SOCIAL DISTANCING, Chapter 55: In Which I Make Some Connections

By Liz McLeod

Still Your House Manager


“This activity!” demanded Miss Carol T. Cat as she leaped with astounding feline poise onto the kitchen table. “Explain.”

“I’m fixing something,” I snapped, annoyed by the disruption of the close concentration required by my task. Before me on the table, among the bills, the “Sell Your House While You Still Can!” flyers, and copies of the Atlantic Monthly, lay dismantled a piece of equipment from the Strand projection booth. In my right hand I held a sizzling-hot soldering iron, and in the other, a huge spool of solder someone who shall be nameless, because I can’t remember who, appropriated for me from some department at Bath Iron Works back in the ‘90s. The statute of limitations has expired on that, so don’t get any ideas.

“This task could better be accomplished at the Strand Theatre itself,” replied Miss Carol. “It is distracting you from necessary household tasks. I find the accumulation of food particles around my bowl offensive.”

“Then eat neater,” I growled, throwing caution to the winds. It’s hard to concentrate on delicate electronic work when forced to defend your housekeeping skills, but since my housekeeping skills are, in fact, indefensible, I saw no reason to take the bait.

“Explain the purpose of this device,” commanded Miss Carol, a glint of curiosity a cliché-ridden writer would be sorely-bound to describe as “catlike” flickering across her furry features. “No doubt its complexity exceeds the capability of your rudimentary technical skills to repair. I recall your attempt to rehang the bathroom door using broken matchsticks and machine screws. When it fell from its frame in the night, the crash resulted in a serious disturbance to my slumber. I advise that you leave such tasks to qualified professionals."

“I know what I’m doing,” I retorted. “It’s a switcher. It switches. Now leave me alone.”

“I observe that you disregard vital warnings appearing on the casing of this apparatus,” she responded in a bland tone. “It appears to read ‘No User-Serviceable Parts Inside,’ although you seem to have attempted to scrape away this legend with a sharp instrument of some sort. It will of course avail you not.”

“Just shut up and let me work,” I yelled, losing what little remained of my patience. “I know what I’m doing, all right? I’ve been working with this equipment longer than you’ve been alive. I know what it does, I know why it does what it does, and I know what to do to make it do what it does when it isn’t doing what it’s supposed to do anymore. We haven’t used the projector booth much over the past year, and there’s things that need to be done to get ready to start using it again. It gets warm in the equipment rack, and that can cause parts to break down as they age –and when I can fix them myself, like I’m doing here, it saves the Strand money. And that’s something we’ve got to be very conscious of at the moment – everything we save on the small things is that much more that we have available for the big things we need to do! There’s some work coming up on the digital-cinema projector, for example, that we have to get an outside technician in to do so we can be ready to go again when we reopen. And the less time we have to spend having that technician deal with small stuff like this, the faster we’ll be able to get the big stuff done and out of the way!”

Miss Carol watched me apply a tiny dot of solder to a connection with some degree of fascination.

“There!” I declared, with perhaps a bit more of an attitude than might have been advisible, just to make my point. “All done.  Everything we can do to save money is something that will do that much more to keep the Strand going.”

Miss Carol seemed satisfied with that statement, so I figured I’d take a chance on something else I needed to address. “And speaking of saving money, well, it looks like our monthly oil bill is going to be going up next month. I mean, by a lot. And with all the other bills sitting on the table there, that means something else is going to have to give. So starting today...”  I glanced at Miss Carol and something about her frosty expression sent a wave of terror up my neck. But once started, must finish, so on I plunged. “Starting today,"  I continued, “ I gotta cut your ration down to two cans of food a day.”

Miss Carol’s eyes narrowed, widened, and narrowed again. “This is monstrous!” she spat. “Monstrous!”

“I can’t help it,” I groaned, raising my arm to ward off a possible swipe of ferocious feline claws. “We gotta pull in the belts all around. You don’t think I’m eatin’ beans every night because I like ‘em!”

Miss Carol fixed me with a stare of utter fury – but then she – well, as much as a cat can do so, she snickered. And as she snickered, I smelled an odd, pungent odor wafting about my head and saw a thin curl of smoke rising from…

“Have a care!” she erupted. “You seem to have, with your electrically-heated repair device, ignited your own hair!”

With a strangled yelp, I plunged the singed strands into a convenient glass of water that just happened to be there in case I set my hair on fire or something. You know how it is.  “Ridiculous fat barrel cat!” I choked.

“Yes indeed,” nodded Miss Carol, mirth wreathing her features, “you certainly do know what you’re doing.”

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