I do not know what year it is. I stopped keeping track of that sometime prior to 2020, back when the hair on my head was not all gray and the face in the mirror did not wear its skin two sizes too big. I’m sure the year appears on bills, financial statements, calendars, and at the top of news stories. Fortunately, I don’t have to look at any of those things.
Life has been kind to me. Some might credit my success to luck or privilege, others to talent and hard work. I prefer the latter because it makes people feel slightly less entitled to my money. I like having money and I like to think I spend it well. Life certainly wouldn’t be the same without it.
It’s a lovely morning to sit outside. It’s not too hot, not too cold, and the sky is overcast so I don’t have to squint or put on sunglasses to look out upon our backyard . Rebecca is sitting next to me and put on her sunglasses the moment we left the house. I think she’s just wearing them so I won’t notice if she falls asleep when I’m talking to her. I find that adorable. She of all people should know by now that when I talk, I don’t always need someone to be listening.
We are each sipping a Pimm’s cup. It is the preferred morning drink for both of us, just one of the many things we enjoy together. I’m on my third and I believe Rebecca is as well. It’ll be nice to be equally blotto when lunchtime rolls around.
Guillaume is in charge of pouring our drinks. In fact, he’s in charge of pretty much everything in the household as well as managing our finances. I honestly don’t know what I would do without him. I also love his name because it the last name of the actor who played Benson, the greatest butler in television history. After adeptly handling the affairs of the dysfunctional Campbells (or was it the Tates?), Benson went on to run the Governor’s mansion, often at odds with Odo from “Deep Space Nine.”
Our Guillaume is following in this fine tradition. He doesn’t look much like Benson (or Odo for that matter), mostly due to his lower jaw being blown off in a civil war that was going on in whatever country he’s from. I believe it’s somewhere in either eastern Europe or western Asia, one of those geographic gray areas where even the people living there aren’t sure what continent they’re on.
Come to think of it, I am not entirely certain his name really is Guillaume, which is far more common a name in France, half of Belgium, and Quebec than in his bullet-ridden homeland. He did answer “Guillaume” when I asked him what his name was, but his massive-trauma overbite has left him with a substantial speech impediment so everything that comes out of his mouth sounds like “Guillaume.”
No matter, it is almost time for the infanticide air show. I can hardly wait. We adopt babies two at a time and have Guillaume handle all the paperwork. Thanks to draconian anti-abortion laws and human fecundity continuing unabated, babies are practically given away no questions asked if your credit is good. And thanks to Guillaume’s bookkeeping skills, ours remains stellar. He may not be able to enunciate well, but he is a champ at everything else.
The catapults have been calibrated and the babies have loaded into them. OK, maybe the launchers are more like trebuchets, but that lacks the alliterative allure of “calibrated catapults.” I am but a simple old man and should be allowed allowed a few simple pleasures.
Rebecca is not entirely on board.
“Have you considered finding a new hobby?” she asks with her sunglasses pulled down on her nose to give me a better view of her raised eyebrow.
“If you were around in the 70s, you’d understand,” I say.
“Yes, you’ve told me all about the skeet game at the pizza parlor in Oxnard. Projected on a big screen, bonus points for hitting two with a single shot. I love you and appreciate your nostalgia, but babies are just gross.”
At this moment, the two infants are sent skyward from their respective launchers. The calibrations prove perfect as the projectiles collide at 50 feet in the air before plummeting to the ground where they are feasted upon by Myra and Ian, our two pugs.
“That’s 100 points in 70s video skeet,” I say with pride.
“That’s all?” Rebecca says.
“Those are clay-pigeon points. I’m sure baby points are higher.”
“You do realize that skeet isn’t skeet without shooting.”
“Yeah, but I’m a lousy shot. Besides, look at the pugs. See how much fun they’re having?”
It was true. Even at a distance, I could hear their playful grunts and belabored breathing as they tore loose and devoured mouthfuls of dead-infant flesh.
“Aww, I love seeing them having such a good time. OK, you can keep killing babies,” she says.
I am about to say “Well actually, it’s gravity that kills them,” but I hold my tongue because she is being such a good sport. I really do love her and should never take how she indulges me for granted. I decide it’s time to talk about what interests her, like her recent volunteer work.
“So how are things at the homeless hospital?” I ask.
“Couldn’t be better, thanks for asking.”
“And how is the divine Ms. Mittens?”
“Her star continues to rise.”
Mittens is the hospital cat. She was feral until she wandered into the emergency room after a paramedic pushing a dying wino on a stretcher. Now she has full run of the place and her litter box in one of the operating rooms. In hospitals for regular people, this would not be allowed because of sterile-environment nazis calling the shots, but things are far more lax with nonpaying indigents filling the beds. Besides, the patients who are not at a high risk of infection just love having her around.
If Mittens’ star is is on the rise, the same must be said for Rebecca. I’m so proud of her. She turned her community service for a road-rage case into something really special. She could have kept to her task of waving hand puppets at patients having second thoughts about their cash-for-organs deal to distract them until the anesthesia kicked in, but then she would have never started her webseries project.
It’s called “Doctor Kitten MD” and if you haven’t already guessed, Mittens plays the title role. Rebecca says she wants to have at least half a dozen episodes completed before she starts releasing them for public consumption. The first two she’s done are both quite good. In “Scritches and Stitches,” Doctor Kitten is standing on the chest of some guy who just came out of surgery and starts pulling out his sutures in reaction to Rebecca reaching out and scratching him behind the ear. And in “Stay Gold, Ponybum,” the cat pees on the face of a patient who is in a coma.
“Is there a new DKMD I should know about?” I ask Rebecca.
“As a matter of fact, there is. Would you like to see it?”
“You know I would!” I say and get up to go sit on her lap as she pulls her tablet out of her bag. She hits play and the episode begins.
The credits scroll up the screen. “Doctor Kitten MD starring Mittens and co-starring a bunch of people at Homeless Hospital you don’t much care about. Written, produced, and directed by Rebecca Peachschnapps. Episode three: ‘Cat Eye.'”
“I love your showbiz name,” I say.
There is something blurry and shaking in the background as Mittens, aka Doctor Kitten, is playing with a human eye that has been pulled from someone’s head. It’s amusing enough seeing her bat it back and forth between her fore paws, but the real comedy starts when she picks it up in her mouth and tries to eat it.
A key element of Rebecca’s talent is her ability have all of her work be so fresh and new. She can do this because the magic she creates never gets old for her. She has undoubtedly watched this scene countless times, but shows the enthusiasm of a first-time viewer.
“Oh goodness! Oh goodness!” she says as we watch the eye stuck in the cat’s mouth like an apple in a luau pig.
It is then that I notice the optic nerve coming out of the eye and the blurred, shaking form in the background is the head it is attached to. A lesser video maker might have included the screams of agony that were no doubt going on in the room, but Rebecca wisely chooses to have “Pop Goes the Weasel” playing over and over as audio. It comes as no surprise when Mittens ultimately biting down and popping the eyeball like a cherry tomato is perfectly timed with the music.
“This is brilliant” I exclaim. “Have you shown this to Guillaume?”
“The thought never crossed my mind,” she says. “So far, my only viewers have been you and the pugs. And Mittens, but she pretends not to be interested. She’s a real Greta Garbo, that one. Do you Guillaume would like it? He seems too serious for such lighthearted fare.”
“He’s been through a lot. I bet he needs something to help him lighten up a little.”
Both of us are on our feet now, snapping our fingers at Guillaume and beckoning him to come over. When he arrives, Rebecca holds the tablet screen in front of his face and plays. I hear Rebecca say “Oh goodness! Oh goodness!” once again with undiminished enthusiasm. It’s hard to fully guage Guillaume’s reaction because facial expressions aren’t his strong suit, but the widening of his eyes says something.
When the episode is over, Rebecca says, “How did you like it. Isn’t Mittens just the cutest thing?”
“Guillaume,” says Guillaume.