SOCIAL DISTANCING, Chapter 44: In Which We Have a Heart

By Liz McLeod

Still Your House Manager.

 

“You are aware,” intoned Miss Carol T. Cat, “that this Sunday is a day of great import? A hew-mon festival commemorating your peculiar mating practices.”

“Izzat so?” I sighed. “Who’s got time for that stuff, anyway? I work for a living.”

“Ah,” replied Miss Carol. “And yet, I cannot help but observe that you seem to have laid in some manner of preparation for an afternoon beyond your usual scope of activity.”

Miss Carol’s gaze directed toward a small collection of objects laid out on the living room coffee table. Actually, since I don’t drink coffee, it’s more of a books-and-cats table, but we’ll let that go for now. Suffice it to say that a small collection of objects was so laid out as previously stated. 

“Yes indeed!” I declared, with a flare of energy unaccustomed in these present February doldrums. “I been working pretty hard lately, so I decided that the only Valentine I’m gonna treat this year is *me.* As the saying goes, ‘Live Alone An’ Like It!’”

“I call your attention to a misstatement of fact in your previous remark,” snapped Miss Carol. “You do not, in fact, Live Alone, and it has occasionally been my observation that you do not, in fact, Like It. Otherwise, there could be no possible explanation for your action last night ejecting me from the bedchamber.”

“You knocked over that pile of books and magazines and a copy of ‘In Dubious Battle’ hit me in the head,” I retorted. “I like Steinbeck as well as the next one, but not at 2 in the morning, and not in the head. I’m kinda funny like that. Deal with it.”

“So I am to surmise, then,” Miss Carol continued, “that these objects so displayed are not intended for my perusal. Presumably my Valentine’s gift awaits its proper presentation at an appointed hour?”

I squirmed with discomfort, which when you come to think about it, is about the only way there really is to squirm. I mean, who ever heard of anybody squirming comfortably? It just isn’t done. So, indeed, I squirmed with discomfort. “I – ah – wasn’t able to get you a Valentine’s present this year. I went to the store – and – well – you might not believe it, but there’s a chronic cat food shortage in this town right now.”

If Miss Carol had visible eyebrows they would have elevated dangerously.

“It’s true,” I stammered. “I went to every store around here an’ the shelves are picked clean. Probably something to do with this stupid pandemic, I dunno. Nobody at the store could explain it. Why do you think you’ve had all them weird flavors lately instead of the stuff you usually like?”

“I had been intending,” nodded Miss Carol, “to draw this to your notice. I am skeptical that the so-called ‘ocean whitefish’ specified on the label is in fact a product of any recognized ocean. But no doubt this dilemma will be resolved with alacrity. An uprising among the feline population of the greater Midcoast would be a severe consequence for an already pandemic-wracked population, and no doubt the authorities well understand the risk they face.”

“Yeah,” I said. “So sorry ‘bout that.”

Miss Carol sighed. When Miss Carol sighs, you can see all three of her fangs – the fourth she lost in an incident too horrific to disclose involving a strip of flypaper one early summer morning – and it’s a disturbing sight. So I proceeded with caution.

“Anyways,” I said, “I decided since it’s just you an’ me here, I’d get something we could do together for Valentine’s Day. I thought we’d have a movie marathon an’ you could sit in my lap an’ go to sleep or something. Look, I got a complete DVD collection of Wheeler & Woolsey movies. Even ‘Mummy’s Boys!’ That’s the one, you know, where they fight an actual mummy.”

Miss Carol rolled her eyes, and extended a claw in the direction of a cellophane bag. “And what,” she inquired, “do you call this?”

“Um,” I hesitated, knowing that I would soon earn her censure, “that’s a bag of fun-size $100,000 Bars.”

“WHAT?” Miss Carol erupted. “The roof of our shabby hovel left nearly perforate after the recent storms, and yet you squander our valuable funds on expensive chocolate? By what dubious means have you even ACQUIRED such a prodigious sum? Were you,” and here her eyes narrowed, “in any way involved in the recent Gamestop debacle?”

“They don’t actually cost $100,000,” I explained in a rather desperate tone. “That’s just marketin’. You know, to appeal to ritzy people.”

Miss Carol frowned. She herself, as a devoted disciple of Mr. Veblen, disdains the moral emptiness of conspicuous consumption, but realizing that hewmons are, after all, a less-evolved species than catdom, is usually willing to let such things slide, and when the claws didn’t lash the bag of candy from my hand, I knew I was in the clear.

“Come on,” I said. “Get up in the chair with me here. It’s time to take it easy. Look, we’ll start off with ‘Hips Hips Hooray!’ You like that one, don’t you?”

Miss Carol rolled her bright green eyes again, and jumped up into my lap. And I could swear I heard her purr, “ridiculous fat barrel hew-mon.”

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