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No. Twenty-three.

The soft pat of socked feet on cold tile resonating through the leg of the chair on which he slept roused Cody from a deep slumber. He had dreamt of feathers floating in the air, followed by something else seemingly suspended in flight. Tiny dots like those in the ink-black sky, only so close he could touch them with his nose and his tongue, fluttered about him, drawn towards the ground as every object on this planet inevitably seems to be—even birds, whose very existence defies the laws of nature. And all of those dots en masse made everything about him white. It was a most unusual dream, which said a lot considering he had once dreamt of riding a humpback whale while he carried a trident.

When he had yawned and stretched and came fully to life, Cody hopped down and made for the back door, meowing and purring so loudly he resembled a motorcycle more than a cat.

But it was to no avail, as the person of the house went about the business of the house, ignoring the cats, save ensuring food and water bowls were filled; Cody had no appetite. He was too eager to explore outdoors and inquire about the noises from the night before. But he would have to wait.

Finally, the door opened, but Cody was blocked by his person’s foot and leg.

“Whoah, there, Cody. No outside time for you this morning; I have an errand to run in a bit.You just stay put,” said the human.

Stunned, Cody sat down, too astonished even to lick his fur and pass off as being impassive to what just happened.

But the door soon swung wide open again and the person re-entered, every bit as quick and shoo-ing Cody aside. Within a few minutes, though, the other “I’m going out” sounds came from the foyer of the house. Cody trotted over to investigate but was ignored this time.

He must think I’m still by the back door, Cody thought. Should I try my luck with the front?

Tucked behind the umbrella stand by the front door, Cody lay in silence, in wait. His person fumbled for keys and the plastic rectangle he took everywhere before heading out the door. With the big door swung open to the inside and the storm door swung open to the out, Cody saw his chance as the person dashed back inside for something presumably forgotten. Both doors were left wide open.

Slinking out through a berth wide enough for a refrigerator, Cody found himself in the front yard. Hidden by the obligatory shrubbery found in each of Eulakatza Farm’s front yards, Cody watched his person get into vehicle Cody only saw during trips to the vet and drive away. He took a cautious step into the soft morning grass and was immediately caught by surprise.

“Chirp-chirp-chirp!”

“Oh. You. I might have suspected,” said Cody to the squirrel hanging off one of the yard’s trees.

“Chirp-chirp!” the squirrel said in a tone that was one part excitement, one part sadness. It hopped down from the tree and looked back to Cody, waiting for him to follow. There is something cat needs to see, said the look.

Cody walked alongside the squirrel, imagining themselves quite the odd-looking pair, venturing along the sidewalk, just the most normal looking thing in the world. But, compared to what Cody was about to see, they were, in fact, far more normal looking.

The squirrel slowed before Cody did. When he stopped and looked around him, he saw feathers spread out in a seeming uniform pattern in the grass, just beneath a streetlight. Cody sat and moved his head all about him. The squirrel was positioned just beyond the perimeter of feathers.

“What is this, street art?” asked Cody, laughing nervously.

“Chirp-chirp-chirp-chirp!” replied the squirrel. Cat remember pigeon cat fought with yesterday?

“Yeah, I—” Cody stopped, cold.

“Chirp,” said the squirrel. And sighed deeply. “Chirp-chirp.” Yes. Even though pigeon try to steal squirrel’s doughnut, squirrel is sad at pigeon’s death.

“But what on earth could have done this?” began Cody, still perplexed at the circular explosion of feathers. He looked all about him and then at the squirrel, its tail twitching as it rubbed its paws together.

“Chirp,” said the squirrel. Owl.

Cody’s eyes went wide. Even he was shocked. Never before had he seen such destruction where only feathers remained. Sure, yesterday’s tussle left random feathers here and there in the yard, but nothing like this. It was like the pigeon had been thrown down hard from way up and just obliterated itself on impact. It was the most disturbing thing Cody had ever witnessed.

“Owl, huh?” Cody tried to play it cool, but he wasn’t convincing even himself let alone the squirrel.

“Chirp-chirp-chirp,” said the squirrel in response. Yes, owl. More pigeons, more bunnies, more squirrels will die like this—or worse. Unless cat can do something to help.

“Unless cat?” asked Cody. He suddenly realized who the squirrel meant. “ME? You expect ME to take on this owl thing for you?”

“Chirp!” exclaimed the squirrel. Yes! Cat will take on owl!

“Wait, wait, wait,” interrupted Cody, attempting to collect his thoughts. He was wishing he had not skipped breakfast.

“Chirp-chirp-chirp!” said the squirrel. Squirrel can help cat find owl and cat will fight owl and cat will win and owl’s reign of terror over squirrel and squirrel’s friends will be over!

“WAIT!” Cody was shouting now. The neighborhood responded with silence. The squirrel gave only a blank, hurt look.

“Look, I don’t know if I can do this. I mean, I barely got out of the house today, and I don’t know anything about hunting owls, let alone killing one of these things, and have you even seen how ridiculously huge even ONE of their feathers is?” Cody was ranting, more to himself than the squirrel, but the squirrel listened patiently, waiting for its turn to speak.

“Chirp-chirp-chirp-chirp!” said the squirrel, beginning its tale of venturing to the pond where the owl lived and retrieving one of its feathers before depositing it in Cody’s lawn. He then went on about the adventure to obtain the half doughnut and how the resulting melee proved beyond doubt that Cody was the one that could challenge the owl—and win.

“How long will I be gone?” asked Cody. He was already looking back down the street towards his person’s home, missing the company of his idiotic roommates and his person who fed him every morning and evening. He was pretty certain there were no regular feeding times or food waiting in dishes out here.

“Chirp-chirp-chirp!” said the squirrel. Cat needn’t worry about that! Cat will have grand adventure! Songs will be sung of cat’s bravery and triumph over owl!

Cody listened, recognizing his question had’t been answered. But the squirrel made a pretty good argument: Cody liked the idea of songs and attention and reverence paid to him.

“OK, fine,” replied Cody. “Let’s go find this owl.”

“Chirp-chirp!” cried the squirrel in a fit of emotional frenzy. It ran circles around the cat and twitched its tail repeatedly. Cat will help squirrel!

“Yes, I’ll help. But don’t think this makes us friends,” Cody muttered half to himself, half to the squirrel as they began their journey south to the woods, to the pond, to the owl.

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