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by Bill Tope

"Silly squirrel!" scolded the rust-colored cat, licking her fore-paw and rubbing it briskly across her brow. Leaping from her position astride a railing tracing the perimeter of an elaborate sundeck, the squirrel ignored the cat utterly.

Finally, she put aside her preoccupation with burying seeds and effectively reforesting the landscape -- which had been blighted by wildfires and overuse -- with pine and deciduous trees, and then glanced up.

The squirrel, known to her friends -- of which the cat was not a member -- as Tofu, thought the feline a ne'er - do - well. After all, whenever did cats scurry up poles to which birdfeeders were appended, to feast on such delicacies as seeds, nuts and suet, to bulk-up for the ensuing winter? Moreover, thought Tofu critically, whoever heard of a mere cat scrambling across a roof in order to gnaw the miles and miles of cable TV wires and telephone landlines into oblivion. These tasks had to be completed, Tofu knew, and she couldn't do them by herself.

After Tofu and the housecat had discussed these issues at length -- in the virtual (speech balloon) manner of members of the animal kingdom, the cat suddenly slapped his paw down hard upon the slender tail of a field mouse, trapping it under paw. Tofu blinked. It was his little friend, Meeks, who shared Tofu's penchant for never-ending toil. Taking the mouse up between two knuckles of each paw -- no opposable thumbs, remember -- the cat was about to slip the little creature between its cat lips, when Tofu unexpectedly jumped forward and bit the cat smartly on the tail.

With great fanfare, the housecat fled and stayed the winter inside the house, resting uneasily before the crackling fire in the hearth, trying to live down his ignominious defeat at the hands of mere rodents.