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I posted the first half of this story a couple of weeks ago because I was using parts of it in the new Pismawallops PTA mystery. You can check that out if you don't remember or didn't read it, because this is part two, and needs the first half to make sense. In a quick summary, Kitty and JJ have been setting up the PTA holiday bazaar, and someone or something keeps messing up the display of hot pads and scrubbies. Just before time to open, Kitty finds out just what it was, and proposes a most unlikely person to adopt the cat: Arne Hancock, the somewhat fussy art teacher whose table the kitten has been disturbing.
Pismawallops Christmas, Part II
I put my hands on my hips and glared at Kitty. The kitty in her arms poked its furry little face toward me and mewed.
“How on earth do you intend to persuade Arne Hancock to adopt that creature?”
“It’s a kitten, JJ, not a ‘creature.’ And I have about three minutes to come up with the answer to that,” she added.
“While we tidy his table,” I pointed out. “I think it will go a lot better if he doesn’t see what the kitten did to his rainbows.” I left her trying to hold the cat in one arm while she moved potholders around with her free hand. Trotting across the gym, I flipped the switch that started the music, then scurried back the other way to open the door. Three PTA parents stood outside with trays and platters of baked goods.
I took the goodies, directed the one donor who was willing to stay to help Kitty, and tried to match the desserts with Patty Reilly’s signs. Fortunately, Patty came in before I could make too much of a mess of things, and I went back to directing people and coping with emergencies.
I spotted Arne at the door, and, a quick glance showing me that Kitty and her helper weren’t done with the table, set myself to delay him a minute or two.
“Oh, Arne. Glad to see you.” I clutched his arm, turning him so his back was to the scurry around his table. “Do you have the pricing tags for the art table?”
He looked at me, confused by the question, as well he might be. “I’m in charge of the crafts table, Ms. MacGregor, not the art.” He looked at my hand on his arm, and I got the message. I let him go.
“I’m sorry. I just thought that since you’re the art teacher… ” My words trailed off as he turned and saw what Kitty and Amy were doing.
“Why are they messing up my display?”
“Um, they’re just straightening up a bit. There was, ah, a bit of an accident.”
“Again?” His lips narrowed. “I fail to see why my table should be the one cast into disarray by every clumsy lout,” he began, then stopped. “I’m sorry. I suppose one of you bumped it while trying to do too much. No harm done,” he said without conviction as he hurried away to see to his goods.
I watched Kitty turn her back and trot off as he approached, the kitten now snuggled inside her gaudy Santa snowman sweater. I cut across the room at an angle to intercept her.
“I don’t know why Arne is so fussed about his perfect arrangement of potholders,” I murmured when I caught her. “The shoppers will reduce it to chaos in minutes in any case.”
She laughed. “And he’ll spend the whole time trying to restore it to order.”
“What are you going to do with the furball there?” I asked. “Even if Arne does adopt it, you have to do something with it for the day.”
“I’m not sure. I only know I have to keep her out of sight, because if Kat and Sarah see her, I’ll have another mouth to feed at my house.”
“Don’t look at me,” I said. “I’m allergic.”
Kitty didn’t believe me, but I was gone before she could challenge that, off to calm another crisis. I called back over my shoulder, “take it to the teachers’ room and give it some milk!” I’d have to get along without my partner for a while.
The bazaar had opened while I was running around, and shoppers were swarming over the tables, especially the treats. I checked to make sure Amy was at the cashier’s table, and had everything she needed, then went to get the lids for the cups of coffee and hot cider we were selling.
After that, I spent my day dashing from table to table, giving people a break where needed, fetching whatever had been forgotten, and trying to keep a smile pasted on my face so I wouldn’t scare off the customers. Patty slipped me a broken cookie or two, and my coffee cup stayed filled, or I wouldn’t have made it.
Eventually, Arne Hancock waved me over. “I need a break,” he announced. “The crowd is getting rather large and loud and I must go somewhere quiet for a time.”
How on earth did this guy survive teaching high school kids? I hid my smile, and told him I could give him ten minutes.
“I’m going to the teachers’ room,” he said, and was off before I remembered.
Kitty had left the kitten sleeping in a box in the teachers’ room. I hoped Furball would keep quiet.
Arne didn’t return. I needed to leave the table and take care of business, like finding a bathroom to offload the four cups of coffee I’d drunk. Where was he?
I finally got someone over to take my place with the potholders, and found Kitty. “We need to find Arne. He went off to take his break and never came back.”
“Where’d he… oh, no!” Kitty said.
“Oh, yes. If that cat got out and made a mess in the teachers’ room, we will never hear the end of it.” We raced down the breezeway between the gym and the main school building, dreading what we might find. Opening the door of the teachers’ room, we came to a dead halt.
Arne sat on the floor, surrounded by wads of crumpled paper. As we watched, he tossed one to the kitten, who pounced on it and batted it back to him. The stressed-out art teacher had a blissful smile on his face as he reached out to stroke the soft kitten-fur.
When at last he noticed us, he looked up, unperturbed. “You’ll have to get on without me over there. Someone abandoned this poor animal, and I need to take care of her.” He frowned. “It’s not yours, is it?”
“No,” Kitty managed to answer. “I found her in the gym.”
“Excellent. Then I shall take her home and see that she is cared for properly.”
We closed the door before we turned to high five each other.
Mission accomplished: two fewer lonely creatures.
©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2018
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