SOCIAL DISTANCING, Chapter 56: In Which Things Start Fizzing

By Liz McLeod

Still Your House Manager


“You smell of cassia, cinnamon, neroli, and phosphoric acid,” observed Miss Carol T. Cat as I stumbled in thru the kitchen door. “With a trace of vanilla and an unspecified alkaloid.”

My hand stuck to the doorknob, and I pulled it off with a dramatic sucking pop. “Caffeine,” I replied. “That’s the unspecified alkaloid. Caffeine. Whattaya want from me?”

Miss Carol’s bright green eyes tracked me as I shuffled exhaustedly across the room and tried to take off my jacket. I say “tried” advisedly, because the garment stuck to my hands, turning my simple attempt to toss it across the back of a chair into a particularly enervating vaudeville routine. “Well done,” declared Miss Carol, as I finally succeeded in disentangling myself from the jacket. “Your new career as a pantomime buffoon will no doubt bring you both fame and fortune. Remember please, in the days of your future success, those who have encouraged you on.”

I shot her a murderous glare, stepped to my sink, and shook half a pound of Boraxo onto my palms, the better to remove the thick and sticky layer that had just facilitated my comic performance. As I did so, I muttered several short, pithy phrases generally reserved for moments of extreme aggravation. You know the phrases. You do. When I was done, I wiped my hands on a soiled apron hanging on the pantry doorframe in lieu of a dishtowel, and mightily exhaled.

“It’s been one of those days,” I declared. “The fountain. I’ve been working on THE FOUNTAIN.”

Miss Carol recoiled. She has heard me on many occasions describe The Fountain, and she firmly believes that I have thoroughly exhausted all potential interest from that particular topic. But Miss Carol is, behind her austere countenance, a patient soul.  And so she sighed, and prepared to receive what was to come.

“Those VALVES!” I sputtered, giving a vivid imitation of the sound of an entire cylinder of carbon dioxide gas discharging itself thru a ruptured seal. “THOSE VALVES! Do I ask much from those valves? I ask you, DO I ASK MUCH FROM THOSE VALVES?” Miss Carol slowly lowered and then raised her eyes to indicate that she had no response. So I continued. “We haven’t used that fountain for most of the past year, and you’d think it could take the WEAR AND TEAR of not doing anything! But DOES IT? A ten-cent rubber O-ring fails and PFFFFFFFFT!  THERE YOU GO!. And then I go in there to figure out which valve it is, and what do I find? THE LEAK BLEW THE SYRUP LINE TOO! I just hooked the thing up to get it tested for when we reopen, and what happens? Coke syrup! All over the valves, and all over me! You ever hear of the Great Molasses Explosion of 1919? They ain’t got nothin’ on an EXPLODING COKE SYRUP VALVE! I got covered with the stuff! Just when I think I got it all cleaned off, I find some more!” I sunk into a chair, rested my chin on my palm, and found, indeed, that I could not pull it free. “YA SEE WHAT I MEAN???”

Miss Carol’s sides trembled. Were she any other felid, I might be worried to observe such trembling, thinking perhaps that she was experiencing respiratory woes. But no, long experience has taught me that when Miss Carol’s sides tremble, it is merely a sign that she is repressing an explosion of mirth. Cats, as you may know and as a rule, do not laugh. But that doesn’t mean they don’t think it.

“But I got it fixed, anyway,” I sighed. 

“Ah, you see?” replied Miss Carol. “Ingenuity has carried the day. No doubt you improvised some clever solution in the manner of 1980s television hero ‘MacGyver,’ whose adventures entertain me so in endless basic-cable reruns.”

“Yeah,” I began, with just a trace of peevish sarcasm. “I got up, pulled myself loose as best I could, and punched a number into the keypad in my office.”

“Indeed?” Miss Carol responded, showing a slight gleam of sincere interest. “You, seeking a technologically driven solution to a dilemma? You, sworn apostle of epoxy putty and duct tape? I am well and truly impressed that you have at last joined us here in the 21st Century. Please be seated,  and an automated AI droid will be along shortly to take your order. In the meantime, please describe your solution to this syrupy crisis.”

“I picked up th’ phone an’ called the Coca-Cola guy,” I sighed. “An’ he came an’ took out the old valve and snapped in a new one. Boom, end of problem. But he didn’t wipe up the syrup, that was my job.”

“And I’m certain that you performed that function with aplomb,” Miss Carol nodded with approval. “Which reminds me, you will observe that I have somehow spilled a quantity of Friskies gravy near my dining area. Please see to this at once. I am, as you know, most fastidious about such matters.”

“Ridiculous fat barrel cat,” I groaned, reaching for a mop. 

Which stuck immediately to my hand.

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