By indexer
120 days ago

Maybe Not: a story

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(This story has been written for my Friday writer's group, the Hinckley Scribblers, this week's theme being "An Animal Story". Tuetego friends can have a sneak preview - are there any changes you would make?)

Have you ever wished that you could really tell what your cat or dog was saying to you? You may be an expert at reading their mews, miaows, growls, barks and gestures, but what if they could actually use words? Wouldn’t that be so much better?

Well – maybe not! Perhaps something along the lines of what follows might be the result.

Montmorency, the talking cat, was sunning himself by the back door one Tuesday morning when there was a furious banging on the front door. Claire - Montmorency’s owner - opened the door to find Mrs Bailey from over the road standing there with a particularly unfriendly expression on her face.

“That cat of yours!” she began.

“You mean Montmorency?”

“I do indeed.”

“Has he done something bad? If so, I’m sure …”

“Something bad?” Mrs Bailey interrupted. “I’ll say he has. He’s been teaching all the kids in the street to use the foulest language you can imagine. It’s ‘effing this’ and ‘effing that’ all day long. They can’t say anything these days without sticking at least one ‘effing’ into every sentence, and if I tell them off all I get back is a series of ‘eff offs’.”

“And you say it’s all my cat Montmorency’s fault?”

On hearing his name, Montmorency had got up and was now next to the two women at the front door.

“What seems to be the trouble?” he enquired.

“You are!” said Mrs Bailey. “I’ve heard you in the street having furious rows with that cat from Number 11. You use the most terrible language, and all the kids can hear you too. They gather round and watch you two spitting and swearing at each other, and then copy every nasty word that comes out of your mouth. Why can’t you just be a bit nicer with each other and stop polluting the street with all that vile garbage?”

“It’s his fault”, said Montmorency.

“What do you mean?”

“My territory is the even numbers, from 2 down to 32. His patch is the odds, from 1 to 29. If he starts encroaching on my side of the road, he’s going to get what’s coming to him, and I’ll use what language I choose to tell him so.

“And by the way”, he continued, “Has anyone ever told you it’s time you went on a diet? You really are extremely fat”.

“I beg your pardon?”

“Pardon granted”, said Montmorency. “I always tell the truth, in every circumstance, and the truth is that you are beyond fat – you are obese. You are also incredibly ugly.”

Mrs Bailey could take no more of this and turned on her heel to storm off across the road to her own house.

Claire turned to Montmorency as she closed the door and went back her chair. “You are bad sometimes”, she said. “I do wish you weren’t quite so unpleasant to people.”

“But I’m never unpleasant to you,” said Montmorency, as he rubbed himself against her leg before jumping up onto her knee. “You’re a nice person who does exactly what I want, feeds me when I want to be fed, and lets me sleep on her lap when the need arises.”

“That’s true”, said Claire as she tickled him under the chin. “I could never be cross with you, Montmorency. You look at me in such a special way, and say all the nicest things when we’re alone.”

However, a worried look crossed her brow.

“What’s up?” said Montmorency. “Are you ill? It can’t be a furball – only cats get those.”

“No, I’m not ill”, she said. “It’s just that there are some things you can’t do for me, Montmorency, however good a cat you are. You have to understand that women like to have men in their lives as well as cats, and I don’t want you to be jealous if I bring him home and want to spend some private time with him.”

Montmorency now looked considerably less friendly.

“Is this likely to happen?” he asked in an inquisitorial tone of voice.

“Well, yes”, said Claire. “I’ve met this really nice guy named Nick. He’s asked me out this evening, and if things go well I might invite him back here for coffee.”

“Coffee?” said Montmorency. “I know what ‘coffee’ means. Coffee gets made in the kitchen and drunk in the lounge, so how come you’ve been tidying your bedroom and changing the sheets? You do that on Thursdays, not Tuesdays.”

There was silence before Montmorency spoke again.

“His name’s Nick, you say?”

“That’s right”, said Claire.

“Do I know him?” he asked.

“You might do”, said Claire. “He lives in Rushey Close, Number 12. Tall guy, with a short black beard. I bumped into him a few days ago when I was shopping at the Co-op. He reached me down a packet of pasta from a top shelf that was too high for me and we got chatting. He told me that his divorce had come through and that he was now looking for company, and suggested we might go out one night. He was really nice, so I thought why not, and …”

She continued in this vein for some time, but it was all lost on Montmorency, who had left the room and slipped out through his cat-flap shortly after the word ‘Co-op’.

It was several hours before he returned.

“Where have you been, Montmorency?” asked Claire.

“I’ve just been over to Rushey Close”, he said. “There’s a lovely little lady cat over there at Number 10 that I happen to know. I use the word ‘know’ in the same sense that you use ‘coffee’. I really hope that her owners will find good homes for all the kittens when they arrive.”

“You’ve been to 10 Rushey Close? Next door to where Nick lives?”

“That’s right. After Trixie and I had renewed our aquaintanceship we slipped across the fence to Number 12 and had a good look round.”

“A good look round?” asked Claire. “How did you manage that?”

“You pal Nick was out, but he’d left a bathroom window half-open and we soon got in. You say he’s divorced?”

“That’s right.” His wife left him for another guy. He was heart-broken.”

“When did she leave?” Montmorency asked.

“Over a year ago. He’s been on his own ever since.”

“He doesn’t have any interesting hobbies that you know about, does he?”

“What do you mean?”

“For example, he doesn’t perform as a drag artist, does he?”

Claire stared at Montmorency. “Why on Earth would you say that?” she asked.

“It’s just that the false eyelashes and lipstick that we found in the bathroom suggested that that was a possibility. But I agree with you, it’s a not a very likely scenario, especially after what Trixie found in the bedroom.”

“What do you mean?”

“She was absolutely convinced that the discarded pair of frilly knickers had last been worn by a woman, and quite recently too.”

Claire’s shocked expression told Montmorency that he had said enough. The angry phone call that followed, cancelling the evening date, was proof of this.

Before long, Montmorency was back where he wanted to be, on Claire’s lap, looking forward to his next meal.

Claire was just thankful that she had been spared a terrible disappointment at the hands of a local philanderer who would be bound to let her down when his next pretty victim came along. She remembered what Montmorency had said to Mrs Bailey, namely that he always told the truth in all circumstances.

As for Montmorency, as long as Claire went on in that belief, that was fine by him.
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Justin Very interesting
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ze2000 Probably the best articles on Tuetego, @indexer always 👌
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indexer @ze2000 That's very kind of you to say so - thanks!
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fortune I have no pet, had only in a childhood, but I remember how I used to talk with my dog. I think, the true loving pet's host recognizes what his pet want to say, is he happy, angry or want to eat, o want to go for a walk. Not only voice changes but the behavior changes too. Anyway, it was interesting to read your story again.
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indexer @fortune Thanks. I got the idea from a story written in 1911 by Saki, about a man who trains a cat to talk but then regrets it when the cat makes all sorts of embarrassing remarks in posh company!
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bee Wow. A fine read. Thank you @indexer
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Shavkat Nice article
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