A Look Back Year Three: SplitzvilleMarch 29, 2011
It was hard to select a single episode from for this week’s look back. Year Three began with a fellow called Giggles waltzing into the Iceberg for a job as interim bartender and we all still smirk at the response when Oswald asked his real name. That was the Hell Month when Bruce asked Selina to move into the manor, not even realizing he’d done it until a scary moment on that Cartier’s rooftop. It was the year he discovered a certain cat figurine in the curio in his bedroom “To Candice, from BW.” It was the year we first heard the DEMON Oath of Loyalty (in the long form, if you please) and witnessed the formal ceremony of Calling an Ubu. It was even when we found out the Ha-Hacienda SOP for a Bat-Encounter, beginning with the order to smile… politely. Then smile like you know something about Batman’s sister…
But in the end, despite all this moments of purring purple cattitude, one chapter in one tale stood out.
Whiskers trotted across the Great Hall of Wayne Manor like a cat on a mission. He trotted up the grand staircase, down the hallway, and made a brisk turn into Selina’s suite.
ººFOUND IT!ºº he declared with such a gleam of feline triumph, Nutmeg actually lifted her head several centimeters from the cushion where she napped, and looked at him.
ººI found it!ºº the cat repeated, ººI found that cave smell!ºº
ººThe cave smell,ºº Whiskers insisted, ººDamp. Clammy. Rock. When Bat-Bruce is Two-Foot in Boots.ºº
Nutmeg licked a paw, unable to share Whiskers’s enthusiasm for their new quarters. Most of the furniture had come with them to this new place, but not Selina-cat’s bed, and hence, not Nutmeg’s war room underneath Selina-cat’s bed. All of Nutmeg’s prized trophies: the plastic milk ring, the crunchy envelope, the paper ball, the pantyhose egg, had all been lost along with her special place for keeping them. Whiskers suffered a loss as well: his terrace and the prize spot behind the planter where he pretended to be the stalking jungle cat of death. But his special cushion was here, so he didn’t mind so much. Indeed, he seemed to look on the new place as a great adventure.
ººSo,ºº Nutmeg said finally, deciding to give Whiskers his moment of glory, ººyou found the smell?ºº
ººBehind the tick-tock. Tick-tock opens up into big dark. Damp. Clammy. Rock. Lots of mousy squeak-squeak noise.ºº
ººHow can anyone not like mice?ºº he asked. Whiskers was a life-long enthusiast of the gentlemanly sport of mousing. He didn’t understand how anybody could not enjoy it.
ººWoof.ºº came the reply, the ultimate expression of feline disdain.
Whiskers shifted his back legs in a telltale signal that he was ready to pounce. Then he hopped up to the sofa, rolled Nutmeg onto her side and nipped at her ear while her paw swatted his muzzle. When the brief wrestle was over, Whiskers touched the tip of his nose to Nutmeg’s, just as two martial artists might bow after a match. Then he sat up.
ººIf you don’t explore,ºº he told her sternly, ººyou’ll never find a new territoire.ºº
ººI explore,ºº Nutmeg said proudly, ººI followed Standing Softpaws today.ºº
ººAeiou!ºº Whiskers exclaimed in delight.
Both cats were equally fascinated by the two-foot they called Standing Softpaws. He was almost catlike in his ability to appear from nowhere and stare—which he did a great deal in their first days here. It seemed that he was keeping an eye on them, which they found insulting. They were certain he was the keeper of their new living quarters, for he had a wonderfully feline way of moving about the rooms, putting every little thing in its proper place. Few two-foots were so precise about where objects belonged. If only he would get over this idea that they had some grudge against his breakables.
“Adorable creatures, Miss,” they had heard him saying, “but I do fear for the Meissen and the Ming.”
That led to outrageous suggestions that they be locked in Selina-cat’s suite. They overheard Bat-Bruce veto the idea:
“Alfred, I’ll admit I don’t know all there is to know about cat behavior. But I have learned one thing: If you let them know you don’t want them to go in a particular place, it absolutely guarantees that will become the mission of their lives.”
“Respectfully, sir, is it not possible you are letting your experiences with Miss Selina cloud your-”
“No, Alfred. It’s not.”
“I see, sir.”
“Selina says leave the door open, and once they see they can come and go freely, they’ll probably stay in there with their familiar things after the preliminary explorations.”
“Very good, sir.”
Both cats thought Bat-Bruce should be rewarded for such admirable behavior: Whiskers did so by rubbing his head into the pantleg, while Nutmeg determined to claim one of his socks just as soon as she found a new war room in which to keep it.
She also resolved to settle the matter of Standing Softpaws.
Nutmeg observed that Standing Softpaws had again appeared at the door to the room. He was, Nutmeg would have to admit, almost as silent as a cat. Neither Bat-Bruce nor Selina-cat were as quiet as they seemed to think. Like all two-foots, their ears were simply too far from the ground to be able to move with true stealth. But Standing Softpaws was the exception to the rule: here he was, staring at her, and Nutmeg had no idea how or when he arrived.
She stared back, politely.
And he walked away.
This struck her as unforgivably rude, even for a two-foot. She had interrupted her nap in order to return his stare, and he walked away. She decided right then that he should be taught a lesson. She would follow him to his own nap-place and look at him, see how he liked it!
She followed down the hall, down the stairs, and down another hallway. She followed through the bright room and the drafty room and the room with all the books. She stopped long enough to rub her scent into the doorway. She liked books, they had a warm, crisp smell and were fun to curl in when Selina-cat tried to read them. Then Nutmeg trotted faster to catch up with Standing Softpaws wherever he had gone to… she rounded the corner and… gaped.
It was the Land of the Can-Opener. It was the biggest, grandest, sparkling Land of the Can-Opener any cat had ever seen! And Standing Softpaws was its king???
Instantly, Nutmeg decided she had misjudged this wise and noble two-foot. She would find him and make amends at once.
Nutmeg was not actually able to locate Standing Softpaws to make her apologies until the harsh squeal led her to his location. She recognized the sound—it was a teakettle, and it meant there would be little plates with cake and sometimes sandwiches. She saw Standing Softpaws take just such a plate into a little pantry-like room off the kitchen. There he sat, in a hard-looking chair that offended Nutmeg’s feline sensibilities. Beside him was a little table. From her position on the floor, she could not see onto the table, but her nose told her the steaming hot tea was on there, which meant the cake would be too.
She walked up to Standing Softpaws and treated him to the “aren’t I precious” look.
“Good heavens, who let you in here?” was the less-than-welcoming greeting.
Nutmeg switched her posture from “aren’t I precious” to “what can you be doing over there that could possibly be more interesting than admiring me ?”
He appeared to ignore her, then glanced down twice as he sipped his tea. Nutmeg waited for the third glance, readying herself to perform the ultimate act of feline beguilement: the silent miaow.*
The moment came—Standing Softpaws reached for his tea, brought the cup to his lips, and glanced downward. Nutmeg opened her mouth as she would for a fully articulated meow, but emitted no sound. Standing Softpaws watched this, as all two-foots do, as if pondering what possible burden could so plague a little creature that she could not even give voice to it. He set down his cup, and bent to take Nutmeg into his lap.
“Now then, little fellow, it can’t be as bad as all that, can it? I suppose this house is rather large and daunting for someone like you to get used to.” He touched his fingertip to Nutmeg’s nose, which she permitted, as it seemed like a friendly gesture, and also because it smelled like tea. “But I assure you,” he went on, now stroking her fur as he spoke, “that you are not the first newcomer here, and, thus far, all new residents of Wayne Manor have made the adjustment.”
He gave her a morsel of cake and told her of Master Dick and Master Jason, and his efforts to make them welcome when they came to live here. They sounded, to Nutmeg, like two of the sorriest cats she ever heard tell of.
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