Thursday, June 12, 2008

LT - an enemy combatant?

When the Daddy got up on Thursday he made coffee and settled down to read at the table. “LT – breakfast!” he called. After he’d read for ten minutes or so he realized that LT hadn’t joined him. That was odd, because LT almost always ate breakfast with him. It had been their special time together for over ten years. He smiled, thinking of Mary Rose. She wasn’t the early riser he was, so even his marriage to her hadn’t interrupted that routine.

After two cups of coffee and toast with marmalade the Daddy was ready to face the day. He checked the living room and stuck his head out the back door, calling for LT. He asked Miss Rudy, lying in the shade at the edge of the woods, “Rudy, where’s LT?” He didn’t really expect an answer but was surprised to see a guilty expression on her face, which disappeared to be replaced by one so innocent he knew she must be up to something. “I wish I knew what you weren’t telling me Rudy Toots.”

Peep started her day slowly, as she felt there was little to no purpose to her life without the Mommy. She stretched on her back in the green chair, hanging her head over the edge of the cushion. She stretched farther and farther and promptly fell off the chair as her center of gravity shifted past the part of the cushion that was actually on the chair. She landed on the floor with an “oomph” followed by the seat cushion. “Well here’s one example of a cat not landing on her feet,” thought Peep, as she wiggled out from under the cushion. She was gratified to see that there was no one watching, as it would have been difficult to act as though the fall had been her intention all along. It was challenging being a cat sometimes, particularly when she needed to convince an audience that she’d purposely did something that was a freak accident, but a cat must appear to be in control at all times.

After making her paw counting scratch for the day she counted them by lining up the scratches with the toes on her paws. Left front paw – done. Right front paw – done. Left hind paw – almost all toes. She’d end up flat on her back with all feet in the air soon to count all these scratches!

Wriggling out of the secret place she heard Rudy come in as the Daddy opened the door. “Rudy, why don’t you use the cat door like LT and I do?” Peep asked.

“Well, you could say that I don’t like the feel of it as it hits my tail, but that’s not it, no matter what the Mommy says,” Rudy replied. “It’s a measure of how important I am that the people open the doors just for me, even when they aren’t going out themselves.”

“Rudy, it’s a measure of how dim the people think you are that they open doors for you,” Peep replied, shaking her head.

Lighting quick, Rudy batted at Peep’s head, claws out. “Hey, no claws! There’s no call for violence, Rudy,” Peep spluttered.

Fixing her with a steely glare, Rudy told Peep, “There is no reason for you to be rude, Peep. Say what you mean, but don’t say it mean.”

“I’m sorry, Miss Rudy, really I am,” Peep said, cowering on the floor. “It just is odd – you could sit for hours at the door when no one is even home.”

“You don’t pay attention very well, Peep,” insisted Rudy. “I only do that when the people are home. Otherwise I do use the door, even if it does mess up my beautiful fur. Why were you looking for me? I hope it wasn’t just to twit me about the cat door….”

Looking bashful, Peep said, “Have you seen LT? I didn’t see him at all yesterday, and he’s not around today either.”

“Oh, is that all?” Rudy said. “I talked to him yesterday about his finally catching the bullfrog, and then he said he was going to see a friend.” Rudy didn’t quite meet Peep’s gaze, but Peep didn’t notice. “Well, things to do, places to go – ta ta for now,” said Rudy and quickly scooted out the cat door.

Meanwhile, LT was somewhere in the wilds of Ocean County. He wasn’t sure exactly where. He’d met lots of cats, but none had been any more specific about where Virginia was than Sissy, who had said to head south. He found himself at a fence with curly spiked wire on the top that stretched as far as he could see in both directions. There was nothing on either side of the fence, and he couldn’t figure out why the people had put it there. Didn’t they know that cats and other animals needed clear access? In order to keep heading south, he’d need to get past the fence. It was tall, and there was no way a cat could grip that type of metal grid on the fence. He didn’t even want to think about the spiky stuff at the top, although he could probably just squeeze through. Walking along, he found an area where some other animal had already made a path under the fence. Good enough, LT thought, and squeezed underneath.

He continued on his southern journey, and encountered a very large paved area. He seemed to be almost at the northern end of it, and it stretched mostly south as far as he could see. He’d seen plenty of streets in his life, but nothing like this. It was wider than anything he’d ever seen, and instead of yellow lines in the middle, there were giant white things painted on it, and there were no cars at all. He’d just crossed a wide dirt and sand area, and he saw another one on the other side. Even though there were no cars, he didn’t feel like walking on the big road. The pavement was hot and burned his already sore paws. He crossed it quickly and headed down the other side towards some trees. Once he entered the trees, he was stopped by a very stern looking cat.

“What’s today’s password, mate?” the other cat asked.

“Password for what?” LT said. “Did I need a password to cross the giant street?” He was getting confused, as well as tired.

“You’re in a restricted area, and if you don’t have the password, you’re not authorized to be here.” The other cat wasn’t being very helpful.

LT sat down, feeling that he needed to act humble to keep from getting in trouble. “My name is LT, and I’m traveling from Jackson to Virginia. I’m heading south, and this was on my way. I didn’t realize that this was a restricted area, and I’m not even sure what a restricted area is. I meant no offense, if I’ve trespassed on your yard.”

The other cat fairly barked at that, which was a surprise, since he was a cat and not a dog. “Not a yard, sir, this is a Naval base. You are on the premises of the Naval Air Engineering Station Lakehurst, and furthermore, you are in the area where they will be testing the secret catapult today.”

“If it’s secret, should you have told me that?” hazarded LT.

“Well, after we interrogate you, you may never leave here. If you have evil intentions, we’ll find out and you will be shipped off to Gitmo, as an enemy combatant.” The other cat was getting aggressive now.

“What’s your name?” asked LT, feeling that if he could refocus the conversation, he might be okay.

“Petty Officer Smoochie to you, civilian,” the other cat said with narrowed eyes, just daring LT to make fun of the name.

“Proud to meet you Officer Smoochie,” said LT. He was relieved to see another cat walking towards them in the trees.

“Ah, Smoochie, have you another visitor for the catapult test?” the new cat asked. “Hi, I’m Boots. Around here, they call me Admiral Boots, but I prefer just plain Boots.”

“Sir, that’s a breach of naval discipline,” PO Smoochie protested.

“Discipline, shmisipline. What cat has ever subjected himself to another’s discipline? Even in the Navy cats don’t take orders,” Boots said with a little snicker. “My pilot always told me that I’d never last a week as an enlisted man. But that’s okay by me. What cat would enlist?”

“Ah, Admiral Boots, I’m not here for the catapult test, whatever that is. I’m on my way to Virginia to find someone.” LT decided that politeness was in order, even if Boots was more informal.

“VIRGINIA? ON FOOT? ARE YOU CRAZY?” Boots yowled this out. “It would take you the rest of your life to walk to Virginia! Well, that is assuming you didn’t get run over by cars or drown in the Delaware or Chesapeake Bay. My person is a pilot and we read a lot of maps. I’ve gotten quite good at it, and I know how far it is to Virginia. Where did you start from?”

“Um, Jackson,” said LT dejectedly.

“Okay. So you’ve traveled less than 20 miles, none of it crossing major highways or watercourses. To get to Virginia, at its closest point is about 120 miles, as the airplane flies. How long did it take to get here, LT?” asked Boots.

“Over a day, sir,” replied LT.

“Well, that’s pretty impressive. But you’d have to cross two large bodies of water that are too big for the people to swim across, and deal with dozens of major highways that make this little runway here look like a garden path.” He pointed at the wide paved road that LT had wondered about.

LT wasn’t sure whether to be depressed or relieved. His paws were so sore and he was so hungry, but his loyalty to the Peep, Miss Rudy and the Mommy had kept him going. He sighed and said, “Well, I guess I’d better be heading home then. I don’t want my friends to think something happened to me. We had no idea how far Virginia was.”

Boots pulled him aside. “I hoped that Smoochie didn’t say anything to scare you, LT. He served in Afghanistan, and came back a little shell shocked.”

“Oh, that explains it,” said LT. “He threatened to imprison me as an enemy combatant. I was a little worried there….”

“So, do you want to stay for the test? It should be exciting – they’re sending something up with the catapult today. It’s noisy, and once it falls down, you can chase with the Navy people to find it.” Boots seemed quite excited to see the test.

“Um, I think I’ll pass on that and head home. I have a long walk ahead of me.” LT didn’t relish that long walk home, but he figured he’d better get started.

With a wave of his tail, he set out across the thing he now knew was called a runway and headed for home.

Petty Officer Smoochie in full kit

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