Ghosts? There Are No Ghosts!
Carlyle from the Evergreen Lake Colony, Clarence of Belden, Max, my next door neighbor, Rumsfeld and I were in the upstairs rooms, playing a game of pinochle, when Raymond Hazelwitz, rodent activist tapped at the window. He had climbed up the fir tree outside the window and sat on one of its branches making faces at Sidney who was sitting on the table which is placed just under the window sill. "Open the window, Sidney!" I meowed. "Let Raymond come in!" Sidney shrugged his shoulders and with Carlyle's help and muscle, lifted the sash so Raymond could squeeze through.
Raymond jumped from the table onto the floor and sat down next to Max. "Cats! It's really warm out for Halloween this year. We should all go out and see what's going on with the trick and treaters! By the way, here's a letter for you, Henri. I found it out by the front door."
The letter was really a dirty piece of page, torn at the edges with scibbled paw prints across it. I stared at it, carefully reading the message. I froze! Even my tail froze! The message contained within those smuged paw prints spoke of terrible atrocities against my persons. "If you wish to see your persons alive, bring 10 cans of tuna and the remains of tonight's dinner to the shabby brown house on Woodin Street. Meow three times at the front door to be admitted."
"Who could have written this?" I wailed. "What evil creatures could have devised such a diabolical plan? And wherever will I get all that tuna fish?"
Max grinned at me. "My persons have a stash of tuna fish in the pantry. They won't miss a few dozen cans. But how did these creatures know that your persons had roasted chicken before they went out to the movies? That is probably one of the few thing that could make mad demons decide to kidnap two full grown human beings!"
Rumsfeld nodded. "I could smell the chicken when I came through the gate. So the kidnappers must have been spying on you!"
Raymond stood up on his hind feet. "I'll tell you this, kitties. Those must be pretty big cats if they could kidnap human peoples!"
I puffed up my chest, brushed my whiskers and meowed loudly,"I, Henri of Twin Brook, shall go forth, alone or with friends, to save my persons from a dastardly fate!"
"I too shall be part of this noble endeavor. We shall prevail in our quest to free these human peoples!" announced Clarence.
"You tom cats aren't going anywhere!" hissed my housemate, Helen, from the bottom of the stairs. "It's Halloween! It's much too dangerous for cats to be out tonight!" She burst into the room, her meows filled with fury. "You tom cats haven't the sense you were born with!"
"We've got to go," I answered, arching my back. "If we don't save our persons from this impending doom, who will pay the mortgage? Who will pay the utility bill so we can be nice and warm during the winter months? Who will buy all that nice food for us so we don't go hungry?"
Helen tilted her head. "You've got a point there, Henri," she purred. "Well be careful out there, boys." She then turned around and headed for the staircase. "See you when you get home, if you do get home again."
I looked around at my feline and rodent comrades. "Are you coming with me?" I meowed, hoping that the answers would be a resounding "yes!". Carlyle was washing his left hind foot. Max was grooming his whiskers. Clarence was working on the claws of his right front paw and Rumsfeld was scratching an imaginary itch behind his left ear. "You are coming with me, aren't you, you guys?" I begged.
They all nodded, sighed deeply and one by one, lined up at the top of the stairs. "Come on!" they meowed hoarsely, "Let's get this over with." And one by one we walked down the stairs, through the living room, out into the kitchen.
Quickly, I dragged the remains of the roasted chicken from the refrigerator and placed it in a plastic bag. Carlyle went down into the basement and picked out two cans of tuna fish. Max and Clarence would go next door and retrieve a few more cans. They waited at the kitchen door.
I have learned to jump high enough to wrap my paws around the door knob and release the latch. I felt the cool wind of the evening upon my face. My whiskers curled with the thoughts of our assignment. Saving my humans would not be an easy task. As we stood on the deck beyond the kitchen door, we all agreed to stay within the shadows of buildings and to walk briskly taking turns dragging the plastic bagged randsom behind us. We would travel single file, our tails low and our shoulders and hips close to the ground as if we were hunting prey. Raymond had agreed to come along and keep our morale from flagging. "Onward feline soldiers! Marching on to war!" Unfortunately, he insisted on sing-chattering it over and over again.
It was a long walk to our destination. As we turned the corner from Belden onto Wooden Street, Raymond chattered loudly, "That's the house!" He stood up on his hind feet and pointed to a rather run down house a few doors away. "I've heard that some very ferocious cats live there, so you guys be very, very careful!" At that moment, we heard the roar of a motor. It seemed strange to my ears, yet familiar. I had never heard it at night but I was too nervous to stand up straight and look to see what had caused the noise. We all dove for safety under cover of a large holly bush. Soon the mysterious roar subsided and then came to a halt. Soon we crawled out from beneath the holly bush and continued on to our destination. Then we stood on the steps of the house. The windows were dark. Only the street lights illuminated the front of the building. I inhaled, held my breath for a moment and meowed loudly, three times. "I think I will leave you tom cats here if you don't mind. My mate Brenda will be expecting me home any moment now." He waved his paw at us and in a flash, he was gone.
Slowly the front door began to swing open. I peered into the darkness beyond. I could see the staircase leading to the second floor. I took a small step toward it then hesitated, hoping my friends would join me. They did not. Again I meowed loudly, three times and placed my front paw on the first step of the staircase. Then I placed a paw on the next stair and began the slow ascent. "I have come with the cans of tuna fish and the roasted chicken. Release my persons!" I cried. I could feel Clarence's hot breath against my ear. Rumsfeld was to my right, carefully taking his cues from me. Carlyle remained at the bottom of the steps. "I'll just hang around down here guys. Just in case we have to make a run for it..."
Clarence, Rumsfeld and I continued our slow march up the staircase. Finally we were within reach of the second floor.
I sniffed the air. A strange odor assailed my nostrils. I looked to the right. Then I looked to the left. Then I saw the horrible creature. Every strand of fur on my body had turned to ice! My paws were made of lead. I couldn't move! A huge white cloud which smelled of lavender was drifting down the hallway toward me! Clarence let out a shriek and growl. Rumsfeld hissed. Then he lunged toward the ghostly form. There were more shrieks, howls and hisses. There were bumps and thumps. There were snarls and growls, woof and arfs!
Snarls and growls, woofs and arfs? I had never heard of a spirit making such sounds. Then I saw the paw sticking out from the pile of white fluff spread out upon the floor of the narrow hallway. "Come forth, evil creature and reveal your true nature!" I hissed, arching my back and fluffing my tail. (Unfortunately as I have gotten older my back doesn't arch as high as I would like and my tail is sadly lacking in volume.) Well its true nature was revealed in a lot of small kitty paws, tails and the rather large tail and large paws of a rather large dog! As soon as the canine's head emerged from the pile of fabric, I recognized the face! The face belonged to Ashley! Then Helen struggled to free herself and then Stella poked her head up, followed by Penelope, our neighbor from down the street. Eloise, Maxine and Daphne, three queens from Pleasant Street and beyond, freed themselves from the confines of the enormous swaths of white fabric. "Hi, guys!" they chorused, grinning at us. "Did you bring the tuna and the left overs from the roasted chicken?" Rumsfeld held up one of the tins of tuna. Then he dragged the bag of left over roasted chicken up onto the second floor landing.
I was filled with dismay! I and my friends had been humiliated by a bunch of evil, conniving queens! And a dog! A dog had ruined my reputation and standing in the feline community! "Ashley!" I growled. "How did you get here? And why is Helen and the members of her bridge club here?"
"If you really must know, smarty cat, we queens got together to play a little prank on you! Ashley was very eager to join in, I must inform you!" Helen tilted her head to one side and laughed. "Were you surprised?" Then she waved her paw at Eloise. "Do you have the can opener for the tuna fish? We need the napkins and table cloth and the saucers for milk. Penelope, give Ashley a rawhide bone to chew on." Helen had taken over. She was in command. I was in disgrace.
It did seem, however, that my tom cat friends were very quick to get over the fright and humiliation. As soon as a the tins of tuna were opened and the roasted chicken leftovers were unwrapped, their minds focused on the food and conversation, rather than the night's events. "Tell us, Helen. How did all you queens get here so fast and don your costume? You were still at the house when we left and so was Ashley. Do you have a flying carpet hidden away somewhere?"
Ashley stood up and barked. "The human across the street bought this great big sit down lawn mower. It's even bigger than the mower our person has. So we used that. I know how to steer those things and Eloise, here, turned on the motor. As a matter of fact, we passed you along the way."
Eloise gulped down a mouthful of tuna. "I took a course in electronics a while back. You never know when something like that will come in handy. It was an online course. On the internet, no one knows you're a cat. I've said that before."
"And the fabric? Where did you get so much white fabric?" I meowed.
Helen gave me a wink. "Remember those curtains in the bedroom that Stella liked to climb when she was a mere kitten? They were taken down last week and the new curtains put up in their place. I thought the old panels should be put to good use...."
"It was so much fun riding on the lawn mower," meowed Stella. "Ashley sat on the seat and drove. Helen and Penelope hung from Ashley's collar. I grabbed a hold of Ashleys tail hair and tied it around my middle. And Eloise, Maxine and Daphne held onto each other's paws and formed a circle around Ashley's waist. It was really very exciting especially when Eloise lost her grip and started to fall off. Helen grabbed her by the tail and hung on! Boy,you should have heard the meows!
"It did smart a bit, you know," purred Eloise, "but I have a strong tail and it was worth the pain to be part of this event."
As the evening wore on and we were all filled to the ears with chicken and tuna fish, we began to tell stories about our lives on the street and how we had come to be housecats. Of course Rumsfeld was not a housecat but he did live near a house so he was made an honorary member of the group. We meowed and barked the evening away and then like most animals who have finished a large meal, we took a nap. When we awakened it was nearly midnight. "Where is the lawn mower," I meowed. "And can it accomodate a few more cats, Ashley?"
Ashley grinned. "Sure! And you, Henri and Clarence and can ride on the steering wheel! Just hang on tight when I turn the corner! We'll find room for everyone!" And we did!
We rushed to the back yard of the house and beheld the magnificent mower that would be our carriage! One by one, at Ashley's direction we jumped aboard. I wrapped my hind feet around the steering wheel. Clarence did the same. Rumsfeld sat on the front of the mower with Carlyle who had stayed behind when we mounted the staircase but had a quick return of bravery when the cans of tuna had been opened.
Helen, Penelope, Stella, Maxine and Daphne found secure paw holds in Ashley's collar and fur. "Eloise!" barked Ashley. "Turn on the motor!" Quickly, she lifted the hood of the motor, fiddled around a bit with a hairpin and the engine roared into life! We clung tightly to the machine as it lurched into motion. Carefully, Ashley guided the lawn mower out of the backyard and onto the street. "All paws on deck! Full speed ahead!" growled Ashley, her sharp white teeth glowing in the street light.
We raced down the street! Our fur and ears were flattened by the wind! We meowed and shrieked with joy and wonder from the thrill of the ride! Automobiles stopped and pulled aside to let us careen by! We were in command! Humans leaving their respective Halloween parties, turned around and ran back to the houses they had recently left. Yes, we were in command! We were powerful! We were estatic! It was a wonderful, exciting night!
(However, I shall never forgive my roommates, Helen and Stella, or my neighbors, Eloise, Penelope and Daphne for their involvement in the practical joke and I will have to think of something to pay them back. That can wait until I've had my nap.)
We All Had a Wonderful Halloween!
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