Friday, 26 October 2018
Mrs Halibut's Cats
A few weeks ago, I had parked the car opposite her house and on my way for a quick visit to the supermarket when she saw me from her window and called me. She asked me if I could buy her a few tins of cat and dog food from the supermarket. I thought nothing of it, and added her items to my shopping and delivered them to her.
She thanked me and paid me and explained that the tins are too heavy for her to carry. Would I mind calling on her again next time I am round to see if she wanted more tins?
That's the problem with being kind, you see. You do someone a good deed and you end up doing it again and again. Jesus never warned us about that when He asked us to be kind to one another.
Anyway, the following week I called on her. She wanted more tins of pet food and some milk. The week after, it was pet food and some soap and some washing powder. And so it went. For the past six or so weeks I seem to have been caught into this routine of calling on her and adding her shopping to mine. I pay for the shopping separately and give her the receipt to check the price of her purchases.
Last week she asked me in for a cup of tea. I really hesitated. It is not in my nature to be kind and helpful but somehow I get drawn into these situations. Christianity and having a conscience can be a drawback sometimes. Yet again, I feel Jesus should have warned us that helping old ladies with their shopping will eventually mean having tea with them.
I reluctantly agreed to have some tea with her. She led me to the living room and went to the kitchen to prepare the tea.
As I should have guessed, the house was full of cats and dogs wandering everywhere and living happily with each other. I know some elderly, perhaps lonely, people do have pets; but this was excessive I thought. She had seven cats and three dogs of various sizes. Don't miss-understand me; the house was very clean and smelled of lavender. It's just the number of pets that I found odd. By the way, why do so many old folks smell of lavender? Is it to repel moths? I had a grand-mother who always smelled of lavender. You could predict her coming into a room a day before she arrived. The other grand-mother smelled of pot-pourri; (and looked like one).
Anyway, I digress. As I was waiting for the old lady in the living room I noticed that she had shelves full of glass jars with white labels stuck on them. There were also similar jars on the side board and fireplace mantle piece.
I looked closely at the sealed jars and they seemed to contain a grey powder. The labels read names like "Hector, Tasmania, Silver, Mandarin ... and so on." Also various dates under the names dating back some twenty or so years.
Suddenly, Mrs Halibut entered the room and I was startled out of my nine lives; I must have borrowed some from the cats.
"Ah ... I see you are admiring my collection," she said smiling as she placed the tray full of tea and biscuits on the table.
I smiled back and said nothing as I sat down.
"These are the ashes of all my cats and dogs I have had over the years," she said as she sat beside me.
"Oh ..." I heard myself say.
"I have always loved cats and dogs," she continued, " they have been good companions since my husband died. I have missed every one of them when they passed away. At first I thought of burying them in the garden. I have lived here for forty years. But then I decided to have them cremated by the vet and I kept the ashes. I have written in my Will that all the jars will be emptied and buried with me!"
My mind asked me which glass jar contains her husband, but I focussed and pretended to be interested.
"How sweet ..." I lied as I took a sip of tea which was awful and not sweet at all. It was dandelion tea. Why do people drink this stuff? Just like nettles tea and other similar concoctions? I gulped hard and swallowed a mouthful thinking that kindness has now gone too far. I put the cup down as she said:
"You haven't met Lucy, have you? I'll go and get her." and she got up and left the room. This gave me time to empty the cup of dandelion tea in a nearby plant pot. It's called re-cycling!
She returned moments later carrying a stuffed white cat.
"Lucy died tragically," she said, "a friend of mine was a taxidermist so I asked him to preserve her for me."
You could see clearly on the cat's white body the tyre tracks that had run her over so tragically.
"I reversed the car on her," she said tearfully, "and I did not have the heart to have her cremated. So I had her preserved to remind me of her. I keep her in my bedroom!"
I made some excuse or other and left the house as fast as I could.
From now on I'll just deliver her shopping at the door and leave straight away. Either that, or we will all move house to another continent.