by Rebecca McLeod
George Lucas, I’m sorry.
Tikky: A big black tomcat with bedroom eyes and a Sean Connery accent. Not quite as smooth as he thinks he is.
Babycat: A tough little female cat who spent some time on the streets and also in a variety of secret military ops. She is the brains of the operation and probably the muscle too.
Floppy: A very silly white and tabby kitten who enjoys cross-dressing and flopping.
Bob: The nest engineer and Pirate’s favorite sister.
Pirate: The charismatic and tough as nails leader of the rats. A blue rat.
Willow: The feminine, but harried mother of fifteen.
White Babies: The white rats are really hard to tell apart.
The Humans: Mom and Dad
The rats were busy chewing a pumpkin into a Death Star facsimile under the guidance of Bob, the pack’s official engineer and current artistic director. Bob had big dreams, but was working with a surly, nearsighted construction crew that was more interested in eating the pumpkin than carving it.
“Guys, you’re making the exhaust port too wide! Have none of you seen the movie?” demanded the harried little blue rat. “Look at the proportions!” One of Willow’s babies blew a raspberry at her from inside the pumpkin and the others giggled.
“You smarten up or I’m telling Pirate! And your mom!” threatened Bob, waving her blueprint at the offending rodent.
“I don’t see why I have to wear this shtupid coshtume,” mumbled Tikky, the tomcat, glaring at the pet-sized Darth Vader costume. “I’m already amazingly handsome. I should just go naked and sheduce the judges.” He practiced his formidably sexy wink that had been known to melt everyone from vets to severely allergic houseguests.
“Deal with it; look at what I have to wear!” snarled Babycat, nudging an elaborate bun wig. “They wanted to put me in the bikini from Return of the Jedi! I had to threaten everyone with cat scratch fever just to get the white dress!”
“Floppy, I’m not going as Han Solo – even if he gets a gun. I’m going to put on this stupid costume for exactly the length of time required to win that stupid competition and then I’m going to spend the rest of the night scaring kids and eating candy.”
“And probably conducting black magic rituals,” mumbled Tikky under his breath. She ignored him, but made a mental note to jam the flap of the hooded litterbox and lock him inside the next chance she got.
The community in Florida that Mom and Dad had moved to was family-friendly and held costume competitions every
Halloween. Best pet costume won a gift card to a local seafood restaurant. Florida had amazing seafood, unlike their original landlocked home in Canada. Both sets of animals were doing it for the fish and chips special, Grouper and Fries with Homemade Coleslaw.
Pirate, consummate leader that she was, had taken charge of the crew of cats and rats to organize them into a cohesive group of well-costumed, prizewinning pets. When the rats had arrived in Florida, carrying tiny suitcases and wearing sunglasses and Hawaiian shirts they’d bought from local roof rats, she had re-negotiated their treaty with the cats. The rats got the spare room and lanai access, which involved access to the pet-sized swimming pool on the lanai. The cats got the run of the rest of the condo, but shared lanai access. There was no pouncing on the shared lanai to avoid regrettable incidents.
For now it was just the girl rats. The boys had decided to mail themselves to the States from Canada and had ended up in a postal facility in North Dakota. They were currently hitchhiking their way down to Florida and enjoying gnawing the sights of America. Their most recent postcard featured the world’s largest porch swing (Hebron, Nebraska). Undoubtedly the boys had gnawed on it before moving south.
“Do it for the fish,” reminded Pirate.
There was a knock on the door. Dad answered it, inviting the judges in to the tableau set up in the living room.
“Cue the lights! Standby on music!” yelled Bob into her headset, wringing her paws. Her tech rats stood by.
“Imperial March! Go Tikky!”
Awash in humiliation, Tikky strode forward, twitching his tail (and his cape) and desperately wishing he could rip off his helmet/hat. He hoped there wouldn’t be incriminating pictures of this event. The longhair calico next-door would never give him her peemail address if she saw him like this.
With a sinking feeling, he noticed the cameras the judges were carrying. One even had a video camera.
“Oh, look at the little models! That’s so cute – they have a whole army!” cooed one of the judges, bending over to look at the tiny stormtrooper rats posed next to the pumpkin Death Star.
“Nobody move,” muttered Pirate under her breath. One of the White Babies tittered nervously and the judge did a
“Go Floppy Babycat go! Lights Phase 2!” ordered Bob. A single spotlight (well, flashlight) lit up the table. Atop the table posed…Floppy. By himself. Wearing Babycat’s Princess Leia costume (and totally pulling it off). He hopped down and skipped over to the main tableau with Tikky and the rats.
“Oh she’s so pretty!” exclaimed the elderly judge, bending down to pet Floppy who purred and rubbed against the judge’s leg.
Behind the scenes Bob was having a meltdown.
“Cheesus on a cracker, where’s Babycat? Where’s my Han Solo? Dammit!”
Suddenly, “Duel of the Fates” – the fight theme from Episode I – began to play. Bob looked around wildly.
“Who did that?”
The lights went out and a spotlight lit up the area atop the kitchen cupboards. It was Babycat, cloaked in black and carrying a dual-ended red lightsaber in her mouth. She dramatically leapt from the cupboards, doing an effortless backflip before landing on the floor. Gleefully, she galloped up to Tikky and began whacking him with the lightsaber. He fell over from the combined indignity of the assault and being filmed in a pet costume.
“I don’t remember that from the movie,” said the younger judge thoughtfully.
“It’s a re-interpretation,” smoothly explained Mom, turning the judges away from the stormtrooper rats (who were cracking up and could no longer be mistaken for toys). “A homage to the entirety of the current two trilogies.”
“Oh. My, that certainly is creative.”
“We do our best,” replied Mom, snatching the lightsaber away from Babycat and picking up the dazed Darth Tikky.
She passed him to Dad.
“Are you okay, buddy? I think you lost your duel,” said Dad sympathetically. Tikky opened his eyes, spotted the judges and cameras, and closed them again.
“We’ll take it all under consideration and announce the winner tomorrow. Thank you so much,” beamed the gray-haired judge, shaking Dad’s hand before exiting with her younger cohort in tow. The instant that the door closed behind them, the rats began cracking up.
“We’re buying a house,” mumbled Dad, setting down Darth Tikky. “A house where we don’t have to worry about the rats getting us evicted.”
Mom turned to the rats and cats.
“Everybody pitch in and clean up. Whoever gnawed on the Death Star is going to have a sore tummy tonight!”
*The next day*
“How could we lose?” demanded Pirate.
“It was the pugs in 605 – their owners did a Sherlock Holmes and Watson tableau with a miniature Victorian English study. One of them even had a pipe.”
“That’s intense,” remarked Willow, checking her Facebook feed. Her kids had figured out her password a month ago and started leaving false status updates.
“Did you really gain a whole pound?” inquired Gonzo, reading over Willow’s shoulder.
“What! I only weigh 350 grams…oh those little wretches!”
“And you bleach your tummy fur,” snickered Gonzo, who as a hairless rat only had to worry about sunburn.
“No, I’m naturally a very pearly white! Oh that’s it, I’m grounding all of them.”
“I’m going to the pool with Floppy – wanna come?”
“Let me grab my sunhat first.”
Babycat and Floppy were already out by the pool, stretched out on lounge chairs. Floppy was reading Vogue and Babycat had a dog-eared copy of Survivalist Magazine.
“Babycat, do you really think dark florals are a fall essential? I don’t think they look right with my stripes.”
“Wear the cobalt blue,” she replied automatically. Floppy had fashion crises at least one a week. Last week it had been layered nail art (didn’t fit his claws). The week before he’d discovered that skinny jeans cut off the circulation in his thighs.
“Dinner’s here!” called Dad from the door, carrying in a bag full of takeout containers. In an instant the lanai was deserted.
“You all worked very hard, so we got you a little treat,” said Mom, passing out pieces of fried fish and french fries. Tikky, who had been sulking in a closet since last night, was taken his own piece of fish.
“I’m not coming out,” he mumbled, tucking into a large piece of grouper.
“Not even if…Samantha, the pretty calico from next door, asks you?’ coyly inquired Mom. Tikky dropped the fish and stared at her.
“She saw your video on the community website, and I think she’s a little starstruck. She’s been hanging around that windowsill, waiting for you to come out and watch squirrels with her.” But by that point, Mom was talking to an empty closet. Tikky had gone into a full run, carrying his piece of fish out to the windowsill where, adjacent to their condo, a pretty calico was waiting.