We hope you enjoy this excerpt from Hank #63! Hank and Drover have just found Pete stalking the turkeys that Sally May enjoys watching from her kitchen window. Pete isn't having an luck, so he suggests that the dogs give turkey-chasing a try, unless, of course, they've gotten "old, fat, and out of shape"....
Chapter 4: "I Fool the Cat, Hee Hee" (by John R. Erickson)
I marched over to him. “Okay, Pete, the Ranch Council wants an explanation of that last remark you made.”
“Oh really. Which one was that?”
“Your suggestion that I might be too old or lazy to chase turkeys.”
“Oh, that one!”
“Did you say that in hopes of provoking me into chasing the turkeys? In other words, was this another of your slimy tricks? And don’t forget that you’re under oath.”
“Well, just darn the luck. How can I lie, cheat, and steal if I’m under oath?”
“So…you’re saying that I have to tell the truth?”
“That’s correct, and the Council is waiting to hear your answer.”
He rolled over on his belly and began clawing the grass. “Well, Hankie, you’ve got me backed into a corner, and if I must tell the truth, here it is.” He widened his eyes and spoke in a creepy tone of voice. “Of course I was hoping to trick you into chasing the turkeys. What else would you expect a cat to do?”
Drover and I exchanged glances. “The Council will take a two minute recess. Don’t leave, Kitty.” I jerked my head at Drover and we went back to Chambers for a conference.
You’re probably aching to know what we said in Chambers. Sorry, but these conferences are highly classified and nobody gets into the room without going through Security. If you don’t flash the right badge, you don’t get in, period. Sorry.
Oh, what the heck, maybe it wouldn’t hurt to let you in, but you have to promise not to blab this around, okay?
Here we go...
I brought the meeting to order, and Drover was the first to speak. “What do we do when a cat tells the truth?”
I tried not to laugh. “Don’t you get it? He’s telling the truth to conceal the truth. It’s typical cat behavior. His greatest fear is that we might chase the turkeys and do it right.”
I placed a paw on his shoulder. “That’s the best part of our plan. You see, his plot called for me to chase the turkeys. He never dreamed that we might switch agents and send you into combat. This will blow his trick to smithereens.”
Drover’s eyes blanked out.
“Well, this old leg’s been acting up.”
“Exercise will do it a world of good.”
“By dose is stobbed ub.”
“Fresh air will fix that. Are you ready?”
He tried to run, but I blocked his path. “This is your big moment, soldier.” I pointed to the turkeys, who were still standing nearby and watching us. “There they are. Run through the middle of them. And remember: this isn’t about you or me. We’re doing it for dogs all over the world. What do you say?”
My words seemed to have a magic effect on him. The little mutt puffed himself up to his full height. To be honest, he wasn’t all that tall, but he did his best and squeezed up every inch of height out of his backbone. And in a voice that shocked me with its tone of authority, he said, “So this is for dogs all over the world?”
“It’s not just about me?”
“No, no. This is bigger than both of us, son.”
“I think I can do it!”
I was so proud, tears sprang to my eyes. After years of being a weenie, my assistant had finally decided to become a hot dog. He leaped to his feet, I mean like a lion or a tiger, and turned a flaming gaze toward the circus of turkles…the circle of turkeys, let us say.
Trying to hold back the flood of emotion, I yelled, “Go get ‘em, soldier! Show the cat what dogs are really made of!”
And off he went like a…
Oh brother! I take back everything I said about Drover. Mark out those lines in your book. No, better yet, cut them out with scissors and burn the pieces.
Do you know what he did? He took off like a guided mistletoe and headed for the turkeys, then hooked a ninety-degree turn to the left and highballed it straight to the machine shed—while I was cheering him on to victory and wiping tears of joy out of my eyes!
Oh, the treachery! It almost broke my heart.
I was so shocked, I could hardly speak, but at last I was able to yell, “Drover, return to base at once, and that is a direct order!” He kept going, didn’t even look back. “Drover, you will be court-martialed for this! You will stand in the corner until your nose drops off, and then we will feed it to the buzzards!”
He was gone, ZOOM, into the darkness of his Secret Sanctuary.
I should have known. See, I’m too soft-hearted, too easy on the men. When you’ve got a jughead like Drover in the ranks, you have to stay on him all the time. You can’t let up for a second, because if you do, he’ll do just what he did.
Well, getting sandbagged by Drover was bad enough, but I had to prepare myself for something even worse. This shameless act of treason had taken place RIGHT IN FRONT OF MY WORST ENEMY, exposing all the cracks and flaws in the upper ranks of the Security Division. Now he would think that we were an undisciplined mob of ninnies, and the very thought of what he might do with that information sent chills down my backbone.
I couldn’t bring myself to look at the little pestilence, but I lifted my Earatory Scanners and began probing the air waves for the sounds of him laughing his head off. To my shock and amazement, I heard nothing. Slowly I turned my eyes in his direction, and here’s what I saw.
He was sitting now, with his tail tucked around his back side and his front feet together. He was gazing off into the distance…and he wasn’t laughing. He wasn’t even smiling.
Well, this defied the rules of logic and the laws of physics. There was something very fishy going on here, and I had to get to the bottom of the pond. Salvaging what was left of my dignity, I marched over to him.
“Okay, Pete, out with it.”
“What ever do you mean, Hankie?”
“You ought to be enjoying this moment. You ought to be laughing, but you’re just sitting there like an…I don’t know, like a piece of furniture.”
His gaze drifted around to me. “It has to do with the game, Hankie. It’s no fun when the game is too easy.” He heaved a heavy sigh. “I always win, and to be perfectly frank, it’s gotten boring.”
My ears jumped. “Wait just a second, pal. I might have lost, but you didn’t win. We were on to your Invisible Trick and that’s why we switched from me to Drover as the turkey-chaser. That was MY idea. The only problem was that Drover chickened out.”
He shrugged. “Hankie, you did exactly what I wanted you to do. I had it planned that way from the beginning. I won, and it’s so depressing, I’m going to give it up.”
A deep silence throbbed between us. “Give up what?”
“This endless game of dogs and cats, Hankie, the never-ending battle of tricks and counter-tricks.”
I couldn’t believe what I’d just heard. “No kidding? You’re quitting?” He nodded and I burst out laughing. “Well, by George, it took a few years, but we’ve finally worn out the enemy! That’s not the sweetest kind of victory, but I guess we’ll take it. See you around, sucker.”
“Pretty soon, I’ll wager.”
Holy smokes, I had finally defeated the cat and won the National Championship! I marched away from the little fraud, and it was one of the finest moments of my entire career. Not only had I crushed the cat, but in doing so, I had proven, once and for all, that discipline, endurance, persistence, and righteousness will win every…
Wait a second. I stopped in my tracks. All at once, I heard two voices inside my head. One was yelling, “We’re number one! We’re number one!” The other was whispering, “No more game means…NO MORE GAME.”
You will find this next part shocking. All of a sudden, my feet were, uh, taking me back, more or less in the general direction of the cat, and I found myself…well, standing beside him.
“Pete? You got a minute? We need to talk.”
He swiveled his head around and stared at me. “We just talked, Hankie.”
“That’s what we need to talk about.”
“We need to talk about what we talked about? Hmmm. This sounds mysterious.”
“It’s not mysterious, you little…can we go straight to the bottom line?”
He thought about that. “Yes, let’s do.”
“You can’t quit the game.”
“Oh really? Why is that, Hankie?”
“Because…look, Pete, I don’t know how to say this except to say it. Quitting the game is just wrong, it’s unnatural.”
“I know, Hankie, but it’s become so boring and predictable, I can’t go on with it.”
“Okay, I’ve got an idea. Hear me out.” I began pacing a circle around the little…around the cat, let us say, and I must admit that my mind was in a swirl. “Pete, these little games are…this is hard for me to say…they’re probably more important to me than I’d like to admit.”
“Yes. In small but tiny ways, they seem to contribute to my…”
“Your enjoyment of life?”
“Your sense of dogness?”
“Perfect, yes, my sense of dogness. You nailed it. Okay, you’re bored with the game because you win all the time, right? Isn’t that what you said?”
He nodded and licked his left front paw. “That’s what I said. Go on.”
“Here’s an idea. We’ll start the game all over again—a new game, Pete, a fresh start—only this time, I’ll win.”
His eyes lit up. “My, my, what an interesting idea! I wouldn’t have thought of that. It would freshen things up and bring some variety into the game, wouldn’t it?”
“Right. I think it would, Pete.” I paced over to him. “We’ll go back to the turkey business, see, but this time without tricks and counter-tricks. Everything’s up front and on the table. All you have to do is make it clear what’s really and truly in your heart: Would you rather that I chased the turkeys or didn’t chase them?”
He stared at me with his weird cattish eyes. “And you’re saying that I have to tell the truth?”
“That’s correct. You have to be up-front and honest. Otherwise…well, it would be just another slimy trick.”
He made a sputtering sound, probably a cough. “Very well, Hankie, let’s give it a try. Now, let’s see if I’ve got it straight. I’ll pick the outcome that I really and truly want, and you’ll do the opposite?”
“Exactly. I’ll win, you’ll lose, and the game stays fresh and exciting.”
“Hankie, this is the work of a genius.”
“Thanks, pal. I hate to keep saying this, but there’s a reason why they made me Head of Ranch Security. Okay, choose your outcome.”
He rolled his eyes up to the sky. “Very well, Hankie. In my deepest, most secret heart of hearts, I hope you DON’T chase the turkeys.”
“You’re being sincere about this?”
“Oh yes! It would upset me terribly if you happened to catch one.”
I reached out a paw and gave the little guy a pat on the back. “Okay, Pete, it’s a new day and a new game. I think this is going to work.”
“Oh, I hope so, Hankie. I’ll kee-hee keep an open mind.”
“Let the game begin. Watch this.”
Can you believe the little dummy fell for this? I had tricked him into exposing his Invisible Trick, see, and now all I had to do was…it was a little confusing, to be honest, but I was on track to deliver the little sneak the most shattering defeat of his life."
And, you can get your own copy of Hank #63 here!
Book 63 - Paperback Version
Book 63 - Hardback Version
Book 63 - Audiobook
Hank #63 also available as an ebook from these retailers:
Book 63 for the Kindle (Amazon)
Book 63 for the iPad (iTunes)
Book 63 for the Nook (Barnes and Noble)