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CRAZY CAT

By Frances M. Deegan

"Curiosity killed the cat" is an oldie that Tom the "crazy" cat didn't believe in. He liked hunting—hunting killers, that is! 

LIKE a gray shadow, the cat slipped through the cool meadow grass. His lithe maltese body seemed a part of the shifting sunset mist that clung to the ground.

His rippling movement stopped abruptly, the blunt head turned warily to the left. The damp, earthy sweetness was tainted with dog smell. His neck arched in a swift, fluid curve as he peered over the grass. For a long moment his motionless grace was unbroken, the green eyes blackened with intensity, then the tip of his tail twitched angrily.

The hated hounds were there, eagerly watching the younger of their two masters. He was digging swiftly in the rich black loam, the three hounds circling about him expectantly.

The cat stared thoughtfully, savoring the scent of freshly turned earth. There was a strong gopher smell, which meant a mound of the animals had been disturbed.

A loud explosion blasted the quiet, and the cat flattened himself instinctively. Echoes rolled aimlessly about the meadow and died. Nothing moved for a long time, until a meadow lark soared, dripping notes of wistful regret.

The cat reared his head cautiously. The hounds had vanished, but the older of their two masters stepped from the shelter of the trees bordering the field. He stooped awkwardly over a dark lump in the grass, straightened with a pair of feet clamped under one arm, and scuttled into the trees. Soon he was back, smoothing and patting the disturbed earth with a shovel. At last he disappeared among the trees.

The melting sun spread a burnished pool behind the trees and sank with a molten splash. The cat licked his chops and crouched in the grass, sniffing at the ground experimentally. After a while he crept toward the tantalizing smell of the scattered gopher mound. Almost at once he pounced on a long striped shape that slid through the grass. He struck expertly behind the head, gave a savage jerk, and experienced a sharp sense of astonishment.

Instead of smooth fur, his teeth gripped a hard, scaly surface, and the thing thrashed about insanely. He clawed at the writhing length with all four feet and twisted the spineless head. His teeth sank deeper, but there was no exhilarating taste of warm blood. He hung on relentlessly until the cold, slippery thing tired and its squirming grew slow and weak. Satisfied, he lifted it in his claws and trotted homeward...

The small Dinning cottage was faintly gilded in the afterglow. It looked snug and inviting, nestling there in its old-fashioned flower garden with gay chintz curtains at the windows; but Greg Dinning sighed wearily as he approached it from the road. He was a tall, lanky young fellow with a sunburned face and anxious gray eyes. His heavy boots dragged a little, and the battered felt hat sat dejectedly on the back of his head.

THE moment he stepped on the porch there was a scurry of running feet, and Mary was there, breathless and pink-cheeked. The stars in her eyes dimmed at sight of him and she came into his arms slowly.. He could feel the ache of understanding in her as he pressed her close and brushed his lips gently across her hair.

"Oh, Greg! " she said in a small muffled voice. "Isn't there anything we can do?"

"Not unless we want to take it to court, honey, and sue Nelson." He patted her shoulder. "That's kind of expensive, and—"

"I know. You'd have to hire a lawyer and all that, and we just haven't got the money! But there must be some way you can make him let you plow up that pasture, it's yours, you rented it and paid for it!"

"We can't blame Henry Nelson too much, hon. He got a raw deal out of it, too, when his brother took the whole year's rental I paid him and skipped out with it."

...

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