Harley heard the doorbell and leaped up from her desk chair. Racing to the front door, she called out, “I’ll get it! I’ll get it!”
Yanking open the door, she expected to see Fluffy on the other side. She didn’t manage to hide her disappointment very well when she saw that it was Harry instead. “Oh,” she said glumly, “Hi, Harry.” She noticed Prescott watching her from the kitchen door and immediately tried to recover. “Happy Thanksgiving, Harry,” she added in a brighter tone. She stepped aside to let Harry enter and noticed Roper standing in the front yard looking around.
“What’s Roper doing out there?” she asked Harry. “Looking for turkeys?” She chuckled at her own joke.
Harry giggled before answering, “I believe he’s looking for a butterscotch carpet. He seems to be under the impression that his arrival would be a major media event.” Harry cast a glance toward Roper before entering the Brownstone.
Harley shut the door. “We’ll just let him wander around for a while,” she said, shrugging. “When Fluffy gets here, she’ll bring him inside. In the meantime, do you want to come watch the replay of last week’s parade with B.H. and I? It’s all that’s running on Under Dome TV today.”
Harry declined, saying he’d rather help Gordy and Prescott in the kitchen. Harley told him she understood – she figured he must get pretty sick of all those parades. And he had to put up with Roper’s constant planning meetings, too. She shook her head and wandered into the den where B.H. was watching television.
“I thought Fluffy was here, B.H.,” she said quietly. “But it turned out it was only Harry and Roper. But Fluffy should be here soon, so be ready.” B.H. nodded, then turned back to the parade.
“You like the parade?” B.H. nodded eagerly. “I know you’ve only been here a short time, B.H., but you’ll get to be in plenty of them from now on. Roper loves parades. He has them several times a week.” B.H. looked excited at the prospect.
A short time later, the doorbell rang again. Harley ran to answer it, calling, “I’ll get it! I bet it’s Fluffy!” She pulled the door open and saw Cookie – or at least she thought it was Cookie – standing on the porch. Cookie, or whoever it was, was wearing a purple caftan with pale yellow fringe around the cuffs and hem. It wore a silver headband over its forehead with some sort of stone set in the center. Multiple beaded necklaces rattled and clanked around its neck, along with several bangle bracelets which jangled noisily when it lifted its paws in apparent greeting.
Harley stood in the door, blinking. “Cookie?” she asked slowly. “Is that you?”
The ‘entity’ shook its head. “Uhhh. Unnhh. Uh. Unnnn. Uhhhn,” it said.
Harley nodded. “Oookay. Well, you sound like Cookie, but I can never understand what the heck she says, so that doesn’t help. Anyway, Happy Thanksgiving, come on in.” Harley motioned the new arrival inside and started to shut the door.
Roper scurried up the steps and through the door quickly. He looked around furtively and whispered to Harley, “Did you let Isis in? I don’t think that’s a wise move, Harley.”
Harley looked at him in confusion. “Who the heck is Isis? What are you rambling about, Roper? And where’s Fluffy?”
Roper wrung his paws. “I saw Isis standing at the door. Did you let her in?”
“Who is Isis, Roper?” Harley demanded. “You saw Cookie at the door. At least I think it was Cookie. She said something, but I never can understand her. I let her in because she was invited. I don’t remember inviting anyone named Isis.”
“You’re going to be sorry, Harley,” Roper warned. “Cookie has had some sort of mental break – she’s calling herself Isis and thinks she’s a cat! Why am I the only one who ever seems to know about these situations?? Where’s Harry? Did Harry come in? Did he bring my mole waters? I can’t find it in the car.” Continuing to talk, Roper pranced down the hall, calling for Harry as went.
Harley shook her head in dismay. “Sounds like Roper’s already had quite a bit of mole waters,” she said. “And if he starts rattling on about Cookie being a cat, the Buffaloes will never take anything he has to say seriously.” She smiled smugly. “One more piece of my plan that is falling into place perfectly. Now where is Fluffy? I’m starving.”
She rejoined B.H. in the den and found that Roper and Harry were also present, watching the re-broadcast of last week’s Pre-Thanksgiving Parade. They were seated at one end of the comfortable sofa and at the other end was Cookie. But instead of watching the television, Cookie sat licking her paw and swiping it across her head, ears and face repeatedly.
Harley plopped down in the big chair where B.H. sat, nibbling on a piece of broccoli from the vegetable tray Prescott had thoughtfully placed on the table in the center of the room. “What the heck is Cookie doing?” she asked B.H. B.H. shrugged, his eyes never leaving the screen.
Harley leaned over and whispered to Roper, “Roper! What is Cookie doing over there? Looks like she spit-washing her face.”
Roper looked at Harley sourly. “I told you – she thinks she’s a cat. Calls herself Isis now and she’s going to go live in a yurt down by the Badger Docks. You should pay more attention when people talk to you Harley.”
Harley began to get an ominous feeling in the pit of her stomach. Watching Cookie ‘groom’ herself like a cat was making her feel nervous and worried. What if she did something crazy and ruined dinner? Or somehow revealed Harley’s plot to the Buffaloes? That would be very, very bad. Before she could work herself into a proper state of anxiety over the situation, though, the doorbell rang again.
Harley launched herself out of the den and to the front door with such eagerness that Prescott, who had come from the kitchen to answer the doorbell, gave her an odd look followed by a hump shake and some snuffling.
“I’ll just get that,” Harley said solicitously, “since I’m right here.” She added quickly, “It’s probably Fluffy and I know she could use some help with all the food she brought to share with everyone.” With one paw on the door handle, she waved Prescott away with the other, calling out, “B.H., come help me help Fluffy with her packages!”
Prescott gazed at her steadily for a long moment then started back to the kitchen. Not before a speculative look entered his eyes, however.
B.H. arrived quickly at the door and Harley opened it wide, a welcoming smile on her snout. Fluffy stood on the other side, arms full of containers from the Southside Café. On either side of her, were Griff and Taffy, their small paws clutching carryout bags, also from the Café. Harley stepped out of the way, allowing the three entrance.
“I was getting worried,” she said to Fluffy as she began taking containers and bags from them and handing them off to B.H. who scurried away to the dining room. “You’re the last one here – what took so long?”
Fluffy glared at her and pointed to the twins, who were jumping excitedly around B.H.
“Oh,” Harley said. “I guess I didn’t think about how hard it would be to run one little errand with the twins. Next year, you can bring them by here first and then go get the food,” she decided. Fluffy rolled her eyes, but carried the last of the food into the dining room, placing it where Harley and B.H. indicated.
At last, Gordy announced that dinner was ready and everyone filed into the dining room and took their assigned seats around the big table. Once everyone was seated, Prescott looked expectantly at Harley, who stood and took out a piece of paper. She began to read.
“We are gathered here today to partake of the bounty of giving and receiving,” she began. “The receiving of the giving is the most important part of Thanksgiving, even though it’s called Thanksgiving and not Thanksreceiving. Which it should be. Because without the receiving, there can be no giving. And when we receive that which is given, we give the gift of happiness which is then received by the person that is doing the giving. And so the circle of giving and receiving is given and received again. In order for there to be giving, there must be receiving. And it is that receiving that is the giving back to the giver, who receives it. Let’s eat.” She sat down, oblivious to the confused looks around the table. “Pass the potatoes,” she added.
After a few minutes during which the assembled guests tried to assimilate Harley’s somewhat unorthodox speech, food began to make its way around the table. Harley was thrilled that her plan was going perfectly – she took large helpings of the special foods and only tiny amounts of the vegetarian dishes, which she mixed together on her plate. Prescott and Gordy were told that Fluffy’s contributions to the meal contained coconut and pineapple, which kept them from even smelling the dishes as they went around. They ate, Harley ate, B.H. ate, Roper, Fluffy and Harry ate and Cookie/Isis licked at the food on her plate, purring in contentment.
If Cookie’s bizarre actions bothered anyone during the meal, no one said anything about it. Although there were a few tense moments when Harley thought Cookie was going to stick her tongue into the gravy boat. In the end, Cookie simply turned her head away from it completely and went back to alternately licking her plate and her paws, eventually leaving the table and wandering off in the direction of the kitchen. Harley saw Roper watch Cookie leave the room, then turn and whisper something to Harry. She watched Harry shake his head emphatically and both of them turned back to their food.
Harley ate with gusto, stopping only to request more food. And when she thought she wouldn’t be able to stuff another bite into her snout, Gordy announced it was time for dessert. Harley employed her favorite power eating technique to prepare for the creamy, sweet pumpkin pie that would be appearing. She focused on a single spot on the table in front of her. She swallowed. Focus, swallow. Focus, swallow – don’t blink. Swallow, swallow. Her meal was staying put and she felt like she could eat more.
In addition to the pumpkin pies from Fluffy, there was the wheatberry soy pudding, some gluten free, almond butter and carob chip cookies, and a dish of something that looked like what Harley had left AG on her Monkey Romp this morning. When asked, Gordy said it was a sugar-free mock-chocolate mousse. Ick, thought Harley.
While Prescott dished up servings of the soy pudding and passed around the cookies, Harley waited impatiently for the pie. Finally, Prescott took the knife and reached out to cut it into thick, sweet, creamy slices of heaven. As the knife lowered to the pie’s surface, something jiggled in the custard filling. Prescott pulled the knife back and leaned forward to see more closely. The filling jiggled again, then began to crack and separate. Prescott leaned back in alarm. Harley jumped up from the table and watched in horror as the surface of the pie erupted, splattering everyone with bits of crust and filling. A moaning sound emitted from the pie dish. Something was in the pie! Or, as Harley soon realized – someone was in the pie.
Cookie emerged from the ruined remains of the pie, moaning and swaying, covered in pumpkin custard, bits of crust and whipped cream globules hanging from her head and face. She spun slowly, then faster and faster until she was swirling around the table, stepping in the leftovers of the other foods, flinging bits of pie in all directions. All the while, she was chanting over and over, “Uhnnn uhnnn! Unnn! Uhhhh unnhh!”
No one could understand what she was saying. Griff, Taffy and B.H. had been pushed under the table by their parents and Harley. They cowered there, huddled together, waiting to be told it was safe to come out again. Roper’s eyes were wide and terrified. He was breathing shallowly and deeply, clutching Harry’s paw, making a high-pitched keening sound as he struggled not to Butterscotch. Prescott and Gordy simply looked on in shock, unbelieving of what they were seeing. Fluffy excused herself to the bathroom and raced away. Harley sat, dumbfounded. Eventually, she came back into herself enough to focus on what Cookie was saying. She couldn’t make sense of it. She banged her paw on the table loudly, startling everyone, even Cookie.
“That was my pie!” she raged. “Who do you think you are, you crazy poodle! You’ve ruined Thanksgiving!!”
“Uhh unnn Uhnnnn uhh!” Cookie moaned loudly.
“Oh for crying out loud!” Harley yelled in exasperation. “Roper! What is she saying?”
Roper gulped mole waters from the tumbler Harry pressed into his paws. He looked around, glassy-eyed, unsure of who was speaking to him. Harry patted him reassuringly.
“Roper!” Harley repeated, out of patience. “What is she saying?”
Roper blinked. He drank another healthy amount from his glass before whispering in a trembling voice, “She says, ‘I am Isis, Queen Cat of the Realm. All shall love me and despair.”