Bruce Dalwhinney had his pet peeves. Not those petty annoyances we all experience in daily life, but the animals we dote upon.
For instance, Bruce just didn’t get guppies. How was it, in the 19th century, that Trinidad clergyman, the Reverend R. J. L. Guppy, could be so deeply moved by the sight of this small, freshwater denizen giving live birth to her pin-sized progeny? Yet Goodman Guppy was inspired enough to send the first specimens home to the British Museum and is immortalized by the popularity of his namesakes in contemporary aquaria around the world. But a baby guppy? They’re so small and helpless out of water, Bruce thought, and it’s hard to tell if they’re really returning your affection.
No. When it came to pets, Bruce Dalwhinney was a catperson – a rabid cat-person. But he didn’t bite, or foam at the mouth, or lurch around London, Ontario menacing animal haters or those of a different pet persuasion. Neither was he a twisted ‘Typhoid Larry,’ intent on infecting others with his enthusiasm in some ruthless quest to create a global pandemic of cat-lovers or bring on feline Armageddon. Not at all, Bruce just really, really liked cats. And Bruce would be the first to raise his rum glass in salute to the resourceful Reverend of yore and his sincere interest in the gravid guppies of Trinidad.
Thus, Bruce was completely tolerant of dogs and dogpersons. But set down this: When in the privacy of his own home, his sanctum sanctorum, Bruce worshipped only at the altar of the Egyptian cat goddess, Bastet. And as for the servants of the jackal-headed god, Anubis? Well, live and let bark, he said. They were welcome to bring their doggie offerings of soupbones and chew-toys to His temple next door.
Bruce was recently retired from teaching while his wife, Doris, was toiling in the bowels of the London Life Insurance building and making a truly heroic effort not to resent him – as long as he continued to be responsible for all cooking, cleaning, shopping, yard work and oil changes, and kept up his end of the more pleasurable conjugal duties, duties for which he should have had a renewed interest and energy. Alas, Bruce did not. Nor did he, as so many of his retired compatriots, speak ‘golf,’ the apparent lingua franca of most of his fifty-plus age-cohort. As well, their last cat, a sweet-natured but aged calico that he and Doris had taken in as a stray, was called to the after-life by Bastet some five months before his retirement.
This had left Bruce HOME ALONE, bereft and deeply depressed.
When retirement struck, and he was home and so lonely, a household drudge, a pensioner without a Ping putter to his name, Bruce became virtually suicidal. He sorely missed their departed cat and struggled to cope. His occasional purchases of Hostess Twinkies from the nearby 7-11 store, had quickly become a ten-Twinkie-a-day habit. Bruce was particularly fond of the original, re-introduced vanilla Twinkie and often fried up four of them in white shortening for lunch, washed down with a diet Coke.
Bruce’s arteries were overloaded with the resultant fatty plaques; he was top-heavy, unbalanced and approaching the Final Fall. At least, he consoled himself, with death by self-induced coronary would come OBLIVION. That’s how Bruce saw the word in his failing imagination: thick, blocky capitals and black, black, black.
It was a near thing. But in extremis, at the very nadir of his despond, the goddess, Bastet, and possibly the whole of the ancient Egyptian pantheon, conspired in his salvation.
They sent Bruce a dream.
To wit: That Bruce should locate, purchase, and lovingly hand-raise, two adorable, purebred, Siamese kittens – siblings, a brother and a sister – and they would be his saviours, his feline Messiahs offering hope of salvation and a life of renewed purpose.
You could have bowled him over with a hairball!