Monday, April 11, 2005

Finding Susie Beans: Ch. 8. The Culprit Exposed, a Happy Ending

The story thus far: we meet Oliver Grendall, winner of the Noble Prize for Physics for his brilliant study of Hairball Dynamics in Saline Solutions; little Lucy's doll, Susie Beans, vanishes; Oliver and Cool Jay go looking for it; they have several close calls in Boston’s famed Fenway Park; Hobo proves not such a bad cat after all; Oliver figures it out at last.

The next morning was sunny and warm. Mrs. Swift let me out on the back deck at around 10:00. There were more birds around these days with the weather getting warmer, and several blue jays, safe on high tree limbs, squawked angrily at my presence, hurling several epithets at me which will not be repeated in these pages. If that weren’t enough, the squirrel who used me for sport the other day was back at his tricks again. For some unfathomable reason, his tiny brain wouldn’t grasp that he could not, under any circumstances, draw me in and make me chase him. Cleo appeared a half hour later and we settled into an earnest talk. Lately, our conversations have been a source of great pleasure to me. Cleo is a wonderful listener, instinctively knowing when to be silent or when a comment is due. And she has, of late, refined a talent for making the most salient remarks which, once introduced, have tended prod my mind toward fruitful avenues of thought. It seems we often think along the same lines now and I frequently seek out her company and her opinions. Indeed — and I say this despite the fact that my advanced mind can work well enough on its own — I find her contributions more and more indispensable with each passing day.

I had need for her wise counsel this morning and we talked at great length about the Susie Beans matter. I told her everything of Cool Jay’s and my adventure, what Hobo said to me and what I thought it meant. Then I explained all my reasoning for this conjecture. Cleo listened to all I had to say thoughtfully and without interruption. Then I went on to tell her that I had, during the night, determined on a particular approach and was gratified to hear that she agreed with me. I was further heartened to hear that she wanted to be there for it.

“Thank you,” I said, and I hazarded to put my paw on one of hers. Our eyes met and we sat looking at each other for a long moment, not embarrassed and in no hurry to fill the silence with words. Presently Cool Jay arrived, as he ordinarily did at this hour. The spell, perhaps, was broken, but the feeling remained.

“Cool Jay,” I said. “The very cat I wish to speak to.”

Cool Jay looked at me and I continued. “Tell me, Cool Jay — right when it seemed we would have to tangle with Max and Scratchmo, you said there was something you needed to say to me. What was it?”

“Oh, that. Well, Mr. Grendall, I — I’d rather not say.”

“I suspected you would feel that way, and I suppose I don’t blame you if what I think happens to be correct. Let me help you a little. Do you remember yesterday, when we went into Lucy’s room? You had an excuse for why your fur and scent was all over Susie Beans’ rocking chair, didn’t you?”

“Why, yes,” he said in a low voice. “I told you I liked to sleep in it.”

“Because you found it comfortable?”

“Yes.”

“That statement begs two questions, Cool Jay. First, how could you be in the habit of napping in a chair that was nearly always occupied by a doll?”

“I suppose Susie Beans wasn’t there all the time and I found my opportunities.”

I decided to skip on to the next question. “And, second, the fact that you declared the chair ‘comfortable.’ You’re a full grown cat, Cool Jay, and that little chair is meant for a doll. You’re too big for it. How could it be comfortable?”

Cool Jay said nothing. Instead, he simply stared at the ground. It was obvious to anyone who could see that he really wanted to talk.

“Cool Jay, you are my very good friend. That will never change. Tell me now and make a clean breast of it. You were jealous of Susie Beans, weren’t you?”

Still he remained silent.

“The night of Lucy’s sleepover, you used that opportunity to hide Susie Beans away, didn’t you? Because Lucy seemed to care for Susie Beans more than you?”

Perhaps a minute or so passed while we three stood there, each as unwilling as the other to break the silence. Finally, Cool Jay spoke. “Yes, Mr. Grendall,” he said with a sigh. “Of course you figured it out. Believe me, sir, I never wanted to involve you — you, of all cats! How could I have known you’d take an interest in all this?

“Let me explain as best I can,” he went on, emotion tightening his features slightly, “although putting it into words will make everything seem so petty. You see, ever since I was a kitten, I was Lucy’s darling. We used to play games and be together all the time. Whenever she watched TV, Lucy always had to have me on her lap. Whenever she was sad or in a bad mood, I was the only one she allowed for company. She had this little toy bird, made out of feathers that was on a string, and the string was attached to a stick. She used to tease me with it, to make me jump and try to grab the toy bird. She’d lead me all through the house that way. It was such fun! Lucy never got tired of that game. When she came home from school, that was the first thing we’d do. And then of course there was Hide and Seek. We played that a lot. I was always careful to let her catch me in the end.

“Back then, she used to have lots of names for me. It was Lucy who thought of ‘Cool Jay,’ naturally, but there were also ‘Kits’ and ‘Fur Ball’ and ‘Sneaky.’ Oh, and ‘Orange Terror.’ That last one she’d say when she was mad at me, but it was a kind of compliment having these names made up for me, you know? Even ‘Orange Terror.’ But then it all ended a couple of months ago.”

“With Susie Beans,” I said.

“Susie Beans is just a doll, Mr. Grendall,” Cool Jay said, his voice perceptibly shaking. “What can a doll do? That’s what I can’t understand. Does a doll rub up against you? Or make a fuss about you when you come home? Dolls . . . dolls are only so much plastic! But Susie Beans was all Lucy seemed to care for. She talked to it, sang to it, did things with its hair. Her mother was part of all this too, making those clothes for Susie Beans. And all I could do was look on and wonder.

“Anyway, the morning of Lucy’s . . . discovery, I never expected her to go off quite like she did. And it was my wretched luck you happened to be there. I saw the pity you felt. I wasn’t surprised when you announced you would search for Susie Beans. Of course, as far as I was concerned, that was a catastrophe! Your respect for me is something I prize above almost everything else. And I knew, if left on your own, you would figure it all out and I would be exposed.”

“So that’s where the Red Sox ticket came in?” I asked.

“Right. I had a whole night to think of what to do before you searched Lucy’s room the next morning. So I went for a walk toward Hobo’s end of the street, just thinking, searching for an answer. Truth is, I believe that ticket did come from one of Hobo’s providers. I happened to find it on their porch.”

“Did Hobo have anything to do with this?” The wrong answer would have altered my new-found respect for the tabby eternally.

“Oh, no sir. Hobo was nowhere to be seen. This is all on me, no one else.” Then he continued. “I saw the ticket, noticed the date, and this story just popped into my head. I thought it would make the perfect blind, because, whatever theory you might come up with, I doubted you could act on it.”

“Why?”

“Well, for one, I knew very well cats aren’t allowed on buses — and how else could you expect to get to the ballpark? And — and here I feel most deeply ashamed — I did all I could to steer you in this wrong direction. I thought we’d give it a try, it wouldn’t work, and then that would be the end of that.”

“You didn’t count on Hobo.”

“No. And Hobo suspected something was up. You heard all those questions he asked me. He really made it his business to see us get on that bus.”

Everything Cool Jay said rang true. Then I said, “Here’s something that puzzles me: you actually helped me pursue this errant course every step of the way. Why was that?”

“Well, I’m sure it’s no good at this late hour trying to pass myself off as noble, but I made it my firm intention to stick with you, to help you get out of whatever scrap you got into. So I played along.”

“And we did get into some scraps, didn’t we?”

“Oh yes we did.”

I said my last remark with a smile and Cool Jay wasn’t slow to catch it. True, I had been deceived, and with this deception my pride suffered a blow. But sometimes you need to sacrifice pride a bit . . . for a friend. And there was no doubting that Cool Jay had remained just that throughout all this: my friend.

I asked him several more questions about our little adventure and received honest answers that satisfied me. Cool Jay, naturally, had no idea who we would find in that particular seat in Fenway Park, but felt relieved to see it unoccupied, because this person’s absence had, however temporarily, put a halt to things. He apologized again for biting me, and we laughed when recalling the sight of Scratchmo being soundly whipped by Hobo. Finally, Cleo spoke up:

“Cool Jay, you know that Lucy is still just a little girl. One of my providers was a little girl once, too. This sort of thing is a phase they all go through. Can you imagine what Lucy’s reaction would have been if you were lost instead of her doll? She would have been inconsolable. I’m sure she loves you, Cool Jay. You’ll find out.”

“And remember,” I added, “if it’s friendship and love you’re looking for, you have it right here with all of us. You always have.”

Here my orange friend was silent for a minute or so; it seemed several emotions contended within him for the moment and he couldn’t trust himself to speak. Then, before we changed the subject completely (as it was, after all, getting a bit “mushy”), I informed him that all would be well if he could restore Susie Beans to her former place without incriminating himself. To this he agreed, and we said no more about it.

Within a day or two, Susie Beans was miraculously found back in its little rocking chair. This latest incident inspired quite a buzz around our street about all the strange goings-on. Dolls disappearing and reappearing again. Neighborhood cats mysteriously showing up miles away in Kenmore Square. And there was even some talk about Mrs. Swift’s cat, the one who liked to drag books around with him. But eventually things quieted down when nothing else unusual happened for a month or so. Soon enough, the neighborhood settled down to how it was before.

And so I have once again reassumed my lofty perch upon that beloved armchair of mine, where I view and comment on the world through the literature of my contemporaries and the ancients. Lately, I’ve been perusing Plato’s Dialogues and hope, at some future date, to deliver my tightly reasoned opinions as I compare some of his ideas to those of Schopenhauer’s. My poetry recitals, naturally, have been resumed. The ladies just last Monday thrilled to my epic “Battle at Sea,” and sighed when hearing the tender “My Sunny Window Ledge.” Gildie, in fact, needed several minutes to recover from my performance, as I delivered both readings with great theatrical effect.

Yes, things are back to normal.

Although, only week ago, a new family moved into the house several doors down. And with them came a new cat…

…but perhaps we’ll touch on this some other time.



THE END

5 Comments:

Blogger trinamick said...

Very nice conclusion, though I think Susie Beans would have been better off in a landfill somewhere. Cats rule.

11:37 AM  
Blogger NYPinTA said...

LOL!
Yeah, they do.

Great story Mr. Schprock!

12:04 PM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

Thanks! trinamick, if you don't mind, I'll use your ending for the director's cut. It's got punch.

8:13 AM  
Blogger trinamick said...

Feel free.

8:28 AM  
Blogger Henry said...

i KNEW it!!!
No I didn't. Great, great stuff all the same.

10:30 AM  

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