Sunday, April 23, 2006

This just in

Despite much whining on my part (and the cat's) I have another installment for you. It would have made it in by midnight if it wasn't for all my commas and quotations suddenly turning to code. !@#@$!

Nevertheless, I hope you like it. Click on "Read more! Maybe" below to read it.


"Have you tried the hair of the dog?" Ivy asked.

"What?" Ann asked, opening her eyes in surprise.

That was a mistake. The sun was shining through the sheer curtains in her bedroom window with what could almost be called a spiteful cheerfulness. She clutched the telephone receiver and retreated under the blankets. Nasty, evil light! Wasn't it enough that her head felt like someone had mistaken it for a tambourine, and that she had a taste in her mouth that, come to think of it, wasn't very far removed from dog hair?

"The 'hair of the dog that bit you'," Ivy explained. "Maybe another drink would help. Do you have any alcohol in your apartment?"

Ann was relieved. The thought of having another drink was only marginally more appealing than the dog hair, but at least it was sanitary. "I've got half a bottle of zinfandel on the fridge door," Ann ventured. "Would that work?"

After a moment of thoughtful (or, quite possibly, appalled) silence, Ivy said, "Um... Probably not. Do you have bananas? Aspirin?"

"No bananas. I've got some acetametaphin in the bathroom," Ann said, but she lacked enthusiasm. The bathroom was so far away.

"What about US #8 dpns?"

Ann perked up a little. "I think so. Do they help a hangover?"

"No, but I lost mine last night during the game, and I need to finish this sweater for Emma before she outgrows it. That's why I was calling."


"Are you sure you have US #8 dpns?"

"Uh...There's some in the kitchen."

"Tell you what: the twins aren't due back from my folks' until four, so how about I swing by for those needles? I can bring you the Rosenberg Family Cure for Hangovers. It hasn't failed me yet."

"I thought your parents were teetotalers?"

"Okay, so it's the Ivy Rosenberg Cure for Hangovers. But it still works. What do you say? I can be there in twenty minutes."

"I guess," Ann said. Ivy coming over sounded suspiciously like getting out of bed. Maybe even brushing her hair.

"Such enthusiasm!" Ivy said sardonically. "'Til then." She rang off.

Ann quickly learned that one symptom of a hangover was the need to hold her head. She wasn't sure why, but it if she let her head go the pounding became worse. She made certain to keep a minimum of one hand on her head at all times. This made putting on her bathrobe and slippers somewhat difficult. She felt silly that she had been so shortsighted as to not practice her toe dexterity. Things would be so much easier if she could use them like hands. She shuffled into the kitchen and looked for the US #8 dpns.

Ann's kitchen was the staging ground for her three most fervent obsessions: cooking, knitting, and old movies. While others may have found it difficult to make one small room encompass such diversity, to Ann it seemed almost natural. She was by nature a very organized and pragmatic individual. There was not a pot or pan or lid in the place that did not have its place, or a spice jar without a label (carefully inscribed with its technical and colloquial name in Ann's own neat hand) on the shelf. A low, wide cabinet with a small TV atop it faced her knitting station, three shelves of VHS and DVD movies looming over it. The cabinet itself housed a fair amount of her knitting stash, organized by color, type, and purpose. A framed poster of Humphrey Bogart oversaw it all from its honored position above the stove. When asked why she kept it in such an odd location, Ann replied, "I just like to look at him." She wiped it down on a daily basis.

Today the room was not in top form. Her knitting bag was strewn in the middle of the floor, as were her shoes, overcoat, hat and scarf. She stared at it with incomprehension. Not only could she not imagine just dumping everything in the kitchen like that, she couldn't remember doing it at all. She wondered what kind of state she had been in when she got home, which raised the inevitable question of how she got home. Both answers were shrouded in an 80 proof haze of mystery.

It was then that Ann heard the cat meow.

Ann didn't have any pets, not even so much as a goldfish or a mouse she couldn't bear to trap. The man who lived above her had a old, fat labrador that was always idiotically happy to meet her in the stairwell, and the landlady, Mrs. Tamborini, had a pug, but aside from that there were no animals in the building - the labrador had only made it in because of the pug and hefty pet deposit.

The cat meowed again: a pitiful, plaintive noise. Ann moved to the window and peeked through the Venetian blinds. She squinted down at the snowy street that fronted her building, fully expecting to see some neighbor's cat waiting impatiently on a stoop. But there was no cat making mournful demands, just a small gray hatchback sloshing its way slowly down the street.

Ann heard the meow again. It was very, very nearby. It was, in fact, coming from the fire escape just outside the window.

There was cat sitting on the fire escape directly across from the window. It returned Ann's astonished stare with equanimity. It was a tidy little cat, a fine boned, shorthaired black and white whose markings were arranged in manner strongly suggestive of formal wear. All it lacked was the bow tie.

Ann couldn't fathom how it got there. Her fire escape was inaccessible from the neighboring buildings, and the cat couldn't have climbed up from the ground. The only conceivable explanation was that despite Mrs. Tamborini's edict, somebody in the building had a cat and it had gotten accidentally stuck out on the fire escape. Maybe she could lure the cat inside where it was warm until its owner came looking for it.

Ann's windows were very old, possibly even original to the building, and notoriously stubborn. Decades of exposure to weather and careless painters had not been kind to them - if she could get them open, there was fifty-fifty chance that she would be able to close them again. She debated with herself over which would be the greater evil. It wasn't snowing just now, but it was definitely below freezing. If she couldn't get it closed again her apartment would be like an icebox, her heat literally going out the window. But she couldn't just leave the little tuxedo cat out in the snow - it might be hours before the cat's owner found it. It could freeze to death in that time.

Ann raised the blind, unlocked the window, and began a one-handed battle with the bottom sash. Much swearing and grunting and head throbbing later she had it opened about a foot. Ann and the tuxedo cat regarded each other through the opening. It didn't seem frightened or the least bit shy. Nor did it seem particularly eager to get inside. It just sat there, watching Ann curiously.

"Here, kitty!" Ann called in what she considered her most beguiling, talk-to-helpless-creatures voice. "Kitty, kitty!"

The tuxedo cat didn't stir.

"Kitty? Come here, kitty!" Ann scratched the windowsill with her nails alluringly, but the tuxedo cat wasn't falling for it.

Ann wondered what she was doing wrong. Was she using a friendly, high voice? Yes. Was she making scritchy noises that attract cats? Yes, indeed. She tried clicking her tongue at it, but that was just as effective as everything else. She thought for sure rolling a ball of Cotton Ease lightly across the windowsill would do the trick.

It didn't.

"Fine! Be that way!" Ann told the cat, ducking her head back inside. She tossed the ball of yarn onto the floor and tried to close the window.

It was stuck.

Ann groaned, holding her head with both hands. She was going to be lying around all day, nauseous and achy, freezing her butt off, and she wasn't even going to have a cat to show for it. Maybe she could get the guy with the labrador to come down and close it for her. He was a nice enough guy; he would do it for her. But then again, did either of them really need to subject him to her in her current state? The man would never look at her the same again. Not that he ever did really look at her. But still.

"You're coming inside," Ann said, fixing the cat with a determined eye. She hiked up her bathrobe and slung a felt-slippered foot over the sill. She just barely managed to squeezed through the narrow opening to tumble somewhat gracelessly onto the fire escape. The window slammed shut and the tuxedo cat ran to the other end of the fire escape and leapt the five or so feet to the neighboring parapet.

Ann gawked at this uber-cat feat, then tried to open the window but it had gone over the other fifty percent where immobility reigned. She swore and stamped her foot. Something pink slipped through the icy ironwork, toppling three stories to the street below. Ann blinked down at the tiny pink dot in the snow that was her felt clog and swore some more.

Just then she saw someone in a bluish hat walking below carrying a large paper bag. Ann knew that hat: it was Noro Silk Garden, knit in four by two rib, straight seamed with a variegated blue pom-pom at each point. It could only mean one thing: the Ivy Rosenberg Cure for Hangovers was here!

And she was stuck on the fire escape, unable to buzz Ivy in.

"Crap, crappity-crap!" Ann swore, clattering down the icy fire escape. She slipped on a step and grabbed the railing. Her other felt clog spiraled forlornly to the fire escape landing outside the second floor. Ivy was already at the door, her mittened hand reaching for the buzzer.

"Ivy!" Ann shouted.

Ivy paused and glanced down the street. Not seeing anyone, she hit the buzzer and waited.

"I'm up here!" Ann shouted, clamoring down to the second floor fire escape. She grabbed up her clog and stepped onto the bottom ladder. Too late, she remembered that it swings down.

Ivy glanced up just in time to witness a startled Ann ride the ladder down like a surfer and tumble headlong into the snow below, her pink terry cloth robe flying behind her. Ann scrambled to her feet and ran toward the door.

Ivy stared at her, clearly thinking Ann must be a madwoman. "What are you doing? I thought you said you were hung over!"

"I am!" Ann panted. She pressed the buzzer for Mrs. Tamborini's apartment.

"You sure don't act like it." Ivy glanced at the felted clog clutched in Ann's hand. "What happened to your slippers?"

"Oh!" Ann exclaimed, remembering the clog in the snow. She would have fetched it right then if it wasn't for Mrs. Tamborini answering the buzz.

"Who is it?" the old woman demanded. A yapping noise could be heard indistinctly in
the background.

"It's Ann, Mrs. Tamborini! I'm afraid I'm locked out. Could you buzz me in, please?"

"You shouldn't leave the house without a spare in your purse," Mrs. Tamborini said reproachfully.

"Yes, you're right, Mrs. Tamborini. Could you hit the buzzer please?"

The buzzer sounded and Ann pushed open the door. "Could you hold this?"

Ivy stuck her foot in the door and watched incredulously as her friend dug about in the snow for her lost clog. "You know, you shouldn't leave the house without getting dressed first."

"I wasn't planning to leave the house," Ann said. "There was a cat stuck on my fire escape. I went out to get it, but it ran off, and my window fell shut."

"Was it a big Russian Blue?" Ivy asked.

"No, it was a tuxedo cat," Ann replied, then raised her pink clog in the air triumphantly. She noticed Ivy peering at something overhead with interest and followed her gaze. On the fire escape outside her apartment there was a big silvery-blue cat looking in her window.

"It was black and white," Ann added lamely.

"Like that one?" Ivy asked, pointing.

The tuxedo cat leapt from the nearby parapet into the fire escape and sat beside the Russian Blue.

They both let out a pitiful meow.

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Jeanette said...

I enjoyed this weeks chapter and can't wait to see how it all fits together. Now back to work.

Witchypooh Lynne said...

Excellent :)