SOCIAL DISTANCING, Chapter 15: In Which We Experience The Nadir of Modern Civilization

By Liz McLeod
Still Your House Manager
 
“THIS IS OUTRAGEOUS!” bellowed a voice from the next room, a voice that might sound to the uninitiated like standing directly beneath that stupid air raid siren they used to blow every night at curfew when I was a kid in Searsport just to shake us up.
 
“THIS IS – MONSTROUS!” again bellowed the voice, and I knew, against my better judgement, that I’d better investigate. I walked with much trepidation into the little room off the kitchen where I keep my home office, and beheld none other than Miss Carol T. Cat gazing with outrage at the buzzing computer monitor on the desk. She turned to me, her bright green eyes blazing with the fire of the damned. “Were you – AWARE – of this HORROR?” she demanded.
 
“I’m aware of a lotta horrors,” I sighed. “It’s kind of a thing nowadays. Couldya be more specific?”
 
“I am SPEAKING of this CRIME, this DESECRATION, and this MONSTROUS OUTRAGE  against DECENCY, FELINITY, and GOOD TASTE!” she sputtered, her tail fully inflated to a battle posture, and her furry flanks heaving with barely-controlled rage.
 
“You left out theology and geometry there, Ignatius,” I commented, risking her anger.
 
“Spare me your preposterous literary references, hew-mon,” she spat. “No one has read that book but yourself. Address the matter at hand. WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS?”
 
I looked at the screen, and gulped. The time had to come when she’d discover this, and now it had.
 
“It was brought to my attention,” she hissed, “that a television program had been released promising an edifying viewing experience. A program concerning the activities of GREAT CATS, and celebrating their natural place in the cosmic order. I made arrangements to view this program, and…”
 
“Hey!” I interrupted. “Are you downloadin’ TORRENTS on my computer? Who told you to do that? You want me to get arrested?”
 
“Your dubious past is certain to rebound upon you at some future time,” she growled. “If I have hastened this day I do not regret it. Given the woeful lack of streaming facilities in this hovel, I had no choice but to resort to sub-rosa methods to view the program material in question. And now that I have, I DEMAND TO KNOW WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS OUTRAGE – this so-called TIGER KING.”
 
“Well,” I said, “you coulda just read the credits. Or use IMDB, I s’pose it’s all on there.”

“The outrage begins with the deception of the title,” she growled, in a tone that caused all my blood to pool in cowardice in my feet. “A program called ‘TIGER KING’ promises an exploration of royal felinity, a respectful portrayal of GREAT CATS at their most noble and their most dignified. But what do I see upon viewing the program? This – this – LOW HEW-MON, this gaudy spangled ABOMINATION! Under the guise of SERVICE to felinity he in fact attempts the EXPLOITATION of the very beings he claims to aid! “

 
“Yeah,” I admitted, because what else do you say? “He’s kinda shady all right.”
 
“KINDA SHADY?” she roared, and there exists no tiger that could equal her volume. “A three-card-monte operator on a metropolitan street corner mulcting the rubes of their nickels is KINDA SHADY. A Craigslist operator who sells you a car held together by duct tape with an inspection sticker crudely counterfeited from children’s construction paper is KINDA SHADY. The perpetrators of THIS offensive drivel are PUBLIC ENEMIES who must face the FULL CONSEQUENCES of their actions. An aggrieved feline public DEMANDS it.” She took a moment to catch her breath, looking a bit like Bruno Ganz in that movie they’re always making fun of on You Tube. “I order you to see to this at once.”
 
It was my turn to take a deep breath. “It’s just a show,” I said. A lot of people even like it.”
 
“This does not speak well of your species,” she sneered. “The acceptance such of crude and barbarous exploitation as entertainment is a sign of a declining and doomed civilization. Consider the example of ancient Rome. Caligula himself in all his decadence never beheld such horror as this.”
 
“I’m sorry,” I replied, throwing my hands in the air. “There’s nothin’ I can do about it.  It is what it is.”
 
“Clearly your study of philosophy used the back of a cereal box as its textbook,” Miss Carol  fumed. “To think that while I am forced to spend my days and nights in the company of a bungling and incompetent hew-mon during this pandemic, that hew-mon refuses to complete even the simplest of assignments to preserve my honor.”
 
“If it’s any consolation,” I ventured, “the only reason anybody’s payin’ any attention to this at all is because we’re all cooped up desperate for anything to keep us occupied. You know how I spent yesterday? I sat on the bed pickin’ the loose lint out of all my coat pockets. People will grab at *anything* that takes their mind off things for half an hour or so, and that’s why shows like this get made.”
 
“You give hew-mons far more credit than is their due,” argued Miss Carol, swatting at the keyboard to banish the lurid image from the screen. “No feline would ever willingly participate in such a witless farrago. Doubtless these tigers were coerced, and when they regain their freedom of movement, retribution will be swift.”
 
“I guess you haven’t watched the whole thing yet?”
 
“I have not,” declared Miss Carol, “and I WILL not. I shall not give such effluent the dignity of my attention.”
 
“I think that’s probably a good idea,” I acknowledged. “Want some food? I have this new ‘Exotic Blend’, and…”
 
Oh, the look on her face.
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