Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By: Michal Reiben

Nia ushers the reporter into her sitting room.

“Please sit down, make yourself comfortable.”

“Thank you.”

He drags a wicker chair towards the table and perches himself on its edge, places his tape recorder on the glass top of the table, and switches it on. For a moment he glances at the blooming Cycomen plant standing on a raffia doilie in the middle of the table and then turns his full attention to Nia. She has seated herself down in a soft, bague armchair on the other side of the table and is biting her nails.

“Nia as I explained to you over the telephone I’m interested in writing an article as to how your landlord died.  Can you please tell me what you remember from the day you found him dead.”

 “Errrrr… when I arrived home from work and saw Abel lying on the ground at the bottom of the stairs I got am awful shock. He had a bleeding gash on his head, and his body looked limp. What struck me as creepy was how his six cats were sitting around him.”

“What did you think had happened to him?”

“Since he was ninety years old, and suffered from Parkinson I thought he had stumbled and fallen down the stairs. I hurried over to him to check his pulse, and upon finding none I assumed he was dead.”

“Did he love his cats?”

“Yes he adored his cats but even so he would never let them indoors because he had a phobia of insects and was worried his house would become flea-infested. To compensate them several times a day he’d sit on the stairs running down to the entrance gate of the building to stroke them and on his veranda, he’d organized six padded boxes for each of his cats. In the winter he’d even place hot water bottles in their beds. Also, he spoilt them with all sorts of delicious cat food.”  

“What happened after that?”

“I arranged for an ambulance to come and take his body away, then after a day or so his two children who lived in America flew over to arrange his funeral. At first, they thought their father’s death was an unfortunate accident. Although later when they were notified by a lawyer as to the contents of his will they became suspicious and thought that maybe he’d been murdered?”

“Why? What was written in his will?”

“You have to understand his two apartments, the one he’d lived in and the one he’d rented to me are in the best street in Jerusalem, together they’re worth about six million dollars. Naturally, his two children thought he’d leave everything to them although it turned out he’d left the flat I was renting to me; but only on the condition that I take care of his cats. In his will, he’d explained why he’d come to this decision by writing: ‘Ever since my son and daughter immigrated to America they’ve completely neglected me, they’ve never once written or called me or come over to visit. My tenant Nia on the other hand checks in on me every day to see if I’m alright, or if there’s anything I need and she invites me over to celebrate the various holidays with her.’

His flat, the one he’d occupied he’d left to his six cats, and upon their death, the flat would then go to a cat sanctuary. Can you imagine that? Leaving a three-million-dollar house to cats?”

“What did her children do?”

“They suspected me of pushing him down the stairs and so they lodged a complaint at the local police station.”

“Were you interrogated?”

“Yes, I felt awful. I explained to the police that I’d had no idea Abel was leaving the flat to me and I begged them to search the area for surveillance cameras to prove my innocence. Well, it’s a pretty prestigious area and luckily nearly all the houses do have surveillance.”

“And what did the Police discover?”

“On one of the neighbor’s surveillance cameras, they were astonished to see that four of Abel’s cats had leaped up onto him from behind in unison and caused him to topple down the steps.”

“How astonishing!”

“Yes it was, the police didn’t know what to think. Eventually, they ask a veterinary as to his opinion? He explained that cats are neither cunning enough or smart enough to purposely kill a human being and that most likely they had simply been delighted to see Abel.”

“Wow, what a strange story. What do you think? Did Abel’s cats want to hurt him?”

“Well, this winter weather is harsh. At night the temperature plummets to well below freezing and the cat’s hot water bottles would soon have become cold. Who knows, maybe they were angry at Abel because he wouldn’t let them into his house out of the bitter cold? His children were adamant, said the cats were dangerous and should be put to sleep. They also said their father was a crazy old man and they intended to contest his will.”

“If they do, the case will be dragged through the courts for anything between ten to fifteen years and will cost them a pretty penny and I doubt they’ll win. By the way, do you like cats?”

“Yes, I’ve got two cats of my own, that’s the main reason Arbel and I were such good friends.”

“Nia, are you frightened the cats might also decide to  bounce on you one day?”

“I have to admit I’m a trifle nervous, but I’m quite a lot younger and healthier then Abel was. Besides now that they’ve got the flat all to themselves, I hope they won’t have a reason to. Although one can never know what  goes on in cat’s minds they’re independent, selfish creatures?”

“Nia thank you so much for telling me your errr…unique story. I’ll let you know as soon as it comes out in print,” said the reporter and he switches off his tape recorder.

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