“Fannie, I want to know what Richard want’s for his birthday?” asked Lenora Jane before I finished saying hello.
“He wants cash for his birthday.”
“We don’t give cash or gift cards, it’s too impersonal. Steve and I will give him a gift, now what does he want?”
“Lenora Jane, he doesn’t want any gifts, he just wants cash.”
“What about something for his office? What theme is it decorated in?”
“Theme?” I contemplated for a moment. “Early modern post college,” I said laughing.
“Very funny. He must want something. What does he collect?” she asked refusing to let go.
“He doesn’t collect anything.”
“Will you quit being difficult? There must be something he wants. What are you getting him?”
“A card filled with cash,” I said, “because that’s what he said he wanted.
“How about something with a nautical theme?” asked Lenora Jane, “I know he likes fishing.”
“Fine, something with a nautical theme would be great. Make sure you get a gift receipt.”
“Won’t need it, I have the perfect gift in mind,” she said.
“Sounds great,” I said rolling my eyes, “see you at the party.”
Two weeks later, the family gathered at our house. After desert, Richard opened four cards filled with cash. Lenora Jane handed him the gift. Richard opened the box. Inside sat a wall mounted brass bell.
“Thanks, Lenora Jane,” said Richard, “I’m not sure what to say.”
“Your thanks was enough,” said Lenora Jane smiling. “I knew you would love it. Now where are you going to mount it?”
“Do you have any suggestions?” asked Richard egging her on.
“I thought it would look great hanging in your office,” she said warming up to the subject. “Every time you get a large order, you can ring the bell.”
“You know, I never thought of that,” he said, “So you think it should be somewhere near my desk?”
“I have the perfect place in mind, I checked it out when we first got here. If you will come with me now, you can hang it before we leave.”
My father and Uncle Carl excused themselves from the table. Steve followed. We could hear laughter trickle back down the hall.
Looking down the hall toward the sound, Aunt Verla piped up. “Yes, Richard, why don’t you hang it before we leave, then we can all see how it looks.”
“It would be my greatest pleasure,” said Richard grinning, “I’ll go get a hammer and meet you in the office.”
Richard winked at me as he headed toward the garage. Lenora Jane led the way to the office.
“Lenora Jane, don’t you think Richard should do that?” I asked. “It is his office after all.”
“Oh, I’m sure he won’t mind’,” she said removing the bulletin board from the wall clearing the place of honor for the bell.
Richard entered the office. He paused for a moment seeing the new blank space on the wall.
“I see you have this all worked out,” said Richard regaining his composure.
Lenora Jane smiled at him and said, “this is the perfect spot.”
Richard removed the bell from the box. Taking the mounting hardware out of the package, he placed the mounting bracket on the wall.
“Richard, it should be just a little bit higher, otherwise the rope will get in your way,” said my mother.
Richard raised the mounting bracket a few inches. Everyone nodded. He drove the nails into the wall. Sliding the mounting arm over the bracket it snapped into place. The bell attached to a rocker on the end of the brass arm. Attaching the rope to the rocker Richard stood back to admire the job.
Lenora Jane stepped in front of him and rang the bell. A clear tone filled the room.
“Now aren’t you glad we got you a gift instead of money?” asked Lenora Jane smiling.
Two orange cats padded down the hallway toward the office attracted by the noise.
Winding undetected through a sea of legs, Wicket jumped up onto the desk to investigate.
“Bad cat,” said Aunt Verla waving her arms at him, “get off the desk.”
“Aunt Verla, I wouldn’t bother, you won’t win,” I said.
Wicket sat on the desk facing his antagonist. Unmoved, he turned his attention to the new bell. Standing on his hind legs, he sniffed the bell and the rope. He tapped the rope with one paw. The bell moved slightly. His eyes dilated. He tapped the rope harder. The bell produced a faint ping.
Claws extended, he struck at the rope. Richard grabbed him before he could connect. “Oh no you don’t.”
Putting him on the floor he shooed him out of the room.
“That’s going to be a problem. Where one goes the other will follow,” I said. “We will either need to move the bell or bring the kitty corrector in for a short time.”
“Why don’t you just close the door?” asked Lenora Jane. “It’s just a cat.”
Richard and I laughed.
“Just a cat. Lenora Jane, before he was six-month-old he could open any door in the house. Closets, cabinets, drawers it didn’t matter. At one year, he backed an 180-pound Newfoundland into a corner. He didn’t hurt him, he just made the dog stay for ten minutes because the dog drank out of his water dish. He’s not just a cat.”
“You should have gotten a dog, then you wouldn’t have this problem.”
Richard and I looked at each other.
“Why don’t you help me get the dishes cleaned up before you go?” I asked leading the way from the office.
After everyone left, Richard removed the bell from the wall, patched the holes and rehung his bulletin board.
“Fannie, what do you think about hanging this in the bedroom?” asked Richard holding the bell in one arm.
“Are you sure you want to risk it?” I asked. “Wicket and Sadie are right behind you waiting for their moment.”
The cats sat three feet behind Richard doing their laundry.
“I think I can hang it high enough it won’t be a problem,” he said eying the cats.
“Then go for it.”
Richard mounted the bell on the wall above my nightstand mere inches from the ceiling. The cats curled up at the foot of the bed, napping. Looking at the cats, Richard shook his head.
“Hey, Fannie, where are you, I want you to come take a look at this and tell me what you think,” called Richard down the hallway.
“Hang on just a second. I want to get the last of the folding chairs back out in the garage.”
“Let me help you,” said Richard reaching for a chair.
From the bedroom, we could hear the clear tone of a bell followed by a thud and several thumps. We dropped the chairs and ran into the bedroom. From a curled position, two heads popped up and two sets of green eyes peered at us over the foot board.
The bell swung on the rocker and all the books on the night stand splayed out over the floor.
“I don’t know how they do it,” I said. “If I didn’t know better I would say Chip is back up to his old tricks.”
“Chip?” asked Richard confused.
“The family joke, when no one would fess up to rule breaking, we would blame it on my grandmother’s infamous poltergeist, Chip. Whatever you do, don’t mention Chip in front of my mother or Aunt Verla, you won’t hear the end of it.”
“Gotcha,” said Richard nodding.
“Well, I guess I will keep the books inside the night stand instead of on top of it.”
“I’ll grab the kitty corrector and bring it in here. We want to nip this in the bud or we will never sleep again.”
“Are you sure you want to keep the bell?” I asked looking at the cats.
“At least long enough for Lenora Jane to forget about it,” he said.
The bell stood silent for five months. Going to bed late one Tuesday evening we fell into bed exhausted.
Richard and I leaped out of bed. The bell’s ring fading away. Richard felt his way around the pitch black room until he found the flash light.
“You okay?” I asked from my side of the bed.
“Yeah, are you?” asked Richard running the flashlight around the room.
“Yeah, what happened?” I asked.
“The power went out.”
Richard pointed the flashlight at the bell. It slowed to a stop.
“What set off the bell?” I asked.
Richard ran the flashlight down the wall. On the nightstand beside me sat Wicket looking at us. He blinked then joined Sadie on the floor.
“What time do you think it is?” I asked searching for my wrist watch. “Can you flash the light over here?”
Reaching behind the cats, I rescued my watch, it read 4:59 a.m.
“Oh crap, Richard, you’re going to be late if you don’t get a move on, it’s almost 5 a.m,” I said adrenaline rushing through my veins, “if you’re not out of here in the next 15 minutes you’re going to miss the ferry.”
Richard watched Wicket washing his face. He shook his head and said, “it looks like I owe you one buddy.”
Richard jumped into the shower while I packed a quick breakfast by flashlight. I moved Richard’s back pack next to the garage door.
Richard rushed out of the bedroom, stuffing his feet into his shoes as he went.
Handing him his breakfast, keys and cell phone, I said, “Your backpack is by the door, don’t get a ticket.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll be right on time,” said Richard giving me a quick kiss before he went out the door.
Heading back to the bedroom, the flashlight beam caught two orange cats sitting next to their food dishes.
“Well you two, you deserve a treat.”
Listening to the cats enjoying their breakfast, I crawled back into bed just as the lights came back on.