That big fat cat is not mine. Mine was called Jingle Bell. I had actually named him Gingerwell after an Enid Blyton character, but when I told my friend that I got a cat and named him Gingerwell, she told me it will be a seasonal cat if I called him Jingle Bell. I did not want to correct her because then I would have to acknowledge that I liked the name Jingle Bell better and it was not my idea. It was not hers either, but that is how she is. She can be very patronising. I do not like her very much. That is why I would only telephone her for things even though I could just walk down the road as she lives quite close to my house. I think I should stop calling her ‘friend’. Yesterday, I heard my grandfather introducing someone as his acquaintance. I’ve heard grandfather call him names before. I think acquaintance means someone whom you don’t like too much, but can’t tell that out in public. So, yeah, my acquaintance.
Jingle Bell came home on a January morning. We found him under the water tank whimpering and that big fat cat over the wall screeching at him. There is that wet mop against the wall, no? My brother picked that mop and whacked him off the wall. We were happy he hit him and we heard him yelp loudly as he fell off. That big fat cat is a troublesome one. It had done quite a few damages in our house when we used to let him in. Now, every time we see him on our wall, we pick those stones by the windowsill and throw it at the stupid big fat cat. Those stones are kept there for this cat.
At first, we didn’t notice Jingle Bell because after that racket that big cat made, his whimpers seemed like those coming from the water pump motor. He was huddled under one of those bricks that was holding the tank up. My brother grew suspicious of another being in our tiny garden. We went close to the source of the sound. Oh, what joy we felt when we saw a little kitten there! He was quite daring for a kitten because he quickly jumped onto my brother’s hand when he extended it. We were surprised because he clearly didn’t get along with his kind, but he seemed glad around us.
Our grandfather said we couldn’t have him sleeping in the frying pan, which we made comfortable with old towels, fabric scraps and some of my brother’s old underclothes. My brother wasn’t very keen on letting those go because he had his Superman underwear amongst them. When grandfather explained how we needed the pan to fry the fish for the new kitten, we let the pan go for an old shoebox. My brother was also pleased because we didn’t need to cushion the box so much as cardboard is softer than the pan. So, he got to keep his underwear. I was a little annoyed at my brother’s relief in getting his underwear back because earlier on we had promised to grandfather that we would not keep our selfish interests above Jingle Bell’s concerns.
Now, look here. Grandfather had already told us that cats are very location animals and they were not like dogs that were more loving. Cats were only looking for food and shelter and bank on humans for that. He said that the big cat and his friends probably wanted to eat Jingle Bell and Jingle Bell came for shelter here because he knew that he was just a kitten and he could get killed easily out there on the streets. I kept telling grandfather that he was such a good storyteller the way he expected us to believe all of that. Then we told grandfather that we would show Jingle Bell love and affection. Then grandfather made us promise that we would show love and affection to each other also, so that Jingle Bell would see it in our family and learn it from us. That is why I was irritated with my brother and his stupid underwear, but wouldn’t you be too? I didn’t want to show it in front of Jingle Bell.
Grandfather was a little edgy with the kitten in the house. He made us place the shoe box right outside the window in a way that Jingle Bell couldn’t climb into the house but we could see and pet him from inside. A little cumbersome, I tell you. Our hands got stuck in the window grill often. It cut in places and once my brother’s hand got stuck and Jingle Bell kept scratching him and he kept crying out for help. I had to hurry out with butter, move the little kitty that had gone mad with its scratching frenzy, smear butter all over his hands and ease my brother’s hand off. I needn’t have used the butter at all but it made me feel like I knew what I was doing.
We cut out breathing holes in the shoebox because at night we used to shut the lid of the box, otherwise the big fat cat and his nasty friends would pick him in the night and go off. My brother and I would sit by the box and feed him boiled fish and rice and chicken. We found it surprising that he never meowed. We were convinced that this kitty was actually a puppy and that’s why he couldn’t get along with other cats. I even stitched a collar for Jingle Bell, but it seems he had some feline instincts left. He ripped it apart in no time. Seeing that, I decided against stitching a shirt for him. Also, I didn’t know how to stitch a shirt.
When school reopened, it was very difficult to sit in the class because all day I would be thinking of Jingle Bell. When we came back from school, he would not come near us. Sometimes he never ate any of the rice we left for him, but he would finish off the fish and chicken pieces. Once he even scratched my hand when I went to pet his belly. And he used to love having his belly petted! One day, my brother and I went up to grandfather and told him that we wanted to skip school and stay with him all day because Jingle Bell was going back to his selfish cat ways as we weren’t around to show him love and affection. Grandfather replied curtly that he was around to do just that and we couldn’t miss classes. I wondered why he couldn’t see that his love and affection clearly had no influence on Jingle Bell.
I think it was after three weeks that Jingle Bell left us. He didn’t tell us he was off or anything. He just left. One morning I woke up, went outside to the shoe box, woke Jingle Bell out of his sleep, scratched his ears and belly for half an hour, got shooed back into the house, came back to feed him, and went to get ready for school. Just as I was rushing out, I saw his box empty and I looked around our small kitchen garden. He was nowhere! I asked grandfather to come out and find him or I might miss the school bus. Immediately, grandfather came running out to chase me out of the house. I did not think much of the incident all through school till I reached back and saw that the kitten had not returned to its box. When I asked grandfather, he said he didn’t see him all day. Well, there was a lot of screaming that ensued. Grandfather kept saying it was just a stray cat. Just a stray cat, can you believe? Then, we took our bicycles, my brother and I, and went to the nearby garbage dump yard where the other cats lived. We saw at least three Jingle Bells there and all of them meowed at us. Resigned, we went back home to grandfather and the empty cat-smelling shoe box.
I cried for a day after Jingle Bell left us. Grandfather kept saying that cats were location animals and that he must have left to other better locations. As if the dumping yard was a better location! My acquaintance telephoned to say that the cat had overstayed its time because we were closing in on Easter. We were not; there was at least a good month left. Finally, after a week I was beginning to feel a little lighter because now my brother and I could fight like before and we didn’t have to pretend any more love and affection.
I was saying that that big fat cat on the wall is not ours. I don’t like cats much. Maybe a dog would be nice, but cats are really just location animals. Now, would you pass me one of those big smooth stones from the windowsill, please?
The dream of every writer is to be read. And to be read and appreciated by as many people as possible. BWW makes that dream a reality.
BWW Star is a writer who has worked with us at BWW and whose work amused, moved, inspired, and/or made a difference in our lives. We are sure you will enjoy and be encouraging too.
Rency Philip, from the second batch of BWW, is a theatre person who is truly every author’s dream reader. She fills in the gaps an author would have made and is happy with all the stories that are ever told. At BWW, we have come to call such empathetic reading as “doing a Rency” in her honour. As a writer, she writes deliciously twisted stories with a fine juxtaposition of innocence and evil.
About Rency Philip
Rency Philip works in theatre as an actor, playwright, costume designer and stage manager. She has acted in a couple of short movies too. She writes short stories that are yet to come out of her moldy shelves and smell the coffee. In her free time, she sews misshapen clothing and wonders which of her directors she can dupe into using those as costumes. Other times, she can be found pottering around paints and brushes that she has no business with. Friends and family hide away their household items in the fear that she may convert them into ‘utilitarian art’. When she is not acting or writing or painting or sewing, she is teaching schoolchildren how to while away time under the pretext of drama. These days she is joining paws with her two-month-old kitten to consider clowning as an alternate profession when she found that children are much more engaging as an audience than their older counterparts.
Encourage our BWW Star
How did you like this story about Jingle Bell? Leave us a comment.