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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Part II: Wherein Discretion is the Better Part of Valor

Part II of II, yesterday being "part I".  Haven't read it yet?  Go ahead.  I'll wait right here until you get back...

Liza Bean’s eyes soften with remembrance.  “I had been driving a taxi that summer, and you know?  I rather liked it.  But as one would imagine, hosing vomit off the backseat becomes tedious, eventually, so when a friend of mine – you know Pupples Old Bean, don’t you? – asked me if I was interested in a more refined line of work, I left the cab right where it was.”

Liza sips her drink.  “Left ‘er right there on the corner of Washington and Broadway.”

When I don’t know what to say, I feel it wise to say nothing. 

Liza Bean takes a cursory stab at a lime wedge, thinks better of it.  “The job was to be at a bar over in the warehouse district.  The building, of course, I knew.  Such an interesting layout.  The top of it had, probably a century before, been blown off in some chemical-reaction thing involving fermenting wheat or some such thing.”

Liza cannot resist the pull of the floating limes and fishes one out of her drink, narrows her eyes at it.  She squeezes it, just one more time, then takes a vicious little bite out of it.

“I was hired immediately,” she says. “Pupples Old Bean’s roommate Pork Muscle J. Hamfat was in charge of hiring, and he owed me one.”

I blink ponderously in an attempt to clear the gin from my mind.  “Why?”

Liza Bean Bitey, of the Minneapolis Biteys, smiles vaguely.  “Now, now,” she murmurs.  “Another story for another time.”

I nod.  An amiable drinker, this is perfectly acceptable to me.

“It was a beautiful place.  Cut-glass chandeliers, diamond-tufted upholstered booths in blood-red leather, dark wood and dim lights.  And the cats?  Sleek, elegant felines from the best families – and the worst.”

Liza Bean sips at her drink, leans forward.  “Tell me, Pearl.  Have you been to a cat bar?”

The delay between my brain and my tongue is such that Liza beats me to the answer.  “Of course you haven’t.  Very few people have.  It’s all very hush-hush, you know.”

“Ah,” I say.

“Yes." She smiles as one would at a dimwitted but well-meaning child. "‘Ah’, as you so succinctly put it.”  She sips her drink thoughtfully.  “The thing one must remember about a cat bar is that manners are the key to a roomful of cats behaving themselves.  One’s clothing, one’s demeanor, one’s choice of words is paramount.”  A woman with two full sleeves of tattoos passes by our table, and Liza Bean raises of her little, striped chin at her, a show of acknowledgment.  “Without manners, it all comes apart very quickly.”

There is silence at the booth as we reflect upon this.

“The place was called The Nip and The Saucer,” she continues.  “I remember the night distinctly.  Boo K and the Squirt Tones were playing, a “down-home jukin’” kind of band, as they say, and I was working the front door.”

It is at this point that I notice the room has gone dark.  It could just be the gin talking, but suddenly, we are the only booth in the place.  I blink solemnly into the cat’s face.

“Working the door at The Nip and The Saucer is a delicate thing." she says.  "You must understand this.  Much is communicated through nuance, through the tilt of one’s head, the open eye.”

Liza Bean bends slightly, wraps her tiny black lips around her straw, sips her drink.  “The clientele were primarily well-to-do, the well-loved and the well-groomed.  It wasn’t a cheap place to spend the evening, and this was by design.

“On the night in question, a couple comes through.  Long-hairs, all fluff and gem-studded collars.  I don’t fully recall his collar – I think it was lapis lazuli – but her’s was a beautiful sterling silver and pearl combination that hung just so.”

“On anyone else, it would’ve been too much, but on a white Persian, it was perfection.”  Liza finishes her drink as her next appears, and another pair of crisp bills migrates from her paw to the waitress’s hand.

“With a background in gems and pearls, one feels a duty to comment.  With so many forgeries and” – and here she shudders delicately – “dollar-store items available, it’s only right that the genuine article be remarked upon.”

“That’s a beautiful collar,” I say to her.  “Such beautifully matched pearls.”

“Oh?” she says to me, “You know something of pearls, then?”

“I nod.  ‘I spent some time in the Philippines and am familiar with the desirable qualities in the pearl’, I say.  ‘Those are the most exquisite natural pearls I have seen in some time.’

“The Tom she had come in with, a black Persian with the bright blue eyes of a rented devil, laughed in an unbecoming and rather, I thought, rude manner.”

Clearly’,” he says to me, “You need to go back to the Philippines and reacquaint yourself, then, because those are not real.”

“I still bristle, thinking of his tone in addressing me.  One could not but think “New Money”.  ‘My apologies, sir,’ I say to him, ‘It is possible that I am mistaken.”

“The black Tom – a cat that I can assure you easily out-weighed me – placed his paws on the posts holding up the red velvet ropes.”

“I reject your apology,” he purrs darkly.  “And I’ll have you know I purchased this set myself!”

“I’m not doubting you, sir,” I say, “and I meant no offense.”

“This is hardly the service one expects at The Nip and The Saucer,” he says to me, ruffled, his voice rising officiously.  “I’m out of town for extended periods – all over Asia! – and when I come home, and prepared to spend good money, I expect my wife and I be treated with the dignity we deserve!”

Liza Bean stirs her drink, her extended claws moving the ice cubes in a clockwise fashion.  “He gave me the story – I scarce remember it all – about how the real ones were in the safe at home, how in the city, of course, one prudently wears the imitation set.  Still, I was convinced that I was right.

“And therein lay my downfall.”

Liza Bean sips her drink, looks down into it.  “Curiosity killed the cat,” she murmurs. 

She raises her head, eyes gleaming.  “I watched them, you know, that couple, and it wasn’t long before I realized that the moggy with the pearls was surreptitiously watching the Siamese from across the bar.  Their eyes met, repeatedly.  At one point, the Siamese raised his glass, almost imperceptibly, to her.  It was then that she began to caress her pearls.

“My brain was seized with it.  I had to know for sure.  And when her husband went to the bathroom, I walked over to her, lifted my paw.  ‘Do you mind?’” I asked, and ran my first claw along the pearls.  They were rough, as I knew they would be.  The pearls were real.

“And that’s when I looked into her eyes -- and saw fear.  I turned to the Siamese across the bar – and saw fear mixed with love.

"I turned back to her.  Do you,” I whispered to the beautiful white Persian, “happen to have two strands of real pearls?

Liza Bean Bitey, of the Minneapolis Biteys, smiles at me ruefully.  "I thought she'd faint."

“The real pearls the Tom had brought to her from his last business trip might be in the safe at home, but the pearls around her neck that night were also real -- not from her husband but from her lover, the Siamese."

Liza Bean sighs, leans back in the booth.  “The Tom returned from the bathroom before I could return to the door.  Taking the look on his wife’s face to mean I had been harassing her, he called the manager over.  Unwilling to divulge her secret and having no reason to offer for having abandoned my post, I was let go on the spot.”

Liza Bean finishes her drink as another appears. 

“Anyway,” she says, slipping the waitress a couple dollars, “I can still spot a real pearl.”


Shelly said...

Genius! And you, Pearl, are the real thing, too.

mybabyjohn/Delores said...

And I can spot a real gem Pearl....this is it.

Pat said...

Before I die I want to drink in a bar with diamond studded blood red leather.
Preferably with you and Liza. Does she like Brits?

Jono said...

Ain't nuthin' like the Real Thing!

R. Jacob said...

I have heard of cat houses, but not a cat bar. Curiously, the cat patron traits go along with some human actions I have heard about in bars.
Being a teetotaler myself...ha!
Funny noticing pearls, I have noticed one myself...

Pearl said...

Aw, Shell, thank you!

Delores, thank you. I love this one.

Pat, she loves Brits...

Jono, shall we dance? :-)

R., if you ever find yourself near a cat bar, I suggest you try getting in. From the sounds of it, it's worth the effort.

CarrieBoo said...

I have a feeling of Alice in Wonderland, for adults, on steroids. Wowwie wow! Should be a movie, this. Brilliant stuff.

Pearl said...

Thanks, CarrieBoo. It's been in my head for a couple weeks now, and I'm glad to have finally gotten it out and on paper (and now I have so much more room in m head...)


Madi and Mom said...

Ms. Pearl
Mom and I thank you for dropping by to say hi today. I'm glad you noticed what a good sport I am being.
I have to wonder how Mom would feel with a straw hat on her tush.

esbboston said...

It was the best of cats, it was the worst of cats, ...

Dawn @Lighten Up! said...

You're a better woman than me, Pearl. When I don't know what to say, I feel the urge to stick my foot directly in my mouth.
You amaze me continually with how easily you move between fiction and non-fiction.
Not that I'm saying Liza Bean is lying. Not at all...
(Don't hurt me Liza Bean!)

Dawn @Lighten Up! said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
L-Kat said...

That little hussy! Liza Bean is so wise, I'd love to have a drink (or ten) with her.

vanilla said...

...and thus Liza Bean shared her story with the Real Pearl!

Thank you for publishing it.

jenny_o said...

Ahhh ... Liza Bean has scruples after all ... who'd have guessed? :)

Sioux said...

And I can still spot a real gem of a story. Well done, Pearl.

Joanne said...

That Liza has some extensive background and I'm sure it's all in current time. Look what we have in store for up. Lovely, great story. A gem, you can say.

Cheryl said...

If you're ever in Salida, Colorado, I want to invite you to read at The Book Haven, our indie book store. Your stories are a hoot.

Steve Bailey said...

I have been to a dog bar recently... dogs everywhere and people drinking!
and it was actually pretty cool...
that is until someone fired up a vacuum cleaner and chaos broke out!!!

Leenie said...

Not only is this another real gem of Pearlessence but the comments at this place are also priceless.

Love Liza Bean's classy accent.

Ach du lieber said...

Alas! Rumor has it that this Tom has pussy in every city in Asia.

Well played, Liza. Well played.

Douglas said...

Having been to a cat bar a time or two(cleverly disguised, of course), Liza Bean has evoked some memories and triggered a twinge in some scars.

Macy said...

Never thought I'd see the day when I was saving words of wisdom from a cat of all things..but..
"without manners it all comes apart quickly" could be applied to many a night out round here....

Indigo Roth said...

Hey Pearl! A bit of a dark horse, that cat. Not that I'm surprised. And damn, now I want a gin and tonic. Four lines. Indigo x

Hannah Denski said...

I say, without manners it all comes apart! Great story, as always, when notmycat starts reading... :)

ThreeOldKeys said...

my compliments to Liza Bean ... she's wise to keep her stories to herself, occasionally offering one like ... like ... a lime wedge of wisdom.

and when you're facing the New Moneyed "bright blue eyes of a rented devil" you'd better watch your step.

I learn so much here ....

Gigi said...

Nothing witty to add to the mix....but I LOVED this story!

The Elephant's Child said...

As we can spot a Pearl masterpiece. Thank you.

cloudia charters said...

life wears us down, but damn if you are not winning, Pearl!

Warm Aloha from Honolulu
Comfort Spiral

> < } } (°>

Crystal Pistol said...

Nicely done, Pearl, my friend!

I chuckled aloud a few times as i read and my mouth was slightly upturned throughout. I could not help myself. Delightful read!

...And to THINK... all that time she was an unfaithful feline. Tisk tisk. ...I can't say that I'm surprised, really.

NellieVaughn said...

How scandalous. Who could have imagined that the white Persian would jeopardize everything for a lover. Oh, how the well-to-do make a game out of love. That Liza did the right thing. I would have spilled the beans, but that's just me.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

You're like a feline PG Wodehouse, old bean.

Eva Gallant said...

Who'da thunk? the cat has scruples!

Mandy_Fish said...

Aw. I was hoping for a cat fight.

♥ Braja said...

That's it: we MUST rehash the Liza Bean Bitey bar story :)) Repost! Repost! (that was LB not me...)