The Puss and the Parasite
It would drive her employer, Angie, into an even more furious rage. She rushed to the hall, before Angie could come down to the kitchen. Qu’est-ce-que c’est, Madame?” Elaine trembled, wondering what she would be scolded for now.Where’s my fur coat? Didn’t I tell you to keep it ready for the party tonight?”Oui, Madame”, stammered Elaine, “C’est…”
Elaine Where are you?” the shrill cry of her mistress rudely snapped a dozing Elaine awake. Her pet cat, Rollo, who had been enjoying a snooze in her warm lap, sprang down with an angry hiss. Elaine hurriedly smoothed down her apron, careful to see that no cat hair clung to it.
It would drive her employer, Angie, into an even more furious rage. She rushed to the hall, before Angie could come down to the kitchen.
Qu’est-ce-que c’est, Madame?” Elaine trembled, wondering what she would be scolded for now.Where’s my fur coat? Didn’t I tell you to keep it ready for the party tonight?”Oui, Madame”, stammered Elaine, “C’est…”
Oh, come on”, groaned Angie. “I’ve had enough of your French. Can’t you say anything in English yet? Speak up!”
It had been three months since Elaine had taken up the job of a maid at the Savant home. Pierre Savant, who lived there, was a French artist, and a busy and bad tempered man.
He had an American wife, Angie, who was equally bad tempered and unreasonable. Angie hardly knew any French, and couldn’t stand Elaine, who knew only French. Poor Elaine held on to her job, knowing how much the money meant to her.
On your bed… Madame”, said Elaine, a little haltingly.Angie scowled. She had been waiting for another chance to find fault with Elaine. “I better not find any cat hair on it!” she threatened.
I might just decide to throw you out along with your beloved cat!”Elaine had reported for work on the first day with her pet cat in tow.
The Savants did not like cats at all, but they needed a maid badly, and agreed to have Elaine, cat and all, on the one condition that it would not bother them. Elaine locked up Rollo in the kitchen for a few days, but quite soon, Rollo found a way to sneak out.
And then he was all over the place— lounging on the carpet, scratching the sofa, and snuggling up in the most unlikely of places— such as the Savants’ fireplace, the dressing table drawers and the cutlery cabinets, resulting in a string of incidents that had either or both the Savants cursing or screaming in fury.
Elaine apologized profusely each time, and tried to make up by working twice as hard. But nothing could lessen the Savants’ loathing for the creature. Rollo, of course, strutted around, oblivious to the mayhem he was causing.
While the Savants hated Rollo, they were not the only ones to do so. A much less significant pair was equally disturbed by Rollo’s arrival.
These were a pair of mice- Leo and Hugo, whohad had the entire kitchen to themselves till Rollo’s arrival.
They despised him with all their heart, and hoped that the day when the Savants would kick him out of the house would arrive soon.
“It’s all because of him that I can’t have my fill of cheese” moaned Leo. “He’s stolen our freedom! Oh, how I hate him!” cried Hugo, who missed his carefree wandering about the house, because now he had to be careful of being caught and eaten up by the feline.
Elaine meanwhile, tried her best to keep the Savants happy. She got quite a shock when Angie came rushing downstairs again, holding her fur coat high.
Just look at what your precious cat has done”, she screamed. “Scratched it through and through! Just wait, I’m going to lock him up in the store!” Despite Elaine’s pleas, Rollo found himself being hurled into the store room, and the door locked, leaving him in darkness.
While Elaine sobbed outside, Rollo made himself comfortable among the vegetables and other items stocked there. He played with the tomatoes for a while, sniffed the beans and pooped on the Cauliflower. He was let out by a very shaken Ellen after the Savants had left.
Never mind, mon cher”, said Ellen gently to Rollo, patting him, and started making preparations for dinner. “It’s all because you’re so naughty.” Ellen, of course had no idea what a wonderful time Rollo had had in the store.
Leo and Hugo peeped out of their hole into the store as soon as Rollo had been taken out. “Has he gone?” asked Leo. “He has”, said Hugo, “And let me quickly get something for us before he gets back!” Hugo rushed over to the squashed tomatoes, nibbled off bits of cauliflower, and dragged them back to their lair, just as Elaine came in and picked up the cauliflower and some potatoes to make dinner.
Yuck! This cauliflower smells of cat poop”, grimaced Leo. “I won’t eat it!”Well, that’s all I could get”, said Hugo, grumpily. “I’ll have it if you don’t want to!”
But some time later, Hugo suddenly turned weird. A strange, dreamy look came into his eyes, and Leo gave him a suspicious glance. “What’s wrong?” he asked.A dreamy voice answered. “Why, I am in love!”With whom?” asked an astonished Leo.
“Rollo, of course!” answered Hugo, as if it was the most natural thing in the world for a mouse to fall in love with a cat. “And I’m going to find him now and tell him!”“Are you mad?” hissed Leo. “He’ll eat you up!”“I have to find him, right now!” cried Hugo and darted away towards the kitchen, ignoring Leo’s warnings.
He found Rollo resting in Pierre’s armchair, while sounds of Elaine feverishly chopping the unwashed cauliflower reached his ears.
Rollo couldn’t believe his eyes as a mouse came hurtling towards him at top speed and stayed quiet at the foot of the armchair. He didn’t even hear Hugo’s declaration of love as he pounced on him in a jiffy, and swallowed him up whole.
He settled back contentedly till Elaine came and took him back to the store before the Savants returned. He heard them having dinner, threatening Elaine that she would be fired the next day, and going upstairs to bed.
The next day, Elaine packed her bags and waited for her dismissal. She walked down to the hall, carrying her suitcase, only to find Rollo curled up in Angie’s lap.
Pierre Savant patted the cat as he silently passed by, while Angie purred, “Bon jour , Elaine” in a most amicable way. Rollo yawned lazily, while swarms of a tiny, dark and mysterious parasite living inside him exulted in their survival.
Sneha Verghese is a research scholar in Journalism at Osmania University, Hyderabad. Also a post-graduate in biotechnology, she loves teaching and writing stories for kids to explain scientific concepts.