SOCIAL DISTANCING, Chapter 17: In Which Miss Carol Has A Ball

By Liz McLeod
Still Your House Manager
 
Miss Carol T. Cat glared at me in silent rage as I snapped on the kitchen light. But she didn’t remain silent long.
 
“What is the meaning of this intrusion?” she demanded, in a voice that might sound to the uninitiated like the Riverside D train screeching into Kenmore station just in time for you to miss it.  “You have interrupted an essential activity. Explain yourself at once.”
 
I stood there, blinking in the sudden light, and glanced up at the electric clock on the wall. “It’s quarter of three in the morning!” I bleated.
 
“Is it?” replied Miss Carol, turning to nibble at a phantom speck cluttering her hindquarters. “I had assumed it was earlier. Clearly I have not yet fully acclimatized to your ridiculous ‘Daylight Savings Time.’ I thank you for bringing this to my attention, but it was not necessary for you to interrupt your open-mouthed slumber in order to do so. You may return to your bed. I shall summon you when the hour has arrived for my morning meal.”
 
“Oh, don’t start,” I grumbled. “You know why I’m down here. You expect me to sleep with all that noise?”
 
“I am aware of no noise,” she replied, in that infuriatingly diffident tone that makes me wonder if dog people are right. “No doubt the buzzsaw rasp of your snoring masked from my perception any lesser sounds.”
 
“Look, don’t play games,” I snapped back. “Every night it’s the same thing, and – AH! I SEE IT! I KNOW WHAT YOU BEEN UP TO!”
 
She slowly closed her eyes and then, just as slowly reopened them. That is Miss Carol’s way of delivering a certain pithy Anglo-Saxon phrase generally interpreted as “Please leave me at once, I have no further need for your presence.”
 
“IT’S RIGHT THERE ON THE FLOOR!” I yelled, pointing at a small white sphere in the corner.
 
“I have never seen such an object,” Miss Carol replied. “No doubt your failure to adequately maintain these premises has permitted all manner of infestation. I advise that you fumigate the entire structure at once.”
 
I shuffled across the floor and picked up the object, and squinted closely. “Where did you get a golf ball?” I rasped. “I don’t play golf.  Nobody that’s ever set foot in this house plays golf. I don’t even watch golf on TV.”
 
“And you claim to be of Scots ancestry,” she smirked. “Doubtless your noble ancestors would fling their niblicks in the air at such an outrage.”
 
“Don’t change the subject,” I fired back. “Why are you rollin’ a golf ball across the kitchen floor at quarter o’ three in the morning? Don’t you know the noise that makes? I’m tryin’ to sleep!”
 
“If you practice, you will eventually master the skill,” she replied. “As for the ball, I require exercise and mental stimulation in order to maintain peak physical condition. Since you sealed the hole in the cellar wall, I have been denied access to my natural prey. The ball provides, at best, an adequate substitute until the deteriorating condition of this structure again permits the entry of small rodents. I would trouble you to return the ball to the floor. I have not yet completed the necessary repetitions.”
 
“Now lissen to me,” I hissed. “Do you know what a golf ball is? It’s a whole bunch of rubber bands stretched really tight and wrapped around a hard little core, an’ then they seal it up in a hard plastic cover.  But that golf ball ain’t nothin’ compared to the pressure buildin’ up right in here.” I thumped my chest for emphasis. “So you better smarten up an’ let me get some rest.”
 
“I submit that you get far too much rest than can be justified under present circumstances,” replied Miss Carol, feinting my argument with a master stroke of logic. “You are not a felid, and thus you do not require eighteen hours of rest per day. A hew-mon such as yourself can function adequately on far less. Your ill-natured disposition is ample evidence that your needs for rest have been over-sated by current conditions. What you require, instead, is activity, and the more of it the better.”
 
I sighed, as much as anyone can sigh at quarter of three in the morning. She did have a point. This whole lockdown situation’s not doing my physical condition any favors either. I’ve gained weight, and I don’t get anywhere near as much exercise as I need to. Maybe she’s got the right idea. Maybe I need to find something I can do to try and keep moving. Walking, hiking, maybe when it’s a little warmer I can ride my bike. Even going up and down the stairs ten times a day would be better than slumping in a chair every night counting the cracks in the ceiling.
 
I tossed the ball back, and it thunked hard against the tiles and bounced under the refrigerator. Miss Carol just stared, a stare combining anger, disappointment, frustration, and pity in equal measure.
 
“We shall begin your exercise regimen at once,” she declared. “Please remove the vegetable bin from the bottom of the refrigerator unit. Assume a prone position on the floor and extend first your right arm and then your left into the aperture beneath the compressor unit. Repeat this motion until you have retrieved the ball.”
 
“Ridiculous fat barrel cat!” I grouched, as I did as she directed.
 
“Once you have retrieved the ball,” she continued, “we shall repeat this exercise twenty-five times.”
 
“It’s quarter of three in the morning!”
 
“Excellent,” she purred, with a gentle stroke of her whiskers. “Begin at once. We have the night before us.”
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