Do you like getting a haircut? How far would you go to be with your cat? Do you dare eat black-forest cake? What really went on with Leah, Rachel and Jacob? 8 stories populated by usual characters.
"I was going to tell you the truth, but I was afraid that you wouldn't believe me. There's no point in lying any more, so I'll tell you exactly what happened."
I hardly slept last night. Fortunately, Pearl slept well and at dawn, when I got up, I decided to let her sleep a few more minutes while I checked and re-checked the equipment. The cage was spotless and the cans, bottles and cloths were careful stowed in a picnic cooler. I went down to make sure that the car would start and warmed up the engine for a few minutes. Finally, I woke Pearl, let her have a few sips of milk, put her in her cage and left as quietly as I could. Needless to say, even on such an important day, my wife didn't bother to see us off, to say nothing of offering to come and help.
Early on a weekend morning, there was no traffic and I arrived downtown in a fraction of the time it usually took to get to work. Across the entrance to the building a large sign read: "The Grand Hotel Welcomes the 16th Annual Regional Cat Show." I parked my car in the garage and went upstairs to the exhibition hall. The organizers quickly registered Pearl and showed me the area assigned to Siamese cats. I spent the next hour or so with Pearl, lightly brushing her coat and smoothing it with a chamois cloth. I let her nibble on a few tidbits, just enough to take the edge off her hunger, but not enough to make her want to doze off. Mostly, I just held her, looking into her brilliant blue eyes, stroking her and re-assuring her that everything would go well. I had my heart set on Pearl placing first in the seal-point Siamese category. Last year, she had missed winning a ribbon by placing fourth and I think that she had sensed my disappointment.
When Pearl seemed to quiet down, I walked around the exhibit hall, first for short periods of time, and later, as Pearl began to feel at ease, for longer walks to other parts of the hall. I checked up on the competition. Many people had begun raising more exotic versions of Siamese, such as chocolate-point with their ivory coats or blue-point with their white coats, so my direct competition had lessened. Still, there were some beautiful seal-points and my confidence began to evaporate, until I returned to Pearl's cage. My gorgeous Pearl, no one can beat you.
I took a quick walk past the Persian cats, who were submitting meekly to incessant brushing. Perhaps Persians are more regal, but I would never exchange one for a Siamese: inquisitive yet obedient, demonstrative yet devoted and affectionate. I was never really attracted to the wedge-shaped heads of the Abyssinians or the Burmese, but the Somalis are irresistible. The wedge is rounded and the coat is a glowing orange with incredibly soft fur. Of course, the mutant breeds have their fans, though, every time I see a Scottish Fold with its horizontal ears, I keep thinking that someone had been petting it too hard. Finally, I looked in on the Ocicats whose spotted coats and long legs make them look as if they had just come out of the jungle.
By now the judging had started, so I returned to Pearl to wait for our call. After about an hour, it came. I gathered up Pearl into my arms and carried her to the judging area. Placing her in one of the cages, I took a seat in front of the table. Pearl settled down comfortably to wait, but I fidgeted in my chair as my heart pumped in nervous expectation. It took about ten minutes for all the contestants to be placed on the table and then the judge approached.
"Ladies and gentlemen. This is the presentation of seal-point Siamese."
The judge stood behind a wide table. On the table, in front of him, was a raised white stand, illuminated from above by a bright light. One by one, he brought out the cats, carefully disinfecting the stand and his hands between each one. I hardly paid attention, for I was looking at Pearl trying to commune with her--though she was far away and behind the wire mesh--beseeching her to do her best. Finally, her turn came. The judge brought her to the stand. For an instant, Pearl tried to bolt, as she had done last year, but then she remembered the training we had worked on for the past year and settled into a relaxed, yet alert crouch under the judge's hands. It had begun. I remember every word, though at the time, his words floated over me.
"This is a beautiful seal-point. I like her personality, spirited yet disciplined. Look how she holds her head up fearlessly, though her body shows no tension. The cream-colored fur on her shoulders merges imperceptibly into the fawn of the haunches. Her coat is glossy and beautifully presented."
He picked Pearl up and studied her face. "Large, widely spaced ears, perfectly proportioned face, strong, narrow chin. The brown fur of the mask is symmetrical and unblemished, the traces of brown to the ears are dense in the center and light, though well-defined, on the sides. Deep, clear blue eyes, like gem stones."
The judge placed her back on the stand and ran his fingers over every part of her body from shoulder to tail, then picked her up again, stretching her supple spine to gauge its curvature. "Exquisite bone structure. Slim legs, small feet, perfectly balanced."
He rechecked all his findings, uttering once again, "exquisite bone structure," and returned Pearl to her cage.
With a sigh of relief, I slumped in my chair and waited for the judge to finish with the other cats. Then the moment came, the incredible tension, and finally, the overwhelming excitement and joy when the judge attached the first place ribbon to Pearl's cage. I must have fainted and woke up with someone was holding a glass of water to my lips. I graciously accepted the proffered congratulations, and carried Pearl in triumph back to her cage. I opened a container of her favorite seafood and let her eat to her heart's content. The rest of the day went by quickly. Envious competitors were cool and correct, owners of toms wanted to close deals, and uninformed onlookers gawked, trying to figure out what was so exquisite about Pearl's bone structure.
Finally, it came time to pack up and go home until next year. The drive back took much longer since the roads were packed with weekend sports' fans and shoppers. Exhausted, but exhilarated, I arrived home and burst in shouting, "We won! We won!" My wife came from the living room and began upbraiding me: "Will you stop shouting? I'm trying to watch TV. It's always you and that damned cat. I'm fed up. If you don't put that cat down, I'm leaving. It's either me or it."
"You've seen her, Detective, her bone structure would never win a competition. So I shot her. I put her down, just like she asked. And that's the whole truth."
"Detective, can I take Pearl with me when I go to prison?"