Yeah, they're pretty cute. Lucky for them!

IT IS MY HABIT, when preparing to go to bed, to read a bit. Nothing weighty, perhaps a periodical, or some fine book that can easily be read in small doses, or a book I’ve read before. I prepare a beverage of some sort, and a small something to nibble on.

Last night, as was my custom, I poured a glass of milk, and joy, there were some chocolates in the fridge. “Just the thing!” I thought. Being modest in my desires, I took two of these dainties, and went to my bed, placing the milk and chocolates on my nightstand. I had, of course, attracted the attention of my chattels, to wit: a 65lb white Shepard mix named Dojo, and a small black cat, Pyewacket. I do not normally share the bedtime snacks, but hope springs eternal in the belly of the cat and dog.

After settling in, and having read for perhaps 20 minutes or so, I had finished the first chocolate, and turned to get the 2nd, however, it was not there. I said to myself:

“That’s odd – I know I brought two in… The second was red, wrapped in foil, I thought… Hmmm… “

Perhaps I had eaten it? If I had, there would be the foil left over. No, there was no foil to be found, either. How strange!

As I sat and puzzled over this odd series of events, the absence of the pets was notable. Ah-ha! I leapt from the bed in a flash, and upon entering the living room, saw a dog and cat licking their chops. The cat, of course, betrayed no emotions, but the dog was stricken. Guilt was plainly written in his features, but could I act on such thin evidence? The dog often looks guilty for no reason whatsoever. More importantly, how would they have acquired the treat? I could not have failed to notice Le Grand Schnozz making off with such an item. Did I drop it? No, that’s silly – I plainly recall setting it on the nightstand. Again, the lack of foil was mysterious, although I felt the dog more likely to have consumed it than I.

The thought briefly crossed my mind to examine the pets for ‘chocolate breath’, but I quickly dismissed the idea. The scene in the living room was already straining credulity by virtue of my lack of clothing. I returned to bed to ponder my next move.

Bold action was plainly called for. A plan began to form – a cunning trap to ensnare the nefarious nibblers of my nocturnal noshings… I rose from the bed, and in as casual a manner as I could, declared that I was still hungry!

“Those chocolates went down so easily that I certainly have room for another!”, I said.

With this, I went to the kitchen, and procured another foil-wrapped delight (I was attempting, of course, to ensure that the circumstances were as close to identical as possible). Retiring to the bedchamber again, I placed the chocolate in as nearly the same position as I could recall, and got into bed. I then picked up my book and began my vigil.

I did not have long to wait. The pets came in, perhaps emboldened by their earlier success. The modus operandi was soon to become evident. I focused on my book with all my earthly powers of concentration, and then… from the corner of my eye, I saw it. A tiny black paw, ever so delicate and hesitant, was gliding towards the treat with a single claw extended. “The perfect crime!”, they were no doubt thinking. Suddenly, the claw made contact with the object of it’s desire, and with a deft flick of the wrist, it was gone!

Again I leapt from the bed, but this time I blazed triumphant! “J’accuse!!!” I bellowed! Caught in the act, the pair stood transfixed for a moment.

“Psssht!” I hissed at the cat.

“Out!” I commanded the dog.

The effect was satisfactory; the cat fled, leaving the dog to “take the fall”. The dog, no doubt shamed by his involvement, and embarrassed by the feline allegiance, slunk out. I returned to the bed, once again master of the household. Eating the chocolate, I savored it, and observed that as always, vigilance was its own sweet reward.

[Chapter 9 of The Feral Chicken of Clayton (and other essays)]

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