My Roommate, Helen

In the background, is a picture of my roommate Helen, which I took some years ago soon after she had joined the family. She was discovered at a flea market which human supporters of the local animal shelter had held one warm October day in 1999. From the very start, she was a bit bossy but I, Henri, being the gentlecat that I am, did not smack her around or try to discipline her. After all, she was a queen, not a tom cat from the streets.

Eventually she could tolerate me passing her in the living room and at the litter box without hissing and spitting, I finally decided to find out a little about her background. "If you really must know, Mister Henri of Twin Brook, I am a very famous feline actress and my reputation is known around the world!" she meowed loudly. "You should be honored that I would consider even stepping one of my dainty paws in this place!"

"Oh, I am! I am truly honored, your grace!" I purred, licking my paws. "I don't know how this household could have survived all these years without your presence."

She twitched her whiskers at me. "Well, don't you forget how fortunate you cats truly are to have me eating and drinking out of the same bowls. And by the way, the next time you meow to your persons, please tell them I require my very own litter box."

I was not about to tell my persons that her royal highness, Queen Helen would require separate sanitary accomodations. It was after the new arrival decided that the potted plant in the living room made a wonderful latrine that they decided on their own to add another litter pan to the three others that had been added to the decor in the basement. Helen was not entirely satisfied with the arrangement and growled about it. I was really annoyed when she smacked poor Sidney on the rump for putting his paws within the new pan's bounderies. "That's my litter pan!" shrieked Helen, backing off when she saw my back arch and my tail expand.

"Really?" I hissed. "I guess we will have to make up a sign spelling out your name in red lights and hang it over that litter pan!"

Helen nodded. "That would be nice!"

A few days later, I was sunning myself in the front yard when Rumsfeld walked by. "Yo, Henri!" he meowed. "How is everything?" Rumsfeld is a tom cat who lives over on Wooden Street. He had been a stalker of the alleys until he was trapped, taken to the cat hospital and then released back to the streets as a more acceptable citizen. Because his disposition had changed so drastically, he had been adopted by a family and had opted for life as a part time housecat. "I see you've got a new tenant in your home. The old girl hasn't changed much from the last time I saw her."

"You know her, Rumsfeld? She claims her name is Helen and is decended from royalty," I meowed.

Rumsfseld hissed with glee. "Royalty? What's so royal about eating out of garbage cans? When she was prowling around Winchester Avenue, she was known as Shady Sadie. That cat's been around the block more than a few times. I heard she had at least three litters of kits chasing after her. Never did pay all that much attention to the little monsters. She was too busy going to parties and hanging out with the queens to care about them. Most of them got picked up and taken away to a home for orphaned felines...."

My jaw sagged with dismay. Who would have known that sweet faced Helen, my housemate, had ice running through her veins? "I had no idea, that our humble home had been harboring an uncaring, unfeeling, cold hearted compassionless, kitty! My paws stumbled on the computer's keys. It was difficult for me to spell out those words which spoke of a cruel, uncaring nature!

"What are you writing, Henri?" Helen's meow was so loud and shrill, I almost fell off the chair. "What's this about a cat named Helen who deserted her litter of kittens and went out partying with the neighborhood toms?" Helen stared at the computer screen. "Is that my picture sprawled across the page? Is this a story about me, Henri?" Her eyes scanned the lines of writing. "You beast! How dare you say such terrible things about me! Why I never insisted on my own litter pan and you know it!" Much to my embarrassment and horror she continued continued to inspect every line of my story. "If you really must know, smarty cat, I was picked up on Winchester Avenue after I had been abandoned by my person. My kittens, all of whom were very beautiful, were born in an animal shelter and each one of them was adopted at the age of eight weeks. I frequently get e-mails from them on the upstairs computer." Helen glared at me. "I never had another litter after that," she growled "It is true that I was adopted by our persons when the shelter had a tag sale and I was asked to be there to look adorable and promote animal adoption but I was no throw away cat!" I could see the right paw winding up to strike. I did not duck the blow quickly enough "Take that, you miserable creature!"

Boy, that cat sure packs a whollop! I have been wearing a band aid on my nose for the past two days. As for Rumsfeld, I asked Raymond Hazelwitz, rodent activist to contact the old boy and warn him not to approach this house for a few years! Queens just don't have a sense of humor. It was only a story. I didn't mean anything by it.....Some cats just don't appreciate good literature.....

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