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Rating: PG-13

Marmalade is a baked bean cat. I bet you've never met a baked bean cat before. If you have, it was probably Marmalade, because as far as I know, he's the only one in the whole wide World.

As you can probably guess, a baked bean cat is a very fussy cat. All baked bean cats ever eat is ... baked beans. Baked beans for breakfast, baked beans for lunch, baked beans for supper and baked beans for brunch - in fact, I don't think that Marmalade the baked bean cat has even tasted anything else except for baked beans - ever! Sometimes, when Marmalade is feeling peckish and wants a snack, he will sit by the sunny window, reading his newspaper (The Daily Purr, and yes, cats can read - it's a common myth that they don't). And, as well as all this, Marmalade is probably the laziest cat in the World too. He's so lazy that sometimes, he won't even get out of bed!

I have a tale to tell you about Marmalade. It's not a very nice one, so if you are at all squeamish, then you had better not read any further.

Ah! You are reading on! I take it that this means you are a very brave person - don't say I didn't warn you!

Marmalade lives in a very grand house. It's all very proper in there - purrfect for a baked bean cat. There is baked bean wallpaper in every room in the house which goes very nicely with the carpet which has a lovely baked bean pattern on it. The lamp in his sitting room is the shape of a baked bean, and the table is too. His lovely, comfortable, soft and squidgy favourite chair is also the shape of a baked bean ... the biggest baked bean in the World, in fact. In Marmalade's bedroom he has baked beans on his quilt and his bed is the shape of a huge, massive, enormous ... baked bean can. No matter where you go in Marmalade's house - there are baked beans everywhere.

One morning, at the end of autumn, Marmalade groggily got out of bed, yawned the biggest, loudest, widest yawn, put on his warm baked beans slippers and dragged himself towards the window. He drew back his baked bean curtains and smiled contentedly as he saw a light sprinkling of snow had landed in his garden overnight. "Good," he grumbled to himself "at least I won't have to cut the grass for a while". Marmalade mooched downstairs, still yawning and walked through to the kitchen. Guess what Marmalade was going to have for breakfast? Yes, baked beans of course!

Marmalade opened up his cupboard to get himself some baked beans and ... there were NO baked beans left! "Rats!" Marmalade muttered under his breath. "I'll have to go out in that horrible, freezing, icy weather and get some more baked beans. Double rats!"

Lucky for Marmalade, in his garden was a tree. This tree was a very special tree because on its long, thick, strong branches grew something very special. Can you guess? Baked beans of course! More beans than you could ever possibly imagine. There were enough baked beans for Marmalade to feed for a month. When the baked beans got picked, the tree would just grow some more.

So, reluctantly, Marmalade put on his boots, scarf, hat and a very warm coat. He went outside and trudged slowly through the snow to his baked bean tree, or to where his baked bean tree normally stood. Marmalade stood and stared, for instead of the lovely big strong baked bean tree, was a hole. No tree and no baked beans. Marmalade rubbed his eyes to make sure he wasn't seeing things, but when he looked again, the tree still wasn't there.

"Well! Where is my tree? I must have baked beans, and I won't go to the shops to get them. I want my baked beans and I want them now" he shouted and stomped around the garden like a little human boy.

So, Marmalade decided to go for a walk to see if he could find his tree. He didn't like walking anywhere very much, but if he didn't have a tree, then he wouldn't have baked beans, because he was FAR too lazy to go to the shops for his beans, and besides, they just didn't taste the same if they were store bought. Marmalade was such a snob!

Marmalade walked down his path, angry that his tree had disappeared like that. He walked to the end of his street where he met Dougbert. Dougbert was a friendly alley cat.

"Hello, Marmalade. What's the matter? You look angry." Dougbert asked.

"My baked bean tree is missing. Have you seen it?" Marmalade grunted in reply.

"No, Marmalade, I haven't. Why has it gone? Have you been watering it properly?" Dougbert replied.

"I never water my tree. That's far too much work." Marmalade said, and with that he gave a 'humph' and walked off, with his head high in the air, swishing his tail around like he didn't have a care in the World.

As Marmalade walked around the corner, he came to the grocery shop. Now, they sold baked beans in there, but Marmalade never bought them from here - his own beans from his special tree were far better. Roger, the Tomcat was working in the shop.

"Hello, Marmalade! Why do you look so sad?" Roger asked.

"My baked bean tree has gone missing and I don't know why. Have you seen it anywhere?" Marmalade demanded.

"Well, no, I haven't. Have you been looking after it properly, by weeding it regularly?"

"Why should I bother weeding around my tree? I'm too busy. That's far too much work." Marmalade said angrily and with that he gave a 'humph' and walked off, with his head high in the air, swishing his tail around like he didn't have a care in the World.

Marmalade continued walking, always looking for his tree. Soon he came to the bus stop where Terrance the tabby cat was standing waiting for the number 49 bus that goes into town.

"Hello Marmalade. You don't look very happy. What ever is the matter with you?" Terrance asked very politely.

"I'm looking for my baked bean tree. It seems to have gone missing and I don't know why. I don't suppose that you have seen it anywhere?" Marmalade asked, getting rather annoyed.

"No, I haven't." replied Terrance, "Have you been feeding it plant food and fertiliser to keep it strong and healthy?"

"Bah!" said Marmalade "Why should I bother doing things like that? It's only a tree, and besides, trees are strong enough too look after themselves. I don't have time to do that sort of thing. That's far too much work" and with that he gave a 'humph' and walked off, with his head high in the air, swishing his tail around like he didn't have a care in the World.

By now Marmalade had almost decided to walk back home when he came to the park. The park was very big and there were lots of exciting things to do there.

Leaning on the entrance to the gate was Bernard the boss cat. Bernard, as you can probably guess by his name was the boss of all the cats in the neighbourhood. Bernard always knew everything that was going on. Sometimes he even knew things were going to happen before they even happened!

"Hello, Marmalade. You do look ever so miserable. I hear that you've lost your baked bean tree." Bernard stated matter-of-factly.

"Yes, Bernard. Not that it is any of your business, but I have. I don't suppose you've seen it anywhere?" Marmalade asked.

"Actually, I think I have. But before I tell you, I think I should tell you that your baked bean tree isn't very happy."

"Humph!" Marmalade said. "Trees don't have feelings. Where is it?"

And with that, Bernard directed Marmalade to the pond, where he thought he had seen a very unhappy looking tree sitting on the park bench.

Marmalade didn't have to look for long, which was just as well seeing as he is the laziest cat in the Whole Wide World, and frankly, I don't think that he would have bothered looking for more than five minutes. Anyway, the baked bean tree was found by Marmalade sitting on an old park bench. He was hunched over, his head in his hands. He was crying. No, he was sobbing. His tears were huge, fat drops and they were pouring out of the tree's eyes. The tears fell into the pond, and as the minutes ticked by, the pond was getting deeper and deeper due to the fact that the tree simply WOULD NOT STOP CRYING! And can you really blame him?

"Um, hello tree." Marmalade said, a little awkwardly. "I've been looking for you absolutely everywhere!"

"Well, you've found me. You can go home now." Replied the tree.

Marmalade looked around, as if to check that no one else was there. He coughed a light cough; the type grown-ups do when they are trying to get someone's attention. He took a deep, deep breath and began to speak.

"I ... I ... I need you tree. You have the most wonderful beaked beans in the World. Come back. Please."

"Ha!" scoffed the tree; "Why on Earth do you think I would ever come back home with you? You are a horrible, mean, nasty, selfish, heartless, thoughtless ... cat. You just want me come home so that you can eat my wonderful baked beans. Well, I can tell you something - I shan't! You never feed me, you never water me, you never weed me, you never talk to me, and I can tell you that being a baked bean tree is a very lonely business - no-one ever wants to talk to you because of our unique ... um ... aroma."

Marmalade sighed. The tree was right. The other cats had been right. He had neglected it - his precious baked bean tree.

Anyhow, after much persuasion, Marmalade managed to talk the tree into coming back home. I think the tree didn't want to leave in the first place, but his disappearance certainly had got Marmalade's attention. So off they walked, paw in trunk, back home. Out of the park "Hello Bernard!", past the bus stop "Hello Terrance!" (Still waiting for the never-on-time-number-49), past the grocers "Hello Roger!" (Won't have to eat your baked beans - thank goodness), down the alley "Hello Dougbert" (go find another alley you nosy cat) and finally back home.

Now, months went by, and the tree was quite happy, living back in Marmalade's garden. And true to his word, Marmalade watered the tree, weeded the tree, fed the tree, and even went out sometimes just to talk to the tree. So, this is where the story ends ... or is it?

You see, I did warn you that this was not a very pleasant story, so if you want to find out the real ending, then read on, otherwise, stop right here.

Do you remember that Marmalade was a very lazy cat? Well, he was the World's laziest cat, and as you can well imagine, all this extra effort that he had to put into his tree was truly tiring. It was now the middle of winter and it was such hard work for Marmalade to go out and keep the tree happy. Besides that - it was very cold outside - far too cold for a lazy cat like Marmalade.

One day, at tea time, Celia, Marmalade's next door neighbour popped around to deliver a parcel that had been left at her house by mistake.

"Oh great!" Marmalade exclaimed, "Do come in, it's ever so cold outside. Have a cup of tea. I'm glad you came, I'm ever so hungry."

"But don't you eat baked beans from your tree, Marmalade?" Celia asked.

"Oh no, not anymore. You see, this parcel is my weekly delivery of Meatballs. I only ever eat meatballs now. These ones are the finest you can get. They're imported you know? No more baked beans for me! Do sit down next to me in front of my lovely, roaring, freshly cut baked bean log fire."