Monday, February 28, 2005

Finding Susie Beans: Ch. 2. Grendallian Logic

The story thus far: We meet Oliver Grendell, a cat of rare accomplishments, and his friends; they learn that little Lucy's doll, Susie Beans, is missing; Oliver vows to take up the search.

I practice what I am pleased to call Grendallian Logic. It can be simply stated this way: B must follow A, and C must come inexorably after B. Never shall B come before A and certainly C should never precede B. And so everything must go from A to B to C.

A theft occurred, that was manifest. There we have A. The person (or persons) who committed the theft would leave, however slight, clues behind. That I take as an incontrovertible article of faith and we may thus arrive at B. These clues, when carefully observed and sifted through the filter of cold reason, will lead to the identities of the guilty parties and, ergo, to the solution of the crime. A resounding C.

My first step lay in examining the scene of the crime. A close inspection of the grounds immediately surrounding Cool Jay’s house revealed nothing. I looked for footprints under windows, signs of forced entry, anything that seemed unusual or out of place and found nothing. I sniffed everywhere and, while I uncovered many intriguing scents, none were of much use to me. The next task involved entering the house. For that, I had to wait until the following morning when Mr. and Mrs. Dill (who were Lucy’s parents) would be at work and Lucy at school.

I will not bore the readers with all my ruminations as I considered the case, but suffice it to say they were of the highest order of reasoning. Motive occupied the uppermost of my thoughts. Who would want Susie Beans? And of that group, who could contrive to have access to Susie Beans? What made Susie Beans an object worth breaking the law for? Was she different from most other dolls? Did Lucy have a rival, someone who coveted Susie Beans for herself, who was perhaps jealous of Lucy? Human psychology, I confess, is not a particular strength of mine (although I found Freud’s “The Interpretation of Dreams” an interesting read). These were deep waters, and I told myself not to commit to any path before all the evidence was in.

The next morning began cloudy and threatened rain. Mrs. Swift, who is retired and not always regular in her hours, let me out at around 9:30, which was later than I would have liked, as I heard from Cool Jay that the Dills would be out of their house by 8:00. But 9:30 wasn’t bad, and it gave me time to devour an entire bowl of liver-flavored Meow Mix as a precaution against an uncertain meal time later in the day. I found Cool Jay chasing the same squirrel who abused me the day before. Cool Jay is quite skilled at scampering up trees, but no cat can ever rival a squirrel for it. I wondered, as I watched him rush the squirrel, then stop, stare, grow very taut and take another run at him, if Cool Jay had the slightest idea what he would do if he ever caught the squirrel. And the squirrel was taking great delight in his superiority over my orange friend, making those irritating sounds that drive most cats mad.

“Cool Jay!” I said at last.

Cool Jay looked at me, then turned back to the squirrel to give the little rodent a most withering stare, and finally came over to where I stood.

“That squirrel will get it one of these days,” he remarked. I let that pass. Any justice due to that squirrel would come from a source other than my agitated friend.

“Cool Jay, let’s have a look at Lucy’s room.”

“Yes sir,” said Cool Jay, and he lead me around to the back of the house to where the the Dills had a kitty door. (Mrs. Swift, God bless her, has never considered such a convenience for myself.) We entered, padded through the kitchen, past the living room and down the hall to where Lucy’s room was.

In my readings I have encountered the word “girly,” and I suppose Lucy’s room was the archtype for that. It was frilly and pink and smelled like lilacs. Ballerinas worked into the motif a great deal. Her shag carpeting was fuchsia. It was, perhaps, the most unnerving room I had ever stepped into.

“Over here, Mr. Grendall.”

Cool Jay sidled next to a tiny wooden rocking chair adorned with frilled, pink cushions for the seat and back. I walked up, scrutinized it from various angles for a minute or two, sniffed at it here or there, then stepped back and addressed my companion.

“Cool Jay, there is orange fur all over this chair and this entire area is redolent of your scent. Explain yourself.”

Cool Jay hung his head.

“I regret to say that I find that chair capital to sleep in, sir.”

“Regret to say it? Why regret? Because your providers have made it clear that this chair is out of bounds to you?”

“Yes sir. But it’s really very comfy.”

“Well,” I said, “that explains your fur being all over it, but you do realize it’s our duty to consent to the few demands our providers make of us? Those demands which are within reason, I mean?”


I couldn’t say much more about that. I may be so bold as to say that Mrs. Swift has few complaints about me, but she does have a settee that tests my resolve to the extreme.

“Very well. But you can see how this looks. Let’s look around at other parts of the room.”

We searched for I don’t know what for about three minutes when Cool Jay alerted me to a most peculiar discovery.

“Look sir,” he said, bringing me a small scrap of paper with printing on it. “It’s a ticket.”

He lay it down on the floor. “What sort of ticket?” I asked.

“To a sporting event. What the providers call ‘baseball.’ The city has a team called the Red Sox. Everybody talks about them.”

I inspected the ticket. “According to this, they matched up against the Yankees the day before yesterday.”

“Right. All the teams have the most absurd names.”

“So what do you make of this, Cool Jay?”

“Doesn’t it seem odd that such a thing as this would be in Lucy’s room? This game occurred the night of her sleepover, and I strongly suspect her hosts weren’t planning a ball game on a chilly April night for seven girls. Mr. and Mrs. Dill didn’t go to it, they were at home with me. And Lucy wouldn’t be interested in baseball anyway. At this age, girls aren’t supposed to like boy things. They’re not even supposed to like boys.”

The thought of Cleo shot through my mind for an instant. Possibly my thought dwelt ever so slightly on my pleasure at her not holding such an opinion. But the thought was fleeting and didn’t bear to the matter at hand.

“So you conclude that this ticket came from an external, possibly unfriendly source.”

“Ah, Mr. Grendall. You see everything.”

“Yes, yes,” I said thoughtfully, giving the ticket a sniff or two. “But look at the price! It’s prohibitive! $90.00!”

“That is a lot of money. Must be a very good seat. Hmmm…” Then Cool Jay was silent a moment. I could tell he was thinking of something.

“Well, out with it,” I said.

“Well, Hobo down the street — I know you don’t think very much of him, but we talk every now and again — his providers are college kids. Ones that go in for baseball games and the like.”

“So you think they’re the perpetrators?”

“Oh, no. They couldn’t afford this so it can’t be them. It’s well beyond their means. But Hobo explained to me once how season ticket holders have all the good seats like this one. You see, he’d know, because he enjoys listening to his providers. He thinks they’re a lot of fun.”

“Indeed,” I said. And then a flash of insight struck me. “A season ticket holder, one who would have the right to sit in this same seat for every game in a given season?”

“That’s right.”

“So the bearer of this ticket would likely be at this very seat the next time the Red Sox play?”

“I suppose he would.”

“Cool Jay, don’t you see? Obviously this ticket fell out of the criminal’s pocket! To discover his identity, all we need do is find that seat with him in it!”

“How wonderfully your mind works, Mr. Grendall! Surely there can be no other answer!”

I am not above receiving plaudits when I merit them and I thanked Cool Jay for his kind and astute assessment of me. But the next step was very plain. I had to log onto the Internet using Mrs. Swift’s computer as soon as the opportunity came. I needed two things: the Red Sox schedule and information on how to get their ballpark using public transportation. I told this to Cool Jay and he quickly replied, “No problem there, sir. The Dills have a Dell.”

“The—,” I began. “Confound it, Cool Jay, what does that mean?”

“Dell is a sort of computer. I’m merely saying that you can get on to the Internet here.”

“Ah,” I said. “Good thinking, Cool Jay. Sometimes you impress me. You really do.”


Next chapter: The Journey Begins

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

Thursday, February 17, 2005

A Brief Visit with Lord Fibbington

Ah, Jensen! How good of you to stop by. What? Only here for a moment? Pressing business? Dash it all man, sit down a moment! There, in the armchair. Surely you have five minutes! I was just thinking about that time in Madagascar and the fellow who wouldn’t cut the nails of his left hand. Useless to him that hand was, but there you go. He was inflexible on that point. Well, well, Jensen. All a bustle, eh? Little schnapps to unwind a bit? No? Well, at any rate stop looking at your watch.

I hear on the wireless that Germany still insists on being heard. Damned cheek if you ask me. After the dust-up we had with that Hitler fellow you’d think they’d prefer to be quiet, what? Since when has the Hun been about peace, eh? Let me tell you, I had some business with Hitler back in the twenties. Oh, yes, after the beer hall putsch of his. M6 planted me in the prison where they kept him, dressed me up in Alpine shorts so I’d look the part. I had a real thing for languages back then. Picked up German in 2 weeks, then they planted me there. Dickie Longstaffe in Research Division called me Agent Fritzy. Ha! Insolent devil, but Dickie was all right. So anyway, I saw my opportunity to chat up Hitler while he was exercising in the yard and heard more than my share of that nonsense he loved to spout on about. A right loonie he was, what? So I got an earful of him for about week straight and then I conceived an idea of how to discredit him.

“Dolph, old man,” I told him. “You’ve really got to spell this wonderful philosophy of yours out for the world. No use hiding your light under a bushel, eh?”

“Prison rather limits my speaking engagements, Fritz,” he said.

“Well, look,” I said, “why don’t you write it all down and put it in a proper book. I know a chap in the publishing business. We can spread the word that way.” Because, you see, I figured his ideas were so daft that once the country could see them all in print, he’d be done.

I could see Hitler liked the idea. He was quiet for a day, then he comes to me and says, “Fritz, I think I’ll do it. And I’ve got a title for the book: ‘Do It My Way If You Know What’s Good.’”

“Well, Dolph, that’s a start. But would that title really win over people?”

“Fritz, I’ve struggled for a full day and that’s the best.”

“How about calling it ‘My Struggle’ then?”

What’s that, Jensen? That’s right, I mean to tell you that’s how Mein Kempf came about. How should I have known the blasted book would wind up more helping him than anything? Now where are you going? See here, what’s the rush?


Wednesday, February 16, 2005

First Entry

Hello? Is this thing on? (thump, thump) I don't think this is on.

"Testing, one, two, three, testing."

Are you getting any of this?