Short Story #294 The Catbird Seat by James Thurber

Title:  The Catbird Seat

Author:  James Thurber


Photo of James Thurber.  Image Source: Martin has decided to plot the death of Mrs. Ulgine Barrows.  She is her boss's new assistant and has set to task for cleaning up and organizing the offices within the company.  She soon sets her eyes on Martin's office and he determines he must do something.  He has plotted out exactly how he will execute this and he moves forward with it, moving through the night, setting up his alibi and his approach.  He sets out at night and makes his way to Barrows' home, doing his best not to encounter anyone or be seen.  He finally arrives at his apartment and she greets him at the door.  Before she can welcome him in, he charges in.  He frantically searches the apartment for something to kill her with and she is unclear about why he is acting so strange.  He eventually finds himself incapable of killing her but proceeds to smoke and drink and be disagreeable towards her--all of which is utterly out of character for Martin as far as everyone knows.  He then divulges a plan to kill their mutual boss because he says he believes their boss is an idiot.  Barrow warns Martin about his language and demanor but he insists that he will do it, in part because of his heroin habit.  He leaves her and returns home.  The next day, he goes to work acting as normal as always when Mrs. Barrows enters and goes right to the president to report him.  The president comes to his office to confront him, disbelieving Barrows' tale.  Martin puts on an act of not having any recollection of the night before.  The president sides with him, having known him for twenty years and that's when Barrow busts into the room yelling at Martin, which only reaffirms the president's view.  SHe is escorted away and Martin is left smiling at saving his office. 


A fun tale that is apparently the inspiration for a film called The Battle of the Sexes with Peter Sellers.  It was a fun story with hints of a mystery that become largely amusing in the end.  The endgame seemed to be clear once he decided he couldn't kill her but rather make her look a fool instead.  

Short Story #294 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  10/15/2014
Source:  You can read the full short story at this website.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.

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