After all my years of loyalty to the service of Lion I was finally recognized as a Noble and ceremoniously decorated. About time, too, if you ask me. In addition to ceremony he gave me a title — Duke Dungslakeheaping — and the deed to my own small kingdom. Quite an honor and a prize, I must say.
When I told my sister Cat she was very sweet and congratulatory, which should have made me suspicious, but I was too jazzed to think clearly.
“Listen, Duke, you can’t run around with your deed in your mouth getting all slobbery,” she purred. “Why not leave it with me and I’ll look after it. When necessary you can retrieve it.”
Again, I should have known, sister Cat is never anything less than clever, but I found her enthusiasm intoxicating and agreed. It’s that purring, it’s like some sort of drug, I tell you.
Anyway, one day I’m out and about and I find some Wolves making a mess in my brackens and I say “Hey, you Wolves, clear out!” And they were like “You don’t own this land, Dog, you’re not the boss of us!” So of course I have to run home and get my title to show it to these wannabe dogs
“Yeah, so, about that title, Duke” Cat says, and I knew she’d planned the whole thing even before she told me what happened. “So I have this little hidey-hole in my cupboard — it’s where I like to keep special treats away from the kittens. That’s where I put the parchment you gave me. But the other day I went looking for a little treat and saw that the parchment had been destroyed…”
She took it out and showed me. It was in strips no wider than one of my claws. She claims Mouse must have done it, but I know better. She wouldn’t put her treats where a mouse could get them, and there’s no way she didn’t do this herself out of spite.
I went back to Lion an explained the situation, and do you know what he said?
“Well, if you can be so careless with the title I gave you then I don’t suppose you’re fit to rule the land I deeded you.”
Which is why I’m going to spend the rest of my life bowing and scraping to Lion. And why now and forever I hate Cat.
Really, you’re going to take his word?
I had as much to gain and lose by Dog’s commission. With him in charge I felt I finally had the ear I needed to get some much-needed improvements to this crummy end of the kingdom. Our waterways are polluted by Raccoons upstream, Birds are constantly breaking noise ordnances with their early morning parties, and those Wolves are a menace and have been rumored to run off with kittens in the night. Why, when I finally had a chance to be heard by Lion would I throw it all away?
It happened just like I said. I put it away not imagining for a moment that Mouse would have any interest in paper. But one day I hear this noise in my kitchen and there’s Mouse, tearing the parchment into shreds.
“Mouse! What are you doing! That isn’t even food!”
“My nest needs lining, dear Cat, and I didn’t think you cared what I did so long as I left your food and your kittens alone.”
I was so furious I gave Mouse a good batting. I should have killed Mouse when I had the chance but I didn’t. Now I might as well give up ever getting anything taken care of in this part of the woods. I understand Dog is mad, but the truth is the truth, and for the rest of my days I’m never going to forgive Mouse for what he did.
Oh, please. Everyone knows what this is really about. It’s all about the Cheese.
Think about it, who loves cheese more? More than mice, I mean. That’s right, Dog. Cat doesn’t mind a nice cream now and then, maybe a runny Brie, but if he could Dog would eat Cheese until it was coming out both ends. Sorry to be so graphic about it, but there’s Cat’s truth and then there’s just plain Dog truth about the matter.
Because Dog can’t hold his Cheese it is kept under lock and key in Lion’s castle. For decades now Dog has been bowing and scraping before Lion in the hopes of one day getting access to the Cheese House. It’s because of Dog that the only way I can ever get any Cheese is by making daily rounds to people’s homes and making it look like they have an infestation. They freak out, put down mouse traps with tidbits of Cheese, and I go making my rounds trying to keep myself fed without breaking an arm or a leg or having to chew off my own tail.
Did I shred that piece of paper? You bet I did. You know why? Because Cat told me it belonged to Dog. If she had told me what that paper meant, if she’d told me that it meant Dog was no longer in Lion’s palace I would have left it alone. With Dog gone maybe Lion would have lightened up the security and I wouldn’t have to risk life and limb to eat.
So even though, yes, I tore the paper to bits to line my nest — you try living in a wall, it’s cold and drafty — the only person at blame here is Dog. He’s ruins everything, for all of us. I’ve hated Dog forever and I always will.
For a long time the Cheese stood alone, sequestered for her own protection and with no knowledge of what went on beyond the walls of the Cheese House. She had heard horrible stories, bedtime fairy tales, of Cats and Dogs and Mice and Lions and all manner of Beasts and she was glad for her cool dry home in the dark. The outside world sounded like a dreadful place to her and she was afraid it would eat her alive.
And she was right.