A tale of a cat and an inkwell

Submitted into Contest #175 in response to: Write a story that includes someone saying, “Thank you for that.”... view prompt

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Fiction

Philip whistled across the street. He felt good. Life was good!

Mr. Brown: Philip's boss, was not an easy man to please, but he had just given him a raise. was pleased with him, and he had just received a raise. 

Philip had lost his father the year before, and apart from the house he had lived in, he had left nothing. He had not worked much before his death, and the family's finances were meager. After the funeral, Philip had to go straight to work to support himself and his mother. With that, he had to give up his dream of going to college.

Philip's father had not left him worldly wealth, but he had taught him the importance of integrity. He was hardworking, conscientious, and obliging. Everyone liked him, and besides, he had discovered that he enjoyed working in Mr. Brown's store.

 Philip was happy to have a job and to support his mother. Most people who knew him liked the friendly boy with bright blue eyes and an honest face.

As I said, most people. Except for Mr. Peters. He was generally known for his gruffness and, above all, his avarice. Philip was never bothered by his unfriendliness. He thought him: apart from accumulating money, there was nothing that interested the old grumpy bear. Despite his financial prosperity, he had to be a lonely man.

Philip and his mother lived on a hill, at the end of a winding village street, in an old-fashioned house painted white, in the middle of a beautiful green field. The most beautiful lawn in the area.

-"Tea?" Philip's mother asked as he walked merrily into the kitchen.

-"Tea? I am hungry like a wolf!" he replied, but when he came a little closer to his mother, he saw that she had been crying.

-"Mother," he asked worriedly, "What is it?"

-"Mr. Peeters was just here." she replied in a broken voice.

-"Why did that old miser bother you?" Philip asked angrily.

-"He says we owe him thousand dollars." his mother replied.

-"A thousand dollars?" Philip exclaimed in astonishment. "Didn't Dad pay off our debts just before his accident? He told me that himself. I remember it very well."

-"Yes, your father said that, but..." his mother began.

-"Where is the receipt?" her son interrupted, "Let's go look in the papers,"

-"I think the receipt is lost." his mother cried. 

-"Lost?" Philip was shocked, "How is that possible?"

-"He laughed in my face." the desperate woman lamented, "Let me tell you the whole story. But first have a cup of tea, boy."

"Oh, I don´t want tea anymore." her son replied matter-of-factly, "Now tell me."

-"About five years ago, your father had borrowed money from Abraham Peeters. At the agreed time when the money had to be paid back, I still remember it as if it were yesterday because it was extremely hot that day, your father paid back his debt to Mr. Peeters and got proof of payment. I saw that myself. Dad put the receipt in his pocket and then went to see his cousin, Paul. His wife was so terribly ill at the time.

On the way, however, a violent storm arose, and just as Papa was about to pull into Paul's driveway, he was struck by lightning. That stunned him. It took him weeks to regain consciousness, but he never quite became himself again.

Weeks, if not months later, I once asked for that receipt, but we could not find it. We have looked everywhere, turned everything inside out, but found nothing. And to be honest, Dad could not remember any of that.

In any case, Abraham Peeters had left for California and never returned. His entire possessions were then left to his brother James. At the time I didn't worry much about it, and your father certainly wasn't in a position to worry about it."

-"Mother!" Philip said forcefully, "Hold on because I don't understand your story at all."

-"I'm trying to explain it to you, son." his mother said, startled. "On the day that receipt was signed, our old cat jumped on the table and knocked over the inkwell. The ink ran all over the table, and that note got stained with ink.

The old Peeters was an advocate of absolute cleanliness, and of course, he thought an ink-stained note was impossible and tore up that note, I mean the receipt. He wrote and signed a new receipt. I've seen that myself."

Philip sat looking at his mother thoughtfully.

"I was convinced old Peeters had torn up that stained receipt, but that's exactly what James Peeters showed me this afternoon. He said he found it among his brother's papers." Philip's mother finished her story.

-"How are we going to solve this?" Philip asked, "We don't have thousands of dollars to pay back right now."

Philip got up and paced angrily in the kitchen.

-"I'm afraid if this goes to court, your story won't be worth much, mother." he said with desperation in his voice. "Moreover, I am convinced that Mr. Peeters believes that he has a valid debt certificate in his hand. And that old miser will go to any length to claim every penny of it. We have to take another look, search thoroughly whether we can't find that evidence anywhere."

-"I'm afraid that's a lost cause son." his mother wept softly.

And it was. They couldn't find the note.

-"Peeters is such a mean man, he had to laugh at that whole story about the cat and the inkwell." Philip's mother moaned. Philip couldn't help but admit that it sounded very unbelievable.

There was nothing left to do, but to sell the house to settle the debt.

Philip's mother seemed to have aged so much since Peeter's claim. He had turned very pale; his boyish face looked haggard. At first, he had hoped to settle, and his boss, Mr. Brown, had offered to borrow money on a mortgage on the house, but Philip was terrified that he would not be able to pay the interest on his salary. He wasn't afraid of hard work, but he didn't want to end up in an endless state of debt. He saw no prospect of paying it off.

The house was sold and together with his mother, they moved into a small, rented house. Down by the river, because the rents were affordable there.

Philip had died inwardly at the mere thought of his mother being evicted from her home in this way. She tried her best to hide her feelings for her son and to give him the impression that she was cheerful, but she found all of this very bitter.

The house and lot had been sold and this was their new life now: in a small house down by the river. She had lost everything she was used to. This was a particularly heavy blow to her.

Philip felt distraught and discouraged. His step lacked bounce and his face had lost its smile. He yearned for his childhood home. He was deeply unhappy.

That winter, Philip's father's cousin, Paul, died. He left behind two small children. Their mother had died the year before. The two little boys were left penniless and homeless, as there were debts on all sides.

"What will become of those children?" Philip's mother lamented. "We have to take those children in with us, son, and offer them a new home."

-"Mother please!" exclaimed Philip exclaimed, "We don't have a penny of our own."

-"We are the only family they have." his mother sighed sadly.

- "Think about yourself mother." Philip continued, "You already deny yourself so much and you work way too hard!"

-"Oh, stop it son! You should do it with love for those poor souls. Their father was your father's cousin. They are family, and we have to do what we can for those children. We can don't let strangers take them. Who knows what will become of them."

Philip spent a week thinking about it. Taking in those kids meant two extra mouths to feed. His mother saw it as a privilege to take care of those boys.

-"Okay mother." he finally said to her, "We're going to give those boys a new home.

And so it was that Jonah and Sam, ages eight and five, came to live with Philip and his mother. They were a bit naughty and very lively.

Before long it was Jonah's birthday. But there was no money for a present.

-"Why don't you give him one of Daddy's books? The one with the nice red cover, the story about the pirates, little boys like that, don't they?" Philip's mother suggested.

The story was not very special, but it was Jonah's gift, and on the day of his birthday the boy got it at breakfast. But that day there was another cause for celebration: when Philip wanted to wrap the book the day before to make it look like a present, he flipped through its pages carelessly, when suddenly he sprang up, his face white as marble.

-"Mother!" he gasped.

-"What's wrong son?" she asked in alarm.

-"Look at this." he whispered, holding up a yellowed piece of paper. Mother and son looked at each other in silence for a moment. Philip began to laugh, and his mother let her tears flow.

-"Do you think this note is valid as legal evidence?" she asked, sobbing.

-"And why not?" Philip said dryly, "We'll have to leave it to Mr. Peeters' sense of justice. But it's worth trying anyway."

-"Can a judge force him to pay us back the money?" his mother asked worriedly.

Mr. Brown accompanied Philip when he went to talk to Mr. Peeters and together, they were able to convince him of the authenticity of the note. Peeters was a hard, stingy man, but he prided himself on his honesty.

-"Then the story of the cat and the inkwell must be true." he bellowed gruffly.

By spring, Philip, his mother, and, of course, the boys had settled back into their beloved home.

-"We really owe our happiness to those boys, don't we, mother?" Philip said. "Because of their birthday, we found that misplaced receipt."

Philip’s mother shrugged her shoulders and said timidly: "In the end, you were the one who decided to offer those boys a new home with us."

"I didn´t want to do it at first,” Philip said, embarrassed, "if you hadn't come up with the idea of taking those boys in, it wouldn't have happened. It's your selflessness that has given us the privilege of having those boys with us. And for that: I thank you mot

December 08, 2022 17:38

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4 comments

05:32 Dec 15, 2022

A very sweet story. And holds with my philosophy in life. The more good things you do for others, the more good things will happen to you.

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F.O. Morier
07:09 Dec 16, 2022

Thank you so much 😊

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Simsim Rose
13:56 Dec 11, 2022

Such a heartbreaking story

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F.O. Morier
22:08 Dec 14, 2022

Thank you so much!

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