Time for the Queen
[The continuation of the Survivor Short Story “project” in the War On Boris the Bytrode series. This time, back in time, 1967, following the adventures of middle-aged mum, Letitia…In this episode (12.1) While flat-sitting in Melbourne, Letitia has a most unexpected visitor…]
Demanding Her Time
Ten Days Earlier…
Letitia should have realized, should have understood at the first hint of mission brown. She heard an odd, incessant clunking at the back of the unit and went to investigate. The door of peeling cream paint vibrated from its base. A shabby cat door, the metal flap held in place by a pair of hooks. Thumping emanated from this spot. She attacked the doorknob first in an attempt to open the door. Deadlocked, it refused to budge. The thumping escalated with intermittent howls. She groped for the keys. ‘Where are they? I can’t find them! Where did I put them?’
She took a deep breath and stood still. Meditating. ‘Ah! An idea.’
Letitia bent down and unhooked the flap. Howling, a monstrous ball of white fur and claws jettisoned through the hole and sprinted psychotically across the greasy brown carpet. Once the near-feral feline had stopped to manically sharpen its claws on the carpet, she noticed that certain burnt umbers and siennas of its tortoise-shell coat matched the colours of the carpet exactly. ‘I dare say, puss, your markings are much more complimentary, than this brown carpet,’ Letitia said.
After scratching, the cat nonchalantly evaporated around the corner. Letitia followed and found her in the laundry wailing over an empty bowl. She assumed that the puss was female as she vocalised at every given opportunity, much like females tend to do. This queen of the flat planted herself on the chipped tiles and emitted more pleading meows. Letitia crouched down to check her collar. On it was engraved a name. She stroked the puss under her chin and read the name. On the red shiny tag was the name “Monica”. Letitia had to laugh. ‘So, this is what you’ve been reduced to?’ she joked to the cat. ‘Come on, I will go and find some food for you.’
With tail held high, Monica followed her substitute mistress directly behind her left heel as she found the kitchen and hunted for elusive cat food. A few times as Letitia stepped back from another unsuccessful foray into a cat-food-challenged cupboard, she almost trod on a paw or tail. Finally, she wrenched open the corner cupboard by the sink.
Normally, any logical person such as Letitia would have reserved this cupboard for crockery. But not obviously this owner, whoever he was. Man obviously. And of the 1960’s variety. Almost Neanderthal, she thought. There was no rhyme or reason to where items were placed in this particular kitchen. The bench was loaded with stuff, mostly unopened letters addressed to one Walter Wenke.
Back to the corner cupboard. She opened it and there crammed full into the depths of cupboard oblivion, were stacks of cans of all shapes and sizes. This Walter Wenke must have lived on canned food, Letitia mused. But can I find just one tiny can of cat food? No! No, cat food to be found. And I’m not going to empty someone else’s can cupboard for cat food.
She grunted and grabbed the nearest tin of tempting tuna and hunted for the ring. No ring. That’s right, it’s the dark ages, she muttered. Now, I must find the can opener in this almighty man-made mess. The thought of hunting for a can opener did not thrill her at midnight.
With a sigh, she emptied several drawers until she found plan-B of can-opening ventures—a knife. With the knife, and Monica wailing at her feet, she wrenched open the can by jabbing a series of holes on the can’s top, then, carefully, so as to not cut herself, peeled the top enough to empty the fishy contents into a waiting bowl. Monica thought it was Christmas. She licked the bowl clean in seconds and looked up at Letitia, pleading for more.
‘Oh, okay! Now that I know where the cans are kept,’ Letitia yawned and produced another tuna tempter for her. Oops! Not tuna, baked beans. Oh, well. She wasn’t sure how a cat’s metabolism would handle baked beans, but she was too tired to care. Monica polished the bowl with gusto. She then wandered back to lounge room and contentedly licked her paws in front of the radiogram cabinet.
Exhausted, but too wound up to sleep, Letitia switched on the radiogram and settled herself on the divan. She shifted the detachable cushion to rest against the wall and put her feet up to maximise comfort and minimise the pain of her nagging confusion. No sooner had she settled, than Monica leapt upon her lap and began kneading knees and thighs. Her claws dug into her skin leaving gaping holes in the thin cotton material of Letitia’s dress. She gently detached the cat and expected to listen to the calming tones of music by radio.
Letitia had barely arranged herself in a reclining position when Monica was back again, digging her nails in as if she had a grudge to grind. She probably did if she’d been named after her future namesake. Letitia chuckled, How old would the human Monica be? Four? The human Monica had never forgiven Letitia on Mirror World. Permanently struck off her Christmas card list; not that being struck off Monica’s Christmas card list bothered Letitia. However, it had worried Letitia when she had heard vague rumours that Monica had been after her brother Gunter. Letitia with her family on Mirror had done their best to thwart those efforts.
She looked at the cat Monica. ‘You seem to be enjoying torturing me with your claws.’ The puss purred. Letitia lifted her off and placed her on the carpet. Then she placed a nearby cushion on her lap to deter the puss from making her knees a pincushion.
However, like the human version, this moggy Monica did not give up. She pounced on the cushion and began kneading Letitia’s chest and neck. This cat meant business. She was relentless. She was ruthless. She was plain stupid. This cat took no hints. As she began to gouge more holes in her dress, Letitia tore her off and dumped her on the floor. But Monica the cat sprang up on Letitia again. In went her claws, deeper, her purr louder, more menacing.
In exasperation, Letitia climbed off the couch, cat attached to her neck like a politically incorrect fashion accessory, and strode determinedly to the laundry. There she deposited the persistent puss in the over-flowing clothes basket. She spied the litter tray there, so she knew she was safe from nasty parcels of puss-processed tuna and baked bean surprise. Before Monica could unravel herself from the tangle of dirty washing, Letitia slammed the door shut and walked away to the lounge.
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2021
Feature Photo: Lofty © L.M. Kling circa 1985