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Mrs. Phossy and the Cats of Pfaff
10-17-2018, 12:55 PM (This post was last modified: 06-24-2020 01:57 AM by Maxwell Grantly.)
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Video Mrs. Phossy and the Cats of Pfaff
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Mrs. Phossy worked at the local match-making factory in Pfaff, dipping tiny shivers of wood into the vats of phosphorus to make matches for the rich folk in town. It was a dirty and dangerous job and many of the other ladies who worked at the Bryant & May match factory rarely lived into their later years. Still, four shillings a day was four times as much as she might earn by sweeping the crossings in the town and, thankfully she thought, she hadn’t to stand outside in all weathers on some street corner in the hope of getting a meagre wage from the passers-by. Very importantly, she explained to those who asked her why she took such a dreadful job, she owned a beautiful tabby cat and couldn’t bear the thought of allowing him to starve on the streets.

Mrs. Phossy may have had heaps of troubles but these were nothing to what was to happen the day after Tabby followed her to work. If only she had looked over her shoulder. If only she had glanced down to her feet.

“If only, if only,” she would later one day chide herself but, by the time she found out that Tabby had followed her into the Bryant & May match factory, it was too late.

“I can’t risk getting the sack,” she muttered under her breath, “if I return home, to lead Tabby back.”

And so, Mrs. Phossy hid her treasured pet beneath the bundle of ladies’ coats and capes that were amassed at the side of the factory.

At first Tabby was quite content to snooze in the warm of the snug pile of clothing and simply allow the seconds to drift past. However, the seconds turned to minutes and the minutes turned to hours and, by the time the hours were becoming a day, Tabby decided that enough was enough and it was time for him to wake up and explore his new settings.

Mrs. Phossy and the other match girls were all busy at their labours and they had their backs turned towards the mischievous cat. This meant that Tabby was free to explore without restriction and it wasn’t long before he accidently dipped his paws into the nearest vat, to determine what was festering inside.

Had Tabby been able to read, had Tabby been able to determine the contents of the vat, he wouldn’t have been so keen to stick his paws in the most unfortunate container in the factory: the newly formulated non-phosphorus formula of match-striking compound. However, cats are cats and Tabby knew no better: instantly the tips of each and every claw of Tabby’s paw were covered in the tiniest amount of the highly reactive compound.

Thankfully for the fate of Tabby (and the narrative of this story too) the factory’s bell happened to declare the end of the working day at the precise moment that the tips of his claw made contact with the match-making compound. The shock of the bell’s ringing caused Tabby to immediately withdraw his claws and jump down, back onto the bundle of clothing. At that precise moment, each and every match girl turned around in unison and headed towards the bundle of clothing to coat themselves as protection from the cold, before heading home for the evening. Mrs. Phossy pushed her way to the front of the crowd and scooped Tabby up in her arms, before anyone could complain or mutter their annoyance at having a strange cat inside the factory.

You may or may not be aware of the physical characteristics of a cat. Perhaps you already know this remarkable fact: cat claws are retractable! A cat is able to extend and withdraw their claws at will. If they are content and relaxed, their claw will draw into their paws. If they are scared or aggressive their claws will protrude out, ready to scratch and claw any attacker. As Mrs. Phossy picked up Tabby, the cat immediately relaxed into her arms and so Mrs. Phossy never realised that the tip of each claw was covered with a tiny amount of match-making compound. This was such an unfortunate shame, for if she had of realised, she would have never have been so keen to take the cat up into her arms. Hidden to her, on the tip of each claw, the reactive compound began to simmer and ferment. You may guess, it could only be a matter of time before the most unfortunate outcome was to occur.

The second unfortunate disaster to befall Mrs. Phossy occurred when Flash Harry, the local spiv, met the match girls as they left the factory. Instantly he took a shine to one of Mrs. Phossy’s work colleagues and he sidled up to Mrs. Phossy and whispered discretely into her ear.

“What have you been up to all day,” he murmured under his breath to Mrs. Phossy.

He was keen to establish a conversation with the girls so that he might try his luck at asking his favourite one out on a date.

“Match-making,” replied Mrs. Phossy. “Just match-making.”

Flash Harry’s head began to spin and his heart began to flutter.

“If Mrs. Phossy was pairing up men and women all day,” he thought to himself, “then she would be the perfect person to establish a report, in order to date the young lady of his dreams. Flash Harry glanced over Mrs. Phossy’s shoulder and he twinkled a sly wink at one of her work colleagues. An embarrassed smile was given in return.

Now, for what Flash Harry had in dashing good looks, he lacked in intellect. His poor knowledge of the industrial processes of the adjacent factory had misled him to think that Mrs. Phossy was a match-maker of people: someone who helped men and women get together to form husband and wife partnerships. He never realised that the local factory was an industrial complex for the manufacture of matchsticks!

As was said, what he lacked in intelligence, he made up for in dashing good looks. The fact that he was incredibly handsome should lead you to deduce that he was also incredibly stupid.

Tabby, from safe within Mrs. Phossy’s arms, looked up at the handsome young man. At once Tabby detected Flash Harry’s stupidity and the shackles of the cat began to twitch. Instinctively the hair on the back of Tabby began to rise and the very slightest tip of each claw began to quiver from deep within his paws. As the cat surveyed the interaction between Mrs. Phossy and the young man, the reactive compound upon each claw began to gently spark and fester. A tingling sensation played on Mrs. Phossy's arm and she dropped Tabby to the ground.

“It must be pins and needles!” she exclaimed aloud. “That cat must be heavier than I thought!”

Flash Harry looked down at the cat and he saw his opportunity to impress the gang of ladies. He stepped towards Tabby and bent down, to try and pick the cat up.

Instinctively, Tabby edged backwards a few steps and then turned and scarpered away.

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“Don’t worry, ladies,” beamed Flash Harry. “I’ll rescue the cat!”

In his imagination, Flash Harry imagined the ladies wooing at his chivalrous deeds. He pictured himself holding the stray animal to his manly chest and offering it outwards to the match-maker: Mrs. Phossy. At the same time, he thought to himself, the other factory workers would coo and beam at his heroic deeds.

“Yes,” he thought to himself, this will be the ideal opportunity to impress the gang and sidle up closer to the lady of his dreams. All he had to do was to retrieve the cat and return it to Mrs. Phossy.

Meanwhile, Tabby darted off and squeezed through a doorway marked “Mr. Lenz’s Woodwork Store.”

“Don’t fret, ladies,” he called back to the gang. “Just give me a few minutes and I’ll rescue the cat for you.”

“Come on, Lizzy,” mumbled one of the gang, “Let’s go into the gin palace while we are waiting. I fancy a jar of something to whet the palate!”

“You girls go ahead,” called Mrs. Phossy to the departing gang, “I’ll wait here for Flash Harry and then I’ll join you later. I’m sure he won’t be long.”

The gang of match girls departed into the adjoining gin palace and Mrs. Phossy stayed waiting on the street, near to the woodwork store. She was tired, after a hard day’s work, and didn’t want to go chasing around an empty woodwork store all evening! She’d let the young man retrieve her pet and then the two of them could rejoin her friends, within the gin palace.

Inside Mr. Lenz’s woodwork store, Tabby had begun to explore his new surroundings. Stacked up against each wall, Mr. Lenz had left planks of wood. The store smelt deliciously of the aroma of seasoned wood. Tabby edged closer.

As Tabby grew closer to the upright planks, his snout became filled with the delights of the wood and his claws began to twitch from deep within their sheaves. How he would love to draw his talons down across the fresh virgin surface of the wood! Tabby yearned and hankered, just one scratch would satisfy his lust for clawing at the bare wooden surface. The temptation grew and grew and the clawing desire filled his entire being. He simply had to just scratch that wood!

Tabby raised his foot against the leaning timbers and, to the satisfaction of his catty being, he ran his claws down deeply through the virgin timber. Again and again, he pulled his claws down the tempting lumber: here against the near wall and there against the far side. He drove his claws deep into the beckoning timber: first in one pile and then in another. He satisfied his natural feline urgings: in large piles and in small. Within seconds there wasn’t one single plank of wood left, without the imprint of Tabby's claws etched within its surface.

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You may recall from earlier, Tabby’s claws were unlike a normal cat’s claws: Tabby’s claws had been festering with a reactive compound of match-making chemicals. Each and every single scratch that had been driven into the collection of wood began to smoulder and smoke, like dried tinder beneath a magnifying glass in bright sunshine. By the time that Flash Harry had stepped into the wood works, the interior of the store was filled with clouds of smoke from the burning timbers.

You may also recall from earlier that Flash Harry had less intelligence than a rubber spoon in a cabinet of sharp cutlery. He was hardly “the sharpest knife in the drawer.”

“Good grief!” he exclaimed, as he spied the growing clouds of fresh wood smoke. “The cat has ventured into a fish-curing works …”

Flash Harry craned his head upwards, through the bellowing clouds of smoke, towards the bare ceiling.

“ … and worse of all,” he muttered in his stupidity, “it’s eaten all the fish!”

(To never be continued.)

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12-28-2020, 12:17 AM
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RE: Mrs. Phossy and the Cats of Pfaff
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