Sunday, May 22, 2016

Stairs and Edible Informants

     The stairs were an intimidating obstacle. There were a few steps off of the porch, but those were nothing compared to the flight which stood before me.
Schnapps and Magic sat on the landing, while the MaMA sat on one of the lower steps, instructing me on the mechanics of climbing. 
     "You place your front paws on this step," she said pointing to the second step. "And hop up with your back end onto the one below."
     I pawed at the lower step, whined and sat back down. It seemed like an impossible feat. I didn't think I could stretch far enough to get to the second step, and then do what with my back end? 
     "Or, you can start on the bottom step and walk up. Here, watch me." The MaMA got on her hands and knees and with alternating movements, climbed a few steps.
"I prefer de stretch-hop system, myself," Schnapps said. "It's quicker." 
"But if you want to be more inconspicuous, use the alternating step maneuver," said Magic.
I placed my front paws on the bottom step. Everyone watched with anticipation. My mind was in the right place but my paws didn’t get the message. I reached out to the second step but waved my foot in the air, not connecting to the next step. Why was this so hard? 
     "I don't get it." I whined.
     "Whatever, I've got more exciting things to do, like watch a spider spin a web." Magic said. He stood, and went up the stairs without a sound. It was if he had sprouted wings and flew, without his feet ever touching a step.
     "C'mon Fritter. You can do it," the MaMA cheered me on. 
    I furrowed my brow and concentrated on the step. I scootched my back legs underneath me then stretched up to the second stair with my front paws. It was a long reach, but I made it. I looked to my back end, summoned up the gumption and hopped up to the lower step. 
     I looked at the MaMA, then Schnapps.
     "Yes, yes! Little von. You are doing it," said Schnapps.
     "Keep going," MaMA encouraged.
     So I stretched again, then hopped, stretch, hop, and soon I was on the landing with Schnapps. The MaMA gave a whoop of delight. Her excited approval warmed a spot in my chest and radiated from my nose to the tip of my wagging tail. It was such a delicious feeling, I looked up the second set of steps, ready to give it another go. This time, I thought, I would try Magic's way. But first, I had to figure out the logistics. Left front paw, back right paw, front right paw, back left paw. It was just like walking, I just had to pick my feet up more, so as to not trip. The whole process clicked, and suddenly I wondered what the big deal was.
     Once I got myself coordinated, I whipped up the stairs with ease. I looked back down on MaMA and Schnapps, who watched in wide eyed surprise.
     "I think she’s got the idea," the MaMA said to Schnapps. "Now all she needs to learn is to go down the stairs."
     I flinched at the idea. I gazed down the stairs and suddenly the room began to sway. I sat down to steady my wobbly legs.
      "But we’ll think about that later," the MaMA said with a smile. "Who wants breakfast?"
     "I do," I woofed. Ever since I had that delicious meal yesterday, I longed for breakfast time to come around again, and I could relish in that decadent gravy.
     Once the bowl of scrumptious morsels was placed before me, I vowed to relish every biteful. But what seemed like only a few moments later, my bowl somehow had been licked clean. Schnapps was still eating, and I wondered if she got a larger portion than me. 
     "Schnapps," I said in a sweet voice, "are you enjoying your meal?"
     "Yes, very much so," she smacked.
     "Are you going to finish it all?"
     She glared at me, and started to growl. "Step away, little von." 
     "Well, the thing is, I finished my breakfast already and I noticed you are still eating. I think the MaMA perhaps accidentally gave you more."
     "No," Schnapps said not lifting her gravy coated snout from the bowl. "You just eat like a little piggy." She shifted her body and blocked my view from her bowl.
     I moved to the other side and laid down in front of her. I placed my head on my front paws and sucked in my cheeks to make it seem like I was thinner than I actually was. She ignored my dramatic attempt and kept eating.
     "I'm a growing pup, I need to have more breakfast," I said with wide eyes full of all the emotion I could muster, and reached out to her bowl with my front paws. I caught the edge with one of my claws and pulled the bowl towards my direction.
     "Stop it, Fritter," Schnapps barked.
     I cringed. She rarely called me by my name, so it took me off guard. 
     "Why don't you bother de cat," she suggested.
     Reluctantly, I got up and padded into the laundry room, which was located just off of the kitchen. It was where the cat ate, high up on the washing machine. His food smelled like fish and chicken, along with some minty herb I couldn't place. I stopped in the doorway when I heard a squeaky little voice, similar to the one I heard cry for help the night before.
     "Please, let me go. I've told you all I know." The voice pleaded.
     "I think you are lying," Magic said in a low growl.
     "It's the truth, I tells ya. I don't know nuthin’. Ya gotta believe me.”
     "Then what's the use keeping you around, you are useless to me except to serve as my breakfast," Magic said.
     I wondered who was serving him breakfast, if it wasn't the MaMA, and if it was to be served with gravy. 
     The little voice started to plead and shout again, but then it was muffled. I stood on my hind legs and tried to peek over the edge of the washer, but Magic had his back turned towards me.
     "What'cha doin’,” I asked, trying to sound as casual as possible. Magic whipped his head in my direction, his eyes wide with surprise. His cheeks bulged out and out of his mouth hung a long tail and a tiny foot.
     "Noffin’,” he said.
     "Doesn't look like nothing," I said doubtfully. "It looks like a tail and a foot. Who were you talking to?"
     Magic sucked the tail and foot into his mouth, chewed awhile, then swallowed big.
     "I was interrogating a suspect," he said with a sinister grin. 
     "Who were you interrogating,” I asked sniffing the edge of the washer. I caught a slight scent of corn, grain, mixed with fear. "And where is he now?"
     "I don't know what you are talking about," he said licking his paws.
     “I heard someone with you. And you just said..."
     "I have no recollection of any mention of anything," he said and jumped down from the washer. "I was just having my breakfast. You must have imagined it."
     "I know what I heard," I said following him out of the washroom, however when I turned the corner, he was gone. Schnapps was at the front door waiting for me, so I joined her, and we were let out for our morning rounds.
     "I think the cat just ate somebody," I told Schnapps once we were outside. I didn't want to alarm the MaMA, but I wanted to warn Schnapps of what Magic was capable. He had already threatened to eat Sunshine, where would he stop? 
     "What did Magic do," Schnapps asked.
     "Do you remember when I heard that voice last night? The one crying for help?" Schnapps nodded and I continued. "Well, I heard one very similar coming from the top of the washer where Magic was sitting. The voice was saying that he had no information, and then that's when Magic ate him. I saw his tail and foot coming out of Magic's mouth!"
     "A little squeaky voice?" Schnapps didn't seem too concerned about the horrific act I had just witnessed.
     "Yeah, a teeny, tiny, desperate voice," I said with a nod. 
     "Oh, dat is nothing." Schnapps said, and continued up the hill. 
     "Nothing? Eating someone alive is nothing?" I gaped at her non-chalant attitude of this sickening situation.
     Schnapps turned around and shrugged her shoulders. "Yup."
     "But who was it? And why did Magic have to eat him."
     "Listen, Magic is a shady character, but he is a cat. Cats catch and eat mice. Vat you heard was a mouse, probably trying to exchange information for his life. Dat’s vat dey do."
     "A mouse? They are informants?"
     Schnapps nodded. “Dey are very small, and can get into places most animals can't. Dat is why they make good spies. Unfortunately, dey have very small brains, and dey can't retain a lot of information, or remember it ven dey are interrogated."
     "Then why would we want to capture them if they are pretty useless?"
     "Every once in a while, you get lucky," Schnapps turned back to the trail and I walked beside her. "But most of de time you just get a light snack."
     "You eat them too?" I recoiled from her side.
     "Yes, dey are quite tasty."
     I stopped walking. I needed a moment to collect my thoughts.
     This assignment I had been chosen for was becoming complicated. My partner and nemesis both ate mice. Would they expect me to do the same? Could I? How strange the ways of the wild prairie were. Drill Sargent never talked about eating informants. I wondered if she ever had, or if there were even mice back at PUP Camp.
     I continued my trek along the trail and caught up with Schnapps on top of the hill. Sammy was there, along with another dog. He looked like the same breed as Sammy, medium sized with long fur, except his was tan and white. As I came closer, I noticed small brown spots speckled his face. Freckles. 
     "Hello, there little missy," he said to me as I approached the fence line. His voice was as smooth as gravy, and his eyes like two bowls of gravy. Okay, maybe I did have a slight addiction to gravy. "You must be the new partner I've heard so much about." 
     "And I guess you’re Freckles," I said motioning to his face.
     He gave a slight grin and chuckled. "I s’pose that's purdy obvious, huh? You’re ‘bout as smart as you are cute."
     My heart skipped a beat, and a rush of heat filled my cheeks. I began to giggle at his compliment, but then I remembered what Schnapps said about him; that he was a flatterer and I cleared my mind and my throat.
     "Thank you, citizen,” I said and puffed out my chest in an official way. Schnapps raised an eyebrow at me then turned to Sammy. 
     "Like I was saying," Sammy rolled her eyes and continued their conversation. I tried to concentrate on her, but could sense Freckles intent gaze. Every time I glanced over, he would give me a wink and a sly smile. I turned my head away from him and focused on Sammy and Schnapps conversation. 
     "There's rumor of a deer carcass back behind our house. The Sweater wants us to bring back the haul when the rancher goes out to check the fences. Do you want in?"
     "You know ve can't," Schnapps said.
     "Are you sure? It could mean a lot of bones," Sammy said.
     "Lil' Fritter, d’ya want to come? You can sit by me in the back of the truck."
     I'm glad I had brown fur, because my skin burned hot with a sudden flush of shyness. 
     "No, thank you. I'm not allowed to go past the perimeter," I said, just giving him the briefest of glances before sticking my nose back into the air.
     "Aw, don't be like that. We can be good friends, you and I," He said, not quite begging, but fishing for a reaction out of me.
     "She said no," Schnapps said with a snap. “Ve haf our duties, and our human to protect. Ve can't go galavanting into de field for a few bones."
     "It could be a lot of bones," Sammy insisted.
     "Of which, De Sweater would take de biggest cut." Schnapps turned and continued down the trail.      "Thanks for the offer, but ve vill be happy wit vat our human gives us."
Sammy shrugged then turned back to her house. I started to follow Schnapps when Freckles called out.
     "Goodbye, Sweet Fritter."
     I didn't look back, and continued down the path. Even though I wouldn’t mind gazing into his gravy colored eyes forever. Duty first, I told myself, a Puggle is loyal and brave.
Schnapps stormed down the hill and past the shed. She didn't even go to check out the ropes, so I knew she was miffed. Whether it was because she was going to miss out on a huge score or because she was offended that they would include a high ranking official like herself on a heist, I couldn't tell which. In one way, Schnapps was brave and committed to her job. But, on the other paw, I just found out she would look the other way while Magic would interrogate then dispose of an informant, and that she was known to do the same. And enjoy it!
     She was muttering under her breath and I decided to give her some space. Instead of following her around the back of the outbuilding, I went around the front. No need for both of us to look at the back of the building.
     I investigated the front side, my nose to the ground, when I caught a mousy scent. I traced the scent and found myself looking at four sets of paws. Two grey, one orange, and one mottled with an extra toe on the right foot. I looked up and jumped back from four kittens laughing at me.
     "Oh, sorry. I didn't mean to..." 
     "Take a whiff of our feet?" The larger of the grey kitties said. "Yeah, what's the deal, toe sniffer?" The Tortie-tabby female teased.
     "I said I'm sorry, I was tracking down a mouse," I said after regaining my composure. 
     "Why are you looking for a mouse," The large grey one asked circling around me. "They ain't good for nothing but eating." 
     "Yeah," The tortie-tabby said, circling the opposite direction. "And by the looks of it, you don't need an extra meal." 
     "Toe, toe, she sniffed my toe. No, no, I told her no," sang the small grey cat.
     "Bublé, stop that infernal singing" the large one said. 
     "Bublé? That would make you Mac and Stella," I said to them, then looked at the orange kitty, "And you must be Horatio." 
     "Yeah, and what of it," asked Mac. 
     "You think knowing our names makes you smart," taunted Stella. 
     "She was smart for a dog, though she was as big as a log," sang Bublé.
     "Bublé! Stop it!" Stella and Mac shouted in unison. Horatio didn't join in on the taunting, but looked on with a bored expression. 
     "Leave Fritter alone," Horatio said with a yawn. 
     "Oooo," teased Mac and Stella, turning their attention on him. "Someone's got a girlfriend."
     Horatio didn't react, only licked his paw and rubbed his face. They refocused on me. 
     "Whaddya think you are doing sniffing around our parts, dog," Mac demanded. 
     "Don't you know the rules," asked Stella. "You are not allowed on our turf."
     "Technically, I am not on your turf. I'm allowed to go around the building, but not in the Wood Pile, and as you can see, I am far from being inside your turf." 
     "She's got a smart mouth on her, Mac," Stella hissed. "Teach her she can't talk to us like that."
     "Yeah, dog," Mac held up his paw, claws drawn. "I should scratch your eyes out for being such a smart dog. That'd teach you." 
     I stood my ground, raised my ruff and growled, "You couldn't even if you tried."
     "Stop it right dere,” Schnapps shouted, charging towards us at full tilt. 
     The young cats scattered as Schnapps sounded the alarm. I barked along with her as we chased the kitties back into the wood pile.
     "Good vork," Schnapps said. "Don't let dose katzen boss you around." 

     "I now understand what you were saying about them being a bunch of hoodlums," I said as we continued our patrol. I looked back at the wood pile and saw the kitties peering out at us from between the logs. Mac and Stella walked away laughing with Bublé following them. Only Horatio came out from the logs and watched us as we walked away. 

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