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Old 02-26-2016, 09:12 PM   #41
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Carrie laughed. “Okay, I’ll fill it back up with water that doesn’t taste like kitten.” She unplugged it and took it back to the restaurant.

“Looks like someone got their own bed and food,” Saav observed.

“Woooo, nice blanket, Belle,” smiled Pook, touching it with a paw.

Belle sat up proudly. “It’s just like Bart’s.”

“I like your mouse,” Saav said, purring at a stuffed yellow mouse. “Maybe soon you can come over to our house and play with all my stuffed animals.”

“Oh, can I?”

“Sure,” said Pook. “And you can see my rock and crystals collection.”

“What’s crystals?” asked Belle.

Saav nosed toward a display of windchimes and suncatchers with quartz and amethyst accents. “See the pink and purple rock-looking things hanging on the strings?”

“Yes, those are pretty,” Belle said.

“Those are crystals, and Pook has a bunch of them in different colors,” Saav explained to the kitten.

“Wow, I’d like to see those too.”

“You will,” Saav promised her.

Pook looked over at the plates. “Dang, who ate the veggies?”

“I did,” Belle replied.

Pook and Saav looked from Belle to Bart. He shrugged.

“I keep telling her she’s a carnivore. It’s not my fault,” he defended himself.

“I like those,” Belle said. “They’re good.”

“Hmmmm. Maybe it’s something you’ll outgrow,” Saav suggested.

Carrie brought the water fountain back out. “Here we go. It’s all clean.” She plugged it back in.

Bart went over and drank out of it. “Hey, that’s good.”

Belle approached cautiously, and sipped a little. “Yeah, that’s real nice.”

Pook and Saav joined them at the fountain and tried it.

“I like that,” said Pook.

“Maybe we can talk Mom into getting us one of these,” said Saav.

The shop was open now, and Carrie pulled back the curtains and set out the sign. The cats made themselves comfortable in the windowsills, looking out at the grey morning. They heard Ralph rustling around in the restaurant next door, and kept their ears trained toward the back for his call to come get their plates.

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Old 02-26-2016, 09:16 PM   #42
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A well-dressed man in his early 30s, wearing a grey wool coat and carrying a briefcase came into the shop and greeted Carrie. He asked about some silver serving pieces, and Carrie led him to one of the shelves close to Bart and Belle in their window. He seemed especially interested in a fairly rare coffee and tea service, and asked Carrie about it. She began to tell him where she had found the silver service when suddenly, Bart looked alarmed, and moved away from Belle. Carrie wrinkled her nose and looked sharply at Bart. He looked daggers back at Carrie and twitched his ear toward Belle, who was still looking innocently out the window. The customer gasped.

“Good God, what is that smell?” he rasped, coughing and pulling a linen handkerchief out of his coat pocket.

“I have no idea,” Carrie said calmly. That was a kitten fart, she thought, and almost laughed out loud.

“I’ll have to look at this another time,” said the customer, as he walked out the door quickly, holding his handkerchief tightly over his nose and mouth.

“Belle!” hissed Carrie, giggling and coughing at the same time. “Can’t you do that in the back room?”

“Do what?” she asked, looking puzzled.

“Gaaahhhh,” grumbled Bart, jumping to the floor where the air was clearer. “Made my eyes water.”

The smell wafted over to Pook and Saav’s window. They jerked their heads away from the window and glared at each other.

“That wasn’t me,” choked Saav.

“Phew!” Pook coughed. “Smells like burnt broccoli.”

“Belle, try not to be gassy in the shop when we have customers, okay?” suggested Carrie. “You can be gassy in the back.”

“If you’d lay off the vegetables, you wouldn’t smell like that,” growled Bart from the floor.

“Please turn on the fan, and somebody open a window,” Saav suggested.

“Belle, sweetie, that was really rude. Try not to do that around others, okay?” said Pook.

Bart scowled. “That wasn’t so much rude as it was potentially lethal. You still got any butt fur left from that?”

Pook giggled. “It’s not the fur I’m worried about. Carrie might have to re-paint in here.”

“Re-paint? That’s the least of her worries. Wait til the Health Department and the EPA get a whiff of this. We’re talking major environmental and atmospheric impacts here,” Saav said ominously.

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Old 02-26-2016, 09:24 PM   #43
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“Not to mention the fines and the clean-up,” added Pook. “That’s gonna hurt.”

Belle rolled her eyes and showed her distaste for the teasing by putting her nose up at them and turning her back. “One little poot and they all come unglued,” she muttered to the window, her tail lashing.

Ralph stuck his head in from the back door. “Cats! Breakfast is – good heavens, Carrie, did something die in here?” he coughed.

“Belle has a little gas,” said Carrie, turning red.

“Goodness! THAT came from that little…I didn’t think she was big enough to smell like that! What are you feeding her?”

“Yeah, and dynamite comes in small packages, too,” griped Bart in a whisper to Carrie.
“Apparently she likes vegetables, especially broccoli,” Carrie shrugged.

“Ahh. Okay. Well, cats, when you can breathe again, your plates are ready. Come and get it.” With that, he went back to his restaurant.

“Appetite or no, it’s gotta smell better over there,” said Bart, heading for the back. “C’mon, Belle, chowtime.”

“It’s not chowtime in her case,” said Pook, climbing down from the windowsill. “It’s refueling.”

“Or reloading,” giggled Saav, following Pook.

Belle glowered at them, and followed them out, looking forward to her goodies.

Carrie turned on the ceiling fan and opened the front door to air out the shop while the cats ate, and stepped out on the sidewalk for a few minutes. Alone on the sidewalk, she laughed to herself. That silver coffee and tea service was fairly rare and very expensive.

The four-hundred dollar fart, she thought. There’s got to be a song in that!

But that shocked, disbelieving look on the customer’s face had been absolutely priceless, and she laughed again. I bet he thought it was me!

In the back of the kitchen, the cats and kitten gathered at their plates in the corner. There was a nice chunk of broccoli on Belle’s plate.

“Don’t get near that,” whispered Bart with a growl.

“Spare us, please,” said Saav.

“Be a sport, Belle,” Pook suggested.

She lashed her little kitten tail, stuck out her tiny kitten tongue at them, and dove into the broccoli first.
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Old 02-26-2016, 09:25 PM   #44
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End of Chapter Two.

This is very much fun of reading this again!

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Old 02-26-2016, 09:30 PM   #45
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Chapter 3 – Cats on the Internet

The four cats draped themselves lazily around the shop after lunch, too stuffed to move. They watched a few customers come and go, the three older cats kept a wary eye on the kitten, and Carrie kept the ceiling fan on. Belle was sound asleep after another feast, snoring on her windowsill next to Bart, and everything seemed normal.

“Carrie, can I use your computer?” Pook asked suddenly. Saav shot an alarmed look at her, and Bart’s eyes widened as he sat up.

Carrie stared at her. “You’re kidding, right? You know how to use a computer? C’mon! No way!”

“No, really, both Saav and I know how to use one. Can we show Bart and Belle how to use it?” Pook told her. “It’s really not hard.”

Belle jerked awake at the sound of her name and listened, fascinated as usual.

“How did you learn to use a computer?” asked Carrie.

“Mom taught us how to read, then she taught us how to use her desktop computer so we could download our own books and read them,” Saav explained. “We just went from there and learned how to do all kinds of stuff.”

“You cats know how to read, too?” Carrie asked, amazed. “Oh. I guess you’d have to, to be able to use a computer.”

“Yes,” all three older cats nodded.

“I can read a little, but I’m still learning,” said Belle. “I want to see how that computer works.”

“Saav and I have online journals, private diaries, and we are in a couple of animal rights political forums. Bart and Belle will love it,” said Pook. “There’s a whole lot to do out there.”

“You’re in animal rights forums? Online journals?” Carrie was amazed. “What else do you do?”

“We even have our own forum for sentient cats. So far it’s just us in there, but we started it in case we found others like us,” replied Pook.

“We write poetry on it and sometimes post it in a poetry group,” Saav added. “Pook’s working on a book; a picture book about us, and we’re both taking online courses through the community college. We have a private family forum with Mom for stuff about our family, too.”

“Wow,” said Bart. “You can actually go to school on that thing? I didn’t know that.”
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Old 02-26-2016, 09:33 PM   #46
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“What are you taking?” asked Carrie.

“Saav’s taking creative writing, and I’m in a web design class,” Pook replied.

“I want to take classes,” said Bart.

Pook looked at him. “Um, well, Bart, it costs money to enroll and get the books and stuff. You’d have to talk to Carrie about that, because these courses aren’t free. You also can’t take the final exam. They don’t allow cats in the classroom, and we have to be careful. We’ll never get our degrees.”

“But we’ll have the knowledge, Pook, up here,” said Saav tilting her head at her sister. “That’s what matters.”

“Oh,” said Bart. “I didn’t know it cost money. I don’t have any.”

“I do,” said Carrie. “If you and Belle want to take online courses and get an education, by all means, go for it.”

“School! Oh, I could learn everything in the world!” exclaimed Belle, her little blue kitten eyes shining.

Saav and Pook smiled at Belle. “Just about, Belle. Unlimited learning and education, if you want it. You can visit other countries and learn all about different people and cultures and animals, anything you want,” Saav encouraged her.

“Where do you start with school?” asked Bart. “Kindergarten?”

“Hmmm. Mom put us through a test to see how much we knew, and from that, it was easy to see where we needed to start,” said Saav. “Belle might want to start at the beginning. We’ll have to see what you know first, Bart.”

“Carrie, if you let us use it, we’ll show you our papers and stuff stored online in our homework help forum,” said Pook. “We have folders there for free online storage. Saves space on the hard drive.”

“We’ll show you everything we do,” Saav added. “There’s nothing bad or dangerous on there that would give us away, really.”

Carrie looked at the cats, thinking.

“We won’t break it or crash it,” Pook promised. “It’s just that we’re bored, Bart got all the mice and rats, and we’re too stuffed to play hard. If I try to run now, I’ll barf.”

“It would give them something else to do at night when you aren’t here. We use Mom’s desktop all the time, and never messed it up,” added Saav.

Carrie looked at them warily, and frowned at her brand-new, custom-built desktop computer behind the counter. That thing cost a bundle, and she needed it for her business. Preferably intact. She sighed, and looked at the curious, eager little faces.
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Old 02-26-2016, 09:36 PM   #47
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I gotta see this, she thought with an inner smile.

“Okay. I want to see how you operate it and what you do on it too. Go ahead. But be careful! Don’t claw up the keyboard or get fur in it, okay? And for God’s sake, no hairballs!”

“Thanks!” smiled Pook, and all the cats ran and gathered around the computer.

“Carrie, you got Internet on this thing?” Saav asked, powering it up by shoving a paw against the power button on the tower. Bart watched with interest, and Belle quivered with excitement.

“Yep. Just click on Internet Explorer on the desktop,” she replied.

“Are you on DSL or dial-up?” asked Pook.

“DSL,” said Carrie.

“Hmmm,” Saav murmured, looking at the desktop. “Nice!”

“This’ll be a breeze,” smiled Pook, and pawed the keyboard. Bart watched Pook’s every move and tucked them into his memory. Carrie watched, and in just a moment, they were listening to a classical music program streamed in from the local public radio station site. It was Pook’s and Saav’s favorite thing to listen to as they worked on their various little projects at home.

Pook told them about the station’s programs, and they went on to show them the news sites, animal rights forums, and ebook sites.

“Isn’t that Mozart?” asked Carrie.

Pook nodded. “Tomorrow’s Bartok.”

Carrie was awestruck as the two bounced around the Internet. Truth really is stranger than fiction, she thought. No one would believe this in a million years.

“Are you getting all this, Bart?” she asked.

“Yes, that looks pretty easy. And I’ve watched you, too, so I think I can do this,” he replied. “I pick up on stuff pretty quickly.”

“I don’t,” Belle said sadly, her ears drooping.

“But you’re just little, and this is the first time you’ve been in front of a computer. Bart’s had five months of watching Carrie, and we’ve been using computers since we were tiny. Don’t worry, you’ll pick it up in no time,” Saav assured the kitten, licking her head until her little ears perked back up again.

“Carrie, do you have messenger?” asked Pook.

“Um…I guess the answer to that is ‘not yet’?” she replied, smiling.

“Would it be a problem to leave this on for Bart and Belle at night so we can talk on messenger? Belle has a lot to learn, and Bart may need a little help,” said Saav.
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Old 02-26-2016, 09:43 PM   #48
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“Not at all. I can leave it on for you. I’ll just need it a little during the day for the books and maybe looking for something a customer wants.”

“Thanks,” said Bart. “What’s messenger? We talk on it?”

“Sort of, you just type messages back and forth instead of speaking,” said Pook, “but first you need an email address.”

“Oh my,” laughed Carrie. “I suppose you two have an email address?”

“Of course we do,” replied Saav, looking at her as if two cats having email addresses were the most common things in the world.

“Okay, I gotta ask. What is it?” she asked, picking up her pen and tablet. “I’ll send you some jokes I get in my email sometimes.”

“Mine is SaavSweetness,” said Saav. “Pook’s is PreciousPook.”

“Oh, those are cute….at this here?” Carrie pointed to the messenger site.

“Yes. Send us something and we’ll add you to our contacts,” said Pook.

“Okay, I’ll do that tonight.” She wrote them down.

“Okay, Bart, I got the email site open. What name do you want?” asked Saav.

“Hmmm. Something with Bart in it,” he said.

They thought about it.

“How about HandsomeBart?” suggested Carrie.

“Hmmm. Give that a whack, Saav,” nodded Pook.

“That’s a nice one,” Bart purred at Carrie.

“Got it! Okay, now Belle,” said Saav, finishing up the account for Bart.

“How about VegetaBelle?” smiled Carrie. They shared a laugh, and even Belle joined in.

“StinkerBelle,” giggled Pook. “Just kidding, Belle!”

Belle laughed again and swatted playfully at Pook.

Carrie petted the kitten. “How about BeautyBelle?” she said.

“Oooooo,” smiled Belle, preening.

“Very nice,” nodded Bart. Saav pawed it in.

Within just a minute, both accounts had been created, and the instant messaging program was downloading into the computer under Bart’s email address.

Carrie looked at Pook, still amazed at Pook’s and Saav’s knowledge. What else did they know about? Who had taught them to speak before they found the humans? Where had they gotten their talents, and how did she wind up with two more cats who apparently had the same unusual traits?
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Old 02-26-2016, 09:46 PM   #49
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Why her? Was she chosen by some higher power for this or did the cats just know who was safe to approach?

The answer might scare her, so she put those thoughts out of her mind until she felt eyes on her. She looked up and saw Bart and Belle looking at her intently. She felt a chill. Could they read her thoughts too? Did they know how they actually frightened her sometimes? In spite of that, though, could they tell she loved them dearly…almost more than her beloved dogs, even more than she could ever tell them? Bart and Belle simply sat there, gazing at her as if in understanding, as if something unsaid had passed between them with perfect acceptance.

“Aha! Gotta love DSL,” Pook said triumphantly. “It’s installing. Once it’s installed, I’ll show you how it works. It’s not hard.”

“Okay,” said Bart.

Belle turned shining, happy blue eyes on her and purred so loudly she shook the desk. The kitten loved to learn new things, and so far, she was discovering one wonder after another in her new home. She couldn’t wait to learn enough to start using the computer by herself.

Pook and Saav started Bart and Belle’s contact list with their own address, and sent themselves an invitation they would accept when they got home later on.

“What time do you usually get on the computer?” asked Bart.

“Usually between ten and eleven at night, after Mom goes to sleep. A little later on weekends, usually around eleven, since she stays up a little later then,” replied Pook.

Bart nodded. “Okay, we’ll look for you around then. This is going to be fun!”

“Yeah, it is,” said Pook. “We’ll send you pictures of us and where we live and stuff, too.”

“Pictures of your forever home?” Belle asked hopefully.

“Yes. And of the dog and our stuff, and our Mom and family, and anything you like,” Saav replied.

Carrie smiled. “I need to get something out of the back and get to work,” she said, giving Belle a kiss. “Have fun.”

While Carrie busied herself with some rearranging and vacuuming, the cats typed and clicked away on her computer. After quite a while, Carrie got curious, and came over to see what else they were doing.

“What’s this down here?” Carrie asked, pointing to the taskbar.

Pook brought it up. “It’s a collection of Edgar Allan Poe’s works for Bart we’re downloading so he can read it later.”

“Oh. And this?” She pointed again.
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Old 02-26-2016, 09:49 PM   #50
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“That’s a real easy, beginner’s series of spelling, vocabulary and math lessons for Belle,” Saav answered. “We put a whole load of ebook sites on their favorites list here, along with the animal rights sites, news, weather, radio stations, and educational stuff.”

“That’s neat,” said Carrie, and pointed to another one. “That?”

“Um…” Pook swallowed, but brought it up. “We’re joining a cat-owners group.”

She stared at Pook. “But you’re a cat!”

“Exactly,” nodded Pook. “These people need all the help they can get. We thought we’d join in and help them understand cats.”

Carrie gasped. “No. Absolutely not! If they find out, you could be –“

“Carrie,” Pook broke in loudly. “Listen. We know about the Internet predators and the sickos and the weirdos, okay? We really do. We never put personal stuff or give any indication that we are anything but a couple of older ladies who love animals.”

“Mom taught us all about that,” Saav interjected hastily, before Carrie could say anything. “She didn’t allow us to have our online journals or our forum or let us join anything until we understood that, and she checks on us regularly with a special program only she can get into and use. Honest. You can ask her. You can check on what we all do here, Mom can show you how.”

“Besides, look at this.” Saav scooted Pook away from the keyboard and pawed at it quickly. “Here’s my profile, the only personal info on me on the net.”

Everything was undisclosed except the required fields, which were drastically altered. The picture was that of a peaceful meadow full of birds, rabbits, and butterflies, and gave their location as Georgia. It gave a very vague impression of a 60-some-year-old retired librarian who had two cats and loved animals.

“Here’s mine,” Pook said, and Saav moved aside while Pook located hers. It was almost exactly the same as Saav’s, but the picture was different. Pook had chosen a view of Stonehenge at twilight, and she looked like a postal clerk in her late 50s in Maryland with a dog and a cat.

“See?” said Saav. “Mom did everything but choose the pictures for us. We’ll be safe, really. You can check.”

“I see. That’s pretty good,” Carrie admitted.

“I’m not letting anyone know, either, Carrie,” agreed Bart. “I know a little about bad people and so does Belle. We won’t give so much as a whisker away.”

Carrie sighed, then looked at Belle.

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