Hunger and shelter kill people.
Finding a place in the prime Borough is like finding a diamond in a coal mine. Mum used to say, learn to adjust, and you will find what you want. After all, these little adjustments, are a part of the fucking parcel of life. Huh.
It would be exactly nine months on the first of April since I moved into the plush Toccata penthouse. It had soft caramel undertones on the walls and the Renoir’s, one on each side, caught my gaze on the first day. Instinctively, I knew, it was the house I wanted. As the landlady walked ahead of me, notes of coffee, pink pepper, cedar, and cinnamon oozed from her swaying hips, sucking me into a deep hallucinogenic state. Fuck me.
I couldn’t bungle this one up, unlike the previous eight houses. Terrible, they were. “No late-night partying or substances, pills, injections, powders, got it?” She said breaking my gaze. Yes, she had the vocabulary. I am the shy type, so I lowered my head and nodded gently but my head was still spinning with her magnetic fragrance, the kind which you know, is sure to get you into trouble. And it did. I fell in love, hook, line, and sinker or fish, plate, and chips. Whatever.
The first four months were rather wonderful as I settled into a routine and we got to know each other a little better. I would leave for work early morning and she would see me off with a lingering smile and as I returned, her fragrance reached the door before she did. We spent hours chatting on the terrace till one of us spotted Felix returning from work.
Yes, she was with Felix after all, not promiscuous but lonely nevertheless. “Meet my husband Felix,” she said glancing over her shoulder. He raised his eyebrows and gave her a questioning look. I think he didn’t like me. It was evident by his eye contact or the lack of it. So, it wasn’t clandestine in the real sense of the word, neither was it platonic, I don’t think anyone knows how to define love. But I was happy like I hadn’t been in my previous lives, and I wondered if she’d be my Queen?
Soon Felix began to notice our chemistry and one day he refused to eat with me on the table. I took the food to my room and she followed me inside. “I’m sorry, I think my husband is a bit disturbed, please don’t mind. He has to deal with too many things of late, the business, the extended family and the cat.” Business and family, I could understand, they are complicated, but a cat? How can a cat be a source of unhappiness? I mean what could a poor little cat do? Can a cat be complicated? Hell no. The more I thought about it, the more it became clear, she was lying. While my mind couldn’t trust her anymore, my heart had other ideas.
That day, I scurried early from work to surprise her with a gift, but the familiar soft coffee smell was missing at the door. It was a shade of smoky dark tobacco and a bit rancid burnt chocolate. “She’s out,” he said noticing my surprised eyebrows. I nodded and careened into my room before another word was exchanged. They were in it together. Isn’t it? Fuck. I should’ve listened to mum and stayed away from the heart. But I was hungry, so I waited for her to return.
She knew my food quirks just like mum. Right from my childhood, I was always allergic to Chocolate and Alcohol, a long-standing nemesis and so I kept away from the people who had them. Soon there was a knock, I waited, then it turned into a thud. Quaking, I peeped out and found Felix with a plate in hand. “Eat this, she’s kept it for you,” he said thrusting the plate. I put out a polite smile and thought he’d go, but he didn’t. “Go on eat it, I’m waiting,” he said squinting into my eyes. My heart never lied to me and it wasn’t going to be the first time today, it was screaming, get out! I drank some water to calm it down but as I opened the food cover, my heart almost leaped out of my mouth. It had Chocolate Rum balls.
He was going to kill me. Fuck him. Felix respired at the door but I felt it much closer. His gaze locked on me, I was cornered and when you corner a tiger, what does it do? It fucking fights back. Right. I flung the plate on his face. The edge hit his left eye as his knees buckled in pain. I took the fork and packed it in his neck. He growled in rage, so loud, my eardrum blacked out and eyes silenced, or is it the other way around? Fuck. I flew on his back and slammed his head on the doorknob. He passed out. I waited a few seconds before checking his breath.
He was still breathing as I got up on the chest of drawers. My mum used to say when in doubt, stub it out. Huh. The chest of drawers smashed his head. Oh, God. A big mess. I began cleaning the spill each tile at a time. The pink gooey stuff mixed with red and gave it a dark boysenberry sweet-tart like flavor. Uh-hmm. But tarts are not my favorite, so I moved on to the others. It took more than two hours to tuck him into bed.
No pun. I heard the key click inside the lock, she always got it right in the first shot, so I scampered out of the room to greet her. My excitement was short-lived as I saw her striding in with the cat. “Meet Isabell Catz, our newest family member,” she said stroking her thick Mocha mane. Slightly on the heavier side, but she’d kept herself well, the curves had not yet become folds if you know what I mean. I forced a welcome smile and returned to my room. “Felix. Where is Felix?” I heard her walking into the bedroom behind me. The floor was still sticky and a bit tart-smelly. I closed the door on her face. It broke my heart but I had to do it. I heard a loud grunt and her voice receded as she searched for the missing Felix. Huh. What about me? What if I got lost someday? Would she search for me as much? Will she cry? Huh.
I reached for the lavender room freshener and sprayed it on the bed, the floor and near the door. There was a sniffing sneeze which escaped through the bottom of the door. That stupid cat was spying on me. Moments like these bring out the cunning best in me, or is it the worst? Whatever. I cleaned up, put on a fresh coat and applied some minimal touch to my hair, I like it to be left carefully careless before I step out in public. Isabell had a ‘I-don't-like-what-I-see’ look in her eyes but I smiled, this time quite warmly. The sun pierced through the window on to the dining table. “There you are, why were you sulking? I’m going to make some phone calls – Felix is missing. Oh, and do me a favor, feed her, will you please?” I nodded with a hint of a smile.
I went inside and brought her a bowl of boysenberry milk mixed with some light chocolate. She sniffed it suspiciously but it looked so yummy. The greedy stupid cat drank it all. I didn’t have to wait long for the reaction. Isabell rolled over, scratched her back against the carpet, dug her claws into the flesh and bled on the floor. The porcelain Pygmalion was in splinters, the slender bar cabinet rattled with cracking wine glasses and the stain glass floor lamp hit the Renoir, fleecing it off its pricelessness.
I think it was an allergic reaction. Huh. I heard her scream from the upper deck, “Oh my God, no,” before she stumbled down the stairs. Those strawberry lips thud into the protruding pillar at the end of the stairway and blood smattered all over her face, she slumped on the floor, lifeless. I had my heart in the mouth or is it mouth in the heart? Whatever. I noticed her lying in a pool of blood flickering her legs in pain, quite dark I thought. She opened her bleary eyes when the cat, all seven pounds of squirming flesh, climbed onto her belly. Squinting into the sunlight streaming in from the open window, she discovered that she was now the weary possessor of a pounding headache, and at some point, had managed to lose both a tooth and a spouse. It's in moments like these you see light from darkness and I think it happened for Isabell.
It was the first time she asked for permission. I nodded. Isabell took the other Renoir and slammed it into her face. Sharp girl. Huh. I opened the refrigerator to get some juice and realized, we hadn’t done groceries in a while. So, in the next few hours, we made sure the refrigerator was well stocked. Isabell understood my shy nature and I must add we are great friends now, more like a tag team partnership. Maybe someday, we’ll have a company of our own. Morning never shows the day. Huh.
It’s almost a year since the bloody Friday weekend afternoon got screwed, the stately couple was killed and to the police, I’ve promised to cooperate fully, as long as it takes. As I celebrate my birthday this thirteenth day of April, I am a happy cat. Toccata will officially be mine, well it’s technically sealed, but who cares. Fuck. Though I will need to do some remodeling, perhaps change the bed, the stains are stubborn, the refrigerator, it keeps dripping and some paint job.
But its ok. You make do with what you have left, don’t you? It’s a dream come true. Mum always said hunger and shelter kill people, not cats. So, who kills the cats? I guess it’s impossible, because every life, has nine cats. Huh.
Gyanban Thoughts: wrote this for a quirky writing competition. Did not get shortlisted. But I enjoyed writing this dark tale , metaphor at some level literal for some. And the title seemed quite apt as well, dont you think?