The coyotes have invaded the ranch, and they're on a mission. Hank is trying to figure out what that might be...and keep from getting eaten in the process!
"Drover Is Catnipped"
“Thank you, Snort. I don’t know how I’ve gotten along all these years without your help. Okay, you’re shopping for a cat, right?”
The brothers shook their heads in unison. “Chopping for cat.”
“Sorry. You’re chopping for a cat, and I can help. He stays in the yard, right over there in the iris patch. Be my guest. Help yourselves.” They stared at me with empty yellow eyes. “Now what’s the problem?”
“Hunk fetch cat.”
“Hey, this is your deal. I don’t want to fetch the cat.”
Snort’s hammer fist came down on top of my head. BAM! “Hunk fetch cat pretty quick or get snot beat out of!”
I picked myself off the ground and gave them a ragged smile. “Here’s an idea. Why don’t I fetch the cat?”
They howled with laughter. “Hunk fetch cat, and be quicker and quickest, oh boy!”
Well, this deal had gotten out of hand, but they’d left me with no choice. I would have to serve as their delivery dog. I hopped over the fence and started toward the iris patch. With every step, I felt…
You know, it’s one thing to talk about bumping off the cat…wait, that sounds pretty bad. Let’s try a different approach. It’s one thing to talk about, uh, letting a couple of cannibals borrow your cat, and it’s another to actually be involved in it. Pete had been a constant source of irritation to me for years, but…this?
By the time I reached the iris patch, I was not feeling good about it, but the brothers were watching my every move. What else could I do? I tried to remember every sneaky trick the cat had pulled on me, hoping it would help me through this time of trial.
I rumbled up to the iris patch, expecting the kitty to greet me with his usual insolent smirk and his annoying, “Well, well! It’s Hankie the Wonderdog.” That’s not what he said. He said nothing, and it appeared that he was…
“What are you doing?”
He turned to me with a sad smile. “Oh, I was just tidying up my little nest. I…” A quiver came into his voice. “I guess I won’t be coming back.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“I heard everything. You have no choice.” He glanced around and sighed. “I’ll go without a struggle.”
I was stunned. “What! That’s crazy.”
“I thought that’s the way you would want it.”
“You let me decide what I want, and stop butting into my…” My mind was reeling. I staggered a few steps away and gasped for air. “Pete, you have no idea what you’re doing to me.”
“I thought I was making it easy.”
“Yeah? Well, you thought wrong. This ought to be the finest moment of my life, but somehow you’ve…” I stormed back over to him. “Listen, you little pestilence, I’m supposed to deliver you to the coyote brothers. They want to eat you. I want them to eat you. You drive me insane.”
He shrugged. “Well, let’s get on with it.”
“We will NOT get on with it! I don’t know how you’ve managed to do it, but you are about to ruin my life!”
“Shut your trap. Those coyotes are on the other side of the fence. They’re watching us. They’re licking their chops and tapping their toes. They’re getting hungry and restless. In ninety seconds, they will jump the fence and be on top of us.”
“Well, just turn me in and let’s get it over with. I’ve had a good life.”
“Will you dry up? It would have been SO EASY, SO SIMPLE, if you had just been your usual unbearable self, but now…look what you’ve done! I can’t go through with this!”
Snort’s voice cut through the gloom of night like a chainsaw. “Hunk hurry up and fetch cat, or brothers get madder and maddest, and beat up whole world!”
Can you believe this? I couldn’t believe it. I’d been offered the opportunity of a lifetime and I’d muffed it. I’d choked. I’d become a disgrace to the entire Security Division and to dogs all over Texas.
I stormed over to the rotten little creep who had caused this. “We’ve got about sixty seconds before lightning strikes. What are we going to do?”
“Well, Hankie, I could climb a tree, but that wouldn’t help you.”
“That’s correct. They would eat me, and you’d have to watch. Tell the truth, Pete, would you enjoy it?”
He grinned. “I’ll get back to you on that. Maybe you should bark the alarm and wake up the house.”
“Won’t work, Pete. Loper’s reaction time at this hour of the night runs about ten minutes.”
“We’ve got thirty seconds. Shall we try to make a run for it?”
He shook his head. “I’m afraid there’s no running from coyotes.”
“Well…I guess we stand and fight. I figure we can hold out for about twelve seconds and then we’re hamburger.”
Our situation looked hopeless.
The cat held me in his gaze and gave me a peculiar smile. “This is odd, isn’t it, Hankie, you and I fighting on the same side.”
“It’s worse than odd. It’s unnatural. It’s weird. My mother would be so disappointed if she could see me now.”
“I know. All my cat kinfolks would be crushed.”
“It’s a lousy way to ring down the curtain of our lives.”
“It really is.”
“And it’s all your fault, you little creep!” I stuck my nose in his face and gave him my Train Horns Bark. BWONK!
You know what he did? He humped his back, hissed, and…BAM…slapped me across the nose with a handful of claws, stung like crazy and brought water to my eyes.
“That was for old times, Hankie.”
“Thanks, Pete. You’re a rotten little crook of a cat, but we did have some great moments. Are you ready for the grand finale?”
“Let the dance begin.”
We turned toward the west and I sent out a press release to the Coyote Brotherhood, an announcement that would smell our foots. Our fates, that is, an announcement that would seal our fates.
“Hey Snort! The deal’s off. I’m not your delivery boy, and you can’t eat my cat. Furthermore, your momma’s an ugly toad. Remember the Alamo!”
Boy, that woke ‘em up. You never heard such an outburst of angry snarls and growls. Rip stood up on his hind legs and began pounding his chest, while Snort banged his head against the gate post. In the midst of all that, they were both screeching about the awful things they were going to do to us. Gulp. It gave me the shivers.
But then…you won’t believe this part, I guarantee that you won’t believe it…just then, guess who came out of the machine shed. Mister Half-Stepper. Mister Run and Hide. He yelled, “Hank, be careful! I thought I heard some coyotes!”
A deathly silence fell over the ranch. The cannibals froze and turned like battleship guns toward the runt. When he saw their horrid yellow eyes and gleaming fangs, he…this was so Drover…he let out a squeak and FAINTED! I’m not kidding, he went over like a bicycle.
In an instant, and we’re talking about the blink of an eye (or, to put into the Coyote Dialect, “in winkie of eyeball”)…in the blink of a so-forth, the coyotes were all over him. Rip scooped up the little mutt in his jaws and Snort turned to us.
In a cackling voice, he yelled, “Ha! Rip and Snort not give a hoot for catnip kid! Make yum-yum out of little white dog, oh boy!”
And with that, they vanished into the night—carrying the poor, misguided, feather-brained Drover off to a fate we could only imagine.
I was too stunned to speak or move. It had happened so fast! One second, Pete and I were ready to fight the second battle of the Alamo, and the next second, Drover had been shanghaied by cannibals and carried off to the wilderness.
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