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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Part II and Finale: Wherein Liza Bean Bitey Tells a Story; or 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 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...

My first inclination is a thoroughly naughty comment I will not put here. I will say this was grand entertainment.

savannah said...

“Without manners, it all comes apart very quickly.”

nicely done foreshadowing, sugar bean! xoxoxoxo

Pearl said...

Shelly, I appreciate your restraint. :-)

Savannah, thank you. :-)

Diane Henders said...

A "pearl" of a story. I loved it! :-)

Pearl said...

Diane, thank you! :-)

Geo. said...

Pearl, this is wonderful! Such an unexpected hero, who is right but wisely possesses herself in silence. The atmosphere, the setting --"The top of it had, probably a century before, been blown off in some chemical-reaction..."--one is THERE!

Pearl said...

Geo, and if you're ever in town, I can show you the building. :-)

(And thank you.)

Macy said...

And there was me assuming the real pearls and the girlfriend were going to head off with the Siamese across the bar.
I know nothing of cats....

Pearl said...

Macy, it's best we know little about them. :-)

Indigo Roth said...

Ah Pearl, Pearl. The genuine item, precious you are. Not that I'm suggesting you're just a pretty mass of secretions covering a grain of grit. No ma'am. That would be foolish, and won't get me invited over for tea with cucumber sandwiches (crusts off). I'm just saying. Tho I forget just WHAT it was I was saying. Hmmm. Ooooh, look, a shiny thing! Roth x

Gigi said...

If anyone(cat) knows how to spot the real thing, I imagine it would be Liza.

The Elephant's Child said...

Of course she can recognise the genuine article. Which is part of the reason she shares you life, and allows you to share selected parts of hers.

Daisy said...

Well if she can't recognize a genuine pearl, she is living in the wrong place! :D Loved this, Pearl. Very entertaining.

jenny_o said...

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

A good thing to do.

When I don't know what to say, I seem to jibber jabber until peoples' eyeballs fall out from boredom.

And, I do love this post. Liza Bean has a heart!

HermanTurnip said...

I've no snarky words tonight. This was simply incredible. I'm going to go back and re-read both parts one and two. Awesome job, Pearl!

Jo-Anne Meadows said...

What a bloody good story, went and read part one first because I didn't get around to reading blogs yesterday.......and I am glad I got here today to read both parts.....

Belle said...

My favorite line is, "New Money". That is a great story, Pearl.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

We can spot a real pearl, too. And that would be the lady who wrote this story. Delightful.

Amanda said...

Wow! That Liza Bean tells an amazing story, as do you.

Eva Gallant said...

Pearl, my dear, you are a gem! "the Nip and the saucer" Priceless!

Daisy said...

Susan beat me to what I wanted to say! We know real Pearls too.