Jan 15, 2023

Seely woke up the next morning in a whimsical mood. She lay on her side with her knees tucked up to her chin, croaking a little tune and pumping her feet in time. Then she was quiet, listening. She could hear soft, padding feet overhead—Franny was up— then clomping—Zeke and his clogs were on their way to the bathroom. She smiled to herself, then determinedly frowned, “It’s ridiculous!” she said out loud. “He’s red-faced, balding, and squat…and he looks like he belongs in a butcher’s apron.”

When she went up to breakfast, Zeke was holding his head in his hands and staring around rather wildly.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

“I’ve got to get this place cleaned up,” he cried. “I’m supposed to show it tomorrow! Franny, out of the way!”

Franny lay with her bewhiskered muzzle on her paws, looking woeful as always, but stood up expectantly when she heard her name.

“Aw,” said Seely, “She wants to help.”

Whereupon Zeke lifted Franny’s front paws and stood her at the sink.

“You wash, Kiddo,” he directed, “and I’ll dry.”

Seely made them scrambled eggs. Later, when Zeke went off to the bank, she examined the floor. I looked like it hadn’t been scrubbed in years—there was a layer of grease around the legs of the old-fashioned stove so thick she’d have to scrape it off with a pancake turner. She twisted her long hair into a pony tail and stuck it down the back of her sweatshirt to keep it out of her face, then got down on all fours with a bucket of water and an assortment of scouring pads. She worked with a will, determined to have the whole thing done by the time Zeke got back to surprise him. But when he finally did, it was still only half-done.

“What are you doing?” He looked aghast.

“Cleaning?” she suggested hopefully. For the old linoleum was so discolored that, minus a greasy sheen, the after looked no different than the before.

“Ah, Cinderella,” he said plaintively, pulling her up by her blanched and puckered hands. “Why are you so nice to me?”