Mixed into my literary reading I try to strategically place something that is a little less weighty, something that unwinds the tension of cerebral knots. Something to have fun with. And yet it has to also must be of quality. It can’t be junk. Such are Victor Moubarak’s books.
You might recognize Victor as one of the people who frequently comment on my blog. We’ve kind of built up an internet friendship. I get a real kick out his blog, Time For Reflections.
Two years ago such a relaxing book was Victor’s The Priest and the Prostitute, which I dedicated a post to here. Last year was his collection of short stories, Feline Catastrophes, which I now want to highlight. While each short story stands alone as its own story, the collection is a themed set of short stories relating to a narrator, his family, and his pets, especially his cat. The very first story, “Know Your Place,” presents the theme:
Let me tell you about our household. There’s the family and me, the dog and the cat. Ah … and the goldfish. Mustn’t forget the goldfish! There are two of them happily swimming in the tank in the living room. Normally they would come at the end of our list of priorities in the hierarchy that is our household. But not here … in our home the lowest position is reserved for me. And right there at the top is … our cat!
What we get is man’s relationship to cat: cat on top, man on the bottom with the dog thrown in for good measure as a contrast.
A guard dog he definitely is not. I reckon if we were unfortunate enough to have burglars he’d quickly show them where I hide my stash of chocolates. And if they came by night, he’d hold the flashlight for them and lead the way.
The cat on the other hand is totally different. He is mischievous, devious, scheming and conniving. And cunning too!
So we have the dumb dog, the crafty cat, and the unfortunate man. It makes for good and humorous story.
For instance, the narrator—I picture Victor himself as I read since all the stories are told in first person from the man’s perspective—decides to put in a cat flap to the door since he’s tired of having to open the door at the cat’s behest.
That’s when I decided to fit a cat flap to the back door. You know the kind of thing I mean … It’s a small aperture the size of a cat with a swinging little door hinged from the top which opens and shuts both ways depending on whether his Majesty is entering or leaving his palace.
But fitting a cat flap is one thing. Teaching a stupid cat to use it is another. He continued his old habit of jumping at the door expecting us to open it for him. So I had to teach him how to use the new contraption fitted especially for his convenience and our peace of mind.
And then the narrator tried to physically teach the cat by pushing him through the flap.
Eventually the cat wanted out again. So I picked him up and stood him by the cat flap and slowly pushed him forward towards it. He stiffened his legs gripping into the carpeted floor as if his life depended on it. The more I pushed, gently of course, the more he fought back eventually turning on his back like an acrobat and scratching my arms.
Finally I managed to get him through the cat flap and out in the garden. But minutes later he wanted in again. He started jumping at the door. I went down on my hands and knees inside the kitchen and called him in. No response. He was still there jumping forwards and backwards towards the door thinking it was a new game to play. I put my hand through the cat flap to encourage him to come towards me. No use.
I put my head through the cat flap to show him it was me calling him … and that’s when matters got worse. My head got stuck in the cat flap. I could not move it forwards or backwards as I lay there flat on the kitchen floor seeing from the corner of my eye the cat walk away in disdain whilst the dog could be heard snoring in front of the TV. No point in shouting for help … there was no one at home at the time.
And the story goes on. Another good story is “Mrs. Felix,” the name of the narrator’s next door neighbor. She is an elderly woman whose budgie (a Britishism for a parakeet—Victor is British and lives somewhere in the north of England) has died and has asked the narrator to help dig a burial place in the back yard.
I entered the house and she showed me a little cardboard box which once contained biscuits. There, lying peacefully on its side on a bed of soft cotton wool was Churchill. All three inches of him.
I took the box from her hands and its cover and followed her in the back garden. She chose a nice shady place by a tree and decided to bury him there. I put the box and its lid on the garden table and followed her to the shed to get a spade.
And just then it happened … catastrophe of all catastrophes.
Out of the bushes came my own stupid cat from next door. He pounced on the table, grabbed Churchill in its mouth and ran away. It all happened so quickly in slow motion … like it often does in the movies.
You’ll have to read the rest. All I will say is that the cat is seen at the end licking his lips.
I think my favorite of the stories is titled “The Armchair.” The narrator’s rich uncle decided to give the family a gift, an armchair.
Not a normal type of armchair mind you … no, this was an inflatable armchair. And not the kind you inflate with air … it would take ages and strong lungs to inflate something this size. No, this armchair had to be filled with water. It’s like a water bed but armchair shaped. And it’s in the most hideous blue plastic colour.
With the gift was a short note from Uncle Herbert saying “I saw this in the shop and thought of you.”
WHY? Why would an oversized fluorescent blue inflatable armchair lead a kind, albeit somewhat demented old man, think of me? Do I look fat and wobbly maybe? I never even wear blue, so what led him to buy it for us?
Anyway … one has to be kind I suppose, and as Uncle Herbert is visiting again next week we decided to inflate the armchair with gallons and gallons of water. It must have emptied three local lakes to fill it.
I have to say Victor’s imagination is just rich. Now what kind of trouble can one get into with a devious and malicious cat and a water armchair?
So there was I yesterday sitting uncomfortably in this huge blue lagoon moving from side to side when I eventually fell asleep. There was nothing good on TV except the dust accumulated by the static. As I lay there sleeping, dreaming of being on a Pirate’s Ship with Captain Blue Beard no doubt, when suddenly my dream turned into Titanic.
LOL, they are all extremely funny. And what’s great is that Victor’s books are very inexpensive and some even free. Feline Catastrophes is a free download, and you get it here. Just scroll down to the book.
Finally I’ll provide some pictures of my cat. If you’re a reader of my blog you might remember we found a kitten by the side of our house last May ad took him in. Well he’s nearly eleven months old now and are some pictures of our cunning cat.
Here he is resting on our bed as if he were king.
Here he is lurking and playful.
And here resting on his perch, no doubt scheming.
Actually he's been a joy.