A United Front, with Tails
"When in the Course of human events." Sneaky Pie took a breath. The cat paused in her reciting. "There's the fatal flaw right there! Human. The Declaration of Independence limits itself to a species that has weak senses and is highly irrational."
"Well, there's nothing we can do about it," Pewter replied to the sleek tiger cat. She had just found the perfect spot of sunlight to relax in. "Why get worked up over it?"
But the gray cat's political apathy did not at all slow down the now-worked-up Sneaky Pie. "Leave these humans to their own devices and eventually laws will be passed forcing us to wear clothes."
"You can't be serious." Pewter's voice rose sharply.
"Underpants?" Awakened by the talk, Tally, the Jack Russell, roused herself. "Underpants. I'm not wearing underpants."
"Oh, I can see you now, a lovely floral pair of silk panties with precious lace." Pewter licked her lips, a hint of malice enlivening her face.
"Panties! Panties! Never." The pint-sized dynamo ran in circles as if chasing her tail.
"Sit down, idiot," Tee Tucker, the corgi, commanded her housemate.
"I am not an idiot." Tally sat, but not before baring her impressive white fangs.
"Dogs forced to wear silly outfits is not so far-fetched," said Sneaky Pie. "You've listened to the presidential debates. One Bible-thumping fellow thinks if gay marriage is passed, humans will want to marry animals. Making us wear clothes might just be the next step after that." Sneaky imagined the future with such a president.
"Gross!" Pewter spat out.
"Sex. Sex. Sex!" Tally jumped up, running in circles again.
"Sit down, for Christ's sake. You're making me dizzy," Tucker again commanded.
"Underpants, sex." The pretty little rough-coated Jack Russell raised her eyebrows. "This is just too weird."
"That's my point." Sneaky Pie walked over to the distressed dog. "If a human running for president wastes everyone's time yammering about deviant sex, politics has gone truly off the rails."
"Zoom!" Tucker moved her head as though watching a speeding train, lowering her voice. She asked her three friend animals, "Have you had deviant sex?"
Sneaky Pie swatted her right on the rump. "Of course
not! Among us, let's raise the tone, please!"
"Sex! Sex! Sex!" Tally shrieked in opposition.
"Will you sit down!" Both cats shouted at the young unspayed female dog.
Tears came to Tally's soft brown eyes. "I don't want to wear frilly underpants. What can we do?"
"How about a Declaration of Independence for animals?" Pewter sensibly suggested. "People revere Thomas Jefferson's writing on humans' so-called inalienable rights, or they pretend to do so, anyway."
"Pretend is the operative word. Believe me, if he came back and tried to run as a candidate today, they'd throw him out of Convention Hall," Tucker declared.
"Back to my original thought, there's nothing we can do about it," said Pewter.
"Pewts, if these humans destroy their political system, it's going to affect us one way or the other. We are Americats, after all."
Tally jumped up in excitement, then sat right back down when she noticed all the others giving her the evil eye. "I'm an Ameridog."
" Doesn't sound as cool," Pewter scoffed, casually licking her front paw.
"Still counts." Tally took on a belligerent tone.
"She's right. We're all Americans." Tucker seconded Tally.
"Yes, you are," Sneaky conceded. "Okay, the clothing and sex sickness among humans is bad enough. Even worse, their drilling, logging, mining could wipe out where we live. Chemicals, especially from some kinds of mining, leak into the soil, then into the water supply. It doesn't look good."
"Logging's okay," said Tally, now sitting herself next to Pewter, then leaning on the large cat. "You can always grow more trees."
"Tally's right again." Tucker sought to praise the excitable dog.
"Perhaps," said Sneaky, "but humans cutting trees must be careful. They can't just buzz-cut the world and leave slash all over the place."
"Roll the slash in rows and little animals can make homes there. You know, like bunnies. Then I can hunt them." Pewter smiled broadly. "Besides, our own human manages timber."
Sneaky replied, "Yes, she's responsible about timbering, but that doesn't stop other humans from pouring sludge into the rivers. My point is, we can no longer allow them to run things."
Pewter enjoyed a life of leisure. She sighed. "Oh, please, why not? Politics is so boring. Let the humans do it."
"Us?" Tally was incredulous, looking at all the other animals before setting her gaze on Sneaky. "You think we should take control?"
"We couldn't do any worse." Sneaky laughed.
"Taxes? I'm not paying taxes," Tally petulantly declared. "I worked hard for my bones and I'm not giving them up."
"You share with me," Tucker replied.
"I live with you," Tally said. "And if I don't share, you'll steal when my back is turned."
"It's a smart dog that buries its bones," the older corgi said and laughed.
"A juicy deer bone is a juicy deer bone." Tally shrugged. "And I do share with you, Tucker, even if I don't really want to."
"I am appalled." Pewter turned her head away from the dog, got up, and sat with her back to Tally. "You don't share with me."
"What'd I do?" asked Tally.
"Told the truth," Sneaky Pie replied. "Nobody — not people, not animals — want to hear that."
"You and I tell the truth to each other," said Tally.
A long silence followed this. "Sometimes we do," said Sneaky at last.
"What do you mean by that?" Tally asked, while Pewter sighed loudly for effect.
"I keep a lot to myself," Sneaky Pie said.
"I don't." The dog lay down, head on front paws.
"We know," the two cats and corgi said in unison.
"You all are making fun of me," said Tally.
"Who else are we going to make fun of?" Pewter turned around.
"How about our human?"
"Too easy." Pewter puffed out her gray chest. "She'd be dead if we weren't here to guide her. I mean, she doesn't have a grain of sense."
"She's not so bad." Tucker did love the person in the house, and would defend her to the death. "She gets sidetracked a lot."
"If she'd stop watching the debates and reading the paper, she'd be all right. She always gets this way during elections." Pewter thought the woman in their lives wasted a lot of time on nonessentials. "She read aloud the Constitution to us the other night. What good is that to me?"
"We can use the Constitution as well as she can. I certainly value my free speech," the tiger cat replied.
"Oh, Sneaky, none of them has a clue as to what we're saying. It's all a big waste of time. Let's forget all this and see if we can open the cupboard door." The thought enlivened the gray cat. The dogs, too.
"She's put the fresh catnip in a tin," said Sneaky Pie. "Won't do any good."
"I could bite holes in the tin," Tally offered, mouth watering. She looked toward the kitchen.
"I'll pull out the little sack of Greenies, I can chew through the sack," Tucker added. "Maybe I can figure out a way to open the tin, too."
"Smelling catnip is better than no catnip at all." Pewter raced for the cupboard.
From the living room, Sneaky Pie heard the cupboard door open. Pewter could be clever with her claws. If a container didn't have a twist cap, that cat could usually figure out a way to open it.
Sneaky heard Pewter pull out the Greenies sack. Just as it hit the wooden kitchen floor with a thud, the back door opened.
"Head for the hills!" Pewter yelled.
Tucker blasted out of the kitchen, her tailless rump disappearing down the hall.
Tally, a step behind, turned. "It's okay. It's only Sid from FedEx."
Sure enough, the FedEx delivery man placed a small carton on the table by the back door, closed it, and left.
"Whew." Tucker headed back to the kitchen.
Sneaky joined the thieves there. "Sid makes me think. If you drive a truck, a car, you know the rules of the road. You have to memorize them. Once you have those rules in your head, you can drive and get anywhere you want. Drive in the right lane. Put on your turn signal if you're turning. Don't park at a fire hydrant. Makes perfect sense, and it works."
"So?" Pewter was more concerned with the tin of catnip Tally had in her jaws. "Get your fangs up under the crease of the lid."
"I'm trying." The little dog dropped the square tin, then Tucker snatched it up.
"If the other drivers aren't drunk, drugged out, or texting, everyone is okay," continued Sneaky Pie. "My point is, like the rules of the road, there should be rules for living together."
"That's a good one. Never happen." Pewter, on the other side of the tin, was prying it with her claws.
"You two aren't listening to me, and this is important."
"Nothing is more important than catnip," Pewter passionately said.
"Greenies." Tally's bag rested right beside her.
She left the bag to help Tucker and Pewter.
The dog really was being a good egg, because she surely loved those Greenies.
"Pfft," Sneaky exhaled.
"One, two, three." Pewter counted as she, Tucker, and Tally bit and pulled hard. "Got it!"
"Pull the string on this sack," Tally told Pewter, the cat's face already in the catnip.
"Okay." The gray cat hooked the yellow string with one exposed claw and the bag opened just enough.
"You know when she gets home there will be hell to pay." Sneaky inhaled the enticing scent before diving into the catnip, now all over the floor.
"Make hay while the sun shines." Pewter succumbed to overwhelming bliss.
"That is so tired." Sneaky now put her nose in the small plant buds and stems broken into little pieces.
"Can you think of a better one?" Pewter challenged.
"No," she purred in reply.
"Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today," Tucker said.
Tally, with a Greenies bone sticking out of one side of her mouth, mumbled, "Too puritanical. Let the good times roll, I say."
The two cats' glassy eyes turned to her.
Tally laughed, dropping her bone for a moment. "Do it now. You're going to be dead a long time."
Excerpted from Sneaky Pie for President by Rita Mae Brown. Copyright 2012 by Rita Mae Brown. Excerpted by permission of Random House.