It happened late one morning when Mrs. Word Guy and I were hard at work on one of our daily word games. She had a bee in her bonnet about some foreign-sounding word. “I wish they’d stop changing horses in midstream and stick to American words,” she opined and didn’t even hear the faint knocking at the front door.
“Who’s there?” I yelled. Crickets. “Cat got your tongue?” I hollered.
Slowly the door opened and in walked my old friend Claus. “Well, well,” I said, “look what the cat dragged in, I thought you’d flown the coop for good. Where have you been?”
“I can’t say too much,” he said, “I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag. So if anybody asks, a little bird told you. I was in a location where things weren’t very nice. Let’s just say it’s a real cat-and-mouse situation over there and you’ll be a deer in the headlights if you don’t have your ducks in a row.
“I used to think I was chicken,” he mused, “but sometimes you’ve got to take the bull by the horns and walk into the lion’s den. At first I felt like a fish out of water with butterflies in my stomach, but all my comrades were lionhearted and champing at the bit to defend their country.
“They were loaded for bear and their opponent’s army is very disorganized,” he continued. “Sometimes it looks like their enemy is herding cats over there. A few of them are clever though, we’re always on the lookout for wolves in sheep’s clothing.
“I’d like to be a fly on the wall of their leader’s palace,” Claus went on. “That fat cat’s crazy, you know. He’s got a kangaroo loose in the top paddock. He’s a leopard who’ll never change his spots. He thought his army was the 800-pound gorilla until he opened this can of worms, and now the worm has turned on him and everyone knows he’s all hat and no cattle.”
“Sounds like he went barking up the wrong tree this time,” I crowed.
“Yes,” replied Claus. “Now he’s nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof — especially since his former right-hand man decided to bite the hand that feeds him. I think he’s a lame duck now.
“That’s what happens to someone who thinks he’s a big fish in a small pond but makes the mistake of swimming with sharks,” Claus said. “He backed the wrong horse, and now this whole mess is an albatross around his neck. His goose is cooked.”
“That’s right,” I agreed, trying to keep up, “never kick a skunk.”
“Oh great,” moaned Mrs. Word Guy, “I just typed in S-K-U-N-K. Now my Octordle score has gone to the dogs. Why don’t you cool cats catch up at a restaurant — you could get the early bird special.”
“Good idea,” said Claus. “I’m so hungry I could eat the southerly end of a north-bound mule. We can pig out and drink like fish — as long as we drink what fish drink, anyway.
”You’re an animal, Claus,” I mumbled sheepishly.
Jim Witherell of Lewiston is a writer and lover of words whose work includes “L.L. Bean: The Man and His Company” and “Ed Muskie: Made in Maine.” He can be reached at [email protected]