“Francis J. Bumbles’ Big Day”

Pre-Show SONG


Francis woke before the sun. He was that excited for his big day. He groomed himself in the mirror. A pep talk his father used to give himself floated into his mind. “You come from a long line of powerful cats. We are kings.” His father would say to himself every morning. Often, Francis was spying on him. His father would make quick eye contact in the mirror and give him a sly wink.

Francis straightened his light blue paisley tie, straightened his whiskers and gave himself a sly wink.

Today was going to be the day. This is one of those “first days of the rest of your life” kind of days. Today he was going to sit in the boardroom for the first time. Admittedly it was at the very end of the table. Really just a secretary for Pierce Fuzzlewitz, a coffee boy, but *in the room* where the decisions happen. His tail twitched with anticipation.


He gave his catnip toy a playful bat as he left his apartment. The nip gave him just a bit of a light headed feeling but nothing that wouldn’t fade before the workday began. Besides, what did he care? He was invited to the party. He was an inside man.

He was aware that he was strutting a bit as he padded down the hallway.

He thought long and hard last night on how he should get to work today; cab or walk. In the end, he decided that walking and getting a cup of coffee would be the most relaxing and professional method. He wanted to look calm and in control. 

The hustle and bustle of the streets was just enough white noise to allow him a moment or two of introspection. Who am I? What is my purpose here? Surely there was more to life than this cat race. 



The wind picked up and shook his thoughts away. He pulled his tweed jacked close to his neck. The seasons were changing early this year.

The weather brought him back to a memory of last autumn. When the oak leaves covered the ground near the pond on the Harvard courtyard. Red, brown and damp. A living thing of nature, even in its dying. Robert Twizzlesmith was there, dapper as ever in his neatly tailored dark blue sailor’s jacket. A real ‘yachtsman’ Robert was. Blue blooded as anyone east of Brisbane Bay. His captain’s hat, stiff and starched, hung absurdly sideways on one pointed ear. 

“Ahoy, Frankie, dear boy!”


“Twizzlesmith, you ol’ knickerbocker,” Francis joked as best he could. For three long months Robert Twizzlesmith had bested him in squash, and never let Francis forget. Francis wasn’t a bad squash player, and Robert wasn’t a particularly good player. Francis let him win as a way of ingratiating himself to ol’Twizzy, and he regretted the decision every day since.

“Heard you were catting about last night. Got in well past curfew.”

“‘Heard’? Not from anyone who might get me in trouble, I hope.”

Robert tossed his head back to laugh, almost knocking his hat from his ear.

“No worries, dear boy.”

Just then a twig snapped in the woods behind them. They both froze for a moment, then quick as the wind, they scrambled up the old elm tree and perched together on a branch each pretending, in their own way, that nothing had just transpired.


 “I say,” Robert said after a moment of dignified silence, “are the rumors true?”

“What rumors? About me being out after curfew?”

“That, we both know, is a fact. No, dear boy, the rumors about you and Misty Frumphausen.”

“Oh,” Francis replied with a chuckle.
Misty was an aloof fluffy white persian with sapphire eyes and a bubblegum pink nose. Every cat on campus had designs on Misty. The rumor wasn’t anything lurid. Quite the opposite in fact. It had recently come out that Misty was in fact related to Francis. Not directly. A distant half-cousin or something. Close enough, however, that Francis had to consider himself out of the running for her affections.

“I’m afraid it is. Works out good for you though.”
Robert let out another howl of laughter. This time his hat did fall off and float to the ground. They both watched it drop then both fell into hysterics about it.

“Oh, Frankie, you are a laugh. To think that you’d be competition to me.”

Robert laughed again. Francis did not.



“What’ll you have, pal?” 

The cat behind the counter was, ironically enough, coffee colored. She licked her paws clean while looking at Francis expectantly.

“Sorry, I was a million miles away,” Francis said. He realized, in that moment, that this memory he’d had of Robert and the tree and Misty used to be a regretful one, but today it filled him with a certain pride. Where was Robert now? Not with Misty, that’s for sure. Also not on his way to a new job in the boardroom of Henshaw, Noble and Mittens. 


“Oh yes, sorry. Again. I’ll just have a regular coffee. Black. To go.”

“Sure thing,” said the coffee colored cat. She was a short haired tiny little thing. Couldn’t have been much more than one, but she had the swagger of someone who’d been living in the city for a while. Not hardened to the world, but with a certain chip on her shoulder that was appealing to Francis.

“What’s your name?” Francis asked, surprising himself. He was never this forward.


“Good morning, Cleo. I believe I’d like to take you out to dinner later tonight.”

“Would you now?”
Francis’ smile faltered for a moment, but her smile told him that she was just having a bit of fun.

“I certainly would. That is, if you’re free.”

Cleo considered Francis for a moment. 

“Alright, Mister Million Miles Away. I get off at seven.”
“Long day.”
“Working girl,” Cleo said as she put his coffee down in front of him. “That’ll be a nickel.”

Francis placed the coin in her paw, their pads touching for a moment. Hers felt warm and soft. He took his cup and turned to go.
“I’ll swing by here around seven.”
“Yeah? What’s your name?”
“Francis. Francis J. Bumbles.”



“You met her where?” Tom asked with a guffaw of disbelief.

Tom was a plump tiger stripe. He was leaning against the breakroom water dish. He crushed the paper cup in his paw and tossed it toward the waste basket, missing.

“At the coffee shop. She works there.”

“A barista? You picked up a barista!?” Tom couldn’t contain his amusement. 

“I don’t see what’s so funny about that. And, I didn’t ‘pick her up.’ I just asked her to dinner tonight.”

“Same same. Either way, you ‘met cute’.”

“Met cute? What does that mean?” Francis asked.

“It’s a cliche, chum. A stereotype. A… uh… how do you say it?”

“Met cute? We’re cats. Everything we do is cute.”

“A gag! It’s got to be a gag!” Tom started an elaborate routine, pretending to cough up a furball, which caused him to fall into gales of laughter

Francis didn’t see the connection, but he did feel he was being made fun of. Not unusual from Tom. He was determined not to let anyone or anything bring him down today, so he didn’t bother trying to figure out what Tom found so hilarious. He didn’t even bother saying “good-bye” as he hopped through the door flap from the break room.


“This is it,” Francis said softly to himself. He was standing in front of the door to the executive room. The room he’d only seen glimpses of when the big-wigs would hop through the door flap. Some of the larger ones having a more difficult time than others. On time he saw the Vice-President of Sales Samual “Twinks” Twinklebottom get stuck halfway through. Twinks was an enormously plump grey Persian. Francis could still see Twinks flat face get angrier. His face always looked angry by default, and Francis didn’t think it could look any angrier, but on this day he was proven decidedly wrong. Twinks mouth frown lines dug in deeper. His jowls began to quiver. His eyes shot daggers at all the employees looking at him. (many of them suddenly preoccupied with batting around pens on their desk so as to not make eye contact with Twinks)

They eventually had to remove the door from its hinges to set him free. The door flap was replaced by a wider one the next day.



The executive table was just as he had imagined it to be. Long, sleek, shiny black. Impressive. Weighty. Important. This is a room where important cats make important decisions.

All of his mentors were here. 

Snuffles Van Buren was at the seat closest to the door. An obscene amount of catnip was piled high next to him on the table. He was casually pawing at it, bringing the scent to his nose with a clasped paw every so often. 

Felix McMillon and Pepper Flatsemhaven were in the corner darting at a red light, the source of which was unknown to all.

Buttercup Whishburn was batting at a crumpled piece of paper on the table.

Delbert “Puss Puss” Paterson was staring out the window making small bird noises at random. Oblivious to the chaos around him.  

Pierce Fuzzlewitz was facing away from the table in his high backed swivel chair. He was staring up at the corner of the room at, seemingly, nothing. Stoic. He knew exactly what he was doing. There was a cat who earned the respect of the room, by doing absolutely nothing. Sheer brilliance.

In front of Francis there was a glass of water.


 He had been assigned the corner seat closest to the door. The glass of water was next to Snuffle’s pile of nip, but clearly set for Francis. 

No one else had a glass of water. Everyone else used the communal bowls set around the office on the floor. The higher ups would use water from the fountain in the executive washrooms. Flowing water was the ultimate prestige.

But this glass? 

A glass of water set deliberately on the table right in front of him. 

Who would do this? And why?

It had to be a test. But testing for what?

Francis looked around the room. No clue from the others. As far as he could tell, they didn’t even know he was in there with them.

He couldn’t tell what this feeling was. This was the biggest, most important day of his career. Perhaps of his life. And they couldn’t care less.

Why should they? He knew it was unreasonable of him to expect old Fuzzlewitz to give two damns about his life, or any of his nine. But still, there was an expectation.

Francis inspected the glass again. Tall and thin with no decorations or etching. Simple and elegant, just like the firm. Filled three-quarters of the way up. No ice.

Francis reached a tentative paw out and batted lightly at the side of the glass. Its smooth cool surface touched his pads. The water within jiggled almost imperceptibly. The glass did not move. Francis’s pupils dilated wide. He couldn’t hide the look on his face. Eyes wide, jaw slackened. He cursed himself under his breath for not being able to conceal his excitement.



 “Francis! Don’t do it!”

The voice came from no one in the room. An imagined voice. A judgemental voice.

“Don’t do it, Francis. Don’t knock that glass off the table.”

He recognized the voice now. It was Robert Twizzlesmith from school days. A distant memory of a friend.

Of course he shouldn’t do it. This was his first day. This was not his glass or his office. He should not cause a scene. 

But the glass was so smooth and the water moved so hypnotically. 

From somewhere deep within him was the need to see the glass fall to the floor. He didn’t want it on the floor, but he wanted to see it fall.

The general hubbub of the room fell away. Francis was only aware of the glass now.

“Remember, Francis,” came another voice in his head. Deeper, more serious. His father’s voice.


“We are descended from kings, Francis. You are descended from kings. And what do kings do?”
“Whatever they want,” Francis muttered under his breath.

“That’s right, whatever they – “


The glass fell to the floor.

Francis stared at it as it fell, his paw hanging in mid-air from where it had pushed the glass. 

The activity and noise in the room came to an immediate halt, although “Puss Puss” managed to get one more bird-like squawk in there. 

All eyes fell on Francis, then the glass, then back to Francis.

Fuzzlewitz slowly swiveled his chair around.

“Who did that?” he said with equal parts accusation and disinterest.
No one spoke a word, they all just looked at Francis.

With a quavering voice Francis said, “I…. did, s-sir.”
“And, whyyyyyyyyyy??”
“Wh…wh…why, sir?”
“Yes, ahem…”
“Francis, sir,” Francis managed.

“Francis. Yes. Why would you knock a glass of water off of my boardroom table?”
“I ….” Francis’s mouth went dry. Every answer seemed wrong. Every eye was on him. “I….”

“Kings don’t apologize, Francis,” his father’s voice again.

“I… ahem… wanted to. Sir.”

 “You ‘wanted to’?” Fuzzlewitz responded, his voice rising up with disbelief.

“Yes sir. And a king never apologizes.”
Pierce Fuzzlewitz said nothing. He blinked twice. Seemed to forget that Francis was even in the room. Looked out the window. No one else in the room moved, except for “Puss Puss” who decided it would be better to follow suit and look out the window again instead of staring at Francis.


“A king,” Fuzzlewitz began slowly, “a king never apologizes. Hrm.”

The silence was oppressive. The clock ticking was the only sound. Francis would later swear that the ticking went slower and slower until a second felt like an hour.

“Gentlecats,” Fuzzlewitz said as he spun his chair back around, “this is precisely the attitude we need here at Henshaw, Noble & Mittens. What are we, if not kings?”

A purr and growl of approval came from the room.

“So, I’m not fired?” Francis thought.

“Francis,” Fuzzlewitz said, “I’d like you to come join me at the head of the table.”



The rest of the meeting, the rest of the day, was a blur to Francis. It remained a blur through the evening. 

He met Cleo, the coffee shop cat later that night at a catnip bar. She was wearing a beret and smoking a cigarette. Francis was still dressed in his work clothes.

“My my,” said Cleo, “if it isn’t the new corporate hopeful.”

Francis was still on cloud nine. Normally he would’ve been overly anxious about his appearance and how he was being perceived by the likes of Cleo.

“Hope you’re still willing to see someone corporate like me.”
“Oh Francis, you’re not ‘corporate’, you’re just dressed that way, I understand. We all put on the costumes we need to make it in this crazy world.”

She loosened his tie and handed him her cigarette. He took a drag and immediately noticed that it was NOT tobacco.

She took his paw and led him to the dance floor.

“I am descended from kings,” Frances stammered.

“Aren’t we all, honey, aren’t we all?”