Cats in the Cottage
Lindsey Miller was focused on the scenery outside the car as she drove. Her fourteen year old son Jake was next to her in the passenger's seat, his face buried in his IPAD. Lindsey was hoping her memory circuits would kick in and jump start her recollections of the past but it had been too many years since she had been to the area and nothing felt familiar to her.
"How do you win a house, anyway?" Jake asked, glancing up and speaking for the first time in miles.
"I didn't win the house," Lindsey sighed. "I inherited it."
"From a guy you haven't seen in years."
"Not a guy," Lyndsey clarified. "My Uncle Bob. The house used to be my grandparents' summer place."
"It's a long way from home, Mom," Jake complained.
"I know, Sweetie," Lindsey said. "We'll probably sell it. I just wanted to have a look."
"Yeah, but I know you, Mom," Jake frowned. "You're always full of ideas."
"Oh, I think I remember that store!" Linsey exclaimed with excitement. "We used to ride our bikes here for treats." She slowed the car down. "That means Snuggles Road should just be up here a bit."
"There it is," Jake observed, pointing to a small wooden sign on a tree nestled at the end of some woods
"Yes," Lindsey replied. "I remember that rock."
She turned onto the small dirt road that followed an old New England stone wall through the woods which eventually opened into a clearing.
"Is that the house!?" Jake asked with surprise when he laid eyes on a modernized farm house at the end of the road.
"No, that's the old Mosher place," Lindsey said. She stopped the car and pointed to a second house on a small tributary road to right that was much more run down. "That's my grandparents' place."
"Geez Ma, it looks kind of dumpy," Jake groaned. "Especially compared to this house." He pointed to the Mosher house
"It does look kind of beat up, doesn't it?" Lindsey sighed with disappointment as she eyed her grandparents former summer home.
The brown shingles of the house were faded and cracked. The front porch sagged. A small barn (or large garage) with no door looked like it was about to fold over. A '62 Rambler Station Wagon was on blocks inside the structure.
"Well, the pond looks nice," Jake remarked.
"Snuggles Pond," Lindsey smiled, looking at the fair sized body of water with a nice dock on the Mosher side of the pond that had a row boat and canoe moored at its side. "This is Snuggles Point."
"Now what?" Jake wanted to know.
Lindsey dug a piece of paper out of her purse. "A Mr. Lynch lives in the Mosher place now," she reported. "He has the key to our house."
"Do you think he'll switch places with us?" Jake asked sarcastically.
The two got out of the car which was parked at the bottom of Mr. Lynch's driveway. Lindsey glanced at her watch. "A little over two hours," she said. "That wasn't so bad."
"I'm not doing that ride every weekend," Jake grumbled.
A man appeared from the Mosher house. He looked to be around Lindsey's age, a thin and wiry guy wearing wire rimmed glasses with a graying goatee, his hair sandy brown of moderate length.
"Are you Mr. Lynch?" Lindsey asked.
"I am," he said pleasantly. "May I help you?"
"I'm Lindsey Miller," she replied. "My lawyer Mr. Massey told me to ask for you."
"You must be Bob's niece," Lynch realized.
"I am," Lindsey smiled. "This is my son, Jake."
Lynch extended his hand and Jake accepted it. "Nice to meet you, Jake," Lynch said cheerfully.
"I understand you have the key to our house?" Lindsey asked. "We're here to see it."
"How much did Massey tell you?" Lynch asked with concern.
"About what?" Lindsey asked, confused.
"About the house," Lynch replied. "Your uncle."
"We talked about the will and the estate," Lindsey frowned. "I'm the last direct inheritor. Is that what you mean?"
"Maybe we should talk before you see the house," Lynch suggested, gesturing toward an outdoor table and chair set on the side yard grass.
"Uh-oh," Jake groaned.
"Is there a problem?" Lindsey wanted to know.
"You do know that your uncle was…eccentric, right?" Lynch delicately asked as the trio took seats around the table.
"I haven't seen Bob in years," Lindsey admitted. "I sort of lost touch after my grandparents and mother died."
"What do you remember about him?" Lynch asked.
"He was very smart," Lindsey recalled. "Brilliant, in fact. But never very successful," she sighed. "I guess that's why he ended up here after my grandparents died. I remember him as a curious man with a keen sense of humor. He made us kids laugh."
"Would you say he was peculiar?" Lynch wondered.
"He had weird habits," Lindsey recalled. "Strange eating rituals now that I think of it. He was kind of a loner, actually. I think he was a librarian. He read a lot."
"Anything else?" Lynch asked.
"No," Lindsey said with a shrug. "I remember my mother mentioning he played the stock market some. I knew he lived in Bangor for many years."
"I bought this place about eight years ago," Lynch said, gesturing toward the former Mosher house. "Bob was already well established in your house."
"It was my grandparents' originally," Lindsey explained. "The family's summer place."
"Bob was a solitary character," Lynch said. "Took weeks for him to even trust me enough to say hello even though I was his only neighbor for miles. The only reason we hit it off was because he loved sports statistics. He had a remarkable ability knowing even the most obscure athletic stats and moments. He reminded me of Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man. I called him Wild Bob because his hair was this big mass of frizz and he had this gray beard half way down his chest."
"I remember him to be well groomed and clean shaven," Lindsey said with surprise.
"He wore the same ratty old clothes for days at a time," Lynch reported. "He was quiet and reserved, unconventional and moody. They carted him off to the mental health unit a few times when he did something particular bizarre or I'd find him in a semi-cationic state."
"That's not the uncle I remember," Lindsey said defensively.
"I'm wondering if maybe he was somewhere on the autism spectrum. Or maybe some form of Asperger's," Lynch remarked.
"Maybe he went nuts," Jake offered.
"Jake, don't talk like that," Lindsey protested. "He was family."
"Sounds like he was forgotten by the family," Jake shrugged.
"He told me he had been shunned years ago," Lynch volunteered. "Excluded."
"Oh for heaven sakes, my grandparents gave him their house," Lindsey countered. "They gave him a place to stay for the last third of his life."
"He struck me as lonely," Lynch said.
"Okay, so you've filled us in about my uncle's eccentricities," Lindsey said with annoyance. "Now what's this about the house?"
"Bob was a hoarder," Lynch revealed. "The house is full of junk."
"We can clean that stuff out," Lindsey said dismissively.
"He also had cats," Lynch said.
"Cats?" Lindsey asked with surprise. "How many cats?"
"To many for me to count," Lynch admitted. "Bob couldn't keep up with them."
"Well, they aren't there now," Lindsey said with relief.
"Bob didn't clean up after them," Lynch explained.
"Oh God," Jake groaned. "This guy was a cat freak? One of those loners who lived with a hundred cats? Please don't tell me he croaked and they ate him."
"Jake!" Lindsey reprimanded. "Don't be disgusting."
"Actually, he collapsed over there," Lynch said, pointing toward the edge of the pond. "He was dragging a bathtub down there for some reason."
"To give the cats a bath?" Jake joked.
"So, Massey didn't tell you any of this?" Lynch asked Lindsey.
Lindsey shook her head no.
"That's what I was afraid of," Lynch sighed.
"Well, how bad can it be in there?" Jake frowned.
"They had to wear gas masks and respirators when they came to get the cats out," Lynch revealed. "Believe me, it was bad. I could smell the foul stench of ammonia and feces and urine over here that day. The feces were piled up a couple of feet high in some places."
"Oh my God," Lindsey groaned. "I knew this inheritance was too good to be true."
"I guess Massey didn't want to be the one to tell you that nobody's cleaned anything over there," Lynch sighed. "It took them hours to corral all the cats from their hiding places. There were some dead and decomposing ones."
"Alright, enough," Lindsey said, frustrated, angry and defeated.
"I just wanted to prepare you," Lynch said with sympathy.
"Thank you, Mr. Lynch," Lindsey said, resigned. "I just wasn't expecting this."
"Please, call me Willis," Lynch said. "I'll get the key."
"Wait, Willis Lynch?" Jake said with surprise, giving Lynch a long look. "Holy cow, you're the guy who gave up the homer!"
"Jake, don't talk gibberish," Lindsey said with annoyance.
"She's not a sports fan," Jake told Willis. "She doesn't know."
"I should have changed my name," Willis sighed. "Notoriety will be the death of me yet."
"What are you two talking about?" Lindsey asked.
"Mom, this guy gave up the homer that cost his team the AL Championship a few years ago," Jake explained.
"Nine years ago to be precise," Willis said. "Thanks for remembering," he added sarcastically. "Even out here at Snuggles Pond, I can't escape."
Jake shrugged sheepishly. "Sorry," he mumbled. "I've never met a major leaguer in person before."
"Ex-Major Leaguer," Willis clarified.
Lindsey wasn't interested in their meaningless babble. "The key?" She said with irritation.