Hank, The Cat Contingency

Submitted into Contest #238 in response to: Write a story including the line “I can’t say it.”... view prompt


Creative Nonfiction Funny Teens & Young Adult

My name is Cynthia. I am the Personal Manager at my work. I hire, fire, and pay the staff's wages at the Salvador Hotel. It is of average size with 200 bedrooms, varying in size and quality. We need an extensive variety of staff to care for the guests, especially at peak times. Right now, is a relatively quiet time. Some staff have left, and we haven’t needed to replace them.

I have a husband, Kevin, and two sons. My husband is a highly qualified electrician. Harry is in his first year at High School, while Jeremy is only ten and still at Primary School. We have two cats. One is called Bruce, who is the hunter from hell. He always brings home birds, rats, and mice. He is AWOL from home most of the day and night, no doubt tracking down his prey. He arrives home to refuel or place tasty corpses at the door. Or in our bedroom while we sleep. We are not amused.

One night, we woke up to a ruckus. Growls, squeaks, rustling, and something being chased around the bedroom. We both turned our bedside lights on and sat upright. Something was going on under our bed.

“What the hell!” Kevin looked with eyes wide open.

A rat shot out from under the bed with Bruce in pursuit. The two animals tore around the room. I jumped and stood on my pillow to get as far away from the rat-astrophe as possible. “Get it out! Get it out now!”

Kevin leaped into action. He grabbed a shoe box from the wardrobe and tossed the sneakers out. The rat ran out of the room and down the passage. The cat pursued the rat into the kitchen and dining area. No way out. Kevin ignored Bruce and maneuvered himself to trap the rat under the box. I observed from the doorway, frozen to the spot. After numerous attempts, he succeeded and then shuffled its lid underneath. He tipped it upright while Bruce sat, eyeing us with disgust. I opened the front door.

“Get out, you ratbag cat!”

Bruce scarpered into the night.

“What do we do with it now?” asked Kevin helplessly.

“Kill it!” 

“What? I can’t kill it. You can, if you want.” He held the box out.

“I’m not touching it. I don’t give a fat-rats what you do with it. Just get it out of here.”

“I’ll take it out to the drain at the other side of the park across the road. It probably came from there.”

“I just hope Bruce doesn’t catch it again.” I sloped back off to bed, convinced I’d have rat nightmares.

As I said, Bruce is the hunter from hell.

It reminded me of an impressive scene from the story of The Pied Piper of Hamelin. I had been young when my parents took me to my older sister’s school production. The scene where the rats are lured out of hiding to follow the piper was impressive. The junior school children had dressed up as rats. They emerged from two low-slung doorways under the stage and crawled up the stairs on both sides, across the stage, following the piper and his music. What I didn’t know was that they all went back under the stage and out the front doors again, in a mass of rats that lasted until it eventually . . . trickled and stopped. No more rats in Hamelin. The fact that all the children, but one, also disappeared in the same way had warped me into associating rats with kids who disappeared. Rats terrified me. I had nightmares for months after that play.

Our other cat, Hank, is a large, white, short-haired feline with black smudges on his face and back. He is placid, friendly, and prefers to be with his family. He is a lion/cat, and our dog, Willow, always complied despite the apparent size difference. Both of our cats loved him, a cuddly black labrador. His gentle and loyal nature made him the perfect pet around our boys as they grew up from babyhood. He died of old age and infirmity two years ago. We miss him but are not seeking a replacement for a few more years.

Hank, primarily, measures all other dogs by Willow. He is not fazed by any of them, regardless of their size or temperament. He loyally follows his family across the road to the park and sprawls out to watch us play frisbee, softball, or some other ball game.

Dog walkers love to take their dogs to the park. When the dogs clap their eyes on Hank, they bark rabidly and strain at their leads. Owners yell out, “Watch out for your cat.”

Hank gazes at them and remains where he has spread himself.

“Trust us. You’d better watch out for your dog,” replies Kevin.

It became a family joke.

One day, my boss ran into reception at work with a huge problem.

“Can anyone here help me? I’m flying away for a fortnight, and my usual dog-sitter has pulled out. I am at my wit's end trying to find someone to look after Prince for me.”

We looked at each other and thought of anyone amongst the staff who could help. My boss’s face had desperation written all over it. And hope.

“Cynthia, you used to have a dog. You love dogs, don’t you? This is a smallish one. A mini-Golden Doodle. So well behaved.”

“Er, yes, we did have a dog. We have cats.”

They’re not scared of dogs, are they?”

“No, they’re not. But--“

“Sounds perfect. He doesn’t go bonkers when he sees a cat. He likes them. I’ll give you my key, and you can pick Prince up after work. Then just lock up and leave the key at reception. Thank you so much.”

This is my boss who has asked. He is in a fix. It could be problematic to refuse to help. What could happen in two weeks with a small, friendly dog and our cats, who are not scared of dogs? Except, what about Hank? We may have to keep him outside. Yes, he can just stay outside.

Sharon, one of the receptionists, spoke up. “What were you going to say about your cats?”

I had the presence of mind to be dismissive. “Oh, it was nothing,” I lied.

That’s what I kept telling myself. The time will fly. We will lock the cat flap from the garage into the house and feed the cats in the garage. They will be outside while Prince is in the house. We would set up his dog toilet or escort him outside when we are home – maybe. ‘Never the twain shall meet,’ and all that. The expression is over the top because Prince and the cats may coexist amicably. The painful pit in my stomach must be indigestion? I shouldn’t have eaten that extra sandwich for lunch.

I arrived home and settled Prince into his temporary digs. Put Hank outside, the cat flap locked, and the litter tray set up. Prince snuggled in his dog bed. I began cooking the dinner. Presently, the boys arrived home after their soccer practice. I dashed to make sure they shut the door.

“Hi, Mum.” “Hi, Mum.”

“Hi, boys. I want to introduce you to the boss’s dog, Prince.”

Harry and Jeremy trooped through. When they saw Prince, they fell in love. In typical Golden Doodle fashion, Prince stood up, shook himself, and padded over to greet them, tail wagging.

“Mum, he’s lovely. Are you sure we can’t keep him?” Jeremy fell on his knees, and Prince licked his face in a sloppy greeting.

“Aw,” said Harry. “He’s so sweet. We want one of those.”

“Well, his owner will definitely want him back. He’s a costly dog, so we could never afford one like him. While he’s here, we have to treat him like royalty. No doors are to be left open, and windows are opened just a crack. Hank is not allowed in.”

“But Mum. Hank will be so sad. He sleeps on my bed at night,” whined Jeremy.

“We can’t afford anything to happen to Prince while he is here. Hank will have to be out. Doors shut and windows shut, or open just a crack. Are you listening, boys?”

“Yes, Mum,” they said in unison.

When we sat for dinner, Jeremy had researched all about Golden Doodles and informed us while we ate.

“It’s a cross between a Golden Retriever and a toy or miniature poodle. They are smart, friendly and gentle. Their coat is more like wool and doesn’t shed. They are cute, like teddy bears. They cost from $1000 up to $3000. You have to check out the breeder and the puppy’s family.”

“Thank you for that, Jeremy,” I said. We definitely would not be getting one.

Kevin frowned. “Do you think we need this huge responsibility at the moment?”

“I didn’t have much choice. Frank was desperate. When I started to tell him about our cats, he cut me off. We must keep the cat flap locked, the door shut, and windows barely open. The worst inconvenience is emptying his litter tray.”

Kevin still frowned and shook his head in resignation.

The boys grinned.

“We love him,” said Harry. “He’s much smaller than Willow. It’ll be a cinch. We know what to do.”

“Jeremy! Stop feeding him your food. Bad habit,” said Kevin.

Jeremy sat himself upright again and smirked.

It took only two days to have an inkling of what kind of problem may ensue between cat and dog. The doors had remained shut. Thank goodness for air conditioning. I arrived home first each day and dealt with the litter tray. Prince had behaved himself while we worked or attended school. Nothing was destroyed or out of place. His joyous greeting when we arrived home almost made up for a smelly litter tray.

The boys played with Prince until I told Harry to do his homework. I noticed Hank outside, walking across the back lawn. He sauntered up to the ranch slider door and peered in. When he clapped his feline eyes on Prince, he stared. His back arched, his ears perked, his tail fluffed into a bottle brush, and he growled. Silent through the glass, but we knew Hank’s before-battle stance.

When Prince saw Hank, we couldn’t tell if he wanted to greet or chase him. He tore off toward the glass door like a rocket and smacked face-first into it. He stood back, shaking his head, whimpering. I picked him up to cuddle him. Concussion? Does a dog get a concussion? Hank still stood his ground. After a while, he sashayed away, his tail flicking in disdain. If he had a hand, we knew which finger would be up.

“Oo,” said Jeremy. “Do you think Hank wants to kill him?”

“We’re going to make sure it doesn’t happen. As long as Hank can’t get in, Prince will be fine.”

The weekend came with the usual Saturday morning mayhem of boys getting into their sports gear to head out early for their Soccer matches. With all the rushing in and out and putting items in the car before we left, someone left the front door open. Some idiot who has remained nameless to this day.

All we remember is a yowl, a yelp, and seeing a mangled, writhing mass of white and brown fur struggling, growling, and hissing in the middle of the lounge. It definitely wasn’t a play-fight. Hank had snuck inside to attack Prince. I sprang into action and prised the two animals apart. Yes, my arm got scratched. Kevin dragged Hank away and put him outside. Blood dripped from Prince’s torn ear, and so much blood came from his nose that we hoped it hadn’t been ripped or bitten off. After wiping it liberally with tissues, we eventually got the bleeding under control and discovered it had only been scratched. Kevin had fetched our Rawleigh’s Man and Beast ointment, and we put it on Prince’s wounds.

“You’d better get the boys to their games,” I said. “Leave me here to look after the dog.”

“A vet?” said Harry.

“No, we’ll try to deal with it ourselves. This isn’t our dog, remember.”

I felt sick. We had one more week to go. Would his nose heal in a week? What if it became infected? His ripped ear definitely wouldn’t join back together. Could his curls cover it?

In the meantime, Prince seemed to be in shock. I had to cuddle his trembling little body, and he sighed and whimpered occasionally.

Prince settled and slept on my lap for a few hours. I had stroked his curly fur back into place. Apart from the scratched nose, he didn’t look too much like the war-wounded. My lacerated arm smarted, but I worried about Prince more. When the boys arrived home, he looked up at the family, and his tail moved slightly. His soulful eyes told a tale of woe. I popped him in his dog bed, and the boys promised to care for him after they dropped their muddy gear into the laundry and got changed. They knew the deal.

Kevin helped me clean up the fur and blood on the carpet. Using the cold-water method and stomping on towels to absorb most of the moisture is not too difficult. Prince watched us as he lay in his basket, drooping his muzzle over the side. His tail moved when we reassured him.

By the end of the day, Prince had returned to his usual energetic self. He fetched balls for the boys and played rough-and-tumble games. His nose didn’t bother him when eating and drinking. We reapplied the ointment and hoped he would heal within the week.

Our darn cat Hank came to the ranch slider the following day and peered in. We waited in horror to see how Prince behaved. He started quivering from the tip of his scratched nose to the end of his tail and slunk away with it in between his legs. Maybe he’d carry emotional scars for life? A P.T.S. problem? Not a bad thing, surely?

The following week, we did everything we could to help the nose heal into its moist, shiny button again. We patrolled all entrances to keep Hank outside. It looked like we would pull off a successful dog minding operation.

“What will you tell your boss?” said Kevin.

“I have no intention of telling him anything. I haven’t mentioned about Prince’s nose and ear. I’ve sent photos of him eating, playing with the boys, and sleeping. All are shot from the best angles. Maybe we will get away with saying nothing. I don’t want to lie, but I can't say it even when I try to rehearse what to tell Frank. If that makes me a liar, then so be it.”

“Oh, Honey. I know how you feel. You didn’t really want the job. And you didn’t want Prince harmed.”

“It’s been an insane fortnight. I’m hoping no lasting harm has been done. I’m worried that Prince will quiver in fear whenever he sees a cat. That’ll be a sure giveaway that he’s suffered some trauma.”

Kevin laughed. “It could have been worse. ‘Dog killed by a cat.’ . . . Doesn’t sound right.”

Per our deceptive plan, we returned Prince to his master, Frank, without drama. The nose had healed, and his curls covered the small rip in his ear. We didn’t hang around waiting to be asked curly questions. Frank and his wife oozed gratitude. We raved on about how well-behaved he had been. We didn’t dare say how much the boys enjoyed having him. We may be asked to dog-sit in the future.

We expected a phone call the following week asking if we knew anything about his ripped ear. To date, we haven’t heard anything negative about Prince’s stay with us. What a relief. We may have to rethink introducing another dog into the family. Definitely not a small one.

The End

February 23, 2024 10:23

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Helen A Smith
10:11 Mar 03, 2024

I loved this dog and cat story, Kaitlyn. Animals enrich our lives, but are such a big responsibility- especially when they belong to other people. I’ve got to like cats more since a group have taken to appearing in our garden in a big way. They are such interesting characters. I wonder what it is about rats that are so freaky? Maybe their long tails and the fact they carry disease? A rat briefly entered my previous story too, though in a different way. They get a bad press, but you certainly wouldn’t want one in your house - unless it’s...


04:20 Mar 04, 2024

Thanks for your reply and encouragement, Helen.


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Mary Bendickson
15:08 Feb 23, 2024

Always love a good animal tail.


19:17 Feb 23, 2024

Thanks for reading Mary. I see you have two for me to read - next week I'll catch up with them. Also read your update to your profile (Sorry I hadn't read it sooner.) Belated congratulations. Wonderful news! I did a similar thing - My original written book length story I had ripped up and thrown out because I am not a fantasy girl. (in my 20s!) Then my youngest son has been writing Fantasy and I thought, I should write (type) my one again . . . I had never written a short story but an author friend I did some editing for introduced me to Ree...


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Alexis Araneta
12:13 Feb 23, 2024

Adorable story, Kaitlyn ! What a whirlwind this was. The descriptions were impeccable, as usual. Great job !


19:02 Feb 23, 2024

Thanks for that, Stella. I love animal stories and wonder why there isn't a category/genre/hashtag for them in Reedsy to make them easier to find.


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10:57 Feb 23, 2024

This is not my first animal story. I'm wondering if Reedsy will ever put in an 'animal lovers' category/genre/hashtag as an option.


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