Friday, March 21, 2008

THE FREELOADER





Part Five
THE FREELOADER

"Sweet, darling babies. Who are the most precious bundles of love? Why these sweet little honey-babies are! These are the dearest pets ever!"

Mephistopheles Cat and Nutmeg Cat luxuriated in the radiance that was Mama's loving voice as she made up the huge king-size bed. Mama could always be depended upon to recognize a Cat's true worth. The great orangey, white fluff ball that was Mephistopheles lounged on the window seat which overlooked the garden and deck. His sister, the lithe tabby, Nutmeg, had laid claim to a corner of the comforter still on the floor.

"Aren't these the best fur babies a Mama could have?!" Mama continued to coo as she tugged the comforter up - or tried to. "Nut-Nut sweetie, may I have the cover please?" Mama gently lifted her kitty from the bedding and finished her morning chore.

Lifting her gaze, Mama noticed Mephistopheles’ nose pressed to the glass, body rigid, and the fur along his back erect. His sister joined him, making growling noises in her throat. Curious, Mama wandered over to the window.

"Why look at this! And whose beautiful Himalayan kitty are you?" Mama was quite surprised to see a long haired, seal point Siamese reposing on her deck regarding her through lazy cobalt eyes.

"Oh the poor wee thing! His ribs are showing. This skinny kitty must be starving. We must feed him at once babies. My sweet darlings wouldn't mind sharing their food would they?"

"Meeoow," objected King Cat. "Mama that is a Freeloader! He's been begging from the neighbors for weeks. Papa even chased him from inside the garage the other day. He's been getting along just fine, so please don't encourage him. Besides, he's bound to be flea ridden, mite infested, and mangy."

"Meeoow," chimed in Nutmeg Cat. "Of course I mind sharing my sustenance Mama! He's perfectly capable of catching a mouse or - or, a skunk or something. I will not share my tuna or chicken hearts with anybody."

"Don't bet on it! Remember I'm King Cat and I will eat anything I choose." Mephistopheles looked his sister straight in the eye and swished his tail.

"I seem to recall you in Mama and Papa's bad graces the other evening when you climbed up the kitchen counter to attack the box of Pounce," Nutmeg reminded him slyly.

"The point is I ate a good many of them - as many as I chose as a matter of fact," he retorted rather proudly.

"You weren't very quick for a Cat, Bumble Butt! You were caught before you could clear the scene and disdainfully deny it!" Nutmeg's green eyes sparkled as she crowed with pleasure.

This was a sore spot indeed, but before Mephistopheles could reply, a howl from outside captured his attention. The Freeloader was emboldened by Mama's sweet voice and was now pacing and wailing in anticipation of some attention, which could mean a nibble or two.

"Of course my love kittens will share their food with you, you poor ravenous darling." Mama marched away to fulfill her mission.

Nutmeg Cat followed closely on Mama's heels. She must guide Mama's hands to the least important meals such as turkey or kitty stew. In fact the more of those given away the better. They were really much too bourgeois for a Princess's taste. Unfortunately, Mama had not been made to see this just yet.

Mama quickly prepared a water bowl and a dish of turkey with giblets. Nutmeg successful in her undertaking, unbent enough to feel just a tiny bit of sympathy for a homeless Cat and followed her Mama to the screened glass door. The Freeloader was standing on his hind legs pawing the screen.
"Oh you thoughtful sweetheart, you aren't even using your claws."

"That's because he doesn't have any," remarked Mephistopheles Cat dryly as he nudged Mama's leg. She paid no heed however, as she stepped out to the deck to set her offerings down for the delectation of the Freeloader. He promptly buried his head in the food dish.

"You need lots more don't you, you poor neglected kitty?" Mama continued to watch the hungry, scruffy creature gulp his meal.

"What's this?" Papa squeezed through the door to the deck so as not to let his Cats out. "No, no, and no," he shook his head as he comprehended the situation. "We have enough Cats! Two fur bags are annoying enough. We will not acquire a third! Take it to the Pound."

Even Mephistopheles and Nutmeg cringed and flattened their bodies on the floor at the mention of this nightmarish, bloodcurdling, chilling word. It was the Unmentionable Place. A destination so horrifying it did not bear thought. Only the most unlucky or cursed found their destiny here.

"I most certainly will not. I'm just feeding the poor famished beast. How could you refuse such a wretched creature - just look at him." Mama turned around only to find the Freeloader had abandoned his meal to cower behind her. "You've frightened him," she said in outraged tones. "Besides you love Mepher and Nut-Nut to distraction -- you can't fool me or them!"

Papa rubbed his face wearily knowing he was defeated. "He can't come in the house until he has seen the Vet. Lord only knows what he's got: Feline Leukemia, Feline Aides, fleas, or multiple infections for all we know." Papa sighed and shook his head. He noticed the stray was now placidly eating from his dish. Smart Cat indeed.

"He must have been someone's cherished pet at one time. It seems he's a purebred Himalayan sans claws." Mama remarked.

"That's something I suppose," Papa said as he entered the house. Once inside he thoughtfully inquired, "Have you asked these Snippets how they feel about welcoming an interloper into their midst?"

Mama peered through the screen. "Well, precious purr boxes? You two enjoy such a warm, cozy home, all the food you can eat, and all the love and attention you can tolerate. How about extending some of this bounty to a poor, unfortunate Cat with no home?"
"Meow," expostulated Mephistopheles Cat indignantly. "Over my fur-less body! That is a Freeloader and I will not have him in my home! You can't have forgotten I am King! He will not even breathe on my cat box! In short, he is not welcome in my domain!" Mephistopheles Cat could not remember having been so agitated.

"Meow! Meeoow!" Nutmeg Cat paced to and fro before the screen protesting resentfully. "I shall not share my delicacies with this bedraggled, un-groomed, grubby vagrant. He is a derelict who belongs under the bush in which he has been living! I will not have my tranquillity and solitude intruded upon!" The Princess intensely disliked any sort of excitement and this tumultuous hubbub was almost too much for her dainty fortitude.

"Why their enthusiasm is obvious," cried Mama in delight. "They would love company! You little loves, how generous of you to open your home to a helpless and homeless Cat!"

"I believe you are misinterpreting the Snippets' reaction. They are quite perturbed and no wonder - they have been our only and very spoiled beasts for all their five years. They are rejecting him," said Papa intuitively.

But Mama did not hear him and bent down to touch her new kitty. "What shall we name you Honey-Bunny?"

The Freeloader melted under his new Mama's caress. No one had treated him with this beneficence since his former People had lost him. She was quite perceptive, too. She was aware that he was an exquisite, rare purebred seal point Himalayan who's only calling was to be spoiled and cosseted. Yes, he had chosen wisely: he would be quite happy with these People.

"He has been such a brave Cat to survive in the Wild with no claws. And weren't the Siamese considered royalty? We'll call him Pendragon after a courageous and triumphant king," declared Mama.

"Dragon breath," murmured the real King sulkily as he trotted off in search of a sufficiently forbidden activity to properly show his dissent. Perchance a plump roll of toilet paper shredded and trailed about the house. No, much too tame. This required something really special.

Ahh - hah! Just the thing! The very essence of himself strategically deposited in significant locations! Mmm, where first? Perhaps a kitchen chair...or a high heeled shoe......

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