“All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”
– George Orwell, Animal Farm
It was a trying year for Philip Muzzello. Going through some sort of mid-life crisis, he had purchased – on credit at a fixed APR of 15% – the red Italian sports car of his dreams. He had no idea it would lead to his end-life crisis.
The car was magnificently engineered to project him at unreasonable speeds down long stretches of highway and around impossibly tight turns with just the slightest touch of his steering wheel. The interior, while stylish and expensive, was uncomfortable and caused a sharp pain in his back whenever he sat in it; something he was willing to overlook if it made heads turn.
It was because of this pain in his back, that he was forced to adjust his seat, eyes not affixed to the roadway ahead of him, hands and feet not in their proper positions. It was because of that uncomfortable seat and the pain that it caused, that he did not see the cement truck crossing the intersection in front of him – at least, not until he was upon it.
He remembers very little of the event or of those that followed. He doesn’t remember being rushed to the hospital in the back of an ambulance. He does not remember being pronounced dead on arrival or his lengthy stay in the morgue. He does not remember his wife crying over him when she came to identify his body.
He does remember waking up six months later with an insatiable appetite for bacon, and an intense desire to pee on things. It was only a short time later that he realized he had been altered. The body he now wore was not his own; Hell, it wasn’t even his own species.
The grumpy terrier was Dr. Frankenstein’s first patient; his first foray into brain replacement. The doctor had successfully taken the brain of Phillip Muzzello and placed it within the cranial cavity of the family animal, a trust worthy, albeit slightly unbalanced, terrier. It didn’t take as much as the doctor had initially imagined to make the brain fit into the smaller cavity of a canine; a nip here, a tuck there. So it came to be that, a 38 year old investment banker was given a second chance at life. He must, however, do so within the confines of an incontinent terrier named Mr. Puddles.
Tracking Eugene’s scent from their modest home to the carnival grounds, Mr. Puddles stopped abruptly at the Merry-Go-Round. The trail was cold.
He sniffed about for several more minutes, frantically scurrying back and forth across the midway, his nose to the dirt. He thought several times that he had latched upon the scent once again, concealed by the stench of stale beer and intermingled with the aroma of polish sausage, but would lose it again moments later.
After scouring the emptied carnival grounds until well past midnight, Mr. Puddles had just about given up hope of finding his favorite chew toy.
While searching through a particularly suspicious dumpster, Mr. Puddles happened across a peculiar sort of cat. He was positioned with his rear in the air, tail straight out and twitching back and forth; his head jammed into the narrow opening of a food container. The cat was more round than it was long, with thick, matted white fur highlighted by splotches of various neon colors interspersed along it’s length, most likely from a night spent wallowing through a trash bin filled with cotton candy remnants.
Mr. Puddles gave an inconspicuous bark that actually meant something like, “Ahem.”
The cat either didn’t notice him or was pretending to do the same, either of which Mr. Puddles could not have. Putting aside his usual dislike for the feline species and ignoring the rather grotesque demeanor of this one, Mr. Puddles continued to vie for its attention.
“Ahem.” He coughed again. “Excuse me.”
The cat withdrew his head from the container and looked at Mr. Puddles. Both his face and paws were coated in whatever food item he was busy with, and he set about quickly to clean himself. “Excuse you indeed.”
“I hate to bother you,” Mr. Puddles began, “But I am in search of a human child that seems to have come up missing.”
“Haven’t seen one.” the cat responded in between long exaggerated lickings, feigning its disinterest.
“What have you seen?” Mr. Puddles was in no mood for a game of cat and mouse.
“Last night.” Mr. Puddles took a step forward, pushing the cat back against the wall of the dumpster. He thought of the many ways he could make this particular cat’s life uncomfortable. He disliked cats when his brain was in his human body and for some reason he found them even more intolerable once it wasn’t.
“What?” The cat snorted, “You going to rough me up?”
“I’m not going to lie.” Mr. Puddles took another step forward. “The thought has crossed my mind.”
It laughed. “I’ve been roughed up by better than you.” And with that, the cat coughed – hacked really – like there was some bit of food stuck in its throat. He stuck out his paw. “Pardon me.” He managed in-between fits of coughing.
Mr. Puddles stepped back from the cat and waited a ridiculous amount of time, during which he found himself sniffing and snorting through the refuse himself. He was sometimes repulsed by his own dog-like behavior, though at this moment in time, his growling stomach got the better of him.
After his rather lengthy coughing fit, which in the end, produced a hair ball of both undeniable girth and stench, the feline dropped back on his haunches and began cleaning its paws yet again. “So what’s in it for me?”
Mr. Puddles hadn’t considered this option; payment for information leading up to the safe return of one Eugene Frankenstein. “I’m not sure.” He said at length and waited.
The cat made no attempt at a reply, but went right on cleaning it’s sticky paws.
“Well, cat, what is it you would like?”
The cat stopped licking it paws, looked at the dog and smiled. “I thought you would never ask.”
Mr. Puddles rolled his eyes and sat down. “Get on with it.” He barked.
“I want a home.” It said.
That was easier than the terrier had thought it would be. “Done.”
The cat held up his paw. “Hold on.” He said. “Not any home.”
Mr. Puddles was getting anxious and he was sure it was showing.
“I want your home.”
What a tremendous stroke of luck. Not only had Mr. Puddles found a cat with information that could lead him to Eugene, but a new guinea pig for the good doctor to experiment upon. “I couldn’t possibly.” He said.
“Then I can’t help you.” The cat responded with an evil snicker.
“Okay.” Mr. Puddles put on his best show of humiliation. “Okay, you got me. You can have my home.”
“You sure your family will take me?”
“Most definitely,” Mr. Puddles replied. “Doctor Frankenstein will love you.”
The cat hopped happily into the air, making a funny wheezing sound as he landed. “Excuse me.” He blushed.
Reluctantly, the terrier with a human brain performed the customary action in lieu of a handshake to seal the deal. The two animals sniffed each other’s backsides for a period of time to extend no less than ten, but no more than thirty seconds.
Apparently, even animals find that crossing the line.