Sunday, 6 September 2015

The Old Man and the Cat

He stared at the clock and its face stared right back at him.  The clock’s hand moved slowly, as if in a trance, playing with the numbers, the rhythmic sound echoing the pounding of his heart. The old man was biting his nails, eating into the tender skin of his fingers, oblivious of the pain, and tasting his own blood, his eyes following the moving hand of the clock. The food on the table had not been touched for the last hour, lying uncovered and unattended, turning cold in protest. A few intrepid flies had made their initial advances, stealing furtive glances at the old man on the chair, as they feasted on the rice. The old man had anxiety written across his forehead in a series of thin lines positioned centrally, right above the bridge of his pointed nose.
The old man shook the cat on his lap gently. There was no movement.  His fingers gently ran over the soft fur and rested on its belly.  He could feel a distant thud, faint and rare, but yet unmistakably signaling the signs of a fading life. He looked at the clock again.  It was supposed to be quick. That was what all the internet searches had indicated for the potion. It had been an hour since he had fed Kitty that deadly morsel of rice soaked in her favourite fish curry. He had not wanted her to suffer.  There would be no one to take care of her once he was gone, and he did not have much time. Kitty was a lazy and proud cat, too lazy to get her own food and too proud to beg. Did she suffer, he wondered, as he patted her. Did she hate him in her last moments?  She surely would have realized what was happening, before she closed her eyes to sleep, one last time. He looked at the clock again. One hour fifteen minutes!
“God, Let her not feel any pain”, the old man prayed silently. He continued to bite his nails, as he stroked the cat with his other hand. Suddenly, he felt Kitty shudder, as she almost slipped from  his lap. He lifted her up gently and held her close to his face, his cheek pressed against her fur, listening to that distant thud that had pounded his heart till then. His cheeks met with defeaning silence. He looked at the clock again. One hour twenty minutes!
Would the effect be same on humans, the old man pondered for a minute.  Or was Kitty special? Had it not yet been her time to go? Did he act in haste? Maybe, she would have been happier without him. Maybe she would have found another soul mate. The old man glanced at the body of fur, coiled in static sleep on the floor. She was gone now. She has already found her peace.  Will I last that long, he thought to himself.  Age had not taken to him kindly, his body deteriorating, weakening and giving up on him, much before he gave up on life. He had led a wanton one and it had come at a price. He had decided not to suffer long. Only one hour twenty minutes!
The old man looked at the plate on the table. The number of flies feasting on the mound of rice had gone up significantly. Will they suffer the same fate as Kitty? He gripped the arms of the rickety old rocking chair tightly, as he pushed himself to an upright position and doddered to the table. Swatting the flies away with a weak wave of his left hand, he picked up the rolled ball of rice held together with ghee and gravy.  He raised the ball, as if in a toast of unison to Kitty, and stuffed it in his mouth. One hour twenty minutes!
The old man picked up the cat, struggled to find his comfortable position in the chair, and placed her on his lap again. He leaned back and rocked himself, finally at peace, and stared at the clock as it continued to stare back at him. One hour eighteen minutes!