Photo By: Greg Schroeder
Each morning, Henrietta headed to the fire escape in her hot pink housecoat and helmet of curlers to check her trap for cats. Any that she found she would promptly shave and release.
It seemed everyone in Henrietta's apartment building had a cat. And, without exception, every one of them sought out Henrietta's fire escape. Loose fur hung from the metal slats and screws in unsightly, untidy tufts. If there was anything Henrietta couldn't tolerate, it was untidiness. She soon set out to correct it with her trusty Norelco clippers.
Much blood was shed in those early days. All of it hers. In an effort to avoid further injury, Henrietta devised a cat shaving sling fitted with four miniature mittens. She would lure her victims with tiny cat pancakes.
At first they'd been clean shaves: head, body, legs, tail, done. After some time, the shaves became more an art form. Each new cat was a blank canvas, calling out for spirals, presidential portraits, geometric shapes. Still, the cats kept coming. Never the same cat twice. A relentless, inexorable, merciless parade of fur.
Henrietta began crafting pithy notes to her neighbors. "Wash Me" or "Wanted: Better Owners" sheared in painstaking calligraphy along the back, sometimes down a flank if the message got too wordy, or the cat too small.
Management newsletters became more frequent and increasingly urgent. A lynch mob formed to find the culprit.
"You'd think I was doing them a disservice!" Henrietta told a tabby as she fired up the clippers.
No sooner did she buzz down its spine than the cat broke free of its sling and mittens, shimmying up her housecoat to the top of her head where it circled her curlers like a cyclone. Shreds of Henrietta's hair rained down from the balcony to the mob of tenants below, blowing her cover.
It took a moment before anyone could discern what they were seeing on the balcony of Apartment 3C. At first it looked as though a woman's head had caught fire--she was dousing it with a bucketful of water, screaming like a banshee, her top lip stuck to her gumline in a menacing grimace of bared teeth as she ran in tight circles.
When at last the drenched and shorn tabby leapt into their arms and Henrietta's true identity was deduced, the crowd broke out in cheers and a roar of vindictive laughter. No further punishment was necessary. The cat had rendered Henrietta as bald as a thrice-licked Tootsie Pop.