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Old 02-26-2016, 09:53 PM   #51
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“I don’t even know how to use it yet,” said Belle. “So I’ll just let you and Bart decide when I can have a…a whatever that is.”

The cats were silent, letting Carrie think.

“You’ll keep your word to keep yourselves safe?” she said finally. “Because if you blow it, not only are you in danger, but we people are too.”

“I understand that, Carrie,” said Bart. “I’ll make sure Belle learns too.”

“We promise, and we’ll help Bart keep safe,” promised Saav. Pook nodded seriously.

She shrugged. “Okay. I’ll hold you to it. All of you.”

Bart nuzzled her hand, and she petted him, looked at the screen, hearing Mozart playing softly in the background from the stream-in, and looked at the cats in front of her, still in awe and some fear. “You girls sure have learned a lot.”

Saav sort of shrugged. “We still have lots to learn, but we’re getting there.”

They spent the afternoon’s remaining hours looking up other sites for Bart and Belle, interrupted by a call to snacks from Ralph and by the occasional customer. The cats had to revert to non-sentient felines when anyone came in, and they did it quite well by flopping on the desk and having a wash when the door opened. Carrie felt bad that they had to do that, but she was proud of them, for it fooled everyone.

“Sorry you have to do that,” she told the cats after a customer left after taking nearly an hour to select a silver lamp and a vase.

“Gaaaahhhh, I thought she’d never leave,” Pook said, yawning.

“Me too. Thought she was going to spend the rest of the day here. Why do humans take so long to make up their minds?” asked Bart.

Carrie shrugged. “I have no idea, Bart. I wish I knew. But you watch – I told her to pick that one with the burgundy shade, but she picked the one with the pastel blue shade. She’ll be back tomorrow to exchange it.”

“How can you tell?” asked Saav, looking up.

“She said her living room was in bolder, richer colors, not pastels. That shade is going to look completely wrong. She’d have done better with that one with the deep beige shade. But pastel blue? Ick!” she explained.

“Are they the same price?” asked Pook.

“Close enough, I’ll let her swap them. Builds good relationships with customers, and encourages them to come back.”

Bart smiled. “And it pays the bills.”

“What’s a bill?” asked Belle.

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Old 02-26-2016, 09:56 PM   #52
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Pook sighed and turned to the computer. “Those, Belle, are something we cats are very lucky not to have. Look here, I’ll show you…”

Bart was sound asleep in the windowsill and Belle was preening in front of a mirror a couple of days later when suddenly Pook and Saav bolted through the cat door and flew into the shop, whooping and hollering. Bart jumped straight up, and Belle was so startled she instantly fluffed up. Carrie was at the counter looking at a catalog, and jumped slightly at the "pop" of the cat door.

"We're getting a laptop!" exclaimed Pook, her pretty green eyes glowing with anticipation. Saav jumped up on the counter.

"Can we borrow your DSL line for a little while?" Saav asked Carrie. "It takes forever to download that service pack on dial-up, and all the laptop needs is that. The anti-virus is already installed and everything."

"Sure, little one," Carrie smiled, reaching for the cable behind her tower. She unplugged it and drew the cable over the counter. "Where's the laptop?"

"Mom's bringing it in," said Pook, nuzzling little Belle and licking the kitten's ear.

Saav hopped over to Bart's windowsill and purred against him. He gave her a whisker-kiss.

"I missed you girls yesterday," he smiled.

"We missed seeing you too, but it was cool talking to you on the messenger," said Pook.

“I saw that,” said Carrie. “All three of you are very good spellers.”

“Thank you,” smiled Saav. “Belle will do well, too.”

Belle's eyes lit up. "I'm learning real fast! Bart says with a little more work, I'll be able to type on messenger and do my own posts! The computer is fun!"

Bart's chest swelled with pride in the little kitten, and he nodded. "She's doing really well. She's learning everything just as fast as I can teach it, and she found a homework help group on one of those educational sites you girls added.”

“Great!” purred Pook.

"Hi everybody," called Joyce as she came in, carrying a small, older laptop and power cord.

"Hey there," Carrie smiled. "Here, set that right up here and I'll connect you."

"Thanks, Carrie. Mind if I leave it here to download and pick it up this afternoon with the girls?" Joyce asked.

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Old 02-26-2016, 10:00 PM   #53
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"No problem. This is a cute little laptop. Where'd you find it?"

"At a computer show in South Carolina back about five years ago. I just got a new one. This one’s ancient and a little slow, but dependable and stable. I dragged it out and set it all up for the girls...I guess you heard about the cat group thing," Joyce said.

"They did that here, on mine," laughed Carrie. "They were bored and too stuffed to play."

"Yeah, they told me. So, I guess it's time they had their own. And, also, a laptop is a lot easier on their paws, and it doesn’t take two of them to make it work. They’re into so much, now, anyway with their classes and their forums and projects…this will be better for them.”

Carrie eyed Bart and Belle. If Joyce thought Pook and Saav were safe on their own, she felt she could think the same of Bart and Belle. Their messenger conversation yesterday had included several tips on Internet safety which Bart had carefully copied and kept in a folder he created. "Hmmm. You’re sure they’re safe on their own computer?”

“Absolutely. I can check on them on this too,” Joyce replied, tapping the laptop. “And I did. It was never necessary, but I’ll be more than happy to install the program and show you how it works.”

Bart pricked up his ears. Belle's eyes got wide, and the two traded a hopeful look. Their own would be nice, since they had just discovered the ultimate joy of collecting pictures of beautiful cats, both domestic and wild. Belle was saving pictures of nearly everything she was curious about, from other cities around the world to space shuttles, and Carrie had found all of these on her computer and teased them about using up all her hard drive space. Bart had taken a test to determine his level of education so far, and was now in a home-school curriculum equivalent to about the eighth grade. Belle was sticking with her primary-grades curriculum and working very hard at her lessons.

“That’s a neat idea,” Carrie admitted. “And you say it’s easier for them?”

Joyce nodded. “The touchpad mouse is much better for their paws. Also, it doesn’t take both of them to make it work.”

“I never thought about that,” Carrie said, looking at the laptop.

“Paw-friendly,” smiled Joyce. “Go check out Justin’s stuff at Computer Shack. That’s where I got my new one.”

Justin O’Brien owned half of the only full-service computer store in the town, and he, Carrie, and Joyce were good friends.

"I'll run over there at lunch. Thanks."
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Old 02-26-2016, 10:06 PM   #54
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"Hey, thanks for letting me do this here. What a timesaver!" Joyce gave her friend a hug and checked her watch. "Well, I better run to work. See you this afternoon. Be good, girls."

She breezed out the door, and Carrie looked over at the little laptop, then at Bart. He, too, was looking at the girls' new (used) computer in the same way she had seen him look back longingly at the bucket of dead mice the first day she saw him. She knew he wouldn't ask for one; he never asked for anything. The kitten might be another story; then Carrie saw Belle start to say something, but was cut short by a very sharp look and quick hiss from Bart.

She sighed and smiled, looking at the keys rubbed shiny from use and the stray little cat hairs on the keyboard. One very well-loved and much-used computer, it was. Pook and Saav looked at it proudly.

"All ours," said Saav a little dreamily. “Our very own, just our stuff there.”

Pook sighed, smiling. “Wow.”

"Carrie?" said Bart.


"Can Pook and Saav come over on Wednesday nights and hook up to our DSL? We all want to be in the cat group chatroom at the same time," Bart asked.

"Sure, I think I have a network hub thingy down here where I can hook up to three computers into," she said, stooping to look behind the desk at the tangle of wires, cables, and boxes. She found it, and made a mental note to pick up an extra DSL cable. No, she thought, getting up, make that two DSL cables. Damn, I know pets are an expense, but…

Carrie smiled at herself. "Yep, I found it. I'll get an extra cable or two also."

"Thank you, Carrie," said Pook.

"Yes, thank you," Saav echoed with a smile.

"Thanks! That will be fun," said Bart. Belle watched, her little blue kitten eyes dancing with delight. Now she would see her new friends a little more. She purred thunderously.

Saav giggled. “Wonder if those humans in that chat room will ever figure out they’re talking to real cats?”

“Don’t you dare – “ began Carrie ominously.

Pook laughed and poked Carrie with a soft paw. “Don’t worry. We promised, remember?”

“Promise to be even more careful there, okay? Live chat rooms can be, you know…” asked Carrie.
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Old 02-26-2016, 10:10 PM   #55
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“Dangerous,” Pook finished for her.

“We promise,” said Bart. The other three nodded.

“Okay, kitties. I just don’t want anything bad to happen to you.”

Carrie was confident about taking them at their words, for they had not gone back on any of their promises to her.

The shop was opening now, and Carrie pulled back the curtains and set out the 'Open' sign. It was 9:00 and Ralph was already next door in his beloved kitchen, rattling pans and getting ready for the usual lunch crowd.

Bart, Belle, Pook, and Saav had come to love this little routine. Soon Ralph would call for them, and plates overflowing with warm leftovers from last night would be waiting. Then there would be a wash-up and a nap, and all-out playtime til lunchtime. Sometimes Carrie brought her lunch and sometimes she went out, but she always shared with them after she was done. The afternoon would be spent between the computer, snacks, and customers. Tomorrow the routine would be a little disturbed; at 10:30, Belle had her first appointment with the vet, but it wouldn't take long. She wasn't looking forward to it, but the older cats assured her that it would keep her healthy and would help her live a long, long time. And she'd be back within an hour or so, and she knew they'd all be waiting for her.

Ralph poked his head in the back door. "Cats! Bart! Belle! Girls! Come and get it! Morning, Carrie, how are you?"

The cats shot out the cat door and flew toward the restaurant's kitchen.

"Great, Ralph, and you?" she smiled.

"It's another wonderful day! Good to be a part of it," he grinned, and returned to his kitchen. Carrie smiled. Ralph's positive attitude and genuine love of life was contagious...and real. She looked over at the little laptop, smiling again. She would certainly be paying Justin a visit today.

A little while later, four stuffed cats dragged through the cat door.

"Did you get enough to eat, guys?" she asked.

Bart looked up at her from a chair, yawned, and belched loudly. "Yes," he smiled, winking at her.

Carrie laughed. Such a typical male, she thought. Bart grinned, and went back to his wash. She tried to imagine all the cats in that group's chatroom and smothered a laugh. She wondered what they were doing in that group. Were they posting messages? What were they saying to the other members? What kind of flea shampoo or cat litter did they recommend?

"You know, if you had the messenger at home, we could all talk at night before you go to bed," said Bart.

Carrie looked at him. "I never thought of that."
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Old 02-26-2016, 10:13 PM   #56
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I was rolling on the floor with the kitten poots...Django has the same problem and can empty the room. Still loving this story and I want to know when Joyce gets it set on Amazon so I can buy a copy, Authors need the recognition (and should be paid for their efforts), I will be writing a glorious review and recommendation.
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Old 02-26-2016, 10:14 PM   #57
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"You're home a lot at night alone," Pook pointed out. Belle looked at Carrie sadly. She didn't know that.

"That's true," she said thoughtfully.

Bart saw the look in the kitten's eyes. "Carrie's husband is a consulting engineer, and he's often away from home, out of town. That's why Carrie bought this shop. It gives her something fun to do, keeps her busy, and she makes a living at it," he explained. "Right now he's on a job, and she only sees him one weekend a month."

"Oh," said Belle, feeling a little better, but still concerned that Carrie spent so much time alone.

"I have a computer at home. I'll do that, and I can say good-night and even good-morning to you guys. That's a neat idea, Bart. Usually after I walk the dogs and get a bite and clean up a little, it's either TV or a book. This will add a little variety to the routine."

A customer came in, a lovely but icy and haughty tall bleached-blond woman carrying a little yapping poodle. Instantly the cats fluffed up and Bart and Pook hissed.

She saw the cats. So did the dog. The dog went into a frenzy of barking, trying desperately to get out of the woman's arms.

"Get those damn cats out of here!" she shouted. "They're upsetting my poor little Peachie."

Carrie raised an eyebrow. "Get the damn dog out of here. It's upsetting Bart, Belle, Pook and Saav."

"What did you just say to me?" the woman demanded, stepping toward Carrie.

Carrie repeated herself loudly over the barking and hissing.

The woman looked like she had just been slapped. "No one talks to me like that!"

"I just did," Carrie smiled politely. "Twice."

Furious, the woman stormed out, her face beet-red. "You haven't heard the last from me!" she shouted over her shoulder from the doorway.

"Thanks for the warning," replied Carrie, making a face.

The cats settled down, angry.

"Why do people act like that?" asked Belle.

"I don't know. Sometimes people think the world turns around them," said Carrie.

"Had a lot of nerve bringing in that dog and demanding we get out, we live here," Bart muttered unhappily.

"That too," nodded Carrie.
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Old 02-26-2016, 10:18 PM   #58
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"We saw a bumper sticker about people like that once," said Pook. "It said, 'The more I see of people, the more I like my pets.'"

The other cats laughed. Carrie smiled and sighed. "That's how I feel sometimes," she said.

Saav, looking for a diversion away from that upsetting scene, looked at their new (used) laptop. "Is that done yet?"

Carrie looked at the screen. "Yep, all finished. You want to try it?"

"Oh boy!" exclaimed Pook, and all three cats and the kitten took off to gather around it on the counter. Saav rebooted it, and the operating system came up.

"Wooooooooo!" squealed Saav. The laptop, with its touchpad mouse, was very much easier for them, and the screen was bright and the colors were vivid.

"Let's check our emails," suggested Pook.

"Okay," said Saav, pawing in the password.

"Hey, you know, after we check our emails, you can go find a screensaver with cats on it and download it for your new computer," Bart pointed out.

Pook looked up at Carrie, and she nodded.

"Go ahead, cats," she smiled. "I won't need my computer for a while.”

Pook purred at her and smiled back. "Thanks, Carrie."

"In fact...." Carrie looked at her watch. "I have an errand I need to run real quick. I'm just going to close the shop for a few minutes and bug out. You guys want anything?"

"Yes, please," said Bart suddenly.

"Sure, my man. What can I bring you?"

"Yourself back safely. I didn't like that woman who was in here earlier, and she did threaten you. Be careful," he said, looking at her levelly.

Something about his tone and his concern gave her a shiver. Does he know something I don’t know? She was afraid of the answer to that question.

"I will, Bart. I promise," Carrie reassured him. She swung her coat on and collected her purse, pulling the curtains to and putting the 'Be back soon' sign up in the door before locking it securely behind her.

Carrie walked into the local computer store, and found one of the two owners at the counter putting up some blank discs in a display case.

“Hi, Justin,” she greeted him. He turned around.

“Hello, Carrie, how are you?” he asked.

She sighed. “I’m fine, but I need a little help.”

“Okay. What can I help you with?”
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Old 02-26-2016, 10:22 PM   #59
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“I need a good laptop for my….business,” she stammered. Oh my God, I almost said ‘my cats!’ she thought.

“New or used?” he asked.

“Just a good used one,” she replied.

“Hmmm. What will you be doing on it?”

“Probably storing a lot of web pages and pictures, information on suppliers and dealers, that kind of thing. I’m starting to do a little more out-of-store consulting and I need something…portable,” she lied. I am so bad at this! I almost said ‘paw-friendly!’ she thought.

“I see. Carrie, are you okay?” he asked her suddenly.

“Oh, sure, I’m fine. I just decided to take a different step here and I’m just hoping it’ll work the way I hope it will,” she said with a smile, hoping like mad she sounded convincing. Justin knew her fairly well, as he had built and installed both her computers and had often accompanied her and Joyce to movies and plays. Justin could always be counted on to be there for them.

“I guess that would make you nervous. I was nervous as hell when I opened this place and went from a repair business to a full store.” He patted her shoulder. “Don’t worry, Carrie, you’ll do fine. Just like your shop is a tremendous success, this new venture will be, too. Have faith in yourself.”

He just made her feel worse, for he was truly trying to help her and she had lied to him. But she knew why she was doing it.

Carrie smiled. “I appreciate that. I guess major changes can be just a little daunting at times.” At least that wasn’t a lie; it made her feel a little less guilty.

“They can be. But the good news is I can help with this. I just refurbished a really good one that I think will do just what you want it to, and if you like it, I’ll give you fifteen percent off plus your small-business discount. Over here.”

He showed her to the shelves of laptops, and handed her one of them, explaining its features. He told her about the others, but he was right; the one he had shown her first would suit her – or Bart’s and Belle’s – needs quite well. She decided on it, and asked about the DSL cables.
“Carrie, if you want to really be portable, wireless is the way to go, and you won’t be tripping over cables all over the place. If you go out of town, take a DSL cable just in case, but lots of hotels are wireless now,” Justin suggested.

Carrie remembered Pook and Saav and the chat nights too. “Oh. That too is a possibility, being away. How do I do that?”

He explained what she needed, and it seemed simple enough. “I’ll come by in a few minutes and install it for you – free,” he offered.
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Old 02-26-2016, 10:23 PM   #60
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“Great! Okay. Can I get an extra wireless card? I can carry a spare in my purse or something just in case I lose the one.”

“Sure. Whatever you’d like. Anything else you need? Got blank discs on sale – buy one pack, get a pack free, and jump drives are twenty-five percent off. Your business discount applies to the sale items too.”

She picked up everything she needed, and was quite pleased with the price after her discounts. Justin, like the other shopowners in Stony River, treated his customers well, and promised to come by the shop to install the router as soon as his partner arrived.

“Should be about fifteen minutes or so,” he told her.

“I really appreciate this, Justin. Thanks,” she replied. “See you in a few.”

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