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Excerpt: William P. Armstrong

When two indoor cats escape to the outdoors on Halloween, the family dog enlists the help of her dog and bird friends to track down the felines through some fur-raising adventures in order to bring them safely home.   Their travels take them through a scary cemetery, a rockin’ Halloween party, a Fall Festival, a harrowing hay ride, a spooky haunted house, and a fast ride on the world’s largest skateboard!  Children of all ages will enjoy this tale of Merry, Mack, Fritz, Coco, Tippy, Wayne and Gordie as they go on their frightening and fun Halloween adventures.  Their exciting experiences are packed with pumpkins, ghosts, a vampire, witches, trick-or-treaters, thrills and laughs. Above all, it’s a story about friends helping each other!

PostcardFrontFFFront cover art by Stephen Dye.

Back inside the Valdez home, Merry raised her head as she heard my screech.  As fast as she could, Merry ran to the living room to look out the front window.  She stood on her hind legs with her front paws on the window sill.   She watched as the three boys chased after us, leaving behind all of the donated clothes strewn down the sidewalk. 


     “Oh, no they didn’t! “ Merry shouted.


     Thinking fast, Merry ran to the kitchen, then through the open door to the utility room.  She saw that the back door was closed, then noticed the side-hinged window over the clothes dryer.  Merry struggled as she climbed to the top of a laundry hamper, then onto the dryer.  Grabbing the window latch in her mouth, Merry pulled it from right to left to unlock it.  She then bumped the window with her nose to make it swing open, and Merry jumped through the opening to the back yard.


     Merry ran to the side fence, standing on her hind legs to search for Mack and Fritz.


     “Mack!  Fritz!  Help!”


     First Mack, then Fritz emerged from their doggy door on the back door of their house and ran up to the fence where Merry waited with her paws on top of the fence.


     “We’ve got a situation here!” Merry shouted.  “Those stupid cats have escaped!  Mr. Valdez left me in charge until they come back later tonight.  We’ve got to do something!”


     Mack nudged Fritz aside so that he could stand nose to nose with Merry.


     “At ease, young lady!  It’s all going to be okay.  Now give me a minute to form an operation plan,” he said, attempting to take charge of the situation. 


     At that moment, Gordie and Wayne swooped in low and landed on the ground near Mack’s feet.


     “What’s all the squawkin’ about, eh?” Gordie asked.  “Makes it kind of hard to catch a few Zs before our big flight.”


     “Merry’s two cats just ran away and we’ve got to round them up,” Fritz explained.


     “I got it!” Mack said.  “We’ll form a search party for your AWOL troops and bring them back home safe and sound before you can say “Stormin’ Norman Schwarzkopf!” Mack announced. 


     “Round them up – like cattle?” Merry asked in disbelief.  “I don’t think so!  Ever tried herding cats?  You’d have more luck catching a unicorn!  Besides, I’m not leaving this home.  We could end up in the dog pound!  You know how long I sat in that animal shelter before these kind people picked me up for adoption?  No way!  No more cold concrete floors, barking all night and sad howling for me!” 


     “But Merry, those cats are part of your family!” Fritz said with a sad look.


     Merry paced back and forth, shaking her head.


     “Family? Cats and dogs are never members of the same family.  I’m a member of this family, but those two…are just pets,” Merry said.


     “Now I know they’re not your favorites, Merry, but we can’t pick and choose our family members,” Mack said.  “The bottom line is, your people will be very unhappy if they come home tonight and find those two cats missing, not to mention what could happen to the cats at the shelter.”


     Merry thought back to what Mr. Valdez said to her just before he left. “Oh, okay, I’ll go, I’ll go!” she said.  “But why did they have to run away on Halloween?  This is the worst day for a black cat to be outdoors!”


     Wayne flew up to the top of the fence and looked around.


     “Excuse me, eh?  I’ve been listening to you guys, and wondered if we all aren’t overlooking a major obstacle in your plan?  So, like how do you expect to get through that fence?” he asked, pointing a wing at the tall wooden fence across the back of both yards.


     “It’s an obstacle, all right,” Mack agreed, squinting his eyes toward the fence.  “But when a soldier can’t go through, over or around an obstacle on the battlefield, he tunnels under it.”


     That said, Mack handed his hat to Fritz and began digging with both front paws at the base of the wall between him and Merry, quickly completing the hole Merry had begun on the other side earlier that day.  He poked his head through the other side, and with dirt all over his face, grinned at Merry.


     “Merry, as we say at Fort Benning, Georgia, home of the Infantry…Follow me!”  Mack said, retreating back through the hole to his yard.


     Merry crawled into the hole, then popped up next to Mack and Fritz. 


     “The good news…” Mack said, taking his hat from Fritz, “… is that we’ve got a loose board on our back fence that we can just push through to access the alley.” 


     Gordie flew up to the top of the fence alongside of Wayne.


     “You dogs could use some help with this, but we’d better move fast,” Gordie said.  “In a few hours, our wave of warblers is gathering and we’ll be on our way, eh?”


     “Constraints on our tactical air support!  Yup, you two birdies should lift off immediately and get started tracking the movement of our runaway cats ASAP!  Oh, and make sure you give us an hourly SITREP,” Mack said. 


      “SITREP?” Wayne asked, fanning out his wings for a preflight stretch.


     “Situation Report – tell us what you’ve observed,” Mack explained.  “How many bad guys are we dealing with, what’s the terrain like, how’s the weather, any enemy movement, stuff like that.” 


     Mack stepped back from the fence and drew a line in the dirt with his front right paw.  Then he moved three steps back and drew another line, parallel to the first.


     “Let’s call this Phase Line Corn,” Mack said pointing to the first line.  “That’s where that big cornfield grows each year.   Then, as I recall, the town’s annual Fall Festival will be in full progress about half a click beyond that.  We’ll move that direction now.”


     “Half a click?” Merry asked.


    “Click – that’s Army talk for a kilometer,” Mack explained.  “Sorry, but I sometimes forget that I’m working with a civilian support team here.”


     Wayne started whistling, causing the other animals to look at him.


     “Hey, Wayne – I know you can’t carry a tune, eh?” Gordie said.  “So how about you give that noisemaker a rest while we complete our search plan.”


     “I’m coming up with just the right signal,” Wayne replied.  “That way the dogs here will know our location, and a different whistle will tell them we’ve spotted the kitties, eh?”


     Merry put both paws to her mouth and blew out a loud, shrill whistle, prompting the other animals to cringe and cover their ears.


     “I kind of like this whistle idea!” she said, grinning.  “We need to stay in touch just in case one of us finds those fur balls.”


     “Hmmm, yes,” Mack agreed.  “Excellent idea, Wayne and Merry!  Let’s call this Operation Feline Rescue.”




William Armstrong is a Brat, a Veteran and the first Secretary/Public Affairs for the Museum of the American Military Family.


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