“They what?” I exclaimed in surprise. Ms Flood, who was kneeling before the cabinets that stored her record collection, just shrugged.
“Told me to cut back,” she said. “According to the doctors,” and she stood up, massaging her back, “I have a case of Reales Vita, and you know how it’s been affecting my work at…”
She waved a paw more or less in the direction of the Rookswood Brewery. I understood. Notices for the Rookswood Ruckus were nowadays infrequent, and I know from experience that being unable to perform as promised normally rankled her. Ah! I should have known from her resigned silences. Reales Vita is a terrible affliction, striking at unpredictable times, and once it does, it strikes as regularly as some malevolent clock. One cannot fight it; one can only live around it.
“So what will you?” I asked, and now her paw indicated the table, where it appeared she had been moving scraps of paper about on a weekly planner. Clearly she was contemplating changing times; the only sensible thing to do. One notation took my eye.
“From here to here,” she swept a paw across the faces of some cabinet drawers, “What I have for Rookswood. These,” a longer sweep, “Rock and pop, and these,” a great engulfing sweep claimed most of the rest of the cabinetry, “Dance. The rest is oddities, radio shows and such. Let’s be blunt: I don’t have much material, and I hate becoming repetitive.”
“So you’re cutting down?”
“I have to! I don’t want people shrugging and saying, ‘Oh, it’s the Rookswood thing? And there’ll be a Benny Goodman track, and a Dizzy Gillespie track, and some of that African or bollywood stuff again, ho hum’. I need more stuff, or stretch it out…”
There was a odd twonging sound as she opened another drawer, and I yanked her back just before something metallic lashed out from the depths and took her muzzle off. The two of us gaped at the rather violently unwound mainspring, which was apparently nesting among some gears that someone had stashed about it.
“I think,” Ms Flood declared with great omen, “Mr Pontecorvo is going to come down with a mild to severe case of death.“