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The Strange Story of Mr. Briggs - Chapter 6

by Geetashree Chatterjee
(New Delhi)


Chapter 5


Chapter 6



The yellow cat is up to mischief again! The freshly bought packet of fish left on the kitchen slab is missing!

Of course the window was open. I had just gone out to answer the door bell! It took less than a minute for him to whisk the packet off the shelf and vanish!

Though, to be very honest, I have not seen the cat lurking around my flat for quite sometime now! But who else can the mischief monger be?

Mr. Briggs is as usual hibernating! So, nothing more to do but fret silently!

Deep breathing to ward off stress as advised by my Yoga teacher!

***

A blood stained polythene packet lay mangled along with Mr. Briggs' torn trash bag the next morning.

But all plastic packets look alike?

Benefit of doubt?. Mr. Briggs!

***

Cats are free spirited

Cats are Bohemian

Cats are distrustful

Cats are disloyal
(Not to their owners but their neighbours!)

Cats are THIEVES!!!!!!!!

***
Fourteen days more to go! We Bengalis have a habit of counting days as Durga Puja nears. This time I have applied a brake on my shopping spree. Painstakingly though! But what to do? I have already exceeded my budget and ever dwindling savings.

I had planned to buy a pair of gold earrings this Puja. No saree or any other artifacts. Just a 'plain' pair of gold earrings ornamenting my ear lobes!

Man proposes but God disposes!

Mid summer, first the AC conked off. Then the TV started snowing. Both were beyond repairs, I was told by the experts. Both are indispensable - the AC for me (Maa complaints of increased joint pain under any artificial cooling system) and the TV for my mother (I am allergic to the Idiot Box).

I was still reeling under the impact of these sudden replacements when the plaster started peeling off the kitchen and bedroom walls due to seepage, source unknown!

The gold earrings as a result have been postponed till next Puja!

Autumn always makes me wistful. This year autumn looks bleak. Miserably so, with pangs of woe stirred, shaken and swirled in the mix!

***

Mr. Briggs is half a pound more than plump, fair complexioned, dark eyed and sports a pair of moustaches. Needless to say, I hate everything about him. But I hate his smile the most.

We seem to collide into each other more often in the market place. The other day it was in front of the Mother Dairy Booth.

That reminds me of the Milk Episode!

My milkman, Mukesh, leaves the milk packets (Mother Dairy -Double toned) outside in between the grills every morning. Four packets placed one on top of the other. Two days back one packet was missing. A day previous a packet was found hideously pricked in the corner, as though by some sharp object, with the milk spilling over drip by drip on my rubber plant. By the time I picked up the packet, it was half empty.

Mr. Briggs was walking back home from his morning stroll. I stopped him, - Mr. Briggs! See what your cat has done. I told you he is the culprit. Why do you have to pamper him so much? He is always lazing around your flat. Why don't you take care and feed him may be, a little more? Or better still, why don't you shoo him away? I was unstoppable. Bottled up exasperation was fizzing out.

But strange as Mr. Briggs is, he just stood there transfixed, keenly eying the packets as time ticked by. My tirade trailed into silence as I gaped at him open mouthed. Mr. Briggs stood peering at the milk packets, through the light morning mist. A thin, pink tongue intermittently jutted out lustily caressing the mouth in circular motion - Mr. Briggs kept on licking his lips greedily, salivating lovingly over the milk packets!

I think it was the call of the azaan from the nearby mosque which brought him to his senses. He hurriedly regained his composure, glanced at me sheepishly and grinned.

A bolt of lightening struck me. I knew exactly why I hated his smile the most!

My flat faces the easterly direction. As the morning sun streamed in, it illuminated every single line of Mr. Briggs' smooth contour and settled on his upper row of neat little teeth, impeccably white, smooth and shiny which were rendered shinier by the dazzle of a gold tooth, just next to the right molar, peeping from the corner of his mouth. So intense was the impact that I shaded my eyes from its glitter.

The remorse of the missed earrings that had been dulled into a stupour suddenly churned up like an infant howling shrill for his timely doze of lactate and settled down and kept on throbbing in every nook and cranny of my heart, body, mind and soul.

It is odd how realization dawns on you at the most inopportune moments coupled with a kind of deja-vu as though you should have known a long time back what has just struck you now.

As the early morning rays played a peek-a-boo with Mr. Briggs' facial features, I happened to notice things which had somehow escaped me earlier(though I take pride in knowing Mr. Briggs through and through). I always thought Mr. Briggs had dark eyes but they were actually grayish blue and had the most displeasing tendency of altering colour with the changing stance of daylight. There were deep hollows around his eyes and somber shadows patch worked his face, forehead, cheeks, down the sides of his nose. His salt and pepper moustache sprouted out like uncut harvest over his thin lips and was in desperate need of a trimming. His hair looked almost dirty, the brown streaks yellowing at the roots.

Mr. Briggs seems to have become careless about his appearance. Perhaps age does that to you!

End of Chapter VI


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