My wife, Lyudmila and I, run a small office supply store here in beautiful Mount Perry, Florida. We try our best to keep things interesting by having various unrelated items standing about in the store. Lyudmila does some sewing and knitting so a portion of our front window is occupied with her works of art. We also have live plants in abundance and a huge old tree which was fished out of a nearby river.
The tree is about twelve inches in diameter and about six feet tall. It has been somewhat petrified or "lightered", by being in the river for many years. The lightering process tends to turn the tree sap or pitch into a highly combustible material. Scraps of lightered wood can be used to start a fire with a single match, thus it is called "lightered". This lightered wood is also highly prized by the munitions industry who grind it up and use it as a component in their explosives.
We nailed a board to the bottom of this lightered tree and stood it upright in the front of our shop. It isn't very pretty but it is definitely interesting. As a joke we hung a sign on it stating the sale price was three hundred dollars. Believe it or not, there has been some interest in it. I guess anything goes here in beautiful downtown Mount Perry, Florida.
Last but not least, we have a shop cat. The cat is nothing really special, it's a classic example of , "Allycatus Nonspecificus". Among it's unusual features is the lack of a tail and because it's been to the vet for "the operation" and it is now a sixteen pound "Nedercat", (it's neder boy nor girl). The colors are not unusual being black and white spotted.
It's main occupation, in our shop, is to sleep in the front window where as it rolls about, it knocks over our displays. In doing so the cat has become an item in Mount Perry, Florida. People come by our shop just to look at the cat and play with it through the window.
All of the above is usual to the point of being mundane. Life goes on here in Mount Perry, Florida, as it would in any other town. Of course the combination of cat, tree and Russian wife are a bit out of the ordinary but not all that much. Writing humor, --- now this is weird.
On arriving here from Feodosia, Crimea, Ukraine, the first thing Lyudmila did was to take the cat outside, place it on the ground in a sandy spot next to the building and teach it to go to the bathroom outside. I had trained the cat for years to the litter box and now in only one day Lyudmila had taught the cat to go outside to the bathroom.
She speaks to the cat in Russian and much to my surprise the cat listens to her. It seems to understand what she is telling it. She has even been able to teach the cat to sleep on various pieces of furniture in our house and not on others. This has been with a great deal of care by my wife while speaking to the cat only in Russian.
Recently we have had a rash of shop lifting here in Mount Perry. In our shop, as in others, small items began to disappear from our front counter and the window display. It was only natural because even we need an occasional break just like anyone else. This leaves the front of our store vacant for some few moments while we take care of "business" in the back room.
In order to achieve a measure of protection we have taken to patting the cat on it's head and saying the words, "Cat! Guard the front!". We have named the cat, "Cat" for obvious reasons.
In the beginning I thought it was kind of cute to do this. Lyudmila, on the other hand, took the situation quite seriously and spent a great deal of time explaining to the cat, in Russian, exactly what was expected of it.
Frankly, I paid little attention except to note she was spending an awful lot of time talking to the cat. It went on for weeks and all the time the cat sat on it's favorite chair and stared straight into Lyudmila's eyes the whole time she spoke to it.
As things do happen, there came a day when I had a call of nature and had to once again leave the front of the store unguarded. As I had learned to do, I leaned over the cat, scratched it's head and said, "Cat! Guard the front." and headed for the back room.
I had only been gone a moment or so when I heard the most awful , "Yowl" from the front followed by the sound of things being turned over in great number. I thought to myself, "The darn cat is in the window display again." and made mental note I would have a monumental cleanup job facing me on my return. With this in mind I was in no rush to get back.
The noise didn't stop, however, it kept going and it was getting louder by the moment. The crashing sounds were now punctuated by screams of pain. Something out of the ordinary was definitely going on in the front of our store. I cut my visit to the back room short and raced to the front of the store.
As I burst from the back room through the swinging door I was greeted with a sight which would warm the heart of any retail merchant. There, perched on the very top of our petrified tree was a medium sized man with an expression of sheer terror on his face. In his hand were several items he had apparently plucked from our window display.
At the bottom of the tree was our cat. It was snarling and growling in a most unfriendly and menacing way. Occasionally it would let out a howl the likes of which I had only heard on TV or at the Lions cage in the Zoo.
Each time the cat did this the man on top of the tree would try his best to climb higher. I now noticed the seat of his trousers had been torn and there were many other tears in his clothing.
My jaw dropped at the sight of all this and the man on the tree begged for mercy. He cried out, "Please don't let it get me! All I did was to take a few small items, please don't let it get me!"
Casually and with great deliberation I walked forward in the shop to where the telephone was. The cat on seeing me jumped up on the counter and walked over to me. As I scratched it's head it sat down and purred for me. "Good kitty!" I said to it and it purred even harder.
"That's a good cat!" I said again.
The man on the tree uttered a curse and began to climb down out of the tree. The cat let out the most terrible of noises and dove for the base of the tree. It must have been my imagination but I was almost sure the man got another six inches out of the top of the tree. I slowly put both elbows on the counter and leaned forward towards the man on the tree. In my most agreeable voice I said, "Good morning sir. How can we help you?"
There were no more curses, just pleading to be let out of the shop without having to go past the cat. I called the police for assistance but I also told them to take their time, my perpetrator wasn't going anywhere in hurry.
I reached out and reclaimed the items he had taken from our window. It seemed the man on the tree was almost glad to give them back.
Moments later, a policeman showed up. The man on the tree began a long dissertation about how the cat had attacked him for no reason.
The policeman and I looked at each other in utter disbelief. Then the officer said, " That cat attacked you?" As he pointed at the cat and myself.
The cat, of course, had long since returned to the counter where it lay by my hand and purred pleasantly.
He went on, "The cat I play with through the window every night? Yeah, Right!"
With A nod of his head he continued with, "I know for sure, this cat wouldn't hurt a flea!"
Then the officer turned back to the cat and I saying, "Well, if you don't need me I'll be on my way."
The reaction of the man in the tree was instantaneous and predictable, he spilled the whole story about how the cat never moved until he began swiping stuff from the window. Again he begged to be removed from the shop without having to go near the cat.
The Officer placed the man in hand
cuffs and headed for the door. Now I scratched the cat behind it's ears
again and said softly, "Good Kitty. Nice Kitty." as a wicked, sadistic
grin spread over my face from ear to ear.
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