SOCIAL DISTANCING, Chapter 23: In Which Miss Carol Has Just About Had Enough.

By Liz McLeod

Still Your House Manager

The claws just missed my jugular vein as I sat at my desk staring into a screen full of things I’d rather not be looking at.  A blur of fur and teeth sailed over my shoulder and thumped with emphasis onto the desktop in front of me. A tepid stream of flat Coca-Cola tricked onto my thigh from an upset bottle as Miss Carol T. Cat turned to glare directly into my bloodshot eyes.

“Flies are not a healthful component of a balanced feline diet,” she hissed.

“Hah?” I blurted. I blurt a lot these days. It’s been that kind of year.

“You have failed yet again to provide my sustenance according to our agreed-upon schedule,” she snapped. “Flies circle my empty bowl, picking at the few dried-on scraps. Your performance of your duties is unsatisfactory.”

I dug thru the cluttered drawers of my sleep-deprived mind in search of Le Mot Juste. “Hah?” I blurted once again.

“I have been most patient with you over these past several months,” declared Miss Carol, her bulk rippling as she settled upon her haunches, her green eyes blazing. “I have permitted you to spend your days at the Strand Theatre building, seeing to the facilities-maintenance needs of that organization, I have permitted you to spend valuable weekend hours preparing your Strand radio program – which, incidentally, has made no mention of me in its three most recent installments – and I have waited tolerantly as you have spent three nights each week presenting entertainment al fresco at the Strand Drive-In Theatre in a neighboring town. But my patience is at a limit. You are now present in our place of residence, and yet my food bowl remains empty.”

“That’s because you ate it all,” I retorted, my hand clamped tightly to my neck to stanch the bleeding. “Whatta you want from me?”

“Cease your impudence,” she commanded. “You have been remiss in your duties, and you must reevaluate your priorities at once.”

“Look,” I explained. “Do you realize that the only thing keeping you from a diet of mice, birds, and squirrels – is me?”

“I have been meaning to speak to you about this. I observe that the goldfinch population in our neighborhood of late has exploded to unacceptable levels. You will permit me to ‘thin the flock’ at once.”

I ignored her and plowed on. “And do you realize that the only thing keeping *me* from a diet of that leftover case of ramen I bought in 2004 is doing everything I can to help keep the Strand afloat?  And do you realize that the Strand itself, thru all its many alternative entertainment programs, is playing an essential role in providing needed distraction and relaxation to a tense, overstressed community in this time of crisis? That means your usual schedule is going to be off the beam until further notice? Get it?”

Miss Carol scowled, resenting the implication that she does not control her own destiny. But in this world today, in this situation in which we find ourselves, who does? We’re all at the mercy right now of forces largely beyond our individual control, leaving mass cooperation as the only way forward. But try and explain that to a cat.

I wrenched my body off the chair and moved toward the kitchen. I heard Miss Carol thump meaningfully to the floor behind me as I fumbled with a can of Friskies. She glared at me as I shooed the flies away and glopped Turkey With Giblet Gravy Dinner into her bowl. 

“Should not you be at work?” she growled. “You have essential duties to perform this evening at the Drive-In.  Cease malingering, and be busy about them.”

I sighed. Some things change, but Miss Carol never will.

I grabbed my mask and my keys. "Ridiculous fat barrel cat,” I muttered as I headed out the door.

 

But all I heard in return was a satisfied purr.

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