Thomas De Quincey’s elder brother William succeeded in some attempts at bringing down cats by parachutes.
The Life of Thomas De Quincy, Malcolm Elwin
As I looked around the hold of the Puss in Boots, I realized I might be spending my last moments with my buddies Okie, Chester and Chewie. We were cats on a mission; to drop behind German lines and insinuate our way into the hearts and minds and onto the laps of hausfraus wearying of World War II. The plan was to pull off a Lysistrata of sorts; have them withhold their, um, favors from their men and bring the Third Reich to its knees.
“. . . glug, glug, glug, glug, glug . . .”
“You guys ready?” It was Captain Lemuelson, captain, as you might have surmised, of the crew, leading us to ask in our minds who the hell was flying the plane.
“I heard that,” Lemuelson snapped, brooking no question to his authority, not even an internal monologue. “We have a perfectly well-qualified Co-Captain who’s handling the knob and the stick and the wheel and that other thing, the watchamacalit.”
“The whammy bar?” someone asked.
“No, that’s a guitar part.”
“That’s it. Anyway, if any of you are about to crap your pants from fear, the chaplain is here to offer a few words of prayer.”
Father McCloskey stepped forward, and none too steadily I might add. He’d been transferred from the Army and was afraid of heights, so my guess was that he’d taken a nip or two of sacramental wine. He crossed himself and began to speak, slowly and reverently: “Bless us O Lord, and these thy gifts, which we are about to receive, through . . .”
“We’re not getting ready to eat, you dingbat–stop saying grace.”
“Oh–then what were the cocktails for?”
The Captain gave him a look that could have defrosted a freezer. “Just say something to make these cats’ leap to a near-certain death easier to bear, would ya padre?”
The cleric began again. “Dear Lord, please guide these cats on their way to the heart of the enemy. Let them warm it and turn the thoughts of the Huns towards their fellow Europeans, whom they will one day crush by monetary rather than military means. Ah-men.”
Angela Merkel checking to see how much her Greek friends owe her.
Those of us who’d been raised in Catholic homes made the Sign of the Cross, everybody else just improvised with various non-denominational forms of hand jive. Then we were ready to jump.
We’d been drilled in questions the Nazis might ask us to determine if we were really German if they found us crawling through the countryside. Name Goethe’s latest best-seller. Who’s better, Bach or Mozart? Which Katzenjammer Kid is which?
I looked at Okie, and he looked at me. He started to give me a little thumbs-up, then realized that he didn’t have opposable thumbs.
“I guess this is it, Rocco,” he said. “It’s been great . . .”
“Like hell it has, unless you were going to say it’s been great having the living crap beaten out of you on a regular basis.”
He gave me that stupid smile of his, the one that comes over his face when he knows I’m making fun of him and still doesn’t get the joke. He is not, to put it metaphorically, the brightest bulb on the scoreboard.
“If one of us doesn’t survive, the other has to write mom, okay?” I said.
“Sure, sure,” he said. We knew the odds were against us. We’d read about Operation Cat Drop, the British plan to parachute cats into Sarawak, Borneo to fight an infestation of rats. Pretty Sara-wakky if you ask me. There are no reliable accounts of what happened, and the fear that all of us felt was we were guinea pigs being used to test some crackpot theory cooked up back at HG. And nothing offends a cat’s dignity like being used as a guinea pig. Fer Christ sake, you can get guinea pigs cheap at Pet World.
Frankly, I wasn’t even sure we needed parachutes. I mean, have you ever seen a cat fall and not land on its feet? The whole parachute pack was a nuisance, if you asked me. Without it, I could have hauled a lot more food and probably survived in the wild until I’d found the perfect little German gingerbread house to take me in.
Elite black Schwarze Katz paracat prepares for night jump.
We clipped our chutes to the overhead rail, and the plane banked slowly to the left over Berlin. If all went well, one of us would make it to the bunker and beguile Eva Braun into talking her man into calling the whole thing off.
“What is it we’re supposed to say again?” Okie asked me. His short-term memory is shot from too much catnip.
The face that launched a thousand-year Reich.
“What does that mean?”
“He was a daredevil Indian, used to jump from high places.”
“Without a chute?”
“He didn’t need no stinking parachute.”
I saw Okie gulp a little. He was plainly nervous. “Besides that Borneo Cat Drop, has anybody else ever tried what we’re about to do?”
“Well, there was Thomas De Quincey’s older brother.”
“Isn’t that the guy who wrote Confessions of an English Opium-Eater?”
“That’s the one.”
“So we’ve got a hare-brained scheme to land cats in Borneo, a crazy Indian and a drug-head, right?” Okie asked.
“That about sums it up, pal,” I said.
He looked out the door of the plane, then back at me. “Well,” he said just before he jumped, “That’s good enough for me.”
Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Cats Say the Darndest Things.”