The Old Lady With the Cats: Conclusion.

by | Apr 1, 2024 | Uncategorized | 1 comment

“Yes. Can you believe it? His grandad knew your grandad,”

“You brought it. All the way here,” she whispered as if she didn’t want her feline companions to hear.

“Yes,” he replied simply. Placing the book on the table.

“He wrote in it?” She continued, picking it up.

“Every page,” he said, a lump forming in his throat, “Until.”

She didn’t catch the last word and turned the tiny key in the clasp. Lifting the cover, she peeped at the pages through the lenses of her tears. One dropped onto the first page, and the ink came back to life, diffusing into the clear droplet as if it was meant to. It obliterated the middle of a word, her name, leaving the first and last words; O—a. 

“I can’t believe he remembered. The Little Prince too.” There was a tremble in her previously impeccable cadence. She held the book to her chest. Kenzie watched as the years dropped away from her features; for a brief moment, she was the young flower seller.

Suddenly, a large cat with an abundance of downy fur, jumped onto her knee. It rubbed against her hands which were still gripping the volume. 

“Kenzie, meet Simba. He’s my house cat. Or I should say I am his house human.” Her tear stained face radiated with paradoxical humour. A rare sight indeed, he pondered. “He is also a grandson like you. “

“Really?” For the second time he was reduced to a single word response.

“Yes. Can you believe it? His grandad knew your grandad,” she replied stroking the giant fur ball. Its eyes were as bright and clear as the woman’s. “Unlike the others, he doesn’t go out. I won’t let him. Here, he’s a king. Out there, he’d be, how do you say? Fair game?”

“Yes. I know how he feels. My home town is very bad now. I hardly ever venture out. It took very special circumstances to come here, and the encouragement of my other grandad.”

“Yes, he’s a good man. Your grandad was always telling me.” she responded, gently lowering the cat to the floor. She looked sad at the man’s accurate and pragmatic assessment of the situation.

“I forgot to ask. How are you finding it? Egypt, I mean,” she asked.

“To be honest, I’ve been surviving on adrenaline. This is the best thing I’ve tasted since I left home.” He shoved a whole khak in his mouth and washed it down with a mouthful of tea.

“Well, it is beige.” They both collapsed in fits of laughter. Kenzie looked at his watch.

“I must go now. I have a flight this evening but I have some business to attend to first.” He felt his face flush as he thought of the flower seller and she seemed to notice.

“I see, handsome lad,” she smiled and tapped the side of her nose with her finger. “Will you pass my regards onto your grandad? I miss him a lot.” Suddenly Kenzie’s face folded in like the pages of the book. He closed his eyes briefly and took a deep breath.

“I’m afraid I can’t do that,” he rasped tears forming in his huge brown eyes.

“Oh, I see. Does he not want to hear from me?” The woman replied, her expression darkening. She wasn’t prepared for his answer.

“I’m afraid he passed away two weeks ago.” He got up to leave, his whole world in turmoil in the presence of reality. “That was his final wish,” he concluded, nodding at the book. The woman dropped it and got up from her knees. Her head was level with his chest. She wrapped her arms around him and squeezed the air from his lungs. They held the stance for several minutes and eventually he reciprocated. Their sobs heaved in unison like an abstract love scene. Eventually the man pulled away and the hostess took his place on the sofa. She picked up the book and began to read, seeming to forget he was there.

Mae alsalama,” he said, making for the door. She snapped out of her trance and turned to face him.

“Safe journey and good luck with the flower girl. Life’s too short to dwell on the negative. Alsalama mae,” she added and turned back to the book. Three cats dashed through the door as he opened it. He returned to the spot where the girl had been and was relieved to see her still there.

“Hello again. I have a proposition for you,” greeted the young woman.

“I see, and what is this grand enterprise? Are you alright? There’s something wrong with your eyes,” she responded, frowning.

“Oh, it’s the dust. I think I’m allergic. May I?” He reached for the basket which she gave up readily. “I’ll buy the flowers, we’ll sell them together then split the profit. You’re underselling yourself.”

“You think you can beat me at my own game?” She laughed and tried to take it back.

“Give me one chance. I’m sure we can earn enough for shawarma for two with some left over,” he countered. “The station is full of Americans and Europeans.”

“One chance, that’s all you have,” she retorted. Kenzie thought of his grandad’s words. ‘You only get one chance. Take it’  The couple strolled off towards the station chatting as if they’d known each other forever.

The old lady turned the pages, tears streaming down her face. With each leaf, a cat left the house until, as she turned the last page, she was left with Simba on her lap. The cat purred softly and she breathed in time to the sound. Until both stopped permanently. One chance.

1 Comment

  1. Kenneth Childs

    Touching

    Reply

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