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The first of two sequels to the story Timbo.


Submitted:Dec 31, 2010    Reads: 37    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   


In works of fiction household pets usually have names like Fluffy, or Spot, or Rover, or Fido. In real life, however, apart from Graham Kennedy's near legendary golden Labrador, Rover, no one ever gave names like those to their pets. In real life dogs and cats have names such as Susie, or Sally, or Charley Barley, or Fred. Even Garfield is a more likely name for a household cat than Spotty or Fluffy.
This story is about an enormous orange and black tabby tomcat named Timothy. Although usually we shortened it to Timbo.
Before Timbo was born, we baby-sat (or should that be cat-sat?) his mother, Lizbeth, when she was pregnant, while her owners were interstate on holiday.
Poor Lizbeth was a timid little thing, who never adjusted to being with strangers and never could find out how to use the cat door to get outside. On the other hand, after being given to us at six months of age as reward for cat-sitting his mum, Timbo took all of two days to learn how to turn his head to one side, give the vinyl flap a nudge with his head, then ease out through the cat door. It then took him another ten days to train his humans to perform this service for him. Timbo would prop a few centimetres away from the door, then yowl at the top of his lungs until one of his pet humans got up and went across to nudge the flap open with the toe of a shoe.
Sometimes people got fed-up with Timbo's laziness, however, then the shoe was just as likely to go under his tail. In which case Timbo would disappear headfirst through the cat flap, a lot faster than he had anticipated.
Then Timbo would glare back in through the cat door with his bright yellow-green eyes, giving the offender a look that seemed to say, "How dare you do that to the King of the Household?"
Although in truth Timbo considered himself to be nothing less than king of the entire neighbourhood. It is common enough for tomcats to declare their yard to be out of bounds to other cats and noisily chase trespassing moggies away. Often waking up the whole household by chasing the interloper across the corrugated-iron roof of the house in the small hours of the night. However, Timbo went one better by going into other properties and chasing poor cats out of their own yards.
Timbo soon established himself as King of the Cats, a title unquestioned by all except one pretender. A large black and white, semi-feral stray which my sisters Irene and Christine christened Prince Charles. As I've already stated Timbo was enormous in size, however, he was dwarfed by Prince Charles who was absolutely "humungous" as Christine loved to say.
Whenever Timbo heard the sound of cat steps on the roof of the garage or the back patio, he would go charging outside to declare "The War of the Roses". Unless the trespasser turned out to be Prince Charles, then it became the "War of the Pansies" as Timbo reversed direction and virtually flew into the house to find himself a safe hiding place in my bedroom or under the kitchen table.
Sometimes I'd find Timbo bailed up in a corner of the garage or the outside workroom, with Prince Charles standing over him. However, a sharp kick up the backside would get the stray moving, then safely held in my arms, Timbo could afford to be brave, hissing and snarling at the retreating moggy.
Of course being the King of the Cats meant that Timbo had to be some kind of lion or tiger. So whereas most cats walk, or at least slink along, wiggling their behinds from side-to-side, like Marilyn Monroe "wiggle-walking", Timbo would stalk along like a tiger, using the flower beds of neighbouring yards as his own private jungle. Unfortunately this made him unpopular with some of our neighbours, who objected to having their prized rhododendrons trampled by Timbo's ungainly back feet. Which were so outsized that rather cruelly our mum suggested that his father must have been a kangaroo. Or at the very least an oversized wallaby.
The most unreasonable of all our neighbours were the Snettertons, who had migrated to Australia from England twenty years ago. And whom for most of that time had been carefully nurturing a tall English hedge, which extended right along their front yard (instead of a front fence) and along our side of the yard.
The Snettertons' hedge was one of the Royal Footscray Horticultural Society's most treasured plants for more than twelve years.
Unfortunately when Timbo stalked through the hedge, his oversized body would often snap off lower branches. And his scratching round, using the hedge as a toilet, unsettled its roots, so that soon it started to wither and die. To the point where a mere two years after Timbo's appearance at our house, the last of the hedge had been dug up and carted away to the rubbish tip.
Quite unreasonably, after this the Snettertons took to throwing things at Timbo whenever he strayed into their front yard. Things such as brick batts and empty four-litre paint tins.
* * *
Like all cats, as long as he was fed properly Timbo would sleep at least fifteen hours a day. However, unlike most cats, he hated to sleep on soft surfaces. Timbo's favourite beds were all hard, sharp, or otherwise uncomfortable places. One of his favourite beds was the red brick pebbles which lined our front yard. Another was stray pieces of wood -- preferably with plenty of rusty nails pointing up into him. Yet another favourite was my sister's school folder, which she would leave open on her bed for hours while doing her homework. Timbo would leap up onto Christine's bed, stalk across toward the folder, then lie fully along the middle of the folder, having somehow decided that the sharp, metal teeth of the ring binder were much more comfortable than the woollen blankets could ever be.
Another of Timbo's favourite beds was any wooden, plastic, or cardboard container that he could find. However, although he would settle for a large, roomy box if nothing else was available, his favourites were small cardboard boxes and two-litre plastic ice-cream containers. He would somehow force his way down into a seemingly much too small container, then would curl round into a ball to sleep for hours. However, sometimes he would wake up again to find himself stuck and would have to yowl for one of his human servants to come to rescue him from his bed.
"It almost got you that time, Timbo," Christine would tease, "that wild, pussycat eating ice-cream container." But, of course, her sarcasm did not stop him from squeezing down into the same container next time he wanted a sleep. Timbo was nothing if not persistent.
Another of Timbo's favourite places, in winter, was my bedroom. For some reason my room is the hottest in the house, so in winter it is more liveable even than the lounge room.
As a freelance writer I work at home. Sometimes writing all night, then sleeping all day. So Timbo would come in and use up my heater while I sat at my desk writing. Then in the morning when Irene got up to go to work, he would race out to get his breakfast before Prince Charles ate it, do his toilet, then race back inside half an hour later to curl up next to me when I went to bed. Naturally he would decide that whichever side I lay down on had to be the best and that I had palmed the worst side off onto him. So he would climb up onto my feet, digging his bony feet into my flank, as he used the side of my body like a bridge to walk up to yowl into my face until I agreed to swap sides with him. Then, after licking and slurping, and keeping me awake for twenty minutes or more, he'd lie down hard up against me. In stories cats usually are contented to lie at the foot of the bed, well away from their owner. But not Timbo. He had to have some part of his body touching some part of mine.
Although only small compared to a human, Timbo's internal combustion was like a blast furnace. He gave off such a tremendous amount of body heat that it would soon become uncomfortably hot, even in mid winter.
Then, of course, Timbo's tea time came an hour before mine. So, if I should dare to still be asleep, he would walk up to almost sit on my face and yowl until I woke and got up to let him out. Then I would have to wait while he ate, to let him back in for a final hour before I was called for tea, and would have to put up with him licking and slurping for another twenty minutes before I could return to sleep.
If, on the other hand, I dared not to wait while he ate his tea, Timbo would stand outside my bedroom door and yow-ow-owl at the top of his lungs until finally I conceded defeat and got up to let him back in.
Of course that was in winter.
In summer my bedroom is insufferably hot, to the point where even on high the electric fan does nothing more than swirl the hot air around in eddies. So, having been Timbo's favourite person all winter, I found that I had suddenly come down with a bout of summertime-plague. Which meant that I would hardly even see Timbo for ten or twelve weeks running, unless we had an unseasonable spell of cold weather in mid summer.
Other places Timbo loved to sleep included the bottom of mum's wardrobe. She would lock the door after putting her clothes away, then hours later would hear yowling coming from the wardrobe and would have to race up to let him out.
Another favourite place was my dressing cabinet. As a freelance writer I earn enough money to pay for the bare necessities in life, such as rent, food, and Opportunity Shop clothing, but, of course, not enough to afford any luxuries. Such as furniture. My dresser had been bought second-hand from the UnitedChurchOpportunity Shop for $10 and did well enough for a number of years. But finally the shelving started to collapse. Until in the end there was the top drawer containing my jumpers, the bottom drawer piled high with handkerchiefs, socks, T-shirts and underwear, and the middle two drawers had had to be taken out. Of course Timbo loved to sleep in the bottom drawer, and sometimes would go unnoticed all night, managing to blend in with my T-shirts and underpants, only being discovered when I reached in the next morning to get my underwear.
Another pet place was the spare bed in mum's room. Mum grudgingly put up with Timbo monopolising the bed, however, not so our Aunty Violet when she slept there during her occasional visits. Aunty Violet would quickly toss Timbo onto the floor, and he would stand in the middle of the room, glaring at her as if to say, "Well whose bed is it, anyway?"
Timbo's absolute favourite place, however, was Irene's bedroom. What made it extra special was that early on Irene had laid down the law that, "No cats are allowed in my room!" Naturally, as King of the Household, Timbo wasn't having any of that nonsense. So he would often spend all day sound asleep on her bed, then have to race out in the evening when he heard the side gate rattle as Irene returned home from work.
Sometimes though even that was not enough for Timbo, so he would defiantly march into Irene's room when she was home, risking the wrath of her evil temper. At her worst Irene has a vocabulary that would make a trucker blush, however, Timbo was fortunate in not being able to understand English.
Not one to be put off by offensive language, Timbo started to become very crafty. In winter he would ease in through Irene's barely open door and lie on the bottom shelf of her bookcase, just inside the doorway, hidden behind her small radiator. This meant he could lie in her room for hours, warmed by the heater and completely concealed from view. Although there was an outside chance that she would spot him if Irene got up to make herself a cup of tea.
On another occasion Timbo lay hidden from view in the shadows thrown by Irene's wardrobe for hours, having found himself a snug little cubby-hole. Irene might never have discovered him, except that the television became too banal that night, even for her easy to please tastes. So she switched off the set, went across to play an LP record, and jumped back shrieking after reaching down for an album.
"Oh my God! There's something hairy in amongst my records!" she shrieked, after we had all gone into her room to investigate.
While Irene was still shaking from fright, out sauntered Timbo, who gave her a contemptuous look, as if to say, "How can a fellow get any sleep around here, with all of this racket going on?" then casually strolled out into the corridor.
Of course after sleeping a cat's favourite pastime is eating.
Timbo was only a few months old when he discovered that cat food came out of cans. So naturally, for the rest of his life, he assumed that all cans contained cat food. He would rub around our legs yowling for his share whenever we opened cans of beetroot, coffee, or tinned peaches. And he would almost bowl over our young nieces and nephews in summer if they dared to open cans of Pepsi or Coca Cola.
Then, of course, he would give them a dirty look if anyone actually put any Coke or Pepsi into his milk bowl.
And there were other things Timbo did not like to eat. To cut his food bill, mum took to buying giant, economy sized boxes of dried cat food. The only problem was that they took a long time to empty and quickly went stale after the box was opened. And naturally the King of the Cats would never eat stale kitty bits. So mum bought some cheap clear plastic containers to empty the cardboard boxes out into. This way the cat food kept fresh until it was eaten.
Unbeknown to my brother David, mum kept other foodstuffs in similar canisters. One night he was getting himself a midnight snack and Timbo was making a nuisance of himself, rubbing round David's legs, demanding his share. Sensing that Timbo would not really like peanut butter sandwiches, Dave started looking round for some kitty bits, not knowing that we had run out of them. Finally he located a canister in an overhead cupboard and tipped a generous helping into Timbo's food bowl and was amazed when Timbo took one sniff, turned up his nose in disgust, then went back to yowling to be fed.
It was only then that Dave took a close look at the canister and saw that it was not kitty bits that he had tipped onto Timbo's plate, but a large supply of raisins.
Another thing Timbo definitely did not like was lemons.
Being the one most prone to colds in our family, I spend a great deal of winter squeezing lemons to make myself lemon drinks. And naturally Timbo would rub around my legs, demanding his share. One day I was too sick and miserable to put up with his antics. So, after squeezing a lemon, I held the empty rind down to Timbo's face and pushed his head into it, forcing him to taste it.
From then on Timbo gave me a wide berth whenever he saw me squeezing lemons.
Of course all cats possess an uncanny ability to know when people are cutting up raw meat. Timbo could be outside with all the doors and windows shut, yet in minutes of mum starting to cut up good steak, he would be at the door yowling to be let in for his fair share. The only problem was that Timbo could eat faster than mum could cut, so he always seemed to get much more than a fair share.
Sometimes mum would put up with his yowling for as long as she could before letting him in. Only to find that he took one sniff at the meat, then turned tail and headed back outside.
"That's good rump steak, you wretch!" mum would say. "Good enough for us to eat!" Timbo would stop in the doorway and give her a withering look, as if to say, "Just because it's good enough for you humans, doesn't mean that it's good enough for a cat!"
Like all cats, Timbo never liked any cat food very long. Mum would give him a new type of cat food and he'd gulp it down eagerly one day, unable to get enough of it. Then the next day he'd take one sniff, then head outside in disgust. When Timbo was eight years old, there was a new pet food released, called "My Dog", with which they gave a money-back guarantee that your dog would eat it. My sister Christine was quick to point out, "They're smart to stick to dog food. Because if they ever brought out a product called "My Cat" and guaranteed your cat would eat it, they'd go bankrupt in under a month!" (Addendum: Twenty years later no-one has yet dared release a cat food called My Cat!)
THE END
© Copyright 2010
Philip Roberts




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