"Arnold & His Pet"
a short story by G.E. Nordell


        Many years ago, in Los Angeles, California, there was a nice old gentleman who lived in a small upstairs apartment near Westlake Park with his pet cow. Now, a cow is a lot of trouble in a big city like Los Angeles, but Arnold loved her very much and they had an understanding landlord, so Arnold had a bale of fresh hay delivered to the apartment every other morning. And whenever Arnold's monthly pension check arrived in the mail, he would buy the cow some oats as a special treat and they would go to a movie together. The cow chewed quietly on her oats while Arnold nibbled on a small boxful of buttered popcorn. They especially liked old Rin-Tin-Tin movies.

        Well, one night after the movie, Arnold and the cow were sitting in a back booth at a nearby coffee shop. Arnold was having a cup of coffee and the cow was drinking from a bowl of water. And this television producer walked over and looked at Arnold and then at the cow, and then he spoke to Arnold.

        "Say, pal," said the producer, chewing on his short unlit cigar. "Your friend there could be a star. With the right promotion."
        "A star?" said Arnold.
        "Certainly," said the producer. "Can she do tricks?"
        "I suppose so," said Arnold. "She is a very smart cow,"

        The cow smiled at this. She batted her long eyelashes at the producer, and flicked her tail at a fly.

        "Wonderful," said the producer. "I can see her name on the marquee now... Umm. What is her name?"
        "I don't know," said Arnold. "I never asked."
        "Oh. Well, sure," said the producer. He chewed on his cigar stub for a moment. "How about ... Bessie!" The producer smiled. "That's it. Bessie. Bessie the Cow. That sounds just right."
        "What do you think?" Arnold asked the cow.
        "Moo," she replied. And she drank more of her water.
        "Fine, fine," said the producer. And he pulled out a stack of documents for Arnold to sign.

        So, with the producer's help and encouragement and advice, Arnold took Bessie to classes and workshops and then to some auditions. The acting lessons were most important, of course, but just in case, Bessie also learned improvisational comedy and tap dancing and yodeling. And she even learned to play the violin, though she wasn't very good.
        And the producer, whose name was Sammy, got Bessie more and more auditions, for plays and commercials, and she even did a rock video. Then Sammy got her a chance to act on a television show, in a very important minor role in the mini-series "Till the Cows Come Home to Roost". And that was Bessie's big break, because next thing you know, she was offered a pilot for a spinoff show.
        "Bessie & Friends" was the hit of the season. All the animals in Hollywood wanted to be on her show. Rin-Tin-Tin even came out of retirement to make a special guest appearance on Bessie's show.
        Bessie had her own dressing room. with real grass growing on the floor, and she nibbled on imported alfalfa between takes. And the program ran for several seasons, winning many Emmy® awards and other honors. Sammy started buying better-smelling cigars to chew on. Arnold was very proud, and he and Bessie moved to a grand and very pleasant home in the Los Feliz area.

        But after a while, a big conglomerate bought the network and the new administration did not renew the contract for Bessie's show, and Sammy decided to retire and he married a bimbo and moved to Florida. The residuals from syndication of the "Bessie & Friends" program plus Arnold's pension check are just enough for Arnold and Bessie to live comfortably in their spacious home.
        Arnold and Bessie have settled into their newly-quiet lifestyle and they are quite happy. They go to a movie together two or three times a week now. Arnold has the large buttered popcorn and Bessie snacks on a bag of very fresh, very green grass. And once in a while they go out to the Motion Picture Retirement Home and visit Rin-Tin-Tin, always taking him a box of his very favorite dog biscuits.

        Well, time has passed, and most people have forgotten "Bessie & Friends". But still, on Hollywood Boulevard, not far from the wax museum, there is a bronze-and-terrazo star in the sidewalk with Bessie's name on it. And once every month, when the residual check arrives in the mail, Arnold goes out first thing and buys a bottle of metal polish. And early the next Saturday morning, before the shops on the Boulevard open up for business, you will see a happy old gentleman kneeling down over Bessie's star in the sidewalk. And he polishes the star until it shines!

Gary Edward Nordell 1989, all rights reserved



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