Slipping down the stairs of the three-story, fifteen-bedroom Victorian bed and breakfast, Oscar hears chatters in the dining room where early risers are already having breakfast. One of his many freak talents is dialing in on conversations in noisy places.
“That Oscar is a piece of work,” a woman says. “He tried to get into my bed last night.”
Another woman chuckled. “Dirty old Oscar!”
Oscar stays his course, determined not to let some strangers’ gossip ruin a brilliant summer day for him. Commandment # 1: Never be bothered with what others say about you. He lounges in a rocking chair by the French doors. He is not crazy about the outdoors. The comfortable chair in the sun and the front seat view of the garden will do just fine.
Jose, the gardener, storms in with a pot of spider plants. The pot is broken and the plants look like they have been shredded with razor blades. Jose says, “Did you do this?”
Oscar yawns, stretches and does not bother to answer. Commandment # 2: Always plead not guilty.
Jose shakes his head and renews a secret vow of his for the umpteenth time, “Oscar, I will catch you red-handed one of these days.” He carries the pot to the dumpster out front. He will be working on the front lawn for a while, leaving Oscar alone in his undisturbed observation of the garden.
A husband and wife wander by the French doors for a peek at the garden, after stuffing themselves with eggs, bacon and toasts. Great minds think alike; they too are too lazy to venture outside. Resentful that his perfect view is now blocked by them, Oscar lets out loud flatulence.
The woman says, “Yuck!”
The couple glower at him but the smell drives them away. Commandment # 3: Protest is best expressed by retaliatory mischief.
A fat bunny (fondly named “Betty” by Oscar) feasts on the hydrangeas Jose has just planted. Oscar could rush out and chase Betty away. But why bother? Commandment # 4: let it be: it’s not your grandmother’s money. Besides, Oscar is pretty sure he is allergic to hydrangeas.
Tony, the chef, comes from the kitchen with a little bowl in one hand. “Hi, bro.” He gives Oscar a brotherly pat on the cheek with his other hand: “Wuzzup?”
Oscar narrows his eyes. He sniffs over the bowl with great satisfaction, and devours the bacon in it. Tony works solitary long hours and Oscar stops by several times a day to say hi. Tony likes Oscar. Commandment # 5: Always be friendly with hard-working fools and benefit from their work.
By now, Betty has turned the hydrangea into a skeleton. Merrily, she hops away.
The warm sun drowns Oscar in a sweet languor and sends him dozing. He dreams of Jose catching Betty, and of Tony preparing rabbit sashimi for him. When he awakes, he has slobbered. After tidying up a bit, he goes over to the front desk to see what is going on.
Kim, the granddaughter of the owner, is giving a father and son a house tour. Walk-ins can be converted into guests if you push their buttons right. Oscar walks by the boy and gestures him to follow. Commandment # 6: Think not how to charm, but who to charm. Oscar leads the boy to the aquarium. The boy, now infatuated with the tropical fish, asks his father, “Can we stay here?” The father asks Kim to check them in. Oscar closes his eyes when Kim gives him a thank-you kiss on the cheek.
Shortly afterwards, Kim and Oscar hear the cry from Jose, who rushes over to point a finger at Oscar. “You! I thought you were watching the backyard for me?”
Kim tries to change the subject, “Oscar just helped make a sale.”
The two start to argue. Oscar sneaks upstairs. Commandment # 7: The best defense is a friend in power.
It’s now time for Momma, the grand matriarch and owner of the B&B, to rise and shine. She is a late riser and the best moment of her day is the few minutes she lingers in bed when she just awakes.
Oscar sits down on the edge of her bed, his bright green eyes reflecting the broad grin on her face.
“Oh Oscar, my dear boy!” she gives him a big hug. Commandment # 8: Ninety-five percent of success is being there when the boss is in good mood.
With ratified fervor, Oscar dances his way down the stairs, pretending he is Fred Astaire. He swings, glides and shows off an assortment of acrobatic acumen.
The spindles make worrisome noises – like the popping sound of old people’s joints when they get up in the morning. The cleaning lady drops the vacuum cleaner and reports Oscar to Momma. But Momma is in too good a mood to impart any punishment. Commandment # 9: rules are made to be broken – just make sure you time it right.
At the front desk, Kim is talking to some new walk-ins now. She glances around, trying to locate Oscar.
He is hiding where she cannot see — on the big couch next to the rocking chair. Oscar believes that expectations always met lead to diminished gratitude. Commandment # 10: Only deliver seventy-five percent of what you can. Save the twenty-five percent for the clutch shot.
A bulky guy in a rambunctious Hawaiian shirt sits down next to Oscar and flips through the classified ads of the local paper. The rustling and crackling drive Oscar crazy. He sizes the guy up, then surrenders his spot on the sofa. The guy makes himself more comfortable by lying down.
Oscar resorts to Commandment # 3 (“Protest is best expressed by retaliatory mischief.”) and does a number two nearby. The guy fans the newspaper in his hands frantically. He sees Oscar, puts two and two together, and yells at him, “You are a nasty, stinky cat, you know that?” But, he leaves the room.
M. Eigh is a computer programmer by day and a writer by night. His short fiction has appeared on Daily Science Fiction, PseudoPod, Fiction365 and SipsCard, among others. Read more of his writings on m.eigh.com.
This story is sponsored by
Nine Romantic Stories — The charm of Hollywood, tinged with the metaphysical — “gorgeously eccentric” stories by Carla Sarett. EDF Readers: use coupon BB76W for .99 price.