November 27th – Wilted White Whiskers
In human years, White Whiskers was 128 years old. Which made him, at an estimate, 832 cat years old. Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately for him, White Whiskers had been dead for the last 114 years, having died, been mourned and then inexpertly stuffed in a hectic three weeks just after the turn of the century, somewhere between the original Bloomsday and the opening of the St. Louis Olympics.
White Whiskers had, in turn, been Elsie’s cat, while alive, then Mother’s cat, Grandmother’s Cat, Great-grandmother’s cat, and now his care, such as it was, had passed to Louise. White Whiskers was Louise’s cat.
Louise didn’t really want the cat. She wasn’t the biggest fan of cats when they were alive, but this one, 114 years dead, with its remaining three eponymous whiskers wedged into unfeasible spots on its cheeks, the hint of sawdust whenever it was so much as touched, and the unfortunate effects of gravity (and stuffing) on an already prodigious stomach, combined to make something definitely unsavoury.
“Your Great-grandmother left him to you. So you’ve got to look after White Whiskers.”
Louise’s mother knew she had dodged a bullet. She had always dreaded visits to her Grandmother’s as a child, wary of, and then embarrassed by, her Grandmother’s habit of addressing questions to the off-white former creature, and then pausing, as if in expectation of a reply. So, while she shared her daughter’s revulsion of the object, she stressed family loyalty and the respecting of wishes, just in case her daughter ever considered returning it to her care.
So Louise was stuck with it.
She’d put the thing in many places around the house, but none seemed to fit, until, after a visit from the girls and a lot of wine, someone made the suggestion that White Whiskers looked quite regal next to the fire, and so, with a hint of sawdust and some delicate readjustment, White Whiskers was a lion, sentinel, guarding the fireplace, and by extension, the house.
Or he was.
Because last night Louise fell asleep with the fire blazing, with far too many logs to die down in any great hurry. It had been a cold day, a hint of snow in the air, and the fire had been on all day. All day, and most of the night.
And in his place of honour, too close to the heat of the fire, White Whiskers had wilted. At first. Wilted, then swelled, then burst, then collapsed. Whiskerless, White Whiskers was nothing more than a sad pelt of a very off-white. Louise was going to have some explaining to do.
Inspired by a prompt from here