Saturday, February 19, 2005

THE SCENE OF THE CRIME


Merci and Buddy at the scene of the crime

THE SCENE OF THE CRIME
Copyright 2005 Janice Price

Crystal is miffed. He plunks his orange body on the washing machine and asks, “Does anyone remember that I am the President of the Funny Farm Writing Club and I am the one who should be scheduling the meetings?”

“This isn’t a writing club meeting,” Merci explains. “Jan has an appointment this afternoon and we need to have an important meeting while she’s out of the house. Didn’t you get the memo Percy typed and handed out yesterday?”

“No. Buddy ate it before I had a chance to read it.”

“I didn’t get one,” Buddy complains, walking into the kitchen where the rest of the club is gathered. “Why did everyone get a memo except me?”

Merci continues. “Because this meeting is about you, Buddy. We’re here to discuss what to do about you. We’re going to decide how to punish you for your crime.”

“What crime?”

“Attempted murder,” Percy says, with fervor. “Merci says you tried to kill Jan the other day.”

“Attempted murder? I never tried to kill anyone, especially not Jan. Whatever Merci says, I didn’t do it!”

Cameron joins the discussion. “Don’t believe Buddy. He speaks with forked tail.”

“Forked tail?” Cotton asks, from her seat on the washing machine with the other cats. “Don’t you mean forked tongue?”

“No, I mean forked tail. Is his tongue forked too?”

All the club members move to where each can get a better view of Buddy’s tail. Buddy twists his body so he can see his tail too. “My tail isn’t forked. Neither is my tongue.” He sticks out his tongue so everyone can see his tongue isn’t forked.

“Yes, your tail definitely is forked,” Cyndi says, “but just the hair that grows past the tip.”

Cameron is excited. “See, forked tail, forked tongue, what’s the difference? We shouldn’t believe anything from a dog who wears a fork.”

“It’s just hair,” Buddy complains. “That doesn’t mean I’m a criminal. What, exactly, am I accused of doing to try to kill Jan?”

Percy leaps onto the kitchen table where everyone has a clear view of the photograph he is holding. “Jan tied you outside the other day for some fresh air. You wrapped your lead around the bushes and cried until Jan came outside to help you. When she started down the steps, you leaped forward, pulling the lead taut and tripping her.”

“I was a witness,” Merci claims. “Jan tied us both to the railing for a short time so we could enjoy the beautiful day. I saw you trip her. She flew!” Merci’s eyes grow wide at the memory. “I didn’t know she could fly, but she flew right past me and landed on the sidewalk.”

“This photo proves your guilt,” Percy continues, holding the photograph in one front paw and pointing with the other. “Here, I added the letters so everyone can see the enormity of your crime. You tripped her and she became airborne at point ‘A.’ ‘F’ is her flight pattern and ‘C’ is where she crashed.”

“That photo doesn’t prove anything. It’s a picture of the porch steps and sidewalk. Where’s Jan?”

“Taking the picture,” Cyndi says.

“See, she isn’t dead.”

Percy is exasperated. “Buddy, are you daft? You are accused of attempted murder. You didn’t succeed. If you had, we would all be homeless now.”

“Or dead,” Cotton adds. “We would be taken to the county animal shelter and no one would adopt any of us. Since we all live together, we would all be guilty by association. Everyone would be afraid of us because you killed our servant Jan.”

“But it was an accident,” Buddy protests. “Merci and I rushed over to see if she was all right.”

“Aha!” Merci exclaims. “There’s proof from his own lips. He was just pretending to be tangled in the bushes. Let’s call animal control and have this conniving monster hauled away.”

Buddy is growing increasingly agitated. “But I was tangled in the bushes. When Jan landed on the sidewalk, I was scared, and suddenly I was free. I don’t know how I got free, but I rushed right over to lick Jan’s face. Merci,” Buddy pleads, “you know I wouldn’t deliberately hurt Jan. Tell them that. I don’t want to go to the animal shelter. I want to stay here with you guys. You’re my friends.”

“Do you mind if I say something?” Jenny asks from her bed on top of the clothes dryer.

All heads turn toward Jenny, the oldest and wisest cat in residence. She is blind but her hearing is acute and she has been listening intently to the accusations and denials.

“I think all of you are getting carried away. Buddy is a puppy. He’s too young to plot to kill Jan and too affectionate to be intentionally mean to anyone. He made a mistake.”

“He is always making mistakes,” Cotton interrupts.

“And you haven’t, Cotton? Or you Percy? Or you - You get the idea. You‘re all guilty of making mistakes, some more serious than others. Merci, you tripped Jan a year or so ago while you were walking. She could barely get around for several weeks because of her injuries. No one tried to oust you for your mistake. Buddy’s your pal. Why are you threatening to call Animal Control to have him taken away?” Jenny raises a paw and shakes it in the direction she heard Merci’s voice last. “You should be ashamed of yourself! All of you should be ashamed of yourselves!”

Merci lowers her head. “You’re right, Jenny. We got carried away. Buddy is my friend and he’s messy, but he’s not mean.” She turns to Buddy. “I’m sorry, Buddy. Will you forgive me? Are we still friends?”

“I’m sorry too,” the others say in unison.

Buddy is relieved. “That’s okay. You’re still my friends. Thank you for defending me, Jenny.”

Percy claws the photograph, folds it in half and tosses it in the general direction of the trash can. None of them is paying attention to anything other than the meeting, and all are caught by surprise as Jan returns home and suddenly appears in the kitchen doorway, yelling, “Percy, get off that table! And stop throwing trash on the floor for Buddy to eat.”

Merci leaps into the air, yelping, “Run!” She races for her den in Jan’s bedroom.

Percy jumps down from the table and all the animals scatter, as Cameron cries after them, “When are you guys going to pay your club dues?” He follows the rest of the club through the bedroom door and trips over Crystal’s outstretched paw.

“How many times do I have to tell you to stop harassing us about dues, Cameron?” Crystal asks.

Then Crystal and Cameron join the other cats under Jan’s bed, as she enters the bedroom, demanding, “Which one of you criminals destroyed my photograph?”

Percy
Secretary of the Funny Farm Writing Club

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