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Authors: George Selden

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BOOK: Harry Cat's Pet Puppy
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“He's beautiful!” said Lulu. “Just the color of soot. He blends right in to the city snow. The cops'll never catch that dog.”

“Lulu—thank you for all this cheery information, but if you're in a hurry—”

“I'm not in a hurry. Besides, I want to say hello to—and speak of the devil! Here he is! Hi, Harry.”

“Hi, Lulu.” Harry Cat slipped into the drainpipe, and as usual the first thing he did was to lick himself clean. The trip uptown and back was very messy these winter days, and like the people who live in New York the cats there either stay especially clean or else tend to turn into bums.

“How's tricks, man?”

“Not so hot, Lulu. Some kids spraying graffiti on the subway cars decided that it would be lots more fun to spray me. And while I was running away from them, a lady wearing boots stepped right on my tail. It wasn't her fault, though—she didn't see me.”

“Enough with the tail! The tail will get better. How did Miss Catherine like the two plastic toothpicks I sent up yesterday?”

“Not much. And that's something we've got to talk about, all that stuff. When Miss Catherine saw the toothpicks, she just laughed and said, ‘Really, Harry—'”

“Since when does she call you Harry?”

“Oh, she's called me by my first name for days.”

“Very charming,” nodded Tucker. “In another year or two she may call you Puss-puss.”

“What's wrong with you?” The cat recognized a certain perilous edge in his friend's voice.

“There's nothing wrong with me! I'll tell you what's wrong with me! I am sick, Harry Cat, sick and tired of working my claws to the bone for the sake of a pampered—”

“Now hold on, Tucker—”

“—a pampered house cat! And speaking of working my claws to the bone, and having my fur torn out—”

we speaking of having your fur torn?” purred Harry impatiently. His fur began to rise and crackle with electricity.

“Yes!” Tucker shouted. “Here's a present for Puss-puss for tomorrow!” He threw the patched flower straight in Harry's face.

“That flower?”

“That flower! What's wrong with that flower?”

“A pack rat wouldn't have dragged it home.”

“Are you calling me a rat?”

“Oo! oo! oo!”
Lulu Pigeon wasn't exactly a bad bird, but she had a mischievous sense of humor and didn't mind getting a few good laughs out of watching friends quarrel.

“I'm not calling you a pack rat,” hissed Harry through his teeth. “I'm just saying this gift is absurd!”

“Absurd!” It was as if someone had pulled Tucker's whisker of self-respect. “I will not be made to look absurd.” He ripped up the flower furiously. “And I've had it, Harry! I've had it up to here!” He held his claw beneath his chin—not too high, perhaps, but for an outraged mouse, the limit. “Why don't you go up and
with Miss Catherine? Just jump in her hope chest—she can keep you there with the rest of the junk! Since you don't like this pack rat's home.” He crumpled the torn pieces into a ball. “And when you get up there, give
to Miss Catherine, with my love!” And threw it straight into Harry's face.

“All right, that did it!” Harry stood on his four legs, trembling, and advanced on Tucker threateningly. For an instant they seemed like nothing but natural enemies—cat, mouse—and blood was in the few inches of air that separated the two of them.

“Okay, boys—break it up!” Lulu Pigeon waddled between them and spread her wings apart. “Enough's enough. Who would have thought anybody could bust up the happiest drainpipe in all New York? Harry Cat and Tucker Mouse—” She clucked her tongue reprovingly. “Tsk, tsk, tsk.”

Harry and Tucker looked away from each other. Eyes, when you're ashamed, can be painful.

“Now shake hands,” ordered Lulu. “Or shake paws. Shake claws. Shake anything!”

They shook.

“It's my nerves,” explained Tucker. “I'm worried—about Huppy.”

“My tail,” explained Harry.

“You want some ice? I could get some ice for your tail from the lunch stand.”

“No, thanks. It'll be all right.”

And making friends again, after anger, then shame, is a pleasure that starts hard, but ends with a special ease.

“It's so stupid to fight,” said Harry Cat. “Today especially. I have good news.”

Tucker's hope leaped into his mouth. “Will she

“She's consented to an interview.”

“An interview—”

“That's all. For now.”

Tucker tried to swallow his hope again.

“Well? Where do we meet?” said Lulu.

“We?” said Harry.

said Tucker.

“Why, sure!” cooed the pigeon. “You don't think I'd miss this, do you?
Oo! oo! oo!



absurd,” sighed Tucker hopelessly, as he took a break from his labors in the kitchen quarter of the drainpipe. “I act absurd, I feel absurd.” He glanced into a piece of broken mirror propped against one wall. “I look absurd—I'm absurd!” It was very little consolation, but he popped a sliver of ham in his mouth. Stealing tidbits in advance is allowed to a cook, and Tucker felt he deserved a treat.

It's a very good thing that he and Harry had had their almost-fight two days before, because if they hadn't, the mouse would certainly have been spoiling for it tonight. When Harry had said that Miss Catherine would permit an interview, what he hadn't let on, right away, was that she had added, in a petulant voice, that she “certainly would
allow the animal in Horatio's apartment.” She would come down to Bryant Park herself. And Harry had also failed to tell Tucker, until he thought the mouse could take it, that he had been so impressed by Miss Catherine's offer, well, he'd asked her to stop by the drainpipe on her way down, for a bite to eat. Hence Tucker's resigned absurdity. For even he had to admit there was something truly ludicrous about a mouse preparing a dinner party for two cats—with a crazy bird thrown in!

Lulu Pigeon was the first guest to arrive. “Hi, man!”

“Hi, Lulu.” Tucker munched his ham gloomily.

“Harry up collecting the guest of honor?”

“Not ‘collecting,' Lulu.” Tucker daintily lifted one claw. “He's ‘escorting' her down to my humble home.”

“Groovy!” said Lulu. “This is going to be a classy bash, I see.”

“I got a feeling I'm the one who's getting bashed,” said Tucker.

“Oh, boy—bread crumbs!” The pigeon waddled toward a succulent heap that Tucker had piled up for her earlier in the evening. “And
bread crumbs—wow! You're really putting on the dog.”

“Get your beak out of those bread crumbs, Lulu! Nobody eats till everyone's here.”

“You're eating—”

“I need it.” Tucker swallowed. “And that was the last until Madame Queen makes her entry.”

Like most good hosts, Tucker couldn't relax while he waited for his party to start. He fidgeted around the part of the floor that he had decided was a dining-room table, rearranging ripped but clean paper napkins, making sure that each animal's own special Dixie cup was placed just so, and generally making himself and Lulu Pigeon so nervous that she was about to tell him to cool it—when, with a swish of fur against pipe, the two cats appeared.

“Miss Catherine,” Harry began the introductions, “this is Tucker, Tucker Mouse, my friend, and this is Lulu, Lulu Pigeon, a friend of the family, you might say. Ha, ha.” Harry was fairly nervous himself—his laugh broke apart—since he was very well aware how much depended upon tonight.

“I've heard much about you, Mr. Mouse,” said Miss Catherine.

Tucker had promised himself that he wouldn't be intimidated by his guest. But he was. She was truly an elegant, aristocratic feline, with her sleek beige Siamese fur and her chocolate-brown head, which she held a little bit aloof. Her eyes were china blue, and more than most cats' eyes—much more than Harry's—they felt as if they went right through Tucker's own little black beads. Also, to the mouse's amazement, she'd come all the way down from the Upper West Side without even smudging herself—quite a trick for what he had thought a spoiled house cat.

He stuttered a moment, then managed to say, “Yeah—well—I'm glad you could make it, Miss Catherine.”

“Miss Pigeon—” With a very slight nod of her head, Miss Catherine acknowledged Lulu's presence.

“Hiya, Kate!” cooed the kookoo bird.

Harry and Tucker glanced frantically at one another. Had the black slit in her Siamese eyes become even narrower?

But if she was offended at Lulu Pigeon's impertinence, Miss Catherine never let on. She was too well brought up for that. Her gaze slid impassively over Tucker's and Harry's faces, as if they were only two more objects, like the high heel or the broken mirror. “So this is the famous drainpipe, is it? Mmmm,” she purred. “Most interesting.”

“Uh—if you'd like, Miss Catherine”—Tucker sounded as little like a mouse and as much like a gallant Afghan hound as he could—“I could show you around.”

“Hey, you guys, let's chow down! My stomach's rumbling!”

It's a well-known fact—known only to themselves, perhaps—that animals with fur can blush like mad beneath their hair.

Harry hid his embarrassment by making small talk, which he did very well, but not nearly as well as Miss Catherine. Being Siamese, and so naturally talkative, but even more so because of her perfect training, she knew how to make the simplest things seem absolutely fascinating. She and Harry exchanged observations on the food, the napkins—since it was just small talk, they didn't have to believe each other—on everything and anything. Anything, that is, to drown out Lulu.

She did need some drowning out too, because she, at least, was one person who thought she knew what a dinner party was all about. It was all about dinner!—not talk. She waded into her food—quite literally: she walked right into the pile of bread crumbs—with relish, and her bill began to snap. Its clacking was only silenced when she stopped long enough—“Ooooo!”—to moan with pleasure at finding a crumb with melted butter soaked into it.

Needless to say, unlike the pigeon's, Miss Catherine's manners were beautiful. As well as being able to travel twenty blocks on a winter night and not get dirty, she was also the only cat that Tucker Mouse had ever seen who could lap up milk without making a sound.

As for Tucker, he was his usual self—a bundle of scurrying furry nerves. He ran back and forth between his pantry, which was only a pantry because that was where the food was stored before being served, and the dining-room table, and got so preoccupied in making sure that Miss Catherine had enough to eat that he almost forgot to eat himself. But not quite.

On several of these trips he stopped, accidentally, beside Lulu Pigeon and, when no one was looking, gouged her in the ribs, by way of advising her to eat more quietly. When she'd had enough of that—four gouges—she interrupted her munching, said, “What's with the elbow, Mickey Mouse?” and whacked him with a wing. It sent him sprawling. He could only grin up from the floor at Harry and Miss Catherine and pretend that nothing at all had happened.

Dessert was the mouse's usual special: unmelted ice cream. The night before, Tucker had rescued a very large chunk—almost a whole scoop—of vanilla from the counter of the lunch stand. He had an elaborate way, which only worked in the winter, of keeping it solid. He would pack the ice cream in a paper cup and then drag it up through all the pipes, away from the warmth of the subway station, almost to the sidewalk. And then pray that the weather stayed below freezing. Last night, since he wanted it to be a surprise, he had done all the work of dragging alone while Harry was asleep. Quite a trick, the whole procedure was, if Tucker had to say so himself.

BOOK: Harry Cat's Pet Puppy
2.18Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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