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Trouble with the Servants
by
Jack Windsor

                                    

`Just a minute Alfie old boy, I want a word with you before you go in the house.'

The sandy coloured Burmese cat pulled up with a start for he hadn't seen his sister sitting there beside the steps. Although they were siblings, they were very different both in appearance and temperament. Maudie, whose coat was smoky-grey, was totally laid back and relaxed. Rarely did anything in life bother her much. Her brother on the other hand forever worried about everything and anything. He was a creature of routine and became distressed when that routine was disturbed.

Now the tone of her voice when she stopped him made Alfie worry.

`What's the matter?' he asked.

`I think the servants are preparing to leave us.'

His tail twitched. `Oh no, not again! I do so hate it when they do this. It makes life so difficult. Are you sure they are going?'

`Oh yes,' she purred, quite enjoying his discomfort. `While you have been out in the garden sunning yourself all morning, they have been behaving strangely. They have even taken those bags out of the cupboard again and filled them with clothes.'

`Why, oh why,' moaned Alfie, `do they do this to us? You just cannot find reliable staff these days. Here we are having spent five years training them as to how we like to be looked after and now, we are going to have to teach new servants what to do. It really isn't good enough!'

They went into the kitchen and Maudie settled into her basket, then said, `Come now, it isn't that bad. We may even be able to have a bit of fun with the new servants.'

`Hmm.' replied her brother who, with a flick of his tail, turned his back and walked into the hall.

It was true. There were the bags lined up next to the front door. The woman servant was bustling around checking on this and that and the man was talking on the telephone. Alfie sat on the bottom step of the stairs to await events. It was comfortable there and his eyes soon began to close.

The doorbell jarred him awake. The new servants had arrived. There were two of them, a lean man and a dark-haired woman. The four servants greeted each other like friends then, the two females went into the kitchen while the males stayed near the front door talking and pressing buttons on that box that makes strange noises.

Thirty minutes later, the doorbell rang again and a man stood waiting. It was all too much for Alfie and he ran halfway up the stairs before curiosity overcame him and he peered through the rails. He watched with dismay as the usual servants left with the visitor.

When the new servants came back into the house, the man looked up and, seeing the cat, said, `Hello Alfie.'

Alfie replied under his breath, `Huh! He's only been here five minutes and already he's becoming familiar.' Then he scampered up the stairs and hid under the quilt in the top bedroom.

During the afternoon Maudie gave some thought as to how they could initiate the new servants. Then, when Alfie came in for his supper, she told him of her ideas.

Alfie however, was only half listening. `Look at them,' he said, `You would think that, if they were coming to take up a new position that they would at least know where everything is kept. Yet look at the woman, she's opened just about every cupboard looking for pots and pans, and the man is at it too. It really is not acceptable for people to be so unprepared when they come to look after us.'

`Just as long as they know where our food is, I really don't mind what they do,' purred his sister.

The two cats spent most of the remainder of the day hunting or sleeping in the gardens of their house and those of their neighbours. Occasionally they came home to check that the servants were carrying out their duties correctly and to snack from the food bowls.

`Thank goodness they know we like cucumber slices with our food,' said Alfie. `At least they have managed to get one thing right.'

Later that evening when brother and sister finally came in, the new servants were locking up and preparing for bed.

`Which room are they using?' asked Alfie.

`The first floor back room overlooking the garden. At least that's where they dumped their bags. Now, about tonight's plans .'

The man servant looked in the kitchen, checked that the cats had settled down, then went to the alarm control box to enter the night-time settings. The lights went out and before long the two humans were sleeping.

Maudie on the other hand was wide-awake. She glided quietly into the hall then padded softly up the stairs, the bell at her collar gently tinkling as she went. Pausing at the bedroom door, she looked in on the servants.

They seemed to be sound asleep. Certainly the man was, for his snoring sounded like the local sawmill on a busy day.

`Right,' Maudie thought, `Let's start the fun.'

`Brian, Brian, wake up, I'm sure there is someone in the house.'

The snoring abruptly changed into a porcine snorting as Brian's wife, Angela, prodded his side with her finger. `Whatsa matter,' he mumbled, then rolled over and attempted to get back to sleep.

The prodding came again. `Wake up Brian. I keep hearing strange noises.'

Reluctantly the man dragged himself back into a foggy consciousness. `What sort of noise?' he asked.

`Like someone is in the house,' she insisted. `Listen there it is again.'

The fog cleared and Brian's brain switched to active mode. Angela was right, there was a strange noise. He slid out of bed and picked up the heavy rubber torch from the dressing table. The he quietly made his way across the room and out onto the landing. There was enough light from the street lamp to see without using the torch.

Angela called after him her voice touched with concern. `Be careful Brian.'

He stood listening in the hall; not a sound. Then, remembering the burglar alarm, he walked to the control box and keyed in the numbers.

Quickly he opened the door to the front room and shone the torch into the darkness. The powerful beam penetrated every corner one by one; nothing behind the settee either. He closed the door and looked into the kitchen. Nothing amiss there.

A piercing scream from upstairs almost caused him to drop the torch.

Angela was sitting upright in the bed. `There's something under the bed,' she breathed. `It's a sort of scratching rustling noise.'

The torch beam illuminated the boxes stored beneath the bed. `Can't see anything here,' said Brian. He moved the nearest container aside, then chuckled. `It's only Maudie!'

`You naughty cat. Poor Angela was very worried by the noises you were making. Now off you go back to the kitchen. It's past midnight and we want to sleep.'

The grey cat insinuated her way around the boxes then, after giving him a long innocent look, padded out onto the landing. She paused and looked back before lightly descending the stairs. Had there been just the hint of a smile on her face?

The humans settle down again. Just as Brian was dropping off, he remembered the burglar alarm. `Darn it,' he grumbled and once more visited the hall to reset it.

It was just after 2 a.m. when both Angela and Brian were jarred awake by an eerie and unearthly howl. It sounded as if there was a banshee in the house. Alfie was sitting on the landing with his head held back, yowling at the top of his voice.

`That's enough of that Alfie,' shouted Angela, as Brian shone the torch at the sandy coloured Burmese.

Satisfied that both servants were awake; Alfie stood up and stretched himself. Then with a flick of his tail, went back downstairs. The next night he did the same, and the next and the next.

Then after they had been there a week, the new servants packed up their belongings and put them in their car. Both cats sat on the stairs to await events.

`It's happening again,' growled Alfie. `Just as this pair of servants has learned our routine, they are going to leave.'

`I know what you mean,' said his sister. `There's just no loyalty left these days.' She jumped off the stairs and went through the kitchen and down the steps into the garden.

Ten minutes later, Alfie ran after her. `Hey Sis,' he called as she squeezed back through the neighbour's hedge. `Our old servants are back and the others have gone.'

`Well that was a job well done Maudie,' she purred in self-congratulation. `Let us hope they haven't learned any bad habits, otherwise we shall have to retrain them.'

Alfie however was not listening. He lay curled up in a patch of sunshine on the path. For once in his life he was feeling relaxed and content.

(If you would like to read more of Jack Windsor's stories, go to the main Stories section and scroll down the navigation bar on the left of the page.)

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