Friday, February 20, 2009

Mick's on the beat

The house was quiet – everything was secure. Mick had just finished his patrol. As usual he’d started inside – basement to attic (well, to the attic stairs – he couldn’t open the door to the attic). No one had been in the basement in days, except Mater, who’d done a few loads of laundry. There was no evidence of mice, or even a spider down there. Next he’d walked the ground floor – all doors secure, windows closed and no signs of intruders. Mick had paused before going upstairs, thinking he’d heard a noise, but it was just a blue jay outside in a tree. He hated that blue jay, but as long as he didn’t mess with the house or Mick’s people, Mick would leave him alone. Upstairs was clear too, although it was difficult to tell in the room that Pater called his office. It was always full of so many papers and books that almost anything could be hiding. Mick had pushed books aside and clawed at some suspicious papers, just in case anything dangerous was hiding underneath.

After he’d finished the inside of the house, Mick had slipped quietly through the cat door, after first checking to see that no one was right outside waiting to ambush him. The deck was empty, as was the driveway. The blue jay laughed at him from the tree, but Mick ignored him. “Look – the cat who thinks he’s Secret Service! Mick – you’re people are nice, but they’re not the first family. Lighten up.” The blue jay swooped down over Mick’s head as he said this, knowing that Mick wouldn’t try to catch him.

“What do you understand about security, Blueface? Your mate makes her nest in a tree where anyone could take your eggs, and you don’t even bother to stay around all the time when she’s brooding. I take my job seriously. My people will be safe if I can help it.” Mick stalked off and completed his perimeter check. A few dogs had visited the street edge of the lawn, but none were currently on the property. Satisfied of the property’s safety, Mick settled down on his window seat for a nap. This perch was perfect. Any car coming in the driveway would wake him up, and he had a view of anyone coming up to the front door.

The next thing Mick heard was the back door opening. “Drat,” he thought. He’d slept through the car coming in. He wasn’t supposed to do that. Maybe his hearing was going? He was eight years old – he couldn’t be expected to have the senses of a kitten forever. He stretched, working the kinks out of his back and yawned hugely before jumping down to greet his family.

“Mick – come here, sweetie!” That was the Mater. She never really understood his personality. She called him things like sweetie and kitty. After living with him for eight years she should know that he was all business. Even as a kitten he’d been fiercely protective. He wouldn’t play with fuzzy miniature tennis balls and had never touched catnip. He couldn’t afford to have his senses dulled, even for a minute. Mick walked over to her, projecting an aura of dignity. She bent down and ruffled his fur and tickled his ears. “Did you miss us? We brought you kitty treats – because you’re such a good little kitty cat.” Mick gazed skyward and sighed. He loved being petted, but wished that someone would take him seriously.

The Pater came in the door and closed it with a bang. “These are the last of the bags, honey. Did you put away the frozen food?”

“I was giving our Mickie a bit of loving. I’ll take care of them now. What should we do with the lobsters? We won’t need them for a couple hours, and personally, I’d like a nap. I stayed up way too late last night reading.” Mater gave Mick a last scratch between the ears and began pulling food out of the cloth bags.

“Hmmm. A nap sounds like a good idea. Why don’t you put the lobsters in that big bowl and spritz them. They’ll be fine for a few hours until we’re ready to cook them.” Pater opened the refrigerator and stowed the fresh vegetables in the crisper drawers, and then moved on to fit the canned and boxed goods carefully into the cabinets. They had a good sized kitchen, but liked to keep both a good variety of food on hand as well as a sufficient supply. Maine weather might snow them in for a few days, and they wanted not only to be able to eat, if it came to that, but eat well.

Mick watched them finish putting away the groceries and stow the bags in the top of the closet. He approved of their use of cloth shopping bags – less opportunity to bring home cockroaches. Who knew what vermin could lurk in paper bags, and plastic bags were just plain irresponsible in a state with so much shoreline.

Mick returned to his perch and was about to doze off when he heard a noise. His head whipped around to see one of the lobsters climbing out of the bowl on the counter. The bowl, although beautiful, was very shallow, and obviously no obstacle to a lobster, even one with banded claws. The second lobster followed within seconds, and they began their labored way across the counter.

What to do? Mick had never dealt with a lobster before. He’d seen their wicked sharp claws and had a lot of respect for them. These were banded, though. He could at least keep them from knocking the cooking utensils off the counter.

Before he could jump up to them, the first lobster reached the edge of the counter and fell off head first. He looked a bit stunned, and Mick went up close. “Are you okay?” What was he doing, talking to a lobster? Did lobsters even talk? He rationalized it to himself that if he’d just fallen off the counter, he’d want someone to ask after his welfare. As Mick waited to see if the lobster would say anything, the second lobster fell right on top of him. That may have been good for the lobster, but it scared the wits out of Mick.

Smelling vaguely fishy and with an aching head, Mick scooted under the little table in the breakfast nook to watch the lobsters in safety. The second lobster was obviously unhurt and scuttled away from the kitchen cabinet. He watched for a few minutes, until it became evident that both lobsters were going to try to escape. Mick couldn’t allow that. They were Mater and Pater’s dinner, and therefore it was his job to keep them from leaving.

He stalked out from under the table, and blocked the path of one lobster. It didn’t even seem to notice, and ran right into his leg, before changing course and scuttling directly under Mick’s belly. That would not acceptable to Mick. They might have banded claws, but he wasn’t exposing his belly to these things. He jumped back and then swatted the lobster.

The lobster shot across the floor – obviously the lobster’s exoskeleton had no traction against a polished floor. As the second lobster heading off, Mick ran up and gave that one an even bigger swat. It sailed across the kitchen, hitting the bottom of the cabinets. “Ooh – this is fun,” Mick thought. “Lobster hockey!” He settled back to see what the lobsters would do next. Both looked a bit stunned – well actually they didn’t. They just looked like lobsters, but they weren’t doing anything at the moment, so he inferred that they were stunned.

Mick spent the next two hours playing intermittent lobster hockey. Whenever one moved away from the counter, he let it get almost all the way across the kitchen and then swatted it back to the counter. He decided he’d perfected his shot when a lobster banked off one cabinet into another before skidding to a halt. Finally both lobsters gave up and just sat on the floor in front of him, waving a claw occasionally. Mick sat down and waited. He wasn’t going to drop his guard.

A laugh from the doorway caught Mick by surprise. Pater was holding onto the doorframe with one hand and his stomach with the other. “Honey, you have to come see this!”

A moment later Mater joined him and also burst out laughing. Mick wasn’t sure if he should be offended or not. He’d rescued dinner and they were laughing at him? This was no laughing matter. Well, maybe it had been when he was batting them around the kitchen, but not now. Mater walked in and picked him up. “Mick you are such a good cat. Thank you for keeping our dinner from heading out the cat door, down Rt. 15 and back into the ocean.”

“You’re assuming that he didn’t pull them out of the bowl himself, aren’t you?” Pater didn’t seem so sure that Mick was the hero of this tale.

“I knew that bowl was shallow and they might get out, but I knew that our watchcat would be on duty. Nothing bad can happen when Mighty Mick is on the job.” She buried her face in his fur and nuzzled him.

Mick looked up and said, “All in a day’s work, ma’am.” Of course, all Mater heard was “Meow,” but Mick knew that she understood.

Image courtesy of Joanne Lavoie, Bangor Maine -

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