"Don't argue. You know it's your Aunt Beatrix's turn to host Thanksgiving, and you know we can't very well not show up only on her years."
"But Moooom," Beryl's younger sister Amy picked up the complaint, "it smells funny there."
"It's the cats," their older sister Chalcedony added. "Mom, come on. Someone needs to tell Beatrix that her house smells like cat pee."
"Well," their mother pursed her lips, "we do have a new Aunt in the family. Perhaps we can convince her to do the honors."
Beryl faltered. "Now that's just mean. Maybe we could call that TV show?"
"The last thing we want is some tv cameras in a Family house. Who knows what they'd find? Beatrix never had any kids, after all."
"They'd find cats," Chalce answered succinctly. "And who knows? She could have a kid in there somewhere, and nobody would be able to tell."
"All right, you girls are just being silly. Sit next to someone with a cold for a couple days before the holiday, and I'll let you have the Monday after the holiday home sick."
"You know..." Their brother rarely spoke up. Men in the Family tended not to, after a while. Beryl had heard her father refer to them as the silent minority; personaly, she thought they stayed quiet mostly out of self-defense. Now, they all looked at Stone. Waiting. Stunned. He coughed. “Forget TV. The five of us could manage an intervention on our own.”
Their mother shook her head slowly. “An intervention. Well. It would make Thanksgiving awkward…”
“But it would make it smell so much better!”
"All right," their mother told them. "We have one day to do this, and do it right. Do we have everything?"
"I've got the mops and buckets," Chalcedony sighed. "And the rubber gloves."
"I've got the vet ready," Stone agreed, "and every cat carrier anyone in the family could provide. I also have a list of friends and relatives who'd be willing to foster a cat."
"I've got the distract-Aunt-Beatrix package," Amy giggled. She got off light in this one, at least in the initial phase.
"I've got four kinds of incense and three cleaning solutions from Aunt Eva," Beryl put in. "Something in here ought to work."
"And I have new litter boxes, new litter, and the materials for an outdoor run. I think we're set. Stone, your friend is willing to pick you and the cats up?"
"He owes me big time," Stone nodded.
"Well, I'll make him some cookies when this is over, nevertheless. All right, children, let's go."
This was, Beryl had to admit, crazy in a particularly their-family sort of way. Here they were, the day before Thanksgiving, tromping over to their Aunt’s house to scrub down every sign that she had turned into a crazy cat lady. In hopes of… what, exactly, except a pleasant-smelling Thanksgiving, Beryl didn’t know. If Aunt Beatrix has decided to collect cats, Beryl didn’t know of a force in the world that could stop her.
Distract her, that part was easy. And the polite lie Mom gave her was simply “we want to help you get the place ready for the festivities.” So Amy went to work being her absolutely adorable sweet-enough-to-cause-diabetes ballerina self, dancing for Aunt Beatrix in her parlor, while the rest of them scrubbed, washed, aired, bleached, vinegared, and swept; scrubbed, sorted, aired, archived, and put in the attic; scrubbed, dumped, lysol’d, re-positioned, and concealed.
Stone may have managed to avoid the bleach and scrub-bucket, but only because he was busily collecting every cat and putting them in a cat carrier, wearing elbow-length leather gloves and murmuring pet-charms under his breath. Beryl noticed he didn't do that around Mom, and wondered when he was going to tell the family he had the spark - and what they'd do about it.
Only as they got the cats in Stone’s friend’s truck, the last litter pan replaced, and the three incense sticks lit, did Aunt Beatrix totter out of her parlor. She looked around, smiling a little, and then more, and then, sadly, told Beryl’s mom,
"Thank you, dear, but it won't last. They can't let it last."