Doctor Egglometus, Evil Overlord
There is something about a clockwork cat that makes me squirm, and it's not just that awful clicking noise the neck makes when it turns to look at you. You expect creepiness from a robot cat -- all of those lines of computer code hiding worms, bugs and viruses -- but clockwork cats get tics that shouldn't happen in instruments made with Swiss precision.
I heard the click-click-click of Rasputin's neck and felt more than just the heat of his stare on my back; it was his laser eyeballs. I jumped out of my chair and shouted downstairs.
"Mom, the cat is trying to x-ray me again!"
"Did you wind him today?" Mom called back up at me. I heard the muffled boom of a small explosion in the kitchen and Dad said something about night-vision goggles that I didn't catch completely over the whooshing sound of a fire extinguisher.
Rasputin's tail dipped between his legs and he shuddered. Then he shuddered again. And one more time. It was like watching the second hand on your watch struggle to jump forward as the battery is running down.
I held Rasputin's tail and wound it around in a circle. On the fourth time around he jumped forward and purred -- a sound like a car engine trying to start on a cold morning. I gave his rear end a shove with my foot to get him out of my way and even though he's full of gears and levers, I swear he squinted his eyes at me and frowned on his way out of the room.
Dad was already at the breakfast table studying a large diagram spread out over his plate and most of the rest of the table. The smoky air had cleared, but the faint sweet smell of the Halon fire extinguisher hung over the table.
I reached for a piece of blackened toast and the miniature radiation monitor on my jacket crackled like popcorn. Mom was cooking with leftover radioactive isotopes again.
"Nuclear toast?" I asked, picking up the bread with my sleeve and sniffing it.
Mom's lips pressed together tightly and she smeared margarine on her bread hard enough to let me know that she was annoyed.
"It's within EPA Protective Action Guidelines for radiation exposure… and if you don't like the breakfast that I made for the family you can just get your own food." She took a bite of her own bread and considered for a moment. "But leave the eggs. They're for… something else."
I dropped my slice of toast back onto the pile. School had breakfast; healthy breakfast prepared with ordinary non-radioactive toasters by women who didn't hold the butter knife like a ninja star while talking to you.
All three of us heard a high-pitched squeak from behind the refrigerator. Dad leaped out of his chair and made it across the kitchen in two long steps. Mom had barely moved, but now the butter knife was poised toward the fridge.
Dad stood perfectly still and signaled with his hand. One of something. On the move in a westerly direction. Hold for his signal.
Mom slipped off her shoes and, standing on her chair, silently grabbed hold of the light fixture over the table. She swung on it carefully, with just the tiniest tinkle of her rings against the glass, and alit on top of the kitchen counter nearest the fridge, crouching in a ready position.
I shoved last night's homework into my backpack with a crunch and my parents' heads whipped around with stern looks. I mouthed, "Sorry," and zipped the backpack closed slowly and quietly.
Dad raised his hands and signaled again. Three. Two. One. Go!
He jumped in front of the crack between the fridge and the counter and shouted, "Aha!" paused for effect, then continued.
"Now I have you. You were naïve to think you could get away from me. You have underestimated my cunning plans. Once you step onto the platform and take the cheese, you will have fallen into my trap. I will have you in my clutches and you will be out of my way forever!"
My father tipped his head back for a big belly laugh, but my mother shrieked, "He's getting away!"
Something light and furry ran over my foot and I jumped involuntarily. I might have screamed a little. I'm not scared of mice… I was just startled. Really.
I loved the hook.
I love this.
I'd read it.
Why this work: it's funny. The parents are the bad guys. The good guy is bad for being good. And dear dog, who can resist a robot cat. (or a ghost cat named Smell for that matter!).