A DUBIOUS BEQUEST. 2-21-11
Regina Griffith’s last living relative, a Great Aunt on her mother’s side, called her one Saturday morning and asked her to please come and see her.
They’d had a silly argument years before – common sense hadn’t been given a chance to resolve it seeing that they hadn’t had a good reason to talk since then – so her summons came out of the blue.
When she rang the bell of the old, rambling house – situated at the edge of town – on the next Monday evening after work, a maid let her in and told her that she was expected and that the old lady was upstairs in the master bedroom.
Regina passed a nurse on the stairs and they exchanged smiles and the nurse told her that she’d be in the kitchen if she wanted to talk later. She entered the huge room and crossed to the bed where she greeted her aunt with a kiss – no mention was made of the long-standing argument because it didn’t merit it – and when she was sitting on a comfortable chair next to the bed she was told, “It’s good to see you again, Gina dear, even though this time it’s with me on my deathbed.”
Before Regina could respond in dismay she hurried on to say, “Ha! You mustn’t pay that any mind because I’ve been bed-ridden for better than three years now and seeing that I’ve never left it in all of that time, nor ever will again, because I have a problem with my balance whenever I try to stand up, it’s a true statement, right? Do you see? I know that it’s a morbid thing to say but this really is my deathbed.
“Well now, I don’t want you to feel sorry for me because I’ve got a team of nurses who look after me well so I’m all right as far as my comfort is concerned and I’ve gotten quite used to living like this. However, and this is the reason that I asked you to come and see me, I took a turn for the worse last week. Vertigo came and sought me out in bed!
“It was frightening because, unlike what usually happens to me, that time the bed and the room stayed still while my brain was telling me that I was spinning around! Well, the thing of it is that although the nurse gave me a pill that quickly made it stop it shocked me into figuring that I should do something as regards the clearing up of my affairs.
“So. I called in my lawyer and we drew up my will and he’ll give you the details but the gist of it is that I’m leaving most of my, uh, ‘my estate’ as they call it, although that name doesn’t make much sense to me, to you seeing that you’re my only family and otherwise, so I’m told, it will go to the State and to all of those, scandal-ridden-in-just-about-every- department-even-though-they’re-all-ridiculously-overpaid, municipal workers.”
She took a minute to calm herself and then she said, “Mind you, my dear, I’m not going anywhere yet but, just in case it happens before I see you again, when I am gone I want you to promise me now that you’ll take care of Mimi here,” she reached down and stroked a young, female, blue-pointed Siamese cat that was lying mostly underneath the comforter on the bed, “because she’s the most delightful feline companion that I’ve ever had.”
She was about to say something else but at that moment a frightened look came to her face and she scooted down in the bed as she let out a series of, “Oh, oh, oh’s” that scared Regina and so she raced down stairs to alert the nurse.
She hung around until the nurse came out of the room and told her that she was sleeping comfortably and would stay that way until the next morning and so there was no reason to wait around.
She visited her aunt regularly after that but she could see a definite deterioration in her health each time and so she wasn’t surprised when she got a phone call from her doctor one morning, around two months after her first visit, who told her that the old lady had died in the early hours of that morning.
Regina took care of the funeral arrangements and immediately after the second service, at the gravesite, the lawyer came over to her and asked her to come back to the house and when she’d done so he ushered her into the downstairs study along with the household staff and the nursing staff and he read out the will.
Regina was amused to hear that the welfare of the cat got far more words and clauses and emphasis than any of the other items that were on the extensive list of gifts to charity and the bequests to her staff and nurses that she’d decreed.
When it was all over she found herself to be the owner of the big house and most of it’s contents along with stocks and bonds and CD’s, and the like, which meant that she could quit her job at once – she was the head purchasing clerk in a big retail store – and so she did just that after staying an extra week to train her successor.
Her deceased parents had, years before, left her the house that she was living in and she much preferred it to the one that she’d inherited so, after choosing items from it that caught her fancy, including all of the old family photos although she recognized only a few of the faces in them, she sold the place, as is, and she settled into an easy life of doing all the reading that she wanted to and taking care of her cozy home and it’s large walled-in garden and to enjoy playing with the Siamese cat that, it seemed to her, grew to be more lovable day by day.
Regina had never guessed that cats could be so affectionate and clean and soft and nice to have around and that continued to be the case until Mimi came into heat.
Out of all the female domestic cat breeds that there are the Siamese are the ones most affected by Nature’s call to procreate. Their yowling has a peculiar roar, akin to a choking noise, and mixed in with that is a semi-scream and the combination is enough to, and does, shake the windows. Not only that but the whole thing gets repeated over and over, non-stop, at intervals of fifteen to twenty seconds.
Regina thought that the poor thing was dying, at least, and so she looked up the name of a Vet in the yellow pages and pleaded with him to come at once.
It was eleven o’clock at night and so, understandably, he wasn’t a bit pleased and, besides that, making home visits wasn’t on his agenda and never had been and the evident anguish in her voice didn’t get him to make an exception in her case but when she held the phone up so that he could hear what she was putting up with that did persuade him to come and see her.
He was much put out when he found that there was nothing wrong with the cat that a randy male couldn’t take care of and so he told Regina what was going on and he wrote out his bill there and then – he doubled the usual fee that he would have charged for an ‘office visit’ – and when she’d handed over a check he suggested that if she wanted to get any sleep over the next few days she should lock the animal in the basement until it had gone through its present cycle and had, ‘calmed down.’
There was no way that she was going to lock her beloved cat in the basement and so she sat up with her and tried, in vain, to comfort her but the caterwauling went on and on and she knew that she’d have to do something drastic if she was going to get any sleep the following night, or even ‘nights,’ and who could know how many times the same thing would be repeated over the years?
Because she herself had never had a man in her life – she had been painfully thin until she got to be around forty and by then she was comfortable with living alone – she quaked when she thought about letting, no, encouraging a male to violate her beloved pet – Regina still thought of her as being a kitten and far too young to be mated even though it was very obvious that Nature didn’t agree with her – but when she was sleepily drinking her morning coffee, and trying to forget how unhappy her pet was even though all the while it was still telling the world what it wanted, what it had to have, it came to her that if she did buy a male Siamese then not only would that mean that she’d get twice as much loving but it would also see to it that the incessant and unholy yowling would end PDQ and, presumably, wouldn’t be allowed to even get started in the future.
By the time she’d finished her coffee she’d changed her mind again – the thought of being responsible for who knew what damage and pain to Mimi might result from the mating appalled her – but then, and this became the clincher, she remembered what the outcome of the ‘nasty act’ might well be and she called up the same Vet’s office right that minute only to get a voice message that the office didn’t open until ten o’clock.
When she got the man on the phone she asked him if he could locate and buy a male Siamese of about the same age and exactly the same type and color as hers and that she’d willingly pay whatever it took. The vet once again could clearly hear the yowling going on in the background and partly because of that, and partly because her promise to “willingly pay whatever it took” was a strong inducement, he promised to do what he could and would call her back.
He made a few phone calls and then he personally drove to the next town to check that the animal on offer was correct on all points, as it were, and he paid cash, $240.00, on the spot and then he drove it to Regina’s house.
There was no doubt at all that the two cats were compatible because two seconds after Mimi had smelled what was in the carrying cage she stopped yowling and one second after he’d let the male out she turned around and then backed up and presented herself to him in such a blatant way that it brought blushes to Regina’s face and she had to turn away in confusion and then head for the door with averted eyes.
The vet stayed and saw the mating through to its successful conclusion – so as to be able to add, ‘Attendance at Conception,’ to the bill – and then he filled it in completely and accepted Regina’s check for $975.00
The two cats became inseparable, of course, and, to Regina’s intense disappointment, they both ignored her nearly completely all through each day, except when they wanted food and when they wanted her to let them go out into the garden to browse on grass like cows and climb trees and do whatever it is that cats get up to under the bushes.
Regina’s disappointment disappeared completely when, around four months later, Mimi gave birth to four adorable kittens – only potentially adorable at first, of course, and she had to hide her disappointment but in matter of days they became fully adorable and they enchanted her – and from then on there was enough feline affection available to satisfy every creature in the house.
She wanted to get really close to the kittens, and then stay really close to them as they grew into being cats, so she watched what their mother did for them and, except for the suckling part of course, she figured that the prime means of communicating love to them was by licking them all over.
Regina steeled herself and then started in on licking them – tentatively at first, of course, and only in choice areas – but when she saw how well they responded to it she began to enthusiastically lick them all over and from then on she did it several times every day.
Over the next few years the house became full of cats and not just the Siamese off- spring but all kinds. Strays seemed to be drawn to her home as if by built in cat GPS and once one of them had locked on to the signals and had jumped the garden wall it was welcomed and it took up permanent residence in cat haven/heaven.
She had to set up a house rule, that she stuck to carefully, because she soon found out that cats, en masse especially, are destructive animals that can strip upholstered furniture to the bone in a matter of days and so, although they had the run of the rest of the house, she allowed only kittens to come into her living room. Another benefit of that was that by keeping its door closed it also kept out the stench of urine that permeated every other room in the entire house.
By then Regina had long given up on eating separately from her feline house guests and she ate what they did. Twice a day she’d prepare and fill numerous dishes with raw meat or filleted fish and she saw to it that there was always plenty of cow’s milk available along with lots of dry cat food for nibbling on.
Over that same time she had also gotten closer and closer to them and she’d stopped cutting her nails and she wore a ratty fur coat year round with nothing underneath it and she often slept curled up on the carpet in the living room and in warm weather she liked to sleep outside in the grass. She got so far into copying their lifestyle that she spent a considerable amount of time sitting in an easy-to-climb oak tree watching – watching. She knew not what she was supposed to be watching for but it seemed to be the right thing to do.
When she went into the village to order the delivery of supplies she experienced increasing difficulty with communicating with the humans there because they found it disconcerting to hear mews and meows interspersed with regular words like, “Thirty-five pounds of your best minced chuck steak, please.” nor when she bared her teeth and let out little hisses while warning them of something like, “Make doubly sure that there are no bones in the cod fillets this time, if you please.”
The shopkeepers readily put up with her odd behavior because she was easily their best customer when it came to milk and meat and, especially, fish.
One day, a handsome long-haired Persian that had strayed, or had heard about the place on the grapevine, jumped the wall and applied for citizenship.
It was instantly made welcome, as an exotic, by the rest of the population which, by then, numbered eighty-six contented felines and one contented but confused human.
The Persian, no surprise there, mated with many of the different breeds and some of the resulting kittens were odd indeed but they were always cute and Regina was delighted with them all, as usual, and was especially taken with the Siamese/Persian variety and could hardly leave them alone. She’d seek them out at all hours of the day and night and would play with them until they fell asleep and, of course, would lick them enthusiastically in an effort to establish a long lasting and special relationship. BFF with benefits, you might say.
The idyllic days of the numerous cats and the one human came to an abrupt end around one year after the Persian had deigned to join them.
Regina remained mentally content – more than content – with sharing her life with her furry friends but she began to suffer physically.
The reason for that was that as her new favorites grew in size so did the length of their hair, as you’d expect seeing who their father was, and because she’d not had nearly enough time to evolve a method of dealing with hairballs, by throwing them up and out like felines do, the hairs became trapped in her lower intestines and caused a blockage there which meant that nothing could get by which, in turn, meant that she had to stop eating and she got thinner and thinner and, obviously, weaker and weaker.
The village butcher and the milkman and the fishmonger all became agitated when they didn’t get their usual orders on the usual days from their best customer and so, after a week had gone by without her showing up, they informed the police sergeant and, by coincidence, they did so just after the number of complaints from motorists who’d heard a whole lot of yowling coming from the house and its garden as they’d passed by had prompted him to send a patrol car out there to check it out.
The two officers rang the bell from outside the gate but the only response they got was a cacophony of feline outrage that came at them with frightening intensity.
They pulled out their pepper sprays and held them at the ready and then they climbed over the wall and had to wade through mobs of hungry cats – emboldened by that hunger and by being part of a mob – that only gave way at the last second to let them pass and get to the front door.
Again, they got zero response to their knocking so they broke a side window and got into the house that way.
They found Regina sitting on a rug in the living room and she had clearly been dead for several days. She was naked, which let them see that she was mostly skin and bone, and there was a scruffy fur coat behind her that she must have shrugged off.
In their subsequent report they described the position that they found her in as being, “Yoga-ish.”
She looked like one of those contortionists who can fit themselves into a milk urn because her spine was curved over in an alarming and unnatural manner. Her weight was on the small of her back and her right leg was pushed out slightly to one side and her right arm was locked at the elbow and was splayed out behind her – the three things combined to form a base that balanced her body and stopped it from falling over – and she was grasping and holding her left calf with her left hand and her head was bent forwards and was hanging down so that her face was touching her belly.
The Coroner’s report stated that Cause Of Death was due to severe contortion of the spine . . . . “which led to the fracture of several vertebrae which, subsequently and in turn, penetrated and crushed the spinal column with fatal results.”
The report went on to say, “It is presumed, by the undersigned examiner, that it was pain, perhaps aided by gravity, that caused the subject’s tongue to become fully extended.”