Previously on Sherlock Herms… Rejected!
“Herman,” Charley said. “You live in a world hampered by inattentional blindness. So highly distracted by everything—your ability to focus on any one thing at a time is impossible. To clarify what I mean by inattentional blindness… It’s like scrolling through Bookface and not seeing the advertisements on the side of your page. They’re there. You just had your attention focused on the latest Aaron’s Animals video…”
I smiled with sudden joy. “I wuv Aaron’s Animals videos. Didja see the one called Fast & Furryest where…”
Charley’s gaze drifted over my shoulder. As his squinty eyes widened behind his glasses, I turned to see what had distracted him.
In the corner of my office is a bookcase where my mom keeps her research library. The shelves are crammed with books about authoring mysteries, books about detecting stuff, and books about ghosts. During my last case when I met Charley (read my case notes on Mrs. Shallowford’s Ghost by clicking here) I learned there was a secret staircase hidden behind the bookcase. I’d zoomed down that staircase with Dori to escape being seen by the demon known as Loud Lady. Back in 1945 it led into the garden with a swimmy pool and pool house (where Charley died) that no longer existed.
Brilliant light now seeped from behind the bookcase. With wonder I watched as it slowly creaked open to reveal the secret staircase. As it opened the brilliant light burst into my office, blinding me with its…um…brilliance.
A sudden icy chill stabbed my shoulder, making me turn to see Charley had reached out to touch me. His attention was on the staircase. He couldn’t take his eyes off it. I, however, flicked a desperate look at my Ride, quivering in the corner. Had I left my sunglasses in the pocket? I thought about fetching them when Charley suddenly moaned, “No! Not yet. I’m not ready to go.”
What the Friskies!
The brilliant light vanished and the bookcase swung shut, casting my attic office back into the shadows. “You going somewhere?” I asked Charley.
“I—I didn’t expect to be summoned so soon. I thought I had more time.” He turned his bespectacled gaze on me. “Where were we?”
“I forget…” I searched my brain. “Oh! Aaron’s Animals videos.”
Charley’s expression shifted from sweet to stern for the first time since I’d met him. “We weren’t discussing cat videos, Herman. We were discussing inattentional blindness, something I fear is the cause of your inability to focus on the details necessary to solve cases. You cannot perform to the high standards set by your hero, Sherlock Holmes, if you cannot be mindful of the peripheral noise around you.”
I dropped my chin to my chest. I felt my ears burn pink with shame. I swallowed hard; hard enough for my heart to sink all the way to my knees. I knew I was a failure as a hardboiled detective, but now with Charley confirming my worst fears… I fought to still my trembling chin. I would not put an exclamation point on my shame by crying in front of Charley.
“Herman. I did not mean to upset you.” Charley’s voice sounded faint. I wiped my eyes and realized he had vanished, even though I could still hear his voice. “You don’t have a fatal disease. I want to show you something that may help you train your brain to focus, but for now I am wanted elsewhere. I will return at twilight. Meet me in the solarium.”
“The… What? Where?”
“Sun room.” My attic office abruptly warmed, telling me Charley had left. Ghosts always chill the room temperature.
I wanted to be like my hero. When solving a case, I wanted to be able to see and observe like Sherlock Holmes. In order to do this I needed to Google ‘inattention blindness’ to fully understand what Charley was talking about.
My Mom’s author office has air-conditioning with lemony sunlight warming her African violets while puddling on the buttery carpet in front of her desk. I loved that sun puddle. So much! I also loved air conditioning. The door to my attic office is made from solid, coffin-like wood, so none of that A/C ever seeps into my office. What I really want is a frosted glass door with Wonderpurr Detective Agency in foil block letters, but when I asked Mom she said “Ask your dad,” and Dad said, “What? No!”
I jumped onto Mom’s desk chair and pawed the ON button to her computer. She wouldn’t need it today. She had taken Frank to the veterinarian for an upper respiratory infection. I knew they would be gone a long time, and when they came home Mom would head for the shower, then lie down for the rest of the afternoon. The last time she took Frank to the vet I’d overheard her telling Dad that Frank is a Drama Queen. He hates car rides and releases a full concert of feline furor when he’s inside a pet carrier.
“The symphony begins,” she said, “with a chorale prelude of low moaning, followed by an aromatic poop adagio. After the concerto grosso where he throws up, he then performs his key signature by foaming at the mouth.”
From experience she brings two rolls of paper toweling and two plastic grocery bags. Frank performs Act I going to the vet. Then, after a brief intermission (inside the vet getting treatment), he performs Act II with a full repeat of Act I ending with another concerto grosso where his basso profundo tone smoothly accelerates into a mezzo-soprano crescendo.
The vet thinks Frank suffers from car sickness. Mom says its punishment.
I pawed ‘inattentional blindness’ into the search engine. Up popped 99,500 results. Charley was wrong. Inattentional blindness was a fatal disease. I needed to find a cure. Otherwise my mom would write mysteries with the help of one of my other fursibs. Probably Dori.
That’s the reason behind me wanting to be a hardcore detective wif grit in my blood.
It all began a few weeks ago when Mom and I were wide awake cuz Dad was snoring Classic 70’s rock songs in his sleep. We ended up in front of the TV watching a documentary on famous detectives. Mom told me to pay close attention. She had decided to write mysteries. She seemed pretty set on doing it. That made me nervous.
I’m her mews, you see. I inspire her when she writes novels. I even starred in FINDING MYA for her. But how could I inspire her when I know nuffin’ about solving mysteries? I’d been worried that if I fell down on the job, my chunky butt orange tabby brofur, formerly my arch-nemesis Opie, would be too happy to take my place. Now I knew better.
Now I knew that Dori would make the purrfect choice to help our mom write mysteries.
That night so long ago, I’d sat watching the detective documentary featuring Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe, Mike Hammer, Dick Tracy, Charlie Chan, and the husband and wife team, Nick and Nora Charles. My purrrsonal favorites were Spade and Marlowe for their hardboiled detective lingo, and Sherlock Holmes for his use of logical reason to solve cases. Plus I liked his hat.
Mom had just finished publishing both A MAD FLING and KRINGLE in one year, and was taking a much-needed break to grow more brain cells. I’d needed experience solving capers. Now! Before she started plotting her first mystery.
At the time I’d worried that no one would hire me. Ever! But then I’d been hired to solve the Case of the Dancing Ghosts, followed by Mrs. Shallowford’s Ghost where I met Charley Feeble. You’d think with two cases under my belt, I’d be ready to help Mom plot.
Except I sucked. I sucked at detecting clues because I had a disease.
I felt exhausted and hyper just looking at the 99,500 links listed for Inattentional Blindness. I couldn’t decide which one to watch first. Indecision coiled around me like an anaconda. I couldn’t choose. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t–!
“Breathe, Hwermie.” A grey tabby paw reached out and touched the Video tab. The selection of choices on inattentional blindness had simmered down to 3,650. Still, it would take me weeks to watch them all.
“This one looks inpurresting.” Dori pawed the first video. As it began to play, she crawled into my lap to watch.
I gasped with surprise at what the video revealed. “Did you see it?” I asked Dori. I hadn’t. I’d been too busy watching the white tee shirts pass the ball.
Dori slipped from my lap. “I’m stawvy.”
I followed my little sisfur down to the kitchen where she jumped onto the counter and knocked over the treat jar. The sound of the crock hitting the marble counter acted like a dinner bell to the rest of our fursibs, calling them from all over the house to come eat.
“You saw the monkey,” I said between treats. “Teach me. Teach me how you see what I don’t see.”
Dori finished her treats, then calmly licked her paw to wash her face and ears. “Chawley’s coming back for another lesson.”
“I know. I was just hoping you could give me some tips so I can show Charley I’m not a total failure.”
Dori’s ears flattened. “Yoor not a failure. Stop saying yoor a failure.”
I noticed Opie and Jack watching us. I urged Dori into the sun room for privacy. “You’re really good at picking out the details. I need to know how you do it.”
“I don’t know. I just…know. I can’t explain it.”
The bright sunlight softened outside the windows. “I’m despurrrate, Dori. If I can’t be a hardboiled detective wif grit in my blood… Mom won’t be able to use me as her mews. I won’t be able to help her plot mysteries.”
“I don’t think she wants to write hardboiled crime mysteries, Hwermie. She doesn’t read them or even watch them on teevee. Did Mom ask you to become a hardboiled detective to help her?”
As the light in our yard dimmed, a pinkish purrple color washed across the sky. “No. But I’m her mews. I help her write stuff.”
“Did yoo know about writing children’s books when she wrote Finding Mya?”
I thought about it. “No.”
“Did yoo know about family dysfunction and Christmas folklore when she wrote Kringle?”
I swallowed hard. “No!” Feeling a panic attack coming on, I grabbed my floofy tail for something to hold onto. “Does this mean I haven’t been her mews all along?”
Dori placed her paws on either side of my face. “It means all yoo have to be is yoo in order to inspire her stowies. That’s all a mews does.”
“Well said, my little sweetheart.” Charley sat on the sunroom couch, smiling.
I stared at them both. “But… I have inattentional blindness! And you’re wrong, Charley. It is a disease. It has 99,500 links listed on Google. It’s a full-blown epidemic. I can never be like Sherlock Holmes if I have a disease!”
Charley sighed. “Herman, only Holmes can be Holmes.”
“Just because he’s yoor hewro doesn’t mean yoo have to be him.” Dori patted my face. “I think you’re purrrfect just the way yoo are. Yoo are the kindest, most Wonderpurr detective I know.”
I bumped noses with her. “Thank you, honey. That’s nice of you to say.”
But it didn’t make me feel better. I felt like I’d just had the rug jerked out from under me.
I moved to the window to watch twilight settle over my yard. As inky-blue light seeped through the pinky-purrple sky, I wondered where to go from here. I’d had my heart set on being a hardboiled detective with grit in my blood. Could I aspire to be a soft boiled detective with litter in my paws?
I hung my head. Just thinking it made me feel paw-thetic.
I felt Charley come up behind me; my sphincter tightened and my tail wrapped around my body for warmth. He said, “Can you tell me the name of the bird sitting on the birdbath?”
I stared through the glass to the cement bath beside the birdfeeder just off our patio. “I’m not sure. Bob, maybe? Or Lucky cuz he survived this summer by not getting eaten by Noah or Frank during their yard patrol.”
A soft giggle drew my attention to Dori with her paw over her mouth. Her eyes sparkled with amusement.
“I was thinking species,” Charley whispered, then laughed.
I laughed too. “Oh! It’s a robin.”
“It is. Now without turning around, shift your focus from Lucky on the birdbath to Candy behind you.”
I stared at Lucky, uncertain how to do what Charley asked. Then the light dimmed, allowing me to see the room behind me in the reflection of the glass. As I shifted my focus from the bird, my newest little sister Candy came into view, asleep on the back of the couch.
“Wow,” I meowed softly. I focused again on Lucky, then back to Candy. “This is a cool trick.”
“No trick,” Charley said. “This is known as selective looking. It’s just another form of inattentional blindness. By focusing on the bird, Candy vanishes. By focusing on Candy, the bird vanishes. You cannot see both at the same time. This illustrates the limitations of your brain’s ability to pay attention to more than one thing at a time. It’s not possible, despite everyone trying to multi-task. If you try to do too many things at one time, you do none of them well.
“In your world, Herman, even Sherlock Holmes would struggle with inattentional blindness. It would take years of practice and discipline to detect like Holmes. His brain is perpetually working to observe and see everything going on around him at all times. I dare say it would be exhausting to have his mind.”
Dori tugged on my arm. “Yoo don’t need to be another Shewlock Holmes. Yoor Shewlock Hewms. Not the same. Diffewent.”
“I’m not saying you cannot be a most excellent detective,” Charley continued, but I’d tuned him out. Dori too. Clearly the ability to pay attention to one thing at a time applies to listening as well.
With the hum of Charley’s and Dori’s voices shifted to background noise…like the dishwasher running… I turned back to the window to focus on the bird. Then I shifted my attention to Candy. Back to the bird. Back to Candy.
I saw the bird enjoying a twilight bath before night set in.
I saw Candy stretch her legs as she sighed in her sleep.
I saw Dori exchanging opinions with Charley as to why I should give up my dream of being like Sherlock Holmes.
Something caught my attention. Charley looked solid to me. Not ghost-like, as though he was still alive.
I also saw something in the window’s reflection that Charley hadn’t mentioned.
Something that made the fur on my neck stand up!
Be sure to come back next Friday to find out why Charley looks solid—not ghost-like. Also… Who is the bird-like lady with the wings? Not to mention who is the cool guy with the shades?
Charley and Dori are hinting that I should give up my dream to be like Sherlock Holmes. Charley thinks it would be exhausting to think like Holmes all the time. While he may have a point…I’d rather watch Aaron’s Animals videos…I really want to be successful in order to help my author mom write mysteries. Tell me about something you really wanted but everybody said you couldn’t have it or do it. Maybe knowing others have gone through this kind of thing will help me make a decision.