Tom poked his head up from the garbage can. "What are you up to, Snickles?" he called to his brown tabby companion.
"Nothing," came the hesitant reply. Tom emerged completely from the garbage can he had been rummaging through. He narrowed his eyes at Snickles who sounded guilty. Or worried. Or perhaps both. Snickles was crouched nearby, his glowing brown eyes betraying anxiety. Tom, who was a rather large black and white cat, thumped his friend lightly on the shoulder as he landed next to Snickles.
"What happened? Don't tell me you ate something you shouldn't have," Tom purred.
"How'd you know?" Snickles wondered. His whiskers twitched with bewilderment.
"Oh please! There is absolutely nothing an alley cat can't digest."
"You do know we're going through garbage from that Science Department building?" Snickles reminded him.
"Oh, the place where they do experiments." Tom smiled sarcastically.
"Yes experiments. They fabricate creepy substances and throw them away when they don't need them anymore. They throw them in the garbage we're looking through!…I don't think I should have eaten it."
Tom eyed the trash and snorted. "Don't worry it'll come out, eventually." Snickles looked questioningly at Tom.
"Through the other end," Tom clarified.
"Oh." Snickles looked down at his paws. "There was one thing I ate…," Snickles looked nervous, "It was glowing," Snickles finished. Tom gasped.
"For Cat's sake, you forgot rule 384: Never Eat Glowing Objects!" Tom yowled.
"I remembered that after I ate it," Snickles confessed. "I knew you would be mad."
Tom breathed deeply, trying to ease his anger and worry. He was an adherent of the Alley Cat Rules, all 500 of them. These Rules were necessary for survival for every alley cat. If any cat violated these Rules, that cat would probably not live to see another day. There were key Rules like 12: "Never Accept Food From Humans" and 56: "Avoid Confrontations With Rats" and of course Rule 1: "Curiosity Always Kills the Cat". Snickles had broken a Rule that was crucial: Rule 384. Glowing things were never good things.
"You thought I would be mad," said Tom slowly. "Well I'm positively FURIOUS! Breaching Rule 384! I'm surprised you're not dead already!"
Snickles' diminutive body shrunk further, and his eyes had glazed over as he said, "How long do you think I have before… you know… expire?"
Snickles was young, curious, and had loads of potential. Tom didn't have the heart to tell him that by tomorrow morning Snickles would be history. If only you weren't so scatterbrained, thought Tom sadly.
"Listen, let's head over to The Fishery and see if they have something good for us to snack on," Tom meowed. It was less risky to eat garbage than pilfer a fish from that horrible lady with the cart, but Tom thought Snickles had enough garbage for one day.
Tom nudged Snickles, who had gone stiff at the mention of eating, to his feet.
"Maybe they'll have mackerel," added Tom encouragingly. Snickles brightened a bit as they trotted toward Market