01 January 1970
#WeekendReads

Short Story: The Lady And Her Umpteen Cats

‘Sometimes, the felines’ earnest endeavors would even go in vain as the ailing lady would end up burying her face in her hands,’ writes Hina Fatima Khan in a heartwarming short story.

Short Story: The Lady And Her Umpteen Cats
Short Story: The Lady And Her Umpteen Cats Shutterstock

As motes of dust danced and gleamed through the window panes of this big house, the lady in her mid-60s woke up to breathe the new hope that each morning begets.

A sense of gloom pervades the air here, this emptiness and her umpteen cats have been the only boon companion to the lady. Her penchant for the felines seems never-ending but she could not enjoy them up until now as her husband loathed even their sight. Only now she is realizing their warmth and company.

The walls look bleak, and this iciness can unnerve any passerby. The unruffled look on the lady's face is just a facade. She has to keep it to get going in life. All she has now is her cats. After recovering from an acute bodily illness, the lady is hardly able to move around this big house. All her work is looked after by a maidservant who exits the house at the hit of dusk — the time when the discoloration of this house turns darker, only katydids and crickets sing to her. That's when she craves a companion. But the lady is never alone in this wooden four-poster bed, her umpteen cats occupy most of this space; throughout the nights’ the lady rests her head in the felines' soft fur.

After the death of her husband from a deadly virus, the cats have wiped her tears, from dining to whining, they do it all together. The armorial trophies still shining on the windowsill manifest the lady's love for her late husband. This yearning never fades, only these cats give vitality to this large a house where even feeble gleams of hope seldom reach.

The pallid rays of morning sun frequent the windows of her large despondent abode. Quivering and trepidation have never left the old lady’s side since her husband passed away. All this frailty continues to breed even more despair leading to an unnamed malady. All she could offer was mere ‘nervous warmth’ and ‘affection’ to her umpteen cats.

Most of the day is occupied by the scenes of cats trilling to allay her pain and general fears.

Sometimes, the felines’ earnest endeavors would even go in vain as the ailing lady would end up burying her face in her hands followed by wailing; her deceased husband was more of a brute, he never liked the sight of cats around. Until his last breath, the lady could either enjoy her husband or the cats.

The lady’s cats would often clean Gossamer off the plants by licking all the white webs. But now, she feels no desire to dust the house or clean it, all she does and want is just her boon companions — the umpteen cats. No sirens or prayer calls could ever wake the lady up, yet despite her husband’s dislike, she sleeps with a secret yearning every night, which pertains to the wish to join her husband in heaven. But then the lady also wants the cats to accompany her there too, in the Eden. Would it ever be possible?

(Hina Fatima Khan is a multimedia journalist.)