PC037: Gordon, the Self-Made Cat

by Peter Beagle
Read by Barry Deutsch.

One evening, when Gordon was only a few weeks old, his next-to-eldest sister was sent out to see if anything interesting had been left open in the pantry. She never returned. Gordon’s father shrugged sadly and spread his front paws, and said, “The cat.”

“What’s a cat?” Gordon asked.

His mother and father looked at one another and sighed. “They have to know sometime,” his father said. “Better he learns it at home than on the streets.”

His mother sniffled a little and said, “But he’s so young,” and his father answered, “Cats don’t care.” So they told Gordon about cats right then, expecting him to start crying and saying that there weren’t any such things. It’s a hard idea to get used to. But Gordon only asked, “Why do cats eat mice?”

“I guess we taste very good,” his father said.

Gordon said, “But cats don’t have to eat mice. They get plenty of other food that probably tastes as good. Why should anybody eat anybody if he doesn’t have to?”

Rated G. Contains talking animals.

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15 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Alas, a blog » Blog Archive » I recorded a Peter Beagle short story for Podcastle! said,

    December 16, 2008 @ 4:37 pm

    […] over to Podcastle to hear me read "Gordon, the Self-Made Cat," by Peter S. Beagle. I was a huge Beagle fan as a kid, so being able to record this was a major […]

  2. 2

    Hereville » Blog Archive » I recorded a Peter Beagle short story for Podcastle! said,

    December 16, 2008 @ 4:38 pm

    […] over to Podcastle to hear me read "Gordon, the Self-Made Cat," by Peter S. Beagle. I was a huge Beagle fan as a kid, so being able to record this was a major […]

  3. 3

    phignewton said,

    December 16, 2008 @ 5:50 pm

    …this story is sorely lacking in a moral lesson.. what issssss it?

  4. 4

    scatterbrain said,

    December 16, 2008 @ 6:39 pm

    Despite not offering absolutely nothing new in plot nor morals, ‘Gordon, the Self-Made Cat’ is an execellently crafted fable which leaves S. Beagle battling with Gene Wolfe for the title of best fantasy author, while Deutsch’s almost gonzo reading made the story itself come alive, as though it was read in front of a fireplace by a wise, old fabulist.

  5. 5

    LittleLotus said,

    December 17, 2008 @ 3:15 pm

    This story played on my imagination; wondering exactly why a mouse would have the inkling to go to cat school. Gordon was smart in his play to get into the school but the not-so-main characters didn’t really come alive. After semesters of work as a teacher and coworker, the local cats would have built their own stories and reverence for Gordon, yet that never seemed to occur. But the chuckling line of “bow bow” proved that this mouse was more of a scholar than an adventurer and I “bow” to his ability to learn 5 dialects of cat and that he is on to the various dog languages.

  6. 6

    Julio said,

    December 19, 2008 @ 1:00 pm

    I thought it was a parable on different classes or even castes of society. The mice would sort of constitute the worker class and they are “eaten up” (what they produce) by the bourgeoisie or maybe aristrocracy. Worker class doesn’t even have an education, they don’t have to think, they just have muscle work. So the story is about somebody challenging the moral issues of going from one class to another, and the natural reaction the class has against this. So, yes I do think it offers a moral lesson, challenging the notion that you have to stay put into the class you were born (the father mouse even so much as admits that it’s very honorable to be hunted!). As if different classes of society were something so different as being different species of animals.

  7. 7

    George said,

    December 22, 2008 @ 2:40 pm

    Magical! I love it, love it, love it!
    Engagingly imaginative, with a sweet twist – and G rated too.
    Excellent writing and superb voice work.

  8. 8

    Karina said,

    December 23, 2008 @ 4:52 am

    What I missed was a happy ending: a mythical rescue or some sort of hero-status for Gordon. Him wandering off into the sunset, barking, is not the future I wanted for the brave scholar.

  9. 9

    Jennifer said,

    December 23, 2008 @ 3:11 pm

    I was expecting the story to end with Gordon being eaten by some cat who didn’t know of his being an “honorary cat” and having a sad ending/how dare you rise above your biology!, so I am actually pleased at the hopeful note of barking at the end.

  10. 10

    Blaine Boy said,

    January 5, 2009 @ 3:32 am

    Adding to Julio’s thoughts, I think it’s also saying something about race perhaps. “Where in the rules does it say I can’t attend this school?” (hint, hint)

    It was a classic Beagle story, but it wasn’t all that great. It reminded me a lot of the *Tale of Desperaus* which I absolutely hated reading. It was just an awful book. The other problem was the Mr. Deutsch’s reading did not quite much up the way it probably should have in parts of the story (especially early on). Unfortunately, I’m going to give a “meh” on the Fictor scale. Sorry.

    Sincerely and ever faithfully,
    The Blaine Boy

  11. 11

    Matt said,

    March 3, 2009 @ 2:49 am

    Great story for the kids – it was cute, the reading was great and the vocabulary worked well for both my 9 and 5 year olds.

  12. 12

    loren said,

    March 12, 2009 @ 8:27 am

    I loved, absolutely loved this story. Go Gordon! The reading seemed so exagerated (does this guy really talk like this?), yet it fit perfectly. Good show!

  13. 13

    Ираклий said,

    April 11, 2009 @ 3:51 am

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  14. 14

    spaebrun said,

    April 23, 2009 @ 6:08 pm

    I liked the story well enough. It was amusing and had a sufficiently bitter-sweet ending for my taste.
    As for its meaning, it clearly deals with questioning your position in life, but it doesn’t give a clear message – Gordon is neither entirely successful, nor a failure.

    The reading however wasn’t very good in my opinion. It was very stiff at times and I got the impression, the narrator was more concerned with exact pronounciation than with bringing the story alive.

  15. 15

    Short Story Podcast Reviews – September 2012 « Fyrefly's Book Blog said,

    October 5, 2012 @ 7:37 am

    […] people say, but there were a lot of details that didn’t quite work for me in the execution. Listen to it | Read […]

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