A sandy silver beach in Goa.
I am sitting on a white wooden beach chair under a huge orange beach umbrella. A pint of chilled beer stands refreshingly on a shiny white plastic table next to me. John, from the beach shack approaches politely with a plate of grilled pomfret fish. I look up at him and smile.
“O MY GOD”, the words come out involuntarily from my mouth. John vanishes in thin air, along with the plate of pomfret. Poof! The plastic table along with the chilled beer bottle goes next. Poof !
The beach chair, the beach all vanish. Poof!
“O MY GOD”, I was kneeling in front of the cupboard in my study.
“There she is”, my son exclaimed with ear to ear grin. In the lower most shelf of the cupboard lay his pet cat Cookie. Next to her, no thicker than her bushy tail, were three kittens. “You are a great grand dad!”, he says excitedly as I tried to wipe the terrified expression from my face.
“She is getting out of hand”, my mother had reported several months ago. “I saw her strolling with her boyfriend”. My mother had strict moral standards that stood firm even for pet cats. Cookie did not return that night. It was only after several weeks we realized that she was indeed goofing around with her ‘boyfriend’.
“She is going to have babies in a few weeks …”, the Vet had declared, feeling the tummy of the nervous cat. The omnipresent grin on Vet’s face had become even bigger. The doctor had a pet crèche where we wanted to leave our cat while we were out on a vacation. A much yearned vacation to Goa. Sandy silver beach, wooden beach chair, beach umbrella, beach shack …
“So we will drop her in the creche tomorrow morning ..?”
“No Problem”, if the grin on Vet’s face had become any bigger, it would spill out of his face, ”Good timing, because we don’t take pets with small litters .. so you timed your vacation well’, the vet had declared.
Next morning, it was time to drop Cookie to her crèche. But she had, for some reason, disappeared! It took about an hour of collective scouting before my son located her.
“She had three kittens!”, my son beamed as he looked affectionately at his pet who he had cared for since she was a one month old kitten , “ I am a grand dady !”
“We don’t take pets with small litters…’, the Vet’s voice rang out in my head.
“O MY GOD”, the Goa vacation was vanishing in front of my eyes.
We had booked an old Portuguese villa right on Bagha beach in Goa. The owners, a Belgian couple, had insisted on us paying the entire rental in advance. “We won’t be able to refund in case of cancellations – you know it is peak season …”
There was only one option now. Sonia.
It was late in the evening when the maroon Honda City pulled in front of a seemingly deserted tree shaded house in the outskirts of Bangalore.
A confirmed animal lover, Sonia had firsthand experience with a diverse range of pets including ducks, rabbits, birds, cats and dogs. We had left our cat with her during one of our earlier vacations.
“You should not move the kittens today. It is not safe”, the expert had advised to the occupants of the deserted villa, “I will check on them every evening” The occupants had kissed her hands over the phone.
She opened the main door and glanced up the spiraling stairway leading to the upper floor.
“Lock all other rooms”, she had advised “Cats move their kittens several times after they are born – it will be difficult to locate them if they move to an obscured corner”. The villa occupants who were now in a sandy silver beach in Goa, sitting on a white wooden beach chair under a huge orange beach umbrella, had wiped the tears from their eyes impressed by the profound wisdom of their vacation savior.
Sonia tiptoed up to the study and peered in through the glass door. The frosted glass did not reveal anything about the occupants of the room. She gently opened the door and craned her neck in.
She was greeted with a blood curdling screech and a loud hiss. The freshly minted mother cat rushed towards her with her claws extended, puffed up fur and bottle brush tail. Clearly, in the ebb of her newfound maternal instincts, Cookie had forgotten the week she had spent at Sonia’s place. Sonia was summarily chased out of the house by the very angry mother cat.
“I need backup”, Sonia sat in her car outside the deserted villa. Her eyes were glued to the dimly lit study window – where the feline aggressor would be prowling around after the recent attack.
She was talking to Nina. The marathon running, working super mom did not have the word fear in her dictionary. Before Sonia could bat her eyelids, Nina’s car materialized next to her. Nina was briefed of the situation. “So we have an aggressive and potentially hostile feline that needs to be fed while their owners are having fun in Goa”. Sonia nodded.
The main door was opened, second time that day. The brave women tiptoed up the stairs. The Study door was opened again. This time it was time for two women to be surprised. There were no cats or kittens in the room! Cookie had moved with her kittens to another place. That meant, danger could be lurking anywhere, ready to pounce unannounced on the hapless victims.
Sonia did a quick inspection of the room. The cat food and water bins were empty. She filled them up using the Whiskas bag left by the owners. Water was replenished from the bathroom faucet. Suddenly there was a sound from outside the study.
“Shhhhh”, Nina put a finger on her lips signaling Sonia to be still. The commando tiptoed to the slightly ajar study door. I thin beam of light was spilling out of the dimly lit study, illuminating the granite floor outside.
Suddenly there was a streak of stripes across the floor, followed by screeching and hissing sounds. Nina managed to shut the study door with a bang. Beads of perspiration formed around Sonia’s brow.
“She is out there … waiting!”
“We are trapped!!”
“Call Goa !!!”
Story Credit And Sketch Credit : Prithvi Raj Banerjee. He is a storyteller and plans to author a book some day. He is also a photographer and a cartoonist. In his blog ‘Tales from Near & Far’, he writes & illustrates stories inspired by incidences from his old and new homes, as a tribute to people who continue to make homes under new skies