Canto Twenty-Eight – Squirrel Versus Skaggs
Valerie-squirrel hustled out towards the alley once more. How do you find your focus and take back your own mind? Could it possibly have something to do with not listening to nonsense from the mouth of a witch? But things that were affecting her now were things that came in clouds of purple gas from the mouth of the Tiki idol called Oojie Magoober. Maybe she had to not listen to him… or it… or whatever the hell it was. She scampered back towards the end of the alley where she had first crossed paths with the little wooden man.
The alley was unnaturally quiet. She looked all around for Skaggs the cat, or the dog Barky Bill. Not only could she not see them with her little squirrel eyes, she couldn’t smell them with her little squirrel nose. Well, that wasn’t entirely true. She could smell the poo-poo smells from the area where she knew the dog had to be because it was chained up. But Barky Bill was not boofing out cat warnings, or prowling around. He was apparently in his little lean-to doghouse by the back door of Martin’s Bar and Grill.
There were no other squirrels chittering. Valerie-squirrel was also deeply concerned about what may have happened to Mary-squirrel and Pidney-squirrel. Did Oojie and the cats catch them? Maybe eat them? She shuddered to think such a thought.
So, she crept forward ever more wary and ever more alert. Her little pointed ears were perked straight up and listening intently. She continually looked behind her for stalking cats.
It was eerie how quiet the alley was. Not only were the squirrels quiet, but no birds were singing. No insects were buzzing. It was as if Mother Nature was holding her breath… worried about… something evil about to take place.
Valerie-squirrel timidly put her little nose to the spot in the alley where the wooden Tiki idol had first appeared. Anyway, she was pretty sure it was the right spot. But the smells were mostly unfamiliar. She had not been a squirrel long enough to really know what the smells all stood for.
Skaggs was on top of her before she could even look up from sniffing the dirt. Cruel cat claws pricked deeply into squirrel muscles and her squirrel heart practically exploded with instant terror.
“Well, well, pretty little one. I wonder how beautifully you are going to taste.”
“No! You cannot eat me!”
“Let’s see now… are you not a squirrel and significantly smaller than me?”
“And do I not have you pinned down helplessly under my claws?”
“BOOF! Boof! Boof! Boof! Yipe!”
Barky Bill came rocketing out from hiding, leaping for the terrible, awful, wicked cat. With full force he reached the end of his chain and practically tore his own head off straining against the chain-enforced back flip that came next.
“Ah, very clever, stupid dog. You thought if I couldn’t see you hiding under that old piece of carpet I would never know you were there. But you forgot, that you are chained there, and you never go anywhere else. And I never forget where the maximum chain reach is.”
“You can’t eat her, cat!”
“You surprise me, stupid dog. I didn’t know you could animal-talk.”
“I can’t. I’m just a stupid dog. But you can’t eat her. She’s not really a squirrel. You can tell by the smell. She’s really a human girl. You must leave her alone!”
“Ah, but the point is, she thinks she’s a squirrel. If she thinks she’s a squirrel, then I think I can eat her. I also think she will be delicious.”
Valerie-squirrel was suddenly aware of the real meaning behind the cat’s words. “She thinks she’s a squirrel…,” the cat said. But what had Mazie said? Something about her focus… Yes. Someone had definitely used magic to convince her that she was a squirrel. But she wasn’t a squirrel. Barky Bill knew she was a real girl because of her smell. And if she still smelled like a human…
Suddenly Valerie Clarke was lying there in the dirt in the middle of the alley by the Main Street water tower, as naked as the day that she was born. She was a human girl… all girl… and definitely too large to be eaten by a cat.
Shocked, Skaggs leaped splay-footed into the air. He was totally taken by surprise by his prey’s sudden change of form. He came down awkwardly and nearly didn’t land on his feet.
“You… you can’t do that! Only witches have the power to see through spells!”
Valerie, now herself again, was feeling very woozy and uncoordinated. She tried to get up from the ground and failed, only managing to sit up in the alley dirt.
“The laws of magic cannot be broken by such as you… such a weak-willed…”
“BOOF! Boof! Boof!” Barky Bill lunged out to the fullest possible stretch of the chain, and then the chain snapped. The dog had the ugly white cat with the mismatched eyes neck-first in his jaws. The jaws tightened and you could hear Skaggs’ neck-bones snap. The cat went limp.
“I told you I would kill and eat this cat.”
“Yes, you did. Thank you, Barky Bill. But how are you talking with a cat in your mouth?”
“Oh, dogs can’t talk, miss. You know that.” “Yes, I suppose you are right.” Valerie was drained in every fiber of her bare body. She smiled weakly at the dog, and then everything went black.
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