This is the voice of one of Bridie Savage’s cats. I’m not sure which one because — and the fault is surely mine — I kept confusing them all through the book. I’m almost certain it’s Nishi, the puss who has managed to figure out how to work Bridie’s Come-Pewter and tippity-tap at the keys much like, a hundred years ago, archy[sic] the cockroach used Don Marcus’ typewriter.
Nishi and Nikki, the other cat I’m confused about, have been reincarnated for the umpteenth time and believe Bridie might be the reincarnated Cleopatra, not that it really matters.
Believing she is receiving emails from one of her cats — Nishi or Nikki, see? — is only one of the reasons Bridie feels that her world has wobbled out of kilter. She is an unemployed playwright and performing artist living alone, except for the two cats and a couple of ghosts.
Great Aunt Lenora who has been a 17-year-old ghost for 60-odd years, and Great Grandy, a 101-year-old ghost with “a voice Bette Davis would envy” both reside in Bridie’s house.
Oh, and the Old Hag also visits occasionally.
Tally up unemployment, along with unusual house guests, plus a still living aunt sending hundreds of emails a day one-word-at-a-time, and it’s no wonder Bridie feels her world is about to go belly-up…and not for a kitty-kat tummy rub either.
Nor is it a wonder Bridie believes in magic — kinda.
Bridie plays online Scrabble compulsively, hoping that an unbroken winning streak will prevent her world — her life — from going arse up.
An aside to prove Bridie’s thinking is not necessarily peculiar: I know that at the end of my daily constitutional dodge out the road, if I pat the Welcome to Dunville sign three times before retracing my steps, it will keep my train from running off the rails, so to speak.
As is the wont of socially conscious writers, author Berni Stapleton addresses certain worrisome issues in this book. She claims the Oil Barons have caused the displacement of factions of the capitol city’s homeless and by bringing in high-priced Call Girls — not to work for the phone company Bridie explains to her Aunt Biddy — the Oil Barons have driven honest hookers to seek new trolling locations.
This upheaval explains why a couple of hookers re-locate to the bottom of the street outside Bridie’s gate and why the used clothing she leaves outside her door for the Sally Ann’s winds up in the possession of a pair of relocated working girls.
Again, as is the wont, Stapleton sticks some pins into the frustrating attitude of…well, of Service Canada actually. Service Canada exasperates Bridie no end as she struggles to iron out some wrinkles in her Employment Insurance claim.
n addition to losing her files, Service Canada threatens to have Bridie “DECLARED DECEASED” if she doesn’t quit committing a particularly heinous crime — replying to emails that shout DO NOT REPLY TO THIS EMAIL.
Bridie’s world is wobbling like a child’s spin top reaching the end of its run, like a gyroscope with its innards mangled. No wonder she eventually breaks …
… becomes poisoned with the Old Hag and chucks her out on the street.
Yes, truly, the Old Hag of nightmare paralysis notoriety, the one that sits on chests — be they hairy or buxom — and sucks the life from sleeping humans.
Bridie … well, bridles, and shows the Hag the door.
Yet not without a smidgen of sympathy: “There’s nothing sadder than seeing the Old Hag walking down the lane by herself.”
What have I forgotten?
Well, Bridie has a grown son, Jack-the-Miracle-Baby who along with his girlfriend has left home to sail around the world, thus compounding Bridie’s stress.
And mysteriously — that cat using the Come-Pewter messing around p’raps — she becomes a client of eHarmony, seeking love via the Internet.
About that cat …
… it is in love with question marks, the curvy bit of punctuation that allows puss to question the wherefore and why of…of…well, of all things really, but especially the great mysteries of the Unity-Verse.
Why is it, puss wonders, that we “cannot find our food dish if you set it as much as one inch from the usual place”?
And — on a more cosmic scale? — how is that “humans recognize each other without bum smelling”?
There’s a question for the Spheres, eh b’ys?
Thank you for reading.
Harold Walters lives Happily Ever After in Dunville, in the only Canadian province with its own time zone. How cool is that? Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
His column returns in two weeks.