I’ve made a few changes to this story which I wrote several years ago. The essence of it is true but I have change details to anonymise it.
Henry inherited the old lodge from his elderly parents; he was in his seventies, but they were heading towards their centenaries, in fact within touching distance of the Queen’s congratulatory telegram by only a few months, when first one, then the other slipped off the perch as his irreverent sister Molly expressed it. Molly wasn’t hard-hearted but was practical and saw that her old folks were really ready to go. Their departure was peaceful, gentle, and the family, though sad accepted their bereavement.
The old lodge was not only indeed old, but it was utterly decrepit; the old couple had been as careful with their money as it was possible to be, and the house was virtually falling down and the garden was a tangled wilderness. The large house to which the lodge had been the gatehouse, had been converted into flats many years ago, and semi-detached houses and a few bungalows built in the grounds.
Molly wanted to sell the lodge as it was, to get rid of it and realise some capital. She thought Henry was deluded to imagine it could be renovated and repaired and then sold for a vast sum, especially as Henry was so fussy and particular no developer or builder would ever be satisfactory, even if any would take it on. She knew there was no mileage in arguing with her brother so, after giving him the advice ‘Move in, or move on, Henry‘, she took her husband on a year long world tour with part of her inheritance.
Henry didn’t believe in new technology, and Molly was having too good a time too try to keep in touch. She barely thought of Henry at all on a camel trek in Uzbekistan riding a Bactrian camel she called Demetrius who she planned to buy and have shipped back to Suffolk. Later they were thrilled riding the Ghan across the Outback and finally trekking in Peru.
When Molly, husband and eventually Demetrius the camel returned, Henry was still struggling in the old lodge. Their parents had been hoarders and he was of a similar ilk, so when Molly and husband visited, the old place looked very little different from a year ago. To be fair, it had been difficult for Henry; he lived in King’s Lynn so the journey back and forth to deepest Suffolk wasn’t that easy. Molly and husband, and now Demetrius, lived on the coast at Caister, plenty of sand for camel riding, but reluctantly she took it on herself to try and help. However, her life was busy, she and her husband were active souls, and now with Demetrius to exercise regularly she couldn’t go over to the Lodge that often.
“I’m very worried about Myrtle,” Henry told her when they rendezvoused for the first time at the Lodge.
Molly perked up – had Henry got himself a girlfriend at last?
No, in a way it was even more surprising; Henry was a life-long misotherist – so Molly’s husband said, an animal-hater, it had been an answer in the crossword, and he’d rather liked it. So to Molly and husband’s amazement, Myrtle was, it seemed a feral cat. Henry had taken to feeding it, coming back to the lodge all the way from King’s Lynn more frequently because of Myrtle.
Henry’s worry was the travelling he had to do; he hoped that Molly would take over some responsibility for Myrtle.
“Certainly not, and I don’t believe she even is a stray, she looks far too well-fed. We’re far too busy, especially now we have Demetrius.”
“Call the RSPCA or the PDSA or the Cats Protection League or someone, Henry old chap!” suggested Molly’s husband.
They were firm and not persuaded, but when they returned the following week, husband with his strimmer, his lopper, and his hedge cutter to try and make some progress in the wilderness, Molly with several rolls of bin bags to secretly clear some of the rubbish in the house, Henry had a plan. He only needed their help, they didn’t have to do anything except to be there and shut a door when he asked.
He had come armed with a big cat cage, replete with cushions and blankets, and a supply of cat food. His idea was to open the French windows into the dining room and lure Myrtle in with a trail of cat food. He’d got her some salmon and some venison, he thought the extra luxury of it would work the magic required to get her into the dining room and into the cage. Molly’s husband’s face was a picture, but he restrained himself and said nothing except to ask why they didn’t get Myrtle into the old garage, the old shed, the old out-buildings, even the old summerhouse – why the dining room?
Henry confessed he had tried getting her into the outbuildings, but she just ate the trail of cat food, prawn and duck on that occasion, she’d lapped it up and disappeared into the rafters. The dining room would be better as there were no carpets, in case Myrtle had a little accident it would be on the parquet floor and easy to clean up. The plan was that Henry would tempt her in, and his brother-in-law would stand by the French windows ready to close them as soon as Myrtle was inside. Molly would be encouraging and helpful.
All would never have gone well, as Molly and husband agreed, talking it over afterwards, having stopped at a rather nice pub on the Norfolk/Suffolk border. Henry had got Myrtle into the room, but had been precipitate, and shutting the French door quickly, had slammed it so hard that one of the already cracked panes shattered and fell with an alarming crash to the floor. Myrtle had reacted like a cartoon cat, her fur virtually standing on end, her claws out, her pointy tooth mouth open wide in a terrifying yowl and scream of fury. She seemed to fly round the room, up the walls, onto the dresser, onto the table dragging the moth eaten cloth and everything with it in a scene which reminded Molly’s husband of films where a tablecloth is whipped from a table and everything crashes to the floor. Henry was shouting, Molly’s husband was swearing somewhat, Molly was trying not to laugh at the same time as feeling sorry for the poor cat who was racing round, wailing and screeching, snatching up cat food and leaving a trail of unmentionable everywhere.
This scene of hysterical horror seemed endless until Molly’s husband leapt across the room, making a balletic leap to stay on his feet as he skidded either on cat poo or prawn or lamb cat food, he flung open a window. Like a bullet, the cat shot out, leaving the three humans in shock.
“That went well, Henry,” Molly’s husband commented after a moment’s stunned silence. “I thought that went very well.”