The Strange Story of Mr. Briggs - Chapter 7
by Geetashree Chatterjee
It's a month now that I have seen Mr. Briggs. In fact, nobody has, either. So says Mrs. Sharma, the snoopy Reuter of the Block.
The yellow cat has vanished too. I am relieved.
But a nagging doubt still pokes its head at times. Where has Mr. Briggs suddenly disappeared to?
I am curious. Very, very curious??
My days of unproductive inquisitiveness ended on one fine Sunday afternoon. (Did it really?)
It was early winter. The days were still warm giving way to chilly evening and chillier nights. I was washing the utensils in the kitchen. The window to the front lane was wide open. Sun strode in along with a light breeze. The trees in the park shivered softly.
I hummed a tune as I worked. Suddenly a shadow fell on the sink. I was surprised. Was it going to rain? As I looked up to check, a gasp escaped my mouth. Perched daintily on the window sill was the dirty yellow vagabond cat back again intently watching me with a lop sided smile on his lips. His grey whiskers twitched, twirled and twisted as he tried hard to repress the smile from rippling into froths of guileful giggle.
Where was Snow? I instantly remembered that this shrewd imp was not a grain frightened of any beast, let alone Snow. As I stood there almost stupefied under his bold, hypnotic spell, the mood changed. The grey eyes lit up with something uncannily familiar and before I could pinch myself the lips parted in a wide ear to ear grin. Was I imagining? A set of pure white, uniformly moulded teeth bared in simpering vanity intercepted by a wee chink of gold next to the right molar half hidden by a furry mouth and strands of unkempt whiskers!!
There was a crashing sound as the unwashed bowl slipped out of my hand into the steel sink with a resonating clank. I dashed towards the back door and ran pell mell to the flat opposite mine. I could here Snow following me in equal speed barking loudly. Maa was calling out to me???But my body brakes had failed. The feet kept on pressing the accelerator.
The balcony door as usual was unlocked. I bolted in and would have almost hurled myself on the front door (leading to the flat) when a steel lock hanging by the latch jolted me to a stop. The door was locked. Mr. Briggs was not there. There was an unusual air of finality about the locked door.
I retrace my steps back home. A quieter, introspective me! There is something terribly wrong with me. I am loosing control over myself. My imagination is running wild and overtaking reality.
A must visit to Banerjee Kaku, the famous shrink, Baba's child hood friend. I make a mental note to jot it down later in my 'What To Do' note pad.
The kitchen was empty when I came back. The yellow cat had vanished into thin air.
Nothing seemed amiss except the bowl of fish curry which I had prepared for lunch this morning.
I met Mrs. Nosy Sharma that afternoon.
(Why does she always remind me of a gushing hose pipe?)
Before I could ask she supplied the desired inputs.
Do you know Didi Mr. Briggs has left for the States for good? Going to stay with his son now! Mrs. Sharma continued in one breath. Given Mr. Briggs' odd habits she really had doubts as to how long his son would be able to put up with him. I had my doubts too.
And after the catastrophe this morning, I wondered! I seriously wondered!!!
I am back in the kitchen in the receding light of dusk to brew a cup of tea. I place the kettle on the gas stove at the same time stretching out to open the window. My gas oven is placed right in front of the kitchen window.
I feel washed out, drained, perhaps emotionally spent will be the right expression. My eyes fall on something.
A pair of gold rimmed glasses glistening on the kitchen slab. It was not there this morning.
Neither is it mine nor my mother's.
But I know who it belongs to.
I have often seen it settled on the bridge of his chubby nose when he screens his posts.
Carefully folded on the clean, white marble slab lies Mr. Briggs' reading glasses!!!! End of the story Back to "The Strange Story of Mr. Briggs" - Chapter 1