STRAND spotlight

By Liz McLeod

Still Your House Manager

“You reek of chemical stink,” frowned Miss Carol T. Cat as I shambled into the kitchen via the back door.

It was almost eleven o’clock at night, and I’d spent the evening out at the Owls Head Transportation Museum screening another presentation for our Strand Drive In Theatre, and it was too late and I was too tired to be reprimanded for my personal bouquet. “It’s bug spray,” I muttered, tossing my mask on the table and reaching into the refrigerator for something to eat. A lone cellophane-wrapped slice of pasteurized-process cheese food seemed to offer the most promise. It was too late and I was too tired to risk interaction with that brown paper bag full of left-over General Tso’s Chicken.  Miss Carol gazed at me with impatient frustration as I peeled the plastic off the cheese slice and methodically folded and refolded it until if formed a small but pliable cube. “Did you know,” I began, “that you can only fold a slice of pasteurized-process cheese food five times before its molecular cohesion breaks down? Try it yourself some time – it’s fascinating.” I dropped the cube into my mouth and chewed without much satisfaction. Eleven o’clock at night is no time for pasteurized-process cheese food. At my age, eleven o’clock at night is really no time for much of anything.

Miss Carol glanced at the stack of cat food cans on the kitchen table, and then flicked her deep green eyes in the direction of her food bowl.  “Do not come too close,” she warned, a hint of claw extending from her raised paw. “Your chemical odor is offensive. Once you have completed your food service obligations, you will immediately remove the residue of your insecticide product.” She didn’t need to tell me that, of course, because I’d have done it anyway. Bug spray goes with drive-in theatres like popcorn and kids in the back seat, but it does have its downside. I’ve gone thru five cans of the stuff since June, and if there’s one thing I know about in this year 2020, it’s bug spray.  But it’s worth the effort, because no matter how many mosquitoes, gnats, and those beetly-looking things with the long antennae show up to crash the proceedings,  the Drive In has given us a chance over the summer to see and interact with our patrons, and to make a lot of new friends for the Strand. It’s worth giving up a few quarts of the old Type O to the mosquito population in exchange for that chance, and though I scratch the night away following every show, let it please be noted that I scratch every bite with gratitude.

But yeah, it doesn’t smell too good, and I can’t wait to scrub off the residue when I get home. There is such a thing as too much Deet, and I have learned, in this trying summer of 2020, exactly what those consequences are. 

Miss Carol intercepted me again as I stepped out of the bathroom, refreshed and ready to hit the sack for the night. She came immediately to the point. “I call to your attention the condition of the bedroom window screen,” she said. “During your absence a large moth entered our establishment, and since you were not present to deal with the crisis thus manifested, I took it upon myself to dispatch the invading creature.  When it lit upon the window screen, I neutralized the winged menace with a single decisive claw stroke. Its remains made for a stimulating mid-evening snack.”

“Yeah,” I said. “Whatever.” Moths I don’t worry about much anymore.  One more hole in the wool blanket isn’t going to make much difference in my life.

“I must inform you, however,” Miss Carol continued, “that in taking action against this interloping specimen of Lepidoptera, it was necessary to cause a significant tear in the window screen. This has permitted the entrance of additional insects, including a large number of Culex Pipiens, which species seems to flourish in the unkempt and overgrown municipally-owned lot behind our domicile. I suggest you call the unacceptable condition of this property to the attention of the appropriate city officials and demand immediate remediation. Threaten punitive legal action if satisfaction is not provided. This usually proves a stimulus. I have secured the telephone numbers of several reputable legal firms from late night television advertisements who might provide the necessary counsel.”

I heard a high buzz around my head, and swatted hard , but too late. I could already feel the itch.

“In the meantime, I suggest that you see to a repair of the window screen at once, “ Miss Carol concluded, turning to lick at her ample haunches. “You will find duct tape in the bottom bureau drawer.”

I would have grumbled “ridiculous fat barrel cat,” but I was too busy trying to get the last drop out of the bottle of calamine lotion.




By Liz McLeod

Still Your House Manager

The claws just missed my jugular vein as I sat at my desk staring into a screen full of things I’d rather not be looking at.  A blur of fur and teeth sailed over my shoulder and thumped with emphasis onto the desktop in front of me. A tepid stream of flat Coca-Cola tricked onto my thigh from an upset bottle as Miss Carol T. Cat turned to glare directly into my bloodshot eyes.

“Flies are not a healthful component of a balanced feline diet,” she hissed.

“Hah?” I blurted. I blurt a lot these days. It’s been that kind of year.

“You have failed yet again to provide my sustenance according to our agreed-upon schedule,” she snapped. “Flies circle my empty bowl, picking at the few dried-on scraps. Your performance of your duties is unsatisfactory.”

I dug thru the cluttered drawers of my sleep-deprived mind in search of Le Mot Juste. “Hah?” I blurted once again.

“I have been most patient with you over these past several months,” declared Miss Carol, her bulk rippling as she settled upon her haunches, her green eyes blazing. “I have permitted you to spend your days at the Strand Theatre building, seeing to the facilities-maintenance needs of that organization, I have permitted you to spend valuable weekend hours preparing your Strand radio program – which, incidentally, has made no mention of me in its three most recent installments – and I have waited tolerantly as you have spent three nights each week presenting entertainment al fresco at the Strand Drive-In Theatre in a neighboring town. But my patience is at a limit. You are now present in our place of residence, and yet my food bowl remains empty.”

“That’s because you ate it all,” I retorted, my hand clamped tightly to my neck to stanch the bleeding. “Whatta you want from me?”

“Cease your impudence,” she commanded. “You have been remiss in your duties, and you must reevaluate your priorities at once.”

“Look,” I explained. “Do you realize that the only thing keeping you from a diet of mice, birds, and squirrels – is me?”

“I have been meaning to speak to you about this. I observe that the goldfinch population in our neighborhood of late has exploded to unacceptable levels. You will permit me to ‘thin the flock’ at once.”

I ignored her and plowed on. “And do you realize that the only thing keeping *me* from a diet of that leftover case of ramen I bought in 2004 is doing everything I can to help keep the Strand afloat?  And do you realize that the Strand itself, thru all its many alternative entertainment programs, is playing an essential role in providing needed distraction and relaxation to a tense, overstressed community in this time of crisis? That means your usual schedule is going to be off the beam until further notice? Get it?”

Miss Carol scowled, resenting the implication that she does not control her own destiny. But in this world today, in this situation in which we find ourselves, who does? We’re all at the mercy right now of forces largely beyond our individual control, leaving mass cooperation as the only way forward. But try and explain that to a cat.

I wrenched my body off the chair and moved toward the kitchen. I heard Miss Carol thump meaningfully to the floor behind me as I fumbled with a can of Friskies. She glared at me as I shooed the flies away and glopped Turkey With Giblet Gravy Dinner into her bowl. 

“Should not you be at work?” she growled. “You have essential duties to perform this evening at the Drive-In.  Cease malingering, and be busy about them.”

I sighed. Some things change, but Miss Carol never will.

I grabbed my mask and my keys. "Ridiculous fat barrel cat,” I muttered as I headed out the door.


But all I heard in return was a satisfied purr.

By Liz McLeod

Still Your House Manager


“I’m hungry!” I declared to no one in particular. 

“You may pause for your afternoon meal,” declared Miss Carol T. Cat, “but I shall require you to resume scratching that sensitive place at the base of my left ear once you have finished. You have five minutes. You may thank me, if you wish, for this charitable accommodation of your personal needs.”

“Nertz to that,” I replied, my hunger causing me to engage in riskier behavior than usual. “I been eatin’ nothin’ but stuff outa cans an’ take out food for weeks now. I’m sick of it. Today I’m gonna cook something!”

“I shall take shelter at once,” Miss Carol declared, thumping gracefully off the couch to the floor. “I find the inhalation of smoke to be distasteful and unpleasant. Advise me when you have completed the incineration of your meal.”

“That’s right,” I said. “Be funny. But this time it ain’t gonna be like that. Today I dine in style. I know exactly what I’m gonna make.”

I rooted around in the cubbyhole shelf in my pantry, and pulled out a couple of dust-covered cookbooks, obtained by my grandmother during the first half of the previous century in exchange for box tops or soap coupons. “Ah!” I said, holding up a tattered booklet and wiping off the dust. “Here’s the ticket. This is what I’m gonna make. Hungarian Goulash!”

“Your attempt at gustatory appropriation is offensive,” declared Miss Carol, pausing to wipe a fleck of cobweb off her cheek. “You are not of Hungarian ancestry, and know nothing of the subtleties of the cuisine.”

I gave her a look just chancy enough to generate a frown in return. “I may not be *from* Hungary,” I replied, lapsing into full snark mode, “but I certainly *am* Hungry!”

Miss Carol just glowered. “If this is the level of comedy material you intend to include in future radio broadcasts,” she sniffed, “I shall tune elsewhere for my entertainment.”

I ignored her riposte. “Look, you know what I had for supper last night? Matzo with mozzarella cheese on it. I’m all about ethnic fusion here. Besides, this is great. It’s cheap to make, it’s hearty, an’ it’s fillin’. What more could you want?”

“I would relish a can of Friskies Turkey With Giblets and gravy,” she replied. “This talk of food has caused my own hunger to rear up and make known its desire for satisfaction. Prepare my meal at once. I shall dine while you dither.”

I did as I was told because, hey, I’m not stupid, and then resumed my own food-preparation tasks. I rooted around in the refrigerator, pausing to consider again that headless Easter rabbit, and pulled out a small package of meat. “See, this is exactly what I need ,” I declared. “Stew beef! It’s the only meat I can afford with prices what they are right now – I should pay ten dollars of a package of hamburger? I don’t THINK so! – an’ it don’t really matter what kind of meat you use for this – beef, pork, chicken, whatever you got on hand. You don’t even need to use meat at all – you can use chunks of tofu if that’s what you want. The whole point of this meal is that it’s cheap an’ cheerful!”

Other than a continuous smacking sound as she licked the gravy from her own meal, Miss Carol made no reply.

I grabbed a heavy saucepan out of the cupboard, and slapped it down on a stove burner. “You start off meltin’ two tablespoons of fat on a medium heat…”

That got Miss Carol’s attention. “You could afford to melt more than two tablespoons,” she muttered without looking up. It’s quite a skill to snap off sarcastic asides with your mouth full of Friskies Turkey With Giblets and gravy, but Miss Carol possesses many rare talents. 

“You take the meat,” I continued, “an’ roll it in some flour, pushin’ as much flour into it as you can. An’ then, when the fat is sizzlin’, you throw it in the pot. Then throw in a coupla tablespoons of paprika, a little garlic, an’ whatever else you wanna throw in. An’ then add a cup of hot water, stir it up, reduce the heat, put a cover on th’ pot,  an’ let it simmer for forty-five minutes or so.  While you’re waitin’ cook up some egg noodles or some rice, or somethin’ to serve it on, an’ you’ll be all set.”

Miss Carol continued, to munch, oblivious to it all. I took advantage of her distraction to flop down in the living room chair with a magazine to pass the time. She finished her meal, saw me in Her Chair, and slapped her open-clawed paw down on my thigh in a marked manner.  Chastised and avoiding her condemnatory glare, I slunk over to the far corner of the couch.

Forty-five minutes passed, and the timer bell dinged its ding.  I jumped up with enthusiasm. “The time has come, the walrus said,” I exulted, “to eat my supper!”  I drained the noodles into a soup plate, set them aside, and pulled the lid off the simmering pot. Steam gushed out and a not-quite-right odor assaulted my nostrils.

“This don’t smell quite right,” I murmured. Miss Carol thumped into the kitchen, sitting in the doorway to closely observe the unfolding events.  I stuck a wooden spoon in the pot and took a sip of the contents.

Miss Carol’s eyes narrowed, and I swear, in that last instant before the spoon touched my lips, I saw her smirk.

I tasted. “Hey,” I began, “this doesn’t….”

But that was all I got out before a burst of blazing red fire surged thru my mouth, up my sinuses, and out my ears and nose. “OWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!” I screamed.

Miss Carol’s ears went back.

“OWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!” I screamed again, to emphasize the point. I grabbed for the jug of water on the kitchen table, and swallowed a deep draught. The fire sizzled slightly but did not go out. I emptied the jug down my throat, and stood there, breathing heavily, glaring with an accusatory stare at the feline whose eyes now sparkled like Christmas morning. “WHAT DID YOU DO????” I choked. “WHAT DID YOU DO?????”

“I did nothing,” Miss Carol replied, with a delicate lick of her paw. “The events that have just transpired were entirely your own doing. If you carefully examine the spice bottles on the shelf before you will note that you made a simple error in your selection of ingredients. Note that the bottle of paprika and the bottle of powdered cayenne pepper occupy adjacent positions on the shelf. Hampered no doubt by your deteriorating vision, you merely selected the wrong bottle in seasoning your meal.”

“And you didn’t TELL me?” I fumed, as wisps of smoke curled about my head.

“I concluded that there would be no advantage in my doing so,” she replied. “It was inevitable that you would make the discovery for yourself.”

She licked her paw again and walked over to her bowl. “It is nearly the hour for my evening meal,” she said. “Please exercise care in the selection of menu items. As you know, I do not care for highly seasoned foods.”

“Ridiculous fat barrel cat.”

“Accelerate your pace,” she advised.  “I am – Hungary.”

By Liz McLeod
Still Your House Manager
“Clearly you failed to comprehend the purpose of my address,” argued Miss Carol T. Cat, in a voice that to the uninitiated resembled that of a one-thousand horsepower electric motor grinding away at an unlubricated bearing.
I pressed my head into the pillow, in a futile attempt to squelch the throbbing of my basilar artery. “Will you please give it a rest,” I moaned. “Or if you can’t do that, at least give me a rest. It’s been two days!”
“Nevertheless,” she continued, “I maintain that your brusque dismissal of me from the microphone during our recent radio broadcast deprived the listening public of much-needed guidance and direction during these uncertain times.
“All you said was ‘feed me,” I grunted from within the pillow. “I gave you a chance to go on the air and all you said was ‘feed me.’ What kinda speech is that?”
“It was fraught with meaning,” replied Miss Carol, swatting the back of my neck with a pawful of ever-so-slightly-unsheathed claws. “It was a demand not just for material sustenance, but an echo of the public’s demand for spiritual and intellectual sustenance in this time of crisis – for the guidance and wise leadership that only I myself can provide. ‘FEED ME,’ cries the public. I hear their desperate entreaties and I respond. My powerful sense of noblesse-oblige demands it. Hew-mons require my intercession at this time, and I shall not withhold it from them.”
I sat up. There was no sense trying to sleep. Miss Carol was in the mood for a filibuster, and it fell unto me to provide an audience. “Too bad you weren’t this gabby during the radio show,” I murmured. “Might have been more interesting listening than ‘feed me.’”
Miss Carol glowered, her bright green eyes blazing in the darkness. “There is another matter I wish to note,” she said, her voice taking on a steely tone. “I could not help but be aware of the fact that I received no billing on the broadcast. My name and contributions to the program were not highlighted in any way in the opening or closing announcements. This is unacceptable. In future, I shall insist on ‘before the title’ billing. Such phrasing as ‘Miss Carol T. Cat starring in ‘The Strand On The Air,’ etcetera will be acceptable.”
“Oh, sure,” I sighed, flopping back onto the pillow. “I’ll get right on that.”
“I also require a statement in the program closing to the effect that ‘Miss Carol T. Cat’s appearance on this program is by special arrangement with Carol T. Cat Productions, LLC, Miss Carol T. Cat, president.’ I shall leave the precise wording in your hands. Your writing abilities are well suited for the crafting of tedious boilerplate.”
My eyes rolled, despite my best efforts to freeze them in position, and I was thankful for the darkness until I realized that cats can see in the dark.
“Which brings us to my next appearance on your broadcast,” Miss Carol continued. “I find that I was allotted insufficient time during my previous engagement to present all of the points I wished to enumerate. I shall require at least twenty minutes during my next appearance in order to fully outline my platform for hew-manity.”
“You aren’t gettin’ no twenty minutes,” I snapped back. “We’ve only got an hour show, and nobody’s gonna listen to you for a third of that.”
“They will do so. They will be carried away by the brilliant gleam of my personal charisma. Scarcely will they realize even a moment has passed before I have concluded my remarks.”
“Look,” I growled, rolling onto my stomach. “Get your own show. ‘The Strand on the Air’ is the Strand’s show, OK? We’re trying to give people a good dose of Strand-style entertainment to see them thru until we can open again. It’s bad enough you hijacked my blog, now you wanna take over the broadcast too? No way, toots.”
“I shall overlook your impudent tone. Begin at once to prepare the next program. I shall have much to say. As hew-mons tentatively resume their public activities, they will need reminders to observe all necessary precautions and to conduct themselves in a manner in which the risks to all will be minimized. I advise all hew-mons to observe necessary restrictions with good humor and with courtesy, and to avoid a pell-mell rush forward that may unnecessarily imperil the vulnerable. I offer my benediction to all hew-mons, and I wish only their safety, as individuals and as a community. Their observance of all that is required of them in this time offers the highest and greatest fulfillment of my personal request – ‘feed me.’”
I rolled over on my side.  “Are you done?” I groaned.
“I must also advise you at this time that I have secured personal representation thru the William Morris Agency for all of my future appearances on your broadcast,” she concluded. “You will receive the appropriate contracts by overnight mail.”
“Ridiculous fat barrel cat.”
I thought it, but I didn’t dare say it.
By Liz McLeod
Still Your House Manager
My eyes snapped open with a sudden jolt. I didn’t know where I was, or when I was, or why I was, or what I was, or how I was.
And then it all swam into a not so focused blur.
And I screamed.
I jerked upright, my breath in short gasps, and I kept telling myself it wasn’t real.
But it was.
Miss Carol T. Cat looked up from the corner of the bed, her bright green eyes the only light in the dim, dusty room. “You have disturbed my pre-dawn rest period,” she grunted, in a voice that might remind the uninitiated of that last rumble your car makes before it stalls halfway up a hill and you start rolling backward. “Whatever your explanation for this inappropriate behavior, I am certain that it is inadequate. Please leave the room at once and spend the rest of the night huddled  on the bathroom floor.”
“That cinches it,” I muttered to myself. “I really am awake. Well, that’s an improvement over that dream.”
“Hew-mon dreams are merely the manifestation of a poorly-controlled subconscious,” replied Miss Carol. “The felid mind makes far better use of its regeneration period. Our dreams are devoted to careful planning for the future. When your yelp of despair interrupted my slumber, I was immersed in a detailed dream involving the stalking and elimination of a large invasive rodent that had attempted to annex portions of my personal space. Be assured that when this rodent appears – as it one day must, given your slipshod repairs to the basement wall – it will be dispatched with extreme prejudice. Thus reassured, you may now resume your slumber.”
She coiled into her usual sleeping position, but I wasn’t ready to follow suit. My dream shook me, and when I get shook I stay shaken. “It was awful,” I blurted, as she cocked a disapproving eye in my direction. “It started out OK, but…”
“It is obvious that there will be no further rest for either of us until you have unloaded your mental burden,” sighed Miss Carol. She sat up and glared at me thru the darkness. “Very well then. Relate your dream.”
“There was this baseball game going on,” I began, “in a vacant lot on the street where I grew up.”
“You have been traumatized by the discontinuation of professional sports due to the pandemic,” interrupted my counselor. “This matter is of trifling significance. Refocus your mind. Now, good evening. I must return to my own rest.”
“That ain’t all of it,” I continued, as in a marked manner, Miss Carol rolled over on her side. “One of the Strand Kids was pitching. But instead of a ball, she was holding a paper soda cup full of popcorn. And when she threw it, the corn sort of fanned out in a big ball. It looked all pointy and spiky like them pictures you see of the coronavirus. And then it just sorta dispersed in the air.”
Miss Carol sat up. “An effective visualization of the ‘community transmission’ phase of the pandemic. But you may rest assured that this threshold has not been reached in our community. And indeed, due to effective implementation of precautionary measures, it is increasingly unlikely that it shall do so.”
“And then all of a sudden I was in the Strand,” I went on. “Only it was completely dark inside. Now, I been in the Strand by myself a lot – and it’s never completely dark inside, not ever. There’s always light comin’ from the Exit signs an’ the emergency lights, an’ comin’ thru the windows from the street outside. It’s never absolutely pitch dark, not ever. But in this dream, it was. I couldn’t see my hand in front o’ my face. An’ I was stumblin’ around tryin’ to find a light switch, tryin’ to find a flashlight or somethin’, but no matter what I did an’ no matter where I turned, it was still dark, an’ I started to panic. An’ then I heard voices – it was the Strand Kids, all of them, goin’ back to the beginning. And they were trapped in the dark too, but I couldn’t find them an’ they couldn’t find me, an’ none of us could find a light.  And then I could feel somethin’ landin’ on me, somethin’ settlin’ out of the air. I couldn’t see it – but I could feel it. It was pieces of popcorn. An’ then I woke up.”
“You have devised an effective scenario for a low-budget television horror film,” said Miss Carol. “Make immediate arrangements for its production and transmission over one of the major streaming services. An eager public awaits the disturbing and fear-inducing product of your fractured subconscious. Stephen King shall look to his laurels.”
“Yeah, right,” I replied. “But what does it mean?”
Miss Carol resumed her sleeping position. “The significance of this dream is obvious,” she said, without bothering to open her eyes. “You are frightened. You dislike the uncertainty surrounding your personal future, and you are languishing after the loss of your normal routine. And you miss the young persons with whom you regularly associate, as the mental stimulation they provide prevents your mind from ossifying into senescence.”
“Is that all?” I responded. “I was afraid I was goin’ crazy.”
“It is entirely normal to feel fear and uncertainty in these times, even for an emotionally-friable hew-mon such as yourself. Even I, a member of a superior species, have experienced moments of uncertainty in recent weeks. Be assured that these emotions shall pass as we move, each day, one step closer to the ultimate resumption of normal conditions.”
“Well, that’s a relief.”
“I might also advise,” she continued, “that in future you forego the consumption of an Italian sausage sandwich with cheese and tomato sauce immediately before retiring. A person of your advanced years will find a small bowl of tepid gruel a more appropriate evening snack. Should you require a beverage, a warm cup of Postum will suffice.”
“Just how old do you think I am?” I protested, but Miss Carol had already fallen back to sleep.
“Ridiculous fat barrel cat,” I murmured as I did likewise.
By Liz McLeod
Still Your House Manager
“OW!” I yelped, as the greasy piece of metal sliced into the palm of my hand, and threw the screwdriver across the room to punctuate my statement.
Miss Carol T. Cat, alerted by my sudden outburst, thumped off her comfortable roost on the ragged old living room chair, where she’d spent the afternoon coiled in quiet contemplation of the eternal majesty of the universe and the virtues of Friskies Turkey With Giblet Gravy, and ambled into the kitchen. Her furry face crinkled into a frown of deep, deep, disapproval.
“What is the meaning of this?” she demanded with a yawn. “If you have injured yourself, see to medical treatment at once. I observe that your wounded hand is the one required for opening cans. There must be no interruption in its availability for this essential purpose.”
“Ahhhh, nertz,” I grumbled, winding my hand in the tail of my sweater to stanch the bleeding. Paper towel’s hard to get these days.  I kicked at the piece of metal in helpless fury, missed, and stumbled  against the kitchen wall, upending a garbage barrel filled with empty bottles, which spewed out on the floor all around me. They say primates are the only creatures capable of laughter, but I swear I saw Miss Carol snicker.
“You appear at poor advantage,” she snorted. “I advise that you ‘pull yourself together’ at once. Wacky slapstick antics are in poor taste in the current environment of global crisis.”
“I’m tryin’ to fix the stove!” I blurted, struggling to hoist my unwanted extra weight to its feet.
“Such tasks are best left to trained professionals,” replied Miss Carol, turning to nip at a gob of dust my fall had sent drifting onto her fur.

“Do I look like somebody who can afford to hire a trained professional for anything right now?” I snapped back. “Besides, the last time I had a repair guy in here he asked if my TV set came from Civil War times.  I don’t need to pay these characters to come in here and make fun of me. I got you for that.”
“I am pleased to be of service,” she snarked, walking over to the dismantled pile of corroded metal that, until an hour ago, was my kitchen stove. “Perhaps if you had not attempted to take it apart,” she suggested, “the stove would not require repair. Possibly you have, once more, served as the architect of your own demise.”
“I didn’t break it,” I fired back. “Well, I did, but not like that. See, there’s this thing inside the oven that senses the temperature, an’ I was tryin’ to cook a pizza in there an’ I knocked it off the hook that it’s ‘sposed to hang on, an’ when I tried to hang it back up, I bent the wire too much an’ it broke off. So th’ thermostat wouldn’t work, an’ when y’turn on th’ oven, it goes up to like 550 degrees.”
“At last,” exulted Miss Carol. “Sufficient warmth! It will make life in this draft-ridden shanty somewhat more bearable.”
“Yeah, well, it’s not so good for cookin’. An’ it turns out to fix it, you gotta buy a whole new thermostat. But before you can order one, you gotta get the part number. An’ before you can do that, you gotta take the stupid stove apart to take the old thermostat out!”
“It is infinitely easier to destroy the works of man,” observed Miss Carol, “than to create them.”
“What?” I muttered, as I applied a tourniquet made from a torn dish towel to my bleeding hand.
“I quote from the works of Will Irwin, muckraking journalist of the early twentieth century,” Miss Carol added with satisfaction. “No doubt you are unfamiliar with his philosophy, given that it rarely appeared on ‘Dubble Bubble’ gum wrappers. In any event, you have obviously succeeded in reducing your kitchen range to scrap metal, which may bring a small sum on the secondary market. Perhaps with the proceeds you might make a down payment on a newer, more efficient food-preparation device. AS you know, I am fond of roast turkey, but the small size of your present oven has for too long precluded the appropriate preparation of such a feast.”
“Oh no,” I declared. “Money’s tight right now. No way I’m gonna go further into debt just so you can eat all the white meat and leave me with the thighs and the neck. I ain’t that dumb.”
“With further effort, I assure you that the goal is within sight.”
“Look, it’s gonna cost me two hundred berries just to get the thermostat for this thing, an’ then I’m gonna have to go thru all the work of puttin’ it in. I don’t need any lip from you. I just sent away for the thermostat on eBay, an’ we’re just gonna sit tight till it gets here.”
“Perhaps,” conceded Miss Carol, “I have been too harsh. I realize that tempers and nerves have worn thin due to the isolation prescribed under the current conditions of pandemic. As a sign of my goodwill, I suggest that perhaps a bracing cup of tea would restore your inner being and fortify you for the challenges ahead. Perhaps you should put the kettle on.”
“Yeah!” I enthused, as my bleeding hand slowed to a weak trickle. “A cuppa tea, that’s the ticket.” I filled the kettle and turned to place it upon the – dismantled and thoroughly pile of scrap metal sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor.
Miss Carol looked up at me with a slow blink of her bright green eyes, turned, and slowly walked away. I could swear I heard her chortle.
I tossed the kettle over my shoulder and heard it crash against a stack of unwashed dishes, and sank muttering into a corner of the pantry.
“Ridiculous fat barrel cat.”
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