STRAND spotlight

By Liz McLeod

Still Your House Manager

 

“That was really somethin,’” I declared as I threw my coat over the stair railing and advanced toward the kitchen. Miss Carol T. Cat met me at the refrigerator with an expectant gaze.  “You are twenty-four minutes late,” she observed, with just the slightest edge to her voice. I know that tone, but filled with endorphins from the day just completed, I ignored it.

“I was surrounded by food today,” I continued to Miss Carol, as I pulled a cold slice of boiled ham from the refrigerator for me and a half-can of Friskies Chicken Filets In Gravy for Herself. She eyed the ham covetously, but I gave no ground. Miss Carol was nonplussed.

“You spent the day surrounded by food?” she inquired, her head tilted, the better to follow the cold slice of boiled ham as it followed a neat path toward my mouth. “Why was I not invited to partake in such a repast? It may interest to you to know that I have spent the afternoon by the window, pondering the unjust fate that leaves such a fine felid as myself locked away from the squirrels and birds that would bring fulfillment to my life, and thus to learn that you have spent your day frisking and capering about among articles of food is, to say the least, a grave insult. Explain yourself.”

“It was nothin’ like that,” I said, between chews of ham. “You remember that AIO Food Pantry drive we had down at the Strand that we talked about before, that you were all gung-ho about? Well, it came off better than we could’ve ever expected. People came out in force, an’ they filled the Strand with food not once, not twice, but THRICE. That’s three times, awright? Izzat somethin’ or what? All those people comin’ together to put the Strand to good use, an’ I gotta tell ya, it was the best feeling I’ve had in a very long time. Seeing PEOPLE back in the Strand again, having an EVENT again at the Strand was somethin’ I’ve been waitin’ for for months now, and it felt, I have to say, really really good.”

Miss Carol gazed upon the vanishing remnant of the ham slice, reflecting on my statement. “I have often been sorely critical of hew-mons,” she began, “ particularly given the events of the past four years. You have seemed to me to be a species uniquely unsuited to a self-governing society. Other felids, I know, share my view. But I have been pleased and impressed by your resilience during the recent times of crisis, and the news that the community responded with such zeal to your charity drive is both heartening and encouraging that you may, at long last, be ready to proceed forward toward a more just social order. We, of course – that is to say, we of the felids – stand ready to offer our guidance in this direction at all times.  And that said,  I observe with some consternation that you have returned from your day empty handed.”

“Uh yeah,” I said. “You got plenty of food right here.”

“It’s the thought,” she snapped back, “that counts. And this brings me to another matter. Are you aware that in the ten years that I have shared my home with you…”

“Um, who’s name izzat on th’ mortgage again?”

“A mere legal technicality,” she sniffed, “arranged for tax purposes.  As I was saying, are you aware that in the ten years that I have shared my home with you, I have never once stepped foot across the threshold of the Strand?”

“Cats aren’t allowed at the Strand,” I shrugged. “That’s just the way it goes.”

“Nonsense,” she snapped back. “I am aware that DOGS, foul canine beasts, have been permitted access to your facility. To bar CATS from the premises is entirely inappropriate.”

“Those are service dogs,” I replied. “They come there to do work, helping their humans. What work did you ever do?”

“My work takes place in realms beyond your comprehension. Scarcely could you even begin to comprehend the planes upon which my work is undertaken. But it would please me on some occasion to be admitted to the Strand for, let us say, a private viewing of some feline-themed motion picture. ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,’ perhaps.”

“Ridiculous fat barrel cat.”

“You may, of course, forego the popcorn. I find grain products unpalatable. Have you considered offering herring filets to your audience?”

“I’ll get right on it,” I sighed.

By Liz McLeod

Still Your House Manager

 

“Look,” I declared, fixing Miss Carol T. Cat in a steely gaze. “We gotta talk.”

Miss Carol T. Cat opened one green eye, sized up my gaze, and found it wanting. I would not be dissuaded.

“Look,” I repeated, “we gotta talk. About food.”

I said the secret word, but no duck came down to give me $100. (Kids, ask grandma what that means.) Too bad, I could use $100 right now. But be that as it may, my pronunciation of that monosyllable was sufficient to snap Miss Carol to full attention. Her eyes glistened, and I could see her muscles tensing, the better to make an immediate leap off the saggy cushion of the big blue chair and scramble rapidly to her kitchen bowl. And she seemed a bit perturbed that I made no move in that direction myself.

Nor did I intend to. This was serious.

“Have you ever,” I began, “gone to bed hungry? Do you know what that feels like?”

Miss Carol toyed with a sarcastic reply, but something about my unsmiling mien restrained her. That doesn’t happen often, so she knew I *must* be serious.

“I *do* know what that feels like,” I continued. “I *have* gone to bed hungry in my life, and more than once. I *have* scrambled for whatever resources I could find just to buy something to eat. I *have* had to decide between eating and paying the bills. I *have* turned the heat down to 50 degrees in the middle of winter because it’s the only way to make the money stretch out a little further. And let me tell you something, it’s not something you ever forget, no matter how long ago it was. Even when you’ve got enough to eat, for the rest of your life it’ll be in the back of your head that it could happen again someday --  all it would take is a stretch of bad luck, like losing your job to a pandemic. And when you see someone else in that position, well – it’s time to do something about it.”

Miss Carol returned my gaze.

“So here’s what’s gonna happen,” I said. “The Strand is cooperating the with Area Interfaith Outreach and their Food and Energy Assistance Drive – they help people around the community who are really up against it, people who can’t pay the bills and feed the kids on sympathetic talk and good wishes and Facebook likes. On Monday January 18th, they’ll have volunteers at the Strand to take donations of groceries, and the idea is to fill every seat in the Strand with a bagful. That’s three hundred and fifty seats, and we can even squeeze in some portable chairs down in the orchestra pit if we have to. Any kind of non-perishable food will help – pop-topped canned goods, packaged goods, cereals, shelf-stable or powdered milk – all that kind of stuff, anything that ISN’T EXPIRED, and anything that isn’t packaged in glass. Or, a $25 cash donation will sponsor a bagful. However you do it, this is a time, especially now, with people losing jobs to the pandemic, and the winter here, when AIO really needs help. I’m gonna be down there that day doing my bit, and I hope everybody else out there who read us every week will do their bit too.”

Miss Carol looked on intently, obviously in deep thought. “I was unaware,” she finally replied, “of the depths of the present situation. I entirely approve of this decision, and this evening I shall help you make the rounds of our own kitchen in order to collect for the cause. This is no time for repartee or pointed jests. The situation demands action.”

“Thank you,” I said. And, might I add, Miss Carol wasn’t just talking to me.

By Liz McLeod
Still Your House Manager
 
“I call your attention,” declared Miss Carol T. Cat, “to an essential truth. The year 2020 is now at its conclusion.”
 
“What?” I muttered, brushing six hours’ attempts at sleep out of my saggy baggy eyes.

“The old year now recedes into history,” Miss Carol continued, with crisp authority. “A new year dawns.”
 
“Not yet it doesn’t,” I growled back. “It’s five o’clock in the morning. Call me again when the sun comes up. I can’t face what I can’t see.”
 
Miss Carol would not be so glibly dismissed. Glib dismissal is something Miss Carol does, it is not something that is done to her. You’d think after ten years I’d know that by now, and as if to reassert her controlling position in the conversation, she brushed her claws, ever so lightly but ever so unmistakably, against my jugular vein. One of these days I’m going to get a turtle-neck nightgown.
 
“It is customary at this season of the year to take stock,” Miss Carol declared, and knowing when I was licked, I turned on the light. “We must consider the lessons learned as the old year closes, and we must consider the eventualities of the year to come. It is my observation, to begin the review of 2020, that you have not handled the challenges of the year past with particular aplomb.”
 
“Sez you,” I rejoindered, without putting much effort into it. How much effort could *you* muster, arguing with a cat at 5 o’clock in the morning. “I thought I been doing pretty well, all things considered.”
 
“Crouching in a fetal position on the bathroom floor as you weep uncontrollably is not ‘pretty well,’” countered Miss Carol, “by any acceptable definition of the term.”
 
“I only done that once,” I snapped. “That day they traded Mookie was rough on everybody.”
 
“Nonetheless,”  insisted Miss Carol, “the breach of self-control was unacceptable. I recommend a program of rigorous self-criticism designed to focus your poorly-balanced emotional state into more productive channels.”
 
“I’ll get right on it,” I sighed, pressing the pillow over my face.
 
“Now, to our second concern,” segued Miss Carol. All that was missing from her presentation was Powerpoint slides, but fortunately my computer is too old to run that application. “It is customary at this time, as you hew-mons put it, to ‘make resolutions’ intended to focus your attention on positive accomplishments over the twelve months to follow. I have several suggestions, which you may implement to your benefit.”
 
“I’m sure you do,” I mumbled, with a mouth full of pillow.
 
“It goes without saying,” she continued, “although I shall, for the sake of the conversation, say it -- the year to come will feature numerous challenges. The end of the year 2020 by no means cancels the many difficulties which have taken their toll on the twelve months previous  -- indeed, the arrival of the new year only emphasizes the necessity for calm but decisive action on multiple fronts. The matter of the coronavirus pandemic must be resolved, and in the wake of that resolution must come a reordering of social and economic matters thrown into disarray by the events of the past nine months.”
 
“Absolutely,” I groaned. “Consider it done.”
 
“Excellent,” she nodded. “I have no doubt that the proper steps will be taken.”
 
“That’s a relief,” I agreed. It’s so much easier to sleep at night knowing your cat is confident that all will be well with the world. I hope hope hope hope that she is right.
 
“There is another matter that requires your attention,” Miss Carol declared. “It has come to my notice that on several occasions during 2020 you substituted Friskies Chicken with Salmon for my customary Thursday supper of Friskies Chicken with Tuna. As you are no doubt aware, felids are beings of habit. Please see that such errors are not repeated in the year to come.”
 
“I promise,” I moaned, and I meant it. I might have no control whatsoever over anything that may happen in the world in the year 2021, but I’ll tell you one thing, I can read a label on a can of cat food, and to do so with greater caution in the year ahead is a resolution I feel that I can confidently keep.  If 2020 taught me anything, it’s that you gotta pick your battles.

By Liz McLeod

Still Your House Manager

 

“Hey!” I heyed, as Miss Carol T. Cat hurtled over my shoulder and plonked solidly upon the desk. Now, hurtling is quite an accomplishment for eighteen pounds of fur, claws, and adipose, but Miss Carol T. is no ordinary Cat.

“I repeat,” I repeated, “’Hey!’” Miss Carol T. Cat responded by knocking a pair of pliers off the desk and a faint trace of a smile flicked across her furry features as it made a satisfying “clunk” on the floor. I wasn’t pleased by this. I’m at the age where I have to choose my bendings-over carefully, and I prefer to avoid them altogether unless absolutely necessary. Unfortunately the toppled implement was, in fact, absolutely necessary to the work I was doing, so, begrudgingly, I creaked off the edge of the chair and, boldly defying the aggressive onset of bursitis in my right shoulder, leaned over just far enough to reach the pliers and snatch them up. I could swear I saw a look of annoyed disappointment replace that trace of a smile on Miss Carol's pan, but I ignored her. Well, no, I lie. She made it impossible for me to ignore her by, without breaking her gaze, shoving the pliers back off the edge of the desk again.

I knew when I was licked. “What’s the problem?” I groaned, certain that it had some relation to an empty food bowl or some other pressing concern.

“The time has come,” declared Miss Carol, “to discuss the coming holiday season.”

“That’s exactly what I’m doing here,” I snapped back. “Or was, until you decided to interfere in the proceedings.”

“Nonsense,” sniffed Miss Carol. “You are amusing yourself with some trifling task, bent low over your work and squinting desperately in a futile attempt to compensate for your fading vision. You will cease this fruitless activity at once, as I call your attention to matters of more serious import.”

“Oh yeah?” That’s always a pretty weak response, but it was late and I’d exhausted most of my ripostes arguing about whether “Monsieur Verdoux” is a funny picture or not over on some sorry corner of the Internet. Hey, don’t laugh. Yeah, like your life’s any more dynamic right now. “Oh yeah?” I pressed forward. “Look, I’m doin’ some important stuff here. I’m makin’ a Christmas present for my mother.”

“Indeed?” replied Miss Carol. “You must excuse me. I had formed the impression that you were toying with a small heap of corroded old junk.”

“Shows what you know. I’m making something she really needs,” I insisted. “Something she’ll use every day. Something I can’t say out loud here because she reads this blog and she’ll complain I spoiled the surprise if I let the cat out of the bag now…”

Miss Carol’s eyes expanded dangerously. I immediately retracted my poor choice of idiom. As it happens, Miss Carol is quite fond of bags, but she emerges from them on her own terms, in her own time, with no interference from low creatures like me.  My half-baked apology brought no respite from her glare, so I pushed on. “I’ve been doin’ a lot of shopping,” I said. “As you know, one of the Dear Young People is getting married next year ---

“I shall not attend,” snapped Miss Carol, “if those foul canines are present.”

“I don’t think you’re invited anyway,” I replied. “It’ll be socially distant and all. But I’ve got her a Christmas present that suits the situation, but I can’t tell you what it is here. Another of the Dear Young People has recently added two young felines to her household, and an appropriate holiday gift is en route. She also has a husband,” I added. “And a snake.”

Miss Carol’s eyes took on the appearance of glowing green basketballs. Miss Carol is not fond of reptiles. Many years ago I shocked her sensibilities with a small rubber garden snake, and she has never forgiven the transgression. “The disturbing activities of your youthful acolytes are of no consequence,” Miss Carol continued. “The time has come to discuss – my own gift.”

“Look, I told you before,” I rushed back, “it’s against the zoning to keep a wild turkey in the house. Even if you’re only gonna use it for practice. But that does remind me of something else. You got fans on the internet, you know, and some of them have asked me what they could send you for a Christmas present. An’ y’know what I told ‘em?”

Miss Carol’s face was a study in close concentration, but she said nothing. I picked up the cue.

“I told ‘em they ought to make a donation in your honor to the Strand’s Go Fund Me page. We’re trying to meet a goal of $20,000 to help us get thru the rest of the pandemic and all, an’ really, wouldn’t you rather anything they might use to buy you some toy you’ll bat under the couch or under the radio and immediately forget about be spent instead to help keep the Strand a going concern? We’ve been doing a lot for the past nine months to keep things moving – streaming entertainment, educational projects, our radio show, this blog, all the other things that keep the Strand spirit alive – and when we get to where we can reopen the actual theatre, why, we really want to hit the ground runnin’. So what better way to recognize the edifying role Miss Carol has played in your life over the past nine months than to visit https://charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign/rockland-keep-the-strand-strong and send a little something in her honor?”

“Indeed,” nodded Miss Carol. “I would find this a worthy and entirely commendable manner of acknowledging me at this festive season. I urge all of my many followers to take careful heed of the appeal thus given. But – that is not what I came here to discuss.”

“It isn’t?”

“It is not. My purpose this evening is to announce the gift I am prepared to share with you. In honor of the holiday season, I shall permit you to sleep thru the evening without interruption come Christmas Eve. I shall slumber quietly at your side, ready to snap to immediate attention in order to assist Mr. S. Nicholas Claus in the performance of his festive duties, but I shall not awaken you until the coming of the dawn.”

I was genuinely moved by her largesse. “I don’t know what to say.”

“You may express your gratitude by, in lieu of a wild turkey, unleashing a bowl of Friskies Turkey Filets with Gravy.”

“Ridiculous fat barrel cat.”

“Have a care,” she warned, looking over her shoulder as she led me to the kitchen. “I agreed to let you sleep, but I will not be responsible for any falling lumps of coal.”

By Liz McLeod

Still Your House Manager

 

“As our radio friends down in Abysmal Point might say,” I commented as a severed tree limb crashed into the side of the house, “she’s some kinda blowy out tonight, ain’t she?"

Miss Carol T. Cat had no response to this observation. Miss Carol T. Cat was sequestered under the little table next to the big blue chair, and all you could see in the dim, flickering glow was the glare of her bright green eyes. Miss Carol T. Cat was deeply offended that the weekend had brought such meteorological outrage upon her. She had, on several occasions before withdrawing to her place of refuge, called my attention to her strong feelings on this matter. She wasn’t in the mood for flippant commentary delivered in a nasal Maine dialect, but I figured, hey, there’s nothing else to do so why not try my luck.

A loud explosion sounded somewhere over in the next block, and the lights, such as they were, went out.

“This is monstrous!” growled Miss Carol T. Cat from beneath the table. The lights immediately flickered back on, but Miss Carol was unsatisfied.

“Nah,” I said, leaning back in my chair so the wet washcloth easing my aching head wouldn’t slip off into my lap. Don’t you hate when the wet washcloth easing your aching head slips off into your lap? “It’s just a no’theasta,” I explained, keeping up the dialect. You will note, in passing, that I did not say, nor will I ever say, “nor’easter.” My ancestors were rampant in New England long enough ago that I had a 6X-great grandmother who was hung as a witch, and from that day to this, none of my family have ever once allowed the base corruption “nor’easter” to pass our lips. We are noted, and are proud of, our non-rhoticity, and we resist such whey-faced literary affectations with all that is in us.  The word is “no’theasta.” That’s the word my dear old grandfather would say as he sat in his kitchen chair with his feet stuck in the bun-warmer and observed that another no’theasta was coming, and that’s what I’ll say as long as there’s a breath within me. “Nor’easter” is an aberration I want no part of. (My family also doesn’t care if you use a preposition to end a sentence with, but that’s not a proud regional tradition, it’s just that we don’t care.)

“Are you done?” replied Miss Carol.

“Yeah,” I said. “I laid awake last night thinking up that whole no’theasta bit, and I wanted to make sure I got it in before I forgot.”

“Indeed, then," she contintinued, her voice taking on a note of severe impatience. “I demand to know what you intend to do about this storm. As you know, it has disrupted my sleep cycle and caused me much discomfort. I was scarcely able to finish my second can of Friskies Turkey With Gravy Fillets.”

“Sure,” I said. “I notice you left one or two specks on the dish there.”

“Your snide comments will avail you not,” Miss Carol warned, “and no doubt the ultimate result of my agitation will be deposited upon the rug ‘ere the night is over. Be warned that unless you take immediate steps to halt the thunderous wind and the pounding rain, you will reap the consequences of your inaction.”

A flat, dark object punctuated Miss Carol’s statement by sailing past the window before continuing its journey into the indefinable darkness of the night. “What was that?” Miss Carol demanded.

“Nothin’,” I said. “Just another shingle blowin’ off the roof. Lost a few of ‘em tonight.”

Miss Carol emerged from her emergency shelter, leaped onto the arm of the chair, and fixed me in a lethal gaze. “This ramshackle shanty shall soon be blown to splinters,” she declared, “and you do NOTHING? Have you no AWARENESS of the peril we face? With our home reduced to a mere stack of kindling we shall be forced to seek shelter elsewhere, possibly with one of your young associates. Possibly the one with DOGS.”

“Relax,” I said. “This house is a hundred and nine years old. This ain’t the first no’theasta it’s had to handle, an’ it won’t be the last. Besides, what am I supposed to do? You think I have control over the weather?”

“Well, certainly I had assumed from the array of advanced technology on the wall…”

“That’s an old barometer that stopped working in 1960,” I said. “It’s just there for the looks. No, I got nothing to say about the weather. It comes, it goes, and life goes on.”

“This attitude is unaccustomed,” observed Miss Carol. “You have long been given to disturbing rants on an array of topics, but here you seem determined to, in the parlance of the streets, ‘let it ride.’”

“I’ve learned a lot from the pandemic,” I replied. “I can’t make it go away by myself. I can do my part by wearin’ my mask, and bein’ socially distant, an’ gettin’ my shot when the time comes, but other than that, what can I, or any one person, do? It’s gonna be a collective effort that gets us out of this situation, not an individual one, and the sooner we all stop ranting on Facebook and screaming on Twitter at each other, and all pitch in together, the better it’ll be for everybody."

Miss Carol looked at me thoughtfully. That doesn’t happen often, so I figured I should take advantage of it.

“You see that guy there?” I said, pointing at the faded portrait of Franklin D. Roosevelt on the kitchen wall. “You know what he said when this country was in a much worse situation than it is now? ‘The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.’ That’s the real enemy right now, not people that post stuff we don’t like on Instagram.  If we can stop running around like a room full of terrified cats –“

Miss Carol locked me in a death stare, and I hurriedly backtracked.

“A room full of terrified – ah – rabbits, I mean, we can finally get this situation licked. That’s what it’s gonna take.  I’m not scared of this storm.  But I will,” I admitted, “be happy when it’s over."

Miss Carol  nodded. “Occasionally,” she agreed, “you are capable of sound reasoning. Courage is a vital ingredient for all as we face future uncertainties. As is my evening meal.”

I headed for the refrigerator.  Sound reasoning, after all, comes with obligations.

By Liz McLeod

Still Your House Manager

 

“Did you know,” I wondered aloud, “that reindeer survive in the Arctic winter by eating lichens and moss that they scrape up out of the permafrost with their hooves?”

Miss Carol T. Cat sat on the arm of the big blue chair, fixing me in a withering gaze.

“It’s fascinatin’ to learn this stuff,” I stammered, unsettled by her unblinking glare. You haven’t been withered until you’ve been withered by Miss Carol T. Cat’s withering gaze. Or her unblinking glare, either. “It’s all in the National Geographic, see? ‘Antlered Majesties Of The World.’ With pictures, even.”

Miss Carol said nothing. Behind her, the clock on the mantel chimed a hollow, out-of-tune TWO. I keep meaning to fix that.

“Are you aware of the time?” she finally replied, her voice carefully modulated to conceal her irritation. “It is 2 AM. At this hour, you are required to be in your bed, the better to provide me with much-needed insulation on a December night. Your insistence on setting the thermostatic control at its lowest possible point only serves to further chill this draft-ridden hovel in which we dwell, and as you know, the felid tolerance for cold decreases with increasing maturity.”

“I can’t sleep.” I admitted. “I’m having bad dreams again – last night I had three in a row, and tonight, I hadn’t been to sleep but an hour when I had a real doozie. I dreamed that you jumped up on my chest and turned into one a’ them little fluffy white yappy dogs. An’ you yapped right in my face, an’ your breath smelled like that bone saw I used to have to clean when I worked in that meat place. I couldn’t get it out of my head, so I came down here to try an’ get a grip. I turned on the radio but there was nothin’ on but this UFO conspiracy junk, an’ there’s nothin’ on television but this guy with weird fingers tryin’ to sell bags of worn-out Mercury dimes for easy payments of $162 a month. So I grabbed a magazine an’ tried to read.”

“Your sleep patterns have been disturbed for some time,” Miss Carol agreed. “This cannot continue. I require you to ‘pull yourself together’ at once. An early morning snack might be in order. You will find the can opener on the kitchen table.” 

“I’m not hungry,” I protested.

“I, however, am hungry,” Miss Carol retorted. “I suggest that careful attention to your household duties will prove salubrious.”

My head, great cementy lump that it is at 2 AM, thumped back on the chair.  “It’s no use,” I groaned. “I just can’t take any more. I’ve been taking it for nine months and I just can’t take any more. It’s December. It’s dark at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. I work all day in an empty theatre and I come home at night and sit in an empty house!”

Miss Carol scowled, and twitched her tail around the room. With her motion, a pile of books fell off the arm of the chair and clunked hardcoveredly to the floor. “A house as heaped with such a collection of irrelevant printed matter and assorted bric-a-brac as this scarcely qualifies as ‘empty’,” she opined. “Indeed, it is likely that you will one day  be cited for operating a ‘thrift store’ in a residential zone. The authorities take a dim view of such violations.”

“It ain’t a store if you don’t sell anything,” I mumbled. We’d had this discussion before, and I was ill-inclined to revisit it now. “But you get what I’m sayin’, right? I want my old life back!”

“Your life will resume its normal shape when conditions so warrant,” she replied, her voice taking a firm tone. “In the meantime, perhaps conditioned mental discipline will aid you to maintain your composure.”

“Hah!” I hahed. I’m in no condition for this at 2 AM, especially when I haven’t slept thru a night in a week.

“Gaze into my eyes,” she commanded. “Mastery of the art of hypnotherapy is one of my many accomplishments.”

“Don’t be stupid,” I growled. “You can’t even swing a half-a-dollar on a chain. How you gonna hypnotize me.”

Under the dim 60-watt lamplight, Miss Carol’s bright green eyes grew perceptibly brighter as they locked onto my own. She began to purr. Softly at first, then louder.

“You can’t hypnotize me,” I slurred, feeling my head thicken. “Ridiculous fat barrel….”

The purr grew louder.  I heard nothing else. The light went out.

I awoke, still slumped in the chair, as the clock struck seven.

“I was successful,” declared Miss Carol, from atop a stack of couch pillows.

“What?” I spurted, trying to get the taste of old flannel out of my mouth. “I fell asleep, that’s all. It happens.”

“Indeed,” said Miss Carol, a trace of a smile creasing her furry face.

“Yeah, well, you annat hypnosis, that’s the bunk,” I said, hoisting myself with some effort out of the chair. “Just a lot of baloney.”

“Indeed,” said Miss Carol, as she watched me open the refrigerator and, as if in a dream, pull out half a pound of said delectable salty lunch-meaty treat and dice it neatly into her bowl.  “Just a lot of baloney.”

“Wait, I forgot the gravy,” I muttered, with the unmistakable sense that someone else was controlling my movements. “Ridiculous fat barrel cat.”

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