Purrfect Jacuzzi (Max 86) Preview

Purrfect Jacuzzi (Max 86) Preview

The War of the Beaus

When local businessman Nathanial Tindell was found murdered in a run-down apartment in a seedy part of town, it raised a lot of questions. Why was he living under an assumed name, pretending to be poor? And why did he suddenly quit the billion-dollar company he built from scratch, just so he could be closer to his new neighbors Rita MacKereth and her mom Georgia? Suspects galore, not least of which were his business competitors, but also an old man and his dog, Miss MacKereth herself, and three of that young lady’s male admirers. Was this a war of the beaus?

While Odelia and Chase conducted their investigation, with the assistance of myself and Dooley, Harriet and Brutus decided to launch a new project: shooting ASMR videos. Before long, they had landed themselves in hot water by filming friends, family members and neighbors in embarrassing situations and posting the videos on YouTube.

Chapter 1

Rita MacKereth crouched down next to her car and slid her finger across the scratch that someone had made there. She cursed. A brand-new car, and already it was ruined. She glanced around and wondered who could have done this. Possibly the person who had parked next to her but was gone now. She did notice that whoever this person was had looked at her askance when she had returned from the supermarket pushing a shopping cart. Possibly figuring she had parked too close to her own car. But then she couldn’t help it. It wasn’t her fault that the powers that be made these parking slots so tiny that people had a hard time slipping in and avoiding bumping into the next car.

She rose again and shook her blond mane. Looked as if she’d have to make a trip to the garage again. Last week it had been someone hitting her rear fender when she was having her nails done at the salon, and now this. The people at the garage would give her a funny look—again!

She got into her car and was about to back out of the parking space when she heard a sort of crunching sound and closed her eyes in dismay. Getting out, she saw she had accidentally backed into another car, this one of the more expensive variety. A BMW. The driver was already getting out of his car and judging from the look on his face and the color of that same face, he wasn’t happy with this state of affairs.

She held up her hands in a bid to stave off a possible case of road rage. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t see you there.”

“No, I got that!” said the guy with some irritation, but then much to her surprise she saw that his face was still as red as it had been before, or possibly even redder, but that the look of rage had morphed into one of astonishment. And as his eyes dipped down her body and clocked her curvy shape with a certain relish, she understood what was going on here.

From an early age, she’d had that effect on men, and even though it had often been annoying to say the least, especially when her classmates had behaved like hormonal teenagers around her—possibly because they had been hormonal teenagers—she had also derived certain benefits from the effect she had on the opposite sex. Like now, for instance, with this hapless BMW driver, victim of a moment’s carelessness on her part.

“Let’s exchange insurance information, shall we?” she said therefore, and ducked into her glove compartment to collect the leather wallet filled with the necessary paperwork for these contingencies. When she re-emerged from the car, she saw that the man was still glued to the same spot he had been before, and staring at her all googly-eyed. As she walked up to him, she tripped over a piece of detritus and in an effort to regain her balance, accidentally stepped on the man’s toe.

“Ow!” he yelled. “Owowow!”

“I’m so sorry!” she cried, horrified.

“It’s… all right,” he groaned.

“I’m not normally this clumsy.”

“Good to know,” he said as he ground his teeth in pain.

“So… do you have your papers?” she asked him.

“Yes, yes, yes,” he said, and hobbled to his BMW to retrieve the documents. He was a bespectacled man in his early thirties, and quite good-looking, she thought. Not that it mattered, of course. Moments later they were exchanging information and filling out the necessary paperwork, with the man darting the occasional glance in her direction when he thought she wasn’t looking—and even when he thought she was. But in spite of the fact that she was relieved he hadn’t gone all Incredible Hulk on her, she decided to ignore his glances and get through this awkwardness as fast as possible.

The moment he had moved his car, she was off at a speed that must have surprised him, judging by the strange look on his face as she pulled out past him and was gone.

The last thing she needed was to get involved with random strangers that she met by bumping into them. Her love life was complicated enough as it was, with her recently discovering she was pregnant, and trying to work up the courage to tell her boyfriend about it. She hoped he would welcome the news, though she didn’t hold out much hope, as they hadn’t been getting along all that well lately, or in fact at all. If he didn’t respond well to the news he was going to be a dad, she might be forced to bring this baby into the world as a single mom. Then again, since her own mom had been a single mom, she knew it could be done. Nevertheless, if Harvey wanted give their relationship another chance, that would probably be for the best—both for her and the baby.

She placed her hand on her belly and smiled. Even if Harvey wasn’t prepared to give them another chance, she knew things would be fine. Odd how such a tiny little thing, no bigger than a pea according to the gynecologist during her check-up, could make such a big change in every respect.

She indicated left and soon was cruising along the main road into town. Which is when she became aware that a car was right on her tail, and behaving very dangerously and very strangely, honking its horn and flashing its lights as if to tell her something. When she glanced in the rear-view mirror, she saw to her surprise that it was the same BMW she had hit at the supermarket parking lot. And the man behind the wheel was the same man who hadn’t been able to keep his eyes off her.

She wondered if she shouldn’t simply ignore him. For all she knew, he might have had second thoughts about amicably arranging things between them and without involving the police. But then again, he hadn’t come across as a weirdo or a homicidal maniac, and so she parked the car on the shoulder of the road and got out to see what the guy wanted this time.

“Miss MacKereth,” he said, kind of breathlessly, and smiling a wide smile. He was holding something in his hand, and she now saw that it was her bag, which contained her wallet and all her personal stuff. “You forgot this,” he added as he handed over the bag.

“Oh, god,” she said as she took the cherished item from the man’s hands. “Thank you so much. I hadn’t even noticed.”

“It was on the hood of your car, and when you drove off, it fell to the ground,” he specified as he rocked back on his heels, looking extremely pleased with himself. He jerked his finger in the direction she had been going. “Driving home, huh?”

She smiled. “How did you guess?” She wondered if he had gone through her stuff, but then realized that he must have gleaned her address from the insurance documents.

“I also live in Hampton Cove,” he intimated, suddenly looking extremely shy. “Close to the library, in fact.” When she didn’t volunteer the information on where she lived, even though he probably knew, he must have realized that small talk wasn’t on the cards today. And held up his hand. “Well, I must be off now. Open my store. See you around, Miss MacKereth.”

“Yeah, see you around,” she said, though she sincerely hoped that wouldn’t be the case.

Five minutes later, she was passing the sign that said, “Welcome to Hampton Cove,” and once again found her thoughts drifting to the same idle speculation about Harvey’s reaction to the news that he was about to become a dad. She bit her lower lip. Even though she sincerely hoped he would be over the moon, like she was, she had to consider the fact that he might not react too favorably. Lately he’d been in such a lousy mood that anything was possible. But however he reacted, he needed to be told. His reaction would tell her whether she would be raising this baby all by herself or with the baby’s daddy by her side. She truly hoped for the latter.

Chapter 2

For some reason I found hard to grasp, Dooley and Brutus were locked in a staring contest and had been for the past five minutes. The entire concept, as I understood it, revolved around the capacity to look someone in the eye without blinking. The person who blinked first, lost. And since thus far neither Brutus nor Dooley were giving an inch, the outcome was still up in the air.

Surrounding the two competitors, a sort of supporters’ club had sprung up, consisting of myself, Harriet, Fifi, and Rufus. In other words: the collected pets of Harrington Street numbers 42 to 44. The place to be was our backyard, and tickets hadn’t been sold, nor had the match been announced on social media, or else the entire neighborhood might have come out to see the show.

“I don’t think this is healthy, Max,” said Harriet as she squeezed my arm a little too tightly, I felt. “I mean, the eyes need lubrication, don’t they? What if they suffer permanent damage from this silly nonsense?”

“I’m sure it won’t be as bad as that,” I assured her. “The eyes can go without lubrication for quite a while without suffering adverse effects.”

“But what if the tissue shrivels up and dies, Max?” she insisted. “It happens, you know. The eyes need that tear fluid or they will DIE!”

“I don’t think that’s the case,” said Rufus as he blinked a few times. “I think the eyes are very strong and don’t need any tear fluid at all. In fact, I think that if Brutus and Dooley keep this up, they can go on for days, maybe even weeks.”

“They’ll need to be fed,” said Fifi. “If they want to do this for days, I mean. And someone will need to make sure they get a bathroom break.” She sniffed Dooley’s butt, and nodded sagely. “I think he’s good. Nothing seems to be coming down the pike just yet.”

I rolled my eyes, and made sure to lubricate them in the process, as I’m not a big believer in torturing oneself for the pleasure of besting a fellow cat at some silly game. “Look, this will all be over within minutes,” I assured my friends. “Nobody can keep their eyes open for days or weeks. It’s simply not possible.”

“And a good thing, too,” said Harriet as she gave Rufus a stern-faced look of reproach. “Putting these silly ideas in pets’ heads,” she said as she shook her head. “If Brutus ruins his eyes, I’m blaming you, you know,” she said in no uncertain terms.

“Eh?” said Rufus.

“Yes, you!” said Harriet fiercely. “This was your idea in the first place.”

“It wasn’t! All I said was that humans sometimes like to play silly games. Like arm wrestling or trying to see who can pee the farthest. And also a staring contest.”

“And now see what happened,” said Harriet.

“Good thing they didn’t try to see who could pee the farthest,” said Fifi. “Imagine if they did that? Your lawn wouldn’t like it, Max.”

“It isn’t technically my lawn, Fifi,” I said. “But I share your sentiment.”

“I think the lawn would like it,” said Rufus. “Peeing on the lawn is good for the grass. It will make it grow at least twice as fast. Or at least that’s what Ted always said,” he added quickly, before he could be accused of putting ideas in cats’ heads again.

“Ted pees on his own lawn?” asked Fifi.

“He does,” said Rufus. “Only he does it when Marcie isn’t looking, you know. I don’t think she would like it.”

We all shared a look of surprise. “So Ted pees on his own lawn?” I asked, just to make sure I hadn’t misheard.

Rufus nodded. “He does it early in the morning, when Marcie is still asleep. And he makes sure he pees on a different part of the lawn every morning, to make sure that every blade of grass gets equal benefit of this liquid of the gods, as he calls it.”

We all smiled at this. Only Ted could call his urine the liquid of the gods. But then the man had always been slightly eccentric.

“I personally blame it on being an accountant,” said Rufus. “Sitting there poring over those numbers every day from morning till night, and that for however many years, must have messed with his head. Scrambled his brain, you know.”

We all nodded in agreement. I found it hard to imagine that a person would willingly sit in front of a computer entering numbers and crunching data all his life. It sounded like torture.

“I think my snuggle bear is going to win,” Harriet said. “Just look at him. Fully focused and not giving an inch. Poor Dooley. He never stood a chance.”

“Don’t say that,” said Fifi. “I see what you’re doing, Harriet, and it’s not going to work.”

“What am I doing?” asked Harriet.

“Psychological warfare!” said Fifi. “You’re trying to turn the odds in favor of your boyfriend, and it’s not fair.”

Harriet’s jaw had dropped out of sheer indignation. “I did no such thing!”

“It’s practically tantamount to cheating,” said Fifi, not pulling her punches. “And I won’t stand for it. As the official referee of this battle, I’m telling you to stand down.”

Harriet’s mouth closed with a soft click and she gave Fifi furious looks, but she did comply and didn’t try to sway the competition in Brutus’s favor. Instead, she now started staring Dooley in the eyes as well, moving behind Brutus to add more stress to my friend. Fifi wasn’t fooled, though, and as she gestured to Harriet to stop doing that, the white Persian finally relented and returned to her position on the sidelines, just like the rest of us.

I couldn’t really tell if Dooley was in trouble or not. He didn’t seem to be weakening, that was for sure. I could tell that Brutus had a hard time keeping his eyes open though, for his eyelids were trembling, and his eyes were watering. Finally, he uttered a loud cry of anguish and squeezed his peepers tightly shut.

“I’m sorry, but I can’t take it anymore!” he cried, much to Harriet’s dismay.

“Oh, pookie!” she cried. “Why give up now? You almost had him!”

We all glanced at Dooley, and he certainly didn’t look like a cat who was about to flinch. In fact, he was still looking straight ahead of him, and so I got the impression that he hadn’t even noticed that he had won.

Who had noticed was Fifi, for she grabbed our friend’s paw and held it up in the air. “Winner of this competition: Dooley!”

Suddenly Dooley seemed to wake up from some kind of slumber, which wasn’t possible, since his eyes had been open the entire time. “Hm?” he said, and shook his head. “I think I fell asleep. What did I miss?”

“But Dooley,” I said. “You can’t have fallen asleep. Your eyes were open!”

He yawned. “Oh, didn’t you know? I can sleep with my eyes open. Not sure why, though I remember that my dad could do the same. Mom always said it was a little creepy, for she would wake up in the middle of the night and think my dad was awake and would start talking to him, only to realize ten minutes in that he was still asleep. Made her feel silly.”

We all laughed, except for Brutus, who gave our friend a look of dismay. “So… you were asleep this entire time?”

“Not at first, no,” said Dooley. “But after a while I got bored, and I must have dozed off.”

The big black cat shook his head. “That’s so not fair.”

“Oh, but you should try it,” said Dooley. “It’s very easy. You just sleep but keep your eyes open.”

And since cats are naturals at trying out new things, we all tried to do what Dooley had just described. Try as I might, though, I simply couldn’t do it. The moment I started to doze off, my eyes invariably closed of their own accord. It was the darnedest thing.

“I can’t do it,” Harriet confessed.

“Me neither,” said Brutus as he blinked a few times to prevent his eyes from going all dry and atrophying, just like Harriet had predicted would happen.

“I can do it, you guys!” said Rufus. He had closed his eyes and looked triumphant. “See? My eyes are open, and I’m fast asleep!”

“First of all, you’re not asleep since you’re talking to us,” said Fifi. “And second, your eyes are closed, buddy boy.”

“No, but they’re… Oh, gee, I guess you’re right,” said the big sheepdog. “Bummer.”

Dooley yawned. “I guess that nap wasn’t long enough. I think I’ll go and lie down some.” And with these words, he trotted off in the direction of the pet flap and moments later was gone.

“You know, we could probably monetize this skill,” said Harriet thoughtfully.

“What skill, what are you talking about?” asked Brutus, whose eyes were still watering from the ordeal he had suffered.

“Well, Dooley’s capacity to sleep with his eyes open, of course. I’ll bet people would pay good money to watch a TikTok video of him demonstrating this unique skill.”

I smiled as I imagined people watching a YouTube video of a cat just sitting there with his eyes open. Like watching paint dry. But when I told Harriet, she wasn’t impressed.

“It’s ASMR and it’s a thing, Max,” she assured me. “It’s very relaxing to watch paint dry. In fact it’s all the rage. And since people are all stressed out lately, a video of Dooley sleeping with his eyes open would be a big hit, just you wait and see.” With these words, she hurried in after Dooley, possibly hoping to convince him to star in said video.

I turned to Fifi. “What’s ASMR?” I asked, feeling silly for having to ask the question.

“Oh, it’s videos of the wind rustling in the trees,” she said. “Snails creeping through the grass. Water babbling in a brook. Fire crackling in the hearth. Peaceful sounds, you know.”

“Okay,” I said, even though I still failed to see the big attraction. But then I guess I’m not as au courant as I would like to be sometimes. The world does move at a rapid pace, and it’s hard to keep up.

Brutus suddenly brought his face up close to mine. “Look at my eyes, Max,” he implored. “Are they all right, you think?”

I stared into my friend’s eyes. “They look fine,” I assured him.

“They sting, Max!” he cried as he squeezed them shut. “They sting something real bad!”

I patted him on the shoulder. “Maybe have a lie-down,” I suggested. “You’ll feel much better afterwards.” I know I always feel refreshed after a lie-down. Which is probably why it might be my favorite thing in the world. And since I felt my advice was pretty solid, I also returned indoors to sample some of my own medicine. All this talk of ASMR had made me very sleepy.

I settled in on the couch and was asleep in seconds.

Chapter 3

Tex glanced through his bedroom window and wondered if what he was seeing could possibly be true. Out there, on the lawn, his mother-in-law was performing some kind of dance. She was wielding a soup ladle and was slicing the air with it, all the while hopping up and down like a show pony on steroids and chanting some strange song.

He even rubbed his eyes to make sure he was awake and not still asleep. But when he looked again, the woman was still there, and howling away like a banshee!

He swallowed with some difficulty. He’d always known that this day would come. The day that Vesta finally lost her final marble and went stir-crazy.

“Marge,” he said quietly.

“Mh?” said his wife of twenty-five years from the bed, where she was reading Star Magazine about the latest juicy gossip from the Hollywood mill.

“Come here a minute, will you?”

“What is it?” she asked as she languidly stretched.

It was Saturday morning, and as was the couple’s habit, they liked to linger in bed a little longer than usual.

“Your mother is behaving really strangely,” he said. Though ‘strange’ was probably an understatement for the kind of behavior Vesta was displaying.

Marge finally rose from the bed and tiptoed barefoot to the window. When she saw her mother hacking at the air with her soup ladle, she went perfectly still. “What is she doing?” she asked finally.

“I’m afraid it must have finally happened, sweetness,” he said as gently as he could. To break the news to a patient that their mother or dad has gone bananas was hard enough, but having to spring that same news to his wife was even harder. But still, it had to be done. “I think your mother may have developed dementia.”

“Nonsense,” said Marge, wiping his words off the table in one fell swoop. “I think it’s this show she saw last night.”

“What show?” he asked.

“There was something on the Discovery Channel about rain dances, so she must have figured she’d try it out for herself.”

He took a deep breath. “Ah,” he said, and now remembered a conversation he and Vesta had had last night, where she complained that the crops were going to hell in a handbasket because of the lingering drought they had been experiencing in the area. “If this keeps up,” she had told Tex, “Farmer Giles won’t be Farmer Giles for much longer. I saw him a couple of days ago and he complained that he can’t work under these conditions. His crops are going to die if we don’t get some rain very soon now.”

It was true that they hadn’t had a drop of rain for weeks, and that there was even talk about cutting down on watering your lawn, washing your car, or filling up paddling pools if this kept up. Already their gardens were feeling the strain, and even though nobody likes rain, it was true that it had a very important role to fulfill.

Marge had opened the window and shouted, “Ma! What are you doing!”

“Can’t you see? I’m doing a rain dance!” Vesta yelled back. “It’s supposed to work like a charm.” She held her face up to the sky, which was already a clear blue with a sun that was hoisting itself to new heights. “Nothing yet,” she said after a moment. “But just you wait and see! Pretty soon now it’ll start raining!” And with these words, she continued jumping around and slicing at the air with her makeshift weapon, shouting strange oaths.

Marge smiled as she closed the window. “At least while she’s doing this she’s not getting into trouble,” she said with satisfaction. She gave her husband a kiss on the lips and moved swiftly off. “I’m taking a shower,” she announced. Moments later he heard the shower running and wondered if the governor would soon forbid them to do that, too.

He certainly hoped not. He liked his shower in the morning, and the occasional bubble bath. He had even planned to purchase a jacuzzi, along with Chase, and have it installed when both their wives were out, so they could spring it on them as a surprise.

If they couldn’t wash their cars or water their lawns, he guessed jacuzzis would be a big no-no, too. But since he didn’t have a crystal ball, and a politician’s ways are as erratic and unpredictable as the weather itself, he decided not to worry too much about it for now. So he picked up his wife’s magazine and was soon up to date on all things Tinseltown. Which is how his son-in-law Chase found him ten minutes later.




“Dad,” said the policeman as he surveyed the scene with his keen cop eye. Man dressed in pajamas reading Star Magazine in bed on a Saturday morning while his wife is taking a shower. Cozy scene, he thought. Very family-friendly. And exactly the kind of scene that had played out next door, except it was him that was taking the shower with Odelia reading People Magazine in bed to find out all about Oprah’s latest weight loss scheme.

Tex looked up and immediately shoved the magazine under the pillow, looking caught. “Oh, hey, Chase,” he said as he bounced up from the bed and into a standing position. Immediately he started doing some push-ups. “I was working out a little,” he explained as he huffed and puffed his way through the exercise, obviously never having done it in his life. “Important to stay fit, you know,” he said, panting heavily.

“Absolutely right,” said Chase, who couldn’t suppress a smile. “If you want me to give you some pointers…”

“Oh, no, that’s fine,” said Tex. “I got this.”

“I’d only be too glad to.”

“I’ve still got an old Richard Simmons video lying around somewhere,” he assured him. “So I’m good.”

“Excellent,” said Chase as he took a seat on the edge of the bed. “Dad, I figure now might be a good time to talk about that jacuzzi. I mean, if we’re going to do this, we probably should do it now. Before the weather turns again.”

“The weather isn’t going to turn,” said the doctor as he sprang up from his awkward position on the floor and did some token stretches. He gestured with his head to the window. “Haven’t you seen your grandmother-in-law?”

Chase got up to take a look and nodded. “Oh, yeah. I asked her about it when I passed. She told me it’s a rain dance.”

“Take it from me, buddy,” said his father-in-law. “When women like Vesta are starting to do rain dances, it’s going to be a very long summer.”

Chase smiled broadly. “Great,” he said. “That means we’ll have all summer to enjoy our jacuzzi, Dad.”

Tex winced a little, but then seemed to see the wisdom in his son-in-law’s words. “Maybe you’re right. If we’re going to do this, better we do it now. So what did you have in mind?”

“Well, I saw they’ve got one on sale at Target. And there are several great deals at Walmart, too. Quality-wise, I don’t think we can go wrong by installing the exact same one Alec and Charlene got for themselves.”

Tex looked up at this. “Alec and Charlene got themselves a jacuzzi?”

“They did,” Chase confirmed. “And a great one, too. Though Alec hasn’t invited me yet to try it out, I keep seeing great things about it.”

Tex’s face had taken on a thoughtful look. “He hasn’t invited me either,” he said, rubbing his chin. “I wonder why that is.”

“He probably wants to enjoy it a little longer before he starts inviting others over,” Chase suggested. “But I know for a fact that he and Charlene have been soaking in that thing every night for weeks now. It’s all over the police station WhatsApp.”

“Is that so?” said Tex, and he didn’t look happy about it. Which was only to be understood, as the doctor believed in sharing the spoils of his own modest success with the rest of his family, and assumed that they would return the favor. Only Alec and Charlene clearly didn’t feel that same way.

“Look, why don’t we check it out later today? I’m sure Alec will agree. And then if we like it, we can get us the exact same model,” Chase suggested.

Tex nodded. “Great idea, Chase,” he said, his voice a little choked up now. “Set it up.”

He clapped the man on the shoulder. “Oh, don’t be like that, Dad. I’m sure it’s just an oversight on Alec’s part. Or maybe Charlene doesn’t like it when her husband’s family is all over their brand-new jacuzzi. You know what Charlene is like sometimes.”

Tex nodded, but he still seemed to feel that it wasn’t right to purchase an expensive new jacuzzi and not tell your family all about it and invite them over for a great evening of fun.

As he left the doctor to ruminate on this injustice, Chase hoped he hadn’t stirred a hornet’s nest by mentioning his boss’s jacuzzi to his father-in-law. He didn’t think he had, but he would still tell Alec that maybe now was a good time to invite the family over. Best not to start a feud over such a silly thing.

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