Authors: Tony Ortiz
Tags: #romance, #vampire, #horror, #halloween, #adventure, #death, #fantasy, #paranormal, #magic, #funny, #witches, #werewolf, #free
HAL’S TCL CAN
Copyright © 2005 by Tony J. Ortiz
Cover illustrations copyright © 2005 by Tony
Library of Congress Control Number:
All rights reserved. No part of this book
may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means,
electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by
any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in
writing from the copyright owner.
This is a work of fiction. Names,
characters, places and incidents either are the product of the
author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance
to any actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is
entirely coincidental. This book was printed in the United States
A CAT ON DEATH
Our visit to the animal
clinic was a disaster. The vet acted as if my cat was possessed. I
had no idea why. Duma was a perfect little thing. Well, most of the
time. He did like to scare old people and bite them every once in a
while. He was also known to poop on their vintage cars. Just the
kind of stuff cats do sometimes. But the vet and animal control did
not seem to think this was normal. Neither did they approve of us
feeding Duma human food, which we understood completely. But if we
did not share our breakfast, lunch and dinner with him, he would
pee on us while we were asleep. And that wasn’t the worst part. At
the end of his examination, the Chief Animal Control Officer
discreetly pulled my mom, Oz, aside. Apparently whatever he had to
tell her would be unfit for the ears of a thirteen-year-old
. . . it’s unfortunate,
but it must be done,” I overheard him say outside the clinic. “You
see, after the number of complaints we received and the number of
violent attacks this month, we have no choice.”
What troubled me the most was that Oz did
not want to tell me a thing when we got back to the house. She went
straight to her bedroom and shut the door. I decided to leave her
alone and wandered off to my own room, stumbling as Duma
frantically shot in between my legs and entered the room just
before me. Beating me to it was a big deal for him.
Duma was pure black, with tangerine eyes and
large pointy ears. He was well built, but slender. Some intern vet
thought he was a mix of an Abyssinian and some unidentified wild
animal. I had been thinking that for years. I had wondered if
Duma’s mom had actually been bred with a bobcat. Or maybe it was a
tiger. Even better, what if Duma was half-turtle? His life
expectancy would be at least a hundred years!
A familiar voice brought me back to reality.
It was my mom. I must have spaced out for a while. “Jesse, this is
no time to daydream,” she said, sitting down on my bed and nearly
crushing my feet. Her name was Becky, but I liked calling her Oz –
short for Aussie. She was tall and thin like me, with green eyes. I
had also inherited her reddish-orange hair. Mine, however, poofed
out like I'd just been electrocuted.
Oz, what’s wrong?” I
asked from under the bedcovers. “What did the officer
You need to train
Why?” I turned to Duma,
who was playing with his private parts.
Oz nudged him so he would stop. “The
neighbors have been calling in about him.”
So?” They always called
in about him.
Jess, tomorrow morning at
seven he’s scheduled to be put to sleep.”
Put to – what?” I shot
out of bed, feeling sick to my stomach, and started pacing around
the room. “But you just said I needed to train him—”
Jess, I need you to
listen to me. You know he goes wandering into our neighbors' homes.
And you know he has bitten eight kids this month–”
They can’t kill him!” I
glanced at the collection of clocks and watches on my desk. My
favorite digital watch read: 8:49 AM.
Jesse! He can still be
I waited for her to
explain. Duma sat calmly at her feet, watching me, as though
was the one in
Jess, sit down, please.
They’re going to bring in a few renowned vets tomorrow to run some
more tests on him. If they feel that he’s harmless, he won’t be
euthanized or sent to the animal shelter. They’ll leave him be.
Meanwhile, you’re going to have to train him as best as you
I know. But it’s all you
can do at this point. I’m going to go talk to the neighbors who
filed the complaints. I’ll be back soon.”
Oz planted a kiss on each of us before
leaving. Duma jetted across the floor, clenching a stale fruit
snack in his teeth.
Stop eating those, Duma!
Do you want them to put you to sleep?” Duma halted and lifted his
head at the word “sleep,” as if that meant something to him. “You
are so stupid. Come on. We’re going to Katie’s.”
Hoping my best friend was not at school yet,
I sprinted to her house, a quarter of a mile down the hill. It was
a half-painted home, with a dozen small crates stacked up into a
pyramid under her second-story bedroom window. She had built to get
in and out without going downstairs, for the fear of running into
her foster mom.
What you doing here?”
said Katie, sticking her head out of the window. "It's nine
I need . . . I need your
help,” I panted. "When do you have to go to school?”
I don't know.” She
disappeared inside for a moment and came back with a wooden box to
complete the pyramid so the stack reached the windowsill. Duma
jumped up easily. I fumbled my way up after him.
Hey, ballerina,” she
greeted me when I stepped inside. She was breathing a little
Did Sandy hurt you?” I
I scowled. “I - am - not - a -
Then what are
Soccer shoes! Katie, they
are not ballet slippers. The soles are just worn down.”
She didn't respond, already busy playing
with Duma on her grubby mattress. She was the type who could be
girly and gangster all at once. Her coffee-brown face glowed with a
hint of pink. She was a flawless Bolivian, even with the few
bruises and scars visible here and there on her body. Her long
black hair seemed to always flow perfectly with the wind, but today
it was tied back in a ponytail. She wore a baggy brown sweater and
red board-shorts that looked three sizes too big for her—
Katie pushed me. “What you thinking about
this time? Crow migration?”
See, you say
all the time. That
means you were thinking. You wanna go to your house?”
But won't Sandy get
I don’t care. She’s not
my real mamá. So why you want my help?”
Because . . . they want
to euthanize Duma.”
They’re going to kill
Duma! They’re going to put him to sleep.”
Duma’s ears shot up again.
Katie looked as shocked as I had earlier.
“They can’t do that! Crapper! Who said they would?”
I wanna know.”
Are you going to go after
Well, they’re not killing
Well, they won’t if I can
make him act like a normal cat.”
Like a house cat?” She
watched Duma scurry by and smash into a wall.
She laughed. “Yeah, right.”
Katie was right: Duma would not listen to
any of our commands. If we told him to sit, he would try to poop.
If we told him to stay, he would attack us like he wanted to kill
us. But he was not stupid. We took him to a local park once, and he
figured out that a kite, one of his favorite things to chew on and
rip to pieces, would only fall if its owner reeled it in or made a
mistake. He hated waiting around so he went for plan C and just bit
the kid. The kite came down right away.
As the stressful day wore on, it just got
worse. Duma hissed at every old couple that walked by, chased a
handicapped person, went after a pregnant woman, disemboweled a rat
and placed it on the neighbors’ freshly plastered brick porch. One
day of training was not going to change Duma. It was truly
impossible, and the vets should have given us more time. Was this
We gave up on Duma at about ten o'clock at
night. He was acting fussy, and I had to take my geometry test. I
got a perfect score, as always. I wasn't sure why Oz tested me
every other day. She knew I had a photographic memory. If I hadn't
gotten every question right, she would have had me make my own
dinner. In a way, that would have been a good thing. Her cooking
Thanks for the dinner,
Oz. It was really good,” I said as I placed my empty plate in the
You’re welcome. Sorry I
was so late making it.”
Oz kissed me goodnight, and then I headed to
my bedroom, which was cold and dark. The window had been left
cracked open, and one of the two ceiling bulbs was out. I had
recently replaced it, but the new one turned out to be a dud. Duma
had been crouching under the bed the whole time, sensing the grim
ambience. What he did not know was that I knew the reason for it,
and it was not about tomorrow's showdown with the vet.
I sat up in my bed, sweating in my dinosaur
pajamas and listening to the busy ticking of all the clocks on my
desk. What I needed to do in a few minutes completely terrified me.
I had done the most horrible thing. It was so horrible that I had
gone window-shopping for a bulletproof vest yesterday.
It’s time to go,” I said
to Duma, hanging off the side of my bed and looking at him upside
down. “This is
important. No more funny business or I will leave
Of course Duma didn’t know what I was
saying, and I certainly was not about to leave without him. It was
too scary outside. I stuffed my backpack with a sharp piece of
glass, a butter knife, a hammer, a switchblade and a bottle of
Okay, Duma, if we can’t
find it, she’ll never let us back in the house. She’ll board up the
windows and the cat doors. She might even buy a gun. She’ll put
both of us to sleep.”
Duma ran crazily around the room.
, as in,
wake up,” I corrected. “Don’t be stupid!”
I threw the stuffed backpack over my
shoulder and tightened the straps, all the while thinking about my
mom’s jacket. It was a green leather jacket, which she had
inherited from her parents. It was the only thing that could make
her remember her parents after they were killed and she got amnesia
from a tragic car accident eighteen years ago. It was possible that
she loved it even more than she loved Duma and me. So what was this
terrible predicament I was in only a year after Oz had given me the
jacket? I had lost it.
It took me three tries to get the window
opened, only to be greeted by Oz, standing right outside of it in
her checkered nightgown, pale as a ghost.
Oz!” I said anxiously.
“What – what are you doing outside?”
Hand it over,” she said
I handed my backpack to her and bowed my
What are all of these
for, Jess?” I heard her say.
I slowly lifted my head to see her pull out
Katie’s switchblade from the backpack.
Hmm . . . for
Protection? From what?
Jesse, where are you going so late at night? This is the second
time this week. I can’t stand outside your window every night
afraid that you’ll decide to sneak out again. Sitting outside for
two nights in a row is exhausting enough. And this?” She was
holding up the bottle of aspirin.