Good afternoon. Gigi the parti poodle here to bring you chapter three of my new story Catzilla. We are bracing for a heatwave. So far, the weather has been most pleasant, but a heat warning has been issued and the temperatures are set to rise. What’s worse is my grooming, which I usually detest, is not till next week. I am sporting far more hair than I should right now. I look more like a sheepdog than a poodle. My novelist purchased a couple cooling vests on sale a year ago, one for myself and one for that dreaded Maltese. They do work, but essentially it is like having a sopping wet towel draped over you. It gives one an odd feeling. I think I’d rather sit by a fan, partaking of a peanut butter and fruit freezie, sporting a new haircut and planning ways to take over the neighborhood.
One must never take overtaking one’s neighborhood lightly. I would have to enlist some muscles, perhaps a couple of rottweilers. Then I’d need infiltrators. Those two dachshunds might do nicely. I would need a couple of bureaucrats to keep things organized. Perhaps those two fluffy cats that always park themselves on that opulent climbing apparatus. I’d also need propogandists to push my cause. I think that little terrier that looks like the RCA dog might spread the news well. And I’d need headquarters. Maybe I could get those brown bunnies that hop all around the place to show me the best hideouts. This taking over the neighborhood thing is shaping up quite nicely. I’d better get to work. In the meantime, here is chapter three of Catzilla. Long live Gigi!
Gigi the parti poodle
I walked home from detention in the spring sunshine. It was around four-thirty and the traffic had picked up. I had to wait a little longer at the corners to cross the street. Then I headed down the hill, past the small park and turned left into my neighborhood. As I did, I saw something scurry behind one of the houses. I stopped and saw it again: a glimpse of something amber or reddish brown. It jumped up, scampered along the fence line between two houses and towards the backyards. I stayed on the sidewalk waiting to see it again.
I heard a rustle and looked towards the sound. That’s when I saw Lyle. Lyle is a boy I go to school with whom no one likes. He lives in the second smallest house in the neighborhood. Lyle always eats lunch alone. I’ve seen him sit on one of the benches with his nylon Costco lunchbox. He never buys his meals from the cafeteria. From a distance you wouldn’t think he was an outcast. He wears a zip hoodie, jeans, and a t-shirt just like most of the boys.
I think what the other kids don’t like about Lyle is he’s smart. He knows the answers to all the teachers’ questions. I know the answers to all the teachers’ questions too, but for one reason or another it really grates on the other kids’ nerves that he’s smarter than they are.
My dad once told me there was a man named Dietrich Bonhoeffer who said, “Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice.” My mother agreed. I think the kids who don’t like Lyle are stupid and it scares me. My mom went into a nasty rant the day they announced they were removing words like “stupid” and “idiot” out of books by a famous children’s writer. She said it was like pouring poison over school classrooms and setting it on fire. “The first thing schools take away to save money is the gifted program,” she said. “The truth is schools punish the best and the brightest. It’s imperative that words like “stupid” and “idiot” are left in children’s books so that the smart kids have a word for the thick-headed numskulls who stand in their way.” And that’s all my mom had to say about that.
Anyway, I saw Lyle outside his house. He was batting around a tetherball he’d set up in the front yard. He was playing by himself. I watched him for a moment before I mustered up the courage to go over and say hello.
“Hi, Lyle,” I said when I reached his driveway.
Lyle didn’t look at me at first. I think he was trying to be cool which he sucked at. “Hi,” he said.
“What are you doing?”
“My dad said it might help me make friends.”
“But there aren’t any tetherball poles at the high school.”
An uncomfortable silence fell between us. Lyle stood there holding the tetherball in his hand as I watched a bug crawl on a wilted flower.
“I used to play tetherball in grade school,” I finally said trying to recover the conversation. “But they didn’t have any tetherball poles in middle school, so I stopped playing.”
“What do you do now?”
“I take an early morning badminton class. My mom talked me into it, but I like it.”
“What do you do after school?”
“Homework. And I draw. Lately I’ve been drawing cats.”
“Yes. I draw other things too.”
“Do you draw people?”
“No, not often. What do you like to do besides play tetherball?”
“Work math problems.”
“Yeah. But my dad says I need to find another hobby besides math.”
“Well…I built a tracking device…from scratch.”
“Wow. Does it work?”
“I think so. I haven’t tried it yet.”
“What do you think you’d try it on?”
“I haven’t decided.”
I saw something amber-colored out of the corner of my eye. I turned my head and it looked at me. Now I could tell it was a kitten. A rich, amber-colored kitten with large wide ears and intense green eyes. It sat on its hind legs and stared at me. It was scrawnier than I first thought, somewhat malnourished and hungry. “Is that your kitten?”
Lyle turned and studied the small feline. “No. I’ve never seen it before. It doesn’t have a collar or tags either.”
The kitten yawned, closed its eyes, and stretched its paws out long.
“She’s cute,” he said.
“Well, I need to get home. My mom will wonder where I am.”
“Okay…I’ll see you tomorrow?” He said this with a note of hopefulness.
“See you tomorrow, Lyle.”
As I walked away, I considered Lyle’s tracking device. Who sits around engineering a tracking device and working math problems for fun?
When I got home my mom was in her office as usual. She opened the door and asked me, “How was detention?
“I had to sit next to Quincy.”
“Someone I never want to meet again.”
“The truth is, Briar, you’re going to meet a lot of people in this life you never want to meet again. In fact, most of the people you meet in this life you’ll never want to meet again. It’s a miracle to come across someone you like.”
“That’s grim, mom.”
“Grim but true.”
I walked over to the window and looked outside. Something moved under the streetlamp. “Are dad’s binoculars in here somewhere?”
“They’re in the top drawer of the small wood cabinet.”
I opened the cabinet drawer and found dad’s compact binoculars. I took them out, removed them from their pleather case and headed back to the window. There was the kitten sitting there licking its paw, its auburn fur shining in the sunlight.
“What are you looking at?” mom asked.
“A kitten. I saw it prowling around the neighborhood when I was walking home.”
“Maybe one of the neighbors just got it.”
“Maybe. But it doesn’t have a collar or tags.”
“Why don’t you go and see if you can get it to come to you. We could drive it to the vet to see if its microchipped.”
“What if it doesn’t want to come to me?”
“It’s still worth a try. We could put it in Harlow’s old dog crate.”
“We’d have to keep it in the garage because of your asthma.”
“Or we could put it in the small bathroom with a pillow, a blanket and food and water. Put Harlow in here with me before you go, so we can keep her and the kitten from fighting.”
“What if they’re just curious about each other?”
“I’d rather make sure they don’t fight.”
I headed to the garage to retrieve the crate. Harlow never liked it. Whenever we put her inside, she’d chew on the bars. I wasn’t jazzed about the whole catch the kitten and put it in the crate idea. What if she scratched me? What if she bit me? I saw my dad’s gloves sitting on the shelf above the deep freeze. They were oversized and puffy like boxing gloves. I put them on, studied the gunmetal gray color and decided I was ready for battle.
I pushed the button on the garage door opener and stepped outside. I stood there gripping the handle of the dog crate. The kitten was still sitting under the streetlight. I moved stealthily towards my target. I was just about to cross the street when Ellery came barreling down the road on his brand-new fat tire electric bike. He stopped right between the kitten and me.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
I glared at him and said nothing.
“You mute or something?”
I didn’t want to draw Ellery’s attention to the kitten. He might use it for some bizzarro cult ceremony.
“Why are you wearing boxing gloves and carrying a cat crate?”
“It’s not a cat crate. It’s a dog crate.”
“It’s too small for a dog.”
“Our dog is a Yorkshire Terrier. It weighs six pounds.”
“That’s not a dog, that’s a hamster. Maybe you should get it one of those wheels to run on.”
“I’m busy. What do you want?”
“You want to go out sometime?”
He had to be kidding. “No.”
Ellery leaned back on his bike and studied me. “Why not?”
“I don’t date reptiles.”
“You should be grateful I asked you out.”
“I’m grateful I’m not going.”
“You better watch it. I’ll do more than circulate rumors about you.”
“Good luck with that.”
“I like you; you know. You should like me back. I’m loaded. And I have a swank bike.”
“You can leave any time.”
Ellery narrowed his eyes. He gave me an obscene gesture then rode off.
After he left, I looked across the street. The kitten was nowhere to be found.
You can check out my books Chicane and all five installments of the Musicology book series Musicology: Volume One, Baby!, Musicology: Volume Two, Kid!, Musicology: Volume Three, Twist!, Musicology: Volume Four, Sweetie! and Musicology: The Epiquad on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback editions. You can also check out Musicology’s web site at www.musicologyrocks.com and vote for who you think will win Musicology!
STREAM OF THE WEEK: MRS. HARRIS GOES TO PARIS (2022)-AMAZON PRIME
This week’s pick is a genuinely delightful comedy/drama about a common cleaning lady who proves to be anything but common. It is based on the novel Mrs. ‘arris Goes to Paris by Paul Gallico. The story was made into a TV movie with the name of the novel as the title starring Angela Lansbury, Omar Sharif, and Dame Dianna Rigg. While cleaning the boudoir of one of her less than kind employers Lady Dant (Anna Chancellor), Ada Harris (charmingly played by Golden Globe Nominee Lesley Manville) finds a gorgeous Christian Dior gown. Ada has spent her life living with disappointment, most recently finding out her husband Eddie died in WWII. With no family and no prospects, she decides to save up enough money to purchase a genuine Christian Dior dress of her very own. As soon as she makes up her mind to do so and starts keeping a ledger of the money she’s spending and saving, the tide turns.
She receives a widow’s pension that the military owes her backpay on, she finds an expensive ring which she turns into the police station and receives reward money for, and with the help of her friend Archie (Jason Isaacs) she wins a sizable sum of money from the racetrack. Finally, well-financed Ada gets on a plane and heads for Paris. But she soon finds out that money is not always enough to get into a fashion house and buy the dress of your dreams.
Jenny Beaven was nominated for an Oscar for her gorgeous costumes in which she studied Dior’s original sketchbooks, workbooks, and patterns to recreate the gorgeous dresses used in the movie. Rounding out the cast is Ellen Thomas as Ada’s friend Violette Butterfield, Lucus Bravo as Dior financial adviser André Fauvel, Alba Baptista as fashion model Natasha, Lambert Wilson as Marquis de Chassagne, and Isabella Hubert as Claudine Colbert. If you ever get a chance, watch Hubert in Hal Hartley’s fantastic film Amateur which, like many great small films, is impossible to find on any of the streamers.