Buddy stands on his hind legs, fumbles in the dark for the correct key and locks the front door. He stops at the porch steps and surveys his motley crew already in position in Jan’s car, which is parked parallel to the porch with both drivers’ side doors ajar. Since this is a clandestine adventure, he is glad the overhead light isn’t working.
Standing on two driving cushions with both front paws on the steering wheel is Percy, his favorite partner in mischief. Samaritan sits in the passenger seat with Cameron in the middle, holding a flashlight so he can read the map he printed off the internet and give Percy directions. On the floor in front of Percy sits Rusty.
Buddy gently closes Percy’s door, then climbs into the back seat and quietly closes that door. “Move over, Merci. You’re sitting in my seat.”
Merci moves. “You can have it. I’m not sure I want to see where we’re going on this trip.”
Buddy settles into the middle of the seat where he has a clear range of view between the front seat headrests. “We have Michael Vick’s address. You all know your roles. Our goal is to farm Michael Vick the dogfighter and be home within the half hour. Ready, Percy? Here are the keys, Cameron.”
He drops the keys over the seat. Cameron, already regretting having volunteered for this trip, takes a deep breath, inserts the correct key in the ignition and turns it. The engine roars to life.
“Rusty, I told you not to give it any gas until we’re ready to roll,” Buddy barks in a muffled but stern tone.
“I’m sorry, Buddy. I accidentally hit the gas pedal when I tried to get in position. There isn’t much room down here for a cat my size.”
Buddy tilts his head and listens. “What’s that noise?”
“That must be the loose belt noise Jan mentioned to her brother Mr. Doug,” Merci says. “It should stop in a minute. Yes, it’s quiet now.”
Percy, looking through the windshield, asks, “How am I supposed to see where I’m going? A couple of cars have passed here and they have lights on. Do we have lights?”
“Of course we have lights,” Buddy says confidently. “But we don’t need them. We can see in the dark.”
Merci is doubtful. “Yes, we can see in the dark. But don’t you think we’ll be a slightly noticeable if we drive a car this late at night without lights?”
“You have a point, Merci. We don’t want to look conspicuous. Percy, turn on the lights.”
“Okay. Where are they?”
“I don’t have any idea. I know, Cameron, when we get on the highway, you shine the flashlight out the windshield. That way no one will notice the car doesn’t have any lights.” He settles into his favorite riding pose, front legs lolling on the back of the front seat between the head rests, leaning on his left elbow. “All right, Cameron, which way do we go?”
Cameron switches on the flashlight and looks at the map and his notes. “Left, we go left.”
“We can’t go left,” Percy complains. “We’ll run over the house.”
“We will? Oh, yes, we will. Sorry, I had the map sideways. We go down the lawn, over the curb, and then turn left.”
Percy tries to move the gear shift out of “P” with one paw. It isn’t as easy as he thought it would be.
“Samaritan, we need to go forward. Will you switch gears for me?”
“Sure,” Samaritan says agreeably. He reaches one long leg in front of Cameron and with little apparent effort moves the gearshift.
The car begins to roll slowly backward. “Get off the gas pedal, Rusty!” Buddy commands. “We’re going the wrong way.”
“I’m not touching the gas pedal.”
“Hit the brake!” Merci cries. She drops to the seat and covers both eyes with her paws. “We’re going to crash.”
“I’m standing on the brake but we’re still moving,” Rusty answers. “I need help.”
Buddy orders, “Cameron, help Rusty.”
Cameron drops the flashlight and map. He dives to the floor and adds his weight on the brake to help Rusty. The car continues to roll slowly in reverse.
“I’ll save us!” Samaritan calls, as he steps on Cameron’s papers and drops to the floor. His large frame barely fits into the floor space. His back feet are crammed against the passenger door. He easily reaches one front paw out to stomp the brake pedal. The car stops with its rear wheels touching the edge of the curb. A fraction of an inch more and the car would have dropped heavily to the street.
“Ow-w-w-w, get off my foot,” Rusty yells. “Get off my foot too,” Cameron hollers, “and get your nails out of my ear.”
“Sh-h-h-h-h,” Buddy demands. “You’re going to wake up the neighbors. We’ll get arrested before we even leave the property.”
Merci sits up and peeks carefully around the headrest in front of her, then turns her head to look behind them. “It’s a good thing we live on a corner or we’d have run over a few cars. Buddy, are you sure this is a good idea? I’m only here to call for help if you guys get arrested. I don’t want to die young.”
“Don’t worry,” Buddy says confidently, “no one is going to die young on this trip. But we need to hurry or we won’t get back before Jan wakes up. Samaritan, you must have shifted into ‘backward’ gear. Shift into ‘straight ahead’ gear, will you?”
“I can’t,” Samaritan says from his uncomfortable position stretched over the hump in the floor. “If I take my paw off Rusty’s and Cameron’s, we’ll start moving again. You’ll have to switch gears yourself.”
Buddy stretches forward but can’t quite leverage the gear shift. “Merci,” he orders, “climb into the front seat and shift into ‘straight ahead’ gear.”
“No way am I sitting in the middle of the front seat. That’s the death seat. You do it.”
“Somebody do it!” Rusty and Cameron holler in unison.
Buddy grumbles. “All right, but I’m supposed to be in charge here, saving my strength for the surgery.” He slides over the seat and peers intently at the gearshift. “I don’t see anything marked ‘straight ahead.’ I see a ‘D.’ You think that means ‘down the road?’”
“Try it,” Percy suggests. “Samaritan is crushing these guys’ paws.”
Buddy pushes the gearshift down until it reaches ‘”D.” “You guys take your paws off the brake and let’s see what happens.”
Samaritan yelps and the car races forward. Merci drops to the seat and covers both eyes with her paws.
“Hit the brake,” Buddy yells. “Hit the brake,” Percy yells. “Let me out!” Merci screams.
The car stops with a jolt. There is total silence for a minute.
“Are we still alive?” Merci asks quietly.
“I think so,” Percy says. “But I’m not sure we’re going to be when Jan finds out about this.”
Buddy asks, “Who’s going to tell her?”
Percy turns to glare at Buddy. “You mean you think she’ll notice?”
Samaritan complains, “Someone help me. I’m stuck down here. There isn’t enough room for me to move.”
“Why should we help you?” Percy complains. “You hit the gas and made us crash.”
“It wasn’t my fault. Cameron bit my ear. That hurt!”
Cameron climbs over Samaritan and onto the seat next to Buddy. “I told him to get his nails out of my ear. He had one paw mashing my face and the other squishing my paw.” He weighs over 50 pounds, his paws are huge, and his nails need to be cut.” He sticks a paw in his ear. “See, I’m bleeding. If any of you were in my position, you would’ve bitten him too.”
Rusty huddles near the door, licking his brake paw. “Look at how swollen my paw is. I might be handicapped for life.”
“I’m sorry for stamping on your paws,” Samaritan apologizes, “but it was an emergency. I saved our lives.”
“Yes, you did,” Buddy agrees. “Thanks, Samaritan.” He looks in the rear view mirror but the headrest blocks his view of Merci. “Merci, you can sit up now. We’re home.”
Buddy moves the gearshift back to “P”, removes the keys from the ignition, reaches past Percy and opens the driver’s door. “I guess we might as well check on the damage to Jan’s car.”
Percy leaps out. Buddy moves across the seat and drops to the ground. Cameron gathers his map and the flashlight and follows, crying out in pain when his sore paw touches the ground. Buddy lifts Rusty out by the scruff of the neck and lowers him gently to the ground, where he stands on three feet, favoring his swollen paw. Merci slides over the front seat and jumps out. Samaritan wiggles and groans in the narrow space, but slowly maneuvers his large body out the open door.
Buddy quietly closes the door and they all stare at the front end of the car, wedged tightly between the bushes in front of the porch. “Wow,” Cameron says, in awe, “that was terrific driving, Percy. You missed the house.”
“Do you think Jan might think she parked it this way herself?” Percy asks, his tone hopeful.
Merci shakes her head. “Jan doesn’t drink, and as bad as her memory is getting, she wouldn’t forget something like this. But I’m not going to be the one to tell her who did this. I’m going to bed and in the morning I’m going to pretend I know nothing about this accident.”
“Me too,” Buddy agrees. “It’s too late to farm Michael Vick tonight. We might as well go inside and rest up for tomorrow night.”
“What happens tomorrow night?” Cameron asks.
“We’re going to go farm Michael Vick,” Buddy explains.
“Oh, no, we won’t!” the group choruses, as they march up the porch steps, with Rusty and Cameron limping slowly in the rear.
“Why not?” Buddy wants to know. “Tonight was just a minor setback. Now that we’ve practiced, tomorrow night will go smoothly.”
“Of course it will,” Samaritan concedes. “Tomorrow night we’re staying home and watching TV.”
Merci awakens from a sound sleep in the kitchen, looking around for the source of the strange sound. She hears the thunk as Samaritan’s fifty pounds hit the floor in the bedroom. She shakes her head. Samaritan’s been sleeping on Jan’s bed again. They meet in the living room and follow the low rumble to Jan’s typing chair at the computer desk where Buddy sits, glaring at the computer monitor, growling and grinding his teeth.
“Buddy, is something wrong?” Merci asks quietly.
“Huh?” Buddy shakes his head in momentary confusion at the interruption. “No. Yes! I was just reading another story on some guy named Michael Vick.”
“Well, if he makes you growl and grind your teeth, maybe you should stop reading about him,” Samaritan, well aware of Buddy’s love of food, suggests. “If you grind down your teeth while you’re still young, Jan will have to grind up your food when you’re older.”
“I can’t help it. These stories make me so angry. Here’s a guy making boohoos of money –“
Cotton, lounging on top of a printer, snorts and interrupts, “Boohoos? I think you mean beau·coups.”
“I do? I wish you would stop reading the dictionary. You confuse me when you correct my English. Anyway, he makes lots and lots of money playing football, a sport where grown men are called strange things, like ‘The Refrigerator.’ I’d probably like that guy. We could raid the fridge and pig out together. Well, not here. We’d have to go somewhere there’s actually food in the fridge, unless Jan breaks down and buys some good eats, like pork chops and bacon.”
“I thought you were going to tell us about this Michael Vick. Instead, as usual, you start talking about food.”
“I’m getting there, Merci. I just got sidetracked for a moment. Where was I?”
“Sitting on the typing chair,” Samaritan tells Buddy.
“Oh, right. I was reading this news article where some guy named Stephon Marbury defends Vick. He calls dogfighting a sport - like hunting. A sport? Do these dogs have a million dollar a year contract? Retirement benefits? A comfortable bed? That’s what Michael Vick had. But his dogs were treated like cardboard throwaways. It’s bloody torture, not a sport!”
Samaritan opens his mouth to speak, but Buddy continues, his voice rising. “No! Guys without hearts abuse these dogs and teach them to tear into one another and fight to the death for their amusement. And when they lose, they are often “rewarded” with a painful, violent death. How could a mentally healthy human commit such atrocities and call it “sport”? They can’t! They’re psychopaths, all of them, I tell you, psychopaths, and I –“
Merci interrupts him, quietly but firmly. “Buddy, calm down. Your eyes are glazing over. You’re all upset and there is nothing you can do about it.”
Buddy looks down at her from the typing chair and bellows, “Yes, there is something I can do about it! I can farm him! But I can’t do it alone. I need help to capture Vick and operate. Who will volunteer to help me?”
Samaritan looks puzzled. “It’s a long story,” Cotton explains, from atop the printer. “It was before your time. When you get a chance, read “Buddy Is Farmed” in the Funny Farm journal.”
“You guys are my friends. I’ll go with you,” Percy volunteers. He stops at the typing chair, on his way back from the litter pan. “I’ll hold him down while you operate, Buddy! We’ll teach him to be mean to dogs.”
Samaritan, not realizing just what Buddy intends to do, but not wanting to be left out, volunteers too. Merci sighs. “I guess I better go with you in case you get in any trouble and someone has to call Jan to bail you all out of the pound.”
“Great. I appreciate your support, guys.”
“Where do we find him?” Percy asks.
“I don’t know yet. Somewhere. We can probably find him on the internet. You can find anything on the internet.”
Samaritan has a question. “Is he local? He has to be local because we’re walking.”
Buddy waves a paw. “No problem. We’ll just get a map and borrow Jan’s car while she sleeps.”
“No!” Merci is adamant. “You never did get your driver’s license, Buddy, and I’m not riding with one lawbreaker to farm another.”
“That’s just a technicality.”
“Buddy, maybe you better go back and review “The Driving Lesson.” You are a terrible driver even without the engine running.”
Percy resolves the problem. “Never mind. I’ll drive. I learned to type without taking a typing course. How hard can driving a car be?”
“No, Percy –“
“Merci, we don’t have time to argue. We have lots to do before we can hit the road”
Merci mumbles, “Yes, I’m sure ‘hit’ is the correct word.”
“Samaritan, find Jan’s dullest pair of scissors, a used razor blade, a needle and thread, and a bottle of alcohol. Percy, you pack some drinks and snacks. It will probably take us at least 20 minutes to get there, take care of everything and return home. Jan will never know we are gone.”
“Are you sure the four of us can hold this Vick guy down and operate without anesthetic?”
Buddy stops snapping orders for a moment. “Yes, Samaritan, we can. He’s a sick man and we’re doing this for all the bait animals he used to train his dogs, and all the dogs, fighters and non-fighters, he tortured and killed.”
Buddy sits taller and straighter in the typing chair. “And then,” he thunders, “we’re going after Stephon Marbury and all the others who think dogfighting is sport. If farming doesn’t stop them, we’ll –“
“Buddy, what is all the racket about this time?” Jan demands as she enters the room, fresh from a long, cool shower.
Buddy climbs down from the chair. “Nothing,” he mumbles, “just planning some surgery without a license.”
Jan glances at the monitor screen. “That’s funny. I thought I closed the browser before I took a shower. Sometimes I think you guys play with the computer when I’m not around. Next, I guess you’ll be driving the car. I don’t remember reading this article. It’s just another piece to stir up controversy. But sometimes I wish someone would teach Vick and all these psychopaths a lesson they’d never forget!”
The heat is stifling. Buddy ambles into the living room, tongue hanging out. He stops at Jan’s desk and sits beside her typing chair, where Percy is rapidly and accurately typing. “It’s too hot to do anything, Percy. What are you typing? Better yet, why are you typing? You should be napping like the rest of the Funny Farm.”
“Can’t take time to nap yet, Buddy,” Percy says without taking his eyes off the monitor screen. “I have to finish this story so I can post it to our web journal before Jan gets home and deletes it from the computer.”
Buddy perks up at the hint someone else might get in trouble. “Why would Jan delete it? What are you writing?”
“The story of Waspzilla.”
“No, Waspzilla. You remember the wasp that was loose in the house yesterday. Jan sent some of her friends an email about Waspzilla and one of them wrote back that Jan should post the story to her journal on Mercy And Percy. But Jan said she doesn’t want the whole world to know how brave she isn’t. Only special friends are allowed to know she’s more of a fraidy-cat than Merci is.”
“So,” Buddy asks thoughtfully, “why are you writing the story to post on the Funny Farm?”
“Because Sherry said Jan’s story made her laugh hysterically and the world needs a lot of laughter. I agree.” Percy stops typing abruptly and scratches his nose with one paw, while hitting the zoom key so Buddy can read the words on the screen easier. “There, I’m done. Would you like to read it?”
**** It’s another sweltering day. We’re all lying around the Funny Farm while Jan plays on the computer. Buddy lolls on his favorite improvised seat where he can look out the front windows and watch the traffic and passersby.
Suddenly, Buddy begins to jump about and yell. “Run, everyone, there’s an intruder in the house.Find a safe place to hide while I try to scare him away. Uh-oh, he’s not afraid of me.I’ll have to catch him.”
Jan jumps up from the computer chair and rushes to Buddy’s side. (What is she thinking? Buddy is risking his life to save the rest of us and Jan acts like she doesn’t understand a word he is saying.) She leans close to the window and looks up and down the road several times, then scolds Buddy, “What are you barking at now? There isn’t anyone in sight. Shut up. Eeeeeeeeeeeeek!” she shrieks as Waspzilla flies right at her face. She turns and runs out of the room.
“Don’t worry, Jan, I’ll get it,” Buddy shouts, leaping and snapping his jaws in frustration, trying to catch the intruder, which repeatedly flies low and then darts back to the ceiling.
Jan speeds back into the room, waving a bottle of bug spray. (Bug spray? She should have grabbed the Waspzilla spray! Oh, right, she’d probably kill us all if she sprayed that indoors.) “Out of the way, Buddy,” she screams. “Get away from the wasp.”
Buddy ignores her, chasing after Waspzilla, jaws snapping feverishly, foaming at the mouth. ****
Buddy stops reading and glares at Percy. “I was not foaming at the mouth!”
“You weren’t?” Percy asks in surprise. “Oh, right, you weren’t. I have you confused with a dog video I was watching on YouTube. Here,” he hits the delete button, “it’s corrected. Sorry.”
**** Waspzilla flies into the kitchen, speeds round and round the room, then darts into the bedroom, Buddy hot on its heel. Jan follows, still waving the bottle of bug spray and screaming, “Buddy, no.”
Waspzilla flies low but Buddy’s moving jaws miss it as Jan’s high-pitched screeching grows louder. “Noooooooo, Buddy, nooooooooooo!” Her screaming unnerves Buddy, who dives under the coffee table, pops out, dives under, pops out…. (Yes, readers, Jan keeps a coffee table in her bedroom. I’m not sure why - she doesn’t keep any coffee in it – but I think it might have a personality conflict with the computer desk.)
Merci, still in the living room, shouts, “I’ll check under the couch,” and scrambles underneath it. ”
Buddy pops out from under the table, yelling, “I got it, I got it, I …Get out of the way, Jan!”
Samaritan runs around crying in a loud voice, “I want to play too. Where’s the- I see it. Where’d it go?
Jan scared it off when she sprayed it with - what is that stuff? It smells horrible!”
Somebody shut Jan up,” Percy suggests, entering the chase. “We can’t keep track of it with her making all that racket.”
“There it goes,” Buddy screams,” heading for Jan. Oh, good, she’s hiding in the closet. Can someone close that door?”
“It won’t close,” Percy says, pushing against it with all of his ten pounds. “Samaritan, you weigh more than I do. You try it.”
“No, it won’t close,” Samaritan yells over the combined noise of the other hunters. “Ouch! She hit me with the door when she rushed out.”
“Eeeeeek, there it goes,” Jan shrieks, as Waspzilla dives toward the rug and disappears.
“It’s here somewhere,” Buddy insists, racing around the room. But Waspzilla has disappeared. It must be dying or dead. Peace returns to the Funny Farm for a time.
“I found it, I found it, I almost had it.” Buddy’s loud cries break the silence, as Waspzilla appears at the window where it was first spotted. Jan jumps to her feet and again runs out of the room.
“I’ll get it,” Percy hollers, as he leaps into the air at Waspzilla.
“I’ll get it,”Samaritan yells.
“I’ll check under the couch,” Merci adds helpfully.
The Funny Farm hunters chase Waspzilla through the house a second time. Jan follows, waving a can of bug spray. (Can, bottle, what’s the difference. It all smells terrible.) By this time Waspzilla is more desperate to escape the screaming residents than the residents are to kill it before it stings a resident. Jan screams, “Buddy, don’t you dare catch that! There isn’t an emergency vet within a gazillion miles!”
Waspzilla finally alights on the blind behind the kitchen stove and Jan blasts him with bug spray.
Waspzilla flies at her through the mist. Jan drops and crawls under the kitchen table, disturbing Cyndi’s nap as she pushes Cyndi out of her way. (Might I suggest Jan buy a bigger kitchen table in case she ever needs to “hide” again?)
The noise continues. “I’ve got it. Well, I nearly had it.” “He’s not under the couch.” “Did you see where it went? I lost it.” By the time Jan crawls out from under the table, Waspzilla can not be found. Peace again returns to the Funny Farm.
As Jan sits back down at the computer, she hears a noise behind her. She swivels around, screams, “Nooooooo!” and leaps for the flyswatter she left lying on a table. Waspzilla is lying on the floor, still moving, and Percy is closing in, about to pounce on his new toy.
When Waspzilla breathes his last under Jan’s onslaught, Merci’s voice wafts from under the couch, “I haven’t seen it under here yet. I’ve got my eyes open for it, though” ****
Eyes twinkling, Buddy looks at Percy. “Jan is going to have a fit when she reads this, you know.”
“Yes, I know.” The corners of Percy’s mouth begin to curl. “And here she comes driving across the lawn now.’
“Percy, you wrote the story. May I have the honor?”
“Certainly,” Percy grins.
Buddy stands on his hind legs, aims the cursor, and clicks firmly on “Publish.”