Tibbles to the Rescue
By Gil Hale – firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: All usual disclaimers apply.
Author’s Notes: Tibbles made a brief, though less heroic, appearance in Arnaud You Don’t.
Tibbles smelled turkey.
He rolled from the comfortable place he’d found, in a patch of sunshine near the foot of the stairs at 352 Prospect. Like the great hunter he would have been—had his personal charm and intellectual capacities not earned him a more luxurious existence—Tibbles followed the scent.
He could, of course, have been reclining on a cushion at the moment, attended by the faithful Dora who was permitted to be Server of the Food and Emptier of the Litter Tray. However, though in many ways a reliable servant, Dora had never grasped the importance of serving food at regular intervals between meals. Unless there were visitors, he usually found it advisable to slip out when the door was open and honour another apartment with a visit.
The apartment to select would, of course, be decided by a judicious scenting of the grocery bags being carried in.
The smell of turkey he was tracking now wafted from a bag being carried by the smaller of his two neighbours. For some time, Tibbles had thought of them as ‘Dammit’ and ‘Oops sorry’—their respective apologies should they happen to trip over his august personage reclining in the hallway. Recently, however, he’d improved his acquaintance with them. This small one had many names—though no secret and terrible one, which Tibbles, like all cats, had. His proper name seemed to be ‘Blair,’ the others being mere nicknames, the equivalent of ‘puss’ or ‘kitty’ or ‘mommy’s lovely boy then’ (Dora sometimes became carried away in her adulation).
Blair was untrained. Tibbles did not think he would be reliable as a regular servant. Fortunately, nor did Dora. If she was ever absent for any reason, her friend Mabel was an able deputy Server and Emptier. However, Blair was quite suited to being an Offerer of Titbits. Turkey was a very acceptable titbit between meals.
Tibbles padded softly up the stairs after Blair. Blair didn’t usually take the elevator. Perhaps he didn’t understand the buttons. Tibbles, who didn’t believe in undue exertion, thought that perhaps one day he should jump into Blair’s arms and indicate the correct procedure.
On the other hand, Blair might drop him. Not everyone appreciated what a fine figure of a cat Tibbles was; Blair might fail to prepare himself properly for Tibbles’ weighty presence.
There was a female waiting in the hallway near the loft. Tibbles saw at once that she was a stranger and predatory, but in some ways Blair had no more sense than a kitten. He allowed her to begin a conversation. She was hardly a proper shape for a female, having, for example, a wholly inadequate lap, but apparently she compensated by what Tibbles had heard Dora call ‘wiles.’
He saw with dismay that she was using these very successfully to persuade Blair to take her into the loft. It was quite clear to Tibbles that she had some nefarious design. He suspected it was on the turkey. He stepped quickly in behind them while the door was still open.
The shopping bag, still exuding the delicious smell, was placed high on the counter. The female, emitting kittenish giggles to which Blair was lamentably responsive, recounted a story which even a dog could have seen through, a tale of mistaken addresses and long travel.
Blair failed to remove the turkey from the bag. Instead he made coffee.
Tibbles watched the female. Another pithy expression of Dora’s was ‘up to no good.’ This was very appropriate. So far Tibbles had not announced his presence, but if she attempted to snatch the turkey he would be ready.
The female, however, was playing a strange game with the coffee cups. While Blair fetched cookies, she dropped something in his cup. It looked suspiciously like a worming pill. However, although probably ‘a bad lot,’ she did not appear quite as evil as the V… E… T.
The giggling and talking on the couch only went on for a little longer now. Suddenly, Blair dropped his coffee cup and rolled on the floor—without the female. He made an odd sort of noise. The female gave him a dismissive poke with her foot and went to the door. As she was opening it, and letting in a male, Tibbles saw Blair pull out his cellphone and press a button, but then he dropped it and went to sleep.
Tibbles understood cellphones, although Dora didn’t have one. Sometimes people spoke the names of food into their cellphone and later it was delivered to the door. This never happened in his apartment. Perhaps Dora could have her training updated. Blair had forgotten to say the words, but Tibbles put out a paw anyway and hooked the phone behind the couch.
To his surprise, it spoke to him in the voice of his other neighbour, Jim.
Of all the human beings Tibbles had met, Jim showed the most potential. Jim could see in the dark, and smell those interesting subtle scents most people missed, and although he and Tibbles had reached a negotiated settlement, he was normally highly territorial. Jim would not allow predatory, turkey-stealing females into the loft.
Tibbles could not, unfortunately, explain the situation to Jim, but he could do the next best thing. He yowled the yowl for hunger and frustration as loudly as he could into the phone.
“What the hell was that?” The male had been rummaging through papers on the table, probably too nasally challenged to discern the whereabouts of the turkey.
“Just their cat; I noticed it earlier. Get on with it will you. Are you sure Ellison has the file here?”
“Yes. I saw him take it home last night. I didn’t know he’d been assigned to the case until too late. He didn’t have it with him when he left this morning. I’m all right so far, but once he starts to go through it properly, he’ll know I’ve been tampering with the evidence. That’s why Giovanni called you in. Make sure we take enough things to prevent it looking as if that was our target though.”
Tibbles did not follow this conversation, but he saw with dismay that the female was filling a bag with objects while the male continued to pick up papers. Blair always carried a huge pile of papers about. Tibbles knew some people used them instead of litter, but Dora was a good servant and bought the best pine chips.
The intruders hadn’t taken the turkey yet. He hoped Jim would hurry.
The female went into Blair’s room, and the male upstairs. Tibbles leaned out and patted Blair’s face but Blair didn’t move at all. He wondered about jumping up onto the counter and pulling the turkey to safety, but it might attract their attention, and Jim was particularly territorial about the kitchen surfaces.
To his great relief, before he had to make the decision he heard Jim returning. Jim came in as a big cat should, ready to pounce. He saw the female through the open door of Blair’s room and shouted things. She came out without wiles. Jim was not a kitten.
Jim did have one failing though—this was an uncatlike tendency to worry about other people, especially Blair. He hadn’t cultivated that supreme sense of self that a true cat develops. He kept his gun pointing at the female, but he stooped to check on Blair.
Tibbles heard the male move suddenly upstairs. Jim heard it too, but before he could do anything the male fired down the stairs at him. Jim dropped flat, trying to protect Blair and line up a shot at the same time. By then the male, who had covered his face with a strange woollen thing, was running down, firing again and Tibbles saw the female was getting ready to run.
They were going to make a last, desperate attempt on the turkey.
Tibbles knew there was only one thing to do. It was always effective. As the female started to move, he snaked between her legs. ‘Snaked’ was not perhaps the best term for it, not since he’d reached his present well-developed maturity. Snaked was for some skinny, slinking cat, not one with Tibbles’ fine physique. That made his move all the more effective though. The female shrieked and fell over him, the male stumbled over her, and Jim pounced like a true feline.
The turkey was saved!
The path of a true hero is never without suffering, however. Tibbles felt a painful blow from a foot that might even have damaged a rib had his ribs been less well covered. Worse, the male actually TROD on the tip of his tail. He was forced to give the special yowl that was saved for agonising indignities, and to retreat behind the couch.
Jim, who was less vulnerable, having no tail, would have to cope on his own now.
There was a good deal of noise, most of it from the arrival of Jim’s PD (it seemed to be a human equivalent of a pride). The male turned out to be a rogue from their group. It happened, Tibbles knew—though from the Discovery Channel, not personal experience. The male and female were quickly taken away. At this point, Tibbles was sadly disappointed in Jim. Jim made a great deal of fuss of picking Blair up and putting him comfortably on the couch and FORGOT THE CAT! It wasn’t as if Blair had done anything except let a bad female in and then go to sleep. Why did he get cushions and attention?
Tibbles gave a plaintive meow. Jim looked down. “It’s all right. He seems to be fine. He’s waking up a bit now, in fact.”
This wasn’t what Tibbles needed to hear. Jim made up for it then, however, picking him up—this was safe because Jim had developed cat-lifting muscles—and making sure he wasn’t hurt. He didn’t say anything about ‘diddums poor tail’ but this was because he was a brave male like Tibbles. He did say, “You deserve a treat once I’ve made Blair a cup of coffee.”
There were healing properties in the word ‘treat.’ Tibbles’ tail began to feel less painful. Jim did these things properly, too. Once Blair was making strange fur ball noises over a cup of coffee, Jim found a nice clean plate, followed his nose to the turkey, and chopped up a suitable sized helping for a hero.
If Tibbles ever decided to move into this apartment, Jim would be allowed to be Server of the Food, and Blair would only be trusted as Emptier of the Litter Tray.
He gave a polite purr of appreciation and settled to eating. Jim sat next to Blair on the couch, and said all the things Tibbles had thought he would say about inviting strange and unsuitable females into the loft. “You know, Chief, I’m sure a lot of your problems would be solved by a trip to the vet,” Jim added.
Tibbles hadn’t known that happened to humans as well. He swallowed the last mouthful of turkey and plodded over to let Blair know that it wouldn’t impair his enjoyment of food or comfortable living; in fact, although his recollections of the time before the vet were distant, he was sure it had simplified life, as Jim said. Just as he jumped up onto the couch, the telephone rang.
It was the leader of Jim’s pride. Tibbles knew his voice. The man was a big bully who smelt of cigars and showed no care at all in walking along hallways which cats might be sleeping in. He was getting old, Tibbles had heard him say so. Tibbles looked forward to the day Jim challenged him for the pride and drove him out. Unfortunately, it seemed unlikely that throat-tearing would be involved, but perhaps Jim would knock him down and tread on him. See how he liked it. While Jim talked, Tibbles nudged Blair with his head.
“Does Jim know you’re on the couch?” Blair asked, as ungratefully as if he hadn’t just been rescued by Tibbles.
“Jim does,” Jim said, kneading Tibbles’ head in just the perfect place behind the ear. Tibbles gave a purr of ecstasy. “No, Simon, I was talking to Blair… It’s the cat, you know, the one from next door… It deserves a commendation, though I expect it would be happier with another plate of turkey… Yes, it did… I don’t know. Blair must have speed-dialled before he dropped the phone… Yes, thanks, I’d rather stay with Blair, though he doesn’t seem to have come to much harm; it could have been a lot worse… I’ll tell him. See you in the morning.”
He turned to Blair. “Simon says the girl is connected to the mob. Seems she makes a career of the sort of con she pulled today.”
Blair groaned. “Don’t rub it in. I know it was stupid, okay, she just seemed…”
“Well, yes. I suppose I was lucky that Tibbles is such a greedy monster.” He stroked Tibbles, presumably to show the insult was only a joke, but he didn’t have the sort of sensitive fingertips Jim had. Tibbles looked at Jim hopefully. Jim found the exact spot again, and Tibbles felt the purr roll in his throat.
“I think he prefers you,” Blair grumbled. “I’m the one who bought the turkey, you know.”
“He deserved it,” Jim said. “We don’t know that they’d just have left you to sleep it off. He’s obviously trying to be a deputy blessed protector.”
Tibbles didn’t know what that meant exactly, but it sounded a suitable title. He sat up more smartly. Blair yawned.
“Saucer of milk?” Jim asked.
“No thanks, and you shouldn’t give the cat one either. Water’s healthier.”
Tibbles and Jim both treated this with the contempt it deserved. Jim served the milk in a rather nice china bowl, and Tibbles drank it elegantly.
Jim returned to the couch. “Why don’t you lie down again for a bit, and I’ll make a start on a report.”
Blair was a good sleeper; it was one of his few catlike qualities. He could sleep anywhere. Tibbles watched Jim tuck a blanket around him and ruffle his hair as he left him. It didn’t make Blair purr.
“I’m going to title my report Tibbles to the Rescue,” Jim said.
Pleased with this tribute, Tibbles jumped up next to Blair, to get a share of any attention that was being offered. Blair sighed, then brightened. “Personally, I think it would be rather neat to call it The Trouble with Tibbles,” he said.
Jim groaned—quite rightly.
Blair went to sleep with both eyes shut, but Tibbles kept one open. That meant he was the one who really appreciated it when Jim came over and gave them both a stroke on the head. He purred and Blair snored.
“Wish you could teach him how to have nine lives,” Jim said.
~ End ~