On every working day, the Kudla Competition School bus would eject seven-year-old Imtiaz in front of his house. Imtiaz would then saunter up to his waiting grandmother, mother, or sister, deposit his school bag in her hands, and then run off to play. He would play till his long-suffering grandmother, mother, or sister yelled at him to come in and change before his uniform got too dirty for human use.
That Wednesday, however, Imtiaz did not run off to play as usual. He went straight to his mother’s bedroom, where his mother was patiently embroidering flowers on a piece of fine fabric.
“Ammi,” he said loudly. Imtiaz always spoke loudly. “Listen!”
His mother, Zubaida Ahmed, sighed and gazed at him wearily. “Go away Imtiaz,” she said. “Go and change. And don’t stand in the light.”
“Ammi, can I kill Agnes Auntie’s cat?” demanded Imtiaz
Zubaida Ahmed, affectionately called Zuby by her friends and relatives, was speechless. She stared at her son in horror.
“Tell fast,” he demanded. “Can I kill Agnes Auntie’s cat?”
“NO!” squealed Zuby. Poor Zuby, unlike her son, couldn’t shout. Whenever she tried to shout, a pathetic squeal emerged from her mouth.
“What’s wrong with you, Imtiaz?” she gasped. “Go and change, drink your milk, and do your homework.”
“Why are you always telling me to do my homework?” demanded Imtiaz. “I don’t want homework. I want a dead cat.”
A furious Zuby kept her embroidery aside, rose to her feet, and grabbed her son. He wriggled out of her grasp and ran away. She rushed after him and he rushed away. Pausing near the back door, which was always open, he shouted, “I will kill it!” and rushed out.
Zuby clutched at her aching forehead and groaned. “This boy!” she thought. “What on earth do they teach children in schools these days? Now what does he want a dead cat for?”
She wearily returned to her bedroom and picked up her embroidery. Peace reigned over the house for a quarter of an hour.
“Maybe he forgot about the dead cat,” thought Zuby. “I wonder what got into him. These children can turn your hair grey.”
All of a sudden, the silence was shattered by the raucous yowls of an angry cat. Zuby’s eldest daughter, Amirah, could be heard screaming, “Leave it! Leave it Imtiaz! I said let it go!” Pricking her finger in her haste to rise to her feet, Zuby rushed out of the house, nearly tripping over her green-and-white nightie.
As she burst out of the house, she spotted the tail of Agnes D’Souza’s huge black cat as it flew over the garden wall and vanished from view. Amirah was spanking Imtiaz mercilessly. “Amirah!” squealed Zuby, rushing to rescue her son from her daughter. “Stop it!”
“He was trying to kill the cat!” complained Amirah, her face red with anger. “He was squeezing it just as you squeeze toothpaste out of the tube.”
“So what?” squealed Zuby. “Do you have to spank him like that? See his face! That cat has scratched him so badly. I can’t bear to see him.”
“I saved his life. That cat might have killed him. It was so angry,” said Amirah, coldly. “And you are scolding me! You always scold me. You never scold your son. Next time, I am not going to save your son from any cat.”
And Amirah walked away in a huff.
Zuby dragged a silent Imtiaz inside the house and began tending to his wounds. She spent the next ten minutes lecturing him on how a good little seven-year-old ought to behave. She spoke on kindness to animals in general and cats in particular.
“Oh please Ammi,” said Imtiaz. “Will the cat die if I show kindness to it?”
Zuby was appalled. “Shut up Imtiaz!” she squealed. “Why are you after that cat? Can’t you leave it alone? It isn’t any cat! It’s our neighbor’s cat.”
“We play Dead Cat Game in school,” said Imtiaz sulkily. “Nobody squeals like you do.”
Zuby stared at him helplessly as he moodily picked up his toy car. Then he suddenly brightened up.
“Ammi,” he said. “Will the cat act dead if I give it some fish?”
Writer’s Note: Above story is a creative piece based on a real incident. If you see yourself or anyone you know in any of the characters (including the cat), the writer is not responsible.
The story is far from over. There is still lots to be said. 🙂