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READ THESTORY AND ANSWER THE QUESTIONS ABOUT IT.
“The Cat Who Thought She Was a Dog and the Dog Who Thought He Was a Cat”
By Isaac Bashevis Singer
Once there was a poor peasant, Jan Skiba by name. He lived with his wife and three daughtersin a one-room hut with a straw roof, far from the village. The house had a bed, a bench, and a stove, but no mirror. A mirror was a luxury for a poor peasant. And why would a peasant need a mirror? Peasants aren’t curious about their appearance.
But this peasant did have a dog and a cat in his hut. The dog was named Burek and the cat Kot. They had both been born within the same week. As littlefood as the peasant had for himself and his family, he still wouldn’t let his dog and cat go hungry. Since the dog had never seen another dog and the cat had never seen another cat and they saw only each other, the dog thought he was a cat and the cat thought she was a dog. True, they were far from being alike by nature. The dog barked and the cat meowed. The dog chased rabbits and the cat lurkedafter mice. But must all creatures be exactly like their own kind? The peasant’s children weren’t exactly alike either. Burek and Kot lived on good terms, often ate from the same dish, and tried to mimic each other. When Burek barked, Kot tried to bark along, and when Kot meowed, Burek tried to meow too. Kot occasionally chased rabbits and Burek made an effort to catch a mouse.
The peddlerswho bought goats, chickens, eggs, honey, calves, and whatever was available from the peasants in the village never came to Jan Skiba’s poor hut. They knew that Jan was so poor he had nothing to sell. But one day a peddler happened to stray there. When he came inside and began to lay out his wares, Jan Skiba’s wife and daughters were bedazzled by all the pretty doodads. From his sack the peddlerdrew yellow beads, false pearls, tin earrings, rings, brooches, colored kerchiefs, garters, and other such trinkets. But what enthralled the women of the house most was a mirror set in a wooden frame. They asked the peddler its price and he said a half gulden, which as a lot of money for poor peasants. After a while, Jan Skiba’s wife, Marianna, made a proposition to the peddler. She would pay himfive groshen a month for the mirror. The peddler hesitated a moment. The mirror took up too much space in his sack and there was always the danger it might break. He, therefore, decided to go along, took the first payment of five
groshen from Marianna, and left the mirror with the family. He visited the region often and he knew the Skibas to be honest people. He would gradually get his money backand a profit besides.
The mirror created a commotion in the hut. Until then Marianna and the children had seldom seen themselves. Before they had the mirror, they had only seen their reflections in the barrel of water that stood by the door. Now they could see themselves clearly and they began to find defects in their faces, defects they had never noticed before. Marianna was pretty but shehad a tooth missing in front and she felt that this made her ugly. One daughter discovered that her nose was too snub and too broad; a second that her chin was too narrow and too long; a third that her face was sprinkled with freckles. Jan Skiba too caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror and grew displeased by his thick lips and his teeth, which protruded like a buck’s. That day, the women ofthe house became so absorbed in the mirror they didn’t cook supper, didn’t make up the bed, and neglected all the other household tasks. Marianna had heard of a dentist in the big city who could replace a missing tooth, but such things were expensive.
The girls tried to console each other that they were pretty enough and that they would find
suitors, but they no longer felt as jolly as...
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