Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Sweater and The Hoodie

     A group of dogs were already at the crossroads when we arrived. I recognized Baylor, Sammy, the Flirtatious Freckles and Cubby, but I didn't see anyone else, at least no one in a sweater. They all turned and watched us come down the road. 
     "All right, Ve are here," said Schnapps. "Let's get dis over with." She scanned the group then said, “Vhere is de little pip- squeak?"
     "Pip-squeak," came a high-pitched yip from behind Cubby. 
     "Yous shouldn'ta have done dat, Schnapps," Cubby said with a snarl. He stepped aside, and there stood the smallest dog I've ever seen.
     I gaped at the toy poodle. His peachy, curls poofed out from the collar and sleeves of the yellow and blue striped sweater he wore. To add insult to injury, wee blue ribbons had been tied just behind his ears. 
This was the almighty Sweater? The one dog that struck fear into the hearts of others ten times his size? I had to bite my tongue to prevent laughing out loud. 
     "Iz this her," he asked, casting his gaze in my direction. He walked towards me as fast as his little legs could go. They blurred in their furious motion, yet his progress was minimal. I snorted, unable to contain myself. 
     "Geusundheit," Schnapps said, covering for my slight outburst. She gave me a warning look, and I clamped my mouth shut.
     In what seemed like forever, The Sweater finally stood before us. 
     "Monsieur DeLaCroix," Schnapps started, "May I introduce to you my new partner, Fritter." 
     He looked at me up and down. "What iz wrong with her?"
     I glared at him, wondering what French food tasted like.
     "Vhat do you mean?" Schnapps cocked her head and feigned ignorance.
     "She only haz half of a nose, her ears are too floppy, and she looks like she haz too much skin. Look how it wrinkles around her face," he said with a tittering laugh.
     The other dogs behind him laughed as well, even Freckles. Pierre shot them a glance over his shoulder and they all stopped. Well, all except Baylor who continued to howl with laughter. 
     Cubby snarled and snapped at Baylor's ear, and Baylor finally quieted down.
     "Okay, now you've met my partner, so we vill be going," Schnapps said as she turned to leave. 
     "Not zo fast, Madame Schnapps," Pierre squeaked. "I'd like to get to know zee little pup."
     "I don't know, Pierre," Schnapps shook her head. "As you have pointed out, she's not right. Her sniffer is short, so she has her nose to de ground constantly, den she trips over those large ears of hers." Schnapps tisked and shook her head. "It's really an act of charity I am doing, bringing her on as part of my team." 
     Pierre circled around me. Shivers prickled down my spine. I looked to Schnapps for encouragement, but she was too busy pretending that she didn't care. Or at least I hope she was pretending. 
     "Can she speak for herself," he asked.
     “Vell," Schnapps said with a sigh. "I can't promise you vill like vat she says."
     "Well, little one," Pierre said to me. "Can you speak?"
      I looked down at him and unfocused my eyes. I let them drift to opposite sides of my head. "Woof?"
      "Iz that supposed to be a joke," he asked. “Are you trying to be funny?”
     "You are the smallest dog I have eee-ver seen," I exclaimed. "I'm not trying to be funny, but I think you are. You are sooooo tiny."
     Pierre bristled at my comments and the rest of the dogs gave each other stunned and uncomfortable looks. Even Schnapps wore a look of surprise.
     "Are you mocking me," Pierre's voice went up five more octives, and he vibrated with rage.
     "You are soooo cute, such a widdle dog you are." 
     Freckles took a step forward with a concerned look on his face. I straightened my eyes out and gave him a wink.
     "Monsieur," Freckles said, coming up next to him. "Please forgive her, she is just a pup. You know how pups are, they bark out of turn.”
     Pierre settled down and glared at me. "Perhaps you are right. I will forgive your insolence, for now." He turned to Schnapps, "I expect you to teach her the proper way to address her superiors."
     "I'll be sure to do dat.”
     "Az for the rest of you," Pierre snapped and the other dogs came to attention. "Put zee plan into action, I expect results by tomorrow."
     "Yes, Monsieur." The group broke and Schnapps and I returned to the house.
     "How did you like my Marilyn," I asked when we were a safe distance away.
     "You continue to surprise me, little von," Schnapps said with a chuckle.
     "Do you think I fooled him?"
     “Vell, ve definitely put him off de idea of having you for his team," Schnapps said. "For now at least."
     As we approached the porch, I saw that MaMA was at the window watching us with a slight smirk on her face. Did she know what went down, as well? 
     She opened the door and I leapt onto my blanket. I misjudged my speed, again, and I slid halfway across the room. I grabbed the edge, drug it back to its place in front of the fireplace and laid down to warm up.
     "You've been staying out longer and longer," said the MaMA. She knelt down beside me and ran her hand down my back. I thought it was the after effects of the showdown in the road that made me shiver, but MaMA wore a concerned expression. "I can't have you getting cold like this."
     Schnapps had resumed her place on the couch, but watched with great interest. MaMA stood and placed her hands on her hips. "Well, Schnapps," MaMA said. "I guess we have no other choice than to pull out the old sweaters."
     "What,” I raised my head. “Did she say sweaters?”
     The MaMA left the room but returned shortly with a box.
     "Here they are," she said as she set it down in front of us. Schnapps jumped down from the couch and sniffed at it. Her expression was a mixture of joy and sadness. The MaMA seemed to sense her emotions.
     "I haven't looked at these since Sassy..." MaMA said, her voice trailed off. She shook herself out of the gloom and opened the box. She reached in and pulled out a light blue sweater with a pink heart on the chest. 
     "Schnapps! Here is your favorite sweater." MaMA turned to Schnapps and tugged it over her head, then she carefully pulled her front paws through the sleeves.
     Schnapps wiggled her butt with joy. I couldn't believe after all the teasing she did with Pierre's sweaters, she would voluntarily put on one herself. But she looked so happy.
     "Now let's see if we can find one that will fit Fritter," said the MaMA.
     I slowly backed away from the box. There was no way I was going to wear a sweater. I'd never hear the end of it from Baylor and Freckles. And what about the kittens in the Wood Pile, they didn't need any more reason to make fun of me.
     "What should we put on her, Schnapps," she asked as she pawed through the box. "How about your old cheerleader outfit? We could put ribbons in her ears, what do you say?"
     Schnapps gave me a bemused look.
     "No," I whined. It looked ridiculous on Pierre. "I will not have ribbons put in my ears."
     "Oh, I got it," MaMA said pulling out a red item. "Let's give her this hoodie. It's a bit big, but she can grow into it." 
     "Yes," Schnapps woofed. “De hoodie vill look cool on her."
     "Come here, Fritter," the MaMA beckoned. I reluctantly approached her and the hoodie. She picked me up and pulled it over my head, and just like Schnapps, carefully guided my front paws through the sleeves. "There, that looks really good on you."
     I sat down and scowled at the floor. I didn't like it. Not one bit.

     "Don't pout," the MaMA said, "It will keep you warm." She picked up the box and left.
     I gave Schnapps the stink eye. 
     "How could you put on a sweater," I accused.
     "It is a nice sweater." Schnapps stood and modeled her sweater for me. I had to admit, it looked good on her. "You look good in dat hoodie. It is very cool."
     "I thought it was supposed to be warm."
     "It vill keep you warm," Schnapps said with an exasperated sigh. "But it looks cool on you."
     "I agree," Sunshine said coming off his perch to take a closer look. "It'll give you street cred."
     "Street cred," I asked. "You don't think anyone will tease me?" 
     "Oh, no," said Sunshine. "You look tough in that hoodie. No one would dare give you any smack."
     "I agree," said Schnapps. "Everyone vill think you are tough." 
     "They will think you are tough to eat," a voice came from the shadows, followed by the sly grinning face of Magic.
     "Be quiet, cat," Schnapps said.
     "Nice sweater, Schnapps," Magic said, unintimidated by her. "You can't take a little cold, huh, old dog?"
     "I would like to make you into a nice fur coat," she growled.
     "Now now, temper," Magic purred.
     "Do you have a sweater," I dared to ask.
     "Ha, cats don't need sweaters," Magic said with a sarcastic laugh. "We have our own ways for keeping warm."
     "Like what," I asked. I would love nothing more than to learn his way of keeping warm, and rid myself of this infernal hoodie.
     "Unlike you dogs, I don't have to go outside, if I don't want to." He went over to the couch and plucked at the fabric with his claws before jumping up to sit on the top edge. He held out his paws and inspected his sharp, intimidating claws.
     "How can you do that?" I was confused. “Don't you have to go out to, as Schnapps puts it, make?
     “No, because he's a spoiled kitty," Schnapps grumbled.
     “No," Magic corrected her, “Because cats are superior to dogs in every way."
     "You poop in a box," squawked Sunshine.
     "What,” I asked astonished.
     "Be quiet, bird brain." Magic glared at the bird.
     “Vell, it is true,” Schnapps laid down on the rug and crossed her paws. She looked at him with a smug look.
     "You poop in a box!” I laughed. "Where is this box?"
     "Never you mind," he said through gritted teeth. 

     "What else do you do in this box," I giggled.
     “None of your business.” We continued to look at him with bemused looks on our faces. “Whatever,” Magic grumbled and jumped down from the couch. "I'm out of here. See you losers."
     He trotted by us and sat by the door.
     "Hey, Magic," I said, trying to compose myself.
     He looked over his shoulder, "What?"
     "Don't forget your box!" I burst into laughter, Schnapps and the bird joined in.
     The MaMA opened the door and Magic stormed out. 

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