Georgina’s generous and rather loopy Aunt Hermione left her a house in her will. The only snag is Georgie has to share it with a feline monster with a penchant for belting up people he doesn’t like. Dedicated to my lovely huge silver tabby Hamish McFlea, 1999- 2008, the inspiration for Glasgow Ned (but much nicer). Warning: Bad language.
Where there’s a will there’s a greedy relation. An old joke, but, like a lot of old jokes, based on truth. In this case there wasn’t one greedy relation, there were two of them, shouting at me at once.
“How DARE Gran leave you her house! You’re only her NIECE!”
“She was out of her mind! I’m contesting the will!”
Trent and Sebastian, my two furious and already well-off cousins, drew breath at the same time, ready for the next tirade. I took advantage of the microsecond’s pause to have my say.
“Firstly, Great-Aunt Hermione was entitled to leave her house to whomever she chooses -”
“Whomever she chooses,” mimicked Trent, who’d failed English in High School but mysteriously made his living as a newspaper editor.
I glared at him. “Secondly, she wasn’t out of her mind. She was a cunning old lady with a terrific sense of humour.”
“As if you’d know,” sneered Seb. “You never came near her.”
“True, none of us did,” I replied evenly. “We all live interstate. But at least I spoke to her on the phone every week or so.”
“You bitch, Georgina!” snapped Trent.
I was beginning to enjoy myself. I’d never managed to better the two of them combined as a child, but as an adult I was faring quite well. “You could have picked up the phone too, you know.”
Trent responded by throwing his mineral water in my face. Gasping and choking, I watched his rigid back stalk away from me in what could only be described as high dudgeon. He’d always been dramatic and probably would have made a good actor.
Seb stamped his cigarette out millimetres from my toe, and spun quickly and followed his brother.
As funerals go, this one was turning into an absolute riot. I dried my hair with a paper napkin and thanked the gods that Trent hadn’t been drinking red wine.
Aunt Hermione’s legally binding will left $1000 each to Seb and Trent. Everything else, however, was left to Glasgow Ned, with me as his guardian: a surburban bungalow in Sydney which had cost very little in 1935 and was now worth a substantial amount, the contents of the bungalow which included some rare and very beautiful art deco pieces, and cash and stock investments which would easily keep me going until I found a new job in Sydney. Should I prove to be a worthy caretaker for the expected lengthy duration of Glasgow Ned’s life, I’d get the lot on his death.
Glasgow Ned was Great-Aunt Hermione’s cat. I’d seen him only once, when he was a tiny kitten three years ago, before I’d moved interstate to Melbourne. It was possibly my cry of delight when I picked up his miniature purring form and cuddled him, and asking about him every time we spoke, that made Great-Aunt Hermione tip the will balance in my favour (my cousins hated cats). If my great-aunt’s fanciful imagination was to be believed, Glasgow Ned was fearless enough to attack dogs and postmen – in fact he was known to take a violent dislike to people for his own unfathomable reasons. Listening to Great-Aunt Hermione’s Tales of Glasgow Ned over the years, I wouldn’t have been surprised to learn he was a karate expert and could read the newspaper.
I recalled the conditions of my great-aunt’s will. I would be responsible for his good health, and was to take him to the vet at regular intervals. I was to maintain contact with my great-aunt’s solicitor in order for him to ascertain I was fulfilling her wishes. If Glasgow Ned died by a genuine misfortune or old age and ill health, the estate would revert to me. If, however, I was to “instigate Glasgow Ned’s untimely demise”, the estate would be divided up between Seb and Trent and I’d get nothing. Glasgow Ned could conservatively be called The Million Dollar Cat.
The post-burial bunfight – there was no other name for it really – was being held in the local RSL Club. People were starting to leave, kissing my cheek and wishing me well with my new feline housemate. The more astute of them wished me good luck with Seb and Trent.
* * *
Two weeks later, while the estate was being settled without, so far, the promised intervention from my cousins, I moved up from Melbourne to my new home and new cat. The neighbours had been feeding him for me until I could move up and look after him. I thumped my suitcases down; I was alone in my house.
Well, almost alone. I heard the cat flap in the back door rattle, and prepared to renew my acquaintance with Glasgow Ned.
The biggest domestic cat I had ever seen squeezed and wriggled through the cat flap and sat down pointedly on the kitchen floor, glaring at me with huge, dangerously intelligent yellow eyes.
I don’t know about what breed of cat he was but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that one of his recent ancestors was a tiger or panther. His chest and legs were snow white, and his back and hindquarters striped horizontally with silver and black. One the end of each leg was a massive white paw that wouldn’t have been out of place on a lion cub. His face was mostly white with a wide, firm, square jaw. His markings were beautifully even and I had remembered that he’d been a very pretty little kitten, although it was hard to recall this behemoth ever being tiny. His fur was dense and shining with health and his ringed tail, swishing impatiently, boasted long, fluffy hair.
He opened a teeth-studded mouth and gave a demanding meow. I was surprised he didn’t roar. I now also believed the stories about chasing dogs and postmen. I was even prepared to believe he possessed karate prowess and I was frightened to put a newspaper in front of him.
“Nice pussy,” I ventured, reaching down to stroke him.
Glasgow Ned gave me a disgusted look. Then, quick as lightning, one of the huge paws whipped up and batted my hand away. He hadn’t needed to use his claws. He packed a good left hook without them.
“Er, food then, if that’s what you want.” I opened the pantry and found dozens of tins of Whiskas in serried rows. “Tell me, Ned, do you want me to open them for you or do you just bite through the tin?”
In response Glasgow Ned opened his huge mouth again and closed it on my ankle. Hard.
“Owwww!” I booted him away without thinking. He skidded on the lino and, with an insulted look, hopped up lithely onto the sink and silently watched me find a can opener.
I fed him half a can, which was gone in barely a minute. Another yowl obviously meant “Oi! You! More – NOW!” so I scraped out the rest of the can and watched him wolf it down. He finished his meal with a satisfied burp – I’d never heard a cat burp before – and settled down for a good wash.
Hesitantly I tried to pat him again, and this time he let me. His body was all rippling muscle, and as I stroked his broad back a thunderous purr echoed around the kitchen.
“You’re just a big softie,” I exclaimed in disbelief.
We settled down to watch television together. The most comfortable of the chairs had an old blanket on it and I sat down and kicked off my shoes with relief. Glasgow Ned stormed up to me and bit me on the ankle again. I yelped, he howled and we glared at each other. Pointedly he jumped up on the arm of the chair, and I realised I’d chosen HIS chair to sit in. I looked at the old blanket. It was covered in cat hair. So were my black jeans.
I spent the evening sitting on the sofa and trying to find a spot where the springs weren’t quite so hard.
When it was time for sleep I realised that Great-Aunt Hermione had shared her double bed with Glasgow Ned. I’d put fresh sheets on and unpacked my suitcase, and in the time it took me to get changed, the cat had burrowed between the sheets and formed an immovable lump in the middle of the bed. I lifted up the sheets to see his yellow eyes staring at me and daring me to move him. I didn’t have the heart. Cuddled defensively between his front paws was a battered teddy bear. Sighing, I slept on the edge of the bed, Glasgow Ned’s rumbling purr lulling me to sleep.
I was woken up the next morning by a blood-curdling scream outside the window. Disoriented, forgetting where I was, I staggered to the front door to find a man with shredded trousers pleading for mercy. Glasgow Ned was hanging from his bum by his mouth.
“Oh my God!” I couldn’t find the keys and rattled the door uselessly. “Ned! Get DOWN! Oh, I’m sorry! He’s not my cat, I mean, well he is but he isn’t -”
Ned dropped to the ground and, with a final glare, walked away with a mouthful of fabric.
“Jesus, lady, I only came to read the electricity meter! That animal ought to be locked up!”
“Do you want some antiseptic, or band-aids?”
“I’m thinking more of a stiff scotch. I nearly had a heart attack!” He almost ran down the driveway, with Glasgow Ned in hot pursuit, and jumped into his van, slamming the door in Ned’s indignant face.
I remembered Great-Aunt Hermione saying Glasgow Ned was capable of taking an instant dislike to people. Now I knew what she meant.
* * *
Glasgow Ned and I settled into a routine. After a week he deigned to rub against my ankles as well as nipping them when he was hungry, which seemed to be a lot of the time. After two weeks he was prepared to settle down like a lead weight on my knees in front of the television at night. I was growing very fond of him. After three weeks I couldn’t imagine life without Glasgow Ned prowling around the house, burping and purring.
Which is why I was furious when I received a letter from my cousins’ solicitor stating that they wished to contest the will and their right to the house – and thus Glasgow Ned.
“It’s too late for that, mate!” I said out loud. Glasgow Ned, sleeping on the kitchen table – YOU try telling ten kilograms of strong-minded cat not to sleep on the table! – opened one yellow eye at the tone in my voice. “The will’s gone through. You’ve got no chance!”
But Trent and Seb obviously thought they did. They flew into town and knocked on my door at 8 that night.
“Georgie! Can we talk?”
“C’mon Georgie, we ARE family after all!”
I hesitated. I really didn’t want to speak to them without a solicitor present.
From the dark hallway behind me I heard a thunderous noise, and realised it was Glasgow Ned, growling. I turned to see him stalking menacingly behind me, eyes narrowed and focussed on the front door, ears flattened and body tense. He jumped silently up onto the top of the coat stand, crouching and hissing like a Scottish wildcat.
I smiled. And let my two cousins into the house.
I barely had time to lock the door behind them before Ned launched himself onto Trent’s back, his big front legs encircling my cousin’s neck, clamping on with rapier claws. Awestruck, I could only stare as Ned bit Trent’s shoulder with concentrated venom.
“Owwwwww!!! Arrrrggghhhhh!!!!” howled Trent. “Jesus Christ! Geddimoffmeeeee!!!” He alternately swatted at Ned’s body and tried to prise the cat’s claws from his throat.
Ned stopped biting long enough to give a long, sinister, fighting cat wail, then dug the teeth in again.
Seb started to laugh. “C’mon, bro, it’s only a cat!”
“It’s a bloody monster!” screamed Trent, now trying to swipe Glasgow Ned off on the hall stand. Rivulets of blood were running down onto the collar of his snow white cotton shirt. “Help me! HELP ME!!”
Realising Trent was really suffering, Seb tried pulling Glasgow Ned away. Trent screamed, Ned yowled, and Seb grunted. Finally Seb succeeded in ungluing Ned’s front paws, but only after they’d left ten long, deep red furrows in Trent’s neck.
Ned then turned his attention to Seb, grabbing his arm between his front paws, and sinking his canine teeth deep into the soft pad of Seb’s thumb.
“Owwwww!!!” yelled Seb in his turn, shaking his arm violently to try and dislodge Ned, who by now was also kicking at Seb’s arm with his massive back legs. Already the sleeve of Seb’s shirt was hanging in tatters. “Heeeelllpppp!!”
Trent was in no state to help. He was feeling his neck with careful hands. When he saw that his hands had turned red as a result, he sank to the floor in a graceless heap, narrowly missing the hall stand.
“This bloody cat’s killed my brother!” howled Seb, still uselessly trying to shake Ned from his arm.
“He’s only fainted,” I shouted above the din from the safety of the bedroom doorway. “If Ned had got the jugular we’d know about it by now.”
Ned must have been getting tired. With one last deep, surging bite, he dropped to the floor, growling.
Seb swung his leg back and prepared to give Glasgow Ned a kick up the backside that would see his tail going through his brain and coming out his left ear.
“NOOOO!!” I screamed, rushing forwards to push Seb out of the way, but Glasgow Ned didn’t need my help.
Quick as a flash he leapt behind Seb and thrust himself upwards, anchoring himself firmly to Seb’s bum and legs.
Seb jumped in the air in a chain reaction, screaming. He danced around the hall swearing at the top of his lungs, trying in vain to pull Ned free. Ned just clung on tighter, his claws tearing through Seb’s trousers and probably his backside as well as gravity and cat fought a tense battle.
When Seb had finally burst into tears and started begging for mercy, Ned dropped to the ground, grumbling.
Carefully I tried to pick him up, and to my surprise he let me, still eyeing my cousins and still hissing.
“That cat’s evil,” snarled Seb, wiping tears from his cheeks.
“He’s not,” I said. “Look, I can pick him up and cuddle him and he doesn’t do a thing. If you want to contest the will and get this house, you have to live with Glasgow Ned. And Glasgow Ned lives in this house. End of story.”
Trent said faintly from the floor, “I think I’m dying, call an ambulance.”
Seb told him rudely, “Oh, shut up, it’s only a flesh wound. I won’t be able to sit down for a month.”
Ned stopped hissing and started purring. “Have you boys had tetanus shots recently?” I said sweetly.
Seb pulled Trent to his feet. They both looked very bloody and ragged. I couldn’t believe one cat had done so much damage.
“You’ll hear from the police about this,” Trent threatened, “That cat’s dangerous.”
Ned stiffened and started to growl again. It was an eerie sound, which seemed to start deep inside him and work its way out through his skin itself.
Seb and Trent fumbled with the locks on the front door, and ran.
The policeman who arrived at my front door half an hour later had a huge grin on his face. “I’m Constable Macaulay. I’ve had a report about a cat attack,” he said, trying not to laugh. “Mr Trent Daly and Mr Sebastian Daly came into the station with multiple scratch wounds and have demanded the cat be destroyed,” he said more seriously.
I caught my breath. Those bastards! I felt tears pricking at my eyes. “No,” I whispered. “He’s not really vicious.”
“I must say I’ve never heard a demand for a cat to be put down,” continued Constable Macaulay. “May I see the offending animal?”
My heart sank. All I needed was for Glasgow Ned to decide he liked bacon and he’d be history. Slowly I led Macaulay into the kitchen, where Ned was tucking into a hearty late supper of Seafood Delights.
Ned licked his bowl clean and gave his customary burp, then walked up to me, purring happily, winding himself between my legs and tickling my ankles with his tail. I heaved a sigh of relief, and picked him up. “This is Glasgow Ned, the so-called vicious cat,” I said, scratching his ears. Ned closed his eyes in pleasure, butting my chin with his head.
“Looks vicious, too,” grinned Macaulay, patting Ned’s sleek back, which made the cat purr even louder. “Obviously your cousins must have done something pretty bad to wind him up. Were they torturing him?”
“No, but he could probably sense that they’d upset me, and he was defending me. He’s very smart.”
“Look, I can’t see any reason to charge you, or take action against the cat. I understand your cousins have a problem with you inheriting this property. If you have any more trouble, give me a ring.” He passed me his business card and gave Glasgow Ned one last tickle under the chin before departing.
Glasgow Ned and I stood at the front door and watched the police car drive away. Ned was still purring happily. He turned his big furry face up to me as if to say, “Wasn’t I good?”
As I agreed with him, one big yellow eye closed and opened slowly and deliberately. I swear it was a wink.
© Copyright 2000 Caroline Sully
Reproduction without the author’s permission strictly prohibited