and clever to be captured. He had, however, observed the little animals closely, and he could vouch for the fact that they had not three ears, but four!
The controversy was referred to the Science Court, and in short order they handed down a verdict in favor of bilateral symmetry. "For," said the Chief Justice, "who are we to believe, the three mouse-cat ears or the count of Mountie Cisco?"[*]
I believe the story was originally written by Isaac Asimov. If not, it was collected by him. I do not believe it would have stuck in my memory since childhood, forever associated with his name, if it had not been. And the story's status as an extended cringe-worthy pun is certainly typical of the excessively convoluted pun for which he was so well-remembered.  (UPDATE: As we now know, the story was by Rick Norwood, and did indeed appear in a collection edited by Asimov... But wait! Something interesting! The hardcover edition of this book was published in April 1984; the paperback was published in August 1985; but remember the Malaysian newspaper I linked to above? Monday, April 25th, 1983[**]. 

It is possible that I introduced some spelling errors or inaccuracies. It's also possible that the Malaysian newspaper did so. They certainly didn't feel the need to attribute this work. Feel free to leave scholarly preservationist comments below, as scholarly preservationists are wont to do. And seriously, if you know where this story first appeared... or better yet, if you have the book... please contact me.


[*] If you didn't recognize this as The Three Musketeers or The Count of Monte Cristo, then you need to read more. Follow the links, the books are free. 
[**] According to the "100 Great..." collection, “The Abraham Lincoln Murder Case,” “Freedom,” and “Mouse-Kitty” by Rick Norwood copyright © 1982 by TZ Publications, Inc. Originally published in Twilight Zone under the group title, “Three Timely Tales.”

3 comments:

  1. You found it! I am so happy for you. If I find it in my library I will let you know.

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  2. I tweeted this earlier, but I'll leave it here too.

    I Googled the phrase "three mouse-cat ears" and the second result was http://www.sport-touring.net/forums/index.php?topic=5522.35;wap2, which identifies the story as "Mouse-Kitty" by Rick Norwood. Googling those names brought me to http://www.sfwriter.com/tc100.htm which identifies the source as "100 Great Fantasy Short Short Stories", edited by Isaac Asimov, Terry Carr, and Martin Harry Greenberg.

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  3. Following the ISBN, I found this cover image, which exactly matches my copy of the book... and armed with the visual, I now know EXACTLY where it is among my myriad boxes and shelves.

    And for the record, "Mouse-Kitty" is a terrible title.

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