Sunday, May 8, 2016

The Extra Toe That Will Rule Them All

     "So what's the deal with Baylor," I said after our afternoon nap. "He kept mentioning Cubby, is that his human?”
     Schnapps was sitting on top of the back of the couch, where she could see out of the window. Precariously perched on the narrow ledge, she gave me a measured look, as though she was wondering how much she wanted to tell me. 
     "Look, whether you like it or not, I am your partner, and I'm going to have to find out about who these animals are sooner or later," I said, finding a bit of boldness I didn't know I had in me.
     "Baylor is part of de Dawg Gang," Schnapps said with a resigned sigh. "He's just a mindless minion, try as he might, he just can never complete a task."
     "Cubby is the leader of the Dawg gang, then?"
     Something caught her attention out the window and her body tensed up, but apparently the threat had passed and she relaxed. She continued to talk, but continued her watch out the window.
     "Cubby is second in command. He's a blowhard, his bark is worse dan his bite, as dey say. But he's good at intimidating everyone around him. He's de brains and Baylor is de muscle." Schnapps slid down from her post and settled on the couch cushion. “Dere leader is a toy poodle by the name of Pierre DeLaCroix. Or as he is known around de neighborhood, ‘De Sweater.’” She gave me a warning look, "But never call him dat to his face."
     "The Sweater? He doesn't sound so scary," I said with a dismissive snort.
     "Don't underestimate him. He may be small in stature, but he's de leader for a reason. Never make him mad, and never make fun of his sweaters."
     I still had a hard time believing that a teeny poodle could rule a powerful syndicate. But I had to trust Schnapps. Besides, she was a small dog, and she stood up to Baylor for crumbs sakes.
     "So is that dog on the hill, the one you were talking to earlier, is she part of the Dawg gang?"
Schnapps scratched her ear with her good back leg. "Vell, dat is where it get's complicated. Her name is Sammy. She's a ranch dog."
     I gasped. "You mean..."
     "Yes, she belongs to dat crazy old rancher behind us. So does Chuck, de horse."
     "So where does Sammy fall in the Sweater's orginization?"
     "Sammy is a double agent, she takes a passive role in the gang. She doesn't participate in any hits or scores, but she stays close to pick up intel. She lives with another ranch dog, Freckles, who is part of the gang. He's de face-man, and someone to be wary of. He is a smooth one, and vill talk de collar right off of you." 
     "Good thing I don't have one," I said.
     "Not yet, little von," Schnapps said with an approving look. "But I have no doubt if you keep preforming at dis level, you'll get your tags soon enough."
My heart swelled hearing her positive assessment. But I soon was crestfallen with the thought that my training wouldn't get any easier.
     "Now, what about the cats?" 
     "CATS," screeched Sunshine behind me. He had been so quiet all day, I forgot he was around. "What cats?" 
     "Settle down, bird brain," Schnapps growled. "Fritter is asking about de Wood Pile katzen.”
     "I don't want any cats in here, isn't it bad enough that Magic is here?” Sunshine slid off of his perch and down to the lower level in his cage. He paced back and forth. "He doesn't belong in the house!" he squawked.
     "He has just about as much right to be here as any of us," Schnapps said with a yawn. Apparently this was a conversation they had many times before. "Besides, without him, we would never have struck an agreement wit de feral katzen. And let us not forget, he has kept you safe…so far.“
     "But for what reason?" Sunshine flapped his wings in his frustration, sending a cloud of feathers, emptied seed shells and dust into the air. "I don't trust him, I never have. He just showed up in the middle of the night, looking all starved and injured. How do we know that the B.O.C. didn't do that to him and send him over. He could be a sleeper spy. He certainly sleeps enough."
     "Settle down, bird," Schnapps barked. “Dat is enough out of you."
     "I don't trust him,” the bird continued. “Have you seen the way he looks at me? He's no good, I tell you! He's just waiting to put an end to me."
Schnapps jumped off the couch and charged at the cage. "I'll put an end to you right now if you don't keep dat beak shut."
     "And what makes you think, I would want to eat a gossiping little squab like you," A satiny voice came from the shadows. 
     "Squab? You dare call me a squab," Sunshine said as he ruffled his feathers and peered into the darkness. "I am a pretty bird, you could feed off of me for weeks, if you were so lucky."

     Magic emerged from out of the dark corner and jumped up on the hearth. He pressed his face against the cage and glared at Sunshine. "Shall we find out," he said and raised his paw, his claws extended.
Sunshine cowered in the furthest corner of his cage, peeping unintelligible words.
     "That's enough out of you two," the MaMA said from behind us. All of the racket must have interrupted whatever she was doing in the kitchen. "Magic, get down from there! Leave the bird alone." 

     Magic retracted his claws and pulled away. "Fine," he said as he jumped down from the hearth. "He's probably stringy."
     The MaMA returned to the kitchen.
     Magic turned his attention to me. His glowing green eyes sparkled in the fire light. "So you want to know about the Wood Pile, huh?" 
     I sat up straight and looked at him straight in the eyes, not wanting to let him know how intimidating he actually was.
     "Yes, I want to know all that you have on the Wood Pile Kitties," I demanded. 
Magic kept staring at me, a slight smirk on his face revealed his pearl white fangs. "Okay little dog, I'll tell you."
     Schnapps gave me a wary look, but then seemed to be resigned to my curiosity. I did have to learn sometime, better have it come right out of the cat's mouth. 
     "Lay it on me," I sat in front of the fire and gave him my full attention.
     "Where shall I start, hmm?" He moved closer to where I was, and laid down on the hearth. His body stretched almost the whole length as the end of his tail flipped up and down as he thought. I waited patiently as he gathered his mental notes, or perhaps he was fabricating lies to feed me, I couldn't tell. His face was a blank slate, giving not a hint of emotion, except perhaps contempt. 
     "Why don't we start at the top," I suggested. "The B.O.C.?" 
     "Ha," Magic exclaimed. "The less you know about him, the better. But let's start out with the proprietresses if The Wood Pile itself, huh?"
     "Yes, I met Meowjolina today," I said. 
     "Ah, Meowjolina, she's a beauty," Magic said with an amorous sigh. 
     "She's a shameless crumpet," Schnapps grumbled under her breath.
Magic glared at her, but must have known he wouldn't scare her, and quickly turned his attention back to me. 
     "The Wood Pile has been an institution in Cedar Village for a long time, before I arrived, even before old sauerkraut over there."
     Schnapps gave a dismissive snort and retreated back to the couch. 
     "How many generations does it go back," I asked. 
     "Who knows," Magic rolled his eyes. “Currently this family of patched tabby-tories have control of the operations. Their Matriarch is Mrs. Meowbinson. She has two daughters that help run the place, the lovely Meowjolina, and her feisty sister, Meow Ferral. They are a very distinctive group." 
     "What do you mean by distinctive? Is that the same as the dastinkter," I asked.
Magic quickly cast a questioning glance at Schnapps, then refocused on me. "No, I mean you can tell who is in line to take over the Wood Pile. Only a female in the family can run the club, and only one who has the special marking." 
     I thought about Meowjolina and her patchwork of colors. "What's the special marking?"
     "The next in line has an extra toe on their front right paw. Only a few of the Meowbinson line have the extra toe, thus they will inherit the Wood Pile club and all the responsibilities that go with it." Magic stood and arched his back to stretch. He got down from the hearth and jumped up onto the near by window sill, then looked out the frosty glass into the darkness. "The system was going well, until..." his voice trailed off as he stared off into the distance. 
     "Until what," I asked, and moved under the window where he sat. "Until old Mrs. Meowbinson had a pair of twins, both with the extra toe."
     "Meowjolina and Meow Ferral both have the marking,” I exclaimed. 
     "Yes, so there is a constant debate about who will take over when the old lady decides to step down," Magic said. He turned his head to look at me. Backlit by the outside light coming through the window, I could only see his silhouette, and the glowing of the fire reflected in his eyes. I shivered at the sight, but couldn't tell if it was him or the fact that I was away from warmth of the fire. 
     "Does that cause fighting between the sisters?” I remembered the other day when I thought Number One was after my position, and the heated jealousy I felt. How I wanted to do everything in my power to prevent her from reaching the MaMA before me. 
     "Does it ever," Magic said. "Unfortunately for Meowjolina, her sister had kittens before she could, and one of them, Stella, has the extra toe." 
     "So Meowjolina is off the hook."
     "That would be the case, except Meowjolina is driven. She wants the club, whereas Meow Ferral couldn’t even interested in the day to day operations. But since Meowjolina wants it, Ferral will make sure she won't get it. And since Ferral's daughter has the extra toe, the thought is that Ferral will inherit the club, then Stella."
     "Wow, I feel bad for Meowjolina," I said. I wondered if Number One was sad because of my prime assignment, if she really wanted it or that she just didn't want me to get it.
     "You should feel bad for Stella,” Magic said as he leapt from the ledge and padded past me. “I’d better be off.” He went to the door and sat in front of it, as though he could will it open with his glare alone.
     "Do you want to go out, kitty?" MaMA called out from the kitchen.
     "NOW," Magic said with an annoyed tone.
     "Okay, hold on to your nip," the MaMA said. She opened the door and his ears flattened back against the cold rush of air.
     "Well," she said, still holding open the door.
Magic slipped out into the dark night for his shift.
     I went back down to my blanket and laid down so I could process all the information Magic had given me. I imagined that Stella was feeling the pressure of the legacy put on her little shoulders and her extra toe. That's a lot for a little kitty.
     "Vat is on your mind, little von," Schnapps asked from her spot on the couch. The firelight cast dark shadows on her face, making her look older, somehow, more tired and worn.
     "It's a lot to ask from your child, isn’t it,” I said. "Two sisters at war for the top spot, and Stella is in the middle of it."
     "Don't feel too bad for that katzen, you have yet to meet the young Stella."
     "What are Stella and her litter mates like?"
     Schnapps raised her head, as though she could find the right words floating above her.
     "Stella knows her place, and I think she relishes in de fact dat she is second in line to run de Pile. She has three brothers, Mac, Horatio, and Bublé. Mac is like Stella, and thinks of himself as her protector. Those two are always side by side, prancing around like they already own the place. Bublé is the youngest, the artist. He thinks himself de next great songwriter. He's often found wandering around, humming a tune. He often performs his songs in de club. Horatio is a lot like you, I guess."
     "How's that?"
     "He's ambitious, but independent. Full of energy and very bright."
     "Sounds like we would get along," I said.
     Schnapps furrowed her brow and scowled. "Stay away from those katzen," she said and jumped down from the couch and clipped out of the room.
     I couldn't understand why Schnapps disliked cats so much. Sure Magic was a bit stand-offish, and somewhat cruel, and a whole lot scary. But, Meowjolina didn't seem that bad. I thought our relationship with the Kitty faction would be better if we were on friendly terms. You never knew when you could use an ally across enemy lines, or at least that is what Drill Sargent always said. 

No comments:

Post a Comment