My horrible brother Mike had brought home his equally horrible friend Joey after school, so I was hiding in the spare bedroom on the couch next to the “good” dollies, the ones I wasn’t supposed to play with. I was sitting there pretending I was one of them. The rules were that I couldn’t move, no talking, and no blinking until my eyes started hurting. I wasn’t doing so well on that last one.
Buster, our grey tom, came into the room and began to clean himself. A voice inside my head said, “Not bad, Katie, but I can still tell you’re not a doll. Try holding your breath.” Buster was now looking straight at me, so I sucked in a lungful of air and held it. Buster and I had a staring contest, and my practice had paid off, but after a bit my heart began beating harder and my head started to feel funny.
“Better,” Buster said looking away. “But the color you’re turning isn’t very attractive.” He hoisted one leg and began cleaning areas I didn’t want to think about. “Sorry. You suck at being a doll, but you’re alright for a kid.” He got up and started walking out of the room. “That’s why I’ll make sure you’re okay after Tuesday.” I ran after him but he was already out the cat-door in the kitchen.
For the next several days, he avoided me. It was already Sunday so I had to get tricky. Mom showed me his bag of catnip and I put some on his favorite mouse. She thought I was being “cute.” Little did she understand how important this was. I returned the mouse to his cat perch and waited. I was good at waiting.
When I woke up, he was lying on his perch all tired out, so I crept up on him with our old dog’s leash in hand. In a swift motion, I attached it to the ring that held on his license. He looked at me and began to yowl. I yanked on the leash and whispered, “You better stop if you know what’s good for you.” He glared at me angrily.
“Tell me what’s going to happen on Tuesday,” I said softly.
“C’mon Katie, I’m not supposed to say anything.” He pleaded.
As I held up one finger and touched the base of his tail, his eyes widened, “Not that!” I began scratching where his tail met his back. He raised his butt up in the air and stuck out his tongue. “Wait! Oh dear! Gosh…” He continued until I stopped. “Don’t do that again!”
I smiled sweetly. “Why not?”
“It’s very annoying but feels great at the same time,” I could hear the embarrassment in his voice, “but mostly it makes me look like an idiot!”
I held up my finger again, “Tuesday?”
“Alright, alright! Mr. Tiddles down the street has a plan. You see, we’re going to take over, at least around Leewood Court here. Everything will look normal, but you’ll have to do everything we say and dogs won’t be allowed within a block of here.” He sat back and looked smug.
“How?” I prompted.
He shrugged. “Don’t know. Tiddles has the plan. I just know that come Tuesday, Mr. Tiddles will rule the cul-de-sac. I made sure you’re safe, but your older brother Mike…” We both sat in silence for a minute thinking about what we’d like to do to my ogre of a brother.
“You won’t hurt anyone?” My voice came out small.
Buster jumped from his perch and rubbed on me, purring. “No, I promise to be a benevolent dictator.” I didn’t know what that meant, but it sounded reassuring. “I just hope you like tuna,” he said, “because there will be a lot of tuna served in this house day after tomorrow.” I unclipped the leash and he bounded out of the room.
On the dreaded Tuesday morning I poured milk over my cereal and watched Mike getting ready for his bus. I just couldn’t help saying something, “You should have been nicer to Buster.” A puzzled look crossed his stupid face as I stuffed my mouth full of flakes.
Getting home from school I didn’t know what to expect, but I figured we’d be having something tuna for dinner. Maybe that weird tuna tartare mom had once, tuna casserole, or even tuna sandwiches. I hoped it wasn’t the tartare. It had been yucky and raw and didn’t have any tartar sauce that I could see.
I opened the door and went into the kitchen to see what Mom was cooking. I was surprised to smell pot roast. Mom saw me in the doorway. “What’s wrong Katie? You’ve been quiet the last couple of days, are you OK?” She took me in her arms. “What is it sweetie? Has your brother been teasing you again? You know he’s just being a jerk.”
“You don’t feel like serving us tuna?”
“No… W-why do you ask?” she said looking confused. I hugged her and ran to find Buster. I found him lying in the late afternoon sun coming through the spare bedroom window. I laid down beside him on the floor. “What happened?”
“When I went to get my orders, I found out Mr. Tiddles got fixed on Saturday.” He said dejectedly. “Tiddles doesn’t want to rule anymore, just wants to eat and then lay on the sofa. He claims he can’t remember the plan.”
Buster started to lick my face. I giggled because it always tickled. “I like it when you giggle,” he said happily, and then got serious. “Katie, you know I like you as much as any of our kind can, but we can’t talk anymore. It’s against the rules. You understand?”
I nodded and scratched him under the chin. He began purring, and then stopped. “One last thing…” I could tell this was going to be something important.
“More tuna,” and that was the last thing he ever said to me.
Brian J. Hunt is the editor of several books on vintage art including “The Outlandish Art of Mahlon Blaine”. You can find links to his published stories at gumballfiction.com. His tribute website for legendary bad sci-fi author Lionel Fanthorpe can be found at PelTorro.com and his website antiqueweird.com has been a web classic since 1996. Remember, spay and neuter your pets. It’s not just a good idea, it might just save the world.