Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Our Downton Tabby.
Or, Possum's Long, Fluffy Tale: Part IV

We now come to the conclusion of Possum's family saga. See previous post.

After we finished rejoicing over Matthew and Mary's engagement, We turned the TV off and returned to Possum's story. My husband and I offered profuse condolences and sympathies over the deaths of his Uncle Podmere and two cousins. Then I said, "Possum, tell us how it happened."

He looked away. "There was an incident. A robbery." 

"You mean their estate was being robbed? How awful. They must have died protecting the rest of the family."

He said, "No, not exactly," and paused. "It happened to take place in a convenience store."

"Armed robbery? Were they trying to protect the cashier?"

He was silent. I never thought about whether cats can blush, but he looked pinker around the nose. Then he did what I think was his imitation of the Earl of Grantham's imperious stare. "I won't lie to you; you know I never do," he said. "The three of them were trying to rob the convenience store. No one knows why. I suppose a steady diet of fish can get boring, although I can't imagine that for myself. But they were trying to run off with something called a slurpee machine. I don't know what that is. I'm trying to find out. There was an unfortunate sequence of events. First they accosted the cashier. They didn't attack; they just threatened. But he apparently died instantly of a heart attack from laughing too hard. There were no puncture wounds, although there are indications that they tried to resuscitate him. And then, as they tried to take away that machine, it fell over on them. They were flattened."

There was nothing we could say to that. 

Finally, I said, "So, Possum, what does this mean? Who inherits the estate? Surely your uncle had other sons and heirs?"

He replied by giving us a lecture on Norwegian inheritance law as it pertains to cats. As in old British law, there are immovable rules about ancestral titles and estate entailments. This, I remember, was a subject he'd followed closely during the first season of Downton Abbey. The gist of his explanation was that the first litter that produces a son, or sons, for the head of an aristocratic family, is the only litter that counts. Succeeding litters cannot inherit titles or property; they rely on the generosity of their eldest living brother. Possum is the eldest son of a second son of a first litter. His father, Osmus, was Podmere's younger brother. They were the only two sons in their father's litter.

"What's with all the names beginning with 'P' or 'O'?" I asked.

Possum explained that there's a naming system in place for male kittens because cats have very large families, thanks to multiple litters, and the names help everyone keep the "line of heritage" clear. At this point, in his family at least, the heirs' names all begin with "P" while second sons begin with "O." Possum's brother was named "Orphemius," which became "Ossipee" when he arrived here in the Norwegian Witness Protection Program. (As you may recall, Possumus's pseudonym was "Passamaquoddy," which he uses as a surname now.)

Possum then said that his grandfather, Querilus, was actually a third son and sole survivor of some violent times on the fjiords. But his "Q" name got us all confused, and we dropped the subject. I think the explanation has something to do with there having been no male kittens in their great-grandfather's first litter. Geneaology always confuses the heck out of me. 

"So, Possum," I said. "What's the bottom line? What does this mean for you?"

Possum said, "Unless we find my father in the Witness Protection Program, I seem to be the head of the family. They have already given me the title. I said I didn't want it, because my father could be alive, even though I think it unlikely. Still, I don't want to snatch a title that's rightfully his. But it appears that I have no choice. Besides, thanks to your heathen practices on cats in this country, I can't produce heirs. Nor can Orphemius. It's tragic, but there it is. When we're gone, I have no idea who will be next in line. Probably some raggedy tom with fish breath and no upbringing."

"So that's why you were so upset for Matthew when we found out how badly he was wounded." I said. "You jumped off the bed and ran out of the room."

"Naturally!" said Possum. "If only my injury were magically reversible. No tingles at all."

"What's your title?" I asked, bracing myself for the worst. Possum is already pretty full of himself. 

"Baron. I am now Baron von Rümpüsspüssë," he said, looking down his nose, like this:

"Oh, lord!" I said. "That's a mouthful." My husband said, "I don't think we can afford that many umlauts. And are you sure that Podmere didn't have any other sons, believed to have died at sea, who may come crawling out of the Canadian woodwork at an inconvenient moment?" 

"Don't joke about this!" Possum erupted, looking all Robert Crawley-ish again. "We Norwegians take our family titles very seriously."

I tried it out. "Von Rümpüsspüssë. It sounds familiar; I wonder where.... hey, I remember: You suggested it when we'd just gotten you and were trying to figure out what to call you."

"I was young, foolish, and presumptuous then, and I don't want to talk about this now. You don't have to call me 'Baron' all the time. One cheerful greeting with my full title, maybe first thing in the morning, will suffice. As you were."

He trotted off to the litter box.

This will get awfully tiresome, I reflected. I'm American. Wars were fought so we don't have to bow and curtsey to aristocrats. We're all equal here. I prefer it that way. But I see I'll have a hard time convincing Possum.


  1. need to write a book, or a play or a screenplay! Priceless!

  2. Ps: I posted a link to this post on my FB page, as I have lots of Downton Abbey fan friends...


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