He was a tabby, and we thought he was a girl cat. His nose and paws were very pink. We named him Pinky in honour of Benazir Bhutto, who had just become the first female Prime Minister of Pakistan, and whose childhood nickname was Pinky. It was some time before we realized Pinky was a boy cat. By that time, he was already answering to his name and we didn't want to traumatize him, so we kept on calling him Pinky. As he got bigger, the neighbours started to laugh every time we called him in, so we gave him the street name of Ned. But at home, he was Pinky. Or Mr. Pink. Or Jean-Marie Le Pinq. Or Pinkerton. Or Pinsky, on Jewish holidays. Or Pinky McBinkey, whose ancestral home was in Bonehead, Sussex.
Pinky loved Ivaan, and the feeling was mutual. Ivaan trained him to do tricks, something not all cats willingly do. I wanted to take him for walks on a leash, but every time we put a leash on him, Pinky would flatten himself on the floor, like a fur rug. So that wasn't happening.
Pinky was the cat of legend. One mystery at our place was where all the cat food disappeared to. He only ate the deluxe kind, that comes in tiny cans. Or else baby food. Or else cooked broccoli. Or ginger snaps. We decided that while we were away at work during the day, Pinky was running a restaurant on our back deck. It was called The Cat Cafe, and it served tiny little cans of cat food. But it also had a specialty dish on the menu, Salmon Philippe. This is because two of our nephews are named Sam and Philippe. The dish was named after them.
In the legend, Pinky rode a motorcycle. His helmet was carved out of a tennis ball.
Ivaan, in moments of great affection, called him Pinkooni Ma-Sa-Sa. Our other nephews, Angus and Ivor, always wondered what Pinkooni Ma-Sa-Sa meant. So one day I wrote a children's book to explain how he came to have the name Pinkooni Ma-Sa-Sa. It's called:
© 2018 Eya Donald Greenland
When the 4:10 pulled in to Bonehead Station, the McBinkey nephews were waiting anxiously on the station platform. Oliver and Lionel McBinkey had slipped out of the school playground at afternoon recess and hurried to the train station to meet Uncle Pinky. En route to the station, they stopped just long enough at the family business, The McBinkey Sausage Works, to filch a treat for Uncle Pinky. It was his favourite: mouse sausage (lightly smoked).
Uncle Pinky looked dejectedly out the window of the Third Class Carriage as the train came to a halt. He brightened up considerably, however, at the sight of his favourite nephews, and at the sight of the links of sausage hanging from Oliver's pocket, and nearly dragging on the ground.
Pinky McBinkey had spent the better part of the train journey in the Third Class Ladies Lavatory compartment, hiding from the ticket collector, as he lacked the price of a train ticket. As it went without saying that no lady worthy of the name travelled Third Class to Bonehead, Sussex, it seemed unlikely that he would be discovered before reaching his destination.
The train had hardly stopped when Pinky threw open the carriage door and jumped to the platform, into the embrace of the McBinkey nephews. Joyous voices shouted above joyous voices: "How did you know I was coming?" "We read the telegram you sent Aunt Helen!" "And we brought you some sausage!"
Oliver McBinkey produced the links of sausage. Uncle Pinky, who was quite hungry after his long and uncomfortable journey, seized on them with delight, devoured them with gusto and pronounced them "Dee-licious!"
Then, the nephews seized their uncle's old carpet bag, one handle each, and the three of them set off, out the station doors, up the hill and around the bend in the road, towards the ancestral home of the McBinkey family - Sussex Mews. So absorbed were they in carrying the heavy carpet bag and wondering what treasures Uncle Pinky had brought back from his travels, that they were already at the front gate before young Lionel noticed that Uncle Pinky was wearing a feather headdress. True, a few feathers were missing and it looked a bit bedraggled and dusty, but Uncle Pinky looked quite magnificent in it.
"What's that you've got on your head?", asked Lionel, once he could catch his breath. "I'll tell you all about it after supper", said Uncle Pinky, and then all of a sudden there was no more to be said, for the front door flew open and there stood Aunt Helen McBinkey, wiping her hands on her apron, saying, "Goodness, is it that time already? Well, come away on in and put your baggage down there, good lad. Just in time for a quick cup of tea. There, sit ye down at the kitchen table."
As Pinky sat down, a bespectacled young fellow looked up from his Latin verbs and said, "Ave, Avunculi!" It was Cousin Angus, the shining light of the McBinkey family. His father, the Reverend Charles McBinkey, was already putting money aside toward Angus' education, at Oxford or Cambridge. Having finished his homework, Cousin Angus closed his books, packed them away in his satchel and took out his violin to play a song for Uncle Pinky.
As the strains of the Chorus from Judas Maccabaeus echoed through the kitchen, in skipped Lucy McBinkey. Lucy was five. Her chief occupations were looking in the mirror and looking for a husband. Seeing Uncle Pinky's carpetbag in the corner, Lucy was torn between investigating its contents and attempting to try on the fascinating headdress. "After supper I'll tell you a remarkable tale", said Pinky. Lucy paid no heed. "Play the Wedding March", she instructed her brother Angus, and she stood solemnly in front of the mirror, admiring her reflection as she balanced the feather headdress on her head. Angus played the Wedding March, and then a Hornpipe, and then it was time to put away the violin, put aside the feather headdress, and set the table for supper.
Sussex Mews was a large, old house. McBinkeys had built it and lived there for four generations. Even now, it was big enough for Uncle Henry McBinkey and his brother, the Reverend Charles McBinkey, to share, along with their wives, Aunt Helen and Aunt Mary respectively, and the various McBinkey children: Oliver, Lionel, Angus and Lucy.
Uncle Henry closed up the McBinkey Sausage Works at six o'clock sharp. Aunt Mary McBinkey was the Postmistress at Bonehead Post Office. She and her brother-in-law, Henry, made it a habit to walk home together, arriving at Sussex Mews just in time for supper. Aunt Helen kept house for them all and cooked the meals. "What's for supper?" asked Pinky. "Something substantial, I hope", replied Angus, who had a hearty appetite.
Supper was served at half past six sharp, and just at that time in walked the Reverend Charles McBinkey, who had spent the better part of the afternoon polishing his sermon for church on Sunday. Indeed, it was a substantial supper, in honour of Uncle Pinky's visit to Bonehead. Pinky was the much younger brother of Henry and Charles McBinkey, and was a great favourite of Aunt Helen's. The Reverend Charles McBinkey thought his youngest brother was disreputable, and this opinion was shared by not a few solid citizens of Bonehead, Sussex. Just ask the Constable: "The McBinkeys of Bonehead", he spat. "A bad lot!"
As they finished their substantial supper of broth and shepherd's pie, the McBinkey nephews were not thinking of the disgrace brought on by the vagrant ways of Uncle Pinky. Oh, no. They knew he had a story to tell, and their hearts beat more quickly in anticipation. Immediately the main course was over, Oliver and Lionel excused themselves from the table and set about lighting a fire in the hearth. Angus and Lucy carried in saucers of baked apples with ginger snaps, and Aunt Helen put on the kettle for tea.
The McBinkey family settled themselves on stools, armchairs and sofas before the fire. Oliver and Lionel, who were fond of fires, kneeled before the hearth, with the fire irons at the ready, "just in case", said Lionel. Uncle Pinky sat in his favourite chair, feathered headdress on his knee, where it was duly admired by all, and began his story:
'I was travelling through the deepest, most dangerous part of Africa", said Pinky. "Mozambique or Senegal?" inquired Angus, who was studying Geography. "Darkest Africa", repeated Pinky firmly, and continued. "I was travelling through a village at the time, when I heard a dreadful shriek. It sounded like a lady in distress. I dropped my travelling bag and hurried in the direction of the screaming. Inside the largest and most magnificent house in the village was a young lady, beautifully dressed." Lucy McBinkey looked up hopefully. "Wearing pink?" she asked, but Uncle Pinky looked at her sternly. Lucy sat back on her stool, and the story went on.
'It was the village chief's daughter, and she was standing on a chair in great fear of a large and ferocious mouse running around the floor of the house. It looked like a dangerous situation. I was unarmed, having left my travelling back at the side of the road, but I rushed in, barehanded, captured the villain mouse, and saved the life of the princess. Of course, her father, the village chief, was so grateful to me for saving his daughter's life, that he presented me with this ceremonial headdress and bestowed upon me the honorary title of Pinkooni Ma-Sa-Sa."
"Pinkooni Ma-Sa-Sa", repeated the nephews under their breath. It sounded grand. "What happened to the ferocious mouse?" asked Lucy. "Why, I ate him", answered Pinky. "Every bit!"
"Pinkooni Ma-Sa-Sa", said Angus. What does that title mean, Avunculus?"
Pinky stood up, put on his magnificent feather headdress, and looked at his audience. "Pinkooni Ma-Sa-Sa", he replied. "The Cat Who Saved The Princess."