Summary: Henry Chan, Dennis' father, confronts Burt after one too many outbursts from Coop fighting with Mr. Kat.
Characters/Pairings: Henry and Burt centric story featuring Dennis, Coop, Millie, and Mr. Kat. No pairings.
Henry was a patient man, at least that was what he thought of himself. He'd been helping Dennis with his maths homework when the noise started.
"Quit it! You hairless freak!"
He should be used to it by now as the disturbance was a daily occurrence. Ever since his neighbour Burt Burtonburger had adopted a hairless cat for his daughter Millie, the fighting had been non-stop. He'd spoken to Burt about the noise a couple of times to no avail.
His son looked up at him with worry plastered all over his face.
"Dad, I think Coop needs me. Can I go over and check?"
"No son. You need to finish this first," Henry pointed at the maths sheet on the table.
Dennis squirmed a little but continued writing down equations. Typing at his calculator as he went.
His son and Burt's son Coop were best friends. You'd often find them hanging out together at each other's houses, a comic book in hand or the latest video game. Henry wasn't too pleased when the friendship started as he didn't particularly like Burt. Coop however was a bright kid, very polite when he came over, and loved the technology he showed the boys.
They seemed attached at the hip as of late though. Henry suspected that Dennis was coming to Coops aid against the cat. He'd witnessed its aggressive nature first-hand. It would bite and claw, leaving red raised scratches down the boy's arms. Dennis had once mentioned something about it being an alien but he dismissed that as an overactive imagination.
"Daddy, Coop keeps picking on Mr. Kat!"
"Coop, leave the cat alone."
"I didn't do anything wrong. He-"
"That's enough. Come inside. Now!"
Henry sighed. Every day was the same routine. The cat would fight with Coop, Millie blamed her brother, Burt agreed with Millie, and then Coop was punished. An endless loop which his son was now a part of.
Dennis kept sneaking peeks out the window when he thought he wasn't looking. Henry tapped at the paper, trying to get his son to concentrate.
"I thought I told you to leave the cat alone!?"
"I did! The thing followed me into my room."
Dennis gave a pleading look to his father.
"Alright that's enough," snapped Henry, "I'm going to go over and speak with the Burtonburgers. You finish off your homework. I'll be checking when I get back."
"No buts. I want to see pencil to paper. Now!"
Henry grabbed a jacket, tidied his receding hair, and walked across the road to his loud neighbours.
Their house was beautiful. Two stories with a loft surrounded by ceiling-high glass windows. They had a large backyard leading into the nature reserve bordering the property. The house had been renovated at some point. Perhaps after Burt had inherited it after his parent's deaths. He knew that the Burtonburgers had lived in Bootsville for generations. It was one of the names he saw pop up constantly when he and his wife emigrated to the town.
As he approached the front door, the voices grew louder.
"Daddy! Coop's being mean."
"Be nice to your sister."
"She's never nice to me…"
"Don't backtalk! Go to your room."
"I'm already in my room."
"Then… stay there?!"
Steeling himself for a confrontation he knocked on the door twice and then waited.
He heard Burt yell, "One moment please. I'll just be a second!"
His patience was already wearing thin. He knocked again.
"I said I'm coming!"
The door opened wide revealing a dishevelled Burt. The look of annoyance quickly turned to meek embarrassment. He assumed, rightly so, that Henry was there to complain about the noise.
"Henry! What are you doing here?"
"Burt, I need to talk to you."
Henry was too impatient for small talk.
"Oh, Okay. Why don't you come in?"
Burt stood aside to let Henry in. Within the house, he could see the commotion up close. The cat was chasing Coop around the living room, as Millie yelled at her brother to stop.
He pointedly looked at Burt, "Could we speak in a more private area?"
"Right," Burt awkwardly scratched the back of his head, "Maybe we can talk outside."
The two men walked down the hallway and into the backyard. Burt closed the door behind them as they took a seat on a set of patio chairs. He could still hear the kids yelling behind him against the constant meowing.
"Kids, am I right? A whole bunch of trouble," Burt joked.
Henry wasn't in the laughing mood.
"I guess this is about the noise, huh?" asked Burt.
Henry refrained from rolling his eyes.
"Yes and no. You and your family are being way too loud but this isn't just about today. We've already spoken several times about the disturbances and I'm not the only one with complaints. Your other neighbours including Mrs. Munson says that the fighting occurs at all hours of the night too."
Burt frowned at the mention of his most hated neighbour. "Old Lady Munson has had it out for me as long as I can remember."
"Let me finish," frowned Henry, "I understand it's been difficult since your wife passed away and I'm truly sorry for you and your kids. However, that is no excuse for what is happening now. You need to think of your son and his well-being. Please, get rid of the cat."
Burt was flabbergasted, "Wh-what?"
"I'm sure you can find someone who'll adopt it. I heard that hairless breeds are quite expensive these days."
"I-I don't understand what you're talking about? Why would I get rid of my cat?"
This time Henry was the one who was shocked.
"You're telling me you haven't you noticed?"
"Noticed what? You're not making any sense."
Henry was in disbelief. Was Burt really this thick or just pretending not to understand. Every person in town knew that the cat hated Coop. It was obvious enough without the constant arguments, scratch marks, and destroyed possessions.
"Tell me Burt, before you adopted your cat what was Coop's behaviour like?"
"I don't see what this has to do with anything?"
"Just answer the question."
"Fine," Burt huffed, "He was well behaved, received great grades, never got in trouble at school. Sometimes he fought with his sister but not to the extent that they do now."
"And how is his current behaviour?"
"Well…" Burt felt a little embarrassed, "He's constantly getting into trouble. I've had to ground him for the first time in his life!"
"I heard that you received complaints from the school," Henry added.
It was a constant topic at pick up time between the parents. More than once had students spotted the cat roaming the school halls, sneaking into Coops classroom, and causing disturbances.
"Yes…" said a strained Burt, "and he's frequently fighting with his sister. I'm at my wits end."
Henry glared, "Really!? You have no idea why he's acting out?"
"No, I don-"
Henry interrupted, "Stop."
"It's the cat. It's always been the cat."
Burt laughed, "Mr. Kat? Seriously?"
Henry glared at Burt.
"I mean, he usually blames his mistakes on the cat. Don't tell me you actually believe him?" Burt chuckled mirthlessly.
"Let me put it this way. A well behaved, model student suddenly becomes an aggressive, trouble maker without a reason. When did this start?" asked Henry.
"Oh, come on-"
"WHEN did this start?" interrupted Henry.
"When we found Mr. Kat. But-"
"And when he misbehaves, who does he usually blame?"
"He blames the cat."
"Exactly! Don't you think there's a connection?"
Burt frowned in confusion, "Henry-"
"No. You listen to me! I've seen the interactions he has with that cat. It honestly has a grudge against him."
This was ludicrous, thought Burt. "It's just a cat!"
Henry was furious. How could he be this ignorant?
"A cat that hates your son! Every time Coop enters a room, that cat seeks him out and attacks him. He constantly has scratches and bruises littered down his arms. Dennis tells me about it all the time. Coop can't sleep because the creature harasses him during the night. None of his possessions are safe because the cat destroys them. His homework is torn to shreds by claws. Doesn't this tell you something?"
Henry breathed loudly as silence fell between them. Burt was speechless.
"He doesn't feel safe in his own home! Don't you care?" Henry accused.
"I-I" Burt stuttered.
"Do you even love your son?"
This hit a nerve.
"How dare you! Of course, I love Coop. What kind of question is that?" yelled Burt.
Henry sneered, "I'm sorry. I was wrong." He paused for effect, "I meant that you loved Millie more."
Burt was livid, "WHAT!? I have no favourites. I treat them equally. How could you-"
Henry interrupted him again.
"If you really cared about him, you'd have put a stop to this from the beginning. Why are you letting the cat hurt him? "
"That's not fair! Mr. Kat belongs to Millie. It would be cruel to give her pet away."
"You didn't have that problem when the cat was affecting your life," scoffed Henry.
Henry explained, "When you thought you were allergic to the creature, you had no qualms against sending it away. But when your son has a problem with the cat, you ignore him. You favour your daughter."
"But… It would devastate her. She loves that thing."
"Or do you just want to avoid her throwing a tantrum? If you actually disciplined her, like you do your son, she wouldn't act out."
A pink tinge appeared on Burt's cheeks.
"That doesn't change the fact that she would be losing her pet," Burt argued.
"She's five years old. It would upset her for a week, before the next great thing comes along."
Both adults were now standing face to face, breathing heavily. Henry didn't like violence and he was sure Burt wouldn't do anything when his kids were nearby. He took a step back to let the situation calm down. He'd proven his point.
"I'm telling you this as a friend as well as a father. Get rid of the cat," said Henry.
Burt deflated, "Maybe you're right."
"The moment that cat leaves, you'll see the difference."
In the background, the two men heard the children arguing.
"Tell your creepy cat to leave me alone!"
"He's just playing. Don't be a baby."
"Ouch! He's using his claws."
"Meow, ha ha, Meow."
Burt spoke softly, "I always thought that Coop provoked the animal but… I was wrong. The cat really does hate him. How could I not have noticed? It was happening in my own home, right in front of me. I-I'm a bad father," tears welled up in his eyes.
Henry felt a tinge of guilt. He was blunt and perhaps a little harsh but it needed to be said.
"You're not a bad father. I didn't mean what I said about you favouring your children. I was frustrated with your obliviousness."
"But how could I have missed it?" Burt genuinely asked.
"I don't know but you realise the truth now. You can change things for the better!"
Burt weakly smiled, "Thanks Henry."
"Don't worry about it," Henry looked at his watch, "I should get going. My son is probably wondering why I'm taking so long."
Burt nodded, "Yeah. I should get back to my kids. I have something important to discuss with them."
As Henry walked back across the street, he could hear the Burtonburgers from inside their house.
"Daddy, tell Coop to play nicely with Mr. Kat!"
"There is no nice. That thing has it in for me."
"I know son. I-I finally understand."
"What? Did you just say…?"
"I believe you. I'm sorry it took so long."
Henry smiled. Hopefully now that Burt had learnt the truth, the neighbourhood could finally be peaceful once more.