By Larry, California
Woof! Woof! Fifi yelled at Whiskers through the glass that made up the front storm door.
Whiskers walked across the lawn, aloof and determined, ignoring the barking complaints coming from inside the neighbor's house. Fifi was a neatly groomed, white French poodle who lived several doors down from Whiskers. She even had a pink ribbon around her neck. Fifi's domain was her house and a fenced-in backyard. Whiskers would take great pleasure in strutting across the front yard where Fifi could see him but do nothing about it.
Today, Whiskers was in a particularly naughty mood and stopped to clean himself in the middle of Fifi's yard. The door glass was smudging and steaming up from Fifi's breath as she continued to bark her insults at Whiskers. Knowing Fifi could do nothing but complain, Whiskers took his time, leaving only when Fifi's pet - a large man who seemed to be fond of brightly colored clothing - came out to close the main wooden door while yelling incomprehensibly at Fifi.
Whiskers thought of his own pets then, deciding to head for home. After all, it was almost dinner time. Time to convince one of his human pets to feed him, he thought. Whiskers never took the most direct route home, preferring to explore instead, but he would always avoid the house directly behind Fifi's. In that yard, there lived a large, snarling, brown and black German Shepherd named Bowser. All the cats avoided Bowser; he was big, mean, and looked if he could bite through steel.
Instead, Whiskers decidedly strolled into The Clone's yard. The Clone, Whisker's arch nemesis, lived in a neighboring house. The Clone was so named because he too was a large orange tabby, just like Whiskers. When they were both younger, they were almost indistinguishable. However, over the years, and after several battles, they had developed their own recognizable marks and personalities.
After several recent debacles, The Clone was trying to stay hidden; however, Whiskers could see those prying eyes, peeping out from the bushes like the legendary Cheshire. Who knew what lame-o schemes The Clone was cooking up this time, Whiskers thought to himself. He didn't care, pushing that thought easily out of his head, and focused more on dinner. He leapt over the separating fence, landing close to the nearby lemon tree. Strolling into his yard, he was met by Dirty Face, his girlfriend.
Dirty Face was a small calico cat, so named because of a dark patch on the fur around her face. She had a tendency to hang out by the back door because Whiskers' pets would sometimes leave tasty treats on the porch for her.
"You're looking smug. Where have you been?" Dirty Face meowed.
"Oh, just here and there. Making Fifi bark, you know, my daily chores," Whiskers purred back, as he rubbed his nose into Dirty Face's furry neck. Then, with a little disdain in his voice, "I fail to see the usefulness of these things called Dogs. They are hideous creatures."
Dirty Face purred agreement, but nudged Whiskers back, "True, but let's not ruin our appetite. Your female pet has put food out for us."
Sure enough, the woman of the house had been cooking. Like the well trained pet she was, she had laid out table scraps for the two cats. Whiskers and Dirty Face dug in and gobbled up bits of chicken without further conversation.
* * * * *
Unbeknownst to Whiskers, The Clone was lurking around, peeking through a small knot hole in the fence between their yards, listening to Whiskers' conversation with Dirty Face. What brain cells he had, he now devoted to thinking up ways to get back at Whiskers for years of defeats and embarrassments.
"Dogs, you say?" The Clone said out loud to no one in particular. "Those vile creatures that nobody likes? What if ..."
The Clone scampered off with his half-formed plan rolling around in his half-brained skull.
"George!" he called to the neighborhood gossip. George, a black and white cat, had a long bushy tail that stood straight up whenever he walked. He wasn't friends with anybody in particular; his loyalties switched constantly depending on who was more popular that day. Sensing new gossip, though, George stopped to listen to The Clone.
The Clone strutted up to George, saying, "George, my old friend. You'll never guess what I saw Whiskers doing the other day ..."
* * * * *
Dirty Face was clearly upset. Whiskers always had problems understanding the female species, but he recognized the troubled look she had on her cute, furry face.
"What is it?" he asked without any prelude. Whiskers knew there was no beating around the bush with her. It was best to be direct.
"What they're saying about you ... Is it true?" Dirty Face sniffed.
"What do you mean? What are they saying? Wait. Who's saying?" Whiskers was confused.
"That you were giving messages to Fifi from Bowser yesterday. You were seen talking with, and helping ... A DOG!" Dirty Face hung her head, shamed to even mention it.
"That's nuts and you know that!" Whiskers was beside himself with anger. "Who would say something like that?"
"It's all over the street. Everyone's talking about it," she said. As if to emphasize the point, Grey Beard, a cat from across the street walked past just then, hissing and pointing his tail straight into the air in a sign of contempt.
"What the Dog was that for?" Whiskers jumped up, chased down Grey Beard, and tackling him in mid-strut, pinned him to the ground. While hissing at him, Whiskers demanded, "Who is spreading these rumors? Who told you this?"
Grey Beard struggled but failed to get free from Whiskers' angry mass holding him down. "Get off of me, you Dog Lover!"
"Is your brain the size of a bird? Have you ever seen me with a dog? You believe anything you hear, making you no better than a brainless piece of grass that leans in whatever direction the wind may be blowing!" Whiskers swatted Grey Beard with an open paw, "Now out with it. Who's spreading these lies around?"
Grey Beard had to admit that he never did see Whiskers do more than taunt the dogs in the neighborhood. These rumors didn't seem to make sense now that the force of argument was pointed out to him - or sitting directly on him, as the case may be. "Well ... Um ... I heard it from George earlier today."
"Really? George? He's even more spineless than you. And where did George hear it from?"
Whiskers lifted his paw to swat Grey Beard again, but Grey Beard cringed back, stuttering out, "I ... I ... I think he heard it from The Clone."
The Clone? Whiskers thought. Naturally. When he relaxed his grip, Grey Beard wriggled free, scampering off down the street without looking back. It was best to be out of range when Whiskers got really angry.
Whiskers needed time to think. The Clone had tarnished his reputation. He had no immediate answer to this problem. Whiskers returned to his back steps only to find Dirty Face had left. She was like that, hating the spotlight, skittering away from any problem. Now that Whiskers had a bad rep, no matter how untrue, she probably would avoid him until it blew over.
* * * * *
Whiskers took the studious approach. Stealthily he followed The Clone for awhile, but that revealed nothing. It was barely amusing watching him try to chase a parked car. And miss. Perhaps Whiskers would get more ideas watching Bowser.
Whiskers perched himself in a nearby tree where he had a vantage point that allowed him to see into both Bowser's and Fifi's yard, but would keep him hidden from their view. Separating the two yards - and the dogs - was a knotty, wooden fence with a latched gate in the middle. Watching them proved to be almost as frustrating as observing The Clone. The big dog seemed to just chase a sock toy around the yard most of the day. When Fifi came outside, the two just sat at the fences between them and sniffed at it. Whiskers was so bored, he took a nap right there on the tree limb.
When the Whiskers awoke, he could sense something was wrong. The sun, low on the horizon, cast long shadows on both of the yards he watched over. Bowser was still out, but he had gone from the fierce dog he was earlier to a whimpering wuss. In his exuberance, his sock toy had somehow been flung out of his yard, over the fence, and into Fifi's.
Fifi was there, but was addled by the sudden appearance of a toy that wasn't hers. Whiskers looked at her confusion and thought she must somehow be related to The Clone. All she has to do is fling it back to him, Whiskers thought to himself. Oh well, not everyone can be born with good looks and brains like me.
The sight was amusing, in a way. On one side of the wooden fence sat a big mean dog, crying for his toy stuffed sock. On the other, a fluffy white dog, looking confused at how to deal with the "magical" appearance of this new item in her yard. Whiskers would have laughed out loud if it wouldn't have revealed his hiding place.
Then a thought occurred to him. He could tease both dogs at the same time. He scampered down from the tree and, leaping up, balanced himself on the fence separating the two dogs. Naturally, as soon as they spied him, both dogs started barking at him, yelling complaints, as he strutted across the top of the fence.
"What are you doing up there, you flea infested feline?" Bowser yelped. "I hope you fall. I haven't eaten yet. I'll have Cat for dinner."
"Oh, that's so original for a mangy mutt like you," Whiskers countered. "Here, let me show you how cats are way superior to dogs." With that, Whiskers pranced along the top of the fence until he reached the gate, stepped on the latch, and the door between the two yards slowly swung open.
The ear-shattering barking that was Bowser suddenly stopped. His mouth dropped open in amazement. For a moment, the only noise was Fifi's yipping, but eventually she caught on and stopped barking too.
Whiskers, content with demonstrating Cat intellect, pranced off. From behind him, he heard Bowser barking out a thank you to him as he rushed into Fifi's yard to claim his toy. Glancing back, the last thing Whiskers saw were the two dogs sniffing each other just as pandemonium broke out when the dog's humans hysterically tried to separate the two dogs into their own yards again.
"Silly dog," Whiskers said out loud. "He thought I was doing him a favor."
* * * * *
The next day, keeping well out of sight, Whiskers went out tracking The Clone once more. After hours of boredom watching his stupid antics again, Whiskers watched The Clone stupidly chase a large bumblebee up against a fence, against Bowser's fence, against big snarling Bowser's fence. An idea dawned on Whiskers. Let's see how kindly Bowser takes to The Clone's insults, Whiskers thought.
Whiskers stepped out from the shadows. The Clone looked up as the bumblebee flew off and nearly jumped out of his skin. "Wha ... What are you doing here?" The Clone stammered.
"I've heard what you've been saying about me," Whiskers said while slowly inching his way toward the The Clone, one paw at a time.
"I don't know what you mean," The Clone said, trying to back up but finding his furry butt already flat against the fence. Just on the other side, Whiskers heard the sniffing of a dog. Bowser was listening in, but The Clone was too distracted by Whiskers' approach to notice.
Knowing that Bowser was listening in, Whiskers phrased his explanation for the dog's listening pleasure, "You were spreading rumors about how Bowser was friends with a Cat, with me specifically. You know that no self-respecting dog - or cat - would do that."
Confusion crawled across The Clone's face, but Whiskers had made his point. Hearing the snort behind the fence, he was sure Bowser had picked up on it. Now, Whiskers thought, to put the plan into action.
Whiskers had blocked off all but one avenue of escape for The Clone, so when Whiskers pounced, The Clone had nowhere to go but up - onto the top of the wooden fence. Seeing The Clone teetering for balance on top of the fence presented Whiskers with the opportunity he sought. Leaping onto the fence himself, Whiskers bounded into The Clone, sending The Clone crashing below, directly in front of Bowser.
Bowser wasted no time, pinning down The Clone. He barked gruffly, "So! You're the one making up rumors about me! Don't think I haven't heard them. You're a nasty vile creature, and I'd probably get brain rot if I bit you. But if I ever catch a hint of a whiff of an inkling of a rumor that even slightly mentions me again, I will dig my way out of here and hunt you down." With a quick swat of his powerful paw, he knocked The Clone away. "And next time I won't be so nice!" The Clone wasted no time scurrying up the fence, down again, and back into his own yard. His dignity shattered, his goal was only to be away from the menacing dog.
Still on the fence, Whiskers had watched the whole drama unfold. He began to chuckle. Bowser looked up, and his growling turned to laughter. "You know, for a flea infested feline, you're pretty cool," Bowser said.
Whiskers laughed even more, "You know, for a mangy mutt, you're almost tolerable."
* * * * *
That evening, Dirty Face joined Whiskers on the porch. She snuggled up next to him, rubbing her furry face into his neck. "I heard what happened today," she said. "I think The Clone's ego is going to take longer to heal than that black eye he's sporting now."
Whiskers didn't say anything, but welcomed the warm nuzzles from his girlfriend.
She continued, "I'm sorry for not believing in you. Besides, it doesn't matter who your friends are. You can pick and choose whomever you want."
"That's good," Whiskers said. "Because, I think I've got a new friend now. And he's a dog."
The startled look in Dirty Face's eyes was priceless.