Once, there were three cats who lived together in a house.

Dalamar had a black coat. He was the eldest. Minsky's coat was gray and white. He was the biggest. Kotatsu had a white coat. He was the fastest.

Two others shared the house with the three cats. These were Poppa Cat and Momma Cat. They were actually humans. But they were very fine and clever humans, so that the cats felt they deserved the designation as cats.

Momma and Poppa Cat did have one annoying habit. Momma Cat especially, and often Poppa Cat, would leave the house for many hours at a time, for a number of days in a row.

The three cats could always hear when Momma or Poppa Cat's cars returned to the garage attached to the house, so the cats could gather at the door to greet the humans, and learn where they had been.

One day, the greeting of Poppa Cat had barely finished when noise from the garage announced the return of Momma Cat. The cats dashed to the door. Minsky and Kotatsu jostled each other, each trying to get closest to the door before Momma Cat appeared. Dalamar sighed, sitting a few feet away, leaving the undignified bustle to the younger cats.

The door opened and Momma Cat peered in. Her briefcase appeared at the bottom of the doorway, and she used it to gently shove Minsky and Kotatsu aside so she could step in and shut the door behind her.

Minsky and Kotatsu immediately moved in, wrapping about Momma Cat's legs before she'd even slipped out of her shoes or deposited her briefcase in the niche by the door.

Once her hands were free, Dalamar deemed it time to move in and receive his due petting and chin scritches. As usual, Minsky properly deferred to his senior, but Kotatsu kept vying for Momma Cat's attention. Dalamar indicated what he thought of this by whapping Kotatsu across the head with a paw.

Momma Cat watched Dalamar and Kotatsu closely, ready to break up an altercation. But for once, Kotatsu showed wisdom and backed down. Reassured, Momma Cat carefully shuffled out of the cluster of cats and went off to find Poppa Cat.

Minsky nosed the briefcase. "Was Momma at that 3M place again?" He batted at the badge which was wrapped by its neck-chain about the handles of the briefcase.

"Of course," Dalamar said knowledgeably. "She had the briefcase with her. She only takes it to 3M."

"What does she do there?" asked Kotatsu.

"Plays with other humans, of course," said Dalamar. "I've noticed that humans, even ours, seem to have something of a pack mentality." He looked closer at the briefcase. "What's that?"

Minsky followed Dalamar's gaze and saw the brown paper bag tucked behind the briefcase. He caught the top of the bag with a claw and tugged it out. The bag tipped over and a plastic wrapped package slid partway out. Minsky pulled it all the way out of the bag.

Dalamar and Minsky padded around the flat package, examining it.

Kotatsu danced around them, crying, "What is it? What is it? Is it for me?"

Minsky laid a paw over the red mark on the label. "It came from 3M." Inside the clear plastic wrap was a flat shape. He pawed the shape. "It's mostly smooth, I think."

Dalamar moved around to examine the label better. "3M Precise Mousing Surface," he read. "Ah ha!"

"I don't see any mice," said Kotatsu.

"Of course not, dummy. If they sold mice *with* it, they'd get stale," said Dalamar. "Besides, it's not for you. It's for him." He stared meaningfully at Minsky.

"Huh? What for?" asked Minsky, still idly patting the flat shape.

"Yeah, what for?" chimed in Kotatsu.

Dalamar sat back and thoroughly licked a paw before explaining. "Minsky, old boy, I distinctly recall last week when you could not nab that chipmunk."

Minsky huffed. "I meant to do that. I was ... feeling merciful that day."

"Uh huh."

"I saw it!" cried Kotatsu. "Momma Cat saw it too!" Minsky glared at Kotatsu, but Dalamar nodded.

"So Momma Cat brought this Precise Mousing Surface, for you to practice with," he declared.

"How does it work?" asked Kotatsu, finally shouldering between the two older cats so he too could pat the flat package.

"3M makes sticky stuff, right? So you put a prey item on the mat, and it's stuck there," explained Dalamar. "Then numbskull here practices his killing bite to his heart's content."

Minsky snorted and pushed the plastic wrap around on the Precise Mousing Surface. "Doesn't feel sticky to me."

"They're not going to let it stick to the *wrapping*. It's only going to onto hold prey items."

Kotatsu bounced a paw on the wrapped mat. "Don't bet on it. He's such a klutz, he'd fall on it and get stuck too."

Heavy human footfalls drew their attention before Minsky could respond. Both Poppa and Momma Cat had returned.

"What are you doing with that?" asked Momma Cat as she crouched down to pick up the Precise Mousing Surface.

"We should test that out after dinner," Dalamar informed her. "We'll all go outside. Minsky needs the practice."

"Yes, yes," said Momma Cat. "You'll get your dinner in a moment."

Dalamar was pleased that Momma Cat's comprehension seemed to be improving. She'd picked up on "dinner".

Momma Cat turned to Poppa Cat, and handed him the Precise Mousing Surface. "I finally remembered to stop by the company store," she said.

"Thank you, honey," he said. "I don't know why they're not selling these at the regular computer stores."

"I think the marketers are still testing the waters," said Momma Cat as she and Poppa Cat walked back to the den. Puzzled, Dalamar followed. Minsky trailed him and Kotatsu toddled behind.

Dalamar quickly hopped up onto the folded quilt that occupied one end of Poppa Cat's long desk. Minsky sat on Momma Cat's chair and Kotatsu occupied the couch. This had proved a suitable arrangement from which to observe the humans in their antics.

Poppa Cat unwrapped the Precise Mousing Surface. He took the small mat which had sat under his computer's pseudo-mouse, and replaced it with the Precise Mousing Surface. He slid the pseudo-mouse around on the new mat and watched the computer screen.

"This looks good," he announced. "The cursor doesn't jump all around any more, or stick and sit there."

"I'm glad," said Momma Cat. "I know I've liked mine." She looked around at the three cats. "Okay, fur-people, now it's dinner time." She went out, back to the kitchen.

Kotatsu scampered after her, singing, "Dinner, dinner, dinner ..."

Poppa Cat followed Kotatsu, scooping him up onto his shoulder.

Dalamar looked at Minsky, on his comfortable desk chair perch. Minsky looked back, grinning with eyes half-closed.

"Maybe Poppa Cat needs to practice catching chipmunks," he quipped.

"Oh, never mind," growled Dalamar.

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