12. Rats again

May 13, 2010

Rose’s task was to put the clearance vinyl into the regular bins, but she was having trouble figuring out the filing, which for clearance was reduced to a simple alphabetic order but needed to be filed by genre. Where for example should she put French and American Military Marches? French? American? Military? Or Marches? It was certainly an insight into retail: Never make anything that can’t be easily categorized.

When Nate showed up she tried to enlist him in her dilemma.

“All of these have got weird titles,” she complained. “Like The Living Organ Symphony.” Now where had that come from? It was a good thing she didn’t talk much, thought Rose, because when she did, her subconscious was a guerrilla warrior.

Rather than file, they decided to decorate, which meant going through the $1.00 vinyl and selecting the most bizarre covers to display. Almost all of the shelves at the top of the walls were already full of covers from the ’50s and ’60s, many with women in some state of undress—like the woman naked from the waist up standing behind a white table with two sculptures of Beethoven’s head positioned to cover her breasts. When there were no customers in Classical, Rose found herself contemplating the meaning of having two stern-faced Beethovens for breasts. Naturally, the heads were facing each other, one nose pointing toward the other nose. Rose couldn’t imagine her breasts staring at each other, but maybe they did, in the dead of night when she was dreaming of Beethoven.

And then there were the tastefully sexual covers with the blonde woman in an evening dress lounging across a velvet sofa while a long-haired man in a tux with a frilly evening shirt leaned in toward her, reaching for her outstretched hand. Brunettes were only used for the Polovtsian Dances or Scheherazade, and then they were dressed in coin cluttered veils and bras.

Nate’s favorite was the album with the chubby, bearded man dressed in a devil’s outfit, holding a trident in one hand and a hot dog in another. Rose thought maybe her favorite was the Scottish Symphony—the cover showed two shaggy creatures, a cow (or was it a bull?) and a calf. Once she had searched for them online under “Types of Scottish Cow” and found they were called Scottish Highland cows or shaggy coos: “An excellent grazer, it will eat almost any kind of grass or brush.” The cows also had “an exceptional mothering instinct.” That pleased Rose.

“Look at that,” said Rose when Nate pulled out a record of Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte.

In the center of the cover were the two sisters who were to suffer Don Alfonso’s test of fidelity. On their knees, with their backs to the observer, were the fiancés, the sisters’ tormentors and disbelieving lovers, fez-topped and scimitar bearing.

The really odd thing, though, was that the sisters were joined at the waist; each head and torso was facing one of the kneeling men but from the waist down they were one woman in one skirt, underneath which they would share two feet, two knees, two thighs, one …

“A Siamese twins opera singer,” observed Nate.

“Why is it the two sisters are fused into one and the fiancés are separate and on their knees?” Rose asked. Was she starting to sound like Liz? Was that a good or a bad thing?

“That’s the way she likes her men,” answered Nate. “Separate and on their knees.”

“Yes, please,” said Rose. Nate was appreciative.

After Rose and Nate had found an appropriate spot for the record cover, she went for her break, or her “fifteen” as it was known by the Plutonium staff in an attempt to remind each other that it wasn’t “twenty-five” or “thirty.” Flipping through the community paper at the neighboring coffee house, Rose came across an article on the third page: the headline ran, “Rats Overrun Park.” Sure enough, the park behind Plutonium “Million Year Half-Life” Music was crawling with rats. The problem had become so serious that the city was considering bringing in owls to lower the rodent population. It was either that or poisoning them.

Of course, thought Rose, why hadn’t anyone thought of that? If Kitty was killing rats that was a good thing, a superlative thing. One dead rat meant one less live rat. More than one less live rats, really: the things bred like—well, not to put too fine a point on it—rats. Just one degree less prolific than rabbits.

Rose returned to Classical, newspaper in hand, to find the alarming Bob Winston standing at the back door, looking down at the cat’s food bowl. “I for one,” stated Rose, “am glad the cat’s killing rats because if she wasn’t, those rats would be alive. And breeding.”

Bob stared at her in amazement. She had never seen him so transfixed and still.

“There’s a reason why the Egyptians worshipped cats,” she added, and then, as if providing the final conclusive proof, she unfurled the newspaper. “The park is crawling with rats, it’s like the Pied Piper of Hamlin! Or rather Hamlin, without the Pied Piper.”

“What … what?” stammered Bob Winston, Rose could see him searching for words that would fit the question he wanted to ask.

“They don’t know why there is this huge rat population.” Bob Winston started bobbing his head in agreement. Suddenly Rose was worried. How had he managed to communicate that question? After all, he had only said “What … what?” but still she had known exactly what he was trying to ask. She was one hundred percent sure it wasn’t telepathy, but then what was it? She hardly knew the man.

“They don’t know why,” she repeated. “But this year is a year with lots of rats.”

“Ah,” he said. And smiled.

“So Kitty is doing a service.”

Bob Winston frowned. Dang, thought Rose, she had moved too fast and lost the slim advantage she’d had of gaining Bob’s sympathy and support. No, Bob Winston, who was management himself, would never go against management.

“Yours … is that yours?” he pointed to a red-and-black-check shawl lying at the base of the stairs.

Rose shook her head. She had seen the shawl before. She just could not remember where.

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