Devious Minds and the Workings Thereof!

This is a story which must be told for the safety and peace of mind of all cats and dogs! My good friend Raymond Hazelwitz, rodent activist frantically scratched on the computer window one evening as I was trying to update one of my websites (yes, I am a very busy cat!). Usually Raymond comes by the house during the day when he stops off at my place for a bit of refreshment. He's a jogger you know and dislikes drinking from mud puddles. But in the evening, he is usually with his mate, Brenda and family, which changes rather frequently as rat infants grow up very fast and leave home when booted out of the nest. So, indeed, I was surprised when I heard him scratching at the window last night.
"What's wrong?" I hissed at the distraught rat. "You look as if the world is about to come to an end!"
"Henri!" chattered Raymond, "Terrible things are about to unfold in our community! Brenda's fourth cousin, thrice removed was briskly walking down West Side Drive on his way to the Snap and Snarl Club, for a night of poker with the boys, when he heard a strange rustling in a overgrown bank of bushes near the side of the road. He stopped to investigate. What plans he overheard, chilled his very soul and sent shivers up and down his spine."
"Maybe he caught a cold?" meowed Helen as she sauntered into the room. "Get on with the story Raymond, without all the embellishments, if you please." Raymond and Helen are not the best of friends, although she is very fond of his mate, Brenda. "He gets too carried away with his explanations, you know."
Raymond sniffed at the cat. "Helen, there is nothing frivolous about this story I am about to unfold. Terrible conspiracies may be developing within this very community! They could change the fabric of our lives! No longer will we be able to trust what we see on the streets or smell in the alleys!"
"That does sound serious," I agreed. "Perhaps I should notify Clarence and Rumsfeld and T.J. and Carlyle and Abbott and Twinkles and Cobweb and Sasha and Norton and Precious and....."
"Enough already, Henri!" snarled Raymond, baring those glistening, white, sharp teeth, "I am not advocating the invasion of a foreign country, you know! I just thought we might trot on by that overgrown bank of bushes and see what is going on, that's all!"
"Okay, we can do that," I meowed. "We should run over to Belden and get Clarence to come with us."
Raymond shook his head. "Rumsfeld, Carlyle and Clarence are waiting for us at the corner of Bel Air and West Side. Quickly now! Let us make haste to join them and proceed with our investigation."
"I'm coming with you guys!" growled Helen, arching her back and fluffing her tail. That made her rear end look enormous! "Without me to guide you, there is no telling what mischief you'll get into!" I could tell by the expression on Raymond's face and the way his whiskers twitched, he was not happy with this modification in his plans. He glowered at her, but conceded defeat. Vainly, Helen tried to squeeze her rotund frame through the narrow opening in the window sash. She grunted and groaned then pushed herself back onto the desk, jumped down to the floor and marched toward the kitchen, her tail held high. "I'll use the back door, if you don't mind."
And so we met Clarence and Rumsfeld at the corner of Bel Air and West Side Drive. "What's this all about?" meowed Rumsfeld. "I heard there is a conspiracy going on or something. Is that like a party with dancing and balloons and stuff?"
Raymond stepped forward, his chest thrust forward, his chin held high. "No Rumfeld. A conspiracy is a plot to alter our way of life and destroy the very fabric of our existence. In other words, meows, barks, hisses or whatever, it is a real bummer!" Without another sound we marched forth into the darkness of night, embracing the shadows from the trees and houses. And then we were there. We were standing in front of the bank of overgrown bushes. We peered through the dense branches and underbrush. The sight that we beheld sent convulsions of shivers throughout our bodies. Before us, sitting in a circle, were two skunks and three racoons. Upon closer inspection and within the circle was a spray bottle of Febreeze and a large can of Lysol.
Again Raymond stepped forth. "What brings you creatures to this place on this night?" he chattered loudly. "What evil plans are you evolving on this fateful eve?"
"Oh, for Pete's sake! We creatures, as you call us, happen to be creatures of the night if any of you characters had taken a course in biology!"
Clarence pulled Raymond aside. "There's no reason to be rude! We were just surprised to see you here, that's all. As long as we're here you might as well tell us about your evil plans and grand conspiracy against all we hold near and dear!"
One of the racoons moved a step closer to us. "Huh?" growled the animal, baring its teeth. All of us took two steps back. This was one big pussycat, let me tell you! The racoon stared at Clarence. "Aren't you Clarence?" Then the racoon stared at me. "And aren't you Happy?"
"I am now known as Henri of Twin Brook. Clarence and I both became respectable housecats. We no longer hunt for food in dark alleys and garbage cans. We sleep in warm beds and eat our breakfasts, lunches and dinner from fine china plates unless, of course we dine at The Dumpster."
"Sure! We remember youse guys!" chorused the raccoons. "We don't come over from West Rock Park all that much anymore. Tonight we decided to have an important meeting here so the skunks could join us."
At that moment, Helen, who had been silent and watchful, meowed up. "Just what are you fellas having this meeting about? Brenda, Raymond's mate heard from her fourth cousin, thrice removed, that you were planning some dastardly deeds. Would you like to tell us about them?"
The raccoon looked down at his feet. "To tell you the truth, our plans are more deceitful than dastardly, if you know what I mean. Roger and Freddy here," he pointed at the two other raccoons, "and Prudence and Sylvia here," he pointed at the two skunks. "Well we heard that a couple of cats were gonna take pictures of dogs and cats in the company of a scarecrow we thought that maybe we could come to "Two Smiling Dogs" and get our picture took too." The raccoon continued to stare at his feet. "Us raccoons could come disguised as dogs but these here lady skunks got a problem. They don't smell too good, if you know what I mean...."
"Is that why you have a bottle of Fabreeze and a can of Lysol?" meowed Helen.
One of the skunks looked at Helen. "We were going to spray it on our butts and maybe the smell would go away for awhile or at least long enough to have our photographs taken.." she volunteered. "Do you think it would work?"
Carlyle then stepped forward. "Your odor is related to mercaptans which are very potent chemicals. Skunks use their spraying ability of this substance to ward off preditors. It is very effective."
"You can say that again!" growled Roger. "You don't want to get these girls upset or nothing!"
Helen sighed. "I heard that when a dog has a surprise encounter with a skunk, said dog must be washed in tomato juice in order to rid the victim of its terrible odor. So do you think you might want to try that, Prudence? Sylvia?"
Both of the skunks nodded. "If you think it would help us, Helen, we are willing to try a tomato juice bath. We do want to have our pictures taken. We would like to put them on Christmas cards for the relatives, you know...."
"What a thoughtful idea, Sylvia," purred Helen. "I will consult with my companions here about when and where we will give you a bath."
My feline heart nearly stopped. Somehow, I knew that a simple bath could easily turn into a gigantic undertaking! Raymond grinned at me. Then I knew there would be trouble! He approached the two skunks. "I shall forthwith call upon my rat scouts who will dip into their treasury and purchase the necessary ingredients necessary for the cleansing treatment."
"In other words," meowed Carlyle, "the rats will somehow get a hold of some cash so they can purchase the cans of tomato juice. Raymond just takes a long time to say it."
The raccoon named Roger seemed distressed. "What about costumes? Where can we get costumes? If they see raccoon and skunks show up at the store, all kinds of bad things could happen!"
Carlyle shook his head. "No problem. When you come into the store, everyone will think you guys are dogs dressed up as raccoons and skunks. No one need ever know......"
That's only if the tomato juice bath works on Prudence and Sylvia. If it doesn't, I smell big trouble! I will keep my paws crossed on this one....

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