It’s That Time of the Year Again!
by Henri of Twin Brook

Penelope, a feline neighbor from down the street, Helen, Sidney and Stella, my housemates were on the back deck. It was a warm day in February and the queens had dragged out a pile of catalogs. While I napped in the warm sunlight, they clawed their way through pages and pages of everything imaginable. “Oh, I like that scarf,” gushed Stella, clawing at photograph of brightly colored fabric.
“Cats don’t wear scarves,” meowed Helen. “It isn’t practical. "A cat could trip over it and fall down the stairs and break her neck and in your case, Stella dear, that wouldn't’t be a bad idea.”
Penelope poked Helen in the ribs. “Now, now!” she hissed. “That isn’t nice! Stella doesn't mean to be an offensive nuisance . She was born that way. It’s all in the genes, you know. Here, Stella, why don’t you look at this nice catalog of gardening tools?”
Stella shrugged her shoulders. Reluctantly, she began to flip the pages and then remarked loudly. “Oh, look at this nice riding, motorized lawn mower. Ashley would love to have it!”
At that moment, Ashley our eighty pound mutt, came crashing through the door. Ashley does not walk through a door or any sort of opening, she crashes through it. It is as if the door itself represents the enemy which must be attacked and conquered by means of paw and weight. “Where is it?” she barked, rushing over to view the picture of the lawn mower. “Oh, I would dearly love to have it! I would be the envy of every dog at dog park!”
“It ain’t gonna happen, doggy,” chattered Raymond Hazelwitz, rodent activist. He had come into the garden via the side gate, dragging a bag after him. “Here! Take a look at these neat catalogs of seeds. It’s that time of year again for all of you to decide what you will plant in the garden come spring. That means you too, Henri of Twin Brook!”
Slowly, I stood up, stretched and walked toward the other cats who were pawing their way through the assortment of books. Every few seconds I heard squeals of delight and ahh’s of wonder. “I’m going to get some of those white lily bulbs!” announced Helen, ripping a page from one of the catalogs.
I yawned deeply. “I’m not sure I will plant anything this year,” I meowed. “Last year, my garden didn't do so well. Maybe I should give it a rest.”
Raymond’s whiskers twitched. “I should warn you, Henri. Clarence will be joining us soon. He’s very excited about planting a garden again this spring.”
I shook my head. “Not again!” I howled. “I cannot and will not go through that misery again, Raymond! Every year we have to go over to his house and try to fix it so it looks as if his flowers grew. That cat can’t even grow a weed! We have spent hours digging holes and putting in flowers we bought from the nursery so Clarence would think all the seeds sprouted and grew up. He still hasn’t figured it out yet!”
Raymond looked me square in the eye. “Do you want your very best friend to find out the truth? That he is a disaster when it comes to gardening? Do you want him to sink into a deep depression, pull his fur out, stop eating and suffer from sleeplessness just because we won’t help him out a bit and perform a gigantic deceit on his behalf, year after year?”
“What do you suggest we do, Raymond? Have you come up with a solution? Or we spend precious time, year after year, devising methods to fool a cat without gardening skills, that he has produced beautiful blooms from a garden which is composed of mainly rocks and weeds?” Helen had joined the discussion and was meowing loudly about it.
Raymond sniffed and wiped his nose on his paw. “Clarence is going to plant squash and pumpkins this year.”
Helen shook her head. “I know of no cat who eats pumpkins or squash,” she hissed.
“Clarence feels that it is time to pay for his upkeep. He is going to set up a stand at the side of the road and sell squash and pumpkins.” Raymond looked at us, his gaze reflecting the doubts which had invaded his mind. “You don’t think that will work, do you?” he chattered.
Penelope patted his head. “Raymond dear rat that you are, do try to persuade him to scrape the plan. I have a strong feeling that human beings would not be likely to purchase vegetables from a cat standing behind a stand next to the road. For one thing, they wouldn’t be able to see him unless he stood on a very big box or step ladder.”
“I know, I know. But he has his heart set on it. You know how Clarence is when he sets his mind onto something. Most of his plans never materialize but that doesn’t stop him from trying new ones.” A tear glistened in the rat’s eye. “I will probably need your help again come summer and fall. Do I have a promise of your help and undying devotion?”
There was some grumbling among the cats and frankly I was grumbling the loudest but after a few moments we all pledged our undying devotion to Raymond and his cause. Once again I had been abducted into Raymond’s web of “help me solve Clarence’s problem”. What can I do? Tell me, what can I do? Should we permit the cat to sink into a depression over his lack of gardening skills or should we gather together once more to perpetuate the myth that Clarence is a good gardener? Tell me readers, what should we cats and rats do?

To Be Continued...

This story was first published online in the Spring Issue of Jessie the Cat's Zine!