Same Time. Same Place. And Then What?

Raymond Hazelwitz, rodent activist was in a real hurry that day! He didn't lift the latch of the gate which opens onto our deck. He climbed the gate, stood on top of it and then leaped. He landed a few feet from where I was napping in the afternoon sunshine. Raymond was out of breath. His fur was sticking up every which way and his eyes had the look of a very distressed rat. "You've got to help me, Henri! It's about Clarence! He is deeply depressed. He won't eat and he can't sleep and his coat looks matted! He hasn't been grooming himself lately!" And this is because.....?" I meowed.
It's because of his garden," chattered Raymond. "Or his lack of one." His eyes darted around the back yard. "Nice posies, Henri. You must work very hard to have such a pretty backyard."
I nodded. "That's correct, Raymond. I work very hard to have a nice backyard. What has that got to do with Clarence?"
Raymond sniffed. "Clarence also works hard to have a nice backyard but alas, his efforts prove fruitless. At the end of the growing season, he is doomed to have a backyard of weeds unless we contrive to have it otherwise. Again this summer, we must call upon our cunning and deceitful ways and plant viable and living plants in his otherwise barren garden!"
Helen my housemate had just stepped out onto the deck. "Not again, Raymond! Coming to Clarence's aid is getting to be a bit much. What did he plant this year which did not show its green head above the surface?" Squash and pumpkins," replied Raymond. "Unfortunately, he dug a trench and planted them two feet below the surface, which is a little much too depth for a poor seed to overcome."
Of course, Stella overheard our conversation of chatters and meows and came through the back door like a shot. "What happened to Clarence? Did he accidently dig a deep hole and bury himself! I heard of that happening. A cat digs a hole in garden, falls in head first and is never seen again!" Helen shook her head. "No, he didn't fall into a deep hole, but sometimes I think that wouldn’t be a bad idea. He planted some pumpkin seeds and they didn't sprout. Now he has gone into a deep depression."
And we are about to do what about that?" I growled. "Should we drag over a wagon full of posies and put them into the ground so Clarence thinks he has a bonafide garden. We've done that for the past two or three years and he hasn't figured it out yet! I am amazed at how gullible that cat can be!"
Raymond grinned at me, showing his sharp white teeth. "Oh, come on, Pussycat! You know his ignorance about gardening gives you a sense of superiority! It makes you feel really smart even though you are just as stupid as the next cat!"
"Thank you for those kind words!" I snarled.
"Will you two boys shut up!" hissed Helen. "What are your plans, Raymond, to save poor Clarence from his deep depression. And they had better be good!"
"Well," he began, "the scouts have located an establishment which sells ornaments which are made out of rubber. They are very large and can be blown up. They are so big they can almost fill a front yard. The scouts did the owner of the place a big favor and he gave them one of the deflated pumpkins in payment. They loaded the pumpkin into their red wagon and brought it over to the club house. As a matter of fact, they are quite aware of Clarence's sadness and offered the pumpkin for our use. They have also contacted Rumsfeld and Max and Precious and Norton who were both eager to help out."
"How does a deflated rubber pumpkin help pull Clarence out of his depression?" asked Helen.
Raymond looked at Helen and sighed . "We will take it over to his house and blow it up, silly cat! Then he will think that he has the biggest pumpkin in the whole world and be so happy! It really doesn't take much to make Clarence happy, as you may have noticed in past years..."
"He's not very sophisticated," agreed Helen. "Well, when do we start on our noble deed?"
"Tonight," said Raymond. "After dusk when we can be concealed by darkness! And the cover of shadows will provide us with safety and anonymity."
"He means no one will see us or know who we are," meowed Helen. "It just takes Raymond longer to say it."
Within fifteen minutes, Max and Rumsfeld showed up at the gate. As we waited for nightfall and the scouts with the wagon full of rubberized pumpkin, we ate tuna patties dipped in catnip sauce and Raymond helped himself to an ear of corn which had been put out for the squirrels. Before we had finished our snacks, Norton and Precious scaled the gate and joined us on the deck. Norton finished the remains of the tuna patties but Precious refused to eat them. "I'm watching my weight. At my age, a cat starts to get a little pudgy around the middle." How true! How true!
Helen pushed Precious aside. "We all know about middle aged spread. . But I have more important things to think about, like who will make sure that Clarence isn't at home when we arrive with the deflated pumpkin?"
Rumsfeld stepped forward. "Well, umm, I heard that Hillary had invited him over to her place. She is going to run for office in November. She wants to be Hamden's spokescat."
"I beg your pardon! I am spokescat for the city of Hamden!" I growled. "It is not an office that is elected. I was appointed!"
Raymond smoothed his whiskers. "Let's not discuss that now, Henri. We have work to do! Behold, I do hear the wheels of the wagon as it doth approach this humble dwelling!" And sure enough the red wagon, pulled and pushed by fifty-odd rat scouts appeared in the dim light of dusk. It wasn't long before it became dark enough for us to travel the distance to Clarence's home. In the entourage, were Rumsfeld, Precious, Norton, Helen, Stella, myself , Raymond and the rat scouts. Twinkles, that tough cat I met at the Christmas Ballet, met us at the corner and joined the march. Carlyle and Penelope were waiting for us at our destination. Deep in my heart, I felt that something might go terribly wrong with our plans, but so far, everything was going fine.
It took all of us cats and the rat scouts to pull the wagon with its heavy burden up the sloping driveway into the backyard of Clarence's home. It took all of us cats, lifting and hauling, to pull the rubberized pumpkin from the wagon. Then we dragged it over to the area where Clarence had planted his squash and pumpkin seeds. Then we all stood around and stared at it. "What are we supposed to do now, Raymond?"
Raymond stepped forward, placed his front paws on his hips, puffed up his chest, cleared his throat and began to address the assembly. "Dear rats and cats and anything else who might have wandered into our little group. We have gathered here to honor our comrade, Clarence who has slipped into a deep depression because the seeds he planted early this year have not sprouted. I hate to mention that he planted the seeds very deep in the soil. They are probably sprouting in China, as we speak."
Twinkles shook his big tom cat head. "What a dumb cat!" he hissed. "Don't he know nothing about planting a garden? You gotta read the directions on the back of the seed pack!"
I nudged Twinkles gently. "I don't think Clarence bothers to read directions. He sort of wings it, if you get the idea."
"Well, maybe he do wing it, but that ain't gettin' the pumpkin blown up just meowing about it." Twinkles began to exhale into the small opening in the rubberized pumpkin. "We should all take turns blowing into the pumpkin.
We all did take turns blowing into the pumpkin. We blew our heads off. We blew until we were dizzy. We blew until we were breathless. We blew until we all fainted in one big heap of fur. "It's not working," announced Raymond Hazelwitz. "The darn thing is just as flat as ever. I don't know what to do. Does anycat have any ideas about how we can inflate the pumpkin?"
Once more, Twinkles stepped forward. "Have you guys seen that garden hose over there? Let's get it and drag it over here!"
"What a splendid idea!" chattered Raymond. "What an intelligent cat you are, Twinkles!"
"Oh, yes, you are really an intelligent cat," purred Helen, giving him a loving headbutt.
Yeah, I know that," replied the cat. We all ran over to the hose and dragged it back to the pumpkin. Helen attached the hose to the faucet and waited for our command. Carefully we inserted the nozzle of hose into the round metal opening of the pumpkin. "Okay Helen, turn on the faucet," meowed Twinkles.
I was amazed at how quickly the pumpkin began to fill with water after Helen had turned on the faucet. We sat there amazed as the rubberized vegetable took on a rounded shape, expanding with every second. It expanded and expanded and expanded. "I think that's just about right," observed Raymond. "Don't you all think that the pumpkin is just about right?" We all meowed our approval. "Turn off the faucet, Helen!" Again the command went forth! "Helen, turn off the water faucet!" Alas, Helen's paws could not turn off the faucet! Although she tried frantically to twist and turn the knob, the water kept coming and the pumpkin kept growing! And growing. And growing. Twinkles, Rumfeld and I rushed to aid poor Helen who looked as if she were about to faint! Twinkles grabbed the faucet and twisted. It did not budge. We knew then, that disaster was to befall us all! The pumpkin, enormous in height and girth, swayed as if it were about to fall over. It didn't fall over. It burst! With a mighty bang, the pumpkin came apart at the seams and the water we had so eagerly pumped into its fragile skin rushed forth like the mighty Niagara River on its way to Niagara Falls! We had no time to run. We could only close our eyes and hold our breaths as the great wash of water picked us up, sweeping us toward the driveway! Cat and rats struggled against the current, fighting the raging onslaught as we fought to keep our heads above the rushing stream!
"Help! Help!" I heard Twinkle's frantic meow above the roar of squealing rats and shrieking cats. "I can't swim!' Quickly I reached his bobbing head, dove swiftly below the watery surface and grabbed his tail. Digging my feet into the moist soil, I pulled the terrified cat to safety. "Thank you, Henri! You saved my life! I'm glad you know how to swim!"
I shook the water from my ears. "All cats can swim, Twinkles. Didn't you know that?"
Twinkles wagged his head back and forth. "No body told me I could swim. How come nobody told me I could swim?” He began to shiver. "Water is really wet ain't it?
I heard Raymond sobbing. He was surrounded by dozens of very damp rat scouts, all of whom seemed stunned by their experience. "Oh, where did I go wrong? How could this happen to me? I am Raymond Hazelwitz, rodent activist, a leader among rats and sometimes cats!"
Helen was smoothing her fur after escaping from the deluge of water. "Oh, don't be too hard on yourself, Raymond. It was just an accident. I'm sure Clarence's person will take care of things, like removing the deflated remains of the pumpkin.
Raymond nodded. "Yes, he can always put it out at the curb for major item pickup come October. No harm done. The water will go down the drain. Clarence will eventually get over his depression and next week, the rat scouts and I will buy up all the squash at the super market and strew them around his garden. Problem solved."
Helen growled at the rat. "Why didn't you do that in the first place, you ninny?! It would have saved us a lot of trouble!" She continued to smooth her fur and straighten her whiskers.

"I thought the blown up pumpkin idea was more fun," replied Raymond. "Can't do the same thing, year after year, you know. I'm sure something good will come of this experience."
Twinkles hugged the rat. "I learned that I can swim! Henri told me that! I thought I was going to drown and all that then he told me that all cats can swim!"
"See, what did I tell you," chattered Raymond, trying to extricate himself from the big cat's embrace. "Why don't we call it a night and saunter over to Henri's place for a snack," towels and a place to crash." He turned toward the scouts who were huddled together. "Alright scouts, let's go!"
They began to sing in high, squeaky voices, "Give me some rats, who are stout hearted rats, who will fight for the rights they adore....."
So the evening ended with more tuna patties, cat nip tea and corn and seeds. Hillary came by with Clarence in tow. "What's this all about?" he asked. "Did you guys have a party?"
"Yeah," I replied. I was still quite damp from our unscheduled swim. "It was a pool party."
Clarence shook his head. "I don't like water very much. Remember the night when you guys cleaned me up and gave me my first bath! I thought I was going to drown. I still have nightmares about it."
I am so glad we hadn't added anymore nightmares to his dreams. Within a few days, Clarence overcame his depression and because the nights were clear and cloud free, he once again took out his telescope and pursued his favorite hobby, astronomy. For the time being, we can all forget about his garden and the seeds which never sprouted.

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