SOCIAL DISTANCING, Chapter 7: In Which I Spin Some Tunes

 
By Liz McLeod
Still Your House Manager
 
“Cease that cacaphonous din at once!” commanded Miss Carol T. Cat.
 
I pushed the “reject” lever and the “Ride of the Valkyries” fell to silence.
 
Miss Carol frowned. “What is the meaning of this?” she demanded, in a voice that to the uninitiated sounds much like the anchor chain being hoisted on a decommissioned Gearing-class destroyer. “What is the purpose of flailing your arms in that preposterous manner? Have you allowed a fly or other winged carrier of disease to enter my home?”
 
“I was conducting,” I sheepishly admitted. “I always conduct when I play that record.”
 
Her frown deepened into an outright scowl. “The shade of Artur Bodanzky, deep in whatever netherworld to which he has been consigned, writhes in deeper torment at your defilement of his memory.”
 
My mind raced for a lancing reply. “Sez you,” I stammered.
 
She turned to nip at an invisible irritant at the base of her magnificent tail. “You realize of course that this is the designated hour for my mid-afternoon rest period.”
 
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” I groveled. “I thought you just got done with your early-afternoon rest period.”
 
“Indeed,” she replied. “My mid-afternoon rest period, as you should well know by now, commences immediately upon the conclusion of my early-afternoon rest period. See that you refresh your memory concerning my daily schedule.”
 
I nodded. I’m not usually at home on Saturday afternoons, and I probably have lost sight of certain critical matters during the long years of my regular weekend work schedule, now disrupted by a situation beyond anyone’s control. It’s hard on both of us.
 
“Since I am now awake,” she continued,  I would like to receive my late-afternoon meal at this time. Please see to this at once.”
 
“Um, I’m kinda busy right now,” I responded, immediately regretting the statement. You just don’t talk that way to Miss Carol T. Cat.
 
“Are you now? Matters of no consequence, no doubt.”
 
“Actually,” I said, mustering my dignity, “I was fixing the record player.” I gestured to a large wooden box atop a living room stand, a box containing a Garrard RC-65 record changer -- an impressive piece of fine British engineering that will play eight ten or twelve inch records at a single loading, it says in the instruction book.  But it was frozen up from long lack of use, and I’d been working more or less continuously since Friday night to get it working again, a job requiring copious application of sewing machine oil and white lithium grease – a combination that I discovered turns a sooty carbon black when it gets on your hands.  I’d more than exceeded CDC handwashing recommendations in concluding the task, but the work served its purpose. I hadn’t thought about coronavirus or the disruption of the entire world’s routine or my own precarious situation for nearly twelve hours, and I had a perfectly functional record player besides. Now, I was testing its operation by playing hundreds of records pulled out of the back of an upstairs closet, and I wasn’t being particular. Wagnerian opera gave way to Fats Waller, Toscanini was pushed aside by Spike Jones, Rosa Ponselle stood shoulder to shoulder with Kay Kyser. I didn’t care. Mix it up, that’s my motto. But Miss Carol’s tastes are more specific, and I knew what was coming.
 
“Your choice of recordings leaves much to be desired,” she said. “You are of course aware that in addition to his many other moral failings, Richard Wagner possessed strongly anti-feline views. I find his music objectionable on this ground.”
 
“Sorry,” I replied, fumbling the record off the spindle. “I won’t play this one again.”
 
“See that you don’t.” She strode imperiously across the living room, crowded now by milk crates full of dusty recordings, and examined some of the records more closely. “This one appears likely to be of greater value than Mr. Wagner’s harsh and unpleasant screechings. Place it on your device. I wish to listen.”
 
I looked at the record she’d selected. “Are you sure?” I asked. “That one’s kind of corny.”
 
“Your misguided personal views are not sought,” she insisted. “Play the recording at once.”
 
“But…”
 
“You will comply,” she commanded, with a flourish of ever so slightly unsheathed claws.
 
I sighed. Anything to keep the peace. I took the record out of its envelope and placed it on the spindle. “This isn’t my record,” I said,” as I reached to trip the lever. “I think it belonged to my mother. I dunno how it got mixed up with mine. Hey, I know one you’d like better – how about ‘Three Little Fishies!’ You  know that one – ‘down in the meadow by an itty-bitty poo, fwam fwee widdle fishies an’ a mama fishie too…’ You like fish, right? It’s a great cat song!”
 
“Silence!”
 
“Boop –boop-diddum-daddum-waddum-choo…”
 
“Whoever told you that you could sing was sadly misinformed on the fundamentals of music. I have no desire for you to continue. Leave vocalization to the professionals. Play the recording at once.”
 
I took a deep breath and tripped the lever. With a clunk the mechanism swung into motion, dropping the platter on the turntable. The arm swung from its rest and the needle lowered gracefully into the groove. There was a quick grinding sound and then the annoying gravel voice of Arthur Godfrey filled the room.  “I don’t want her, you can have her, she’s too fat for me! She’s too fat for me! She’s too fat for me!” I winced. She sat impassively as “Too Fat Polka” played thru, the reject mechanism tripped, the arm returned to its rest, and the room fell silent.
 
For a long moment, she said nothing. I waited for the explosion, but remarkably, none came. Then, she spoke.
 
“I find this song offensive,” she began. “But at the same time, I do find it instructive.” She glared at my midsection, swollen in recent days by too much comfort eating. “You should profit by its lesson.”
 
She turned and walked into the kitchen. “Ridiculous fat barrel cat!” I hissed in her wake.
 
Pretending not to hear, she strode triumphantly to her bowl. I decided not to play any more records for a while.
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