“YOU want to do what? Over my dead body!”
Thomas was not one to mess around. If something needed saying, it got said, even if the other person couldn’t grasp the meaning.
When Maud announced her news, Thomas was livid and he wasn’t afraid to show it. He made a right racket so she had to know, had to know he wasn’t happy.
“Shush Thomas” was her only response.
Maud made her announcement whilst she was making dinner and as was her usual practice, Thomas had to wait until she was good and ready before he could tuck in.
He hated her routines, the precise way in which she cut up the food, measuring out the amount and humming some silly tune from a television cartoon series at the same time. So many times he wanted to scream: “For God’s sake Maud hurry up!”
Maud used to be a schoolteacher before she retired, which probably explained her strict regime. However, although it annoyed him immensely at times, over the years Thomas had learnt to accept this obsession with detail as one of Maud’s many quirks.
When you’ve lived together for as long as they had, there have to be compromises.
Thomas was sure that some of things he did rattled Maud but if they did, she wasn’t saying.
Maud’s pattern of behaviour, like always rising in the morning at exactly the same time, watching Countdown and having a cup of Horlicks before retiring, was so predictable, which was why her announcement shook him to the bone. Maud wasn’t one for surprises.
“His name’s Henry and he’s going to be moving in next week. I’m sure you’ll get on. He’s a lot younger than you of course but it could be the best thing that’s ever happened to you. Liven you up a bit, stop you from just slobbing around all day.”
Slobbing around! How dare she, thought Thomas. Yes, he certainly wasn’t the most active individual you could come across but he didn’t regard himself a slob.
No, it wasn’t slobbing around, it was more like deep, meaningful, meditation. Thomas sometimes likened himself to a Buddhist but of course he wasn’t although he did believe in reincarnation.
When Henry arrived the following week, Thomas was gobsmacked. The newcomer was rather plump and to make matters worse, he was GINGER!
Ginger was a colour Thomas couldn’t stand. It was probably something to do with a rather unseemly scrap he'd had with someone when he was much younger. On that occasion he came off worse, the swine actually bit a chunk out of his ear and left a nasty scar on his nose. So for Thomas, ginger spelt trouble.
Following Henry’s arrival, the two of them skirted around the house, trying to stay away from each other which wasn’t easy, especially at meal times.
Initially Henry made some conciliatory overtures but Thomas quickly let him know they weren’t welcome.
After about a week there were disturbing signs that Henry was beginning to settle in and Maud was certainly very chatty with him. They began watching the news on the telly together, something that Thomas had always looked forward to, especially when that nice BBC lady Sophie Raworth was on.
Thomas realised he needed to quickly come up with a plan of action before it was too late, a plan which would make Maud realise that this new arrangement just wouldn’t work.
It didn’t take long for inspiration to arrive.
“Thomas! Did you do this?” screamed Maud at the top of her voice. When she got angry or distressed her vocal chords were stretched to the limit.
Hang on a moment, thought Thomas, why’s she blaming me? She should be blaming him, he’s the new boy on the block. The incident with the furniture had never happened before and Maud was supposed to come to the obvious conclusion that Henry was responsible and take appropriate action.
“You naughty, naughty thing,” said Maud, wagging her finger at Thomas in that schoolmarm way of hers.
Damn, thought Thomas, on to Plan B.
Although Maud was in her late 70s, she hadn’t yet reached that unfortunate state which befalls some elderly ladies – she didn’t smell! In fact, she was very particular about the odours that pervaded the house which probably explained the loud shriek accompanying her discovery in the dining room.
Thomas had surprised even himself by how quickly he had raced to the top of the house when she had gone into the dining room, leaving Henry as the most likely culprit.
“Who’s done this?” she demanded. She stared long and hard at an unsuspecting Henry who had just casually strolled out of the kitchen and then shook her head.
Ah, now we’re getting somewhere, thought Thomas as he peered down from the top of the stairs.
After a good 30 minutes of scrubbing down and an excessive amount of air freshener spray, Maud wiped her brow and slumped into her comfy fireside chair with its oh-so-inviting brown cushion which had been her mother’s and which fitted exactly around the contours of Maud’s rather large backside.
She decided to pour herself a very large sherry and to contemplate her options.
Thomas sat on the chair opposite and prayed that his scheme had been successful.
After a second large sherry, Maud let out a big sorrowful sigh, picked up the phone, dialled and after a few seconds said: “Oh hi, is that the Cat Shelter? Hi, it’s Maud Smith here, I picked up a large ginger cat from you last week…. yes, that’s the one….I’m afraid I’ve had a few problems with him….he’s scratched the settee and began spraying around the dining room table….no, I’m sorry, he’s just not suitable….. no I’ll have to bring him back straight away.”
Maud put the phone down and came across to stroke Thomas.
“There, there, my lovely, it’s going to be back to just you and me, the way it used to be. Mummy loves you lots and lots and lots.”
Thomas grinned, closed his eyes and began to purr loudly.
© Patrick O’Connor 2010
!Note - "Over my dead body" is an exclamation a lot of parents use when their children say they want to do something outrageous.