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The Tallywacker Chapter 6
The sixth episode in the weekly serial
from the fountain pen of Alexandra R. Nyfors
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Mr. Hibbert and the Cat

Mr. Hibbert was not sanguine when the cat joined the household. Although he
had felt that it might possibly be a good idea to get a dog, since golfing
didn’t appeal to him, a cat was strictly beyond his ken. In fact, the entire
concept of his wife paying that much attention to another creature seemed to
him to be a regression to the period before his children had moved out. This
was an eventuality that appalled him.

This particular cat simply ignored Mr. H’s “cat not welcome” vibes and
parked himself outside the kitchen door until his wife fed him. At first it
was simply table scraps, but the week that a food and water bowl appeared in
the kitchen, Virginia announced that the cat had a name. Although he would
personally never have named a living creature something like Smidgen, it
mattered not. Mr. Hibbert knew it was all over.

He and the cat, which turned out to be a half-grown kitten, maintained a
sort of armed truce for the next three years. After an initial contretemps,
the cat stayed out of his office and out of his way, while he forbore trying
to expel the little monster at every opportunity. During the first six
months however, the animal doubled in size, and was really no longer
“little” in any regard.
Mr. Hibbert did not give up easily though. He fought a rearguard action
against the cat staying in the house at night, against the cat being allowed
on the living room furniture, against the cat getting the all-natural cat
food that was so incredibly pricey. While she said “Yes dear,” as dutifully
as he could wish, there was a conspicuous lack of results from Virginia.

As to the cat (who developed from a weedy, long-legged, tawny, fleabitten
item with a runny nose into a very large and exceedingly sleek red tom cat)
he simply ignored any directives from Mr. H as if there was a vacuum in the
position from whence they issued.

When Virginia decided to work on Saturdays, Carl and Smidgen found
themselves cohabiting alone for the entire day. The first Saturday they
regarded each other balefully across the kitchen in the morning. Mr. H
retired to his office while the cat disappeared into his wife’s sewing room.
It was acceptable.
Today was Saturday. Once again Mr. H was faced with a cold and cheerless
lunch left in the fridge at the crack of dawn. He also had to make his own
coffee, which was annoying. Although he would never let her know it,
Virginia’s coffee always came out much better than his own, which was
scandalous since she didn’t drink coffee.

Sitting in his office, unhappy at the prospect, he found himself now faced
with a further conundrum. The cat was sitting in his office doorway, staring
at him.
After trying to ignore the feline for a few minutes, he was forced to
respond.
“What?” he asked accusingly, eyeing the cat.

Smidgen flicked one ear slightly and turned its back on him.

“Stupid creature,” Mr. H muttered, going back to the journal he’d been
reading. The cat flicked its tail tip but did not move.

“You know, I don’t care what she thinks. I can’t believe that you have a
soul. Cats don’t go to heaven. It’s ridiculous,” Mr. H said to the cat’s
back.

Smidgen’s tail began to sweep back and forth in a full-blown gesture of
irritation.

“I didn’t do anything to you!” Mr. H insisted. The cat looked briefly back
at him over one shoulder, then settled into a prone position. The tail tip
continued to twitch.

Carl tried to conectrate on his journal. It was hard to keep up with all the
publications his engineers insisted were critical, and he used his Saturdays
to skim the cream. This one was important because one of his people was a
co-author on an article, and he was going to have to be able to discuss it.

Unfortunately, he couldn’t concentrate. No matter what he did, he was aware
of the twitching tail-tip. After reading the article abstract three times he
gave up in disgust and stood up. The cat did likewise, still looking
irritable.
They walked to the kitchen, Smidgen leading the way. Once there, he poised
himself by his empty food bowl and let loose with one of his hideous bawls.

“I don’t feed cats,” Mr. H said. “You should be out catching mice, not
bothering me.”

He got his own lunch out of the refrigerator.

The cat, sitting by his bowl, insisted several more times that he would be
fed, and to be right smart about it too.

“She’ll feed you when she gets home,” Mr. H said haughtily and carried his
lunch to the dining room table with ill grace. He could feel the cat’s eyes
on his back.

At least, he though, eating, the cat had enough sense not to keep bothering
him. He didn’t know where it had gone, but clearly it was intelligent enough
to figure out that there was no change to be had from him! Mr. H was vaguely
pleased with himself for the smart way he had repudiated the demands of the
scurrilous beast.

After taking his plate to the sink and making a wholly unsatisfactory cup of
coffee for himself, he retired to his office to “read” which usually meant
to take a nice nap.

The stench smote him at the doorway. He wasn’t sure what it was at first.
After all, there had never been a litter-box in the house. Mrs. H had
installed on in the garage and put a cat door in between the garage and the
house. From the first, Smidgen had been well-behaved. There had never been
an accident.

Nor was this an accident. This was surely in the nature of retaliation. But
where was it?

Gritting his teeth and being extra-careful where he put his feet on the
patterned oriental carpet, which was wonderfully concealing, he searched the
office cursorily. His emper was not improved by noticing the cat sitting in
the doorway, watching him with what was undoubtedly a look of supercilious
importunity.

“You!” Carl fumed. “You dirty beast! Where did you put it?”

Smidgen vouchsafed no reply. Carl could have sworn that he was smiling. It
was simply too much.

“You just wait!” he said. “You’re going to have to find a new home, you,
you, you…” At last, inarticulate with rage, he reverted to an oft-said
phrase from the past. “Just wait ‘til your mother gets home!”

He looked all over the floor, even into the corners of the room. He looked
in the potted plants. He looked under his desk. He looked under and behind
the bookcases, although he couldn’t see how a cat the size of this one could
get behind them.

The lurking turd was nowhere to be found.

Before sitting down he looked closely at the seat of his desk chair. The
smell kept wafting in fresh waves at him. Just when he would think he was
used to it, some faint stir of air would waft a new assault on his senses.
He couldn’t rest; couldn’t read. Neither, of course, could he leave. After
all, the cat was still sitting in the doorway, watching him with that damned
smug look on his face.

One of his desk drawers was ajar. With growing horror he realized that he
couldn’t remember whether he had left it so. Could the cat open drawers? It
was the drawer with the household bills and records in it. Slowly, dreading
what he would find, he opened the drawer. There was nothing there but
papers.

The cat now took his leave, having apparently gloated enough for one
sitting.

Carl immediately took the opportunity to search the room once more, this
time getting down on his knees and having a good close look at cat’s eye
level. While the smell continued fierce, once again he was thwarted.

Finally he decided that at the very least he had to get out of the house for
awhile. Smelling something like this for hours on end could not be good for
his health. Sitting down in his desk chair, he slid his stockinged feet into
his loafers.

He became aware of a sensation of dampness on his left foot.

“Good Christ!” he cried, as the possibility that he had found the itinerant
deposit became a probability. Why, he thought, he had even picked up his
shoes and moved them when searching. Had he touched anything? He stared at
his hands in suspicion.

But what to do now? If he took off his shoe he’d have to walk with his
smeared sock to the back door where he could exit to the garbage can.
Unthinkable to put this in a garbage can in the house. But if he took his
sock off too, surely his foot would be equally soiled. The only thing to do,
it seemed, was to walk in his loafers to the kitchen, through it, and out
the back door. But could he do it?

The thought of walking in his shoes, feeling the stuff squidging about his
foot was disturbing enough, but the thought that really made him shudder was
the idea of it working its way around his toes. And that brought up another
problem. How was he to get his foot clean enough to come back into the
house?
He was flummoxed. Impulsively he decided to call his wife at the store and
ask her opinion, only to put the phone down with the number half-dialed. She
’d surely tell everyone. He could hear the laughter now. He checked the
clock. It would be fully another four hours before she was home.

Well, he couldn’t sit with his foot in shit for four hours, he reflected. On
the other hand, at least his foot seemed to be blocking most of the odor.

At length, trying not to think about it, he got up and limed from his desk
to the hall. The cat appeared at the end of that dim aisle, staring at him
with bemusement.

“You!” Carl spat, utterly at a loss for words.

Standing there baffled, he remembered the hose in the back yard. In these
days of water shortages it was rarely used, but surely it was still there.
Smidgen walked him to the back door and exited with him. At the garbage can,
Mr. Hibbert pulled his shoe off and then stripped the sock off with his
fingertips, holding only the very top of the ankle. Reflecting that they had
been damned expensive loafers which had only just stopped hurting his little
toes, he dropped both regretfully into the can.

As he’d expected, his foot was besmirched. It was totally disgusting.

The hose beckoned him from the garage wall. But upon setting his bare foot
down on the dry grass of their parched back yard, he became aware that the
ground was hot and the grass was sharp.

“Ow!” he cried, lifting his foot rather more quickly than he had put it
down.

Standing on one leg, he steeled himself for what must come. Then, he
proceeded with a curious hopping motion to cross the back yard. Perforce, if
he was not to fall down, he had to put his bare foot down occasionally.
Crossing the cement path proved to be even more painful than the grass and
dirt, and he began to swear fluently and loudly as he felt his caked foot
bake against the pebbled embedded there.

At last he reached the garage. He picked up the sun-soaked hose. It too had
absorbed a tremendous amount of radiant energy, and he immediately dropped
it again. “Ow ow ow! Oh HELL!” he cried. Turning on the water would probably
cool it, but the spigot itself was brass baked in the sun, and it required
some courage to work up to the event.

By now he was sweating all over, hot and uncomfortable, his foot caked in
cat doo and stinking. But he persevered, like the brave man he was; and in
spite of the feeling that the spigot would be branded onto the palm of his
hand, he turned on the water. He was rewarded with a tepid flow of water
that trickled from the hose.

After waiting for a few minutes, mostly balanced precariously on one leg
like a fat bald stork, he picked up the hose and began washing. He had to
spray his foot to get the stuff off and put his foot over his other knee to
get the bottom of it. During the process, he got water in his shoe and both
his pants legs wet from the knees down.

At this point the volume of his swearing brought forth a neighbor to look
over the fence.

“You got a problem?” the neighbor asked laconically.

“Blasted CAT!” Carl yelled in his general direction.

The neighbor, a young man whose odiferous smoking habits had been a great
worry to Carl and Virginia during their children’s adolescence, nodded.

“You gotta watch that, man,” he said, apropos of nothing in particular, and
disappeared again.

Returning to the house in a continued hop, thoroughly wet and with a temper
hotter than the cement back stoop, Carl removed his remaining shoe, sock and
pants.

The cat was sitting in the doorway to the kitchen. It now raised its voice
in a querulous demand once more.

“And if I don’t?” he asked.

The tail began to twitch again.

“This is blackmail. I won’t have it.” But he was beaten, and he knew it. God
only knew what else the filthy beast had in mind for him. Clad only in his
shirtsleeves and his boxers, he was forced to go into the kitchen and
provide food for the creature.

Three and a half hours later, Virginia pulled her car into the drive and
ccame bustling in through the kitchen door, where she found his pants, one
shoe, and a sock on the floor. All were wet.

Mr. H, whose foot was now itching madly from being soaked in an entire
bottle-full of antibacterial liquid soap, greeted her with a look of
thunder.

“That cat!” he began, before she could say a word. “That cat shat in my
shoe!”

“Goodness,” she said, unfazed. “What had you done to him?”

“I put my foot in it!” he protested.

“Oh well, I hope you washed it off. That’s not very sanitary you know.”

Speechless, Carl retired to his office, where the smell had nearly
dissipated.


 

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Legal stuff: Please do not print, copy or distribute this without prior
permission from the author. All rights reserved. Copyright © 2001 Alexandra R.
Nyfors. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.

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