SOCIAL DISTANCING, Chapter 18: In Which We Try To Rehearse.

By Liz McLeod
Still Your House Manager
“Cease that incessant babble!” commanded Miss Carol T. Cat, in a voice that sounded like the one that summoned you to the principal’s office when you were in the first grade the time you tied Mark Robinson’s shoelaces to the back of his chair because he kept trying to get you to watch him eat a bug at recess.
“I can’t,” I replied with dignity. “I’m rehearsin’!”
“Rehearsing your testimony will be of no benefit,” Miss Carol declared, pausing to make an unsuccessful attempt to nibble at the base of her tail. “You will be convicted and sentenced to the maximum penalty permitted under the law, and for good reason.”
“Hah?” I replied, and I meant it.
“Only persons of limited grasp of their faculties sit at the kitchen table illuminated by the dim glow of a single bare bulb, talking to themselves,” she continued. “It shall prove your undoing.”
“Why do I even try?” I said with a shake of my head borne of long, sad experience. “Look, I’m busy here. You’ve got food in your bowl, go bother that for a while.”
She stretched her head upward and rose upon her rear haunches, the better to try and catch a glimpse of what I was doing. She looked like a flabby, furred penguin – but I wasn’t about to say so. “What is the meaning of this activity?” she asked. “It seems to serve no purpose.”
“I’m practicing for the Strand radio show,” I said with more than a wisp of exasperation. “We’ve got a special ‘Social Distancing Edition’ coming up on May 17th”
“Your last attempt at entertainment so befouled the air,” she sneered, “I found it difficult to breathe. I tuned in the entire performance, and heard not a single mention of myself. I found your program offensive on that basis. Do you not realize that there are over ninety-five million cats residing in the United States? And yet, your broadcast included no feline performers, and made no reference whatever to this vital segment of the population. I can provide a full electrical transcription of the program for your reference in order to prove my point.”
“Oh, don’t bother,” I mumbled, fearing an argument and knowing its outcome. “You don’t know anything about entertainment anyway. When were you ever in a show?”
“It may interest you to know,” she snapped back, “that I am descended from a show business family. My great-grandmother eleventh removed was a mainstay in a famous vaudeville act. She appeared for several tours on the old Poli time with ‘Swain’s Rats and Cats,’ and was highly praised by the critics. ‘Household Pests and Pets in Perky Pranks’ went the billing. I am surprised you were unaware of this. At some future date I shall share with you the dear old grimalkin’s scrapbooks, in which she can be seen posing with the Four Marx Brothers backstage at the Keeney Theatre in Brooklyn. I believe Captain Sorcho and his seal act was also on the bill that week, but I have no photograph of grandmother posing with the seal. Family lore has it that she found seals distasteful.”
Under the pressure of this argument, my head had sunken to the table. “Are you done yet?” I murmured. “Because I really gotta get back to work. I have to play four different characters in this show and I need to get the voices down. We’re doing the whole thing as a cut and paste job – I’ll do my parts, Brittany and the band will do their parts, I’m gonna get Dan Bookham and Lili Bonarrigo and Joanna Hynd to record some stuff, and then I’ll edit it all together an’ it’ll sound like we’re all right up there on the stage just like when we do a live show.”
Miss Carol looked intrigued. “I recommend that you prepare a place for me on this presentation. “
“What would you do?” I protested. “Do you have an act? Do you sing? Do you play an instrument? Do you tell jokes?”
“I shall lecture,” she said. “I shall discourse on any number of topics the broadcast audience will find of stimulating interest. I am widely knowledgeable in multiple fields.”
“Yeah, well, that’s not what we’re doin’ here,” I responded. “People get enough lecturin’ these days – we want to have some fun. We’ll have some comedy, and some tunes, and a chance to just try and see th’ lighter side of the situation we’re in. Comedy’s an important safety valve in times of crisis, an’ if we ever get to where we can’t laugh at ourselves, we’re in worse trouble than we think.”
Miss Carol considered my point. “Under those circumstances, I believe I shall leave the performing to you,” she said. “I am, as I have stated before, a serious cat. But I am certain that people will laugh at you, even as they have your entire life.”
“Well thanks,” I said, before I got her point. And by the time I did, it was too late.
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