Jim Qwilleran is not exactly overwhelmed by his new assignment for the Daily Fluxion. Interior design has never been one of his specialties and now he's supposed to turn out an entire magazine on the subject every week! But the first issue of Gracious Abodes is barely off the presses when Qwilleran finds himself back on more familiar territory--the exclusive residence featured on the cover has been burglarized and the lady of the house found dead
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January 01, 2003
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Excerpt from The Cat Who Ate a Danish Modern by Lilian Jackson Braun
Jim Qwilleran prepared his bachelor breakfast with a look of boredom and distaste, accentuated by the down-curve of his bushy moustache. Using hot water from the tap, he made a cup of instant coffee with brown lumps floating on the surface. He dredged a doughnut from a crumb-filled canister that was beginning to smell musty. Then he spread a paper napkin on a table in a side window where the urban sun, filtered through smog, emphasized the bleakness of the furnished apartment.
Here Qwilleran ate his breakfast without tasting it, and considered his four problems:
At the moment he was womanless. He had received an eviction notice, and in three weeks he would be homeless. At the rate the moths were feeding on his neckwear, he would soon be tieless. And if he said the wrong thing to the managing editor today, he might very well be jobless. Over forty-five and jobless. It was not a cheerful prospect.
Fortunately, he was not friendless. On his breakfast table -- along with a large unabridged dictionary, a stack of paperback books, a pipe rack with a single pipe, and a can of tobacco -- there was a Siamese cat.
Qwilleran scratched his friend behind the ears, and said, "I'll bet you weren't allowed to sit on the breakfast table when you lived upstairs."
The cat, whose name was Koko, gave a satisfied wiggle, tilted his whiskers upward, and said, "YOW!"
He had lived with the newsman for six months, following the unfortunate demise of the man on the second floor. Qwilleran fed him well, conversed sensibly, and invented games to play -- unusual pastimes that appealed to the cat's extraordinary intelligence.
Every morning Koko occupied one small corner of the breakfast table, arranging himself in a compact bundle, brown feet and tail tucked fastidiously under his white-breasted fawn body. In the mild sunshine Koko's slanted eyes were a brilliant blue, and his silky fur, like the newly spun spider web that spanned the window, glistened with a rainbow of iridescence.
"You make this apartment look like a dump," Qwilleran told him.
Koko squeezed his eyes and breathed faster. With each breath his nose changed from black velvet to black satin, then back to velvet.
Qwilleran lapsed again into deep thought, absently running a spoon handle through his moustache. This was the day he had promised himself to confront the managing editor and request a change of assignment. It was a risky move. The Daily Fluxion was known as a tight ship. Percy preached teamwork, team spirit, team discipline. Shoulder to shoulder, play the game, one for all. Ours not to question why. A long pull, a strong pull, a pull all together. We happy few!
"It's like this," Qwilleran told the cat. "If I walk into Percy's office and flatly request a change of assignment, I'm apt to land out in the street. That's the way he operates. And I can't afford to be unemployed -- not right now -- not till I build up a cash reserve."
Koko was listening to every word.
"If the worst came to the worst, I suppose I could get a job at the Morning Rampage, but I'd hate to work for that stuffy sheet."
Koko's eyes were large and full of understanding. "Yow," he said softly.