Saturday, October 18, 2008

Thomas the Spy Cat and the Case of the Funerary Flower Thief

The Mission Begins

Thomas loped like a cat across the frosty field, darting between sagebrush and tumbleweed, keeping his green eyes peeled. On the lookout Thomas was, and why not? For he was hot on the trail of a rascal and a thief. Oh yes, there was mischief afoot, and a good deal of grief. Thomas was in his prowling mode, heading towards the stone gate on Cemetery Road.

Thomas could lope like a cat because he was a cat. Not a big cat, like a lion or a tiger, but large for his species, which was House. Thomas was a House Cat. But not just any house cat. Thomas was a spy cat, and he was out on this cold October night to carry out a spy mission. What mission, you ask? A mission to discover the identity of the infamous Funerary Flower Thief! The FFT, for short, or as Thomas said, the “phfft.”

Thomas stopped at the old stone gate. He thought I’d better hesitate. Alert to every move and sound he looked around, first to the right, and then to the left, and then to the sky, and then to the ground -- up into the bare branches of trees hulking overhead, and down at the grey, gravel path upon which his four feet tread. Satisfied that the coast was clearly clear, Thomas the spy cat thought, I have nothing to fear, and padded softly on his furry paws through the stone gate that looked like a giant’s jaws.

The Spy Cat Spying

A full moon hung in the darkening sky, melting mysteriously among the hovering clouds. A chill wind moaned with a mournful sigh, scattering the dry leaves that laid like shrouds across clustered graves.

Thomas stopped beside a looming gravestone and sniffed the air. “Whooo,” came a voice from somewhere high above and Thomas crouched, cat like (because, remember, he was a cat), beneath the red leaves of a spiny Barberry bush. “Whoo,” came the cry again. And then, whoosh, above his head flew a great white owl. You have to be careful when you’re out on the prowl!

A great, dark cloud moved across the moon, and Thomas thought, It’s not too soon. The flower thief might be here now. He moved beneath a low hanging bough where unobserved he could observe, a new grave. A simple marble memorial stone engraved with R.I.P stood at the head of the grave, and there by the stone were fresh flowers fittingly placed by family members in remembrance of their dear departed.

Thomas settled down to wait and watch. He placed his front feet out in front, with his white paws poised to leap, and his back feet under his russet rump, with his white paws poised to jump, and he let his long, and furry tail lay out behind, and he kept it there, unconfined, so just its tip could twitch and switch. And Thomas waited there like that – the watchful, wary, sly spy cat.

The Villain Captured

Thomas thought about his quest. Who was the culprit stealing flowers meant for dear ones laid to rest? Who would do this, Thomas wondered, all these grave adornments plundered?

He listened closely. Heard a rustle. Something moving in the leaves. Are those the sounds of flower thieves? Thomas tensed his every muscle, ready to leap, to pounce, to tussle. What’s behind that bush, that bower? Something’s pulling on that flower! I think I’d better try and grab it! And Thomas jumped upon a… a rabbit. “Hey, that’s not funny,” said the fuzzy, soft brown bunny.
It squirmed, and writhed, and wriggled. “I’m just here to have a snack. Why did you give me such a whack?”
“Why, why? I’ll tell you why,” said Thomas. “You’re stealing flowers from a grave. Is that the way one should behave?”
The bunny said, “I have to eat! I thought they were a lovely treat. Now let me up. Don’t be so silly. Let me go and eat my lily.”
“Those flowers aren’t for you,” the spy cat said. “They’re there in honor of the dead. You can’t eat them, silly bunny.”
The bunny stopped its wriggling and suddenly started giggling.
“Well, I don’t eat the whole, darn wreath; a flower here, a flower there. Do the dear departed care?”
Thomas gave the hare a glare, green eyes flashing, cat teeth gnashing. “The families care you little thief. If you don’t stop, I’ll give you grief!”
“Okay, alright, I will agree,” the bunny said, “But set me free.”
“And do you promise not to eat the lilies, roses, or carnations?”
“Yes, I promise,” said the naughty little rabbit. “I will break my eating habit. From now on I won’t eat much, just some greens and roots and such, and perhaps a few impatiens.”
So Thomas set the bunny free.
And off the little rabbit hopped, his rabbit paws going thwop, thwop, thwop.

A Frightening Night

Thomas sat and watched the rabbit disappear across the grass and through the bushes. Then he rose and padded softly through the cemetery and out the stone gate, back down Cemetery Road, back across the frosty field, towards home. Mission accomplished, he thought.

As he turned and headed down the block, he saw a shadow dart across the street, and then another. Thomas jumped into the bushes and hunkered down. What was that! And then he saw it. Some wispy, white thing floating furtively down the street followed by another frightening apparition dressed in black. Thomas leaped up and raced across the lawns of neighbor’s homes until he slid to a sudden stop at his own front door. He gave the signal for the door to be opened, “Meow, meow,” he said, glancing frantically down the block where shapes too gruesome to contemplate came closer.

Finally, the door opened. His mistress stood there peering down at him.
“Why Thomas Cat, where have you been? It’s cold outside. You must come in!” And Thomas dashed right through the door and slid across the hardwood floor.
“Why what’s the matter, you silly cat?” His mistress said, just like that.
How could she know that just outside, witches on their broomsticks ride?

Feeling safer now, Thomas tried to look nonchalant. He decided to wash up a bit. He lifted a paw and with his rough, pink tongue began to clean it. I’ll neaten up, and then have a bite to eat, thought Thomas.

Just then there was a fearsome banging on the door. Thomas leaped high into the air and ran and hid beneath a chair. He saw his mistress move towards the door. NO! Don’t open it! Thomas thought, but all he could say was “Meow!”

The mistress reached out and took the door handle in her hand and Thomas heard the click of the latch unlatching. She’s going to let them in, he thought, those scary ghosts and goblins. Thomas, the spy cat, sat trembling under the chair too frightened to retreat. He heard the door swing open, the sound of shuffling feet, and then the happy shouts of
“Trick or treat! Trick or treat!”


The cat in the picture is Thomas Samuel Katt. He came to Kennewick in the back of a moving van and adopted my father, who suggested that Thomas would be happier with us, where he is now. The graveyard pictured is in Ireland somewhere out on the windswept moors. The bunny lives at Cannon Beach, Oregon, at a lodge in Ecola State Park. The boy trick or treating is Logan Matthew, our 3 year-old grandson.

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