Jon Stern is an adjunct instructor of English at Porterville College. He recently received his MFA in Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University and is one of the contributing writers/humorists to the new blog/website Three Guys and a Keyboard. His fiction can be found at 101words.org, as well as at many, many publications yet to come. (We will also forgive him his lifelong affinity for the NY Giants.)
“I know, but love is never easy.”
It had been a month since Sarah, a free-minded Siberian husky, had rescued Tequila Kitty from the grips of death.
“What do you mean you’re leaving?” Sarah asked.
“I have no choice,” Tequila said. “I have to find my brother, Diablo, and warn him about Shasta.”
“But I thought Diablo tried to kill Shasta.”
“Yes, he did, well, he thought I had lost my mind,” Tequila said.
“I don’t understand.”
“I told you that we robbed a Petco truck.”
“Yeah, you said your brother and you wanted to distribute the cat food to all the needy cats in the city,” Sarah said with a grin, “feline Robin Hoods.”
“The H.K. Gang has the city under lockdown, and we wanted to do something,” Tequila said.
“The H.K. Gang?”
“Yeah, the Hello Kitty Gang, they’re out of Japan, but that isn’t the point. The point is that it wasn’t our idea, it was Shasta’s.”
“I’m not following,” Sarah said.
“It’s simple. Diablo and Sarah came to me with the idea of robbing Petco’s truck. Once a month, a big semi comes to the city and delivers food to all the Petcos, but no one knows what day or what truck.”
“Because they are afraid that someone will rob it?”
“So this gang control’s the food and the catnip?” Shasta asked. “What is catnip?”
“Catnip is a treat that humans give cats,” Tequila said. “It makes us playful and hungry so we eat more, but it isn’t addictive.”
“I think I understand.”
“Anyway, the gang developed synthetic catnip that is highly addictive, but also speeds up our metabolism.”
“So you have a city full of fucked up cats that can’t stop eating?”
“And there is no way Petco. can keep up with the demand for food, especially if the gang is robbing the food. Hence, you have a black-market that is created for catnip and food.”
“It’s ingenious,” Sarah said.
“Yeah, it is.”
“So how did you find out?”
“I was suspicious of Shasta,” Tequila said. “Diablo and I have always tried to provide for the needy. It is sad, but there are so many kitty’s without families. Most of them are homeless and don’t even know who their father’s are, so we try to help out anyway we can.”
“So what does Shasta have to do with all this?”
“That’s it,” Tequila said. “I have never met her before and Diablo never talked about her, but she knew everything. What truck had the food and each stop along it route. It was too good.”
“And when it is too good…”
“Then you know something is wrong,” Tequila said, “and I was on guard.”
“What do you mean?”
“Shasta told us the truck always stops to get fuel, and then the driver goes inside to be breakfast. And as sure as I’m standing here, that is what happened.”
“So you broke into the truck?” Sarah asked.
“Yes, we broke into the truck and gave the goods to the Dog Pound Gang.”
“Who’s the Dog Pound Gang?”
“A bunch of stray dogs we have been doing business with for years. We steal what we need, and they help us bring the goods where ever we want it,” Tequila said. “You would be amazed what a dog would do for some rawhide and a few tennis balls – no offense.”
“None taken… I loved rawhide and a brand new balls – love the way they smell.”
“Anyway, as we are unloading the truck, one of the boxes fell, and some of the bags of food spilled out. One of the bags split open, but it wasn’t food that spilled out, but catnip.”
“Catnip, but not the catnip you can buy in stores. It was the synthetic catnip.”
“So did you tell Diablo?”
“It wasn’t the right time, and to be honest, I didn’t know if Diablo was in on it. So, I took some of the catnip and we continued as planned.
“We meet the dogs at the rendezvous point and gave them their payment.”
“But this doesn’t explain what happened to you?”
“This is where it gets interesting,” Tequila said. “Once the dogs left, we were talking about our next move. I had some of the catnip, and I wanted to talk to my brother, but I needed to get him alone – I didn’t trust Shasta – and was looking for the right time. That is when I thought I heard something.”
“What did you hear?”
“Rustling right behind my brother and Shasta.”
“What did you do?”
“I started moving towards the noise, and my brother and Shasta,” Tequila said. “Diablo had his back to me and as I got closer to Shasta she smiled.”
“Yes, but it wasn’t a smile like I’m happy to see your or look what we accomplished, but a smile that sent a shiver down my spine.”
“So what did you do?”
“There was nothing I could do. She smiled, then screamed for Diablo and threw herself to the ground crying saying ‘Tequila, stop! Don’t hurt me – and that is when I saw them.”
“Who. Who did you see?”
“Yes Tomcats. They are the scum of the cat world and made up of feral cats that have no family and no loyalty except to the highest bidder.”
“Then what happened.”
“I don’t know. All I remember is seeing Diablo standing over me and the next thing I know you woke me up.”
“You don’t think Diablo did this to you, do you?”
“I don’t know, but it doesn’t matter whether he did or not because I know my brother and there is no way he knew about the catnip. Even if he did do this to me, he was protecting Shasta, and is in trouble; and if he didn’t do this to me and it was those Tomcats, then he needs me and he is in trouble. Either way, I have to go and help.”
“Then I am going to go with you,” Sarah said.
“No, you can’t.”
“Why? Because I am just some rawhide eating, ball chasing country dog that can’t handle herself.” Sarah turned her back on Tequila Kitty.
“It’s not that,” Tequila said.
“Then what is it?” Sarah said with her back still turned.
Tequila didn’t know what to say or do, but stared at her hindquarters. My God, she has such strong legs…and her tail…so fluffy and firm, he thought to himself. “I don’t want anything to happen to you,” he said.
“Happen to me,” she said turning to face him. “I can handle myself – I saved you, didn’t I?”
“But this isn’t like chasing a rabbit in the fields,” Tequila said. “The Hello Kitty Gang doesn’t mess around. They have a superiority complex that goes back to Egypt when humans would worship them as gods. And the Tomcats have no soul…they don’t value anything but their survival and if anything happened to you, I don’t know what I would do because…” Tequila turned around so he couldn’t face Sarah. Not because he was afraid of her, or hurting her feelings, but because he didn’t want to see her reaction. “Because I love you.”
“I love you!” he said again. “I said it. I love you.”
Tequila turned around slowly to face Sarah. “I love you too,” she said.
Tequila felt at ease, for just a moment. “But we can’t act on this…and if something happened to you...”
“And if something happened to you I should be okay with that too,” Sarah said.
“Well, no…I don’t know,” Tequila said. “Besides, you’re a dog and I am a cat.
“I know, but love is never easy.”
Tequila walked over to Sarah and rubbed his nose under her chin. “What are we going to do?” he asked, purring.
“I don’t know. Get a stepstool?” she said. They both laughed.
“Well, if you are going to go with me then you need to do what I say when I say,” Tequila said, “because you won’t be in Kansas anymore.”
“I will do whatever you tell me to,” Sarah said. “I just want to be with you.”
“Fine, then we will leave in the morning.”
They both walked into the barn, and closed the door.