I was all set for a quiet weekend and unaccountably I woke up earlier than I expected. A member of the British Royal Family said something about never passing up the opportunity to go to the loo. This applies to young dogs too, so I got Louie up and we walked outside.
It wasn’t really that early. It was just earlier than I meant to get up. But the 3-footed squirrel who resides in my yard was making a real racket. She’s usually pretty quiet and actually rather friendly, considering somewhere along the way she suffered a terrible accident and lost her right front paw. In spite of this injury, she gets around well, leaps from the oak tree to the fence and back, follows the circuit of squirrel path from the oak tree to the magnolia, to the roof, to the magnolia on the side yard to the crepe myrtle, to the side fencing, to the Fuji apple, to the plum tree and back to home base, the oak. The apples, plums and acorns keep her well fed and the birdfeeders invite the Little Creatures of the Yard also.
So that was actually what the racket was about. She pointed out to me and then also to Louie that there was, alas, an issue that I needed to deal with. First, was the matter of Alice the cat who apparently had made a break for it sometime during the nightly trips to the backyard that The Hubs makes with both dogs. He carries the elder statesman Quincy down the stairs since he’s not much on stairs nowadays in either direction. Nobody is as sharp as they might wish at 2:30 or 3:00 am except of course Alice who takes advantage of the boys on their wobbly pegs and inattention, and she easily slipped out the door.
I used to be utterly horrified when Alice would slip out. I’ve had cats killed in the streets because my parents would not allow indoor cats. I’m a staunch indoor cat person. Over time I realize that at least Alice has no intention of leaving the yard and, much better than either of the dogs, comes when she is called.
Alice sat on the low brick wall, the remains of an old summerhouse, under the plum tree. She was entirely too close to Mother Squirrel. And I was instructed to do something about this. Now.
Neighborhood outdoor cats are much more inclined to climb trees than Alice. Alice prefers her prey to come to her and enjoy taking her heart’s ease in the morning air, with an occasional glance at the squirrel. But she had no intention of climbing a tree.
Second, and as it turned out more inspiring, on Mother Squirrel’s list was, and she did in fact point it out to me, the small dead rat near the patio of the former summerhouse.
“Oh,” sharp as ever in the morning, I mutter, “a rat. Dead, huh?”
Louie nosed the rat and, since I was interested in it, picked it up in his mouth and took a few gamboling dance steps sideways, offering a rousing game of Get the Dead Rat.
“Louie!” I tried to use my Stern Voice. I’m told I’m spectacularly unsuccessful at sounding stern. “Drop it right now!”
Unaccountably, he did. Without a second thought, I stepped over, picked the unfortunate up by the end of his now cool tail and set him out of doggy range. This started a chain of creative events that lasted the weekend.
In the quiet of the morning, I began the story with the obituary of one Rat, struck down mysteriously in the prime of rodent life and shared it on Facebook.
It wasn’t clear that Alice was the culprit although she was seen near the deceased when he was found. The Hubs, in defense of Alice, made a good case that it could not have been her since Rat was found in his entirety with just a bit of saliva at his neck and shoulders. After all, Louie had moved the body, and if you’ve ever watched a whodunit you’ll know that will always get suspicions aimed at That Guy.
Fictional CROX NEWS, a station known for making a mountain out of a molehill with the neighborhood fauna, got the exclusive with shots of the major characters in the dramatic investigation. My Facebook friends joined in the investigation with many theories of the crime.
Who killed Rat? His wife, always treated like a princess, or so she claims? As it unfolded, PerpPetual Life, the animal life insurance company wouldn’t confirm that there was a life insurance policy on Rat, but moved quickly to make an appearance at the scene. Was there a drug connection with the New York Sewer Rats who were fast to send their “condolences” on the loss, although Rat himself had made every effort to distinguish himself as a backyard resident of honest, if modest, means. Were Alice and Louie in on it together or was Louie an unwitting dupe? And finally, before charges were filed, Judge Quincy came out of retirement to oversee the moving of the body to the morgue. And what about Baby, a kitten of uncertain loyalties who spoke up early as a character reference, but apparently a reference for the highest bidder?
Alice and Louie were held on suspicion of murder and interrogated relentlessly by cynical local police. A team of special investigators from PerpLife was called in and by the next day the yard was crawling with S. Nail and his teammates. Mr. Nail, who declined to give any particulars about their investigation, gave a brief interview with CROX NEWS but spoke only about his company’s procedures and the Serious Undertaking and Crime Control Specialists (SUCCS) team searching for the facts on behalf of PerpLife. The District Attorney, a shady politician if I ever saw one (thanks to artist Debra Klopp Kersey) came out in support of law and order and justice for Rat and his family.
In the end, the Coroner, another seeming member of the Good Old Cats Club (thanks to ceramics artist Sharon Boom) pronounced the death a “raticide by person or persons unknown”. The suspects were released and no charges were filed because of insufficient evidence.
Alice was seen reading the tabloids in disgust and is rumored to be considering a cosmetics modeling offer or two. When asked if she is opposed to animal testing, she replied she was not if free samples were available.
Louie was seen with a blunt object that turned out to be a paper towel roll. While it’s unclear whether this is the actual murder weapon, one of the many unknowns in the case, Louie looked very worried when his photo was snapped.
And the investigation continues. But, I have to say, sad as it is that somehow in my very own backyard a small furry creature met his 10 of Swords end, this has to be the most fun I’ve ever had with a dead rat.