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Once upon a time there was a little cat named Meow-Kitty. She had black fur, but she also had a white belly, white nose and white paws. She lived in a big house with her friend Bu-Dog, who was a silly brown beagle. All night she would play with her ball of tinfoil or the little cloth mouse. During the day, she slept in her nice soft nest made of cloth and carpet. Her little nest was on the warm, sunny side of the house. Bu-Dog would take some of his frequent naps beside or on top of Meow-Kitty.

Every day, when the sun would come up, their dishes were full. Bu-Dog's dish had dry dog food. Meow-Kitty's had soft, moist cat food. Bu-Dog would eat greedily, wolfing down his food without even tasting it. Meow-Kitty, however, picked at her food daintily, enjoying each morsel, as if she were a feline gourmet. Many times she would remind Bu-Dog of how unhealthy his food was and how it tasted terrible. Bu-Dog, for his part, did not like something about the smell of cat food. He was really just waiting for some table scraps, he explained.

One day Bu-Dog asked Meow-Kitty if she wanted to go to the big Eastern Market, where all the butcher shops were. He told her if they could escape from the house, they could go that afternoon. She thought it would be a good idea, because no matter how good her cat food was, it was always better to have some real beef. All morning she dreamed of the scraps from the meat market.

When the sun was starting to fall, Bu-Dog trotted into the kitchen and told Meow-Kitty that it was time to go. They went out through the milk chute. Bu-Dog pushed Meow-Kitty through the metal box and outside. Then he scrambled through the opening and pushed it shut. They walked out on the hot pavement of the subdivision, across the avenue, and to the market.

First, they passed tables of fresh fruits and vegetables. The two wove in and out of the legs of the shoppers. Next, they walked by the live chickens. Meow-Kitty felt a pang of hunger. Finally, they were out of the selling area and near the butcher shop, which was a tall cement building painted red and black. Bu-Dog ran ahead, and he showed Meow-Kitty the big green dumpster where all the scraps were. Bu-Dog climbed inside and threw scraps of red beef and white pork to Meow-Kitty. Then he selected a day-old steak for himself and jumped out. It took a long time to eat all that real meat, and soon they were full. Their eyes were bigger than their stomachs. A big dark man wearing a white uniform came out and gave them each a handful of hamburger. He lit a cigarette, and while he fumbled with the lighter, they made their escape.

They continued down the road and soon came to the big blue building marked Acme Pet Foods. They entered through the back door. There were many assembly lines inside, and it was hard to see in the dark. The first was marked on the floor, Happy Doggy. Meow-Kitty and Bu-Dog marveled at the machines. There was a large one that ground up corn, and another that made oat flour. Then a big hopper dripped beef fat and little bits of hamburger onto the food. A third machine squeezed out the O and X shapes of the pellets. Then a giant drier heated the pellets until they were hard and dry. Finally, the pellets were put in a big paper bag and sealed shut. Happy Doggy was Bu's favorite dry food. He watched its preparation with a wagging tail.

At about the same time they saw a machine stacking up cans of Happy Kitty wet food on a wooden pallet. The two followed this assembly line backwards. There was a machine that sealed the cans shut. Then there was a machine that heated the can and its contents to sterilize them. Then there was a machine to fill the cans. Bu-Dog stood rapt, watching the cans fill up, one, two, two hundred. But he still didn't like the smell.

Meow-Kitty continued on, looking for the end where the beef, chicken, and pork scraps went in. She just knew that if even Bu-Dog's food was made of good things, hers had to be better. It was difficult to follow the assembly backwards. The filling machine led into some pipes. The pipes ended with a giant hopper. Somewhere there was a sound like a motor running without any oil. She moved in closer to find out what was making the sound. When she could not see, she climbed up on the machine. Then she froze.

Small men with small eyes, turned-up noses and orange uniforms were shoveling kitty-cats from a purple dump truck into the meat grinder. The sound Meow-Kitty had heard was their horrible cries, and they were easier to hear now. There were all kinds of cats in the trucl~ Persian, Siamese, Abyssinian, and mongrel. They were squirming, struggling, and crying. Their fur was one continuous tangle of brown, orange, white, and black. She could see the flash of fear in their eyes as they were lifted with shovels and tossed into the abyss. She felt sick. The Happy Kitty food she had eaten so happily that morning turned to lead in her stomach. She noticed the men were wearing leather aprons trimmed with cat fur.

Meow-Kitty was slowly losing her grip on the shiny pipes. She slid down until she couldn't hold on anymore. Then she fell ten feet onto the concrete floor. She tried to limp away, but one of the men saw her. She tried to run away, but her feet were bruised. The man picked her up with a shovel, and he was about to toss her up into the hopper. It was all over for Meow Kitty. It was all she could do to wonder if this was her just reward.

Then, like a brown flash, Bu-Dog jumped up on the man's face. He struggled, but the determined beagle stuck like glue. The man dropped the shovel and Meow-Kitty. Then he hit the ground, landing on his head. Bu-Dog grabbed Meow-Kitty by the scruff of the neck and carried her out. The sun was almost gone. Meow-Kitty never touched her wet food again. Bu-Dog said it tasted terrible anyway.

DAST