Sunday, August 9, 2015

Short Story Hour: Pickles and the Masked Marauder

Welcome to another Pickles adventure! If you want to read previous Pickles stories, click HERE.

Something was up. Pickles didn't know what but there had been a flurry of activity around the house in the last few days. She watched most of if from one of two perches: the back of the couch and the top level of her box fort. This morning, her human rolled out the box on wheels from the hall closet and laid it on her bed. Stacks of clothes were being amassed. Pickles had been shooed out of the laundry basket twice (so warm) and was now watching the activity suspiciously from the couch. She could see into her human's bedroom from where she sat.

"She knows. Look at her watching me pack." Amelia glanced at the cat as she folded and packed her suitcases.

"Pickles is naturally curious and suspicious. I think those are her finest cat traits." Danny was sitting on the other end of the couch, watching the end of a baseball game. "You travel for work so it's not like she's being left for the first time."

"True but normally you or Natalie come here to watch her. She never goes anywhere so it's not as upsetting." Amelia was looking forward to their two week road trip but was feeling guilty about leaving Pickles behind.

"She will be fine. Your parents will spoil her rotten. I read somewhere that cats don't have any concept of time so she probably won't realize how long we've been gone." The cat had moved from her perch to Danny's lap and was staring at him.

"Right. Pickles never forgets. Anything."

The next day
The car was packed and ready to go. The only thing left to do was put Pickles in her carrier and drop her off at her "grandparents'" house. Amelia's parents were looking forward to two weeks of cat-sitting. From what Amelia could gather, they had purchased a cat jungle, toys, and treats. Amelia's dad told her he planned to buy the cat's affection. He was prepared to hand feed her treats if it came down to that. It wasn't that Pickles didn't like other people; it's just that she liked Amelia (and to a lesser extent, Danny) so much more.

Amelia waited until the last possible second to get out the cat carrier. She couldn't decide which part Pickles hated more: the carrier or the car ride. Hopefully, today's trip would consist of minimal meowing and sad cat noises.

"Pickles!" Amelia called out to the cat. Pickles had been hiding all morning.

Pickles was under the bed. This was the second best hiding place in the apartment (the best was in the closet among her human's shoes). She watched her humans walk around the bedroom looking for her. She heard her name but chose to ignore it. If she could stay hidden she wouldn't have to face her nemeses: the carrier and the car. No matter what she did, they always won. Pickles backed further under the bed. She thought, "If my human can't get to me, I won't have to go. I'm a genius."

A pair of shoes stopped in front of Pickles line of sight. They were not her human's shoes but the new human's, the one that was around all the time now. Pickles liked him; they had similar napping habits. She was fairly certain that she had been discovered. Her choices were to move further back or to make a run for it. She moved further back.

Danny crouched down and saw Pickles in the exact center of the space under the bed, just out of arm's reach. "She's under the bed." Amelia joined him to assess the situation.

"Of course she's in the exact place where we can't reach her."

Amelia was used to this. Pickles did it every time she had to go to the vet. "I've got this. I can fit under the bed just enough to get her to move towards us. Be ready to grab her when she bolts." Amelia laid down on the ground and shimmied her way to just under the bed. She could just pet Pickles and that little movement forced the cat to move. Pickles moved quickly but Danny was ready. He scooped her up and held her. Amelia got out from under the bed and took the cat from him. "You're no match for two of us, Pickles." Pickles meowed and tried to wiggle out of her human's arms.

"Sorry little one. Into the carrier you go." Amelia closed the carrier door and tried to soothe the howling cat. "You're fine. Nothing bad is going to happen to you."

Nemesis: 1, Pickles: 0

A few days later
Pickles sat in the doorway still as a statue. The house was nighttime quiet; the click of the AC was the only noise this time of night. Daytime was for napping and snacks; nighttime was for doing cat things. This mostly translated to night patrol duty, trying to get into closets, and knocking things off shelves. The challenge for Pickles was the sheer size of the house; compared to her human's house, this place was a mansion. There were so many rooms to explore and items to knock over. She couldn't let the other humans see her work. That wasn't the cat way.

She glanced left and right down the hall and saw that the coast was clear. It was finally her time to do a thorough patrol of the house. Pickles couldn't believe the amount of windows this place had. There were even some so high up the walls that she'd never be able to look out of them. Her night patrol duties started in the kitchen; she jumped on the counter, looked out the window over the sink, checked the top of the refrigerator, and ended by looking out at the backyard through the patio doors. It was as it should be until she go to the patio doors. Something was out there. Pickles approached the doors cautiously, not wanting to startle her "prey" with her movements (sometimes Pickles jumped in cat ninja mode while on night patrol). She was as close to the glass as she could be, her front paws rested on the edge of the door. Her eyes focused on the intruder. She had never seen anything like it before.

The intruder was at least twice as big as Pickles and taller. He (she assumed it was a he) was playing with the bird feeders on the patio. Several plants were overturned; Pickles suspected this creature was responsible for that too. He turned towards Pickles and she saw black ringed eyes and paws that were very unlike hers. The two animals stared at each other. Neither moved nor made any sounds. Pickles puffed herself up, thinking she looked intimidating (she did not). The intruder made a little noise and Pickles responded with a growl she typically reserved for spiders and the vet. Her growl didn't seem to phase him one bit. He walked closer to the window and tapped on the glass. Pickles growled again and meowed loudly. She swatted at the glass to make him go away. The intruder made a final noise, grabbed a handful of seeds, and made his way off of the patio.

Pickles paced in front of the door. Her mission was clear: she had to protect the house from whatever that was. Her human had left her here for a reason; Pickles understood this now. She settled in for a long night staring out into the dark and protecting her new humans from the menacing evil that lived in the backyard.

The day before Amelia's return
Amelia's parents, Barbara and Jim, enjoyed having their daughter's cat stay with them. Amelia and Danny checked in occasionally from their road trip and Barbara assured them that Pickles was just fine.

"She seems incredibly interested in the backyard. Every morning we find her sitting right in front of the back door as if she's been there all night. She looks like she's on a mission." Barbara told her daughter in their last phone call.

"Pickles likes to patrol. Maybe she's watching out for all those birds and squirrels you seem to attract." Amelia's parents had multiple bird feeders, a bird bath, and left out food for the squirrels. She was surprised they didn't attract other woodland creatures.

"Than must be it. Your dad thinks we have a raccoon. Maybe she's keeping an eye out for him."

Barbara and Jim were up earlier than normal this morning. They had a full day of errands to run and wanted to get them out of the way. Jim was in the kitchen first and heard a growling noise as he walked into the room. His first thought was that something was outside. Instead he saw Pickles, standing on her back legs, all puffed up, and making the awful sound he heard. He looked out onto the patio and there it was, a raccoon. The raccoon was right up near the glass and would tap on it and make a sound. This made Pickles growl more and swat at the glass. Jim wanted to get a better look at what was happening but ended up bumping into a chair instead. The noise startled the two animals; the raccoon ran off across the yard and Pickles meowed at him.

"So it is a raccoon! You've been trying to tell us we have an intruder. Good work, Pickles. I'll have to figure out how to keep the raccoon off the patio and away from the tomatoes. Let's get you some breakfast." Pickles flumped down and Jim rubbed her belly. She had done her best to protect these humans from the creature. She was a hero. She was also tired; patrolling was exhausting. She hoped her favorite sun patch would be back today; right on the stairs, right in the way of everyone.

Back at home
The car ride home was uneventful. Pickles got into her carrier with no hiding or protesting and hadn't meowed once. She was tuckered out and ready to be home.

"I think two weeks with my parents wore her out. I didn't think that was actually possible." Amelia let Pickles out into the familiar surroundings of the apartment. She and Danny went to unpack the car.

Pickles stretched and sat for a moment, considering her domain. She was much happier with the smaller space and fewer windows. Her adventures with her masked adversary had been fun but she felt as if she had accomplished nothing. He was still out there somewhere, stealing bird food and making messes. They would meet again some day and Pickles would be ready.

Until that time, she would keep up her patrol duties and hone her cat ninja skills. A cat could never be too prepared. But first, another nap. All heroes needed their rest.

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