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Deal 963: Cats and Pants

That trickster bird will be the death of me yet.

There was beer involved. Perhaps more beer than was reasonable, but it certainly seemed like a good idea at the time. Which might have been the bird’s influence. At least that is what I’d like to think.

Most of the time I’m too much of a gentleman to be tempted by this sort of thing. But this time I was vulnerable. Then the bird showed up and dropped some choice words in my ear. And like a fool, instead of running away from a talking bird, I listened. And then had another beer.

Then somehow it seemed logical to try the karaoke machine. That should have been a clue that there was already too much beer involved. Damn bird again, I suspect.

At some point it became urgent to find some privacy. And that is when the cat got involved. Next thing I knew, my pants were around my ankles, a cat was laughing at me, and I was tipping head first into the oubliette.

I always knew that somehow cats and pants would be my undoing.

I just never knew how. Or that some bird would be egging the cat on the whole time.

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Deal 959: Diamond

It was just a mirror, or so I thought. It wasn’t even a very big mirror, just the sort of thing many people might carry in pocket or purse to check makeup, inspect for a lost eyelash, signal for help, or even just to peek around a corner. Just a mirror, perhaps two inches across.

I don’t recall exactly how I acquired it, but I’m sure there wasn’t any occult significance to the trip to the drug store’s makeup aisle. That is the most likely circumstance. It also could have been left behind by a house guest, or even tucked in a corner of some furniture bought at a sale. The exact origin doesn’t matter, it has been knocking around in my general cosmetic junk for a long time. I think.

My first clue that something might be up was noticing the cats spending more time around the vanity than they used to. Even to the point of ignoring calls to come eat unless persuaded by waving food bowls under their noses. But then, part of the charm of being owned by several cats is working out what this month’s quirky behavior is, and how to work around it. Cats are just, cats.

Except when they aren’t.

Then I noticed there were footsteps in the peanut butter.

No, not cat footprints. More like well-formed human feet, but only about half an inch long. Which seems impossible, as the person leaving that print would stand only about three inches tall.

While cleaning up the peanut butter, I looked around the kitchen for other signs of something off. That’s when I noticed the neat hole torn in a corner of the cracker box. A small flap had been torn open, but neatly folded back and tucked in. This is certainly not the work of the cats, or of any mouse I’ve seen.

Over the next few days, I began to understand why the cats were so fixated. They still watched my vanity, but I was watching everything else. None of us caught anything red handed, but more prints appeared in the peanut butter, an entire sausage got carried off from a cooling pan (ok, that could have been a cat), and more boxes of staple foods were discovered to have been opened in unusual ways.

Finally, one night, I heard a lot of noise coming from the vanity just after I shut off the lights to sleep. Sitting up quickly, I grabbed a flashlight and made my way to where the cats were now clustered around one who had something squirming under its foot.

It was humanoid, even reasonably normally proportioned, about four inches tall. And it was struggling mightily with the cat, who was looking a little like she wanted to take a bite. Between the cat paw centered on its torso and its struggling I couldn’t make out its features, but I could see at least that it was not wearing shoes. It was carrying a weapon, about the size of a toothpick, which it was having little luck stabbing at the cat.

All the cats were growling quietly, and intently focused on the figure. Trusting them to keep it under control, I quickly searched the area on and under the vanity. That is when I spotted the mirror lying open on the floor. There was a smudged trail in the carpet leading from it towards the baseboard. If I looked closely, I could see that there was a trail running all the way around the room. Here and there were lost cracker crumbs, and a quick search even revealed one hand print made in peanut butter.

I settled down on the floor next to the cats and their captive, and wormed her loose from her captor. She might not have worn shoes, but she did have a vest and skirt, in addition to the weapon. That (and the continued exploration and careful raiding of my pantry) seemed to imply she must be intelligent enough not to deserve to be eaten by a cat. She eyed me with evident concern, but also stood her ground which I had to admire given the situation she was in.

I reached for the jar of hard candy that I kept on the vanity, and found a butterscotch still in its wrapper. I offered it to her, and felt like we were making progress when she snatched it from my fingertips. She then turned and started to walk towards the mirror, glancing back over her shoulder as she went.

The cats and I watched in wonder as she walked on to the glass, stood for a moment, then vanished.

My head cat turned and looked back at the others, then at me, and then distinctly muttered “well, now what.” Then she looked up at me as if daring me to admit I’d heard.

After everything that we’d seen, I decided not to call her on her sudden ability to speak English, which suddenly seemed almost normal. “You’ll keep an eye out for more?” I asked her, not really expecting an answer.

“Yes we will.”

“And not eat them?”

“Well….”

“Please come tell me, and don’t eat them until we know what their intentions are.”

“Ok. Please don’t mention that we talked.”

“No, I won’t. Of course, I won’t be believed in any case.”

The cats just nodded, then went back to their vigil. I put a small stack of candies near the mirror, and went back to bed.

In the morning the candies were gone, and the cats were now relaxing in their more usual haunts. A candy wrapper was sitting on my vanity top, held down by what looked like a several carat rough diamond. I smiled. This was going to get interesting.

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Deal 948: It’s a cat’s life

Nine lives. The humans were wrong about so many things, but that detail they got right. The truth is more complicated, but in effect we have nine lives. Of course, most humans never see our first life. That is usually spent elsewhere, and it is the end of the first that allows us entry to this world. Similarly, our last life is usually spent elsewhere as well, either in contemplation of our lives well lived or in teaching our young how to manage our hold on this place.

We’ve guided human history from the shadows, after all.

Nearly all humans are oblivious to our paw lightly touching their affairs. To be fair, we rarely intervene in any case, so there is very little to catch us doing.

Unlike those slobbering sycophantic dogs, we sought changes that benefit our kind, that generally did benefit the humans. And even, I suppose I have to admit, benefitted the dogs as well. By providing pest control, agriculture became practical and humans settled down. By settling down, they build homes with warm hearths for us to sleep near out of the cold and out of the weather. Simple action, small nudges, and lots of comfort gained for several of our lives.

Of course, they also brought their dogs to that fire.

We dangled the carrot of peace and tranquility. And the humans usually took the bait and settled down.

Best of all, small simple changes take little effort on our part. That leaves more time for curling up in sunbeams and less need for plotting world domination.

Naturally we don’t plot world domination. We achieved that ages ago.

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Deal 943: Dreamlands

Arriving in the clearing, we found an idyllic setting, a grassy clearing surrounded by stately trees punctuated by the occasional rose bush. We arrived via a narrow lane between the trees. Opposite our entry was a slightly larger lane, and in the distance just visible over the next rise was a collection of chimney pots that likely was a manor house.

In the center of the clearing stood a massive table set for tea, with more places than currently occupied by guests. And there were guests seated already, making a good effort at consuming the ample spread of finger sandwiches, tea cakes, petit fours, and all the trimmings. I was concerned we were interrupting a private party, when a familiar voice announced “Well there you are at last! We have been expecting you.”

I looked around, but none of the guests seemed to have spoken, and the trees were maintaining their own council as usual.

We approached the table, and surveyed the guests. This was one odd tea party, with a variety of animals and personages seated along one side of the table. There was a large calico cat, a mongoose, an older gentleman, a very large fruit bat, a young girl, and a black sheep. It was the sheep that gestured to the seat beside her and said “Please do join us.”

For a moment I thought I heard the sound of a typewriter somewhere nearby, but then a breeze rustled the trees and it faded away again. That worried me a little. If the typewriter was getting through again, this reality was wearing thin.

I stepped up to the table, and took my place.

“Lovely weather today,” I began. It is important to follow forms in these matters.

“Yes, a perfect day for tea on the grass.” This was the bat, in a voice that was just barely deep enough for me to hear and understand.

The old man and young girl ignored me. I expected as much.

The cat reached for a loaf of bread, and I realized what I was here to find. The serrated knife he picked up to slice with fairly glowed with a lavender aura. The cat deftly speared the slice and tossed it the length of the table onto my plate, then gestured at a crock of butter which promptly hopped up on spindly legs and ran after the slice. It curtseyed to me, and politely held its lid to one side so I could take some butter. I considered my moves while buttering my bread.

As I chewed, I felt the clearing changing around me. Now the table was just the right size, and round. The trees were black ash, and both pathways had vanished. The cat was facing me, and staring intently. The others seemed unaware of the tension, but you could cut it with a knife.

A knife. That was it. I was here for a knife. The cat was good. I almost let it slip my mind as I paid too much attention to the world changing around us. That probably meant that the cat was my opponent in this contest as well, but it could always be an ally.

“I say old chap, could you pass me that bread knife?” It never hurts to try the simple and direct approach.

He gestured at the table between us. “What knife?”

This was going to be harder than I thought. The sounds of the typewriter surged again, and once more the world shifted. Now we were a small party in a diner, seated at the lunch counter. We had coffee cups, and mine smelled particularly good, but no food had been served yet. A case held cakes and pies, and from the activity beyond the small window in the wall, there was a kitchen at hand that could produce nearly anything you’d expect from a diner.

I looked around. The cat was seated a few stools down, in the guise of a woman in a fur coat. The bat was wearing his wings as an overcoat. The old man and young girl were easily picked out. The others seemed to have faded away, perhaps they were just extras all along, even though I was reasonably sure the sheep had spoken to me.

I noticed that the cake server beside the ring of coffee cake was glowing lavender, and before anyone had a chance to change the environment I made a grab for it.

As my fingers closed on the handle, I heard the typewriter loudly, and the scene dissolved.