Feline Felony

30 Jan

He was stuck in the last few feet of traffic before the multiplex when Dev called him and told him that he and Manoj couldn’t make it to the film. There was a crisis on at office, he said, and they would probably be firefighting till midnight. “Damn!” he thought. “If they had only called before I left work, I could have headed straight home. Now do I go in or not?” Of course, he wasn’t a scared girl going alone for a movie for the first time. He had sought solitary escape in movie halls before months ago, when he was first getting over Sowmya’s breaking up with him. He was well over that now. “I don’t really need to go in,” he thought. “But I’m now in the parking lot! And there’s no escape for the next two and a half hours at least! Oh, well…”

He armed himself with a big helping of buttered popcorn, a brownie and a coke before heading towards his seat. The combined edibles made quite an impressive array, as he tried to juggle them and walk confidently towards the corner seats he had booked in a short row at the back. The first two seats from the aisle were the only occupied ones. As he walked awkwardly past legs that seemed impossibly long, and a faintly familiar smell of perfume, Sandeep saw that it was two girls already with their heads together, discussing something, even though what they were seeing ahead on screen was only a string of jewellery commercials.

He sat three seats away from them, with the two empty seats in between coming in handy to park some of his burden. He could feel their eyes on him as he wolfed down the popcorn, with intermittent helpings of the brownie. “Must think I’m a real pig,” he thought, mentally resigning himself to an extra hour in the gym. “Oh, well…”

The movie was one of those new films wherein Bollywood endlessly retells its own story in some form or another, and while the initial appearance of the hero did draw some appreciative gasps from the girls, the later part of the film had them all sitting in a sort of dumbfounded stupor. As they shuffled towards the exit with him stifling a yawn, he saw the tall girl confidently declare to her companion, “I’m happy, look, I can still be happy even after watching a flop film, but what I’m trying to tell you is…” He never did hear the rest of her sentence, but he didn’t miss her quick backward glance at him just before the whole swarm of exiting moviegoers stepped into the car park.

Three days later, he was sitting and unraveling a rather knotty problem on his laptop in the café, when the cap of his expensive pen rolled off the table on to the ground. Not noticing at first, he continued working, till a movement in the corner of his eye made him see that the striped grey cat sometimes seen strolling around the café seemed to have suddenly run wild. It had taken a great fancy to the pen cap, and he saw it push the tiny object great distances around the café with swooshing movements of its front paws, then chase it at top speed for some fresh hits.

He got up to retrieve his pen cap from the marauding feline. “Hey” he said, and “Shoo!” but the cat had already made its speedy way in the manner of an expert ice-hockey player to the back of the café, where one of the smacks of its paw made the pen cap smartly hit the side of a girl’s sandaled foot. As he turned the corner, the girl looked down, then stood up, and he noticed how tall she was. She bent down and picked up the cap, and as he reached her, she held it out to him. Their eyes met, nearly level, and she exclaimed, “This is yours? You’re the one who buys three seats for the movies and eats a truck full of popcorn isn’t it?” Then she smiled.

Two months later, the striped grey cat at the café was spotted in repose on one of the chairs, sleeping off the effects of an obviously large meal. No, it had not raided the café kitchen, and no, Roland had not slipped it an extra large helping of chicken. A kind customer had very considerately left it a present of a can of Whiskas tuna.

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