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Crime Fiction Funny

That Crazy Darned Green Cat

“Your money’s no good here, Ignatz. One shot of rye for you and out ya go when yer done,” Snapper Don, Rix’s bartender said in a stage whisper, straddling the fence on the Ignatz question. Fortunately, Iggie could nurse a drink like he was testing Zeno’s Paradox: When he drank half a shot, there would be half left over, then another half after he drank that one, and so on, and the glass would never be empty.

“Appreciate the hospitality, Rix. Considerin’ the weather out there. And the weather in here.”

“Don’t bank on it, Iggie. I still gotta make a living.” Ignatz took his first micro-sip.

“Ya know, Rix, Ignatz is a Polish name. I’m not Polish, ya’ know. But I know that in Poland, it used to was that the drink was in three parts. The song. Then the story. Then the Pogrom, the Demonstration, the Riot, the destruction, the Overthrow.”

“Relax, Ig. There’ll be no lynchings in my bar or outside of it.”

           The two men looked around, separately, at the clientele. The cream of the American Dream. People from Feliciaville born and raised, people from everywhere, all types and kinds, in a town where if you wanted a white picket fence and 2.2 children, you could have that. If you want to live above the shop, where the shop was a left-handed glassblowing facility, you could have that as well. As long as the lawns were neat and tidy.

“Inebriation alarm, Rix.” Both men cringed at Right Way Corrigan as he came out of the pisser and pinballed his way to the cherrywood bar. Right across the quoits lane.

“Duck, ya knucklehead,” Rix bellowed, not for Corrigan’s sake but for not wanting his liability premiums to go up. Molly, at the piano, played the free-jazz opening music for the Krazy Kat cartoon. The Albertsons were jitterbugging to Molly’s Ivory-tickling.

“Little Angel,” Corrigan sing-songed, falling into a pile of peanut shells.

“That was the song, Rix. Let’s see what comes next. Maybe this bottom-shelfer will let me get a laugh out of it.”

“I loved Greenie,” George Heriman wept. “If she showed up at my door on a day I would ta’ go fishin’, I always caught a full pail’s worth, ‘n Greenie always got her cut.”

“That cat was magic,” one of the company offered. “Remember when the Liphshitz boy was so sick? Doctor Ng had it all and cured it all, but couldn’t get Sammy improved a lick. Family was gonna  go clear to Marlinsburg to see a specialist. But for the next six days, Greenie would vomit on their doorstep. On the Seventh day, Sam got out of bed, did a week’s work of homework and basketball practice in the driveway and then returned to school.”

“Pardon me, gentlemen. I’m new in town. Gretel Crumb,” the woman declared, shaking hands with what seemed the least goofy folks in the bar.

“Richard Hart the ninth. Rix. R for Richard, ix for ninth.”

“You don’t want to get too close to me, Gretel, I’m, poison these days. Ignatz Fletcher.”

“So what’s the deal with the cat? Greenie? Are there green cats?”

“At least one, Ma’am,” Ignatz offered. I should say there was a green cat. Polydactyl. Seven claws on each foot, except the left rear paw, only five. Everyone in town thinks—or possibly thought—that the cat was lucky, magic, an alien sent to observe us, a familiar to a Wiccan of a different color.”

“Do you think the cat was magic, Mr. Fletcher?”

“Well, I’ll tell ya. Two years ago, and that would be three years after Greenie showed up, Leroy Warfield, a high school junior, undertook a little project. He went door to door asking people if they ever had a real stroke of luck while living in Feliciaville. Then he would ask if Greenie had been involved. Next, he knocked on doors in the six nearest towns. Towns more or less like Feliciaville, but with no lucky cat. For all seven towns, the rate of people answering ‘yes’ to someone knocking on their door, asking if they had any strokes of luck, was virtually the same. The Feliciaville rate of lucky breaks was the same whether or not the cat was involved. Leroy won the science fair that year, the first time a sociology project won in the county. And the first time an African-American kid won the county science fair. Greenie used to pass by the Warfield house frequently on her way to killing mice.”

“Well, Ma’am, the rye-drinker here, Ma’am, is the one some folks here in town think killed that cat.”

“Don’t cats have nine lives?”

“Maybe Greenie did. Does. No Felis domesticus body was ever recovered,” the bartender said. Perhaps he said it a bit too loud. Roy Diaz, the “witness” to the seen scene of the crime, got up on the bar and pointed to Ignatz.

“He did it. That man right there, he took our magic away. Anyone here win a lottery prize more than twenty bucks, lately?   Cover a hard spread? Get a date with someone three or four notches up on the scale from you?

“Ignatz! Ignatz Fletcher! You took our luck. He drove right into Greenie. I saw it with my own eyes. Ignatz’s Volvo, something green crossing the road, then a fountain of red. Ignatz killed our cat,” Roy continued, and continued, and continued. Finally, Ignatz climbed on the bar at the opposite end from Roy. For the 19th time, he gave the speech his lawyer suggested.

“Ladies and Gentlemen. I did not kill our cat,” he started out, interrupted by “How dare you include yourself in that ‘our’, cat killer?” a patron challenged. Ignatz stamped his foot on the bar and continued.

“The day after the night of the incident, Mr. Diaz had a picnic in his backyard. Witnesses, attendees and wait staff both, recall there being four watermelons on a staging table. However, any one of you who gets the Penny Saver knows that Patel’s market had a picnic special. Buy five watermelons for the price of four. There is a missing watermelon. Maybe I killed Greenie, maybe I didn’t. But Roy’s accusation simply can’t stand the scrutiny necessary to crack the case. He has consistently refused to turn over his grocery receipts, or to authorize Patel, to release the register tapes and credit card charges. And goodnight to all the company.” Ignatz jumped down from the bar. He must have been in good voice; he only had to dodge three or four shoes thrown at him before he could prove Zeno wrong and leave the watering hole.

“Hiya, Iggie!” Gretel waved at the hated man while jogging along. It was when she came back that matters came to a head. 

“What is that? And by the way, have I seen you on TV?”

“It looks like a clown car. And maybe.”

A crowd of 20 or 30 people, all wearing green and red stocking caps, were standing across Ailanthus Street from the Fletcher residence. Tammy and the kids were watching from the window. The clown car opened up to reveal what looked like the old comedian Gallagher. Or perhaps one of the siblings he rented out the act to. His crew wasted no time in setting up a picnic table just before the devil strip of Ignatz’s home. They laid out the watermelons and the Gallagher immediately went to work, without even the dignity of telling a joke.

“We’ve got a gun. Ten gauge, pump action. This has gone far enough,” the object of everyone’s ire informed the crowd.

“This can stop, Iggie.” Gretel handed him an address card and a check for $500. “Be at that address tomorrow at 10:00 AM. Better than shooting people or getting splattered, wouldn’t you say?”

# # #

At 10:05, the Detective Debbie theme music came up. Debbie gave the intro about the show highlighting crimes and mysteries solved by ordinary people. She introduced Gretel as the ordinary person who solved the Case of the Missing Green Cat, a matter of a false accusation. Gretel, after only a few days in Feliciaville, was able to describe the town, the cat, and the purported felicide. Then Debbie took over.

  Roy waltzed out of the wings, full of confidence for his side of the story, and he gave the report he always gave when accusing his neighbor of killing Greenie. Next, Ignatz presented his standard rebuttal. Nothing had changed since day one of the Greenie Disappearance case. There were only two wings to the stage, but Detective Debbie got Dr. Jane Holt, the town vet, out on the stage and introduced her.

Debbie: “You were the last person known to have seen Greenie alive, weren’t you?”

Jane: “Possibly. Mrs. Morrison brought her to my office; she spotted the town’s lucky mascot limping along and brought her to me. “We talked about finally homing Greenie, but we both knew the cat would not abide an abode of humans. Mrs. Morrison left her in my care. I took care of her paw, and I never charged the woman who brought her in. I decided that if she wanted to stay with me, she could. I put out a bowl of food and one of milk, both of which she polished off. I left the door open. After an hour and a half, Greenie just wandered away. That’s the last I saw of her.”

With no more wings for people to trot out from, Debbie pulled an audience member up and onto the set.

Debbie: “Doctor Alison Gainor, Ladies and gentlemen. Dr. Gainor, it’s really you who spent time with Greenie, weren’t you, after Feliciaville lost her. How did you meet Greenie?”

Alison: “It was at a veterinarian conference. She told me about the weird town she practiced in, and then mentioned the green cat. We both knew that cats could not be green. I’m more of research vet than a practitioner, specializing in genetics. Jane agreed that I could lease the cat for six months and do some non- or minimally-invasive tests to see how the green came about. I finished my research, which is now embargoed until peer review is complete, but I can say it is fascinating. Jane never answered my calls offering to return the cat. Based on what Jane said, I thought the cat would prefer being back in the world, so I took her home, fed her, groomed her, and opened the front door. She never wandered further than the fences around my house. Then there was all the fuss on TV about Greenie. I realized that I had possession of the missing tabby, and I called the show.”

Debbie: “Case closed. Well done, Doctor Gainor.”

Ignatz caught up to Gretel in the green room. “Now I remember where I saw you. You were the corn and soy report lady on TV.”

“I was indeed, good memory, Iggie.”

“And now you’ve had national exposure.”

“That’s right. And you have $500 and your good name and the town’s cat back where they belong.

“Oh yes, and I have something else as well.”

“Really? What’s that?”

“A civilian solving a case of the filing of a false report…”

December 05, 2020 04:35

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