"I think that one will do," said the man.
"Yes," said the woman. "He will be a good companion for Fluffy. He's so little and scrawny, he won't threaten dear Fluffy, but he's big enough to play with Fluffy, when dear Fluffy feels like playing."
"Um, yes, all right," said the man. To the attendant, the man said, "Wrap it up," gesturing toward Hairy.
Hairy was thrilled. At last, a home and family of his own to live in, to love. His happiness lasted while the attendant put him in a box, the man picked the box up and carried it out to the car.
Hairy felt a thump as the man threw the box into the trunk and slammed the lid.
"Do you think he'll be able to breathe in there?" Hairy heard the woman say.
"Probably," said the man. "If not, there's more where he came from."
After a bumpy car ride, Hairy felt the car stop. He could see daylight through a slit in the cardboard box as the trunk opened. The man opened the box lid and rather roughly pulled Harry out. Tossing the gray striped kitten onto the grass in front of a suburban home, the man said, "There you go, Scrawny." To the woman, he laughed, "That's a good enough name for him. Fluffy looks fluffy, Scrawny looks scrawny."
The woman said, "He does look hungry. I'll take him in the kitchen and give him some kibble."
The man said, "Don't bother. See if Fluffy's left anything in his bowl. If he has, Scrawny can have it."
The woman went into the house and came out moments later with a none-too-clean cat food bowl, containing a few kibbles sticking to the bottom. "This is all that's in Fluffy's bowl, dear. I'll get him some more --"
"No, you won't. That's enough for him now. You don't have to waste a lot of food on him. It's not like he's pedigreed, like Fluffy is."
The woman placed the bowl on the front step of the house. Hungry as he was, Hairy chewed the dried, sticky kibbles, and hoped Fluffy, at least, would be a friend. Afterward, as he was cleaning himself neatly, the way his dear mother had showed him, he heard a voice from an open window near the front step.
"So" the voice purred, "you're the new kid? I'm Fluffy. Get used to it."
Hairy looked up and saw a hugely fat silver Persian sitting on the windowsill. Of course Persians tend to look fat because of the fur, but this one looked fat because of, well, fat. Hairy could tell the Persian was young, hardly full grown. But what a beefer.
"Hi," said Hairy. "I'm Hairy -- "
"Ha ha," sneered Fluffy. "That's what you say. I heard your name is Scrawny, and that's what you are. You're my servant, you know."
"Oh?" said Hairy, carefully.
"Yes. And don't you forget it," said Fluffy, jumping down from the windowsill into the house, with an audible thump.
Hairy settled down on the front step, wrapping his tail around his front feet. He wondered if he was better off here than at the town animal shelter. Well, he thought, at least they don't seem to have a killing room here.
Then he noticed something out on the lawn. Something very small, moving through the grass. Hairy was all attention, instantly. Perhaps, a mouse? If he could catch a mouse, maybe his new family would like him better.. A leap and a pounce put the little creature under his paws.
"Hey, wait!" it squealed. "Don't do anything crazy! I'm not a mouse."
"You're not?" Hairy asked.
"You dumb kid. Have you ever seen a mouse?"
"Um, well, no, but my mother told me about them..."
"But your dear mother couldn't tell you how they smell, could she?"
"Ah, no, that's true. You do have an odd smell. I don't mean to offend. It's not unpleasant, just, well, different. So, what are you?"
The small creature sputtered, "Get your foot off my throat and I'll tell you. Actually, it was you I came here to see."
Hairy was so surprised he did lift his paw from the creature's throat, though kept a restraining paw on its back. "You came here to see me?"
"Yes, you uneducated kitten. You're Hairy Paw-tar, aren't you?"
Hairy nodded, even more surprised. "And who are you?"
"My name doesn't matter," said the small creature. "What matters is, I'm a prairie dog. A sort of a dog, you understand?"
"I never saw such a small dog," said Hairy. "Are you really a dog?"
"Yes, and get your paw off my back -- I can hardly breathe."
"Sorry," said Hairy, lifting the restraining paw from the prairie dog's back. The little dog didn't flee, but sat up on his haunches. "Look, you're Hairy Paw-tar, and I have a message for you -- from Dog-wart's Academy."
"Dog-Wart's Academy?" said Hairy. "I never heard of it."
"Few have, because it's a bit of a secret, you see. But you're one of those special ones, the ones that get to go there."
"Go there? Where? Why? I just got a home. Why would I want to go somewhere else?"
"They teach you stuff there. Dog knows you need to know stuff," said the little creature, but tempered his words with a friendly grin. "You'll like it, kid. You'll make some friends, trust me."
Just then a yowl came from the windowsill. "Scrawny," yelled Fluffy. "Come in here. I just used the kitty box, and you need to come in here and cover what I left in it."
Hairy looked at the little prairie dog. "Where did you say this Dog-wart's Academy is?" he asked.
"Come on, I'll show you" the tiny dog answered, and disappeared into the shrubbery.
"Scrawny, get in here!" Fluffy screamed. "Now!"
But the yard was empty, and only a few leaves moved to show where Hairy had followed the little prairie dog into the shrubbery.
Hairy followed his guide as the small creature scuttled through underbrush, around corners, into and out of drainpipes, into a sewer and, eventually, out of it, and, finally, to a large, old stone building.
"That's it," said the little dog, gesturing with a paw. "Go on in. They're expecting you."
Puzzled but interested, Hairy hippety hopped up the stone steps and knocked softly on the heavy, oaken door with his small, furry paw. The door opened instantly, although no one seemed to have opened it. A deep voice intoned, "Hairy Paw-tar, welcome to Dog-Wart's Sorcery Academy. Come in. You are expected."
Hairy entered an empty hallway. It was lined with bookcases and the cases were stuffed with books. While the kitten stared around himself in wonder, he heard soft cat footsteps trotting down a nearby stairway.
Turning, Hairy saw a half-grown black cat descending a broad staircase toward him. "Hello!" said the black cat. "You must be Hairy. Welcome to Dog-Wart's."
"Hi," said Hairy, a bit timidly, noticing the black cat had only a stump of a tail.
"My name's Tweezil," said the black cat. He grinned. "No, I didn't lose my tail. I'm working on an invisibility spell, and I'm kind of stuck. When I get it right, you'll be able to see my tail."
Hairy smiled, too. "Invisibility spell?"
"Yeah," said the cheerful black cat. "That's the first thing they teach you here. Come on, you're going to be my roommate. We can work on the darn spell tonight, and you'll be ready for class tomorrow."
As the two trotted up the stairs, Hairy asked, "Can I go to class here?"
"Sure," said Tweezil. "You're a student, now. Dr. DogWort told me so. He's the sorcerer that runs the place. There are a lot of animals here learning sorcery. They're a great bunch - you'll like them. Hey, here's our room."
Tweezil turned into a spacious room that contained two cat beds, two dressers, two desks, and two large bookcases. One was filled with books that looked a bit worn and used. The other case contained fresh, new books. "That one's yours," said Tweezil, gesturing toward the new bookcase. "And that's your bed, and your desk, and your bureau..."
Hairy could hardly believe his good fortune. A home. A school. And best of all, a friend. He was happy.
Hairy learned the invisibility spell so well he helped Tweezil with it, and both young cats were delighted to see Tweezil's tail re- materialize.
"It's really strange when you can feel it but you can't see it," Tweezil laughed.
The next lesson unit was considerably tougher -- Alternate Worlds and How to Get There And Back.
Tweezil was good at that unit. Twice he had to go to an Alternate World and help Hairy get back. One was a waterworld, and Hairy was really tired of treading water by the time Tweezil pulled him home. The other was a delightful field and forest world, much like earth except without humans or large animals - just creatures resembling rabbits, birds, mice, voles and other creatures smaller than cats. Hairy didn't get stuck on that world -- he was so fascinated with it that Tweezil began to worry about his roommate's late arrival home and went to look for him.
"Nice place you found here," Tweezil said, looking around when he found Hairy. Breathing in a deep breath of fresh, sweet air, he said, "I can see why you stayed to look around a bit. What a paradise!"
Hairy looked thoughtful. "Tweezil, it gives me an idea. Will you help me do something?"
"What?" Tweezil asked, curiously.
"I'll tell you on the way home," Hairy said, as the two zipped through all the dimensions lying between the newly discovered alternative world and their room at DogWart's.
Tweezil loved Hairy's idea. "I'm in," he said. "This is going to be great. You really think we can do it?"
"Um, I think so," Hairy said. "I know I couldn't do it myself, but together -- "
"Let's give it a try," said Tweezil.
That night, two small cat shapes might have been seen tiptoeing around the town animal shelter, if there had been anyone there to see them, which there wasn't. This was the place where Hairy lived before he was adopted -- as Fluffy's slave.
"How will we get in?" Tweezil asked.
"As if it were an alternative world, right?" Hairy answered, thinking to himself and it certainly is.
"Oh," said Tweezil, and the two were inside. A few sleepy woofs came from the dog area. The cat area was silent, but Tweezil and Hairy knew the impounded cats were alert.
"Hey, pals," meowed Hairy. "Remember me?" Those cats and kittens who remembered Hairy meowed softly in recognition.
"Want to go on a trip with me, out of here?" Hairy asked.
The meows grew louder, and so did the barks.
"Okay, guys and gals," said Hairy. "When the doors open, hit the street at top speed. I'll meet you outside."
"How do we get the doors open?" Tweezil asked his pal.
"We don't. The wardens do," Hairy said. He remembered where the General Warden Alarm was located, and, jumping to a desk, pressed on the large red button with both forefeet. A clanging bell began ringing, and went on and on and on and on...
Hairy jumped down and said to Tweezil, "Okay, now we do our stuff. Let's make all these guys invisible. Every one of them. I can't do that many myself, but I think the two of us can."
"I hope you're right," Tweezil said. He took a deep breath and, while the alarm jangled madly, animals began to disappear. One cat. A kitten. Two cats. Five cats. Fifteen cats. All the cats and the kittens, too. Then a puppy. Three puppies. Twenty eight puppies. Fifty-four dogs of all sizes and ages. Disappeared.
By that time, Animal Wardens had run in the door and were combing the building. "Looks like another false alarm -- Hey, they're all gone! All the animals are gone!" one yelled.
Their boss said, "Check the cages and check around outside, boys. They might be around somewhere."
Every cage was opened as wardens peered into it for hiding cats, kittens, dogs and puppies. Of course as the cages opened, the invisible animals rushed out. Some wardens were puzzled as they seemed to be bumped by unseen shapes, but they were too busy looking for missing animals to think about it.
When Hairy and Tweezil were sure all the animals had safely escaped, they turned and ran for the door, only to be confronted by a frantic Animal Warden boss. "Here's two of them, boys. Make sure they don't get away!" Strong hands grabbed Tweezil and Hairy by the fold of skin at their necks. The pair was thrown into a cage which was securely locked after them.
While the wardens continued to scour the animal shelter for the missing animals, Tweezil and Hairy looked at each other. "We forgot to make ourselves invisible," Hairy muttered.
"Yeah, I guess," said Tweezil. "Now what?"
Hairy thought a moment. "Okay, the whole gang is outside. The wardens might stumble over them, literally, if we don't get them out of there."
"To the beautiful alternative world," said Hairy. "Where else?"
"Great idea," said Tweezil . "But how?"
"We all go," said Hairy. "We can transport them from here, and ourselves with them -- I think. What do you think?"
Tweezil sighed. "Can't we ever do anything small?"
Then he and Hairy concentrated as they had never concentrated before. Both worked so hard at the transportation spell that they saw spots in front of their eyes, and Hairy thought he was going to faint. But then a breath of sweet air blew across his nose, and he knew they were there.
"Quick, Tweezil," Hairy mewed. "Take the invisibility spell off -- let's see if everyone got here."
In a moment, they were surrounded by cats, kittens, dogs and puppies, all sniffing the fresh, beautiful air. The puppies and kittens began frolicking in the soft green grass. The young dogs and cats chased each other around the trees, and the older animals just looked around happily. "Whew," said Tweezil.
"Yeah," said Hairy. "But there's just one problem."
Tweezil turned around and saw, once again, the stub of a tail. "Oh, darn. But -- I can't feel it! It's not just invisible. It's gone! Somehow I left it at the animal shelter."
"We'll go back and get it," Hairy said, warmly.
"Uh, not right now," said Tweezil. "Let's wait until a few dozen of those wardens go home. Meantime, this is really a fun place. Let's hang around for a while. Introduce me to your pals, okay?"
"Sure," said Hairy. "Let's go."