Category: Sentient Animals

The Dog in a Beret

It was snowy and cold and the children were bored. They stared out the front window and watched the snow fall.   And then Michael saw something strange. “Look, Jane,” Michael said. “It’s a dog in a beret. We should invite him in!”

“Yes, let’s!” Jane said.

They raced to the door and threw it open. “Come here, dog in a beret. Come inside and play!” Michael said.

“Do come,” Jane said. “We’ll have lots of fun today.”

The dog stopped and looked at them. “ I don’t know you, you don’t know me. This isn’t safe at all. Where are your parents? Don’t you have safety rules to follow?”

“I completely agree,” a soft bubbly voice said behind them. “But they never listen to me.”

“When the cat came to play, everything went fine,” Jane said.   Michael pouted.

“Why don’t you just play a nice game or read a book?” The dog asked. He straightened his beret.

Michael sat up straighter and smiled. “Yes, that’s just it! A game!”

“Do you have any things in a box?” Jane asked.

“I don’t have any games with me. I was just out for a walk. Now I really must be going,” the dog said.

“Goodbye,” said the burbly voice. “Now close the door! You’re letting the cold in!”

“Wait! Stop!” Jane yelled.   “We’ll come outside to play!”

“Yes! Do you have paint? We could color all the snow!” Michael said.

“This really is ridiculous. Fine.   Let’s build a snowpup,” the dog said.   “But you must dress warmly first.   Coats, mittens, scarves and hats.”

“The cat was funner,” Michael muttered.

“It’s more fun!” the voice said. “And no he wasn’t. The cat was a menace.”

“This is better than watching snow fall,” Jane said. “Come on, Michael.”

The children dressed warmly and came out and waited. “Why are you just looking at me?” The dog in a beret asked.

“We’re waiting for you to do something,” Jane said.

“Don’t you know how to play in the snow?” the dog asked.

“Well, yes, but you’re here now,” Michael said. “Do something funny.”

The dog rolled its eyes. “Each of you go roll some snow into a ball. You really need to learn to entertain yourself.”

“He sounds just like mom,” Jane whispered.

“Or the fish,” Michael whispered back.

“I can hear you,” the dog said. “Get going. The snow won’t roll itself.”

“Fine.” Michael said. Off the children went. Pretty soon, the dog was directing them as they assembled the snow pup. They found leaves for ears, a stick for a tail, and rocks for eyes.

“I think that was kind of fun,” Jane said. “What’s next?”

“Now you go in and warm up and maybe read a book,” the dog in a beret said, brushing snow off his paws. “And I finally go home.”

“So, do we need to smash the snow pup?” Michael asked.

“You can if you’d like, but there’s no need for it,” the dog said.

“But then mom will know!” Jane said.

“You shouldn’t really be keeping secrets from your mom. If you’re not supposed to play outside, it will be hard to hide anyways. Your hats and coats and scarves and mittens are wet. There are footprints everywhere in the yard. Even if the snowpup is smashed, the snow will never look the same,” the dog said.

“And the fish will tell,” Michael said. His shoulders slumped.

“I think this talk with your mother is long overdue anyway. Good luck! Good bye!” the dog said. And then he left, with a tip of his beret.

“He really wasn’t very fun,” Michael said.

“Yeah.” Jane said. “Let’s go inside.”


The Mission

Flitwing piloted his craft, trying to blend into his surroundings. He’d managed to obtain the necessary cargo. It was enough food for everyone waiting back at camp. It wasn’t his first time making the supply run, but traffic was especially heavy today and it was making him nervous.

“Flitwing to base. There is hardly any space here to maneuver. Is the mission still possible?”

A crackle came through the speaker above his instrument panel. “Flitwing you worry too much. If you continue to be careful, everything will be fine.”

Perhaps there was some holiday The Others were celebrating. It was difficult to live alongside a culture that was complex and obviously intelligent, but completely incapable of communication.

Well, not incapable of communicating with each other it seemed, but researchers had never been able to decipher their signals or make any meaningful contact with The Others. Perhaps they were unwilling to communicate with anyone else. In any case, without real communication, there wasn’t much that could be done.

So far, the only real workable policy seemed to be to hide under the surface of their society and pretend to not be a threat. The sheer size and numbers of The Others was enough to convince even the most foolhardy that this was a battle they could not win.

So they hid in plain sight and scrounged for leftovers. In the dark, in secret, they built defense measures, honed by generations of their greatest minds. This vehicle was one of their finest achievements. If it fell into the wrong hands, everything was over.   They would no longer be able to hide, and the safety of their civilization would be in jeopardy.

Flitwing felt the pressure of not only the hungry waiting for him in camp, but also the urgency to remain hidden. He couldn’t stand out. He’d studied The Others for years and still didn’t really understand them.

He always felt their eyes on him when he was out among them. Even hidden inside the vehicle, he could feel the glances, the stares. He could hear their whispery signals and wondered if they meant anything threatening.   Were they suspicious? Had he been caught?

He was jostled and his vehicle lost hold of the precious cargo. Flitwing nearly collapsed in fear. He pushed it down and tried to regain equilibrium.   One of The Others reached out to steady his ship and reloaded the supplies with a tap, tap. Did it mean something, this tap on the side of the ship?   It seemed friendly. He responded with what he was told was a friendly signal and walked a little slower to make it easier to maneuver through the traffic.

He had finally entered the wilderness area where his group had made camp.   Once he’d distributed the supplies, he’d park and secure the vehicle and rest for a bit. He wasn’t in the scouting group today, and he was grateful.   His nerves were stretched thin.

“Flitwing to base. I’m nearly there.”

“Good job, Flitwing. I have confirmation that the area is secure and your group is waiting. Check in again when you are ready to return the vehicle to base.”

The unusually large crowds seemed to follow him almost to the deserted corner they’d claimed. While the area was still clear, he maneuvered the craft and distributed the food over a wide area. He docked the ship nearby, set the ship on “snooze” and opened the cockpit and flew out.

He closed up the ship again to keep it hidden, and fluttered down to join his flock, already pecking at the seed. He preened his feathers and looked back. The ship dozed, looking like an elderly Other resting on one of their perches by the out-of-the-way path.   The secret seemed safe for yet another day.


Yellow Cats

Dave frowned. There was just a muffin and a banana in his lunchbox. He hated the end of the month when money was tight.   Maybe if he ate slower he wouldn’t feel as hungry.

He put his books on the lunch table so no one would see how small his lunch was, and unpeeled the banana. He blinked. There wasn’t a banana inside the peel. Instead, there was a little yellow kitten with dark eyes. He pinched himself. Still there.

“Hello,” the kitten said. He looked around and looked back. It was still there. “No one else can see me,” it said. It turned its head and started licking its back.

“Where did my banana go?” Dave asked.

“There wasn’t one,” the kitten said. “Just me.”

“Oh,” Dave said. He started to peel his muffin. He really was hungry. The kitten watched him and leaned forward as he prepared to take a bite. “Did you want some?” Dave asked.

“Thank you,” the kitten said. It swallowed the entire muffin in one bite and then went back to licking its back. The muffin was bigger than its head, so Dave wasn’t really sure how that just happened.

“You’re welcome, I guess,” Dave said. “What’s your name?”

“I don’t want one,” the kitten said.

“Then what will I call you?”

The kitten turned around and stared at him. “Don’t say anything at all. People will think you’re crazy. If you only talk to me when we’re alone, who else would you be talking to?”

That made sense. Dave nodded and then looked around. Everyone else was eating. He sighed and began to pack his bag again. No lunch today. Maybe he could win some candy if Mr. Long was giving a pop quiz. He always studied hard just in case.

To his delight, there was a pop quiz. He quickly filled in his answers and waited for the others to finish writing. He could almost taste the chocolate. The kitten jumped off his shoulder and studied his paper. “This one is wrong,” it said. “And this one. And this one. You’re really bad at this.”

Dave looked at his answers again. He really wanted that chocolate. He was pretty sure they were right. But he was so hungry. He changed his answers.

The kitten was wrong. “Sorry,” it said and started licking its paws. Dave groaned and shoved the test in his bag. His stomach growled.

“Dave,” Mr. Long said. “You sound hungry.” The class laughed. Dave’s face burned.   Mr. Long waited until everyone settled down and then smiled. “I’ll give you a second chance to earn a treat. Come to the board and show us how to do this problem.”

Dave was willing to try. The kitten climbed up on his arm, and he went to the board.   The kitten kept yelling in his ear that he was doing it wrong. He ended up making a silly mistake and some of his classmates laughed. Mr. Long gave him the candy anyways.

The kitten yelled the opposite of whatever the teacher said for the rest of the day. Dave had an enormous headache. When he got home, no one was home. There was another banana and a package of ramen on the table with a note. Mom would be home late.

Dave was sure this was a bad idea, but he unpeeled the banana. There was another kitten.   “Where did mom get these?” he asked.   No one answered. Instead, the other kitten climbed on his other shoulder.   The cats began to sing opera loudly.   He groaned.

“I think it’s time you both got down,” he said.   They ignored him. He tried to pick them up and move them, but it was like trying to catch smoke. They darted away from his hands and scratched at him with little needle-like claws.

Dave sat down and the kittens perched on his shoulders. Cats hate water, right? “I think I might need to take a shower,” he said. “Right now.” The first kitten growled and its eyes grew large. It was kind of scary.

“Never mind, I give up. What do you want from me?” he asked.

“We want to go home to our mother,” the second kitten said. “I’m hungry.”

Dave made up the ramen. The kittens ate it all. He called his mom’s work. “This had better be important,” she said.

“Umm…I think I heard something outside in the bushes,” he said.

“Are the doors locked?” Mom sounded impatient.

“Uh, yes,” Dave said.

“Then turn out the lights and go to bed early. We have nothing to steal.”

Dave frowned. He still had homework to do. And he was hungry. “Mom, where did the bananas come from?”

“Aunt Jenny, when I was returning her umbrella.   I’ll see you in the morning Dave.   I’m sorry you have to be home alone.”   Mom hung up.

Dave called Aunt Jenny. “Hi, Aunt Jenny? Where did the bananas come from? Do you have the neighbor’s number? Thank you!”

He called the neighbor, and then a garden store, and then a bakery. The baker told him they were from an elderly lady who lived by the bakery. By now, the kittens were having a loud argument.   They kept swiping at each other and scratching Dave instead.

It wasn’t late yet, so Dave walked to the bakery.   He knocked at the door of the house next to it. A very tall man answered and said the old lady lived two doors down.

Dave trudged down the street and knocked on the door. The house was clean and well kept. And neon pink.

The old lady who answered had bright blue hair.   Her house was full of yellow cats.   The kittens climbed down and raced around the corner. The old lady smiled. “Thank you dear,” she said. “You look hungry. Would you like something to eat?”

“Not a banana?” Dave asked. Just in case.

“Of course not.” The old lady looked shocked. “Here, have a nice muffin from the bakery. Would you like to come by sometimes and help me with my sweet cats?”

“Probably not,” Dave said. “But thank you for the muffin.”

“I’ll pay you for your time, of course,” the lady said.

Dave looked down at where a yellow cat was chewing on his shoelaces. “Well, let me think about it. I’ll let you know.” The lady handed him another muffin and smiled. Dave sighed. He knew he’d probably say yes. He hated the end of the month when money was tight.


Mrs. Frobisher’s Heir

“Roland, I have adopted an heir,” Mrs. Frobisher said one day. My name is actually Steven, but Mrs. F renames all her employees. She says it’s so she can remember all their names. She pays well and the economy is bad, so no one really complains.

“Congratulations, Ma’am,” I said.

“I want you to see to his education and such, Roland.   He just has so much potential. I look forward to seeing him bloom under your guidance.” She looked at me sternly and I understood that there had better be blooming or my job was over.

“I’ll do my best,” I said.

“Excellent.” Mrs. F opened the side door of her office that no one else is ever allowed to open and called out, “Harold, come meet your new friend Roland.”

There was a shuffling sound and I leaned forward. Out of the darkened room came a monkey dressed in a little three-piece suit. It looked at me and scratched its side absently. “Isn’t that—” I began.

“Yes, this is Harold,” she interrupted. “Harold, meet Roland.”

Was it a joke? It didn’t seem like it. I held out a hand. “It’s nice to meet you, Harold.   I look forward to working with you.”   Harold looked at my hand and then slapped it before wandering off.

“Children these days,” Mrs. Frobisher said. She chuckled. “He’s going to be a handful.   All the bright children are, of course.   Well, I’ll leave you two to get acquainted.” She sat at her desk and pulled out some paperwork. She was holding it upside down.

I turned to Harold. He was digging through the wastebasket. I wanted to cry. I was just barely making rent and not even the fast food places were hiring.   Monkey or not, Harold was going to bloom. I pulled out my phone and started texting.

Harold learned quickly. I found him a tutor and he mastered enough sign language to get by in his expensive private school. He was a whiz at multiple-choice tests. Between that and some over-helpful tutors, Harold managed to graduate and ace the college entrance exams. He was accepted at a small but prestigious university, helped along by a large well-timed donation from a proud Mrs. F.

Well, that’s that, I thought as I read the acceptance letter. He’s bloomed. I happily prepared to deliver the acceptance letter and go back to auditing accounts or something. Of course someone had been hired to take over my former duties, but surely something was available.

Mrs. Frobisher set down the letter with a happy sigh. “Roland, you’re doing so well for my Harold. I’ll arrange for an apartment for the both of you near the university so you can continue to advocate for my dear boy.”

I felt faint. “Mrs. F?”

“Oh, don’t worry. The company will partially reimburse you for any classes you wish to take to further your education while you’re there. Harold will still be your priority of course.” She gave me that look again. The economy was still pretty bad, too.

Oh well. I’d always wanted to get an MBA. And I’d become rather fond of the little guy too. How would he manage without me?

So, Harold and I went away and got degrees.   Harold’s talent for multiple-choice tests was as sharp as ever. Mrs. Frobisher cried at his graduation. Three months later, she passed away unexpectedly.

To my surprise, she’d changed her will years ago.   Harold was left in my care and everything was left to him. Yes, the company too. I know.

To my surprise, under Harold’s leadership, the company did better than ever. I’d prepare any decisions he needed to make as a multiple-choice test, and otherwise he was pretty hands off and let people do their jobs. He was very popular.

Far too soon, Harold grew old. He moved more slowly and was less interested in doodling on the reports from the department heads. He didn’t have any children (despite some awkward blind dates set up by Mrs. F), so I helped him to turn the company over to the employees.

Harold helped me narrow down the list of candidates for CEO and then we left it to a company-wide vote. I nearly spit my cocoa on Harold when I read the results.   I had won the election as a write-in candidate.

Harold was able to stay in the little apartment behind the door no one else is ever allowed to open. I did my best for the company. When Harold passed away, thousands came to his funeral.

I stood by the casket, shaking hands and trying not to cry. A child approached and wrinkled up his nose. “Mom,” he said, “It’s a monkey.”

“Hush, dear,” his mother said. “The funeral home just did a bad job. Poor man. They should have had it closed casket.”

They moved on. I felt lost. Maybe I should start renaming all the employees. Maybe I should find an heir.