In Which We Are introduced to Kitten Kaboodle

Once upon a time, in the city of Philadelphia, which was named after an excellent brand of cream cheese, there was a street. In fact, there were many streets in Philadelphia, but this one was called Passyunk Avenue, which was named even longer ago than the invention of cream cheese by the Lenape Nation, and it was not named for any kind of cheese at all. “Passyunk” meant “the place between the hills.” And there was a West Passyunk Avenue, as well as an East Passyunk Avenue. But our stories will take place on East Passyunk Avenue. Although the street belonged to Philadelphia these days, in the days before cream cheese, it was a Lenape trail.

Now, on East Passyunk Avenue, not far from The Singing Fountain, there was a bookshop. In this bookshop lived a small, grey cat. His name was Kitten Kaboodle. There was also a man who worked at the shop. He was tall, and thin, and liked to wear clothes that were a little too big for him. He always wore a cardigan, and a bowtie, and he always had a pair of gold-rimmed reading glasses secreted about his person. His name was Cornelius Trembles. Mr. Trembles thought it was his bookshop; but Kitten Kaboodle knew it was really his. Kitten Kaboodle knew all there was to know about looking after a bookshop. Both his mother and father had been bookshop cats, as were their parents before them, and their parents before them. And his mother taught him everything he needed to know about looking after a bookshop. Kitten Kaboodle took his job very seriously.

Kitten Kaboodle knew all of the regular customers. He made sure to greet them with a meow and a head-butt when they came in. He patrolled the bookshelves to keep the mice from nibbling the books. He made sure the ghosts didn’t jump out and frighten anyone. He made sure to keep customers company as they wandered the labyrinthian twists and turns of the stacks so they wouldn’t get lost. He always looked in on the small music room, to make sure shoppers only handled the records by the edges. And he always let Mr. Trembles know what shelves needed dusting, or when it was time to change the record on the old phonograph. (Mr. Trembles would always play his favorite old records during the day so that there would always be music in the air.)

It was a big job for such a small cat; there were three floors of books and records and ghosts and mice and customers in his shop.

Sometimes, when the weather was nice, and Mr. Trembles opened the doors and windows, Kitten Kaboodle would sit just outside the front door and watch the people go by. He would greet his regular customers, usually receiving pets and head-skritchies in return. He would try to entice new customers to come in, if he thought they looked Friendly to Cats. And occasionally, he would glare at those who looked to him as if they might have been evil Kidnappers of Books, and Not at All Friendly to Cats.

During the late afternoon, when the sun shone through the front windows of the shop, Kitten Kaboodle would snooze on the counter by the old cash register. He had his own little box to sit in, and sometimes the people who bought books or records would give him a friendly pat as he lay curled up inside.

Late in the evening, Mr. Trembles would shoo out the last of the straggling customers, make sure Kitten Kaboodle’s water dish was full of fresh, clean water, put dry kibble in his food bowl, and then he would go out. He would exit the front door, turn and lock up, then he would go into a door just next door and head upstairs.

Kitten Kaboodle would listen at the wall as Mr. Trembles went upstairs to his apartment on the third floor. He would scurry up the back stairs, listening to his footsteps. Then, on the top floor, Kitten Kaboodle would listen intently, until he heard Mr. Trembles go to bed. Then, he began his nightly rounds of the shop.

He would say hello to all the ghosts and ask after their health. He would play with the mice to keep them out of trouble. He would make sure no book-kidnappers tried to break in. Sometimes, he would sneak out through an old vent to the rooftop to look at the full moon and wonder if it were made of cream cheese.

Early in the morning, just before the sun rose, Kitten Kaboodle would go back downstairs to his little box on the counter and curl up to sleep before Mr. Trembles returned to open the bookshop for a new day.

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