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Deal 975: Not Tea

In this house, tea was all I could expect. But I craved something stronger.

Apples are available in abundance, as is fresh cider. So if I could just hold my cravings at bay, patience could be rewarded by hard cider.

The process isn’t hard, it just takes time, reasonably clean equipment, and a cool place to let it run.

And a chance to work unobserved, as the result will not be tea.

A long history of fishing has taught me patience, so all I really lacked was the needed quiet. I was able to buy a few buckets under the guise of improving the cheese room. My success there left me confident that the cheese room would also provide the quiet, cool, and dark space where the cider could be left to ferment.

So I worked into the cheese schedule a chance to clean and sanitize the fermenter.

Smuggling in a few gallons of cider was not as difficult as I feared. I stole some yeast from the kitchen. A brewer’s yeast would be superior, but baker’s yeast will do in a pinch. When I finally got to start it, I was shocked at how fast the yeast set to work. In the couple of hours I spent starting a new batch of cheese curd, it went from still to bubbling. Things were looking up.

I did mention patience, though. And patience was certainly needed. A week later, it was still bubbling like mad. We had finished putting up the season’s cheese, so excuses to go to the cheese room were running dry.

Two more weeks, and the bubbling was down. The cider was a little cloudy, so I reluctantly let it settle for another week.

Finally, I had some free time to work, and bottled up my batch. I took the chance to try some while washing up the fermenter and finding a corner among the cheesemaking gear to stow it for next time.

Definitely not tea.

Oh, my, that was not tea.

I had to go for a walk after finishing a pint. A raven caught me on my path, tried to convince me I was a Prince hidden in the country as some kind of absurd fairy tale backup should the kingdom to to hell in a handbasket. That was interesting enough until I sobered up enough to remember that we don’t live in or near a kingdom of any sort, and that talking ravens are not usually seen in these parts.

Nope. That is not tea.

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Deal 959: Diamond

It was just a mirror, or so I thought. It wasn’t even a very big mirror, just the sort of thing many people might carry in pocket or purse to check makeup, inspect for a lost eyelash, signal for help, or even just to peek around a corner. Just a mirror, perhaps two inches across.

I don’t recall exactly how I acquired it, but I’m sure there wasn’t any occult significance to the trip to the drug store’s makeup aisle. That is the most likely circumstance. It also could have been left behind by a house guest, or even tucked in a corner of some furniture bought at a sale. The exact origin doesn’t matter, it has been knocking around in my general cosmetic junk for a long time. I think.

My first clue that something might be up was noticing the cats spending more time around the vanity than they used to. Even to the point of ignoring calls to come eat unless persuaded by waving food bowls under their noses. But then, part of the charm of being owned by several cats is working out what this month’s quirky behavior is, and how to work around it. Cats are just, cats.

Except when they aren’t.

Then I noticed there were footsteps in the peanut butter.

No, not cat footprints. More like well-formed human feet, but only about half an inch long. Which seems impossible, as the person leaving that print would stand only about three inches tall.

While cleaning up the peanut butter, I looked around the kitchen for other signs of something off. That’s when I noticed the neat hole torn in a corner of the cracker box. A small flap had been torn open, but neatly folded back and tucked in. This is certainly not the work of the cats, or of any mouse I’ve seen.

Over the next few days, I began to understand why the cats were so fixated. They still watched my vanity, but I was watching everything else. None of us caught anything red handed, but more prints appeared in the peanut butter, an entire sausage got carried off from a cooling pan (ok, that could have been a cat), and more boxes of staple foods were discovered to have been opened in unusual ways.

Finally, one night, I heard a lot of noise coming from the vanity just after I shut off the lights to sleep. Sitting up quickly, I grabbed a flashlight and made my way to where the cats were now clustered around one who had something squirming under its foot.

It was humanoid, even reasonably normally proportioned, about four inches tall. And it was struggling mightily with the cat, who was looking a little like she wanted to take a bite. Between the cat paw centered on its torso and its struggling I couldn’t make out its features, but I could see at least that it was not wearing shoes. It was carrying a weapon, about the size of a toothpick, which it was having little luck stabbing at the cat.

All the cats were growling quietly, and intently focused on the figure. Trusting them to keep it under control, I quickly searched the area on and under the vanity. That is when I spotted the mirror lying open on the floor. There was a smudged trail in the carpet leading from it towards the baseboard. If I looked closely, I could see that there was a trail running all the way around the room. Here and there were lost cracker crumbs, and a quick search even revealed one hand print made in peanut butter.

I settled down on the floor next to the cats and their captive, and wormed her loose from her captor. She might not have worn shoes, but she did have a vest and skirt, in addition to the weapon. That (and the continued exploration and careful raiding of my pantry) seemed to imply she must be intelligent enough not to deserve to be eaten by a cat. She eyed me with evident concern, but also stood her ground which I had to admire given the situation she was in.

I reached for the jar of hard candy that I kept on the vanity, and found a butterscotch still in its wrapper. I offered it to her, and felt like we were making progress when she snatched it from my fingertips. She then turned and started to walk towards the mirror, glancing back over her shoulder as she went.

The cats and I watched in wonder as she walked on to the glass, stood for a moment, then vanished.

My head cat turned and looked back at the others, then at me, and then distinctly muttered “well, now what.” Then she looked up at me as if daring me to admit I’d heard.

After everything that we’d seen, I decided not to call her on her sudden ability to speak English, which suddenly seemed almost normal. “You’ll keep an eye out for more?” I asked her, not really expecting an answer.

“Yes we will.”

“And not eat them?”

“Well….”

“Please come tell me, and don’t eat them until we know what their intentions are.”

“Ok. Please don’t mention that we talked.”

“No, I won’t. Of course, I won’t be believed in any case.”

The cats just nodded, then went back to their vigil. I put a small stack of candies near the mirror, and went back to bed.

In the morning the candies were gone, and the cats were now relaxing in their more usual haunts. A candy wrapper was sitting on my vanity top, held down by what looked like a several carat rough diamond. I smiled. This was going to get interesting.