Humor Magazine

Part IV: Answer the Phone at Your Peril

By Pearl

It appears that I've gone off on a tangent.  Parts III, II, and I are on preceding days.  Go ahead.  Read 'em.  I'll just run along and see if there are any snacks to be had...

What the?? 
I roll over. 
The words “Hey!  Hey! ” slide through the phone and into my head, accompanied by what sounds, to my half-asleep ear, to be several dozen cats jousting, perhaps on horseback.
“Hey.  Hey!  SHUT UP YOU GUYS!!”
I open my eyes, turn to the clock. 
I roll onto my back and close my eyes.  “You do realize I have to work in the morning, don’t you?”
There is the sound of a small cat moving through a crowd and then outside, followed by the sound of a small cat lighting a cigarette.
“Are you smoking?”
“Questions!” Liza Bean cries, good naturedly.  “All these questions.”  She hiccups softly.  “Menthols,” she says, chuckling.  “’sgood for my digestion.”
I laugh softly.  Dang cat.
“You should come down here.  C’mon, Pearl.  Come hang out.”
I look at the clock again. Maybe I had been wrong about the time…
Dang it.
I arrive at the bar less than a half hour later.
“Pearl!”  Liza Bean Bitey, of the Minneapolis Biteys, violinist with the all-cat band Squeak Toy, Known Nocturnal Chewer of Earrings and World Record Holder in the High Altitude Mouse Dangle throws herself at me. 
While cats can hold their liquor, it’s more fun when they decide not to.
“Pearl, old bean, old fruit!  How have you been?”
“Oh, you know,” I say, grinning.  “I get by.”
“Char!  Charlene!  Get Pearl here a gin and tonic, extra limes!”
Charlene, a tattoo-encrusted cowboy pin-up with Veronica Lake’s hairstyle, skips off to the bar.  Cats are notoriously generous tippers, so while most cats are underage, establishments willing to take a chance with the authorities regularly overlook this.
The drink is in my hand in minutes.
“Thank you, darling.”  Liza Bean, a small, clever cat, taps a paw on the side of her nose as she turns to me.  “Do you trust me, Pearl?”
I narrow my eyes at her and we laugh.
“Then do.  Do trust me.”  She hiccups quietly, jerks her tiny, striped head toward the back of the room.  “Shall we adjourn?”
I frown briefly, remember my vow to stop frowning, and after only a moment’s hesitation and a slight shrug on my part, follow the cat to the back of the room.  I note that we will soon run into a wall if we continue in this direction when Liza reaches down, pushes a small indentation in the wood paneling.
She bows deeply, sweeping one paw behind her.  “After you.”
The room is smoke filled, and a blue cloud of it hanging just above my head.  In a far corner, a small, nervous Chihuahuaplays “Ornithology” on the accordion while a discontented Persian looks on.  Black-collared cats roam from one end to the other passing delicacies on silver trays.  In the center of it is a small round table.
Cats playing poker.
“Ma’am?”  A tray is held out as the server goes over its contents:  baby Kentuckyblue grass clumps in a puff pastry, songbird terrine, puree of goldfish bruschetta, mouse bits on toast points.
“Try the mouse bits,” Liza Bean laughs. 
“Maybe later,” I tell the server.
We take a table in the corner as Porkmuscle J. Hamfat finishes a story.  “—and that’s when I tell the guy, ‘If ya didn’t want to get pushed down again, why’d ya keep getting up?’”  The crowd around him bursts into laughter.
“Who’s this now?  Could this be Pearl?”
And without being introduced, I know the large orange cat in front of me is Louis.

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