Bait and Switch


A few posts back I explained how my Little Miss Muse went missing in action. The pandemic freaked her out. I know this now.

Because she told me.


Little Miss showed up earlier this week, peeking through the office window spooking the cats, especially Malachi. On Tuesday, the sight of her knocked him from his perch on my desk and sent him flying out the door and down the hallway, tail bushed, eyes bulging, and toenails deployed in a desperate attempt for traction on the wooden floors.


So Wednesday I increased the bait.

More grape bubblegum hanging from the tree limbs. Additional Chunky Monkey left outside the porch door in a Styrofoam cooler. Grape sodas at each corner of the house. If anyone had actually seen these attempts, they’d have thought me insane and called the authorities. Or at least gotten ahold of my mother. See if she could talk some sense into me.


From inside the house, I dangled a new pair of purple Stilettos from the curtain rod in the kitchen. That really got her attention. After a few hours of pouting and pacing and floating back and forth with great grape bubbles of gum popping from her mouth, she begged me for the shoes.


“Only if you come inside. Have a rational discussion. Talk terms.”


She turned her chubby self around and vaporized from view. (Sometimes she does that, vaporizes in and out, leaving twirling tendrils of purple haze in her wake. Other times she just appears. Sometimes she slams doors and scatters cats. She’s fickle and proud of it.)


I was determined, though. The uber high heels would burn a hole in her brain and she’d be back. She’s got feet the size of a three-year-old’s, but she loves stomping around in adult shoes. The racket she’ll make in them will be awful, but anything, ANYTHING, to get her back to work was on the table.


I restrung more bubblegum. Hid leftover lavender Easter eggs along the foundation of the house, each stuffed with costume jewelry (you know, the kind that’ll turn your fingers green and will lose the stones in a day, but kids love them). Adjustable rings with amethyst-wanna-be stones. Sparkly lilac beaded bracelets. Plum pendants. And teeny tiny bottles of nail polish. Purple, of course.

It worked. On Thursday, I heard a tapping at the kitchen window. She was gripping a bottle of nail polish in each hand and pouted out her bottom lip as she hovered in place, her little wings beating as fast as they could, sparkle flying off in all directions. Her eyes pleaded with me. A tiny line of grape-stained drool started at the corner of her mouth as she gawked at the shoes still hanging in the window.


“Are you ready to be reasonable?” And as soon as the words were out of my mouth I realized I’m never going to rationally reason with a muse, Little Miss or any other muse species. But something had to be done.


She buzzed backward, and I thought for a moment she was going to game the system, leave yet again and wait for more gum. More eggs. More high heels.


More half-melted Chunky Monkey.


But she was scared. Looking over her shoulder. Ready to bolt. Again.


So I brought out the big guns. From under the kitchen sink I dug out the firecracker, bottle rocket and rose bouquet. And a brand new purpled jeweled Zippo lighter.


I took down the shoes, and she floated closer, clearly concerned I’d not give them to her. Ever.


Then I held up the bouquet for her to see, turning it around and around so she could appreciate the entire piece. She shivered with excitement, glitter poofing around her. Then I showed her the lighter.


And into the house she came. Quietly, though. Timid and very much unlike her usual entrances. All three napping felines continued their slumbers as if I were the only other being in the house.


Finally.


She watched me tuck the lighter inside my back pocket as she settled on the countertop.


Now, something you must know about muses, at least the ones I’ve had limited experience with: They don’t speak out loud. You’ve got to be still and somewhat quiet before they’ll communicate. And my Little Miss goes from a college-degreed language grasp to two-year-old speak in the space of a sentence or less. Our exchange went something like this:


I have lighter. Part question, part statement, she pointed at my pocket.


“No. We talk first.”


Huff and shrug. She belched. She reeked of grape soda and ice cream.


“You need to come back to work. I don’t treat you badly, do I? Where have you been? What have you been doing?”


Scared. Overwhelmed. Too hard to play.


“Well, I was about to go on without you.”


You need me.


“You’re nice to have. But I could manage on my own.” I turned to the sink to start the dishwater. She sat cross-legged on the counter next to me, toying with the straps on the shoes, sniffing the bouquet (not the rose part, the bottle rocket part).


Unlikely, given the whining you’ve done on the blog about my absence.


She had me there, but I wasn’t about to give in. “What can we do to fix this?” I washed a few plates and forks, careful not to splash her. Trying to be indifferent. Pleading silently that she won’t dematerialize and take the expensive gifts with her.


These are a nice start. She nodded toward the goodies. Give me the lighter.


“Terms first.”


Terms first. Then lighter?


“Yes.”


You’ll cancel the want ad?


“Want ad?” I nearly dropped the dirty lasagna pan.


Oh. No. I’d threatened a few weeks ago to hire a new muse. She must’ve read it. She took me seriously. Good grief. She must realize no other author on the planet would spoil her like I do, thus the stalling.


I dried my hands and helped stuff her chubby feet deep inside the shiny Stilettos because she was still clutching the bottles of nail polish. “Yes. I’ll cancel the want ad.”


Three cats scattered bush-tailed and wide eyed as she dropped from the countertop and clanked and scuffed across the hardwood toward the office, her little wings shimmering, her chubby body humming with excitement.


You really can’t function without me, can you? She didn’t bother to look back as she uttered the rhetorical question.


It was my turn to huff and shrug. I grabbed the bouquet from the countertop and followed her to the negotiation table.


We’ll see how this goes.


Discussions have begun in earnest. Hopefully next week I’ll be able report a reasonable, rational set of Little-Miss-Muse-approved terms—all bejeweled in amethyst and smelling of grape bubble gum.


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