Saturday He Fed the Cat
Copyright 2014 by William Mangieri
Katy padded along the service corridor behind The Man’s dwelling. The nine-pound westie stopped not twenty feet from The Man’s door and stiffened, her nose searching the air. Something was amiss. She sniffed again. That scent – she knew it. It was CATS! Cats should never have been brought along to the colony. They did nothing to help – sounded no warning, carried no loads.
Katy paused in her thoughts. She was too small to carry loads like some of the bigger work dogs, but she could pick up small things when The Man dropped them and they rolled under his bed. A cat wouldn’t even do that for you. Drop something and a cat would just look over at you from wherever it was lounging, like “what do I look like, a dog?”
They shouldn’t be marking so close to The Man’s home; this was Katy’s territory. Katy would warn them off. She walked to the corridor’s wall – the one that ran along the outer edge of the colony, and raised her rear leg high, but froze at the sound of metal wheels as a service bot wandered into the corridor. Katy hated the contraptions almost as much as the cats; not only didn’t they respect her territory, but they acted like they were in charge. The bot stared at Katy through its lens, daring her to misbehave and dirty something. She didn’t want to get shocked. She backed up onto The Man’s doorstep and looked away, as though the bot wasn’t there. That’s when she saw a cat stroll into the corridor from the other end, its tail held high.
Good! Katy thought. The service bot can get you instead.
But as the cat approached nonchalantly, the bot only seemed to have eyes for Katy.
Well, I can sound a warning, Katy thought, and she let loose her sharp DANGER – STAY AWAY bark, and listened as it echoed along the metal corridor. Hear that? All cats can do is hiss.
The cat paused briefly to lick its paw, then continued its drive-by of Katy’s stoop.
This was too much. Bot or no bot, Katy barked again and prepared to jump at the interloper.
“No! Bad dog!”
It was The Woman, standing behind Katy in The Man’s doorway.
Things had gone steadily downhill since she had moved in with The Man. He was the Alpha, but he had no sense; why couldn’t he tell that The Woman smelled of cat? Katy had given him warnings, but no matter how often she blocked The Woman from entering rooms, or growled, or chewed The Woman’s shoes, The Man didn’t seem to get the point, and to make matters worse he had banished Katy from their quarters most of the day. The Woman had even usurped Katy’s place in bed.
Katy wasn’t sure what to do, so she stood motionless in the no man’s land between The Woman, the bot, and the cat. The cat altered its course to walk around Katy and onto the stoop, where it began to purr obnoxiously as it rubbed and curled itself around The Woman’s legs.
“You’re a beauty,” The Woman said. “Beauty – that’s what I’ll call you.”
She reached down and scratched the cat’s neck. The purring got louder, and mingled with Katy’s barely controlled growling.
“That’s enough, you!” The Woman said. “Inside!”
Katy tucked her tail and squeezed past The Woman. The cat continued pressing its head against The Woman’s leg, but opened one eye as Katy passed by, as if to say “I hope you’re getting this, chump.” Katy couldn’t see how things could get any worse.
On Saturday he fed the cat.
Having now been banned by The Woman from roaming the corridor alone because “that vicious animal might hurt Beauty”, Katy was lying in the back entryway when she heard the joyful ring of kibble bouncing in her stainless steel food bowl. She got to her feet, wagging her tail rapidly as The Man walked into the airlock holding two metal bowls. She pirouetted in front of him on her hind legs, a furry little ballerina.
He likes it when I do this, she thought.
“Sit, Katy,” he said.
Katy sat down and puzzled over what The Man was doing. She watched him open the hatch, step into the corridor and set the two bowls down on the floor. What was he thinking? She never ate out there. Was this some new plot by The Woman? It might be, but Katy was hungry, so she headed for the bowls.
“No, Katy. That’s not yours,” The Man said, and he picked her up and waited by the stoop.
What did he mean, that’s not hers? These were her food bowls. That was her kibble. Of course it…was… No!
The cat ambled along the corridor, glanced up at The Man and Katy, and then made a b-line for Katy’s food bowl.
“No! No! No!” Katy barked. She struggled to get out of The Man’s arms, but he held her tight.
“Katy! That’s enough!” He said, and then unceremoniously dumped her inside. She struggled to get purchase on the smooth metal floor, and then scrambled back to the door just in time for The Man to close it on her nose.
“You stay out here, Katy,” The Woman said, and closed the door.
Katy lay down with her head resting on her paws and moped. A few days after The Man fed the cat, they had coaxed it into the doorway, and next Katy knew, the interloper was actually living with them. And now that the cat was inside, The Woman said it made much more sense for Katy to be left alone in the corridor. Of course it did.
A familiar grinding sound reverberated from off to Katy’s left; she raised her head in time to see the service bot traveling toward her.
I’m not doing anything, she thought. Leave me alone.
But today, the service bot paid Katy no heed. Sparks fell from under the bot and bounced along the floor as it spun in its tracks, careened into the outer wall, and then went oddly still. Not quiet, though. Katy heard loud, scratching and popping sounds coming from inside the bot’s thin metal shell. There was an odd smell, too. Katy waddled cautiously toward the bot to investigate, expecting it to turn on her like it usually did, but it just laid there, its shell quivering.
The odor was stronger here; Katy searched through her memories of things she had smelled before, and what memories her ancestors had left her; this was familiar and yet not so much. She leaned in close to the bot’s shell and was abruptly popped on the nose as one of the bot’s access panels popped open and a screeching, pink-skinned creature threw itself four feet up the wall, where it stuck.
It stared at Katy while she studied it. This thing couldn’t have come here with them. It was almost a squirrel, but there was no fur, and it had six legs, and the tail was more like a rat’s. It sounded like it was trying to chitter, but the sound was muffled by a mouthful of colored wires that matched some trailing out of the bot.
The squirrat didn’t belong in Katy’s space. She barked at it to go away, and tried jumping up at it, but its six legs kept it out of reach as Katy chased it to the nearest of the out-gassing vents built into the outer walls. The squirrat squeezed itself flat enough to slip out, so that Katy’s snapping jaws only caught a little bit of wire.
Humph! She thought. I showed that varmint who’s boss.
She padded over to The Man’s stoop and let out a series of self-satisfied barks until The Woman opened the door.
“Katy! What is it, now?”
Well, I’ve saved us all, of course, she thought, and pranced over to the disabled bot.
“Bad Dog! Look what you did to that service bot!”
Katy’s sharply echoing explanations about what really happened fell on deaf ears. Even The Man was mad at her. This was the sixth service bot that had had its insides chewed out, and even though the colonists were hard pressed to understand how one little westie could do so much damage, it was decided she couldn’t wander the corridors anymore. Now she spent her time tethered to a hook by the back door.
At least I don’t have to deal with the bots now, she moped as she gnawed on her leash. All the spare copper available had been used to replace frayed wires on the colony’s buggies, so bot repairs would have to wait until the next supply ship.
A scent caught Katy’s attention, and she watched as the squirrat – the same one she had seen kill the bot – squeezed through the vent and skittered up the wall. It was followed by a smaller one. And another. And another, until there were five little squirrats following the big one along the corridor.
This is bad, Katy thought. The big one found enough food to make more squirrats, and now they’re looking for more to eat, and whatever it is, I’ll really be in trouble.
“Go away!” she barked. “This is my place!”
Katy barked and barked, but the more she barked the more she drew them over her head by the door.
“What’s wrong with you things?” she barked. “Don’t you hear how fierce I am? Go away!”
The door opened.
“What are you carrying on about?” The Woman asked, and then screamed “OH MY GOD! RATS!”
She ran back into the kitchen, and something must have smelled good to the squirrats, because they scurried in through the open doorway behind her.
Katy ran into the house, and took in the scene. The Woman was jumping up and down on a chair, screaming while the squirrats ignored her and raced instead to the smorgasbord of electrical appliances, tearing into them and fighting over mouthfuls of wire.
“Stop that!” Katy barked.
“Help me!” screamed The Woman.
Katy leapt toward a pair of squirrats that were making the most out of a toaster, but her tether stopped her in mid-flight; she spun around before she hit the floor.
“Somebody save me!” screamed The Woman.
“Rowr!” announced the cat.
Katy watched helplessly as Beauty leapt to the toaster and quickly dispatched two squirrats with a couple of lightning fast swats. Then the cat bounded along the counter to the microwave, where another pair of pups was trying to squeeze into the control panel, oblivious of the danger they were in; each was shaken until their necks broke.
The cat pounced to the floor where the last of the babies was, but its mother dropped from the ceiling and landed between the two and chittered angrily. Not that it did her any good – she’d lost her head by the time Beauty spit the rest of her out.
The pup she’d sacrificed herself for scampered to the doorway where Katy stood.
“Kill it, Katy!” shouted The Woman. “Don’t let it get away!”
Katy snapped as it passed, but her jaws closed on empty air. The cat gave her a look that said “Not my fault,” and then proceeded to lick her paws.
“How could you miss it, you useless thing?” The Woman said.
The cat doesn’t have a rope around its neck, Katy thought.
The Woman stepped down from her chair and led Katy back out the door.
“You stay out here and let us know if it comes back so Beauty can take care of it,” The Woman said, and as she closed the door Katy heard “Come here, Beauty – you deserve a treat!”
Cats! Katy thought, as she laid down by the door. At least I can bark.
You can connect with William Mangieri, see the full list of his works, his writing blog, and links to his current promotions on his WordPress writing page at https://williammangieri.wordpress.com/