There was this fat kat the called, Count Tolstoy, an overweight Persian who was very rich. I’d bumped into him at Theater de Varieties.
“Monsieur Buckminster,” he regaled me. “Oh, it is so fortunate we have met at last. I hear so much about this magnum opus you have now produced. I beg you to come by your studio tonight. Just one short look would make my life complete.”
“Yes, of course, why not.” Admirers of my work were not that hard to come by, but as was already said, the kat had money.
* * *
It was after midnight when I heard his pawsteps climbing up the stairway to my loft. Tolstoy seemed exhausted when he entered, but strode quickly to the painting and stood breathless, gazing frozen with ecstatic wonder.
“Is magnificent,” he finally gasped. “I must have it, for a gift. I will myself present to our beloved president, Louis Katolean. What could be your price I wonder. I can pay . . . Ten thousand sardines! Is more than fair.”
Is less than half of what it’s worth, I’m thinking. There’s no way. . . .
“Beloved president will be so happy,” he continued. “And for you, such honor. All of Paris will be at your paws.”
It was an offer I could not refuse. The count had powerful, political connections that could make or break careers, or even put a kat in prison.
“Is it possible for me to meet this creature who is subject for this work of art?” he asked. “Your source of inspiration?”
Kats like me are long on intuition, and I had a feeling this would not be for the best. “Umm, I don’t know,” I told him. “And it really doesn’t matter, does it? You can hardly see her face; it’s so abstracted, and she’s not so much to look at. Meeting her would serve no purpose, Count. I’m sure . . .”
“Non, mon ami. Is most important.”
Right. I didn’t want to tell him, but . . . “Her name’s Ambette, I think. I’m not sure where she lives. She’s just, how should I say, a fille catin.”
“Is of no matter. I must find her. S’il vous plaît. I must know more.”
“She hangs around the Arch of Givry when the tide is low. You might look there.” I figured she might glean a few sardines from the count. For her, one kat was like another.
“Ah, you are so kind, as well as talented, Monsieur Buckminster. I will send my servants with sardines tomorrow, packed in tins of course. They will transport your painting to my place of residence.”
I didn’t want to let the canvas go, or give him Ambette’s name, but there was nothing I could do.