My late evening repose is wrested from me by a wrenching scream from my smaller person, Susan. I duly assume my defensive position, crouching, orange bottle brush twitching, and ears flattened.
"Austin! A mouse!"
My larger person, Austin, ambles down the stairs, snagging me by the scruff of the neck and proceeding to half carry, half drag me in this undignified manner, into the large kitchen of the old farmhouse. "Perhaps Hairball can make himself useful."
"His name is Harry, and don't hurt him!"
With a nervous look around, Susan steps down from the chair on which she has been standing, and scoops me into her arms. "Oh, Harry, are you okay?" Setting me down near the open pantry door, she continues, "Do you smell that mousie?"
Having had a most unpleasant experience with that notable feline curiosity and a closed pantry door, I head as fast as my four white-booted feet will carry me in the opposite direction. "Scaredy cat," Austin taunts as I pass.
"You can hardly blame him," Susan comes to my defense, "After you shut him in there all night a few weeks ago."
"That was an accident!"
"Well, I'm going to leave the pantry door wide open tonight, to encourage Harry to do what comes naturally after we're asleep, so if you do any midnight raiding, do leave it open."
"Only if you make sure our door is closed, with that lazy bum on the outside, instead of curled up under the covers by your feet."
"Well, yes, of course, Austin. Why don't you check to make sure he's not in our room, and I'll be up shortly."
No, I most assuredly have not gone where I am not wanted, not that I will do what is wanted either, at least not tonight. Austin needs to learn that I will not be mistreated and insulted, and still do his bidding.
After Austin slams the door upstairs, I emerge from behind the drapes and go back to twine around Susan's legs, coiling my tail around her knee.
"Would you like some warm milk, Harry?"
I lean a little harder, purr a little louder. She reaches for a small pan and the milk. Works every time.
Within minutes, she sets the milk on the still-warm hearth in the living room, scratches behind my ears and promises, "You just catch that nasty mouse tonight, and you'll be back under the covers where you belong tomorrow night."
How am I supposed to teach Austin proper respect, while Susan is laying it on thick? Perhaps for her...
After all whiskers are in order, and no sounds are heard in the kitchen, I sprawl on the toasty bricks, rolling from side to side to scratch all those hard to reach spots. Still hearing nothing, I settle down to basque in what heat remains.
The next thing I know, a voluble crackling is coming from the direction of the pantry. I slip stealthily into investigate, and, sure enough, there is my quarry, gnawing into Austin's favorite package of cookies on the second lowest shelf. Just when Susan had almost persuaded me... Oh, it won't hurt to sit tight until it has finished ravaging the cookies...
Mrow hichhhh! Claws slice at the slippered foot that startles me awake with a poke in the ribs.
"You good-for-nothin' animal! Susan? Susan! That pathetic excuse of a cat was sleeping in the pantry, and my favorite cookies are a write-off, not four feet away!"
"What was that yowl and hiss I heard, Austin?"
"He woke up on the wrong side of bed. The little monster took a swipe at my foot."
"Probably with good cause. Leave him alone!"
When they arrive home this evening, I am safely sequestered amongst the boxes under the stairs. Susan calls for me, but I stay put. I hear her shaking my food dish, but don't move.
"See what you've done, Austin. Harry won't even come out to eat after whatever you did this morning! Well, I have a headache and am going to bed early."
"I'll be up shortly myself."
Sure enough, all is still and quiet after Austin rattles around the kitchen briefly. I pad toward the pantry and take up my post, determined not to fall asleep on the job, to show Susan my love, despite her thoughtless oaf of a mate. There are no cookies down low tonight, but I smell ... peanut butter?
Scurrying brings me to full alert, but before I can move...
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