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Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Catbird Seat by James Thurber

This is an amusing upbeat story. Mr Martin becomes a pretender of sorts as he breaks out of his shell in order to remove his newly established nemesis from his neatly organized company. Mr Martin is what I would describe as a super conservative who has been at his job a very long time. He is used to his routine which is threatened by Mrs Barrows who is the new assistant to the company principal. “No one would ever see in it the cautious, painstaking hand of Erwin Martin, head of the filing department at, F & S, of whom Mr Fitweiler had once said, ‘Man is fallible but Martin isn’t’.” Mrs Barrows is annoying to say the least if not out to mold the business to her liking. She stops by Martin’s office to harass him. “Are you scraping the bottom of the pickle barrel? . . . Do you really need all these filing cabinets? She demanded suddenly. Mr Martin’s heart jumped. Each of these files, he had said, keeping his voice even, plays an indispensable part in the system of F & S.” Martin goes out and buys cigarettes, (he doesn’t smoke) and following his regular routine of a glass of milk and after dinner going on a walk he sets in motion the downfall of Mrs Barrows. This is truly one of the best short stories.
The term ‘catbird seat’ refers to one “sitting pretty, like a batter with three balls and no strikes on him”

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