Cleo is like cat litter, in my opinion. Clean, clear and fresh one day, and the next, dirty, clouded-up and damp. Cleo changes his attitudes more in one day then I can count on my own four paws. Then again, everyone's different. And boy did I tell myself that over and over again just last week, when Cleo, Butch and I had our most amazing adventure yet. You know what, why don't I share the tale. More interesting then sitting here batting my catnip mouse, anyway. So here goes nothing.
It all started when Butch chased Tail. Tail is the pomeranian puppy from next door, named after his huge powder-puff of a tail that I like to swat for fun every once in a while. Cute and lovable, Tail wouldn't hurt a flea. Well, maybe a flea, but that's all.
But last Sunday, Tail made the worst mistake of his short little life. He had wandered away from home and ended up on Butch's territory: the Hanson's backyard. In which proceded a frenzyed chase around trees, cars, trashcans, and much more. Always having a soft spot for Butch's victims, I gave him a hard swat across the face with my razor-sharp claws just as he was rounding a blue corvette across the street. Smack! Before you could say: "Curiosity killed the dog," he was off and runnning, yelping his heart out to a world that didn't care. After Tail had thanked me generously, I spotted Cleo watching me intently from the front porch of the old deserted mansion that every animal with a brain stayed away from. But of course, there was Cleo.
"Cleo, " I hissed quietly, edging up the the front lawn of the mansion and narrowing my horizontal green eyes, "get down from there. Are you insane?" Cleo blinked, as if just noticing my presence, and hopped off the porch rail and came slinking up to me. "What is this that I smell?" he asked me, his whiskers twitching haughtily, "is it fear?" He laughed. "Come on in, my brother, join the hunt. The mice are waiting." And he swished his tail and turned to go back, beconing to me. I promptly grabbed his tail with my teeth, ignoring his squealing protests, and dragged him over to the Hanson's rose bush. There I released him, and he sat, glaring at me behind his identically green eyes. "Wake up, furball, and regain your 6th sense. You know, the one we cats have about being able to see paranormal beings?" He looked at me stupidly. I sighed, and tried again. "The mansion is HAUNTED, you moron!"
He laughed again, this time with an edge of know-it-all to it. "Of course there are ghosts, " he replied, smiling at my surprised expression, "but keep your fur on, they wouln't hurt a flea. Now where have I heard that before? I wondered. "I've made friends with the European rat armies already. Poor things still think it's 1780, year of the great rodent battle, you know," he informed me. "You can't be serious," I said, astonished. I still thought that he was pulling my leg for a good laugh. "Yes, I am," he answered, the smile suddenly wiped off his furry face,"but upstairs is where I never venture. I'll never forget the first time I tried to climb those rickety steps in search of better prey. When I did, I saw the most horrid thing at the top of the staircase. An evil black dog with glowing red eyes, there was, growling as if he wanted to tear me to pieces." "Whatever happened?" I cried, prompting him to go on. "I ran down those steps like my tail was a'blaze, and at the first floor, when I stopped to glance back at my attacker, he had vanished. Poof, just like that. Now I am more then content with staying on the first floor. The mice are a'plenty, and the ghosts down there are much more friendly."
My mouth hung open in awe. I had never heard such a horrifying story, not even from my mostly melancholy brother, who sometimes made up his own wild tales to get out of trouble. But just in the way he said it, I knew it was true. "Since then," he continued," I have been doing all I can to find out who or what that black dog is, where he came from, and why he won't let anyone trespass on the second floor." "Maybe he was left there to guard a hidden treasure, and he died in one of the upstairs rooms," I suggested. "No, too obvious. I'm sure it has to be much more complicated. And Oliver?" he said, looking at me like an army general preparing his men for battle. "Yes?" I answered weakly, afraid of the answer. "This is going to be one heck of a mystery."
When Cleo and I arrived inside, Butch gave me a look that could kill. There were four long, red scratch marks on his nose, and I could see that he had been crying. I walked over to him with attitude, and said curtly: "I'm sorry for being so physical, but you were asking for it," and strolled away. He remained silent, but I could feel him glaring at my retreating behind as I took leave. "Done apologizing?" Cleo asked, as I walked into the cat room. The cat room was a large bedroom that the Hansons had built onto the house when they moved in three years ago. It was Butch's room too, but since he slept on the couch at night with Mr. Hanson, we (Cleo and I) liked to call it the cat room. Filled with scratching posts, toy mice, food dishes and comfortable beds, we considered ourselves to be the luckiest cats on earth.
"Yep," I answered shortly. "Good," Cleo approved, "now lets get down to business." He lept onto his favorite bed, a green silk one with a feather comforter, and dragged a large blue book out from under it. I was surprised. I never knew that Cleo was interested in literature, even though everyone knew that cats could read. In several different languages, in fact, but that's enough bragging. I could just make out the title of the book, for it was in very small print: "Phantoms and Hauntings: The reason behind what makes you scream."
"Where did you get that?" I asked him, racing over to help him with the heavy book, "Ghosts R'Us?" "Ha, ha, very funny," he replied, a bit short of breath," but this is just what we need to unravel our mystery." "Whatever you say," I shrugged. The only book I had ever read anyway was "Howliday Inn," written by a canine, of course, but still very thrilling. My stubby little tail shook energetically, as if it knew something that I didn't. I watched and waited patiently while Cleo flipped slowly through the book, muttering to himself. "Ah ha! Here we are, Chapter 33, page 299, "Phantom Pets and Animals." I jumped at the sound of his voice. I had been daydreaming about chasing a giant mouse when all of a sudden its eyes glowed red and it disappeared without a trace. I shook my head to rid my mind of the dream, and politly asked Cleo to continue.
"Sometimes when an animal's owner leaves it behind after moving or going on a very long trip, the animal dies in the house and spends the rest of its life looking for its owner. These are animal ghosts, the good guys. Animal phantoms are spirits of pets that have been left to guard something very valuable and have died in the process, animals that have died trying to hurt someone for no reason, or animals that have been abused by their owners and left to die. A tell-tale phantom has glowing red eyes. They should be avoided at all costs." Cleo shut the book and sighed. "That's all there is," he said.
"Cleo, I hate to be the critic here, but did you here what the book said? Phantoms should be avoided at all costs," I replied. "Maybe we should just tell someone and get the whole thing over and done with without endangering our lives.Or..." "Oliver, you're one smart feline!" exclaimed Cleo, who started mumbling quickly to himself again, his eyes a'glow. "I've got it! Our phantom's a dog, right? Well maybe all we need to communicate with it is another dog! And I know just the one!" There was a flash of silver fur and Cleo was gone, caught up in his latest idea. I ran after him to see what he was up to. As I walked into the room where Butch had been lying, I overheard Cleo talking to the mutt. He was saying: "Oh c'mon, Butch, I assure you that you will never come in harm's way. And you've always had such wonderful social skills!" Then I saw them, and I pranced forward, eager to help Cleo convince Butch to take the risky job.
"I don't know," answered Butch uncertaintly, then, "Hey, Mr. Slice n' dice, whattaya think?" It took me a second to realize that the great brute was talking to me. "Uh, I think you should do it Butch, definatly," I said, while displaying a big fake toothy grin. "And," I finished, "think how popular you'll be with the ladies after this. You defeating a ghost and all." Butch leapt to his feet, showing all the spunk of the dobermann that he was. "I'll take the mission!" he howled, causing both Cleo and I to put our paws briefly over our ears. Cleo winked at me, and I winked back. "Well, then, men," Cleo stated smartly after Butch settled down, "I'll see you at the mansion at 8:00 sharp tomorrow morning. Be there," he finished, and happily sprinted off.
All through the night I tossed and turned with nightmares. The scariest one was that I was in the mansion alone, and Butch and Cleo appeared and started to chase me. And when I turned around, their eyes were glowing red and an army of rats was attacking them but I kept shouting, "Stop it, they're all ready dead!" It was horrible. The next morning I woke up extra-early and went outside to get some fresh air.
The sun was just coming up, so I decided to do some early morning hunting. Bad luck seemed to be on my side, though, because all I caught that morning was grasshoppers. Finally I decided to face my fears. I walked slowly toward the mansion, and even as far as 30 feet away my ears started to sizzle with static electricity, and the hair on my arched back raised automatically. But I kept going. 25 feet, 20 feet, 10 feet, and finally there I stood at the very first porch step in front of the haunted mansion.
This isn't so bad, I thought, but I yowled loud and clear when I heard a most peculier sound from right behind me. I spun around, prepared to attack. My nostrils flared, my eyes glittered, and my claws came out from their sheaths. But a second later my ears flicked up from their flattened position on the back of my head in surprise, for there sat Cleo, sniggering. "Jumpy this morning?" he asked as I regained my composure. "Just checking the place out," I answered, a little bit annoyed.
"Please, allow me," he said, and raced up the steps like an expert. I came after him warily. There was no front door, so we had no trouble getting in. And there were no signs of any ghosts, except once I thought I heard a squeaky little voice command,"Onward, soldiers!" But it was probably just my imagination. Cleo had been right; the mansion was built on excellent hunting grounds, and as we entered, I saw atleast six mice scurry in all directions, and there were droppings all over the floor.
"So, did you see Butch when you woke up?" Cleo asked me. "No, I just realized that. And I take it you didn't see him either," I replied. "Nope," he answered, "but maybe he's just off chasing Tail again." "I sure hope so," I said, shivering and closing my eyes for a second, "otherwise how will we communicate with this monster? I....Aaaahhhh!" I had screamed because a large black dog had just come bounding out of what looked like a secret doorway, hidden in a bookcase we had just passed. But unlike our phantom, this dog didn't have red eyes. "Hey, guys! Where ya been?" asked Butch, slobbering all over the ground, and us.
"What are you talking about, you dumb dog?" asked Cleo, obviously shaken, "it's 6:00 in the morning, not 8:00!" "Really?" Butch asked, cocking his head. "Yes, you mutt," I answered, and what were you doing behind that bookcase. "Bookcase? What bookcase?" Butch said, and we all turned back to look. The bookcase had vanished. "Okay, this is really starting to creep me out, Oliver," Cleo hissed, "Remind me whose idea it was to come up here?" "Yours, Einstein," I hissed back. It was just like Cleo to get scared now, after he had brought us into the mansion. "Well, since we're all here, we might as well start fighting this ghosty dog thing, right?" asked Butch, his expression hopeful. For a second I thought that Cleo was going to smack him, but he just gave me a look, as if to say, "Why not?" "Yes Butch, it's time," I replied, and we all started for the staircase.
As we neared the staircase, A chilling howl rose through the air. Cleo and I glanced back at Butch for an explanation, but he just shrugged and said," It wasn't me!" So we continued. Finally, without any further interuptions, we reached the first step. "Now lets all try to stay together," Cleo hissed, and we started up the stairs. Creak, Creak, went the steps, and one time I heard Butch actually whimper. I almost felt sorry for him.
"So far, so good," I whispered as we neared the top, but I let my claws out once more, just in case. Then I heard Cleo mutter something, and I realized that we had reached the top. I decided to take command of the situation. I stretched my back and arched it protectivly and importantly, and said, "Okay, we'll split up. Cleo, you take those two rooms, Butch, you take those other ones over there, and I'll take the attic. Howl and yowl if you see anything." "Yes sir!" said Cleo, saluting me sarcastically, and off they went.
Let's cut to the chase, or the important part. I was in the attic, and was exploring some hundred-year-old cookie tins when I heard Cleo scream, and I do mean scream. The only other time I had heard him sound like that was when Mr. Hanson accidently backed the car over the tip of his tail last year. I don't think I need to tell you how fast I ran back down those attic steps, but let's just say that I practically flew. Then I raced into the room where the scream had come from, and gasped.
Both Cleo and Butch were surrounded by growling, drooling, vicious phantom dogs, only Butch wasn't screaming. He was pleading. "Please, Mr. Ghosty dog, show some consideration for a fellow canine," he whimpered helplessly, then howled angrily, "Your plan isn't working too well, is it, Cleo?!?" Cleo was, the least to say, paralyzed by fear. This was every cat's worst nightmare, besides not being fed at the right time every morning. Then I saw what had made the dogs so angry. In the corner was a treasure chest, old and worm-holed, filled with glittering gold pieces that had obviously been disturbed. I had been right all along!
And now, I was counted on to save the day. My ears flattened, my eyes glittered, my back arched, my claws came out from their sheaths and I announced my presence in a most intimidating yowl. The phantoms leapt around in surprise. Obviously they had not spotted me yet. "Attack!" I screamed, and jumped on one of the phantoms, clawing and batting its ears. I jumped right through it, and it disappeared. But this time, I knew it was for good. I then proceeded to leap upon and destroy all the rest of the snarling dogs, and if you asked me, it was too easy.
"Thank you, thank you!" Cleo and Butch rushed upon me, yelling, "I thought they were going to kill us!" and "I'm sorry I didn't believe you in the beginning, Oliver Manx!" That last one was Cleo, of course. Well, as you might of guessed, this story does have a happy ending. We finally got the Hansons to come back to the mansion with us later, to get the gold, of course, and we donated it all to charity. Of course, the charity thing had been the Hanson's idea. I wouldn't have minded a new cat bed, a silk one, like Cleo's. In fact, I think I almost deserve it.
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