Cat tooth magic and dog.., p.2
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       Cat-Tooth Magic and Dog-Eared Miracles, p.2

           Brian S. Wheeler
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  Gyp sensed winter’s approach as acutely as the people in his home. The wind felt cooler against him as he chased frisbees in the back yard. Darkness descended earlier and shortened the number of times Kate took Gyp for long walks or brief circles around the yard. Gyp recognized the coming season and pulled his favorite, frazzled blanket out of Kate’s closet, a warm place to slumber when the breath misted outside.

  Gyp never left Kate’s side. He said his farewell at the front door each morning when Kate left for school, standing on his hind legs for a warm hug before Kate closed the door. He kept an eye out the window and gauged when the dimming light whispered that it was almost time for the bus to bring Kate back home. Gyp greeted Kate with a tennis ball at each return, and Gyp whined with joy as Kate tossed him a biscuit treat while she dunked chocolate chip cookies to celebrate each reunion.

  Gyp, however, was not the only animal to wait anxiously for Kate’s return from school.

  Kate’s proud parents Marjory and Ben harbored a mercurial, Siamese cat name Isis.

  Gyp thought highly of Marjory and Ben. For they also took Gyp for long walks during the times Kate was absent. They sometimes fed him table scraps, and sometimes they even let Gyp sit on the couch.

  But Gyp did not extend his favor to Isis. He did not trust the strange creature. Gyp did not know how other animals like Isis behaved, or whether the breed’s character drifted towards either good or evil, but he feared Isis held dubious motivations in his feline heart.

  The golden cat with the dark eyes tended to lurk behind chairs. Gyp never shared a room with the cat without the animal perching on a high shelf or dresser, from which the feline’s narrow eyes glared down upon him. Isis hissed every time Gyp attempted to befriend the cat with a kind lick, and the dog had often felt the sting of that rival pet’s claws. Isis enjoyed pouncing upon Gyp while the dog slept on his favorite warm blanket, and Isis was always gone before the large, dark dog could gather his bearings and find the origin of his sleep’s disturbance.

  However stealthily Isis might have moved, the cat could not hide its ancient age. Isis had lost an eye before Gyp’s time, likely result of a nocturnal battle over the backyard’s territory. Food allergies beset Isis’s skin, and oozing rashes and scabs flared across the feline’s fur whenever Marjory and Ben changed food, or when the summer heat seeped into the home’s air conditioning. Gyp knew from staring at many of Isis’s hisses that the few teeth remaining to the creature had turned a bright yellow.

  Gyp would have reminded Isis of the natural hierarchy between a young German Shepherd dog and an old Siamese cat had Kate not doted upon his rival. Kate did not appear to think a thing amiss when Isis leapt upon her lap as she attempted to read. Kate didn’t mumble when Isis stole tastes of her morning milk and cereal. Isis required no leash when he ventured outside the back door. It was difficult for Gyp to accept such things.

  Gyp envied Isis for one thing more than anything else. Every night, while Gyp was relegated to the confines of his crate at the foot of Kate’s bed, Isis enjoyed the comfort and warmth of sleeping next to Kate atop the bed. Gyp could whimper for as long as he might, but he received no invitation to stretch out on the bed’s comforter. Kate reserved those blankets for Isis. Kate treated Gyp so well in all other things that Gyp sometimes thought his owner cruel for denying him the luxury of his owner’s pillows.

  Jealous of Isis’s presence on the bed, Gyp never took his eye off the cat during the night from his crate until his dog eyes could not deny rest any longer. Gyp noticed when Kate’s rest turned uneasy with the first, chill winter winds, when the frost painted the windows in crystal, when the snow fell to tickle Gyp’s paws. Gyp’s suspicions rose. He worried Isis was scheming, for Gyp could guess of no other reason that would make Kate restless in the middle of such pillow comfort.

  Gyp’s concern heightened his guard, and the dog noticed how often Kate slipped from bed with her forehead glistening in sweat, pasting the ends of her hair to her face as she fretfully tossed until morning. Though she had never before complained of tossing Frisbees to Gyp in the cold snow, Kate complained that winter that the chill felt too painful for playful excursions in the winter landscape. Gyp worried terribly for his master. For he thought her joy drained from her posture. Gyp read the unease that creased Marjory and Ben’s faces. Kate’s body language felt so weary. Her skin turned too pale, and Gyp turned sad for the absence of the sparkle he once so loved in Kate’s dulling eyes.

  Gyp wished he knew more about cats. Was it Isis’s presence on Kate’s bed that caused the listlessness that choked Kate? Did Isis’s cat paws carry a sickness when they patted at Kate’s chin? Did Isis’s tongue hold a poison when it licked Kate’s toes awake when morning light seeped through the window? Cats moved so stealthily that no responsible dog could trust them.

  Gyp cornered Isis beneath the kitchen table one morning, and he growled to communicate his grave want of answers.

  “What do you know of Kate’s troubles?” Gyp let the hair stand on his spine.

  “You’re a stupid, smelly dog.” Isis hissed and unsheathed the old claws hidden in his paws. “Had I not known how truly you care for Kate, I would have rewarded you implication by cutting out your sight.”

  “Don’t dare threaten me,” Gyp towered over the cat, and Isis could not prevent his back from betraying a tremble. “I can still find your throat through smell should you rake at my eyes, and it would only take a small bite to snap your neck.”

  Isis narrowed his eyes. “Kate is sick.”

  Gyp inched closer, his breath waving across the cat’s fur. “Pray I do not learn that you have a thing to do with the illness. You are a cat, and perhaps you do a thing to make her sick.”

  Isis’s paw flashed across Gyp’s nose before the dog could react, and Gyp willed himself not to whimper as the cut quickly burned.

  “I should cut out your tongue!” Isis arched his back. “You go too far even far your ignorance. I remember when Kate was a baby. I knew Kate far before you blundered through the front door. Remember how many times I spared you of my claw when you nipped at me as a pup. Remember how I spared my bite when you trespassed upon my peace. You forget my years. Back off, dog, or learn why I still rule the outside yard no matter all my years.”

  Gyp retreated a few steps.

  “At least you still know your place!” Isis hissed. “A hurt beyond you or me afflicts Kate. She suffers so she can’t sleep. It burns inside her during the day. She is exhausted. Have you noticed how much weight she has shed? Do you not see how thin she’s become?”

  Gyp suspected those pains Isis described, but he did not want to believe them.

  “She tells me, dog, of her hurt.”

  Gyp whimpered. “Why would she tell you and not me?”

  Isis shook his head. “Because you are still young. Perhaps she doubts that you could understand her hurt the way my years can. Perhaps she wants to shield you a little longer from the knowledge of sickness.”

  Isis sighed and continued. “But I know about hurt. Do the scabs on my skin not make that easy to see? You must know that my teeth can only handle soft food. Kate notices my hurts, and maybe that is why she tells me of her sickness.”

  “What can we do to make her better?” Gyp nearly cried the question. Isis had disarmed his growl.

  Isis collapsed onto the cool floor. “Perhaps there is nothing we can do,” and Isis closed his eyes so that he did not have to meet Gyp’s tear-filled stare. “We can only wait until we learn more. I will keep listening. Do not begrudge me of Kate’s attention. I need it to learn more, and I will not have the time to worry about the jealousies of a dog.”

  “I will not snarl when you move about the house.”

  “Then I will have no reason to show my claws.”

  Isis walked slowly out from beneath the table. Gyp felt no desire to impede the cat.

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