Christmas was coming and the only thing I had to look forward to was saying goodbye to the house I’d lived and loved in for twenty years, and moving in with my old mother, an irascible lady of ‘erratic’ tendencies and appearance.
As the removal lorry drove off, I went into my old teaching studio and gazed around at the empty walls, so recently filled with sketches and paintings. Twenty years. That’s how long it’d taken me to build up my art teaching business, working in schools and colleges part-time and teaching late into the night in my studio. Then two years ago, Lorraine, my wife, my ‘other half’ supposedly, had left me for her gym trainer, ten years younger than her. Without her additional income I’d struggled against mounting debts and finally, unable to afford the place any longer, thrown in the towel.
I reminisced over some of the talented students I’d taught as I collected some cases of things I didn’t trust to the removal men. I took them out to my little Volkswagen Passat, and closed and locked the studio door for the last time. With a sick feeling in my stomach, I posted the keys through the letterbox. The estate agents would take over now.
I heard a ‘miaow’ and saw Midas, a semi-feral cat who had hung around for the last couple of years. He would venture into the kitchen on occasion to feed from a bowl of scraps I’d sometimes put down for him. ‘Goodbye Midas, I’ll miss you,” I said, surprised to find that I meant it. Unexpectedly, he followed me to the car. I opened a rear door. He took a long, lingering sniff at the sill, then suddenly jumped onto the back seat and curled up. Hmm!
Mother hated animals. “Pets are parasites,” she’d say, and, “vets just want to rip you off.” She’d say she felt sorry for people with pets. “They’ve no-one to love or who loves them, so they have to resort to animals.” There wasn’t much point in arguing. She was always right.
Once ensconced at mother’s, I’d found Midas to be good company, he’d even progressed to sleeping on my bed, much to mother’s annoyance. “He’ll ruin all the bedspreads with cat hair!”
One day some Jehovah’s Witnesses came calling. Mother had no time for religion (or anything spiritual for that matter) and gave them short shrift. I was watching from my bedroom window when suddenly Midas sauntered round the corner towards them and sat grooming himself.
“Good heavens, do you see those markings?” said one.
“I do indeed, praise be!” The other man fished out a smartphone and took some photos of Midas, who continued grooming, unconcerned. “You don’t mind?” he asked mother, still standing in the doorway.
“Be my guest,” she snorted. “Wretched animal!”
The following day a large black car rolled up and an equally black minister of some obscure church got out. He wore gold rings on his fat fingers and was attended by a lackey carrying a casket. Mother scurried out.
“Good day madam,” said the minister.
“Good day sir,” Mother replied obsequiously. “Can I help you?”
“Well, I was wondering if you would accept an offer for your cat?”
Mother almost collapsed with shock. “What?” She regained composure. “Did I hear you correctly sir?”
“Well madam, your cat’s markings form an almost perfect image of our Lord and Saviour on his, er, rump!”
“Wha-?.. Y-yes, that’s right!”
“And our congregation is very, I say, extremely keen, madam, to welcome him to our church.” Almost as an afterthought, he added, “And we do have a bit of a problem with mice.”
“Good work, Carol, that holly and mistletoe drawing’s coming along nicely,” I said.
Carol closed her sketchpad, smiled sweetly, and brushed her long blonde hair back with one hand. I opened the door of my new studio, paid for by the good minister. At the door she hesitated, “I, um, don’t suppose you’d like to come and see some of my work, it’s not much, just some old oils and drawings I did at art school.”
“That’d be lovely, I’d really like that,” I said. Praise the Lord!
Featured in the book, To Cut a Short Story Short: 111 Little Stories
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