"I ain't chicken-peckin' Uncle Godfrey!" declared Mayzie McGrew stoutly, "when he gallops aroun' the meadow with me on his shoulders it's more fun than blowin' bubbles in the wind, or listenin' to grown-ups talkin' politics over Auntie Dusty's rhubarb pie, which is, in my humble - childish - opinion, a nutterly disgraceful way to thank her for her gloriously delicious pie, whereas I - a mere topsy infant orphan - can tell that when an ambitus politician promises to end corruption an' kick-backs, that promise or pledge is as clear as day a meteorwrong, cause it's a catch-22, puhlain as the nose on my face: crooked politicians stand for elected office so they can stick their snouts in the trough an' that's a fact o' life which nobody can deny, so if they put an end to all the bribes an' perks they wouldn't get the goodies they're after, so they wouldn't bother they'self to run for office in the first place, but if there's no crooked politicians how's all the other crooks gonna win the contracts and orders their businesses need to give them the profits they want, they'd positively insist that without the crooked politicians, government in the US of A would grind to a halt and nuthin' would get built or dug or made anywhere, even in Hanna Barbera, fer goodness sakes and the folks who work for all the companies owned by the crooks and crinimals would be outa jobs and they'd riot and tear down City Hall demandin' that the crooked politicians be elected cause that's the only way the system can run smoothly but nobody ever admits to bein a crook so the politicians say they're gonna end bribery and brown envelopes changin' hands at the chimes o' midnight an' you so-called adults and grown-ups an' you in particklar, Henry Hat, has the audacity to rebuke me for bein' open an' honest in askin Uncle Godfrey to gallop me aroun' the meadow on his shoulders simply and truthfully cause it's more fun than hearin' you all talk about the Labor Rights o' Silk Worms instead o' letting me enjoy this bowl o' rhubarb pie, in peace!" and the silence seemed to roll over the heads of everyone at the table like a muted thunderstorm as the air-pressure broiled and brewed until it was broken by Pixie who stood up on his chair and said: "please Mizz Dusty, please, may I please have another slice of this absolutely delicious rhubarb pie, please? thank you very much," and while that triggered a clamour of similar requests, old Godfrey the Troll hoisted Mayzie onto his broad shoulders and galloped around the meadow which was always one of his particular favourite activities because it made him feel young again.
Which was when a kind of trap-door, covered in a square yard of turf, opened upwards and the head, then the shoulders, arms, body and legs of an elderly, nut-brown Troll climbed out, turned and extended a hand to pull up his companion, a handsome, dark-skinned, much younger man, or boy, even, tall, sturdily built and with a warm smile on his face as he approached Dusty Lester: "Mizz Dusty," he said confidently, "Mr Godfrey has earned a large slice of rhubarb pie and I vouch for his inalienable right to have both custard and cream with it," and then he noticed the strangers and doffed his workman's cap, "apologies if we intrude upon private business, but it is lunchtime for those who toil on or under ground and we have earned our midday repast," at which Lucky asked Henry if he wouldn't mind pulling out another couple of folding chairs and once they were placed at the table, Godfrey and the young man joined the party; Godfrey introduced his employee as Simon Legree, and Simon added that he was a Principle Chartered Mining Engineer, having trained at the Underground University of Pennsylvania, and Henry whispered in an aside to Dixie and Pixie: "looks like we found Prince Charming, seems like your Sleeping Beauty has selective hearing, put the bits she liked together and BINGO!" and Godfrey announced that in addition to Plastic Mining, they were considering extending into sericulture: "we gotta lot of tunnels down there, standin' empty and I read that an underground location is great for breedin' silkworms, whaddaya think Lucky, we are equal partners after all, it ain't just up to me, you like it?" and Lucky said, "it's a great idea, Godfrey, I'm with you all the way on that, and there ain't nuthin' Simon don't know about what goes on under the Earth's crust," and Simon, laughing, assured the company that he certainly didn't know everything, but he'd read the story that Godfrey had found in a Mining Journal and it looked like sericulture was just one of the things old worked-out tunnels could be used for, and if it all proved successful, would provide a good income even after the Plastic Seams were done, adding: "mining is a business that eventually comes to an end, when there's nothing left to bring up, but the silk-worm business is sustainable and self-perpetuating, these little guys produce mile after mile of silk, so long as you treat then well and provide all their creature comforts, and they produce the next generation," and Godfrey added, "it may seem as if we're yawin' away from the original set-up here, Lucky, and Lord knows, Trolls have been in the minin' business for thousands o years, but diversification's the name of the game nowadays, heck, we started diggin' fer Iron, an' Bronze, an' Copper an' such, then got into Gold and Silver, when we came across coal, it weren't no use to us, so we threw it on the fire in disgust, then realized it did have a use, Plastic's a recent development, you gotta move with the times," and Lucky said: "don't look at me like I'm a stick-in-the-mud, Godfrey, I've allus moved with the times, that's why I'm happy Managin' the Bridge, though I'd never managed anything before, young Simon here an' my kids and Mayzie over there are the next generation an' we gotta leave 'em a Planet they can call Home; you came here cause you hated and suffered under the Jim Crow Laws down in the South, Simon refused to be an Uncle Tom to some redneck thinks he's better just cause o the colour of his skin, that's hokum, nobody's got the right to tell another person, regardless o their species, be they human, feline, canine, meeces, equine, insect or avian—or silk-worms come to that—what they can an can't do, so I propose that if we're gonna go down the Silk Road, we run a Unionised Plant, give every worm a fair contract, a decent wage with health insurance, sick pay an' reg'lar hours, child support and even pensions when they reach our ages in worm-years, whaddaya say, Partner?" and he gave Godfrey a strange look, part invitation, part challenge, part casual, part deadly earnest, and the others - for whom this was a unique moment in the History of Hanna Barbera - held their collective breaths, until Godfrey leaned across the table, spat in the palm of his hand and shook Lucky's for all he was worth: "well said, old timer, we owe it to the Future!" at which Mayzie piped up: "you used to put me on your shoulders, Uncle Godfrey, and gallop around the meadow, do it again! do it again!" and the Cat in the Hat stood up and said, in all seriousness: "Mayzie McGrew, your blatant attempt to chicken-peck Mr Godfrey, at a moment like this should make you feel ashamed, when the older generation are trying to do stuff that will benefit their workers and their descendants an all you can think about is your own pleasures—if you aren't ashamed, well, I am!"
And so they approached the bridge over the river and Pixie and Dixie—who'd never been in this part of the County before—were amazed at the four-story house which rose high over the bridge and ran the full length, about twenty feet or so, with an archway through which even quite tall people—in comparison with Pixie and Dixie—could walk without ducking their heads or bumping them, and wide enough for a single horse and cart, or motor car, and sitting at a small table by the entrance was a jolly-looking fellow, dressed in a red sweater and blue pants, with one leg in a kind of caliper, and a jaunty yachtsman's cap at an angle on his head; Lucky Lester, for it was certainly he, according to the sign beside him which stated that he was the
Schola Saxonum Toll Bridge,
horses and riders 9c,
horse-drawn wagons 10c,
motorized vehicles 15c-30c depending on length
"why's it called that?" Dixie whispered to Henry, who crouched beside him and whispered back: "cause it crosses the Schola Saxonum River, okay? now leave the talkin' to me," and he turned to the Bridge Manager, doffing his hat which gesture the jolly man emulated, then Henry said: "looking better, Lucky, I guess workin outdoors like this is better than bein a miner, eh?" and Lucky agreed: "sure thing, Henry, it's a young man's game underground, although Godfrey ain't young, as you well know, but I spose Troll years ain't the same as ours, and the new Engineer he's got knows a thing or two, he's fairly mechanised the place since my accident, but I'm not complainin', sure it was a lucky turn for me, got me this billet an' Dusty's inside bakin' a pie - rhubarb still yer favourite?" and Henry acknowledged the truth of this, then Lucky asked Mayzie, "how're you gettin' on with the cartwheels?" and she told him her record was twenty-five in a row, and offered to demonstrate, but Lucky suggested she wait till after lunch, then told Henry that the Engineer, Simon Legree usually stopped the diggers at Noon and he and Godfrey would be coming above ground: "course, Legree's a bit of a hard taskmaster and he'd have the machines runnin' round the clock, but Godfrey's an Old School Troll, 'Down Tools for Mealbreaks,' sez he, can't abide the feel of the vibration down below when he's eatin' says it spoils his appetite and brings on a malaise - you ever see a Troll with a malaise, Henry?" but Henry shook his head, so Lucky explained: "turns him sorta greeny-orange, and comes out in purple boils, an' 'is breath gets like cinnamon, an' you knows how Trolls can't abide cinnamon," which Henry admitted he did: "yepp, I was up in Down City when there was an epidemic of cinnamon-itis among the Old German Trolls, in the middle o their Annual Weimarization Festival, you ever been to that, Lucky?" and the jolly man beamed: "oh for sure, Henry, me an the Missus was there for our Honeymoon that very week - not when they had the cinnamon-itis, I think it musta been two years after the one you're talkin' about - but it was the Festival Week, oh what a Lucky man I am to be married to Dusty an' have my beautiful kids, but you know what happened last week?" and Henry grinned, "nope, although I guess you're gonna tell us," and Lucky nodded: "I didn't win the Lottery!" and despite Henry's reproachful glance, Mayzie blurted out: "what's lucky about that? we didn't either," but Lucky didn't take any offence, he said: "well, it was Hiram Herman, you know him, Henry, the Hermit over in Underhill, he won it, single ticket, no sharers, so he went to the Post Office to collect his winnin's an' just as he came out, with that big wad of notes in his hand, a runaway goat butted him an he fell in the road, got run over by a bus, let go of the cash, an it got sucked up by a twister, distributed over five Counties, poor old Hiram got taken to hospital, seven busted ribs, both legs broken, cracked spine, fractured skull, lost eleven teeth—an he only had twelve before that—he's in plaster from his ankles to the top o his head, that's how lucky I am!" at which very moment, Dusty Lester appeared carrying a tray which she set down on the table, "good to see you, Henry, I looked out an' saw you and Mayzie an your little friends," at which Dixie opened his mouth, but Pixie clamped a paw over it, "so I brung out extra, you always look like you could use a decent feed, Henry," and the Cat with the Hat grinned like he was from Cheshire, and said: "I guess it's my metabolism, Dusty, but the fact is, I always can!" and with that, and the extra chairs Dusty took from behind the sign, they all settled in to enjoy lunch, and await the arrival of Godfrey the Troll and the mysterious Simon Legree!
"So," said Dixie, thoughtfully, "what can you tell us about this Troll, this Godfrey geezer?" and Henry laughed, then said, "he's no 'geezer' as you put it, he's just an old Southern Troll, out of the Blue Mountains as I recall, his family went way back to the time before America was discovered!—as if it hadn't been here all along, needed some Italian to sail up on a boat and claim it for the King and Queen of Castile, not realisin' that Vikings had reached Newfoundland about 600 years earlier, but who's countin'?—anyhoo, Godfrey didn't approve of the Jim Crow Laws in those Southern States, so he upped an' came west an' settled just outside town, built hisself a nice Bridge House—that's Trolls speciality, they acquire Toll Rights to a bridge an' they live right over it—although Godfrey didn't know it at the time, but under his house runs a seam of the finest plastic anybody could find and one day he was diggin' in his garden when he struck Lucky, you'll meet him too, Lucky Lester, he got hit by a lump of plastic that came out on Godfrey's pick, and he knew exactly what it was, so Godfrey and Lucky went into partnership, registered Lucky Godfrey's Plastic Mine and started to dig, but poor old Lucky got hurt when one of the tunnels collapsed while Godfrey was in town buyin' supplies, so Godfrey wanted to shut down the mine, but he was approached by a consortium of manufacturers who offered to 'take it off his hands' and when he found out how much they were offering, he knew it was worth twenty or thirty times more; now, Trolls are kinda sere, by nature, they ain't gregarious and Godfrey's no exception, but old Lucky was much more sociable, he had a wife, a vivacious gal named Dusty, an' they had three little girls an' a baby boy, but Lucky was kinda impecunious and hadn't made any provision for his family if he couldn't work, and even owed rent on their cabin, so realizin' what the mine was worth, Godfrey went to visit Lucky an' Mrs Lester an' he offered them a proposition: they should have Lucky's half-share o' the mine, and he would be mighty obliged if they an' the little 'uns moved into Bridge House, where they could all coorie down safely an' would she be willin' to take charge o' the house an' provide him with home-cooked meals an' mend his work-clothes when they got tore, an such-like and would Lucky become Manager o the Toll Bridge?; so that's what happened, Dusty Lester became Godfrey's Housekeeper an' Lucky minded the Bridge while Godfrey toiled in the Plastic Mine, with the help of any casual labourers he could hire, but accordin' to your Client, he's now kidnapped this Prince Charmin' an' set him to workin' the mine, but that don't chime with the Godfrey I've known for years, and look, there's the Bridge House up ahead, let's just take things easy till we can find out what's goin' on there."
So, as they strolled along the Northbound Yellow Brick Road, with Mayzie still acting the hysteric—what with her cartwheels, snatches of song, imitating a merlion in full flight or a ferret down someone's trousers—Henry, the Cat in the Hat, explained his approach to the Detecting or Inquisitioning business: "it's all down to my old Bronx Babushka, guys, cause she always said to me, 'Heini,' she said, that's what she always called me, Heini, 'Heini,' she said, 'if you wanna know someone, you gotta know their ייִדיש,' you dig that guys?" as Pixie and Dixie exchanged a puzzled look, and Mayzie piped up, "my Babushka Mehgrewski, that was our name before the Port Authorities changed it to McGrew, told us to speak with an Irish accent, settle in the Bronx, hah! we went to the Lower East Side of Manhattan, well she used to say that too, ייִדיש but more guttural, you know," and Henry noticed the bemused look the two little guys were still passing between them, like soccer players doing Keepie-Uppie, and he chuckled, "if I say it as Sitz im Leben, is that any clearer?" but the mice shook their heads, so he translated, "okay, literally it means Place in Life, which can be about where you live, who with, where you work, what you do, how old you are, all that stuff, but properly it's more about your beliefs, your Faith, the Religion you follow, your Politics, what kind of a guy you are, your values, the essence that makes you you instead of him, dig?" and slowly, slowly, Pixie and Dixie nodded, grasping what Henry meant.
Now, just so you know, Henry's friend Mayzie McGrew was blonde and dimpled, which gave her a rather superficially angeliferous appearance, although once you realised that she had a tendency to sidle up to a person and blow bubbles over them with all the showiness of an hysteric, that was likely to colour your view of her—not to make you suspicious, as such, just a little less beholden—but the fact that she was Henry's Associate and when you learned that they had worked as a team on umpteen of the biggest legal cases in Hanna Barbera, both Civil and Criminal, some of the confidence that may have slipped was quickly shored up and, so far as Pixie was concerned, when she gave him a cheese cookie, he was in her pocket, listening to Dixie outline their own first case, that of the Kidnapped Prince Kevin, the one that had been brought to them by Sleeping Beauty herself, otherwise Princess Lollobello Montecello, now reduced to working split-shifts as a waitress in the Luncheonette, and the way Dixie told it was enough to reduce a block of granite to tears, with all the detail about the Troll having moved back under the very same Bridge as he had been evicted from by the Billy Goats Gruff—in their capacity as Enforcers for the Property Owners Association of West Hanna Barbera, not perhaps the most kosher of Landlords, but they kept their noses just above the legal waterline, although the tactics employed by the Gruffs were, in the Cat with the Hat's considered opinion, "shady, edging towards suspect, with a hint of sadism in the mix," although he didn't claim that the Troll, whom he knew as Godfrey, was always entirely innocent—and then waylaying the runaway Prince and Princess and abducting the Prince to work for him in his Plastic Mine, deep underground, where he extracted the Plastic Ore which he then supplied to just about every manufacturer in the Tri-County Area who produced just about everything that could be bought or sold in that same area for just about any purpose under the sun: "oh, Ol' Godfrey's pretty rich, I'd say," said Henry, batting away one of Mayzie's bubbles, "an' that may be why the POA were puttin' the squeeze on him, but that's no excuse for him to kidnap this Prince Kevin character, why don't we roll over to his Bridge and see if we can sort this little mess out, without recourse to the Police Department and all the unpleasantness that can entail," and Dixie whispered to Pixie, "see, I told you he was smart!"
Still smarting from Boo Boo's refusal to become involved on the side of Justice, Dixie was muttering about the hysteric little bear's lack of honour, integrity, desire to right wrongs, as well as his height, which, Pixie thought, was a bit rich considering their own—even compared with Boo Boo—diminutive stature, because, after all, they were among the smaller citizens of Hanna Barbera County, never mind the Town, but once Dixie went off on one of his diatribes there was really nothing Pixie could do but let him rant until he ran out of steam, or forgot what, or who, he was raving about, and any way, the calabash tree was just up ahead and lying in the shade beneath it, his hands clasped over his midriff, was the Cat in the Hat, while leaning against the tree, playing with a bubble-blower, sat a small girl: "whadda we call him?" whispered Pixie, "can't just say 'Hi Cat,' can we?" but Dixie marched straight towards the calabash, where he stood a few inches from the Cat's head and said: "Hi Cat!" and the Cat's right eyelids parted a scant few millimetres and he purred: "bless me, if it ain't Dixie Donut, it's been years," and he pushed himself up on one elbow, extending a finger for Dixie to shake, "an' who's your sidekick?" at which Dixie introduced Pixie and the Cat introduced himself as Henry and the girl as Mayzie, and she blew a bubble which completely enclosed Pixie for seven seconds, and Henry said: "that's one of her chicanes—get a hostile witness in the box an' he's spinnin' a sob-story that has the entire jury wantin' to vote his brother-in-law Citizen of the Year and Mayzie blows one o' them over him an' pretty soon he's blubberin' the whole sordid story an' putting himself in the frame alongside his brother-in-law, gets 'em every time, don't it Mayze?" and she smiled coyly, "sure does Hen, hun," and went on blowing.
To cut to the chase or—as Pixie put it when he and Dixie were explaining their client's dilemma to Boo Boo later that day—"long story short, girl under spell, boy rescues girl, girl loses boy, boy abducted by wicked troll, what's girl to do?" and that prompted Boo Boo to scratch his head, then his chin, then his bottom, and at last say: "I don't know, why you askin me? I'm just a little bear!" and when he had left the Luncheonette, Dixie said, somewhat harshly, "little bear my ass, he's a chicken-livered, cowardly custard and I wouldn't grubstake him to find a needle in a haystack that's got planning permission for a loft conversion next door to the Hanna Barbera/Santa Barbara Xpressway," and Pixie looked impressed: "hey, that's somewhat analogous to being very similitudinous, buddy, howd'ya think of those things?" but Dixie just shrugged and said, "must be in my jeans."
Now, as it happens, the very first Case—in fact it was filed in their Filing Cabinet as Case #1—that PDInquisitions took on, had nothing to do with either Mr Jinks or Sookie Soo, or even Top Cat—Jinks supposed BFF, but actually a lot closer to SS than any of us may have had any justification in expecting, on the basis of what little evidence we had amassed so far—but was actually brought to them by the waitress at the Luncheonette, Miss Lollobello Montecello, or Sleeping Beauty if you prefer, and that on their very first day in business—and perhaps it might be useful to explain that the business premises of PDInquisitions was the curtained off two booths at the far end of the Luncheonette from the door, normally set aside for Private, Discreet or even Secret meetings, whether personal or commercial, which the participants preferred not to conduct before the eyes and ears of the general public—and was brought to the Partners, Pixie and Dixie, by the normally demure Olive, but now tantamount to ithyphallic, what with the hand gestures implying some form of self-abuse, the side-eye way she had of looking at the Partners and the Client simultaneously—no mean feat—when she placed three tall glasses of nuée ardente, as the Menu referred to what, anywhere else, would be generally—and more prosaically—known as Hot Lava Java but, once Olive had left them, Miss Montecello poured out her heart-full of woes and had the two Inquisitors staring at her with huge, round eyes, filled with wonder and brimming with tears at her plight!
And that was how it came about that Hanna Barbera's first Private Detective Agency—PDInquisitions—was born, when Pixie and Dixie pulled on their new pairs of gumboots, somewhat pugnaciously took up pipe-smoking, employed Olive Oyl—who had by now finally and irrevocably broken up with Popeye—as their Secretary/Receptionist and discovered that she was something of an aficionado of—not only—the Town's Society Folks, and therefore the Social Climbers who pray on them—but also—the Lower Depths, whatchamightcall The Underworld for, while most folks who think they know anything about Hanna Barbera believe it to be the archetypal Hometown of either their childhood memories, or their sentimental longings, behind it's bonhomie and Hail-Fellow-Well-Met warmth, generosity, fine feelings and an innocent sense of fun, there lurk cockroaches, poisonous mushrooms and a whole network of shady businessmen, corrupt politicians, depraved Boy Scout leaders, spies and saboteurs from every continent and State of the Union, serial-killers with all the spidey-sense of a tarantula with an MBA, and good-old common-or-garden mobsters, who'll buy and sell anything and anyone, and are happy to Deep Six anybody who crosses their path and challenges their profits, and Olive's knowledge of this milieu was encyclopaedic!
Now, if he was truly being himself—and not a love-stricken swain—Mr Jinks would have found the whole concept and philosophy of Feng Shui risible, indeed he might have muttered in an aside—if there was anyone else with whom he could safely confide—"it's all Fuckin Hooey!"—but there was no such person present, and so, not wanting to appear iron-hearted and desperate to win favour in the limpid pooling, not to mention pulling and beguiling too, eyes of the hottest Queen he had ever encountered in his life, he let Sookie Soo fly her kite, and he began to believe, he, the most down-to-Earth guy in the whole of Hanna Barbera began to believe in all the schmaltzy hocus-pocus, in invisible forces, quasi-scientific mumbo-jumbo about Ley Lines and Tram Lines and Railway Lines and Palm Lines and Washing Lines—no, I think he made that one up—about the interrelationships between what Sookie, in her purring, sensuous accents called "the Scented Beans," which apparently referred to the Animal Kingdom, "and the Leaves and Pebbles," being Plants and the Planet itself, although in truth he could make very little sense of it all, indeed, was past caring, so besotted with her was he, to the extent that it seemed to the watching mice that they had become soul-mates, or as Dixie, who had once read a book, put it: "metempsychosis, as clear as day, she's taken him over, lock, stock and barrel, like a squatter movin into an empty building and claiming Right of Possession," and cost would be no object, he said, anything—to please Sookie, though he didn't say that, or not in so many words—and he would meet her tomorrow in the Luncheonette, to sign the contract and pay her deposit, and he helped her roll up the plans and he carried them to her sporty little two-seater and fancied the idea of the pair of them tootling out to the Blue Hills for a picnic and perhaps a swim in the lake and sunbathing on the warm grass, as he watched her drive around the corner and disappear, then turned back, to find TC getting ready to leave too: "I'll get the boys to find us a crane so we can turn the house around, and once that's done, Sookie can start on the yard and then the inside, you sure Goldilocks won't object?" and Jinks laughed louder than he intended: "nah! so long's she can catch her favourite TV shows and has her bottle and a pack of Lucky's, she don't really notice nuthin else, leave her to me, I'm the one wears the pants hereabouts," and when TC cast an eye over his legs, Jinks conceded, "well, figuratively!" and at the back of the yard, Pixie and Dixie rolled their eyes and agreed, "the sap's been hooked alright."
But some residual feline instinct, long-removed from his ancestors' domination of the African plains, aroused Mr Jinks when the bricktop, Sookie Soo, sashayed into the yard, rolls of plans under her arm, and laid them out on the table; although Jinks had never met Sookie before, he did know something about her: previously a hello girl at the downtown telephone exchange, she had become a union organiser and was now the Ombudswoman for the Communications Department of Hanna Barbera Town Council—someone it could benefit him to become a friend of, quite apart from the fact that she was an absolute knockout, he thought, real eye-candy, a dish of fresh cream he'd love to lap up, so he held out the bowl of figs and invited her to take some, but: "not for me, Pussycat, I don't give a fig for figs, but if you wanna offer me a date, you'd find me willin!" and he could almost have swooned, but instead dashed into the house, found a bag of dates, rushed back with them and her smile was beatific.
"You were talkin about the meeces an then you tole me about meetin Schnozzle in Scranton. . . . ." which was as far as Mr Jinks got, because suddenly TC was pacing around the back-yard, snapping his fingers, talking jive 16 to the dozen, "you're one hot-diggity-dog, Jinksy," he said, jabbing a finger into Jinks' chest, "you're smart—hot, smart and don't give a fig for convention! you hit the nail on the head while other guys are lookin for their tool-boxes, dontcha see? the meeces is the Answer to the Great Riddle of the Myriad! and you're the one, the only one who knows what that means, aintcha just?" and Jinks felt a strange brew of pleasure and delight at being singled out for praise by TC, combined with confusion because he had no idea what the Cato of all Catos was talking about, but luckily TC provided an answer he could relate to: "what we need is a Scouthouse and surely the basement of your house will be ideal—safe, secure, and square, especially once we've corrected the orientation anomaly, which is where the meeces come in, isn't it?" and Jinks gulped, then said "it is?" with the inflexion adjusted so that it came out as, "it is!" at which TC swept aside the beer glasses, consigning them to the rubbish dump of history and pulling out a large, silver hip-flask, he unscrewed the cap and offered it to Jinks, who took a long draw and felt his head balloon as the alcohol hit his bloodstream, "fifty-year old Laphraoigh, old bean, 100% proof," said TC, taking a swig himself, as Jinks slumped into Goldilocks' rocking chair and began to snore, while the Boss strutted around the yard, tossing ideas, suggestions, plans, fantasies, directions, dreams and utter nonsense into the air, where Pixie and Dixie, fascinated, watched them drift like the mists of time until they evaporated and vanished.
"Wassup with the orientation?" asked Jinks, to TC's amusement, "well," he explained, "the sun shouldn't set in the East, everyone knows that, even the sprigger who re-studs Officer Dibble's boots knows that, and rife rumours to the contrary, even Officer Dibble hisself knows that, and that's just for starters, see, over there, that pair of meeces?" and following TC's pointing claw, Jinks spotted his two bêtes noir, and nodded, "yepp," he confirmed, "I hates 'em to peeces!" and his friend patted his knee affectionately, "as you should, Jinksy, cos you are a Cat, a superior species, and they are Meeces, an inferior species, which fact, once again, even Officer Dibble - who doesn't give a fig for many things - is aware of, but just suppose, they wasn't the colour of meeces, just suppose they was afflicted with a rare condition known to us cognoscenti as aposematism, what would you think?" but Jinks was horrified, "no! no!" he cried, jumping to his feet, "you ain't gonna tag me as a anti-semite, anti-meeces, yepp definately, but anti-semite, no never, my Babushka was a Jewish Moggavitch from Lvov, it's true, I got papers to prove it," by which time TC had risen too and was putting an arm round Jinks, "it's okay buddy, I'm talkin bout aposem-a-tism, got nuthin to do with bein Jewish, it's like Chameleon's got, they're born with it, let's em change colour whenever they're threatened, they can turn blue, which looks real poisonous, or the same colour as the red door they're standing beside, or the sand they're sunbathin on at the beach, which is why it's easy to trip over 'em, did I ever tell you bout the time I was in Scranton, PA? it was downtown, on Lackawanna Avenue, and I was lookin for the five-and-dime and there, across the street, I sees Woolworth and Kresge, right next door to each other, so I trots across and heads straight into Woolworth when I walks Slap! Bang! into Schnozzle, you remember Schnozzle? the Chameleon Monkey with the proboscis? course you do, well, apparently he's spotted a coupla loan sharks over the other side who was eye-ballin him so he did a ripple right along the street, lookin exactly like whatever was behind him, and when I got there he looked like the glass door, absolutely invisible, and we both fell down and then he scrambled me inside before those two guys clocked us, oh it was great to see him again, but in Scranton? you just never can tell!" so Jinks asked, "what's that got to do with the meeces?" but TC shook his head, "nope, I don't know, you tell me, is it a trick question or is it a secret?"
And, meanwhile, just around the block, Pixie and Dixie stared at the tajine Goldilocks, the Housekeeper, had proudly placed in the centre of the back yard; she had paid two lumberjacks five dollars each to cut down the birch tree which had always been the yard's finest adornment, and haul it away with their truck, and now the tajine stood on a firepit where the tree had previously grown; the two mice were aghast: "it's a catastrophe," cried Pixie, while Dixie could only mutter: "a fakement, a fakement, a fakement of her imagination, she's lost her marbles and now we've lost our tree!" which was when Mr Jinks jumped up from behind the cooking pot, a butterfly net in each paw and started chasing the mice around the yard, yelling: "come here, meeces, I want you as the signature ingredients for Mr Jinks Meece Stew, Top Cat and the Boys're coming over and I've promised them a Feast!" but the mice were too fast for him and he ended tied up in knots, with one net over his head and his feet in the other, which was how the Alley Cat Gang found him when they arrived: "not to worry," said TC, sending off a couple of the guys to fetch Fish Suppers from the Luncheonette, "to be honest with you, Jinksy, Meece Stew is now so passé, and a fashionista can't be seen to be behind the culinary times," pouring them each a beer as they sat on the verandah and watched the setting sun sink slowly in the East, "beside which, there's something wrong with the orientation of this house, the Feng Shui is all wrong, I'm gonna get Sookie Soo to come over and sort it out for you."
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