The Jesus Analog Cat, The Boring Old Biddy, and the Unsupervised Kitchen Appliance - Chapter 1
In which four little children meet a talking lion with a god complex and are understandably terrified.
ONCE THERE WERE FOUR CHILDREN whose names were Parker, Sadie, Emmett, and Lola. This story is about something that allegedly happened to them which necessitated many years of therapy. It began when they were sent away from their home “because of the war.” Of course, this was just what they were told. The children—all except Emmett, who was ignorant—knew the war was over. They had just worn out their welcome, and their parents wanted silence and sex again.
So they were sent to live with an old professor who was vaguely related to their father, maybe. Maybe an old family friend. Either way, the professor had no wife or likely prospects and lived in a very large house with a belligerent housekeeper named Mrs. O’Meara. Mrs. O’Meara resented the professor’s anti-Irish sentiment but stayed there because she could take as many potato breaks as she wanted and sometimes even leave to go out drinking without the professor caring or noticing all that much.
The professor himself was a very old man with shaggy white hair which grew over most of his face as well as on his head. On the first evening he came out to greet the children, Lola (the youngest) was afraid of him, believing him to be some sort of geriatric werewolf, and Emmett (the dumbest) pointed and laughed until the old man began to awkwardly weep, now and again wiping his eyes with his beard.
As soon as Mrs. O’Meara had shooed the professor away with a broom, the children went upstairs to settle in. Mrs. O’Meara gathered them all together to explain the rules of the house.
“Now listen well,” she said, “I don’t wanna know what your names are—I’ll make some up as I go —and I don’t wanna hear about your wee hobbies or dreams or whatever else. T’ain’t your mam. Don’t be lettin’ me catch none of ye boys dressed up like girls and none of ye girls kissin’ boys or each other or puttin’ makeup on the cat. Saints preserve ye if I find any crusty undergarments or bed sheets. I’ll hang ‘em up, I will. Right outside. And draw attention to them, mind. Keep me out of your adventures. I won’t be dancin’ a jig or posin’ as a leprechaun, so don’t ask. Well, I’ll be takin’ me leave now.”
“Where are you going, Mrs. O’Meara?” asked Sadie.
“What business is it of yourn, girlie? Gonna run off and tell that old man? I’ll run ye under me car and make it look like an accident!”
“I– I was just curious!”
“Oh. Well, me feet hurt so I’m goin’ to Woolworth’s. I’ll be back whenever. Don’t let me catch none of ye followin’ after me if ye know what’s good. I don’t care for children.”
“Well,” Parker said to the others when Mrs. O’Meara had left, “I wonder which of us will die first.”
“Probably you or Emmett,” said Sadie, “depending on who puts up the biggest fuss when the professor visits you in the night.”
Emmett furrowed his brow in his dumb little way. “I should worry!”
“You should,” Sadie said, fluffing a pillow. “I doubt you’ll laugh at that old pedo again if you don’t want the life strangled out of you.”
“What–? You don’t– He–”
Sadie sighed. “Yes, dear. Thank you for your input.”
“There she goes again, talkin’ like Mom!” Emmett fumed.
“If I was talking like Mom I’d say, ‘For the fifth and final time, Emmett, your father isn’t really a sailor. Now get off his boat and go back to bed.’”
Parker laughed. “Haha, gross. Well, I’m bound for puberty any day now, so I’m probably safe. What say we go rummage around this old crypt and see if there’s any loose money or nudie magazines?”
“I promise you there’s not any loose money with Mrs. O’Meara around,” Sadie said.
Emmett glared at her. “You’re as bad as that… war guy. Wilbur or whatever.”
Sadie closed her eyes and sighed. “Hitler.”
“What’s that noise?” said Lola suddenly. It was a far larger house than she had ever been in before and the thought of all those long passages and rows of doors leading into who knew what made her jumpy.
“Maybe the professor fell down the stairs,” Emmett suggested.
“Should we go check on him?” Lola asked.
“What are we going to do?” Parker asked. “Tell him he fell down the stairs? He’s fine. I’m going to go to sleep now. Don’t any of you creeps put anything in my ears or pants or I’ll pound you good.”
Sadie looked out the window. “Christ almighty, we’re in the middle of nowhere… Look at those mountains. And the woods? I’m trapped here with you awful people, aren’t I?”
“Sadie,” Parker said, raising up on one elbow. “I swear to God, if you don’t shut up and go to sleep, I’ll bury you in those woods and no one will ever find you because who would ever want to look? Lay. Down.”
Sadie sighed and decided she would run away in the morning.
But the next day there was a steady rain falling and Sadie didn’t want to get her hair wet and tangled in the event she needed to seduce a traveling salesman at the bus station.
While Sadie stood by the window, Parker, Emmett, and Lola were seated around the ancient dining room table, poking at their wheat cereal while the professor gently rocked back-and-forth, his beard barely clearing the bowl of oatmeal-colored mash Mrs.O’Meara had thrown down in front of him. The professor suddenly slammed his spoon against the table like an archaic kitten.
Parker pursed his lips and cut his eyes at his siblings. He assumed the old man’s rheumy gaze was pointed at him.
“I think he asked what you want to be when you grow up,” Lola suggested. “In… weird… pirate talk.”
“Oh,” Parker said. “Uh… Well, I’m going to be the next Frank Sinatra. Especially with the dames!”
Parker stared into the middle distance. “…Yes.”
Sadie slowly turned her wide eyes back to the window. “Professor of what, gold mines?”
“Say, old timer,” said Lola, pulling impishly at the professor’s beard. “Lookin’ for an heir?”
“Heir,” she enunciated. “H-E-I-R. Unlike my brother, I can actually sing and dance and I can light up just any room. Would you like to see a softshoe?!”
Sadie gave her a skeptical look. “Why, if it isn’t Shirley Temple.”
“Quiet, tramp,” Lola snapped without missing a step. “I’m being ever so cute.”
With a noncommittal “aaaar” the professor quivered to his feet and shambled out of the room. The children watched him go until that became tiresome and then turned back to their breakfast.
“Well, that won’t do,” Lola said. “I’d better go after him.”
With that, she got up from her untouched wheat log and left the room in pursuit of the professor. Before long, she was utterly lost in the big house. She was surprised at how quickly the aged man had disappeared. Maybe he was a ghost, she thought. But how would a ghost pay a housekeeper? Did he pay the housekeeper? She couldn’t imagine Mrs. O’Meara putting forth even the tiniest amount of effort out of the goodness of her hepatic heart. He just knew all the twists and turns, that was all. Which in itself was amazing given the sheer number of them. Lola was surprised the old man hadn’t become trapped in a spare bedroom and died years ago.
“Professor?” she squeaked. “Did you go with God?”
Finally she came to a very long room full of dusty portraits and a suit of armor and a huge shelf filled with ancient-looking books. Largely self-educated, Lola crept over to the bookshelf in search of some clue as to exactly what the old man was a professor of, if anything. It might’ve just been an honorary title. Like how her father was a policeman according to her mother.
When nothing caught her interest, she started to turn back out of the room, but was stopped short by the sight of an unlikely icebox against the far wall. This struck her as strange– not that an old man would hoard appliances that hadn’t worked in a generation or more, but that he would cram such a comparatively modern device into a room that was otherwise preoccupied with the long-forgotten past.
“I wonder how much junk I’m going to have to pay a Polack to cart out of this place,” she said as she inspected the old refrigerator. “Frigidore? Hm. Well, on the plus side he’s probably socked away a lot of money not buying brand names…”
Despite her reasonable fear of spiders and inexplicable bones, Lola found herself almost compelled to pry open the refrigerator door. When she saw a tiny goat man on the other side she screamed and wet herself.
“Holy Hell!” she whispered. What was that? Was she dreaming? Hallucinating? Was she dying inside of a refrigerator and caught a glimpse of Satan coming to get her? Did he think she was Sadie?
Curiosity overrode her preternatural good sense and she slowly peeled the door open again to peek inside. “Surely my brothers and sister will save me if I’m trapped,” she said to relieve her tension with a laugh.
When she could see inside of the Frigidore, she was astonished to find a wide open glade covered in snow. It made her mind hurt trying to understand where it was, given the sheer wall behind the fridge. She slowly touched her lips as she considered the scene before her. If it was Hell, at least it had frozen over. That was supposed to be a good sign, she thought. Even more confounding, though, was the weird garbage can in the middle of nowhere. It looked like it had been donated by a zoo. It was a well-known fact that zoos were always donating things to empty wastes as a tax write-off. As she stood looking in at the forest and wondering what to do next, she heard a pitter-patter of feet coming towards her.
A little man stepped out from the trees into the light of the great green garbage can and Lola wondered how much pee one little bladder could hold.
“Hello,” the little man said. “I’m Mister También. Care for a crumpet?”
Lola shrugged. It beat a wheat log.