Another tandem story written by Chris Hugh and the Anchorite
The Case of the Missing Snuggles
[Chris wrote this part]
Mr. Kitten lay on the top tier of his sand-colored cat tree. The clear light from the skylight played his dark fur, turning it a soft brown. He listened with his eyes closed as Twitch tore through the house screaming. Twitch finally ran into the craft room, paused, gagged and threw up on the floor. Then he rolled on his back, grabbed his tail, let it go and moaned. “I’m gonna die.”
Kitten softly leaned his head over the edge of the cat tree. He opened an eye. “What’s wrong?”
“I need snuggles right now!”
Kitten took a deep breath and rolled his eyes. “Well, alright, come up here if you must and I’ll—“
“Not your snuggles! I need Chris’ snuggles! She’s been gone forever!”
“It hasn’t been forever.”
“It has, it has!” Twitch cried, rolling on the ground in misery. “She’s been gone forever! She’ll never come back! What am I gonna do?”
“She’s only been gone for five hours, thirteen minutes.”
Twitch sat up and flicked a piece of dust off his shoulder. “Dude, how do you do that? Are you wearing a watch?”
“It’s all internal. Nowadays Chris leaves a bowl of food out all the time, but before she adopted you, she used to feed me twice a day. I developed a keen sense of time so I could wake her up to remind her.”
“Wait.” Twitch put his paw up and shook his head. “You guys existed before Chris adopted me?”
Mr. Kitten continued, “It was a point of pride to do things exactly on time. I’d wake her up right at 5:30 am, half an hour before the alarm clock went off.”
“Did she like that?”
“It was good for her.”
“Was that back when she was a school teacher?” Twitch asked. “Remember how we’d always wrestle on the bed right at midnight.” Twitch lay back down and sighed wistfully. “Those were the days.”
“No,” Mr. Kitten said. “’The days’ were the last two weeks she spent in bed. We had fourteen days of straight cuddles.”
Twitch stared hard at Kitten for a full minute, then relaxed. “I guess your math is right,” he said and sighed again. “Yeah, those were the days. What happened?”
“She’s not sick anymore. She went back to work.”
“She wasn’t sick.” Twitch said.
“Being sick,” Twitch said, “is when you go to the vet and bad things happen and then the lady gives the paper to Chris and Chris cries and cries and hands over the little plastic rectangle and cries some more. It’s terrible. Chris wasn’t sick.”
“That’s what happens when you get sick,” Mr. Kitten said slowly. “When humans get sick they lie in bed and blow their noses all day. By the way, why do you love to chew on used tissue so much?”
“For the same reason you love to chew on plastic.”
“And why do I love to chew on plastic?”
Twitch yawned. “For the same reason I love to chew on aluminum foil.”
“And why do you love to chew on foil?” Mr. Kitten asked.
“I dunno. Do you know why you love to chew on plastic?”
“No.” Kitten stared at the skylight. “You used to let her take the tissue from you, then you started running off with it.” Twitch made a noncommittal noise. “That was around the time Chris started getting all those nose bleeds.”
“Mmm, bloody tissues.”
“Twitch, sometimes I worry about you.”
“So getting back to what you said earlier,” Twitch said.
“What did I say?”
“About Chris not being sick anymore and going back to work.”
“Yes?” Mr. Kitten said.
Kitten furrowed his brow. “I’m not exactly sure, but I think it’s where Chris has to go and click on a computer to earn something called ‘money’.”
“Oh, so that she can pay for this house, and our expensive food and our Select Comfort bed and the HVAC system and robotic litterbox and expensive sheets and the garden window and catnip plants and all the other things that make life here so comfy and nice?” Twitch asked.
Twitch moaned again. “I’m gonna die without snuggles. Why oh why do we have to stay home enjoying these luxuries while Chris has to go and ‘work’?”
“That part I understand.” Mr. Kitten said. “What I don’t understand is, given that, why humans consider themselves the smartest animals on the planet.”
[the Anchorite wrote this next part]
Mr. Kitten and Twitch set out to find their human to reclaim their missing snuggles. Both cats knew that they had a difficult, perilous journey ahead of them so Twitch proposed enlisting aid on their epic quest. Twitch had one particular ally in mind so they walked down the corridor to his room. Mr. Kitten pushed the door open and felt the wall of sound hit him with almost tangible force.
Mr. Kitten heard the heavily distorted guitars, thunderous drumbeats, and contrasting subdued vocals that established the stylistic elements of shoegaze music. Mr. Kitten winced and saw a home stereo system in the room with its volume knob set to maximum. A white cat lay curled up in front of the blaring speakers, with his rhythmic breathing showing that he was sound asleep in the cacophony. A CapSul portable music player sat docked atop the stereo, containing the sleeping cat’s prized collection of shoegaze music that he often boasted was the world’s largest playlist.
Mr. Kitten felt like he swam against a current as he and Twitch approached the sleeping cat CC.
“The music player’s display is well into the red zone. I don’t know how he can possibly sleep through that racket. Come to think of it, CC is a ghost cat so why does he even need to sleep?”
“I don’t know Kitten, maybe it’s just an old habit. I’ll go wake him up.”
“He’s a ghost without a corporeal form; you can’t exactly tap his shoulder.”
“Oh ye of little faith, watch how the pros do this.”
“Wait a second Twitch, why are we even bothering with CC? He spends most of his time sleeping listening to his music. What possible help will he provide us with finding our snuggles?”
“He’s a ghost so he can go places we can’t. Plus if we run across ghost mice, he can take care of them.”
Mr. Kitten sighed in response.
“How many times must I tell you Twitch? Those weren’t ghost mice, they were just albinos.”
“I know what I saw, Kitten. Now I’m going to wake up Sleeping Beauty.”
“How are you going to do that, Twitch?”
Twitch raised a paw that he showed to Kitten. He walked towards CC who muttered in his sleep.
“Salvatore Ferragamo … Elie Tahari … Jimmy Choo … accessorize with Prada. Always accessorize with Prada.”
Twitch turned to Kitten.
“I don’t even want to know what that’s about. Well, here goes.”
Twitch raised a paw and struck CC behind his head. To Mr. Kitten’s surprise, Twitch’s paw made a loud thud on impact that he heard even over CC’s music.
“How is that even possible?”
“I have the magic touch, Kitten. I saved our human’s life with this same paw, you know. I woke her right up with a mighty strike, just like this.”
CC yawned and then blinked sleepy eyes at the two black cats.
“S’up guys, what do you want? I had another five hours on my nap, so this better be important.”
“Oh it is, CC. Our human is missing and our snuggles with her. We are on a quest to find her and we can use your help.”
“Hmm, let me assess this situation. I can stay here sleeping comfortably and listening to my awesome playlist, or I can go on a pointless adventure with you two morons. This looks like an easy choice to me.”
“Come on CC, where’s your sense of adventure? We’ve had so many good times together.”
“The last time I went on an ‘adventure’ with you, I spent a night at the pound.”
“Hey – my source told me those passports I purchased were legit. How was I supposed to know they were forged? And who knew a dogcatcher would go after cats?”
“I’m staying right here and you’re burning my daylight, so be on your way. Go away, scat, and disappear.”
Mr. Kitten spoke to a dejected Twitch.
“Well, that was a waste of time and he didn’t have to have such an attitude about it. Let’s go Twitch, we’ll find our snuggles with or without him.”
“Yes Kitten, let’s get out of here. Come on now, double time.”
When they left the room Twitch suppressed a laugh and said,
“I left a little surprise for CC. Our human’s husband is an engineer at Sumerian Systems so I picked up a thing or two about hacking a CapSul. After about three more songs, he’ll be listening to Kathlee’s Greatest Hits mashed up with the Apricot Princess Magical Storybook Hour on loop.”
“I remember when Kathlee stayed at the house. What a dreadful woman!”
“Eh, her attitude stunk but some of her songs were catchy in that dumb pop music way. Let’s get out of here before CC’s playlist gets disrupted.”
The cats walked outside of the house to begin their epic quest to find their human after a disappointing false start. Mr. Kitten suddenly stopped in his tracks and said,
“Before we start Twitch, I just remembered that we’re working on an assignment for Anton. We’ll miss several days of work on our quest, so shouldn’t we give him notice before we leave?”
Mr. Kitten and Twitch both burst out in laughter. Twitch had to wipe away tears with a paw. He replied with an exaggerated deep, booming voice.
"Look Kitten: ghosts and they're coming for us."
"Those aren't ghosts, Twitch, those are Klansmen."
[Chris Hugh wrote the part that follows]
“Oh, I get it. With the white sheets and stuff. Ghosts, Klansmen. That's pretty confusing. So, how do we deal with Klansmen, Kitten? I don’t know anything about them. I don’t think I even know how to spell KKK, do you, Kitten? Mr. Kitten?” Twitch glanced around and saw the tiny black dot that was Mr. Kitten, in human form, disappearing into the distance. Twitch looked back at the group of men. They ignored the carefully manicured paths of the park-like office grounds and walked directly toward him.
“Huh, that’s not too many for me to take on,” Twitch thought to himself as he began to count. “There’s one, two, two—what comes after two? Four. I dunno. Thyere are around four or five or them, give or take. Not too many to overpower if they get physical, but..." Twitch shrugged. "I think I'll outsmart them.”
Twitch leaned against a tree as the men came up. The tallest leaned over, his nose almost touching Twitch’s forehead, his fetid breath pouring down on his face. “Hey, boy,” the man hissed. “What are you doing standing around here naked?”
Twitched blinked at him impassively. “Dude,” he finally said, “you sort of answered your own question. I’m ‘standing around naked’. Seriously, wow. I thought that was obvious.”
Another white-robed figure strode up. “Are you trying to be smart?”
Twitch cocked his head. “Hey, I like you guys. No one’s ever called me smart before. But…” He looked down at the man’s chest, which was almost touching his. “Have you ever heard of personal space?”
“Neither have I,” Twitch said. “But then, I am a cat.”
“I think we need to put this guy in his place.”
“Yes, you do,” Twitch said softly and the men froze in place. Slowly, they realized the hidden truth of his words. Then Twitch fastened his eyes on one Klansman who was almost the same height and build as him and there was silence broken only by a strange, mesmerizing purr.
Ten minutes later, Twitch was dressed in that Klansman’s clothes. Other men were polishing his shoes, filing his nails and giving him a backrub.
They had indeed put Twitch in his place. And although some might have called theirs the failed philosophy of history’s losers, it had at least prepared them to recognize the true Master Race, to heed its gentle commands, and warm to the touch of the iron paw in the velvet glove. For even in human form, Twitch is always a cat.
[the Anchorite wrote this next part]
[Heather and Claire are walking through the office park, looking for Twitch and Kitten]
Heather and Claire walked arm-in-arm, with Claire brushing up against her taller wife.
"I'm so glad we finally have the time to go out on the town. It's like we hardly see each other anymore. I'm glad, but I wish we didn't have to wait until winter."
"You have such thin blood. You're bundled up and I'm fine without a jacket."
"Oh be quiet. I made reservations at this place I've been wanting to try forever. It has a Michelin star and a highly recommended rating from Sumerian's Ishtar app."
"Oh Ishtar, looking all slutty and barely wearing anything - not that I'm complaining. I could stare at that app all day. I doubt Sumerian would approve that avatar from a third-party developer, but they set their own rules for in-house programs. It's good to be the king..."
Heather stopped in her tracks and turned slowly, following something that caught her attention like a cat following a laser pointer. Claire rolled her eyes as she knew that few things could render Heather speechless. Claire's own vision zeroed in on an Asian woman dressed in elegant designer clothes walking arm in arm not unlike Heather and Claire with a tall, blond man.
"Stop being so obvious about it Heather, you're acting like a sailor on shore leave. Why don't you start whistling at her while you're at it?"
"Do I detect a note of jealousy, my love? Just because we're married doesn't mean I can't appreciate beauty when I see it."
"My wife - an overgrown frat boy trapped in a woman's body. She's clearly with a man, or has that escaped your notice?"
"What man? I only have eyes for that gorgeous specimen, but she's just a fleeting sight. You're the only one for me, you always have been, and we have dinner reservations so let's see if Ishtar's recommendation comes through."
"Well spoken, counselor. I suppose I'll forgive your transgression, but I'm going to hold you to your own standard if there happens to be an exotic Mediterranean beauty or two at the restaurant. Besides, take one look at that princess over there and you'll see she has high maintenance written all over her. Neither Prada shoes nor purse come cheap. How much do you think she cost that poor guy? I hope she's worth it."
Heather laughed and mockingly struck Claire on the shoulder.
"Listen to yourself, you're terrible. What is it with you Asian women that we can't put two of you together without it turning into a catfight? Still you do have a point as I don't need any fancy name brands to bribe you."
Claire snuggled against Heather again as they walked towards their dinner destination. Heather briefly looked at the sky and prayed that despite their reservations, this place would not refuse to serve them like the last upscale restaurant that they tried.
[Chris Hugh wrote this part]
Chris Hugh appeared behind the two women, poked an inquisitive head between them and draped two arms over their shoulders. The women startled, then looked at Chris with that combination of amusement and annoyance with which Chris was so familiar.
“Hey, guys. How’s it going?” They smiled wanly. “Hey,” Chris went on. “You’re supposed to be big lesbian feminists, right?”
Heather made a face. “I’d hardly call us ‘feminists’. That word has been co-opted by extremists and is usually uttered as an expletive these days.”
“And I,” said Claire, “would hardly call us ‘big’. I happen to prize my girlish figure and, despite what anyone might say, I only wear a size—“
“What I mean,” Chris interjected, “is what makes you think that Ting Ting is costing CC a lot of money?”
“Who-who is costing whom-whom what-what?” Claire asked with a sneer.
“Ting Ting is the attractive woman there and the ‘poor guy’ who somehow combines elegance with masculine ruggedness is CC. Why do you assume he bought her the accessories and that she didn’t acquire them herself? “
Heather blinked at the insight, but Claire’s lips tightened, and Chris could see the doors slamming shut behind her eyes. The women stopped walking.
Chris pressed the point. “If those two are who I think they are, neither has a penny.” Chris laughed. “Ting Ting could have stolen their clothes just as easily as CC.”
Suddenly Ting Ting and CC were standing before them with unworldly poise. They had glided up unoticed on silent feet. They nodded to Chris, then Ting Ting spoke.
“I didn’t steal,” she said.
Chris raised an eyebrow.
Ting Ting spread wide her elegant hands. “Look at where we are, this valley, this state, this country. I did not steal these items any more than your ancestors stole this land from the original inhabitants. They regarded the Indians as inferior beings with no rights, whose property could naturally be converted to their use, and…” Ting Ting shrugged and looked down at her elegant dress. “I’m sorry, but that is how we regard you humans.”
Chris turned to Heather and Claire. “You see, these two are—“
“—Cats.” Heather said. “That’s obvious now.”
Claire buried her head in her hands. “No.”
Chris turned back to CC and Ting Ting. “Usually, when cats get involved in Claire’s life, her house burns down.”
“Or a giant cruise ship magically appears and busts apart the replacement house she’s building,” Heather added.
“Or I get eaten by a shark,” Claire sobbed.
“So you’ll understand,” Chris said, “she’s a bit upset.”
“Oh, how sad,” Ting Ting said, her stately face as fine and emotionless as marble.
CC yawned. “Yeah, too bad. Whatever.” He yawned again. “Can we start looking for Twitch and Mr. Kitten now? I want to find those knuckle heads.”
Ting Ting looked at CC and her face for the first time betraying some feeling. “I don’t want you to call them that. They saved my life. They are my friends.”
CC stepped back. “I didn’t know loyalty was a particularly feline characteristic,” he sneered.
Ting Ting said nothing but her impassive glance spoke volumes.
CC stared back. Slowly the smirk on his face turned into an expression, not of contrition, but of dignity. “Yes. I see. We cats give loyalty where it is earned, and they have earned your loyalty. And tact is a trait common to all cats, although,” he nodded politely, “occasionally some of us forget to exercise it. Excuse me.”
He bowed. Ting Ting curtsied in return and the tiny argument was concluded.