SOCIAL DISTANCING, Chapter 45: In Which We Deal With A Crisis

By Liz McLeod
Still Your House Manager
“I don’t know what to do,” I muttered to myself, sitting alone in the early morning gloom of a darkened living room. “What CAN I do? How can I TELL her?”
“Tell ‘her’ what?” queried Miss Carol T. Cat as she materialized out of the ether in that unsettling way that felines have. Wherever she had been during the long night, and whatever she had been doing were matters not for the likes of me to know, and I knew better than even to ask. “Has one of your beloved Young People become enmeshed in some peccadillo? I advise you leave them to their fate. A dose of ‘tough love,’ though it pains them now will doubtless do much to build a stern character for the challenges they will doubtless face in their declining years.” Miss Carol either gave a smug smirk or displayed just her regular face. I couldn’t really tell which. “Unless,” she continued after momentary musing, “the young hew-mon in question is the one whom you call ‘Lilita.’ I find the method by which she provides me with ‘skritches’ in the proper place entirely salubrious, and if she requires your aid you must rush to her assistance at once. I shall pack your bag.”
I gazed at Miss Carol for a long moment. Even after a decade sharing a house with her, she has lost none of her ability to take me aback. Being taken aback is no fun at 2 in the morning, and I expressed that opinion, but Miss Carol merely licked her paw and settled on the arm of the big blue chair. She seemed relaxed, and I figured, well, maybe this is as good a time as any. Not that there’s ever a good time for news like this, but sometimes you just gotta dive in.
“No,” I sighed. “It isn’t about any of the Kids. It’s about – it’s about YOU.”
Miss Carol’s ears twitched.
“More specific,” I went on, figuring once you start rolling down the hill you might just as well forget about stopping, “it’s about your FOOD.”
That did it. Miss Carol snapped upright as though her entire twenty pounds of massed felinity had transformed into a broken spring. Her bright green eyes burned a hole in my neck, and I pulled up the collar of my ratty old bathrobe to guard against further damage. “Explain your statement,” demanded Miss Carol. “Comply!”
“Maybe you noticed lately, the food I’ve been giving you…”
“If by your remark you mean to inquire if I have noted the lack of variety in my recent diet,” she replied in a voice that could have been chipped off the evaporator of a refrigerator that hasn’t been defrosted in six months, not that I would know anything about that, “it has been noted. I had, in fact intended to call this to your attention this very morning, at the usual hour for my breakfast meal. But since you raise the topic now, I can only assume that you have in fact come to a satisfactory resolution of the issue, and that no further action is required.”
I sighed again. I’ve gotten really good at sighing over the past eleven months. There’s a lot of it going around these days.
“There’s a problem,” I exhaled. “There’s actually a major cat food shortage right now, all along the East Coast. A shortage of canned cat food. Now, I could get you the dry kibble…”
“You know my views on that subject,” Miss Carol frowned. “I have sensitive teeth, and I am intolerant of grain products. A creature of lower evolution, such as a canine or a rodent, may be entirely comfortable consuming such matter, but I, as an obligate carnivore, cannot countenance such a meal.”
“I know, I know,” I replied. “But the thing is, I can only get what I can get. I go in the store, and there’s just a few cans of this and that in stock. And I know beef makes you sick…”
“Ill,” interrupted Miss Carol. “I realize that in your coarse working-class upbringing you were taught to say ‘sick,’ but those of refinement say ‘Ill.’ I refer you to the research of Professor Alan S. C. Ross on the use of language as a class marker in colloquial English. You will find his views educational, and possibly beneficial in your future endeavors.”
“Look, I’m trying to explain this to you, OK?” I blurted. “It’s not even really a food shortage – there’s plenty of food. The problem is there’s a shortage of aluminum to make the cans! Apparently so many people are staying home because of the pandemic, and eating and – um – drinking out of cans that you just can’t get the metal! And people aren’t recycling anywhere near enough old cans to make up for the shortage.”
Miss Carol’s eyes shot to the kitchen, and I knew what was coming.
“I observe,” she began, and I tried not to roll my eyes, “that you have gathered a large mound of empty aluminum cans in the pantry. You speak of an aluminum shortage that, it would appear, you yourself have done much to create.”
“No, no, no,” I protested. “I need those cans! I need them for the Strand radio show, for sound effects. See, if I have a character fall off a ladder or something, I take those cans and put them in this big wooden crate, and then I kinda shake ‘em up in the air and back down into the crate – and it makes a sound like a crash! I mean, it’s either I do that, or I set up a microphone in front of an ACTUAL LADDER, and then I climb up it and fall off! And I could break my neck doing that! Would you rather I do THAT?”
Miss Carol gave no reply.
I scowled. Miss Carol still gave no reply.
“Well? I demanded.
Miss Carol’s eyes fixed firmly on mine. “I’m thinking it over!”
I gazed back for a long moment. “You stole that gag from Jack Benny.”
“Never heard of him,” she replied, brushing a phantom bit of lint from her fur.
“Ridiculous fat barrel cat!”
Miss Carol again fixed me in a gaze, and turned her head petulantly. “Now cut that out!”
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