Condoms, cats and an artificial leg: a hoarder’s paradise


Condoms, cats and an artificial leg: a hoarder’s paradise

KATVROU writes about Gail, a catwoman Amazon with a treasure chest for foragers near the Melville Koppies.


IT'S stuffy in Bounty Hunters.

The smell of kitty litter clings to the walls and ceiling, to Gail's horror. “We just can't get it out," she grumbles. “Years of fostering hundreds of cats — and this is the price I pay." She rubs little Scooter's head. He yawns. His two hind legs are in pink splints and he is enjoying his bowl of Hill's while lying next to the cash register.

“Ah well,” she sighs. “This is a cat shop. Take it or leave it. And it’s so bloody busy again today, I don’t have enough staff. So, I suppose … I suppose people just take it.”

Above Melville Koppies, the clouds are turning dirty and grey.

On the counter sits a box with colourful beaded bracelets, blue and yellow government condom packets, two thimbles, a pair of one-ear glasses and a tongue bar, without the shiny screw-on ball.

“Why would anyone want to pierce their tongue?” Gail aks, frowning. She's attaching prices to a pile of rugby socks at R2 a pair. I think of Pulp Fiction's scene with Rosanna Arquette and I say carefully: “Well, I’ve heard it’s supposed to help with fellatio.”

Mildred approaches with her bent body and puts her wrinkled hand on Gail's arm. “What’s fellatio?” she asks.

Mildred is probably two centuries old. She's in Bounty Hunters every weekend — always sits in the corner with her crocheted handbag on the floor and reads the new books that have arrived. She loves James Hadley Chase and Louis L'Amour. Recipe books for variety.

Gail looks down at her and smiles. “Good god Mildred, I don’t know which is worse the fact that you don’t know what fellatio is or that I’m standing here actually hearing the word coming out of your mouth.”

I almost feel like helping Mildred with her question, but change my mind and change the subject. “So Gail, what’s the deal with the artificial leg at the front door? Why the ‘Not for sale’ sticker?”

Gail wipes her forehead tiredly.

“What leg? Oh, that. We had another shoplifter the other day we caught him with some panties and a bra, he stuffed everything down his pants. Themba thought things looked a bit bulky in the guy’s broek and the bugger got busted. Blerrie skelm bliksem. Who the fuck steals from a charity shop?”

Mildred is still curious. “So what’s it got to do with the leg, then?”

Gail laughs. “So I walloped him with it. He pissed himself and ran downstairs. I chucked the wire pelican and he nearly took a dive on the sidewalk. What a tosser. So, the leg is for good luck.”

Gail is a super catwoman Amazon. Her shop is the airport for things no one wants any more, but a treasure chest for foragers. And hoarders.

Lees hierdie artikel in Afrikaans:

It's also the place to stay for 20 to 40 to 30 to 20 cats, with a comfortable little cat lounge at the top of the stairs for cats and baby cats looking for homes. Many retirement homes drop off cats here when a resident dies. Cats left behind when someone hangs themselves out of loneliness. People who can no longer afford their cats leave them in boxes at the door. Kittens that wash out of sewers find a home here. Kittens in ash bins, kittens with brain damage, kittens in shop ceilings, pregnant cats, hurt cats, blind cats, broken cats, dying cats.

All of them are brought here and Gail nurses them, applies eye salve, gives antibiotic pills, cleans sandbox poo, distributes food, cries and cries and cries, gives herself vitamin B12 injections, cries all over again, curses and screams, gets tetanus injections, interviews everyone who comes looking for a kitten, but makes sure they all get homes. Those who do not get homes, because they are too angry or too old, stay in the shop.

But no one may adopt a black cat. She tries to keep the Satanists away.

Sandy lies purring in the sunspot at the back window. Next to him sits Twink. He pulls a long, pink chiffon dress from the hanger and starts gnawing at the sequins. The grumpy striped darling Steve, so dubbed by Gail because he reminds her of her aggressive ex-husband, lies squinting on top of a huge pile of curtain material. He purrs hard and kneads a piece of green velvet with his nails. Many people come by and want to look at the material, but the huge claws make them think twice.

Dennis, the schizophrenic tramp who lives in the city centre under a bridge, often brings small kittens he cannot take care of. He has a cat gang of about 14 members and feeds them and himself with leftover food that the butcher and restaurant provide. He always starts telling Gail about the war and the machineguns, and barely two sentences later his voice goes silent. Then Gail gets back into the van with the new  kittens and drives without looking back.

One can easily get lost in Bounty Hunters. “I swear, this is the devil’s place for hoarders,” says Gail.

“But every bloody person, hoarder or not, wants to buy my skull at the entrance.”

I don't enquire any further. That skull grins like the real McCoy.

Here's a short nut-brown fur coat which Gail puts on the hanger with a shudder. “Jesus Christ. People are so fucked up, wearing dead animals. Oh wait, the cats can sleep on it.”

In the corner stands an armless mannequin with a neon purple wig. From the ceiling above her hang 14 dirty neck braces on a chain. A shelf of empty Milton's bottles await a new owner, as well as a ceramic owl, leftover wool, the odd pair of baby socks and a painting of a wild-eyed Rasta girl.

On the centre table next to the cat room there are brand new wine glasses for 50 cents each. A long-legged ceramic cow with a hanging tongue for R15. A pile of ties for R2 each. I buy a blue tie with an SABC3 logo.

Take a good look at the box of LPs. The front one is Verdi's Il trovatore with a label on top: “A new ‘orthophonic' high-fidelity recording." A Springbok flag sits on its pole above the bookshelf. Next to it hangs a white lace cloak with what looks like a coffee stain. Lucille is steaming a new pair of cherry pink jeans that will now hang on the R40 shelf.

Here is a laundry basket full of cassettes. Mario Lanza. Flashdance. War of the Worlds. Donna Summer. Small beaded brooches with red Aids ribbons. A fur-painted model aeroplane and, above the wings, written with a black felt-tip pen: “I’d rather be in you than in jail.”

Gail hangs up a wedding dress and drapes  twinkling yellow fairy lights over the low satin neckline. “Behold, people — the load-shedding dress.”

I walk home with my new red-striped school jacket for R20 with its show-off netball and tennis bars under the coat of arms. In the bag is also a R6 teddy bear for my Hillbrow cat Tsotsi.

He sniffs the school jacket and licks the bars. I raise my 50 cent glass full of Namaqua dry red with a lump in my throat.

For you, Gail. Because I don't know how the hell you do it.

♦ VWB ♦

BE PART OF THE CONVERSATION: Go to the bottom of this page to share your opinion. We look forward to hearing from you.

Speech Bubbles

To comment on this article, register (it's fast and free) or log in.

First read Vrye Weekblad's Comment Policy before commenting.