The little catfish swam around in slow, mournful little circles. The handsome pedigree Russian Blue house cat lying on the grass at the edge of the pond was always watching her, but he was so far away. Her father didn’t understand what it was like to be in love. He kept telling her that she couldn’t swim in the shallow area of the pond closer to the cat.
“Cats are dangerous,” he said. “They eat fish.”
“Not this cat,” she said. “He’s a prince.”
Her dad rolled his eyes. “There aren’t royal cats. And even if there were, they’d still eat fish.”
The little catfish twitched her tail. “Anyone who looked at him could tell he’s a prince. You’re just jealous.”
“Jealous of what?”
“Jealous that he’s handsome and wonderful and amazing,” the little catfish said, and she swam away to look for her prince again.
While she swam near the edge of the shallows, a little crab scuttled over. “I heard you yelling. Did you know that you could ask the pond witch to turn you into a cat?” he asked.
“Then the Russian Blue would fall in love with me and we’d live happily ever after,” the little catfish said.
The crab looked doubtful. “Maybe.”
“Well, at least I’d get out of this pond,” the little catfish said. “It’s far too full of bossy parents right now.”
The little catfish twitched her tail and followed the crab’s directions to find the pond witch. Deep in the darkest, murkiest part of the pond a rams-horn snail lurked and waited. She glided forward to meet the little catfish.
“Can I help you?” the snail asked.
“I’m looking for the pond witch,” the little catfish said.
The snail nodded. “That’s me. What do you want?”
“I want to be a cat so that the handsome cat that waits by the pond will fall in love with me. We’d live happily ever after. I just know it.” The little catfish sighed.
“I can do that. But I don’t work for free,” the pond witch said.
“What do you mean?”
“If I change you into a cat, I’ll want something in return,” the pond witch said.
“You can do it? You can change me into a cat?” The little catfish swam in quick, happy circles.
“Of course I can.” The pond witch scowled.
The little catfish paused. “So, what do you want?”
“Your sting. You won’t need it as a cat, right?” the pond witch asked.
“It’s a deal,” the little catfish said.
The pond witch chanted and glided around in strange patterns. Then she sent the little catfish to go swim into the shallow part of the pond. The Russian Blue cat was there to meet her.
Just as he swiped at her head with his sharp claws, the little catfish transformed into an unremarkable little tabby cat. The Russian Blue jumped back and hissed. “Get away,” he said.
“But it’s me,” the little tabby said. “You know me. We’re in love. You’re always watching me.”
“I don’t know who you are,” the Russian Blue said. “Get away from my pond. I’m the only one who can eat the fish that swim here.”
“You eat fish?” the tabby asked, heartbroken.
“Of course I do. What kind of cat are you?” The Russian Blue growled. “Now go away or I’ll bite you.”
The little tabby ran from the pond into a world where everything seemed strange. She hid in some bushes, afraid to go too far from the pond. When the Russian Blue went home, she hurried back to the pond.
“Pond witch,” she mewed. “Change me back.”
The pond witch glided into the shallows. “Why should I?”
“I’ll pick you some of the greens that grow here on the banks of the pond,” the little tabby said.
“Fine. But I want the greens first,” the pond witch said.
The little tabby filled the shallows of the pond with grass and mallows and dandelion leaves. When the sea witch thought there were enough greens, she told the tabby to wade into the shallows and wait. The pond witch started to chant and glide in strange patterns.
Finally, the little tabby was once again a little catfish. She thanked the grumpy pond witch and swam home. “Dad, you were right,” she said.
“Of course I was,” he said. “About what? And where have you been?”
“Cats are scary, and I’m so glad I’m home,” the little catfish said.
“I’m glad you’re home, too,” he said. “But I would like to know where you’ve been.”
“I was a cat for a bit,” she said. “But I changed back and came home.”
“Hmmmm,” her dad said. “Don’t do that again.”
“I won’t,” she said.
“Good,” he said. “Let’s go have dinner.”