SOCIAL DISTANCING, Chapter 13: In Which We Go Over The Mail

By Liz McLeod
Still Your House Manager
I could hear music as I opened the front door, and stepped into the living room to find Miss Carol T. Cat listening to a stack of records by the Benny Goodman Sextet. She was seated comfortably on the rug, poring over the album notes.
“The guitar solo by this hew-mon Charlie Christian,” she declared with a note of admiration, “is the essence of felinity. The descriptive matter is not clear. Is this hew-mon somehow also a felid?”
“Well, he was a pretty cool cat,” I replied, “if that’s what you mean.”

“Bring him to me at once,” she commanded. “Perhaps I might offer him some advice on technique. I notice a slight, almost horn-like vibrato.”
“I’m afraid that’s not possible,” I began. “He’s – ah ---hey, wait a minute. How did you….?”  I trailed off, realizing that I was perhaps better off not knowing the answer. “Anyway, I got something for you. Fan mail.”
“Indeed?” she replied, her green eyes dilating. “I had assumed the documents in your hand were the usual past-due obligations, and that you were about to request that I again provide you with financial aid. I was prepared to remind you that at this time of crisis my assets are unfortunately non-liquid.”
“No,” I said, shaking my head, “it’s fan mail. For real. People been readin’ about you.”
“Ah!” she brightened. “The Paris Review has at last published my essay on feline influences on the works of Derrida. It is little known that much of his early theories of poststructuralism were derived from careful observation of his feline overseer, one Monsieur Duveteux. I expect my revelations will be greeted with much enthusiasm by the academy.”
I didn’t know how I was going to break the news, so I bit the inside of my cheek and plunged recklessly forward. “It’s not that,” I stammered, “it’s about these – ah – articles, blogs, whatever you wanna call ‘em – that I been doin’ for the Strand website. You know, to kinda keep things lively durin’ the crisis an’ all.”
“What has this to do with me?” she responded, turning to nibble diffidently at her hindquarters.

The hour had struck, and retribution was at hand. But I threw back my shoulders and decided to take what was coming to me. “They’re – they’re *about* you. I been writin’ about, you know, different stuff you say and do, to kinda’ entertain people, y’know? Light hearted stuff, ha ha ha. Humor. Comedy. You know, right?”
Her eyes narrowed to tight slits, and I could see her fur bristling.  She paused, carefully considering her words. “I am,” she began, “a serious cat, as you yourself well know. But – let it not be said that I lack a sense of ‘noblesse oblige.’ I recognize that your species requires distraction at this time, some calming anodyne for its mounting fears and woes over the present situation. It does not distract from my position to assist in the manner in which you have described – providing,” and here she glared straight into my quivering soul, “that I am presented at all times in keeping with my natural air of dignity. I shall, in the parlance of the stage, play the role of the ‘straight cat,’ while you take on the role of the blundering, bungling funster. Is this clear?”

“Perfectly,” I replied, exhaling with relief. “Now, lemme read you some of this mail. I got postcards, I even printed out some e-mails, got all kinds of stuff here. You ready?”
“I am prepared. Proceed.”
“OK, now the first one is from Sharon. She says that you should remind me ‘not to get too comfortable in that chair.’”
“Sharon may be reassured that you will by no means be permitted to ‘get comfortable’ in that chair. I shall exert every means at my disposal to prevent you from doing so.”
“Next, we have one from Elizabeth – hey, I approve of the name, we gotta stick together – who says that you greatly resemble her own cat – ah, I mean the cat with whom she shares a dwelling – and wonders if you might be related.”
“It is entirely likely. My line is a long and distinguished one dating back centuries. The heritage of the noble Mackerel-Tabby clan is the stuff of legend in much of the civilized world. Elizabeth, you will advise your feline she may approach me at any time that she may require my valuable counsel.”
“Here’s a postcard from Susan. She says she loves you!”
“As well she might. I am exceedingly lovable. It is one of my outstanding virtues.”
“And here’s a message from Joanna – you remember her, you used to claw her leg when she’d come over to work on sewing projects. She says hello, and she enjoys your stuff very much.”
“I am pleased that our past conflicts have been forgotten. Assure her that I meant her no harm. My gestures were intended solely to call attention to my empty food bowl. She sat closest to it at the time, and was in a position to provide the service that you yourself had so willfully neglected.”
“This one comes from Dean. He says he has a couple of – ah – cat jokes that I shouldn’t – ah –“
Her eyes narrowed again. “See that you don’t,” she snapped.
“Dean also thinks I – um – we – ah – that is to say, YOU have excellent taste in music.”
“I am pleased that I have been able to educate the public in such matters.”
At that, Miss Carol jumped up to the chair. “I shall at this time fulfill my pledge to Sharon. You shall not ‘get comfortable’ in this chair.”
“I wasn’t planning to. I’m gonna lie down on the couch.”
“The couch is also off limits to you. I have plans for the couch.”

“Ridiculous fat barrel cat.”
She snorted once, and fell asleep, her paw lightly atop her stack of fan mail.
She’d never say so, but I know she appreciates it. Thanks, folks.
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