Cheesemarshal millionaire Finnicus Twitch slammed down the phone.
“The UnderUnderground has been invaded...by kittens!” Father Twitch shouted. “Rats are fainting in fear. This is not supposed to happen. We had an agreement with the cats! This could start the next cat and rat war! And I’m starting to feel like I’d be okay with that.”
“Father, don’t say that!” Posh Rat said. “They’re only kittens. Surely it’s only an accident that they are in our tunnel. The Fish & Chips Truce is still in place.”
“Excuse me, excuse me,” said Barnaby Raisin, the mole. “What is the Fish & Chips Truce?”
“Well,” Poshy said as he walked across the study and pulled down a wall map of the UnderUnderground. “Centuries ago, it was decided that cats and rats need to get along and share rubbish - even though we are natural enemies. Both Underground cats and UnderUnderground rats rely on the same rubbish supply from the Overgrounders. This is how we eat.”
Poshy tapped the picture with his cane. “To keep the peace between cats and rats, we agreed that we’d always give the cats the fish, as long as we got the chips.”
Poshy set his walking cane down and said, “Thus, the Fish & Chips Truce.”
“Pardon my interruption of your little history lesson,” said Father Twitch. “But son, you - as Tubemeister - must fix this problem...in whatever way necessary.”
“I understand, Father. But it’s important we do not harm the kittens,” Poshy said.
“How can you get the kittens out of the UnderUnderground without harming them, harming them?” asked Barnaby.
“We must gently coax them back to their cat door,” Poshy’s whiskers wiggled.
“Handle them gently?” Father Twitch sneered. “NO. Be fierce! Be more Twitch-like! Trap them and tie them up.”
“Father! It’s unkind. That will frighten the kittens and anger the cat leader.”
“Cats could use a lesson in fear. Just deal with it.” Father Twitch spun on his heel and click-clacked out of the room.
This whole time I’d been sketching on my pad. I showed Poshy and Barnaby Raisin my designs. Barnaby’s eyes went big. Poshy’s whiskers flattened.
The next morning after tea, the three of us headed into the tunnel inside my design: a mechanical catsuit! The costume was powered by Poshy in the front, me in the middle and Barnaby Raisin in the rear.
“I was once a donkey’s bum in a play in mole school, mole school,” Barnaby said. “So I should be very good at this.”
“Will the kittens think we’re their mother?” Poshy asked. He pawed the costume forward.
“Certainly,” I replied. “And if the plan works, they should simply follow us to the cat door at the end of the tunnel.”
We walked along the canal. You could hear the kitten’s mewing echo down the tunnel. In no time at all, the young cats were right in front of us.
“This is a bit scary, bit scary,” Barnaby Raisin said as the kittens nuzzled us. They purred loudly and it vibrated the costume.
“Amazing, Barnesy!” Poshy called me Barnsey when he was amazed. “Now we just need to walk them to the cat door.”
But before we could really move, the kittens began crawling all over us. They knocked over the cat costume - and us with it..
“They’re trying to get to us inside this costume, this costume,” Barnaby Raisin said.
“Actually, I think these kittens are trying to get milk from us!” Poshy said. “They do think we’re their mother!”
“I hadn’t thought of that!” I said. “Perhaps it’s best to abandon this plan.”
So we exited through a zipper in the costume’s behind and scurried back to the Twitch mansion. Back in my workshop, I got to work on my next idea...kitty rope-lassoing!
I explained the next plan to Posh and Barnaby. Before we knew it, the three of us were ready and standing in the study. We were dressed, head to toe, like American cowboys on the ranch.
“Instead of roping cows, we’re roping kittens, roping kittens?” Barnaby Raisin asked. His large cowboy hat was held up by the huge Power-eye™ goggles I’d made for him.
“Correct. We simply rope them gently ‘round the necks and lead them to their cat door,” I said.
But although Poshy looked dashing in his cowboy hat, boots and spurs, this plan didn’t really work. Back in the tunnel, we caught up to the kittens. They were still snuggling the empty cat suit. We realised it was difficult to catch a tiny kitten. They can so easily squirm out of a rope.
One of the kittens started playing with the rope’s end. Poshy’s whiskers wiggled.
“Wait! I remember,” said Poshy. “My nanny used to read stories to us. Cats like playing with yarn and string!” Posh Rat began winding himself up in the rope.
“What are you doing, sir?” I asked. Poshy had soon rolled himself into a large ball using all our rope. His handsome head stuck out one side and the end of his feet stuck out the other.
“Aim me towards the cat door and push. They’ll follow the ‘yarn’ ball.”
“It’s too dangerous, sir!” I said.
Poshy looked me in the eye sideways. “We must do what we have to do. At least this way of getting rid of the kittens is a kind way. And may I also say it is very un-Twitch-like. Which for me...is a good thing!”
It worked! The kittens followed the rolling rope ball containing Posh Rat. Barnaby and I followed behind them all the way to the cat door. The kittens playfully pounced on the ball as I rang the doorbell.
“Who’s there?” a cat-like voice hissed through a speaker by the cat door.
Poshy spoke with his head coming out the side of the rope ball. “It’s Reginald Twitch and crew. We’ve found your kittens and have safely returned them.”
The heavy cat door opened. A large paw swooped out and pulled in the rope ball...with Posh still in it! The kittens followed and the cat door slammed shut.
“Poshy!” I yelled. “What have you done?”
“He’s given his life to save the kittens, save the kittens,” Barnaby said.
“He’ll be torn to ribbons,” I sniffed.
As a tear rolled down my pink nose...the metal door swung back open for a second. Poshy was thrown out onto the ground in front of us.
The door shut again. Poshy’s whiskers were crooked and his clothes were torn. He sat up and brushed dust off his shredded cowboy vest.
“Sir!” I cried. “We thought for sure you’d been eaten!” I rushed in and hugged his handsome head.
“It was a close one, Mr Barnes,” Poshy winked. “And someday in the future, some may even say that solving problems kindly is...