Chapter 2 – Friends, Foes and Fiends
I zoomed out of Suzie’s closet, dove through a knot of Human legs bumbling up the stairs, and shot out the hole in the screen door like a rocket. I was rounding the corner of the deck, already close to my top speed, when I froze. Who was marching across my yard, as if he owned the place, but my hairy nemesis, the Orange Cat.
“Hey! Hey! Hey!” I cried. “Get out of my yard.”
He did not stop. He did not get out of my yard. In fact, he swiveled his fat orange head left and right and when he didn’t see any of my Humans, he stormed right up the deck stairs and stuck his scratched-up nose in my face.
“Who’s yard, Pip-Squeak? Doesn’t look like a kitten like you can handle a big yard like this. There’s a whole lot of dangerous things out here, you know. Lots of things that bite.”
He lowered his head and opened his mouth to show me his yellow fangs.
He smelled like he had just eaten a dead goldfish and I told him so.
The Orange Cat swiped his tail at me but pretended to be amused.
“Always so cute, aren’t we, Little Miss Thing? Listen, if you know what’s good for you, just go back inside with your friend, Scardy Sue, and I’ll take care of everything. Things have gotten bad out here, trust me. The whole neighborhood is swarming with mean ugly predators who would love to snack on a yummy little thing like you. Why, I’ve heard they’ve started breaking into houses.”
He opened his eyes wide in alarm but somehow he didn’t seem too worried. I turned to swat a bug, which is my way of saying that I wasn’t interested in his stories and his crocodile-fears.
“Hey, listen to me!” he growled. “Soon, the Humans won’t be able to keep you safe. You don’t want that, do you?” He stretched his fat neck to look around me and get a look at the screen door. “You seem to get in and out quite easily…you wouldn’t want some predator to get in too…”
I bopped him, hard, on the nose, which is my way of saying “back off.”
The Orange Cat reared up, huge. Huger than huge. He started to lunge but then we both turned towards the sound of human voices in the yard behind mine.
“Here Puff Ball! Here Puffy! Where’s my Cream Puff? Where’s my Puffy-Puff? C’mon! Dinner! Din Din!!!”
The Orange Cat hunched his shoulders and flattened his ears as I snickered.
“That’s not my name!” he hissed. “They don’t know anything! My name is Fireball! Stupid people…my name is Fireball”
“Whatever you say, Furball,”
I said and licked my paw, which is my way of saying, ‘I am bored with your Puffy Presence.’
He trotted off towards the voice. Over his shoulder, he cried
“My name is Fireball and this will be my backyard and don’t you forget it. I tried to warn you! I tried to protect you! But if you come out again, you’ll be sorry.”
Then he leaped over the back fence and disappeared into the weeds.
I shook my head to clear my nose of that fish smell. The Orange Cat has always been rude, but today was worse than normal. I wondered for a second, what had gotten into him. Then I wondered whether I should eat the beetle climbing the deck post. Then I wondered why I was out here in the first place, and THEN I saw another cat. Unbelievable! Another cat in my yard!
I ran down the deck stairs and squeezed under fence. There, under the car, a huge cat was curled up in the driveway. I arched my back and drew a deep breath for a really juicy hiss, when the cat looked over his shoulder, blinked his tan eyes and said
“Oh! Eben,” I said, unarching my back, “you scared me.”
Eben is the next door neighbor’s cat. Eben in most definitely not like Furball. Eben never barges in our backyard. He sits in the driveway and watches patiently. He watches me climb trees and he watches me hunt for moles. Sometimes he just watches me sit. When I’m tired of him watching me, I let him come in my yard. And then all he does is more sitting. He sits and listens to all my stories and adventures. Eben can sit in my back yard any day.
“Want to come watch me catch some monsters?” I asked.
“No kin do, mate,”
he said, putting his chin back down on his paws. His back was turned and he wasn’t even watching me at all. So that’s how I knew something was wrong.
I trotted over to him and sniffed. He smelled like a cat with an broken food dish, so I asked
“What happened, Eben?”
Eben shook his giant head and rolled his bug eyes to the heavens (or at least to the underside of the car) and cried
“I din do it! I swear! I swear I never touched that hamster!”
“Ooooohhhh,” I said. I sat down cuz it seemed that maybe it was my turn to listen to him for once.
“It was late, right? an’ I had just got back from a crackin’ time with me mates in the alley, and I hops through me cat door, ready for a bit of brekkie, and what do I find, but the kitchen is right puckeroo – breakfast cereal all over the floor, boxes ripped up, cabinets open. Like an earthquake, eh? A right kerfluffle.”
I shook my head cuz whatever language it is that Eben speaks, it often gives me a headache. Eben is not from here. He told me that one day he was chasing some sheep in a place called Mew Zeelieund, I think, and they put him in a box and put the box in an airplane that rumbled and shook and was colder than he ever thought possible. He said he was in the box for days and days. Years, possibly. He thought it would never end. He thought he was going to die. But then his Human came and got him. Now he’s here. He misses the sheep, but other than that, he’s just happy to be out of the box.
Eben continued what I think was a description of a messed up kitchen.
“An’ right there, smack in the middle of it all, there he was, the poor little blighter. Little bits and pieces of hamster – a tail here, a nose there. Wee little paws in my water dish even. Worst of all, it din look like he had even been eaten. Like he was ripped to pieces just to take the Mickey outta him.”
“Mickey? What? Wait. Now I’m confused. Was he a mouse or a hamster?” I interrupted, wishing Eben would stick to the facts.
“I mean, at the time, it looked to me like some horrible creature, some kind of fiend, just done it for fun, eh? Just cuz it could.” he shook his head. “An’ I was there, taking a good long shufti around, trying to figure it all out, when me humans march downstairs in their dressing gowns and start to scream like banshees, sayin’ ‘How could you, Eben! How could you?”
Eben put his head down and rolled into a tighter ball. Under his paw, I heard him mumble
“They threw me out on my arse and then they said the worst thing possible. They said “Get out, you bad cat. How could you do this to the children?”
If Eben could cried, I think he would have. I licked his ear to show him he was not a bad cat. He suddenly looked very angry and I was glad it was not at me.
“But the minute I was out there in the yard, I heard ‘em. Two mongrels, chortling in the shadows, laughin’ at the hammie and laughin’ at me. So I give chase, eh? I’m at flat tack, chasing ‘em into your yard and right up against the fence where we had quite a tussle.”
“Were they didgeridoos?” I asked, feeling very close to solving the mystery.
Eben stared at me for a bit, and said, slowly, like he maybe he’s not so sure about me:
“Nooooo…I think you Yanks call them ‘raccoons.’” He shuddered as he remembered them. “Evil buggers. And not a fair fight, mind you, two against one. But I held me ground. We was making quite a noise cuz your human mates woke up an’ scared ‘em off. But I’m going to find them tonight.”
“Can I come?”
“Nah, little ankle-biter. Wouldn’t do me no good at all. What I really need help with is my humans. Even if I did catch those bloody raccoons, turned them into Marmite and served them on toast to my humans, it wouldn’t change their mind.”
His tail slapped the pavement as he studied his predicament.
“I’ve no way of telling them I didn’t do it! They’re having my guts for garters, they’re so angry.”
Eben looked at me for a long time before he said something really terrible:
“They may never let me back in the house. In fact, they may put me in that box and send me back.”
“Not if I can help it!” I squeaked.
I promised Eben I would figure out a way to clear his name. I wasn’t sure how, not just yet, but I was sure I would figure it all out. Somewhere in my investigations of dangerous Didgeridoos and mysterious Marmites, it would all make sense. I was sure of it.
“You find the raccoons and I’ll find the didgeridoo and then everyone will know!”