– by Sophie Belle (the good Dog)
There was a time in our lives when it wasn’t bad enough that we had one stinky cat, no, our fearless Katie saw fit to bring us another.
Katie arrived, as most whirlwinds do, in a blustery gust of excuses and thundering distraction, at the end of which was a little bundle of terror, her black cat, Monday. Missing life with a cat, she had brought her home and hoped that watching it run around and play would inspire her. She claimed that Monday was too sweet, a lovely little thing possessed by the very Spirit of Manners. But more, she wasn’t allowed by law to have cats in her apartment.
So, Mom, buying all the lies about how well-behaved this beast was supposed to be, agreed to bring in the cat. Well, it might’ve been a cat, it didn’t look like the other one lurking about. This one was thin and wiry and looked like it was all claws and teeth, black fur and bad thoughts. It wasn’t fat, bald, and squeaky, which is what I had grown used to.
The Dachshunds, “Standy” Daphne and “Tweeney Mr. Petey,” had been terrified into obeisance. Daphne was hardly ever seen again – she had moved into Mom’s room, under all the covers. We could tell she was still alive in there because she would moan, “Oh! What’s to become of a house with two cats?” every minute like clockwork.
Pete took to cowering in the laundry closet, which is the bravest thing any coward’s ever done. He faced one of his most grueling fears, hoping that the dryer, that terrible thunder-machine, would be enough to keep Monday out. And it was. But only because she had easier targets like the other bad cat and the humans…, and worst, me, the ancient Protector.
We soon discovered that the new cat didn’t respond to reason. Many a time I would face my own fear of dying and approach the cat, diplomacy in my snout.
“You, the cat!” I’d say. “You get out of this house.” A simple request, even for a simple-minded monster. “And take that other cat, too. It’s a Dog’s house we have here.” And, since I like to be the better Dog, I would nose a chew-bone toward the killer-kitty, a little incentive to leave.
But it wasn’t enough. The cat would purr with delight, as if accepting the request. (I would learn later that purring is really the sign that the cat is getting ready to kill, a lure to the stupid or the unsuspecting.) It stood up on its hind legs, like a bunny searching for blossoms, then opened its fang-filled mouth and wailed a wail that broke the windows in the living room.
It was then that we all had our suspicions that the cat may have been a banshee. The cat’s breath smelled of the many Dogs it had eaten before, and I admit, too, that I hid. I wouldn’t come out from under the table, under the far chair in the corner. It’s where I take my meals now; send all future post there, too.
But, lacking shots, neither cat could go outside. That’s where the sweet refuge was, the sun has never seemed brighter or more inviting. It may have been my imagination (since who can see Pete over the grass?), but I think I once saw Pete’s tail wagging again. Ah.
One morning, when Mom went to a home-repair store, Team Dachshund and I were stalling in the sunshine, talking about the old, cat-free times. (Was it really so long ago?) I looked at my friend, the Message Bush, a little, prickly-greeny-thing that was just big enough to be used by all the animals that came through. They’d leave all kinds of scents behind, new smells everyday! And for this reason, it was my favorite bush in the Backyard.
But, the cats couldn’t get along. The thin, awful one kept trying to eat the fat, balding kitten, but since the fat one had no bones, he could never be caught. But there was always a screaming match. One cat would pit its voice against the other, a screeching-song that would rise in pitch until the banshee-cat would break another window. It was sounds like these that got my attention, one of my ears perked up.
The screeches got louder, as predicted, and then the kitchen window shattered, and humans yelling curses (a lot like the cats). But the horror wasn’t over! A black streak flew out of the broken window and landed in the yard. It was the bad cat! The bad cat in the Yard!
Before I could even stand up and bark a warning, the cat ran towards us like inky-lightning. Daphne threw Pete in front of her as a shield and quickly waddled to the nearest tree, which might have been all the way in another Yard for how far it was. Pete was unable to react in time and tumbled sideways into the fence, yapping incomprehensible things that I’m sure he learned from other crises.
I stood alone, ready to die. In the split second I had before the cat would be on me, tearing my snout and face to shreds (the worst would be my ears, I know =( ), I glanced at the Yard I loved so much…
The sweet grass had never tasted better than that morning. Hints of mud and dew and snail, a cool breeze before the heat of the day began. I sighed, I would never feel or taste or smell these things again, for surely, if I lived, they’d have to replace my ruined skin and fur with tree bark and I would live in a cast.
Team Dachshund was no team at all and left me to my doom. I looked at my faithful friend, the Message Bush, full of birds today. Each one leaving their one message, the branches sang with their melody. But my eyes betrayed the bush! The cat knew who I loved in that instant and changed its direction to unleash its destruction upon the poor shrubbery.
The bush exploded, short, prickly leaves flying in all directions. The birds did likewise, the sky suddenly filled with movement all over, their pretty songs turned to noise of alarm that defied musical scales.
I cried “Ah!” in the way of my mother, my heart breaking. A bush with no leaves would hold no smells, I’d have to wait another season before there could be new messages.
But the cat wasn’t done! No, not satisfied that a naked bush was humiliated enough, the cat sprang to the top of it, as if it would hold the weight. Naturally, it couldn’t, since cats are dense enough that they weigh as much as a 1,ooo food bags. The poor bush collapsed, defeated, and the cat turned on it, defiling the dead by snatching bits of its branches with its mouth.
“WHY?!” I howled, as Daphne would say, like a stuck Pete. And finally, I was done being scared. My Chow blood ignited and my curly tail straightened! My fangs were out and I growled defiantly. A drooling snarl of heroism.
I heard Daphne whistle in appreciation at my bristling. Pete was silent, unwilling to call attention to himself.
The horrible cat turned to look at me, bits of my friend sticking out of its fangs. Strangely, the cat didn’t look crazy at that moment, as if it was completely aware of what it had done, it was the natural order of things. A horrible grin split its chops and I shivered, my fur going down a bit.
The backdoor burst open and Mom threw the other cat, the fat kitten, outside. It plopped! on the ground and laid there like a lazy puddle. But not for long. Now that it was outside, the banshee-cat turned its attention towards the new foe.
And to my surprise, the kitten struggled to its feet, and quickly, which shocked its assailant, who stopped to glare. The banshee cat’s tail twitched back and forth as it sat and watched the other cat, considering it.
“Look out, dummy!” I barked. I don’t know why. I guess I have a soft-spot for fat things. The fat kitten didn’t back up, but held its ground. It stretched from front leg to back leg, its own tail flicking back and forth.
And then its back hunched, its next bobbed, and it made the most disgusting humming-hiccup sounds. The thin cat backed up, unsure what to do. As it did, the fat one threw up its lunch, a foul-smelling pile of orange puke.
There was a joyous shout from Pete’s hiding place.
The fat one calmly walked away and the thin one sniffed around in the grass and air, really everywhere but the vomit, and then sauntered off. It leapt back into the kitchen and I heard a terrified human scream. I looked over at the other cat, as if seeing it for the first time.
“You! Uh, the other cat!” But the cat didn’t turn to look at me. “You’re the one they call ‘Poe,’ right? Like the ghost?” Still the cold shoulder as the cat cleaned the dirt of its paws. Since it wasn’t watching, I sent it a wink in gratitude.
And well, I wasn’t going to waste any more time on that cat, I had to bury my friend, the Message Bush. I knew the perfect spot, where I had once buried a piece of salmon in the hopes that a Salmon Tree would grow. It had all the best sun of the day and all the light of the stars at night, a fitting tribute for a smelly friend.