I trotted into the side yard, up to the fight scene at the base of a walnut tree that grew through the chain link fence that separated my yard from the yard of the Stupidest Dog On Earth. I resisted the urge to climb this tree, which was a great place to spy not only on Stupidest Dog but also those rascals, the squirrels. But not today, I told myself. I was on business. I needed to find clues on the ground. I could chase squirrels later.
Unless…of course…the squirrels knew something. I squinted at the tree. The branches swayed like a pieces of string, taunting me. Daring me to climb. The squirrels probably did know something. In fact, I bet they were hiding a Didgeridoo up there. That would just be so like them. My paws were itching to dig into walnut bark when I heard some familiar whining.
“Go away, I told you! Go away before the Cat comes to get you!!!”
I wheeled around and followed the noise to the small windows at the bottom of the house. I hopped down into the little brick ring that surrounds the basement window, leaned into the screen and said:
“Hello Ugly. What’s wrong with you today?”
There was silence as a giant pink nose poked slowly out of a wooden box and wiggled in my general direction.
“Oh. It’s you. It’s about time.”
The Ugly Kitten waddled out into the open space of the cage. More of a litter box than a cage, really. This was the sort of thing that made me really wonder about my Humans. I mean, they obviously loved me, couldn’t stop touching me, anyway, but here was this poor little kitten, who, through no fault of his own, had no tail, tiny useless paws, floppy ears, and a hippopotamus butt. Sure, he was ugly, but that was no reason to keep him in a cage. Maybe they wanted to keep him safe from the prying eyes of a cruel and unfeeling public. Or, more likely, the bizarre diet of lettuce and grass meant he was really the subject of a questionable middle-school science project. Either way, it was one of the many reasons I stayed, at all times, an arms length away from my Humans.
I felt terribly sorry for the Ugly Kitten, but, brave little guy that he was, he didn’t want the sympathy.
“How’s that tail coming?” I asked, gently.
“I don’t need a tail, you nit-wit,” he huffed.
“That’s the spirit. You show the world what you can do without it, right?! But who knows, it might grow yet! Just give it time.”
The Ugly Kitten turned his back on me and twitched his wide-ride rear end. He shuffled over to his empty bowl, sniffed and then sighed in disgust.
“Great. Where is everyone when you need them?” he cried in his sad little squeaky-toy meow. “No one to bring me breakfast and no one to talk to except this Fluff for Brains.”
He turned in my direction.
“Where were you last night, Cat? I needed a little bit of back up and you pick last night, of all nights, to actually be asleep instead of down here, trying to use my home as a litter box, as usual, when you could have been a real help for once and chased off those monsters.”
This reminded me of the something. My mind raced backwards through the events of the morning: ugly kitten…hippo butts…science projects…hamster wheels…cat door…dead hamster…Eben in trouble…Furball….Suzie….monsters…
“Didgeridos!” I cried, at last remembering why I was here. “Say, Ugly, did you see any Didgeridos last night?”
“‘Did you do’ what?” Ugly sighed.
“No, I’m asking YOU. The monsters. The Didgerido’s. Did you hear them fighting last night?”
The ugly kitten shook his door-stop head.
“I never know what you’re talking about, but yeah, there were monsters here last night. Monstrous raccoons with monstrous plans to eat me. That’s why I needed you. I need protection! How is a vegetarian like me supposed to fight against a slobbering army of predators? You need to be here with your claws to protect me. They came close to breaking in last night, you know.”
My eyes grew large. Suzie was right.
“Yes. You’re sitting right there. Don’t you see the damage they did?”
I pulled my head out of the screen and scanned the edges of the window. Sure enough, the bottom corner of the screen had been chewed through. I sniffed it and smelled a nasty but familiar stench of a greasy trashcan.
“But what about the Didgeridoo? Did it try to get in too?”
Ugly stared at me for a long time. He clearly was not fully recovered from his harrowing experience.
“You give me a headache,”
he finally said and waddled back into his wooden box. He stuck his gigantic nose out the top hole and continued.
“Look, all I know is that they were chewing their way in through the basement window. I was gweeping and gweeping and no one came. Then I sort of…well…I think maybe I fainted. I don’t remember much and I don’t know anything about any ‘Did-you-or-didn’t-you-do.’ All I remember is a lot of noise, then a raccoon sticking his nasty little nose back through the hole in the screen to tell me they’d be back. Then they both ran off, laughing.”
He stuck his head out of the box and gweeped at me in an unattractive demanding tone:
“So I need you to be on guard here tonight, okay, Cat? I’m mean, what else are you good for?”
“Oh I’ll be there tonight, all right,” I promised, hopping out of the window well. “In fact I’ll be down soon to come and get you.”
“Get me? What do you need me for?”
“Bait.” I replied.
to be continued…