Annabelle Adams was thinking about summer when she noticed a cat doing yoga on a bench outside her classroom window.
“What the—?” she thought.
She looked again. It was an orange cat, a friendly-looking fellow. Of course, the cat was not actually doing yoga. Because cats don’t do yoga. Cats lounge and stretch and look at you with skepticism.
Annabelle’s cat Ellen was the world’s most capable cat. And even Ellen did not do yoga.
“Only 16 more minutes,” thought Annabelle, glancing at the clock, biding her time. It was the last day of school before summer vacation. The students had already finished their last assignments.
But instead of giving up and letting everyone goof off for the rest of the
day, Mr. Potter was lecturing about the importance of waiting a full hour
after lunch before jumping into the pool.
Now it was 3:15, which meant only 900 seconds until Annabelle would be free to go back to doing what she loved best, which was reading books about adventure, practicing evasive maneuvers on her bicycle, and running through the obstacle course in her back yard. Annabelle did not know why she loved these things. She just loved them. And so she did them at every opportunity.
Annabelle already knew all about water safety (she was a certified junior lifeguard), and so she glanced out the window again. There were two cats now. And they were standing on hind legs, dancing together, ballroom style.
Annabelle looked around to see if anyone else was noticing this. But everyone else was squirming or sleeping or shoving or writing notes or reading fun books hidden inside of boring ones.
No one was listening to Mr. Potter. And no one seemed aware that five cats were now standing shoulder-to-shoulder on top of a minivan doing alternating high kicks as if they were performing on Broadway.
Annabelle raised her hand. “Excuse me,” she said before Mr. Potter could even call on her. “Something highly unusual is happening outside.”
In an instant, everyone was up from their desks and racing to the window.
“Those cats are acting weird!” said Jim Jackson.
Jim usually said things like “BLERGL!” “KUGGA!” and “FART, FART, FART!” but this time, he had a point.
“Now, now!” said Mr. Potter. “Everyone sit down.” But then he actually looked out the window and said, “Oh my.”
There was nothing else to say. Fifteen cats were balanced on one another’s shoulders in a perfect cat pyramid. The cat on top was holding one paw over his heart, as if he were saying the Pledge of Allegiance.
“I’m sorry, but I need to get to the bottom of this,” said Annabelle, who sometimes felt called by a sense of duty so strong she couldn’t contain it.
She raced into the hallway, which was already crowded. Apparently, others had noticed the cats and were equally concerned or excited by what was happening outside.
Soon pretty much everyone was in the schoolyard, standing in a great big circle around dozens of cats that were marching in neat rows, meowing an exciting song while pretending to play miniature trombones.
The teachers were trying their hardest to keep things under control, but it was impossible. This was the most exciting thing they had ever seen, and eventually the teachers gave up and joined in oohing and aahing and laughing and pointing and enjoying this marvelous display in the beautiful, early summer sunshine. That’s when the cats started to meow For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow in three-part harmony.
“My goodness,” said Annabelle, who usually didn’t use that kind of language. She wondered if she might be asleep, so she tried to wake herself up, but when that didn’t work, she instead tried to focus on getting to the bottom of things.
When she wasn’t busy writing legal briefs, Annabelle’s mother would tell Annabelle that there is always a logical explanation, no matter how strange and magical something might seem.
“Cats don’t play trombones,” thought Annabelle rationally. “Cats don’t
meow in three-part harmony.”
When he wasn’t busy saving countless lives in the emergency room, Annabelle’s father would tell her that when a bunch of people are standing around refusing to accept the reality of a situation, it was essential that at least one person stand up and point out the truth.
But what was the truth in this situation? Unless Annabelle’s eyes were
deceiving her, these cats were actually doing the moonwalk while exchanging enthusiastic high fives with the kindergartners.
One of the cats gestured with clapping paws as if to say, “Come on people, clap along with us,” and so everyone started clapping and singing and laughing.
Annabelle hated to be a pessimist, but something about the situation didn’t smell quite right.
“Wait a minute,” she thought, taking a closer look at the cat who seemed to be in charge. “I know that cat.”
It was Mr. Jingles, a plump grey British Shorthair that belonged to a family across the street from the school. Annabelle knew it was Jingles because of the shiny silver bell around his neck. Annabelle stopped to scratch Jingles’ head on her way to school most mornings. She had scratched his head this morning. This morning, he had not been dancing or singing or giving high-fives. He had been lounging on the porch steps like a cat.
Annabelle looked at Mr. Jingles. Mr. Jingles looked at her.
If Annabelle’s eyes could speak, they would have said, “What are you up to, Mr. Jingles?” and Mr. Jingles’ eyes would have said, “Don’t you worry. You’re about to find out.”
The cats were coming to the end of a chorus and were now grouped in another enormous pyramid at the center of the circle of teachers and students. Mr. Jingles stood at the very top, waving an invisible cane and tipping an invisible top hat. The song ended, and everyone clapped.
Suddenly, the cats stopped smiling, which was alarming enough. But then Mr. Jingles raised his paw and meowed what sounded to Annabelle like a countdown.
“Meow, meow, meow, meow, MEOW!”
On the final meow, every cat leaped—hissing, teeth gleaming, claws bared—into the crowd.
The next few seconds were bad. Cats scratching. Kids crying. Teachers howling. It was shocking and sudden and loud. “I knew it,” said Annabelle’s heart, which had a way of speaking for itself from time to time.
But there was no time to think about what was happening. A fluffy white Persian leaped straight at Annabelle, angry eyes bulging. With a sudden surge of instinct, Annabelle turned her body sideways as the cat sailed narrowly by and bounced off a picnic table.
“KUGGA,” said Jim Jackson moments before a feisty Russian Blue landed on his back and dug its claws into his shoulders.
“FART! FART! FART!” said Jim, and Annabelle couldn’t disagree.
As the air filled with flying, angry cats in no mood to be reasoned with, Annabelle ducked and twisted with the dexterity of a professional dodge ball player, which she was not.
New cats kept arriving. There were literally hundreds of them now, hissing and scratching and scowling.
Mr. Jingles stood up on his hind legs and made perhaps the most horrible sound that Annabelle had ever heard, and suddenly the other cats all stopped doing what what they were doing and looked at him instead.
Sensing an opportunity to escape, Annabelle’s classmates and teachers ran screaming, and the cats did not chase them. The cats seemed interested in only one thing now. The cats seemed interested in Annabelle.
“Hey, now,” said Annabelle, as hundreds of cats turned their heads in her direction and started creeping closer.
Annabelle hated to retreat, but she saw no other choice. Keeping both eyes on Mr. Jingles, she walked backwards toward the far end of the schoolyard while trying to plan her escape.
“If only I had a jet pack,” she thought. “If only I could shoot lasers from my hands.” Annabelle often longed for a jet pack. And for various superpowers, hand lasers among them. But never so much as in this moment when every cat in the world (it seemed) was marching toward her with eyes of gleaming fury.
Annabelle weighed her options. She could not win this fight. She was hopelessly outnumbered. Running seemed foolish. She didn’t want to turn her back on the cats. And so she tried reason.
“Mr. Jingles!” said Annabelle. “What about all those loving scratches? What about the occasional treat I’ve tossed your way?” (Annabelle had been known to give Mr. Jingles a treat from time to time.) “We go way back, you and I!”
But Mr. Jingles wasn’t having it, and neither were any of his friends. The pack was closing in. Annabelle feared the end was near.
“It has been a very good 12 years,” she said to herself, while longing for
at least 100 more.
But then she heard a roaring engine and a blaring horn and a deafening screech, which scattered the cats for just a moment. A fast-looking, bright red sports car with a racing stripe and killer spoilers skidded up to the curb. A door opened. Weird blue mist poured out.
“Get in!” said a voice from inside. Annabelle couldn’t see who the voice
Of course, Annabelle’s parents had told her many times about never getting into cars with strangers — regardless of the color of the car, and Annabelle well understood that on a normal day, this was extremely good advice.
“But this is not a normal day,” thought Annabelle, as she dove into the car with the grace and desperation of an extremely worried gazelle.