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Old 03-11-2016, 11:21 PM   #241
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The little party broke up late in the afternoon. Paul dropped Joyce, Pook, and Saav off at their cottage, and continued home with Zeus yelling at him about his driving, as usual.

“Gaaaahhhhh you are going to kill us!” yelled Zeus. “Watch that truck!”

“I see the truck. Would you please shut up?” Paul snapped.

“Can’t you hire a driver? You are going to wrap us around a tree one of these days!”

“No I’m not. Keep this up and I’ll stuff you in the glovebox,” snarled Paul.

“Yeah, you and whose army?” sneered Zeus.

“You’re driving me nuts!”

“Your driving is driving me nuts!” the cat retorted.

“You’re driving yourself nuts,” said Paul. “Seems to me you need some kitty tranquilizers when you get in a car.”

“Oh no I don’t. Why can’t you just hire someone who knows how to drive before you kill somebody?”

“Will you get off that? I’m a good driver. You’re just a nervous passenger.”

Zeus snorted at Paul. “I’m only nervous because you’re the worst driver in the world. Geez! Get out of the ditch over here!”

“I’m not in the ditch!” yelled Paul.

“Gaaaahhhhh! Stay in your own lane!”

“Zeus, if you don’t shut up…”

“Aw, what are you gonna do? Yell at me? Oooo, scary. Hey! Watch the guardrail!” the cat howled.

“Oh God, why me?” sighed Paul.

“Oh please. Spare me. Can’t you slow down?”

Paul sighed loudly. “How come you didn’t yell at me in front of Joyce?”

“I’m not yelling. I didn’t want to scare her or Pook and Saav by pointing out your complete lack of driving skills,” Zeus replied.

“Oh, how thoughtful of you. Let’s pretend they are still here, then, and let me have some peace and quiet.”

“You don’t need peace and quiet. You need to hire a driver,” Zeus snapped.

“If I hear that one more time – “

“You missed the driveway again,” snickered the cat.

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Old 03-11-2016, 11:26 PM   #242
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“******!” Paul swore, and turned the SUV around in a neighbor’s driveway. He turned up his own drive and glared at Zeus. “If you’d shut up now and then, I wouldn’t miss the driveway!”

“Bull. If I did shut up, we’d be seeing the inside of an ambulance instead of the driveway. Watch the rock!”

Exasperated, Paul drove into the garage and parked. “Thank God that’s over!”

“No kidding. Get me out of here before you decide to go anywhere again today,” said Zeus.

“I swear I liked you better before you talked!”

“No you didn’t. Hey, there’s a special on TV tonight about pandas. Can we watch that?” Zeus asked as Paul opened the door for him and picked up the computer bag.

“Pandas? Sure. I picked the movie last night, anyway, so tonight’s your turn. I didn’t know you were into pandas,” said Paul as they headed into the kitchen.

“Well, actually, I’m not, but Belle wants to see it, and then she’ll want to talk about it later. We usually watch the same thing so we have something to discuss with her.”

“Oh,” Paul nodded. “What do you want for dinner?”

“Yaaaggghhh,” groaned Zeus. “I ate too much at Ralph’s. I don’t want to get near food for a while.”

Paul peeked into the refrigerator. “Okay, I’ll just heat up the spaghetti from yesterday. Let me know when you get hungry.”

“Thanks, I will. Can you get this out for me, please?” Zeus asked, nosing at his computer case.

“Sure. Where do you want it?”

“Where are you going to be?”

“In here for a little while, then I’ve got some ideas to work on for the book,” Paul replied. He was writing a sequel to his first book about the little town, and usually worked at the computer in his home office.

“Paul, you need a laptop,” Zeus told him.

“What for? I have the big desktop computer in the office.”

“You can only work at it in the office, though. If you had a laptop, we could sit together in the family room, or the living room, or the library, or outside on the porches and patios when the weather’s nice,” he pointed out.

Paul looked at his cat thoughtfully. “Okay. Gimme that back,” he teased Zeus.

Zeus laughed, fluffed up, and swatted clawlessly at Paul. That did it. Paul reached for Zeus, and the cat took off for the living room with Paul on his heels. Their

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Old 03-11-2016, 11:39 PM   #243
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combination game of hide-and-seek/tag/chase had begun, and the two ran around the huge log home for about fifteen minutes until Zeus (as usual) allowed himself to be “trapped” and “caught” by Paul. Paul scooped his cat up, and carried him back downstairs to the kitchen, plopping him on the table.

Zeus looked at him, smiling. “That was fun. In your next life, you need to be a cat. You’d be a good one.”

“Thank you, buddy,” Paul smiled back, stirring the spaghetti sauce and checking the noodles. “You’d make a great human, too.”

“Well, if I come back as a human, maybe I’ll have you for my cat, and spoil you like you spoil me.”

“Oh, now, you’re onto something there. I think I could definitely get used to that.”

Zeus pawed his computer on, and Paul slid the wireless card into the side of it for him. The cat watched.

“I wish cats had thumbs,” he said, looking at Paul’s hands. “Those sure are useful things.”

“I wish you did too. But it might be a little hard to walk, don’t you think?”

“Hmm. That’s a possibility,” nodded Zeus. He looked at the stove. “That sauce is starting to smell good.”

“Want some?” Paul asked. “After that little romp, you might have worked up an appetite. I know I did.”

“Yeah, I think so.”

“Just a few minutes,” said Paul, filling up the watering can. “I’m going to go water the plants. Does your upstairs water fountain need filling yet?”

Zeus had his own room upstairs, originally a storage room with a dormer window tucked under the eaves right next to the master bedroom. Paul had put in soft, thick carpet, a cat playhouse, a coffeetable for the cat’s computer with storage underneath, shelves for his books, a big dog bed, and a recirculating water fountain. A CD player and speakers were installed, and in one corner was a 21-inch TV. The cat loved his room, as Paul let the cat pick out everything he wanted for it. It was done in shades of beige and teal, and the furnishings were simple with clean lines, unlike the rustic look of the rest of the house. He used it when Paul went to bed, and he whiled away the nighttime teaching Belle, taking his own classes, and listening to classical and jazz music.

“Not yet,” Zeus said. “I checked it this morning.”

“Okay. Be right back,” smiled Paul.
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Old 03-11-2016, 11:51 PM   #244
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Zeus watched as Paul went out, and sighed happily. His life couldn’t be better, and he knew it.

Bart and Belle had a huge windowseat and a big section of Carrie’s computer room all to themselves in her spacious apartment over the shop and Ralph’s restaurant, Lowery’s Porch. Meows, in the little cottage behind Sunshine Inn, had his own nightstand and bookshelf in Suzanna’s bedroom, and a small carpeted perch under the bedroom window where he could easily see Carrie’s shop. TigTig and Loki, too, had their own area as well at Justin’s home.

Pook and Saav didn’t have their own space, and Joyce suddenly realized this when Paul dropped them off and she walked into her living room. Pook’s rock and crystal collection, Saav’s little stuffed animal collection, their books and afghans were pretty much scattered about the tiny cottage wherever they landed, which was usually on the coffeetable in the living room. It looked a bit messy and crowded.

Joyce’s cottage was very quaint, having been built in 1921, with a fireplace in each room. She had a miniscule study, a small bedroom, eat-in kitchen, living room, and one bathroom all stuffed into around 1000 square feet, which didn’t leave a lot of room for much more. It had a nice porch in the front and a back patio, and an attached single-car garage that had been added on about twenty years ago. As she walked through, looking around, Pook and Saav followed her.

“What’s up, Mom?” asked Saav.

“What are you looking for?” Pook asked.

“Well, all the other cats have their own spaces in their homes,” Joyce told them. “I’m trying to see where I can give you the same thing.”

“What for?” frowned Saav.

“Sounds like a lot of keeping up with the Joneses to me,” Pook said.

“No, my living room is a mess. You need a place to at least put your things where you can also get to them easily when you need them.”

“We can cram our stuff under the bed or the couch if you need us to,” Pook suggested.

“You don’t want to do that. Whatever we do, it needs to be close to the floor, not really on it,” Joyce replied.

“I like Carrie’s big windowseat where Bart and Belle store their things in the space under it,” said Saav.
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Old 03-11-2016, 11:55 PM   #245
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Thank you for my bedtime story!
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Old 03-11-2016, 11:59 PM   #246
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“Yeah. Whack out the window in your study and stick one of those in there. You got room, if you scoot the desk over a little,” Pook suggested as they stood in the doorway of the tiny room.

“Hmm. You might have something there, Pooks, and I can put in some more shelves by the fireplace. I know you like their cat playhouse too, but I don’t know where I’d put one.”

“We don’t need one,” said Saav.

“If you scooted the piano down a little more toward the living room closet door, there would be enough room for a tall one on the other side toward the kitchen doorway,” said Pook. “It doesn’t have to be in here, does it?”

Joyce thought about that. “Not really, no.”

“Just use what space you have wherever it is,” Saav suggested.

The human nodded. “Maybe we’ll do that in the spring when it gets warmer. This isn’t a good time of year to be whacking out exterior walls.”

“Brrrr, not a good idea,” agreed Pook with a shiver.

“But I can move the piano and get the cat playhouse in now,” said Joyce.

“A box for storage would work for us for now,” said Saav.

“What kind of box?” asked Joyce.

“One of those you see at the foot of beds. You have room for one in here,” Saav pointed out, peering into Joyce’s bedroom.

“You mean like a blanket box or a trunk?”

“Yeah, that would work,” nodded Pook. “Steamer trunks are cool and we could keep our stuff in one of those.”

Joyce looked at her cats. “How did you know about blanket boxes and steamer trunks?”

“When Carrie was building her apartment over the shop, we helped Bart and Belle look up decorating and storage ideas,” Saav replied.

Carrie had a brass-trimmed storage trunk at the foot of her big brass bed that Joyce thought was a nice touch.

“So, that’s where the idea for her room came from,” smiled Joyce. “You guys are pretty smart, you know that?”

“We like to think we are,” said Saav.

“I can squeeze a trunk in here,” agreed Joyce. “Actually I probably need a bigger house.”
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Old 03-13-2016, 01:38 AM   #247
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“No you don’t. Just use what space you have real efficiently. You could even get a consultant in here to look around,” Saav said.

“Interior designer,” Pook put in.

“Oh dear, those folks are sort of pricey.”

“Are they? Then just go online to home improvement sites and look at home decorating magazines and books,” Pook said. “That’s where we found a lot of ideas for Carrie she used.”

“I can do that,” Joyce said.

They went back down the hall into the small living room with its coffeetable littered with rocks, crystals, books, discs, and stuffed toys. Pook looked at it.

“Yeah, that’s messy,” she said.

“Not a lot of room for your stuff there, Mom,” agreed Saav.

“Well, I have places to put things, like the shelves and all, but you can’t reach those without climbing, and that’s not going to work,” Joyce told them.

Saav looked up at the shelves against the wall. “No, I don’t think so either.”

“As soon as this snow goes away and I can get out, I’ll get the playhouse and a trunk or something,” Joyce told them.

“That will be nice,” purred Pook.

“Maybe you should get a four-wheel-drive car too,” said Saav.

“You’re kidding, right? Last time I went car shopping, you two griped and complained so much about everything I found I gave up.”

“Well, try looking around again,” said Pook. “It needs a place for Saav in the back window and a roomy back seat.”

“That’s the problem we had before. We couldn’t find something that had room in the back window deck in four-wheel-drive. It has to be a car for that, and in snow like this, I need more ground clearance. Cars are too low,” Joyce explained.

“Well, if Pook would share the front seat, that would be okay with me,” Saav said.

“You like the back deck because you snarl and bare your fangs at tailgaters,” Pook argued.

“Yeah, but I can do that from the back seat, I guess. I like the front too.”

“I can share,” said Pook.

Joyce thought about that. “What if we kept the car and got a second-hand four-wheel drive, maybe an older one in good shape, just for bad roads and weather like this?”

“We’d have two cars?” Pook asked.
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Old 03-13-2016, 04:12 AM   #248
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“Why not? Paul does. And Mom’s doing more stuff on her own rather than going to the office all the time,” Saav pointed out.

“Well, that’s true. If one broke down, she’d still have another car to use,” agreed Pook.

“Remember last fall when the Chevy’s engine blew up and you had to rent a car?”

“Oh, yeah, that was no fun. Plus it was expensive,” Joyce frowned. “Well, we can keep the Chevy if I can find something I can afford.”

“We really do like the Chevy, Mom,” smiled Saav.

Joyce nodded. “Okay, let me get this straight. We’re going to re-do the house and get a four-wheel-drive, right?”

“Right,” said the cats.

“Anything else?”

“No,” laughed Pook.

“We’ll let you know if anything else needs to be changed,” Saav giggled.

“Wonderful. You do that,” Joyce smiled at them, going to the kitchen.

“What’s for dinner?” asked Pook.

“Hmm. I’m not terribly hungry tonight, so I was thinking a baked potato and tuna salad.”

“Tuna sounds good,” said Saav.

“You can keep the salad part,” Pook suggested.

“I can do without the potato too,” Saav added. “Unless you feel like sharing the bacon bits. I like those.”

Joyce preheated the oven for her potato, and got the tuna out of the refrigerator for the cats before she made her salad.

“Oh,” said Saav, looking up from her tuna. “There’s a special on pandas we want to watch tonight, is that okay?”

“Sure,” nodded Joyce. “What, you want a pet panda now?”

Pook smiled. “No, Belle is going to watch it and pepper us with questions about it later on, so we need to see it too.”

“Boy, she is really something,” said Joyce, shredding lettuce.

“She is,” agreed Saav. “But she’s a smart something.”

A few blocks away, Suzanna waded through the snow from her backyard cottage to the big 10-bedroom bed and breakfast to check on the guests and staff. In the early winter evening, the fires were lit in the parlors, library, dining room and foyer, and the guests gathered in front of them with coffee and hot chocolate, playing board games or visiting.
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Old 03-13-2016, 04:18 AM   #249
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The atmosphere at Sunshine Inn was leisurely, going back to a place in time where no one was in a hurry and everyone had time for a chat or a friendly game of checkers.

Many guests had told Suzanna that part of the reason they kept coming back to stay at the inn was because it was relaxing in itself. She checked on the staff, and everything seemed to be quiet, friendly, homey, and normal. Sunshine, the inn kitty, was curled up by his assigned guest in the library, and it looked like the woman he was with was giving an older fellow a beating at checkers.

“Looks like Sunshine got a winner tonight,” smiled Suzanna, petting the beautiful cream-and-chocolate Persian mix. He purred and yawned.

The woman smiled. “He’s so sweet. Actually, no, this man here has whipped me four times in a row, and I’m finally getting even.”

The man snorted. “No, you’re getting lucky. I’ll get you and your little cat next time.” Pretending to be grumpy, the man was smiling with his eyes twinkling at his worthy opponent.

Another couple by the fire looked over and laughed. “They’ve been at it for a while there. Quite entertaining, Ms. Pearson. No wonder the televisions are only in the guest rooms,” said the lady.

“I haven’t even turned mine on,” said the man playing checkers.

“I don’t think I even noticed I had one,” smiled his game partner, taking his last king. “You lose, Checkers King. Pay up.”

“Damn,” he griped, and reached into his shirt pocket, pulling out a handful of play money. He tossed a fake $20 bill across the board.

She scooped it up, reached into her denim skirt pocket and pulled out her own handful of play money, adding the $20 to it. He set the board up for them again while the other couple settled back to watch.

Suzanna hadn’t seen this before. “Play money? That’s a novel idea.”

The players looked up. “Yes,” said the winning lady. “Your girl at the desk has been handing it out today and we’ve all got it. We thought it was a great idea too.”

“Oh, she did?” laughed Suzanna. “That’s pretty good. I hadn’t thought of that.”

This was yet another reason she loved her staff. They were always coming up with ideas for the inn and tried very hard to make the guests comfortable and satisfied with their stay.

“I like the candy bowls in the rooms,” said the man watching the players.

“You’ve just about emptied that,” laughed his wife.
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Old 03-13-2016, 04:24 AM   #250
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“We’ll make sure we refill it,” promised Suzanna. “I hope you folks are enjoying your stay. Is there anything we can do for you?”

“Tell her to stop cheating,” said Checkers King.

“I’m not cheating,” protested his partner.

Suzanna smiled at the friendly fussing. “No cheating at Sunshine Inn, now, both of you.”

“We’ll keep an eye on them,” said the spectating lady.

Suzanna liked to see her guests enjoying each other and socializing. She chatted with them for a bit, petted Sunshine again, and made her way to the front desk in the foyer. There was a shoebox full of play money by the bell, with a sign on it that read “For the Board Games. Gamblers Only.”

“Good idea, Carole,” said Suzanna. The teenager looked up at her from her paperwork.

“Hi, Suzanna. They’ve had a lot of fun with that today,” she said. Carole Furman worked the evening shift on weekends, attending high school during the week.

“Was this your idea?”

“Yes, I saw this at the dollar store the other day and thought it might be fun. Hope I don’t get anyone addicted to gambling.”

“I doubt that. We serve coffee, and I haven’t been sued yet by anyone suffering from caffeine addiction. I think it’s safe. Everyone looks like they’re happy. The rooms ready for the night?” asked Suzanna.

Carole checked the papers in front of her. “Yes. They were all cleaned by the day shift, and we’ve put in extra towels, refilled candy bowls, checked on Sunshine’s food, water, and box, and everything’s done downstairs too. I just got through vacuuming in here, and everyone else is cleaning the kitchen and setting out the evening snacks. Tonight’s tea is decaf Earl Grey, and there’s those tiny poppy seed muffins and finger sandwiches out in the dining room,” said Carole.

“Good,” smiled Suzanna. “I guess everything’s under control here. I’ll be at home if you need me for anything.”

“Okay. Have a good night.”

“You too.”

Suzanna made her way across the yard in the still, cold winter air, looking at the cozy cottage and thinking just how peaceful the town looked in the snow when all of a sudden an enormous explosion very close by made her turn quickly. She lost her balance and fell, causing her to strike her head on a large rock. A huge fireball lit up the night sky and debris started to fall around her as she lay unconscious in the snow.

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