SOCIAL DISTANCING, Chapter 28: In Which We Dry Off.

By Liz McLeod

Still Your House Manager


“Where is it?” snapped Miss Carol T. Cat, her green eyes flashing with irritation.

“Where’s what?” I mumbled, my brown eyes rolling behind sagging lids with “aw jeez, what is it NOW, can’t I even take a nap without having to deal with something I don’t wanna deal with?”

“The sheep,” she replied. “A quadruped ruminant of the genus Ovis, commonly kept as livestock. As you are no doubt aware, this municipality prohibits the keeping of livestock in a Residential B zone. Remove this animal at once, les you be held accountable. I am advised that the authorities offer no lenience in the enforcement of this ordinance. Furthermore, you are no farmer. You must be aware that sufficient pasturage to provide the nutritional needs of even a single sheep cannot be produced by the fallow, contaminant-ridden soil of this plot of land.”

“What are you talking about?” I groaned, as I considered whether throwing a pillow would be considered a gross breach of discipline. “There’s no sheep. I don’t even know where this is headed.”

“My highly-developed olfactory sense detects the presence of a sheep,” insisted Miss Carol. “To be specific, a damp sheep.”

Light dawned over Marblehead. “Oh,” I sighed. “It’s probably my wool jacket.” I gestured to the patched grey garment tossed over the newel post. “I got soaked to the bone out at the concert in Owls Head the other night, an’ my jacket probably hasn’t dried all the way out yet. Don’t worry about it.”

Miss Carol frowned. “It is unfortunate that nature interfered with your activity,” she began, with as much sympathy as you can expect from a cat. “No doubt you were left to mumble apologies as your audience filed away in disappointment."

“That’s the thing,” I said, sitting up to continue the conversation. “Nobody left. It absolutely poured out there, just after the show got started, and everybody just sat there and took it. Not only that, some of ‘em even got up to dance. Can you figure that? People were so happy to finally get a chance to see a Strand show, an actual live Strand show again that they were willing to sit out in a wet field in the mud and all they said was ‘give us more!’ I knew people were tired of being cooped up with the pandemic and all, but I never expected a reaction like that.”

“I, however, completely understand,” said Miss Carol, turning to lick her haunches. “I too spend my life confined to an environment not of my choosing. My recreational activities are limited, my social interactions are stifled. I am limited to the companionship provided by a television set, a radio, and a painfully slow and obsolete internet connection in order to find personal enrichment.”

“Ya got ME,” I protested. “Remember? Me that took you out of that shelter? Me that opens the cans? Me that lets you get under the blanket when it’s cold?”

“Oh yes, of course,” she acknowledged. “You who allows goldfinches and chickadees to taunt and goad me behind the safety of a storm window. You who refuses to permit squirrel hunting in the cellar or attic. You who…”

“All right,” I  interrupted. “I get the point. But you gotta agree that people are really primed for entertainment right now. And we’re gonna keep doing everything we can to bring it to them, every way we can, right up to the time when we can finally reopen the theatre. Streaming entertainment, streaming movies, the ‘Strand On The Air’ radio show. Even this blog. Some people even find *you* entertaining. You know what somebody said to me the other day?”

“My mind reels with sarcastic replies,” responded Miss Carol.

“She said to me, ‘you ought to sell T-shirts with Miss Carol’s picture on them. ‘Ridiculous Fat Barrel Cat’ T-shirts. Whattaya think of *that!*”

“I would require a minimum percentage of 40 percent of the gross sales,” declared Miss Carol, “along with the right of creative refusal.”

“What does that even mean?”

“It means that if I find the T-shirts insufficiently creative, I am entitled to refuse their sale. One must necessarily take steps to ensure the integrity of such an image as mine.”

“Ridiculous fat barrel cat.”

“Indeed,” stated Miss Carol. “You may remit my percentage to my agent. The balance I would be pleased to donate to the Strand. It is a worthy cause, and I am well aware of the vital role it plays in the community. It has, indeed, done much to build me in to a recognized and well-loved personality worthy to be immortalized on a T-shirt.”

“I’m not the only one who’s all wet,” I opined. Miss Carol glared at me, and strode purposefully into the next room. No doubt her agent will be getting a call.

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