02. April 2019 · Comments Off on Custody Dispute – Part the 2nd · Categories: Luna City Short Stories

(Wherein the previous owner of Ozzie, AKA Captain Kitten the Kitchen Kat – appear and emphatically demand his return.)

“What happened then?”  Katie demanded, not half an hour later – her fine beryl-colored eyes gleaming with righteous indignation and concern. “And who are these people, anyway? You found Ozzie – that night that you fixed that splendid haute-cuisine supper for me. He was hanging out in the hedge between the Café and the Stein’s place – I remember that very clearly, in spite of having too darned many glasses of your landlords’ wine that evening.”

She and Richard sat out in the brief covered patio space before the Airstream, relishing the calm afternoon, the sun slowly sliding down in the western sky, a bottle of Sefton Grant’s priceless white mustang grape wine and two glasses between them. Ozzie was behaving with absolutely kittenish abandon, settled onto Kate’s lap, purring with energy and nudging her hand when she stopped stroking his ears and chin.

Richard sighed, heavily. In his mind, his call on Kate’s affections and those erratic feline attentions of Ozzie were inextricably linked. Gained one, gained the other. Loose one … perhaps loose the other, and perhaps his own grip on a contented life, here serving out caviar cuisine on a canned tuna-fish budget in Luna City. During the ride home from the Tip Top his resolve to keep Ozzie hardened into adamantine stone. Not having Ozzie would mean not having anything meaningful at all.

“Chris took notice of the fuss – not that he could avoid it, since everyone was pretty overwrought – and he called Joe Vaughn.”

“Oh, good!” Kate’s pleasant round countenance brightened. “And Joe told them where they could take their custodial demand and shove it sideways? Ozzie is yours – you found him, took care of him, fed him – made him Captain Kitten!? Everybody in Luna City knows that he’s been yours, no matter where he came from.”

“Well, Joe calmed down the Palmers … that’s Marta and Fred. They live in New Braunfels – is that where that enormous tourist plaza is, where we all met on the way to Marble Falls to cheer on Chris when he competed in that marathon run? Yes, thought so. I couldn’t forget a place like that…Amazing the effect that a uniform has on the ordinary middle-class tax-payers. Especially when it’s Joe wearing it. His sheer forceful presence ensured a compromise, of sorts.”

“Everything is bigger in Texas,” Kate agreed, her expression rather smug. “And yes – that’s the place. The most palatial and cleanest bathrooms around. Did Joe convince them that Ozzie is yours? Honestly, Joe in official mode is perfectly terrifying.”

“No – not entirely,” Richard sighed again. “The Palmers insisted that Ozzie had been chipped … that is, some little identifying device inserted into him, registering original ownership. Apparently, any practicing veterinarian possesses a device which can read those chips. Doc Wyler may be the only one in this county who does not utilize such…”

“Well, he’s old school,” Kate consoled him. “So old-school, I don’t think this present century has registered with him at all. Anyway – he doesn’t do small animal practice, save as a favor for friends. What compromise did Joe make them agree to?”

“That we should present Ozzie tomorrow at 10 AM tomorrow at a veterinary clinic in Karnesville – myself with Ozzie, and the Palmers; there to wait upon the decision of the thingy-chip-reading device. I have the address – and the Palmers secured an appointment and ascertained their willingness to perform such a process. They said they would stay tonight at the Cattleman and meet me in the morning in Karnesville. Kate my darling, I greatly fear that I shall lose Ozymandias.” Richard, under the influence of two or three glasses of Sefton Grant’s peerless vintage, was moved to unburden himself of his deepest fears. “I don’t want that to happen, my dearest Kate, Kate of Kate Hall. Ozzie is more than a pet … I see him as my other self, you know. My familiar, the being in which a good part of my selfish, unworthy soul resides.”

“You are rather cat-like,” Kate agreed. Richard was uncomfortably reminded that his dear keen-eyed Kate had his number down to the thousandth decimal place. “Probably why Ozzie also adores you. A symbiont soul.” She didn’t enlarge on this insight any farther, for which Richard was grateful.

“I don’t want to give him up,” Richard admitted. “But … I might have to. In all honestly, of the chip reveals all…”

“I know,” Kate reached out, from the folding patio chair, to clasp Richard’s hand. “Let’s napalm that bridge when we come to it, OK? Tonight – he is still yours. D’you need a ride to the veterinary clinic tomorrow? I’ll take you, of course. I’ll crash tonight on Araceli’s fold-out sofa and come to get you at … 9:15. That will give us enough time to get to Karnesville…”

“Perfect,” Richard returned the affectionate clasp. He wished that it could be something more … energetic. But this was Kate. Not a fence to go rushing towards. All would happen in good time. “It was tragic, though. Hearing about it from the Palmers. Joe verified, of course. She – their daughter – was a nurse. A very good and dedicated one, from all accounts. Loved by everyone, including our dumb chums, and all her patients and co-workers. Had one of those organ-donor agreements in place. Eyes, heart, lung and kidneys – all went to deserving recipients when they pulled the plug.”

“A good life, well-lived,” Kate nodded. “But that’s another matter entirely. “Her cat has been well-content living with you for … two years?” She sent him one of those beryl-green assessing looks. “Another transplant … just of the other sort. He’s as been as good for you, as if he was a heart or a kidney…”

“I know,” Richard admitted, although most of this was the mustang grape elixir speaking. Ordinarily, he shied from that embarrassing self-knowledge, much less voicing it. “Good of you to go with me tomorrow, Kate. If worst comes to worst, we might have to give up the Captain Kitten blog…”

“Not necessarily,” Kate replied. “I have enough cute pictures of Ozzie in my archives to last into the middle of this century.”

“Top up?” Richard extended the jug towards Kate, and when she shook her head, refilled his own glass and confessed. “I’m inordinately fond of the little blighter. He keeps my feet warm on cold nights. Glad to see me when I finish work for the day – and is not so stupidly needy as a dog. I’ll be deeply depressed if that chip device proves that he is really theirs.”

“We’ll sort that out in the morning,” Kate replied. During this conversation, Ozzie had curled into a tight ball, wedging his head into the crook of Kate’s left elbow. “Let’s not dwell on that any more – worrying about it won’t change anything, and all that it will do will be to spoil our lovely supper. What are you cooking for me tonight? It smells wonderful…”

“Chicken Marengo,” Richard answered. “That is actually the required veal demi-glace reduction that you detect, my dear Kate. I will be preparing it in the original version – chicken breasts with tomatoes, garlic and fresh mushrooms, garnished with fresh prawns, fried eggs and divers fresh herbs. It is legend that Napoleon’s personal chef concocted it after a successful battle and a quick whip-round of those delicacies fit for an emperor-general which were available in the near vicinity.”

“Sounds delish!” Kate exclaimed, with a warm smile. “Never stop cooking for me, Richard.”

“Never,” Richard assured her.

He did think, very briefly – that if he lost custody of Ozzie, some of the joy of cooking for Kate and Ozzie would leak out of his life. But Kate had requested that they not speak of that matter any further – and so he resolutely put it out of his mind, lest contemplating that stark loss further spoil the enchantment of an evening of Kate and fine cuisine.

 

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