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Ch. 4 The Disenchanted Cottage. A Modern Fairy Tale.

Down a winding lane, nestled in a wooded grove, hugged by a gently sloping hillside, is a small whitewashed cottage. Chubby red flower boxes adorn each lively green shuttered window; gathering the afternoon sun for their blossoming inhabitants—snapdragon, sweetpea, daisies and cat mint. Each day their elfin-faced caretaker; an ethereal, gifted beauty, with ocean-grey eyes, ivory skin and long strawberry blonde tresses, waters, weeds, and tenderly caresses each plant, which, of course, blooms in grateful abandon. Her garments, made from rare, delicate, shimmering material appear to have sprouted from the earth, itself, in a rainbow of hues. This rare woman-nymph never needs gardening gloves or an apron; for dirt so reveres her, it wouldn't dare cling to her in any way. It's mid-summer. Leaves dance overhead, carried by a soft the warm breeze, while the periwinkle sky filters into view between the mosaic of tree branches. The woodland erupts with joyus music, as birds twitter and trill merry songs; grateful that the kind Lady always keeps bird feeders filled with special delicacies just for them. Not ever having to worry about having an empty belly, the birds spend their day creating new melodies and improvisations. How could there be such a wonderous place? Where is the toxic waste dump, the roar of living under a flight path between to Air Force bases? Is this heaven? Heaven's no! This idyllic setting could only be in one place in the world; the low foothills of western Connecticut. The sweet Lady is faithfully chaperoned by her two charming, furry compatriots; Angelbert Flufferdink, a brushy tailed tuxedo cat with golden eyes and Tom Jonas Saulk, equally as fluffy, but mostly white with large, circular, tabby markings on his back and one over his left, green eye (the right eye is blue). Each cat is perfectly poised, groomed and in the acme of health. They sit side by side on the soft, mossy ground and look up with infinite admiration at the Lady, as she tends to her plants. Occasionally, a butterfly will sweep past the waiting felines. As it glides towards and open bloom; the furry friends do not even twitch. Their devotion to their caretaker is so perfect, they do not care to take notice of such trifles. Taking a break from carassing her plants, the Lady reaches down to scratch the heads of her dear friends or toss them a taste of catmint, which they eagerly await. She oftens hums or sings silly tunes, as her voice is clear and silvery. At times it's difficult to tell the difference between her own voice and the bird songs. Her companions, delighted by the songs, often me-ow along with her. They'll often rock their heads back and forth in time to the music, like furry metronomes. In moments, they'll be too relaxed and have no choice but to find a soft place on the mossy ground, on which to have a nap. As she see her wards, bed down, a smile grows on her full lips. These creatures are her true love, her duty, her troth. Her goals in life are few; to enjoy a lovely flower on a summer’s day, to stroke the thick fur of her healthy, happy cats and to know the feeling of their contented purr beneath her fingertips. One day there came a loud knock upon the cottage door. It was a strong, angry knock, which both alerted and alarmed our Lady. Carefully brushing the cats from her lap, she stood, straightened her garments and walked cautiously to the door. The knocking grew louder and more intent. The Lady was afriad to open the door, especially after she heard the raspy, mechanical, McDonald's Drive Thru speaker voice on the other side. It was the Lady’s hillside neighbor, Edna Quince. Edna knew the lady was home and demanded that the door be opened "This instant!" Though it sounded like "thissss...innn...stand!!" The Lady reluctantly obeyed and opened the door, having to quickly step back from the slap of unpleasant fumes. Her eyes stung and began to water uncontrollably (though her tears merely burst into fairy dust when they left her cheek...of course). Edna Quince smoked for 40 years and even though she'd quit smoking, she still reeked of stale tobacco fumes. The tips of the index and middle fingers on her right hand were amber stained and gooey and I'm not going to describe her teeth, those that remained, they were that disgusting. Her skin was so ravaged, her wrinkles had wrinkles. Her mouth was a razor sharp horseshoe whose luck had run out. Edna had to quit smoking because of shhh...cancer. Edna was such a repulsive person (on the outside, okay and on the inside, too) that the cancer was frightened away, but not before Edna was told she'd only be able to speak with the assistance of an Electro-larynx, a small, battery operated device that when placed against the throat, allowed her words to be heard. It "generates ultrasonic vibrations and transmits them over a membrane into the pharynx, mouth and nose area. Clear, concise articluation is the key to any and all post-operative voicing methods."* The problem, was that Edna was never very articulate to begin with, and the worse her mood, the less she articulated. Since one hand continually held the Electro-larynx, hand gestures also became problematic. This also made it very difficult for Edna to talk and do much of anything else at the same time, since one hand was always holding her Electro-larynx, which left only one hand (the left, coincidently) free to do anything else. You certainly wouldn't want to let Edna drive anywhere and try to have a conversation with her, which is why her car insurance was as much as her car cost and forget about playing mini-golf. Edna may have been a founding member of the PMGA (Professional Mini-Golf Association), but her foul temper, not her Electro-larynx, kept everyone away from her regardless of the tempation of playing the water challenge with the slowly rotating windmill at Hole 17. This pretty much kept Edna in a perpetual bad mood (as if that was anything new!) and having to quit smoking, was well, really irritating for Edna, too. Edna glowered at the Lady and pointed to the ground. Sitting there was a small cardboard box that seemed to be vibrating by itself. The Lady looked down, then back up at Edna, as she raised the grimy Electro-larynx to her throat. "I founddd...dem in myeh...shhhhed." The Lady knelt down and opened the box. Edna had discovered a Mother-cat with 5 tiny kittens living inside her potting shed. One look at Edna’s scowling, pinched, double-wrinkled face and skeletal frame and the Lady knew Edna would never tolerate such an inconvenience as caring for any creature other than her mongrel, rat-nosed terrier; Brad. Brad constantly dug up the Lady’s flower beds, which was why she focused solely on tending to her flower boxes these days. He was also frequently discovered relieving himself on the Lady's lawn, which she had abandoned all hope of ever preventing. If she could only afford to move, she’d do it in a heartbeat. But alas, with no Prince to help her pay the mortgage, she was stuck living next to an evil, wicked, inarticulate neighbor with an ugly, smelly, dog. Though Edna was wealthy, living in a two-story McCottage that she inherited from her ex-husband, Steve; she never offered to repay the Lady for her lost plants, nor had she ever plucked one dog poo from the Lady’s lawn. The Lady would try not to think the unkind word: “Bitch,” whenever she saw Edna, but lately it was becomming more difficult. Once her eyes traveled back down to the contents of the cardboard box, the Lady softened and only thought: “Oh shit. What am I going to do?” Edna kicked the box towards the Lady and said: “If youuuu donnnn...them, they gooo...shelt...where...kill...them.” The Lady replied; “But surely, you have enough room in your home to look after them for a few weeks?…until the young ones are old enough to be adopted? I don’t really have any room here. And I have my own cats well being to consider.” “em...Coyotes.” "What about the coyotes?" "Go...baaaack...out-sigh. Snack time!..ha..ha...(the last "ha" was not heard because Edna dropped the Electro-larynx, which hit one of the kittens on the belly. The kitten was unharmed, but made an awful "breeep!" noise)". As she bent over to pick up the E-larynx, the Lady shouted; “Okay. Okay. I’ll take them!” With that, Edna grimmaced, which was actually Edna's way of smiling. She brushed off the Electro-larynx and lifted it to her throat. Her lips moved, but no sound came out of the artifical voice box. Edna frowned, then slapped at the Electro-larynx, then tried again. The sounds were just crackling static. Her words could not be understood. Edna tried a few more times, then finally, fed up, only two words were heard before Edna stomped off: "!" No one knows if she bothered to say thank you before the batteries wore out, but the one thing that was certain was she never offered to help pay for all the food and litter the Lady would now need to purchase, not to mention the Veteranarian's fees for shots and "other things." The Lady's cottage only had three small rooms. Somehow she would find a comfortable place for her new wards and welcome them to her home, just as she always had done with every furry companion who had lived with her. The Lady's heart lightened, as the smoke fumes faded, replaced by lilac scented gel air fresheners. She loved cats so much that she knew she could make it work; hoping her own well-behaved and perfect pets would be accepting of the new guests. She vowed to find each cat good homes soon and promised herself she’d never keep any of them. She had two cats and that was perfect. She only had two hands, after all. She could pet each cat the same number of times each day so they’d never feel jealous. She realized it might be a difficult adjustment for them, but it would only be for a short time. Right? They’d all manage together, she just knew it there would be a happy ending. The Lady carried the box into her house and shut the door. She looked again at its' contents and saw a tired, thin, simply grey, mother-cat, who looked up at the Lady, with cool green eyes. There was neither fear nor friendship to be observed. Her tiny tabby offspring were wriggling hungrilly around her, their eyes not even open. Their sharp mewling cries alerted the Lady’s cats that something had changed in the cottage and needed to be investigated immediately. Angelbert and Tom Jonas ran over to the box. Without realizing it, the Lady forgot her manners and did not properly introduce the cats to each other. Within moments she realized her error as all the adult cats began to viciously hiss and growl at each other. Startled, and worried about the safety of the kittens, the Lady, shouted at her own cats to leave at once! Both cats turned tail and ran off to hide under the sofa; growling and snorting as they ran. The Lady began to cry. This time her tears ran down her face, then dropped, leaving tiny mascara sodden rings on her new gown. She never meant to yell at her own, darling, friends, but she had to protect the kittens. It would work out. She just needed to give it time. be continued... ©2007 Robin AF Olson

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