Death in Rhyme
We sat in a circle,
My family and I,
Looking and asking those questions unsaid,
If each of us had a solid alibi,
How was it that the patriarch had ended up dead?
“He was old,” said my brother
“That counts for something, doesn’t it?”
“It might have,” piped the policeman,
“But we found traces of arsenic.”
“Arsenic! You mean poison”, I asked.
I fumbled and sweated and looked aghast.
“But how did it get in his whiskey,
When he himself had poured the drink and handled his glass?”
“It could have been suicide”, said mother,
“He could very well have killed himself.”
“True, except that he’d made a will the day before
Where he’d mentioned that if he died suddenly, search the shelf.”
“The shelf?”, I asked looking up at the stone slabs
“What’s there on the stone shelf that we didn’t see?”
“We found a scroll - his horoscope,
And a letter that said, I believe in the stars...so believe me.”
“He wasn’t very well liked”, I said
“Angry and cantankerous and weird as a black moon,
But maybe his horoscope points to the killer.
We could decipher that and be done with this soon.”
The horoscope itself was long-winded
Couching in maybes and it coulds and it is very likely that
It outlined his opportunities to be a statesman
And eventually turn into a pompous, obnoxious twat.
“What’s that?”, pointed my brother
To a strip stuck across the scroll’s breadth
“It seems to be what we were looking for,” said mother
“The prophecy of the conditions of his death.”
“It will be painless, as merciful as death can be,
It will be slightly twisted with a pall of mystery,
But look no further and waste no time,
A Libran will have killed me; it’ll be a Libran’s crime.”
We gulped in shock and looked somewhat scared
The policeman noticed all this with an ice-cold gaze
The evidentiary sanctity of a prophecy was slim,
But the truth was that we were all born in early October days.
“That’s stupid and foolish and occult, isn’t it?
He could have written the horoscope, that silly old twit,
That paranoia just implicates us, alas,
We were all out, I tell you, we didn’t go near that glass.”
A mewl was heard and we glanced out,
A fat black cat was climbing into sight
The dead man’s companion for a great part of his life,
His heft a joke, his demeanour a fright.
The uniform was about to continue a discussion
Of motives and intent and oblique references to gallows
When we heard a thwack and saw a dribble from above
Of a thin stream of liquid into the whiskey glass below.
The cat squatted and flicked its tail silently
Unaware of the medicine spilled from the bottle
The policeman inspected the ingredients of that liquid
And after that, deductions moved full throttle.
“There’s arsenic in these eyedrops
Prescribed for the man,
Whose is this cat and where did it come from?
Tell me everything now as much as you can.”
“Oh, it’s our father’s”, said my brother
“It’s a symbol of his search for irony,”
“So, even though he wanted a totem for good luck
It’s a black cat, he got, as you can see.”
“She was born before us, though,
To a neighbor’s ginger cat,
I remember the celebrations that day,
In fact the nation celebrated that.”
Noticing the policeman’s puzzlement,
I fitted in pieces I remembered
“I think he was born on Gandhi Jayanti,
Yes, it was a few months before December.”
“That’s right!”, my mother exclaimed,
“It was his stupid yearning for irony then,
The cat was born on October second,
But he called it Jinnah, just for fun.”
“So, the cat’s a Libran?”, asked the uniform
“It’s a curious incident, that.”
With that, he left still worried
How a death prophecy got executed by a cat.