"Gee, Ethel wasn't that some sale?" Lucy asked as the two friends entered her apartment.
"I thought you went out shopping." Ricky stated, showing some irritation.
"Honey, what're you doing home so early?" Lucy asked, her blue eyes gone wide.
"Got out for lunch early," Ricky answered. Cleary he wasn't pleased by how many bags his wife was carrying. "Okay, how much is it going to cost me?"
"Well…you have to admit getting all of this was a bargin," Lucy tilted her head, intimidated.
"Well, good-bye Lucy," Ethel dashed out the door.
"Lucy, how much?" Ricky questioned.
"Ricky, darling, it's really not that much considering that I got a hat, some shoes…" Lucy counted off the things she got.
"Lucy, how much?" Ricky repeated, more irritated now.
"A hundred dollars and ninety five cents," Lucy answered in a feeble voice.
"Aye, aye, aye!" Ricky shouted before threatening Lucy in Spanish.
"Now, look dear, I'm going to pay for it," Lucy soothed. "I've already got some money saved up to help pay for it."
"How much money have you saved?" Ricky crossed his arms.
"Fifty dollars and a penny," Lucy replied, relaxing when she saw her husband's anger start to fade.
"You really have been saving, haven't you?" Ricky raised his eyebrows. "Okay, give the fifty to me now and once you've got the rest you can give it to me."
Lucy scurried off to the bedroom before returning with the money. She set five ten dollar bills and a penny in Ricky's waiting hand.
"I'll find a job in the newpaper," Lucy snatched the paper from the coffee table.
"Okay honey, I have to get back to the club," Ricky pulled on his coat and hat. He kissed his wife's cheek gently then walked out the door.
* * * *
Around one in the afternoon that same day Lucy was sitting in the kitchen, looking over the job ads and chewing on the end of a pencil.
"Lucy?" Ethel walked in through the backdoor.
"Hi Ethel," Lucy greeted with a little less cheer that what she usually did.
"How did Ricky take it?" Ethel inched in.
"Oh, as long as I pay for it I'll keep my head on my shoulders," Lucy rested her chin in her hands.
"So, you're looking for a job I assume," Ethel sat down next to the red head.
"Yeah," Lucy looked down at the paper. "Do you think I should try baby-sitting again?"
"No," Ethel remembered the last time Lucy babysat. Those twins sounded like terrors.
"Well what about petsitting?" Lucy pointed to a colum of job ads.
"Well, I'll let you petsit a pet in here as long as it stays out of trouble," Ethel shrugged her shoulders.
"I think people pay more for someone to sit their pets than their kids," Lucy scanned up and down the page. "Listen to these: 'Seventy five cents an hour for sitting with a puppy. Fifty cents an hour for sitting with a cat. Fifteen cents an hour for watching a fish.' Who'd want someone to watch their fish?"
"Who knows? People are crazy," Ethel rested her arms on the table. "What other petsitting jobs are there?"
"Let's see. 'Two dollars for watching a dog over the weekend. A dollar for watching a cat over the weekend. One hundred and twenty dollars for watching two cats over the weekend. Three dollars for…'" Lucy stopped, stunned at the pay.
"One hundred and twenty dollars? For two cats? Just over the weekend?" Ethel's eyes went wide. "Is it a misprint?"
"No!" Lucy jumped up and over to the phone. "I'm calling the owner right now!"
"Lucy, wait a minute," Ethel stood up and crossed her arms. "Remember last time someone paid a good price for babysitting? Remember the twins?"
"Yes, yes, I remember," Lucy covered the mouth piece of the phone. "But these are cats, they couldn't be any worse that the boys."
Someone on the other end of the line picked up and answered.
"Hello?" Lucy removed her hand.
"Good afternoon, madam," the kind voice said. "Whom do I owe the honor?"
"Good afternoon, sir. I'm Mrs. Ricky Ricardo." Lucy answered.
"I'm Mr. Stone. Are you related to the famous Ricky Ricardo down at the Tropicana?" the voice asked.
"Yes, the famous Rick Ricardo is my husband." Lucy smiled.
"You're very lucky to be married to him. Don't ever let him go," the voice said teasingly.
"Well, I do feel very privaledged to be married to him." Lucy blushed. "Anyways, Mr. Stone, I was calling about your ad in the paper. Would you really pay one hundred and twenty dollars to watch your cats over the weekend?"
"Yes I will," Mr. Stone answered.
"You will. Are they friendly cats, sir?" Lucy questioned.
"Very friendly, had them sense they were born," Mr. Stone replied.
"They are. What do they eat?" Lucy asked.
"Anything that walked," Mr. Stone laughed.
"Anything that's meat, okay. Do they need medicine or any special care?" Lucy inquired.
"Nope," Mr. Stone answered.
"They don't. Are they house trained?" the gleam was getting brighter in Lucy's eyes.
"Yes," Mr. Stone replied kindly.
"I'd like the job Mr. Stone!" Lucy nodded her head.
"Would you mind if I bring them over around three this afternoon?" Mr. Stone asked.
"Yes, you can bring them over around three." Lucy answered happily. "Okay, don't get stuck in the snow or catch a cold on your way over. Oh, my address? It's…" she continued to tell him her address and several other minor details about herself and the apartment. "Okay, good-bye then."
"Well?" Ethel raised an eyebrow.
"They're house trained, friendly cats," Lucy put the phone back down on the reciever. "Gee, I wonder what kind of cats they are."
"Maybe they're Siamese," Ethel suggested. "I've heard they're playful, destructive, and loud. Maybe that's why he's paying so much."
"Maybe," Lucy shrugged and turned to the refridgerater. "You want a late lunch Ethel?"
"Sure," Ethel replied gladly. "Oh, I actually came up here because Fred wanted me to tell you that the furnace won't be working the rest of today and tonight. So keep that fire going. There's more wood down in the basement if you need some."
"Thanks Ethel," Lucy pulled out some things to make sandwiches. "I was wondering why it got colder."
* * * *
The clock in the Ricardos' livingroom struck three. The livingroom and kitchen were fairly warm but the bedroom was like an icicle. Outside it was snowing fairly heavy and the city looked white.
"Oh boy, I hope Ricky can make it home in time for dinner," Lucy said as she glanced at the clock.
The doorbell rang. She straightened out her sweater and pants, then walked over to the frontdoor and opened it. In front of her stood a rather tall man. He had a scarf wrapped around his neck and a hat on his head. He had a handlebar moustache and he also carried a cane that looked more for show than use.
"Mr. Stone?" Lucy asked.
"Ah, and you must be Lucy," he tipped his hat to her. "You know, it's very chilly outside."
"Yes, it is." Lucy nodded then looked closer at what the man was carrying. He had a big black bag and in his other hand he was holding the end of two leashes. The ones on the leashes were out of Lucy's sight. "So, where's your cats?"
"Here they are," Mr. Stone gave a tug on both leashes. Two cats appeared, but they weren't the ones Lucy expected. "This is Avalanche and Mango."
"But…you…them…huge!" Lucy stammered. "Why didn't you tell me they were big cats?"
"Most people won't watch them if I do," Mr. Stone nodded to the big cats now trying to explore the apartment. "They're still the cats that I told you about, just they're bigger than you thought."
"They're still friendly?" Lucy raised an eyebrow questioningly. "And house trained?"
"Yes, yes, they act just like domestic cats," Mr. Stone set the black bag on the floor. "If you'd watch them just until tomorrow afternoon I'd gladly pay you the hundred and twenty dollars."
"But…what if something happens? You said you were going out of town," Lucy stepped back as the big cats became more curios. "Where can I reach you?"
"This is the number that you can reach me at," Mr. Stone handed her a piece of paper. "Okay, so all you need to know is that they'll curl up any where warm, they're very friendly with small children and dogs, especially Avalanche. I take her down to the orphanege every Wednesday. Oh, and there's some meat I wrapped up in the bag and some things they like to play with are in there as well."
"Well, okay," Lucy catiously took the leashes from Mr. Stone.
"I have to go catch my flight Mrs. Ricardo, see you tomorrow," Mr. Stone tipped his hat. "I hope, anyways. I hear there's a major storm coming in. I might be stuck in Atlanta longer than I have planned. If I do get stuck I'll pay you fifty dollars every day I'm stuck and twenty every night."
"Well, good-bye Mr. Stone," Lucy said as the door shut behind the man. She looked down at the leashes in her hands. "Okay, there's one rule. Don't eat anybody."
Avalanche and Mango looked at her. Avalanche was smaller, weighing only about fifty pounds. She was a clouded leopard. Mango, on the other hand, was nearly three hundred and sixty eight pounds seeing as she was a full grown Siberian tiger.
"Lucy?" Ethel's voice came from the kitchen. "Lucy, I just saw a guy walk out of the apartment. Was that Mr. Stone?"
"Yeah," Lucy dug her feet into the floor as the two cats went towards the kitchen door.
"What kind of cats are they?" Ethel pushed open the kitchen door and was greeted by both cats. She dashed back inside the kitchen. "Lucy! Those cats are huge!"
"It's too late to give them back, Mr. Stone is leaving for Atlanta," Lucy tried to pull the cats back to her. Mango turned and walked slowly back towards her while Avalanche fought to go into the kitchen. "He said they're just as friendly as small cats."
"Yeah, but if they try to sit on your lap they'll squish you into a pancake," Ethel pushed aside the shutters that closed the window from the kitchen to the livingroom.
"This has to weigh over three hundred and fifty pounds," Lucy unhooked Mango's leash, allowing her to roam over to the coffee table and couch. "The tiger's Mango and this one's Avalanche."
"Lucy, are you sure they're safe?" Ethel asked.
"Yeah, Mr. Stone raised them since they were babies," Lucy unhooked Avalanche's leash. "Avalanche goes to the orphenage every Wednesday."
"Are you sure?" Ethel crept out of the kitchen.
"I'm sure," Lucy kneeled down and stroked the now purring clouded leopard.
"So are we still coming over for dinner tonight?" Ethel asked.
"Oh, I almost forgot. Hey, help my start cooking the chicken," Lucy stood up and walked into the kitchen with Avalanche following close behind. Mango had decided to plop down in front of the fireplace.
* * * *
Two hours had almost passed. Lucy was sitting down in the chair while Avalanche was on the couch and Mango was still in front of the fireplace. Dinner had been cooked and the table was set out in the livingroom.
"Lucy!" Ethel called as she came in through the backdoor. "Ricky's home!"
"Ricky? Oh no! He's going to kill me when he sees these cats," Lucy jumped up. "Avalanche, Mango, here kitty, kitty, kitty."
Both cats looked at her oddly but followed her into the kitchen. Lucy looked around for something to keep them distracted with until she could explain what they were doing there. The bag! She unzipped it and pulled out two brown bags. Working quickly she grabbed a big plate and put the two pieces of meat on it. Both cats started to eat.
"Thanks Ethel," Lucy whispered as her landlady disappeared back out the door. Lucy ran into the livingroom and landed on the couch lightly.
"Lucy, I'm home," Ricky shut the door behind him and shook the snow off his shoulders.
"Oh hi honey!" Lucy turned around, acting as if nothing was wrong. "You're home a little late."
"The cab had to drive slow," Rick pulled off his coat, hat, and tie and set them on the chair. "The roads are really icy."
"Well, I'm glad you made it home safely." Lucy scooched over as her husband sat next to her and grabbed the newspaper from the coffe table.
"How was your day?" Ricky asked.
"Oh, it was fine," Lucy nodded. "The Mertzes are coming over for dinner tonight."
"Okay," Ricky flipped through the pages, looking for anything interesting to read.
The doorbell rang. Lucy got up and opened it. Fred and Ethel walked in.
"Lucy, where's the…" Ethel lowered her voice to a whisper. "Where's the cats?"
"In the kitchen," Lucy answered quietly.
"Hi Rick," Fred walked around the couch and sat down at the table.
"Hi Fred," Ricky set his paper down and took a seat across from him.
"Hey, I hope you don't mind, we brought Butch along with us," Fred nodded to the dog sitting under the table.
"No, no, that's fine," Ricky continued to carry on a conversation while Ethel and Lucy were talking secretly about the cats.
"What if they come out?" Ethel asked.
"I gave them some food so maybe that'll keep them busy," Lucy whispered. "Come on, let's go ahead and eat."
"Hey Lucy, why is this old oil lamp on the coffee table?" Ethel questioned as she picked it up.
"In case the power goes out. Remember how long the power went out a couple years ago?" Lucy sat down and scooted closer to the table.
"It was out for a week," Ricky said, remembering how cold it got.
"Well, let's eat," Lucy passed around a bowl of mashed potatoes and a bowl of gravy.
The meal included potatoes and gravy, chicken, corn, calaflour, and biscuits. The foursome had gotten halfway through the meal when the power went off, like Lucy predicted it would. She lit the oil lamp and set it in the middle of the table.
"See, I knew it would come in handy," Lucy smiled and started to eat again when something caught her eye.
Avalanche snuck out of the kitchen and behind the couch. She easily slipped between Lucy and Ethel and underneath the table.
"I better give Butch a piece of chicken," Fred hung a piece under the table which was taken by the dog. Butch licked his hand.
"I'll give him some too," Ricky hung another piece of chicken under the table which was taken by Avalanche. She licked his hand like the dog had done. "Hey Fred, how heavy is Butch?"
"I don't know. Maybe twenty or thirty pounds," Fred answered. "Why?"
"Oh, he just feels heavier," Ricky shrugged.
"Is he sitting on your feet?" Fred asked.
"Yeah, it's fine," Ricky replied.
"Ricky, it's nice you're taking tomorrow off," Lucy said, trying to change the conversation.
"Yeah, well it's been a while since I've taken a day off," Ricky nodded his head. "With this weather I may be staying home longer."
"Wouldn't that be nice," Ethel smiled.
Lucy shook her head, pointing to the cat who had decided to go back into the kitchen. Ethel nodded knowinly.
"You know, it's really dark in here," Fred pointed to the oil lamp. "That thing probably only lights up anything three feet from it. Same thing with the fireplace."
"Well that's okay Fred," Ricky chuckled and leaned back in his chair.
Lucy looked over towards the kitchen door. She could've sworn she'd seen it move. Hopefully it was just Avalanche coming back out to explore.
"I have to get something from the kitchen," Lucy stood up and grabbed the oil lamp.
Once she got into the kitchen, much to her dismay both cats were gone. Oh, wait a minute. Avalanche was there. She was sitting in the sink. Mango had to be somewhere out in the livingroom. Lucy dashed back out. In the light of the fire she saw Ethel pointing at the huge tiger slinking under the table. Lucy slowly sat down and purposefully dropped her fork.
"Oops, got to get my fork," Lucy bent down and disappeared under the table.
Mango was laying down, almost on top of everyone's feet. Lucy wrapped her arms around the tiger's chest and pulled. No good.
"Are you nailed down?" Lucy whispered.
The tiger rolled onto her back. Mango was in a half circle shape and now she really was on everyone's feet.
"Lucy, haven't you found your fork?" Ricky asked.
"No, not yet dear," Lucy replied as she tried dragging Mango again but failed.
"You know Rick, Butch does feel heavier," Fred reached under the table and stroked Butch who only had his head under the table.
Mango stretched her head up and rasped her tongue over Fred's hand. Butch pulled away from the tiger's massive head.
"Hey, if Butch is there, then who's licking my hand?" Fred pulled his hand away.
"Uh…it's me," Lucy said quickly.
"Lucy, come out from under the table," Ricky commanded.
"I'd rather not," Lucy's eyes were wide, trying to think of how to get the big cat to move. Food! She reached up and pulled a piece of chicken from her plate.
Mango's nose started twitching. She followed the piece of chicken in Lucy's hand. Lucy lead her out from under the table, having Ethel help keep her unseen by having the boys look at something she thought she saw out the window.
"Oh, nevermind," Ethel shook her head after Lucy lead Mango out of the light. "My eyes must be playing tricks on me."
"They must be," Fred snorted.
"Hey, where'd Lucy go?" Ricky asked.
"She went back to the kitchen," Ethel covered up for her friend.
Lucy was actually standing by the frontdoor. She stretched her arms over her head. She was sore from crawling under the table. Mango watched the hand that still was holding the piece of chicken. She stood up on her hind legs, put her front legs over Lucy's shoulders, and tried to get the piece of chicken.
"Woe! Woe!" Lucy stumbled backwards, startled by the weight leaning against her and the sheer heighth of the tiger. Mango stood over six feet tall and towered over Lucy.
"Lucy, what's going on?" Ricky stood up from the table as did the others.
"Nothing," Lucy said as Mango pushed her into the glowing light.
"That's a tiger!" Fred shouted and hid behind Ethel.
"Fred Mertze, I can't believe you're scared of a little ole tiger," Ethel huffed though she was just as scared.
"That tiger aint so little," Fred cowered down.
"Honey! What are you doing? Get away from that cat!" Ricky stepped back.
"She's not going to hurt me," Lucy bent her hand and let the tiger have the chicken. Mango went back down on all fours, licking her lips.
"What do you mean? That's a big tiger!" Fred stammered.
"Fred, does that really look like a vicious tiger?" Ethel crossed her arms.
"Well, it could turn on ya," Fred replied.
"Lucy, I want a good s'planation on why there's a tiger in our house," Ricky said sternly.
"I'll give you a real good 's'planation', honey," Lucy nodded nervously.