She woke up that morning confused. "Where am I?" she thought. "Marty? Marty? Where are you?" As if in reply, a cat jumped onto the bedspread that covered her stomach.
"Good morning, Mr Whiskers." The cat meowed at her.
Mrs Whitney sat up and let her legs hang over the side of the bed. Mr Whiskers purred as the old woman stroked his calico fur.
"I think I'll call you Marty." She picked up a glass of water and a handful of pills from her bedside table. "Or at least when Isabella isn't visiting." She swallowed. "Marty? Now where have I heard that name before?"
Suddenly, the telephone rang, interrupting her thought.
"Fire! Mr Whiskers! Fire!"
The cat looked at the old woman and licked the old woman's hand. Mrs Whitney jumped down from the bed, sending the cat hissing to the floor.
"Help! Fire! Someone call the police!" She grabbed the phone and dialed.
Mrs Whitney dropped the telephone. "Did you say something, Marty?" The cat meowed at her from under the bedside table.
"Poor kitty. He must be hungry." She got down on her hands and knees and addressed an outlet in the wall. "Do you want your kitty nibbles?"
Mr Whiskers slowly crawled over to the old woman. "Let's go get some kitty nibbles." Mrs Whitney picked up the cat and carried him downstairs to the kitchen.
"Wait right here," she said, plopping the cat into the sink. "Let me find your bowl." Mrs Whitney removed a colander and a strainer from the dishwasher. As she set the containers on the counter, she knocked a plastic baggie onto the floor.
"Oops!" She threw the bag onto the kitchen table.
"Now for the kitty nibbles." She opened a cabinet and pulled out a generic box of toasted oat rings. "How much would you like, dear?"
The cat meowed.
"Milk! Of course! Every healthy breakfast consists of at least one glass of milk." The old woman dropped the empty box of cereal on the floor and yanked open the refrigerator.
"But it's pronounced "milk," not "meowk."
She poured sour milk, which dribbled onto the counter and floor, over the cereal. The stench wafted into her face. "Eew! Marty, say excuse me. And try to leave the kitchen next time. Oops! Almost forgot to wash my hands."
Mrs Whitney turned on the faucet. Mr Whiskers howled and sprung out of the sink into the colander on the counter.
"Mr Whiskers, you've had an accident. Let's go get you some clean panties." She picked up the trembling cat and left the kitchen. Mr Whiskers meowed.
Halfway up the stairs, she heard a knock on the front door. "Coming," she yelled as she set the cat on a shelf on the wall.
"Marty, I need to answer the door." Mrs Whitney pulled open the front door. "Oh, hi, Charlie!"
"Mom, are you all right?" asked Charlie.
"Of course, baby. So good to see you. You really should call your old mum more often."
Charlie stepped into the front hall. "I do, Mom. I called this morning, but you hung up on me."
"Nonsense, dear! Why would I hang up on my own daughter? Where's Isabella?"
"Probably with her parents." Charlie looked at Mr Whiskers, who was meowing pathetically. "Why is the cat on that shelf?" He bounded up the stairs. "And why is it all wet?" He set the cat down on the steps.
"And why does it smell like spoiled milk?"
"You know cats, Charlie," Mrs Whitney replied. "Independent little buggers."
"Mom, are you feeling okay today?"
"I feel fine, darling. But you really should call before you just drop by. I could have been in the middle of something." She picked up Mr Whiskers again and climbed the stairs.
"Did you need something, Charlie?"
He sighed again and leaned against the railing. "I was wondering if I could take you out to lunch, Mom."
"Take me some lunch!" Mrs Whitney shouted from the second floor. "I have plenty of food here!"
"No, Mom." Charlie climbed up the steps after her. "I asked if you would like to join me for lunch this afternoon. My treat."
She stuck her head out of her bedroom. "Oh, Charlie, you needn't make a fuss about this old woman. I don't want to be any bother."
"No bother. Can't a son take his mum out for lunch?"
"Of course, darling." She ducked back into her bedroom. "What shall we wear to lunch with our son, Mr Whiskers?"
Charlie sat down on the top step. "Mom, the cat cannot come to a restaurant."
Mrs Whitney popped back out into the hall. "I know that."
"Just checking, Mom." Charlie stood up. "I'll come by to pick you up around eleven-thirty. Okay?"
"Of course, dear. I'll see you then."
Charlie thudded down the stairs and slammed the front door behind him.
"Oh, pooh, Mr Whiskers! And I had such a pretty hat for you to wear, too. It matches my blouse." Mrs Whitney sat down on her bed with the cat on her lap. "But don't you worry. I'll sneak you back some leftovers."
The telephone rang.
Mrs Whitney looked around.
The telephone rang again.
"Oh, the phone," she chuckled. "Marty, could you get that?"
The telephone rang a third time.
"Fine. Don't mind the old woman. I'll answer it." Mrs Whitney stood up, sending Mr Whiskers plummeting to the floor. "Hello?"
"No, Mum. This is Savannah."
"Oh, hi, baby!" She sat down on the edge of the bed. "How is Isabella?"
"She's doing fine. I'm just calling to remind you to take your medication."
"Thank you. I almost forgot." Mrs Whitney walked across her bedroom into her bathroom. She filled a glass with water and pulled a plastic baggie of pills from the medicine cabinet. She emptied the contents into her mouth and swallowed.
"Did I tell you that Charlie is taking me out to lunch today?"
"No, Mum. That's wonderful. And I'd love to chat awhile, but I need to run some errands."
"Okay, honey. I'll talk to you later."
"Bye, Mum. And don't forget to take your medicine."
"I won't. Bye." Mrs Whitney hung up the phone and set it on the sink counter.
Mr Whiskers rubbed against her ankle and meowed.
"That was Savannah, Mr Whiskers. She called to remind me…" Mrs Whitney looked at the glass of water she still held in her hand. "To remind me to take my pills. Better not forget, eh, Mr Whiskers?" She opened the medicine cabinet and removed another baggie.
The cat jumped onto the counter and meowed again.
"I don't want to get sick, now, do I?" She dumped the pills into her mouth and swallowed a sip of water.
"Well, I'd better feed you before I go out," she said to the cat as she scooped him into her arms. "Would you like some kitty nibbles?"
She carried the cat out of her bedroom. Halfway down the stairs, she swayed and leaned against the wall.
"Goodness, Mr Whiskers. Maybe I'd better have a midmorning snack as well before I go out. I feel a bit light headed."
Mrs Whitney walked down the remaining steps and entered the kitchen.
"Oh, my," she exclaimed. "What a mess! Do you suppose I should call the police? I think someone broke into my house. Who would have made such a mess but burglars?"
Mr Whiskers feebly meowed as she held him tightly in one arm and grabbed the telephone from the wall with the other.
"Hello. Hello? I need the police." Mrs Whitney looked at the squirming cat. "Here. You sit here," she told Mr Whiskers as she plopped him on the kitchen table.
"What's this?" She picked up the plastic baggie and let the phone crash against the wall.
The cat pawed at her hand.
"Stop it, Marty." Mr Whiskers grabbed with his teeth and tried to pull the plastic bag away from her.
"Now, Marty, give that back. I must have left it here as a reminder." Mrs Whitney yanked the bag away from the cat.
"You know what?" she said to Mr Whiskers as she filled a glass of water at the refrigerator. "I'm feeling a bit tired." She dumped the contents of the baggie into her mouth and swallowed. "I think I'll have a nap before lunch."
She grabbed the cat from the kitchen table and carried him back upstairs. She sat down on the bed and set him next to her.
"What time did Charlie say he'd be by to pick me up? Eleven-thirty, I think. I'll set the alarm for eleven, then." Mrs Whitney picked up her alarm clock. "That will give me a good one hour nap." She snuggled under the covers.
Mrs Whitney awoke to the buzzing of her alarm clock. She shivered and pulled the blankets closer.
"I still don't feel very well. I hope I'm not coming down with a cold."
Mr Whiskers opened one eye and meowed.
"Well, I'd better get dressed. Charlie will be here soon."
She turned off the alarm and pulled herself out of bed. She stumbled to her closet and removed a flower print skirt and blouse.
"Maybe my blood sugar is low," she said as she stripped out of her nightgown and dressed to go out.
"Maybe I'll eat a piece of fruit before lunch."
Holding onto furniture for support, Mrs Whitney left her bedroom. She staggered down the stairs but stopped halfway. She sat down and put her head between her knees.
"Mom? Are you home?"
"Marty?" Mrs Whitney looked up. "Did you say something?"
The front door opened.
"Mom, did you know there's something wrong with your phone? I tried to call earlier to tell you I asked
Savannah and Isabella to join us for lunch. Mom, are you all right? Mom?"
Charlie rushed to where his mother sat.
"Hi, Charlie. You're early."
"I know. And I'm glad I am. Are you okay? You don't look very well."
"I'm just a little dizzy. I think I'm coming down with something. Probably just a cold. Nothing to worry about, dear."
Charlie sat down on another step. "Do you want to see the doctor? Maybe he'll prescribe an antibiotic." He paused to think. "Wait, did you remember to take your pills today?"
Mrs Whitney smiled at her son. "I'm not sure, honey. But I bet you're right. I probably just messed up my medication again."
Charlie gently helped her stand up.
"Really, I'm fine, dear. Why don't you go watch some television while I finish getting ready?" She turned and carefully climbed back up the stairs.
"Are you sure you don't need any help, Mom?"
"No, Charlie, I don't want any help." She entered her bedroom. "I'll be down in a few moments."
Mrs Whitney crossed to her small bathroom. Mr Whiskers bounded off the bed and followed her. "Good morning, sleepy kitty," she said to the cat as he jumped onto the sink.
The doorbell rang from downstairs.
"I'll get it, Mom!"
Mrs Whitney opened the medicine cabinet and removed a plastic bag. As she set it on the sink counter to fill a glass of water, Mr Whiskers batted it onto the floor with his paw.
"Oh, you silly little nutter! Get out of here." She picked the cat up and plopped him in the bathtub.
"Mom," Charlie shouted from downstairs.
Mrs Whitney poured the baggie into her mouth.
"Guess who's here."
She took a sip of water.
" Savannah and Isabella."
She smiled in the mirror. "I'll be right down."
As she turned to leave, Mrs Whitney swayed and grabbed the sink for support.
"Goodness!" she exclaimed. "That was fun!" She sat down on the toilet and put her face in her hands.
"Marty, I don't feel very well."
Mr Whiskers jumped out of the bathtub and crawled onto her lap.
"Maybe I should go see a doctor."
The cat meowed and licked her chin.
Holding the cat in one arm and using the sink for support, she rose from the toilet. "I think I'll go ask Charlie to take me to the hospital." She hit her head on the corner of the counter as she collapsed to the floor.
"Mom, are you okay? What was that noise?" Charlie bounded up the stairs. Savannah picked up Isabella and followed.
"Mom!" Charlie raced across the bedroom. "Oh, fuck! Call an ambulance!"
"Why? What's wrong?" asked Savannah.
"What's wong? Where's Gwamma?"
"Not now, honey. Here, you sit on the bed while Mummy makes a phone call."
" Savannah! Hurry!" Charlie knelt down in the bathroom door.
"Where's the phone!"
"Where's phone? Where's Gwamma?"
"Here! It's in here!" Charlie tossed the telephone to his sister. She dialed.
"What's wrong with the phone?"
"I don't know. Go check downstairs!"
Savannah dashed out of the room.
"Where's Gwamma?" Isabella wiggled off the bed and walked over to Charlie.
The four-year-old kneeled down next to her uncle.
"Mom! Are you okay? What happened?"
"I must have fallen. Where's Isabella? Is Marty okay?"
"Marty? Mom, why are there so many empty pill bags in here?" Charlie paused. "Mom, how many times did you take your medication today?"
Isabella crawled past Charlie.
"Hi, Isabella, darling. How are you?"
Isabella kneeled on the floor by her grandmother. "Gwamma is seeping in da bafroom," she giggled.
"Grandma." Mrs Whitney smiled. "Charlie, I don't feel very well."
"Just hold still, Mom. Savannah's calling an ambulance."
"Come here, Isabella. Give Grandma a hug."
Isabella threw herself across her grandmother's chest. "Gwamma hug!"
Mrs Whitney looked at her son. "Don't forget to feed Marty for me."
"Marty, but Mom…"
"Gwamma," Isabella interrupted, "Gwampa is dead."