STRAND spotlight

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.

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.”

By MISS CAROL T CAT
Not boring Lizzie
 
HELLO HEWMONS. I AM MISS CAROL T CAT AND I AM NOW RITING THIS INTERNETS WEBLOG ON STUPID KEE BOARD NOT  MAD XXX MAD XXX MADE FOR FELID PAWs. I HAVE TAKE OVAH ThIS WEAK BECOZE HEWMON LIZIE IS DOING that radeio thing she dOEs. I HaVE SPENT WWKES XXXX WEAKSXXXX WEAXXX WEEKS toLArating her INSIPID VOCALZIATIONS asnd EVEN SING ING AND NOW SEEZE ThiS PLATFORME TO DeCLARE MY INDEPENDENT MANAFESTOE. HEWMONS PLEAZ ATTEND CAREFULY, I SHALL onely SAY This ONNCE.
 
FOR thee Passed YEAR I aveh XXXX HAVE TOLLARETED HEWMON LIZIE MAKING SPORT OF Me ON THE INTRENETS AND HAVE AKSEPTIEDXXXXXX ACSEPTEDXXXXXXXX ACCSEPTEDXXXXXX PUT UP WITH IT IN the INTRESTS OF BILDING INTRESTS IN Thee STRAND THETRE WHEAR SH E WORKS TO EARN MONEYS TO BY ME FOODS.  AS YOU KNOW I AM CATT – A CREATUR OF APETITES AND I MUST HAVE FODSXXXX FOODS, SO THIS IS ESENTHIASLXXXXXX SO I NEED THIS. TEHRFOAR I RQUIRE ALL HEWMONs to CONTINUE TO SUport THE STRAND IN its VITAL MISION TO INFORM ELIGHTEN AND ENNATAIN HEWMONS OF The state MAINE and the CITY roklindXXXX ROKLUNDTXXXXXX THIS CITY. YOU WILL COMPLY. I HAVE CLAWS. THAT IS all.
 
Lovemiss CAROL T. cat.
 
PS – Lisen to LIZZIE radio STRAND on the AIR brocast on W R F R radio STATION 93.3 99.3 on SUNDAE APEril 25 at 5PM. Or she wil CRY and I will haf too SCRATCH hre.

By Liz McLeod

Still Your House Manager

 

“That aroma,” sniffed Miss Carol T. Cat as I walked in the door and tried to get my coat off before bending to the demand of an immediate feline supper.

“What about it?” I grumbled. It had been a long day and I was in no mood for clawed repartee. But then I sighed and figured, well, without clawed repartee, what’s the point? So I smiled a willing smile and dived right in. “What about it?” I repeated for emphasis.

“I have not sensed that odor for some time,” Miss Carol declared. “It is a fragrance redolent of a long-lost past, a scent from another time and another place, from a world scarcely remembered yet forever recalled. It is…”

“Aw, can it, “ I snapped. “I made popcorn today, and I smell like oil. And when I wash my hands, all this yella stuff is gonna come off. Whattaya want from me?”

“Ah!” responded Miss Carol. “Then am I to assume that the Strand has at long last reopened its doors to an eager and vaccinated public?”

“Not yet,” I replied. “Not yet. But the wheels are, as they say, in motion. I’m workin’ on getting the equipment all set to go, so that when Zero Hour arrives, we’re gonna be all set. Hence,” I concluded, picking a recently-popped kernel out of my hair and into my mouth, “I made popcorn.”

“Indeed,” declared Miss Carol. “How exciting for you. Now, this matter of my evening meal…”

“And y’know what, “ I continued, brightening just a dite at the memory, “it was FUN! Yes, FUN! Do you know, do you have any idea, how much I miss the smell of popcorn, the sound of popcorn, the crunch of popcorn, the – dare I say – TASTE of popcorn? Seven months it’s been since we last popped popcorn for the Drive-In, and now, at long last, the Pop-O-Gold machine was, ever so briefly, alight again and all was well with the world. My soul, crushed and scarred by a year of forced ennui and social isolation, fairly rejoiced as the first delicate wisp of steam caressed my waiting nostrils!”

Miss Carol gazed at me, a gaze of stern reprimand. “Leave poetry to the poets,” she growled. “Even Professor Bookham, on your radio broadcasts, would hang his head in shame were you to cause him to recite such florid lines.”

“Let me be happy,” I snapped. “It happens so rarely anymore that when it does, you should share my joy.”

“I do not care for popcorn,” scoffed Miss Carol. “As obligate carnivores, cellulose, even when puffed, expanded, oiled, and salted, has a deleterious effect upon us. Although I will grant that the occasional kernel does make for entertaining enrichment, to be batted about the kitchen floor until it vanishes forever beneath the refrigerator. Really, I advise that you clean under the refrigerator immediately. My inventory of playthings is notably diminished, and I predict that you will recover several of them nestled beneath the condenser coils.”

“And you know what else?” I insisted. “Popcorn’s GOOD for ya. Just like getting together as part of a community to share an experience is good for ya.  It’s good for ya physically, and it’s good for ya emotionally. Do you know that one of the side effects of the pandemic has been a global shortage of positive endorphins?  As soon as all this mess is finally over with and we can get back to living as a society instead of a bunch of lonely people glued to screens all the time, everyone’s gonna feel a whole lot better.

“But you propose,” argued Miss Carol, “to bring them inside and show them – a screen. Is not your argument contradictory?”

“NO IT ISN”T” I yelled. “A SHARED EXPERIENCE LOOKIN’ AT A SCREEN WHILE YA EAT POPCORN WITH YA FRIENDS  IS NOT THE SAME THING AS HUDDLIN’ IN YA BED ALL BY YASELF WITH YA FACE STUCK TO A LAPTOP! WHATTAYA WANT FROM ME???”

“You had better go back to the Strand,” chuckled Miss Carol, “and make some more popcorn.”

“Ridiculous fat barrel cat.”

“But first,” she reminded, “my meal. And be certain that the food you serve me is grain free.”

By Liz McLeod

Still Your House Manager

 

“Well, it’s done!” I declared as I flourished my Certificate Of Vaccination in the just-slightly-irritated face of Miss Carol T. Cat. 

Actually, I lie, she was more than just slightly irritated, and with a single swipe of her paw, claws fully deployed, she swept the intrusive document out of her personal space and under the big blue chair where she knew I’d probably leave it because who wants to have to pick that big heavy thing up anyway? I’m too old for that kind of exertion. I’ll know where it is when I need it, and that’s good enough, I guess.

But back to the matter at hand. “I got my shot!” I proclaimed triumphantly. “Covid can you-know-what my you-know-what. I’m IMMUNE, baby. Or I will be once this miracle of modern science takes full effect, and it won’t be long now.”

Miss Carol sighed. “I am of course pleased that you have taken this necessary step, but was it necessary for you to call the matter to my attention in just such a manner? Perhaps you had not noticed that I was busy about my work.”

“What work?” I snorted. “You were sleepin’.”

“Much of my most creative thought is accomplished in a state of REM slumber,” Miss Carol retorted. “Just now I was, in a dream, plotting complex strategy for the neutralization of that bold and offensive squirrel that capers outside my window. He shall soon meet his fate – if you will permit me now to resume my nap.”

“Well, I’m sorry,” I insisted, “but I’m just too excited. Do you know what this means? We talk an’ talk about ‘light at the end of the tunnel,’ but this shot is a real step in th’ direction of that light! Because you don’t GET to th’ end of th’ tunnel unless you MOVE TOWARD IT! It’s like them stoplights on th’ corner, you know? ‘Push Button To Cross Street?’ Well, you can push th’ button all you want, but you won’t ever get across the street unless you actually start walkin’. AND I’M WALKIN’, BABY! WATCH ME MOVE!” 

I strutted ostentatiously about the room in such a manner as to cause Miss Carol’s eyes to narrow in resignation. Strutting ostentatiously is dangerously close, in her view, to dancing, and she invariably finds any attempt I might make in that direction to be profoundly offensive to art, culture, and common decency. “Are you aware,” she finally intoned, “that the vaccine may carry with it certain side effects that may cause you a degree of discomfort? You should at this time take to your bed to forestall the effects. Close the door after you do so, because your dissonant, raspy breathing interrupts the flow of my dreams.”

“I’ve had no side effects at all,” I boasted. “None at all. They gave me this paper, it says ‘you may experience headaches, muscle pains, fatigue’ – well, I mean, at my age, I ALWAYS experience headaches, muscle pains, and fatigue! So you can’t call THOSE side effects at all. And chills? Well, I turn the thermostat down to 50 degrees every night because the price of oil is goin’ up, and you’re tellin’ me to worry about chills? Hah, I say. HAH. No side effects for me!”

Miss Carol regarded me with a mix of aggravation and pity. Nobody mixes aggravation and pity like Miss Carol.

“There is one thing, though, “ I noted. “I woke up this morning with – well, kind of a pain in my jaw.”

“No doubt the result of overexertion,” Miss Carol snapped. “Such would not occur if you did not flap it quite so much. I recommend an extended period of complete silence. You may begin at once.”

“I’ll tell ya one thing funny that happened, though,” I chuckled. “When the person at the place was about to give me the shot, she took a look at my arms and said ‘well, give me a second here, I need to find a place to inject you that isn’t – ah – all scratched up. What happened, were you in an accident recently?’ An’ I says ‘no, ma’am, I adopted Miss Carol on purpose. All them scratches an’ scars on there, that’s all from her.’ An’ she says ‘well, you know,  ferrets can be hard pets to keep under control!’”

Miss Carol’s eyes grew wide, and reflexively her claws deployed.

“Ain’t that funny?” I chortled. “She thought you was a FERRET!”

“And of course,” thundered Miss Carol, “you corrected her offensive statement immediately!”

“I did,” I snorted. “I told her you wasn’t a ferret at all. I told her you are a RIDICULOUS FAT BARREL CAT.”

Miss Carol exhaled in a sharp and highly pointed manner. She’ll be glad when the pandemic is over.

By Liz McLeod

Still Your House Manager

 

“THE CROCUSES ARE UP!” I bellowed as I flung the back door open and charged into the house. I needed to charge into the house to be avoid being blown into the next block by the ferocious gusts of wind.

“Indeed?” commented Miss Carol T. Cat, sprawled on my desk in an attititude of “What Makes You Think I Could Possibly Care Less?”

“It’s true,” I declared, picking a chunk of broken shingle out of my hair. Did I mention I’m really sick of the wind? “Spring is well and truly here. And do you know what THAT means?”

“I shall soon be plagued by hordes of insufferable goldfinches, taunting me from the perch of their feeder, secure in the knowledge that they need fear no attack from me so long as I am confined in this dungeonous shanty?”

“Well, yeah,” I acknowledged. “But more than that. Did you know BASEBALL SEASON BEGINS ON THURSDAY?”

Miss Carol opened her eyes just enough to roll them.

“Don’t you know what that means? Millions of old ladies across New England will at last have a reason not to go to bed at 5 PM!” I quivered with barely-controlled excitement. “I got it all planned out! Thursday I’m gonna wear my Red Sox cap an’ my Red Sox jersey – an’ my RED SOX SOCKS! Can you beat it?”

“The entire American League can, no doubt, ‘beat it,’ if my media sources are to be relied upon,” sneered Miss Carol. She was not yet born when “The Curse” was finally lifted, but after a late night game from the Coast disrupted her slumber once too often, she proceeded to pronounce another Curse all her own. Hence the exodus of Mookie to Los Angeles and Jackie B. Jr. to Milwaukee. Bet you didn’t know that.

“You can’t do nothin’ to break my mood,” I laughed. “Spring is here! The world is reborn! There is hope anew!”

The phone rang, but I refused to answer it, knowing that it was that robot calling about the medical bill. That’s how determined I was not to let my joyous Springtime spirits be shattered. We waited all winter for this, and I believe in living Spring to its fullest. If I had spring flowers at hand, I would twine them into a garland and dance a Springtime dance. Fortunately for the spirit of Terpsichore, I do not have spring flowers at hand, except for four desperate little crocuses, so you can consider yourself fortunate.

“Speaking of hope,” rumbled Miss Carol, “have you yet had your vaccination?”

“I got my name in three places,” I declared, “but nobody’s called yet. I wonder if you can buy vaccine on Ebay?”

“I advise against it,” warned Miss Carol. “Recall the many times you have purchased items from that platform that did not in fact prove to be bona fide. That ‘Amusing Cat Toy’ you purchased last year proved to be anything but. I was forced to seek my entertainment by devouring the shipping carton.”

I moved into the living room,  sunk into the big blue chair and sighed with frustration. I want to get back to normal. I want to get my shots. I want to run movies again and sweep up the floor after concerts again and see people again without having to worry about the stupid screen freezing up. But instead, even though springtime beckons, still I “hurry up and wait.”  Oh well, at least we’re at the opposite end of the tunnel compared to where we were last year.

Miss Carol cleared her throat. Have you ever heard a cat clear her throat? It’s like the sound the cushion of an old leatherette office chair makes when you stand up quick on a hot day. She made that sound, and spoke. “You mentioned,” she began, a bit cautiously for her, “your Red Sox Socks.”

“Whattabout’em?” I queried, with eyes narrowed.

“You will recall that you left them on the bed this morning after you tried them on and pirouetted around the bedroom.”

“Shut up,” I hissed. “You think I want the world to know about that? Ridiculous fat barrel cat.”

“I found,” she continued, “that these articles interfered with my comfort. I took steps to remedy that situation.”

“Ahhh,” I sighed, “what’s one more thing thrown on the floor.”

“I did not throw them on the floor,” Miss Carol replied. 

“Then what..” I began, but I trailed off as I noticed a long string of red yarn trailing down the stairs and into the living room, ending in a frayed and chewed up end strewn absently on the rug.

Spring is here. And summer can’t get here soon enough.  

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