"It's Been Two Years"
Part Three (C)
"The Dreadful News"
“She’s making me move out. Your not her SPY are you?”
“I didn’t think so. You don’t feel RIGHT to her anyway. I know that. A little too agile she says of you. Meaning, I suppose, your marked ability to... well... NOT cringe before her. MOST men do cringe before her. You know that.”
“I really give her little thought. She IS an antiques buyer of... at least... LOCAL prowess. That’s her title you know; prowess.
“Her Prowess... let’s TITLE her THAT. Ha: She’s moving me out. Or PLANS to. To make sure I die... I believe. She KNOWS I will die. If I’m moved out.
“Really moving you out?”
“Don’t bother. It’s MY fight. I don’t NEED YOU.”
“Well sure... but I... really... had no idea.”
“It wasn’t your idea to have... was it. All you do is pray upon the weakened; the ones...; the ones with the broken wings. I know that... BECAUSE of our business. Very true ...you and your marked ability. Or should it be abilities; plural. I’ve heard of you putting the ladder up to ALL SIDES of the older houses. The older the better I’d say of you. And a perfectly natural feel you seem to have for that. It’s not a skill for you. You simply know. That, in the current circles of MY village... passes as ‘marked abilities’. In my village. MY village is MY prowess. Do I LOOK THAT to you today?”
“You are that... THAT I know... and need no further... well...: Do I cringe before you HERE?”
“No. Of course not. Your too agile for that. My wing is broken... but you’d never mention it. Would you, kind sir, BUY ME OUT?”
“Buy you out?”
“OH not YET: I’m still not DEAD yet. And I will die... in here. JUST so I can watch you ...clean out my room... while I... as SPIRIT... watch you. Or will I wait on you? Do I need to point my fingers for you? NO: You don’t need ANYONE for that do you. You and your very own... prowess. Show me some of that. I want to know your not her spy.”
“Well I was just going by and felt I should... well... COULD... stop in.”
“To see if SHE’S RIGHT?”
“That I will GIVE UP.”
“To be moved out?”
“WHY NOT she says to me. A whole floor of her house she says to me. BASEMENT I say to her: She wants to put me in her BASEMENT.”
“Move you to her basement; the apartment there?”
“Its not an APARTMENT. That’s just what SHE calls it. So just go away if you think that. AND YOU DO know better. JUST LOOK WHERE WE’RE SITTING. Is this a BASEMENT?”
“AND... THEN... What IS IT?”
“It’s MY HOUSE. I... LIVE... here. Would I move you out of your old house? Never. Would I move HER out of HER house? NEVER. It’s a rotten house she’s got there anyway and she can go rot in there TOO.”
(No I am NOT sipping sherry with Cadence am I... and ...she IS coming through the rye... with a scythe. A sharp scythe with a sharp... swing. But I have ‘fought joined at the hand’ ...in old New England homes before. This is just the way it... actually is. That’s why they ‘still have’ the ‘old looking glass’ hanging ‘just where it always has’. And that looking glass has only been dusted... forty-two times... in two hundred and twenty-two years. “You say? And you’ve been keeping count?” No... only the ‘I... as SPIRIT... watch you’... has. And... IS.)
(No... I am NOT and this be a fair trade and a fair fight of a conversation. SHE be the captain and I... be on the deck of HER schooner ‘to sea’. Be there sitting... in the window with the African Violets. She does not hate me. Fear me. Or pass me by as ‘half witted’. No... she is embracing me as FRIEND and of the “I KNOW”... what she speaks of. “THOUGHT OF YOU” she said and that is fair drawn for I DO... ‘thought of you’: I know... ‘the floors and the ceilings’. Cadence is stepping TO me and HUGGING ME the way ‘the huggers’ never know a hug can be. She... as an old fortune teller... of herself... is telling me... her fortune... herself.)
“Is she TAKING you THERE?” I said.
“Hardly TAKE me YET. ‘SHOW YOU’ she is. She turned on the light. It is a bare bulb in the center of the ceiling. ‘What is that? A SUN?’ I say. ‘NO; for you to SEE’ she says. ‘I CAN SEE’ I say ‘AND TURN THAT OFF’. ‘Why there is no other light’ she says. ‘GOOD’ I say. ‘It looks BETTER in the DARK’. ‘Oh’ she says ‘What is WRONG with you!’ ‘I do not need LIGHT in this dungeon. I need SUN.’ I say. And the floor is SEE-ment... with this RUG GLUED to it. ‘Carpeting’ she calls it; ‘it’s CARPETING’ she says. ‘JUST AWFUL’ I say. SEVEN ROOMS of that AWFUL RUG with EVERY room a bare bulb in the center of the ceiling that ‘throws the light ALL WRONG’ I tell her. “NO: YOUR WRONG’ she say. Awful; just awful: ‘HOW many ROOMS do I USE?’ I ask. All SEVEN she says. I’ve never used SEVEN ROOMS in my whole LIFE I say. I only use TWO rooms here ALL WINTER’
(That ‘two rooms’ be Cadence in the blood hot kitchen and her childhood bedroom... directly above the kitchen. Abutting that room... above the kitchen sink [a straight line of old plumbing]... is a ‘bathroom’. That, as old New England Wasp tradition... is NOT a ‘room’... and... continuing that same tradition... IS a, well, ‘room’ wherein Cadence actually spends a considerable amount of time... NOT ‘using the toilet’ but... fussing with the radiator’s valve; venting it and ...twisting the valve with an old pair of pliers she keeps on a ‘cricket’ [small foot or step stool] before the radiator. If all this seems a ‘little nuts’... it is a little nuts... but is ONLY a LITTLE nuts for it is, do understand, a... ‘much greater real’).
Cadence continues this ‘much greater real’ by ranting about the... ‘floors and the ceilings’... “SOME MORE”. She, correctly from her social poise... “HATES” centered and ANY ceiling light. She, correctly from her social poise... “HATES” any floor AND floor covering that is not ‘old wide pine floor boards that are never... and never ever were or will be... ‘refinished’... so are ‘worn bare wood’ ‘everywhere’ (in a house) ‘only’ (the ONLY floor boards ‘unless something happened’ (and that, in Defiance, is the ‘a this’ ‘never did’ ...or does... ‘happen’). Floor covering is confined to ‘old’, ‘small’, ‘hooked’, ‘braided’ or ‘rag woven’ ‘carpets’ and smaller ‘scattered’ ‘old’ ‘oriental’ ‘rugs’. Anything else is... at the least... ‘bad taste’ but more aptly “THEY DON’T KNOW ANY BETTER” because they “WERE RAISED WRONG” and.... AND “are half witted” “TOO’. Cleaning (wiping ME clean of) this ‘upon me’ of Cadence... upon me... is that ...she does know that I... fully know and understand... ‘the floors and the ceilings’ of old New England so... is assured that I... know she’s right. Therefore her sister’s ‘re-done’ basement ‘apartment’ is ... “JUST AWFUL”.
And... Cadence is right; it is. It WILL KILL HER to live there. It; the moving Cadence to that (the basement apartment) IS... ‘The Dreadful News’.
Even to me.
“WHAT AM I GOING TO DO?” she says.
I sit... alone in my chair... beside the African Violets for... a deep introspective ‘what would I do’ moment and then say:
“They’re ALL outside today.”
“Yes but... the CATS are your way out of this.”
“She hates the cats?”
“Of course she hates the cats.”
“The cats are your army”.
“I don’t need an army... but I DO need my CATS: THEY COME TO. I forgot about that”.
“And she doesn’t know about that... YET... does she?”
“No... we’ve never TALKED about THAT”.
“WELL... then...: Let me remind you of an old FRIEND of yours. HE holds a magic charm for you.”
“Magic charm? For me? I know him? WHO?”
“Your old... forgotten friend... Tom Sawyer.”
“Tom Sawyer? I don’t know Tom Sawyer.”
“Yes you do... you’ve just forgotten you do. HE knows about CATS.”
“Tom Sawyer knows about cats?”
“Well... HIS FRIEND does.”
“Huckleberry Finn... comes along the street... carrying a dead cat.”
“A DEAD CAT?”
“You remember Tom hailing Huck with that cat. He says to Huck ‘Lemme see him Huck. My, he’s pretty stiff. ... Say – what is dead cat good for Huck?’ And Huck says ‘Good for? Cure WARTS with.’*** THAT’S what you NEED your cats for: To cure A WART”.
Cadence’s head cocked to a thoughtful pause and then she calmly said “Why... ISN’T SHE the WART AT THAT! But... I don’t want my cats DEAD.”
“Your cats don’t need to be dead to get rid of this wart. They just have to be THERE. HOW many cats do you have anyway?”
“Well let me see. I do try to count. But they MOVE so much. And it’s dark back there (by the rear door of the far shed leading to the barn where Cadence feeds her ‘outdoor cats’... raccoons, skunks... and a possum – Maine’s newest nocturnal raider of cat food dishes). I don’t know... really... I DO count them but I cannot say for sure... let me be... maybe... OH...: TWENTY.” (outdoor cats and indoor cats together in total? The village gossip has counted between twelve and eighteen ‘outdoor’ cats ‘around back there’; the back shed door).
“No; just your INDOOR cats”.
“Well I won’t LEAVE the others.”
“Of course not. But you shouldn’t have to if you bring ENOUGH indoor cats with you. How many are indoors right now?”
“Well... six. And Tortie. He comes and goes. And Roberta. She’s just beautiful. But very big. So it’s better for the others that she stay out. But Roberta would have to come too. So... eight?”
“That should do it.”
“Be enough to cure a wart with. All you gotta do is bring those cats and you’ll be moved BACK in HERE in an HOUR.”
“Why I’ve never THOUGHT of that. She HATES the cats. OF COURSE she won’t (let Cadence keep her cats in the basement apartment). That old WART! Isn’t she JUST AN OLD WART. Your absolutely RIGHT about using my CATS. She’ll never stand for it. The cats will CURE the WART. How did you ever think of this?”
“You told me how. You said it’s my ‘marked abilities’.
“Of course it is. I forget that. So many are HALF WITTED these days. But using the CATS is no plan by a half wit. It’s actually genius.”
*** : Mark Twain, THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER, The American Publishing Company, Hartford, CT, 1877, pg. 64. “TOM” reads better as an adult read book. “But people DON’T READ” says Cadence. And she’s right.