Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The animals in our homes.



Surely everyone know about the ghosts that haunt ancient castles in Europe. Sometimes, in former lives, they were victims of  terrible cruelties, and now their fate is forever to wander stone corridors and stairwells in search of justice.

Fewer, however, know about how even ordinary houses have entities that represent things that happened in those buildings.

For example, a friend of mine lived in a house that was once the home of a doctor, in a pleasant but unexceptional East Dulwich street and every morning when he raised his head from his pillow his eyes encountered a pelican, great and white and walking from the bedroom to the kitchen. But when my friend got up and followed the pelican through the house, he saw nothing. He concluded, naturally, that he had merely become confused by a strong dream.

Things like this happen often, and usually we dismiss them as temporary hallucinations, waking dreams. I had an aunt and she lived in a huge house that a hundred years ago was home to a famous fish merchant.

He was a very kind man, and the parts of fish that he could not sell, or that were too small for custom. He gave them to the neighborhood cats, and the cats would accumulate, waiting for their dinners every night. This became quite an event and by the time a year had passed over a thousand of them from all over the region, would sit in the yards where the fish crates were unloaded waiting for their repast.

 He died, and the famous dinners ended with him: the cats no more visited. But sometimes, when my aunt is in the living room she watches out the window and sees cats, innumerable, sitting silhouetted clearly in the moonlight.

A final example is more extreme, and perhaps more difficult to believe. In this case the deceased was a carpenter. He had an aggressive character, and scared everyone with his bad moods, his moments of furious anger, often abusing or scolding his assistants and apprentices.

He lived alone in an apartment in a neighborhood of a lower middle class neighborhood of Paris. He died, and the apartment was sold to a young couple. Initially they were happy in their new apartment. 

But later they began to notice how often things were broken- each blaming the other. You broke the vase that my mother gave us, said one, you left coffee stains on the Chinese Carpet, replied the other. And so on until one, hearing a sharp cracking sound,  suddenly woke up in the night and saw in the living room a baboon taking a porcelain cup from the dresser, inserting it between its teeth and biting it with full force.


I am writing this in in my living room, white muslin curtains flutter in a slight breeze lending sweeping soft shadows on my ivory wall and two small finches,  one blue, the other yellow keep me company. They talk but about what or why I cannot say. Happy they seem.


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