Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Finding Susie Beans: Ch. 1. Oliver Grendall

To begin, understand this: I am no lover of adventure. To the contrary, I gravitate more toward the sedentary pleasures of the intellect. I have my favorite armchair and my books. My writings occupy my time most constantly, what with the near-continual communion I have with the Muses and the actual committing to paper the vast wealth of my mind’s fruits. I live almost wholly in an abstract world and am quite content to stay there. Although my movements are limited, “I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space,” to quote the Bard. My wants, therefore, are few. All I ask are the requirements living creatures must provide themselves with to sustain life. Nourishment, sleep, a sunny place to stretch out in and such intellectual baubles as come my way. Those and satisfying my penchant for touching up my fur with my tongue at all odd times round up to perfect contentment.

Perhaps I should mention here that I am a cat.

I live in a house near Boston with Mrs. Swift, the woman who provides for me. Her husband, the late Mr. Swift, was a professor of English literature and Mrs. Swift — doubtless in deference to my intellectual gifts — kept all of his books. It was lucky that when I was a kitten her granddaughter often came to stay during the day while her mother was at work, for I was exposed to Sesame Street and other such educational programming, and that’s how I learned to read.

There are other cats in my neighborhood and I am on good terms with nearly all of them: all, that is, except for Hobo, the gray and black Tabby who, rather than stand in awe of the dizzying heights my powers have attained me, views me more as an object of some merriment. But there is Cleo, the blue point Siamese who lives next door. She is of a not unpleasing poetical turn, although sometimes she grows a bit too romantic for my tastes. And across the street there is Cool Jay, who is nearly all orange except for a spot of white on his face. He is always running from something, although if you ever asked him from what, he likely wouldn’t have an answer. Sometimes we are visited by Rosie and Gildie who live the next street over. They are sisters of the calico persuasion and think it’s great fun to make a fuss over me to the point where a feel quite abashed. But they are affectionate, carefree creatures and have won me over with their true goodness.

And I? I am Oliver Grendall. A mixture of many breeds and, doubtless, the beneficiary of the best parts of them all.

When I am not fortifying my mind with additional knowledge, I spend much of my time recording what the great machinery of my brain has processed out of knowledge gained. I am expert in a multitude of subjects, and it is a joy to me to acquire knowledge, allow it time to ferment and then bestow upon the world the Oliver Grendall Perspective. At the time of which I write, I had been working on a small monograph entitled, “Comma: the Prince of Punctuation.” (My argument was that the comma was the most useful and elegant kind of punctuation. I couldn’t decide if I liked that better than “The Comma: Prince of Punctuation.” And then I could of used “Potentate,” only that felt a bit forced, and there was the whole problem of employing a colon when I meant to sing the comma’s praises. But I digress.) But never, until that day, had I bent the lights of my keen powers of perception on something so earthbound as that of the detection of crime. And that, dear reader, is at the foundation of the story I wish to tell.

It was an unusually warm morning in April as I recall. I had been out on the back deck of the house batting around a dead leaf with my paw and trying to identify a unique scent I discovered near the base of the propane grill. A squirrel had visited me earlier and taunted me in a way too disgraceful to relate. (I am not given to prejudice, but I’ve never met a squirrel I’ve liked.) Cleo came by and inquired about the quality of my latest nap: the usual cat chit-chat. I began to expound upon the voles of North America and their incidences within heavily populated areas when the piercing shriek of a little girl rent the air. The note of emergency in it couldn’t be ignored. Cleo and I bounded off the deck and ran to the front of the house in time to see Cool Jay streak from his house.

“Cool Jay!” Cleo and I both shouted at once. “Over here!”

Cool Jay stopped abruptly, saw us and ran over to where we stood.

“Great Heavens!” I said. “What happened?”

“It’s Lucy,” he said, referring to the little girl who lived in his house. “She’s very upset. She’s lost Susie Beans.”

Then he just stood there as if he had just said all that needed to be said. That’s the way it is with Cool Jay. You have to pull everything from him.

“Forgive us, Cool Jay, if we haven’t the slightest idea what you’re talking about. Who, pray, is Susie Beans?”

“It’s Lucy’s favorite dolly,” he explained. “She’s forever dressing it up, doing it’s hair and talking to it. Her mother has made Susie Beans five different outfits on the sewing machine. It’s treated like a person in that family. And this morning Susie Beans disappeared.”

And as he said that, Lucy’s choking sobs became quite audible. Then the front door to the house opened and Lucy herself, followed by her mother, emerged from it. “Susie Beans! Susie Beans!” Lucy wailed, and began poking futilely among the bushes in front of the house. I was not at so very great a distance as to miss the tears streaming copiously down her flushed cheeks. The poor girl was at the very extremity of heartsickness. It was a pitiful thing to watch.

“Have you no idea what happened to it?” I asked Cool Jay.

“No. Last I saw it, Susie Beans was in the little rocking chair Lucy has for it in her room.”

“When was that?”

“Last night.”

“It’s nearly 10:30 in the morning now. If Lucy loved the doll that much, surely she would have discovered its absence by now.”

“She was at a sleepover, sir,” Cool Jay replied. Cool Jay often referred to me as “sir.” Unnecessary, but tolerable to listen to nonetheless. “She’s only just returned.”

It was strange to me that the doll would just disappear. Lucy was an only child, so no mischievous sibling would have done it. Surely her parents would do nothing to promote domestic disharmony.

“Have you no theory at all then? You live there, Cool Jay. You know their habits. Anything out of the ordinary? Strange visitors? Unusual sounds during the night?”

“Nothing like that at all, sir. I’m a perfect blank I regret to say.”

I stared over at Lucy, who had given up her ineffectual search among the bushes and had now totally collapsed into a attitude of unrestrained grief, her mother bent over her offering whatever ministrations she could give. Now, I am not what one may call “emotional,” but I have a heart. True, my world, the world of logic and of things ethereal, keeps my time spent on terra firma infrequent and brief, but I do, as I say, have a heart. And then, as I looked across the street to poor Lucy, her poor little back heaving with great sobs, my heart became my master.

“Cleo,” I said.

“Yes, Oliver?”

“We must find Susie Beans.”

“Oh, Oliver!”


Next chapter: Grendallian Logic


Blogger NYPinTA said...

LOL. This is great. :D

1:31 PM  
Blogger trinamick said...

Interesting stuff, this.

2:30 PM  
Blogger John said...

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8:12 AM  

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