This story is a great example of the variety of sources Wagner scoured to create his collections. This one almost slipped through his fingers, it comes from A Touch of Paris an English language magazine marketed to tourists in Paris. Wagner credits fellow writer Tim Sullivan as the person who brought this story to his attention.
The original editor changed the story title to ‘I’ll Tell Her You’ll be Late for Dinner’ from the original title ‘The Cats of Pere Lachaise’. I agree with Wagner’s choice to change it back. ‘Late for Dinner’ gives away the punchline of the story and doesn’t make much sense except in hindsight. ‘The Cats…’ gives a little foreshadowing and piques the interest (who doesn’t love a cat tale?).
‘Cats’ tells the tale of two men, Pierre and Bateman, who have known each other for
years as cuckold and lover of the cuckold’s wife. The three of them created a functional relationship so as not to disrupt the life of a child from the marriage. We get a brief tour of the cemetery as the two walk past several famous graves including the graves of Victor Hugo and Jim Morrison. The tale ends in a horrifying trap as the cemetery is closing for the night. Pierre decides to test a legend about the fat stray cats of the cemetery that was told to him by the crematorium staff.
This is the first tale of the collection that doesn’t truck in the supernatural. It very solidly lands in the category of crime and had a bit of the comeuppance of a Tales from the Crypt yarn. I’m the cat guardian of two lovely ladies as you’ve probably heard in the podcast and found the ending especially horrifying. I’ll make sure to give them an extra portion tonight.
Pere Lachaise is named for Pere de la Chaise the confessor to King Louis the XIV who lived on the property which would later become the cemetery. It was originally opened under the rule of Napoleon in 1804 and was meant to be for the people “Every citizen has the right to be buried regardless of race or religion”. Situated a bit out of the way it wasn’t used much, until a number of high profile bodies were interred including the playwright Moliere. Still in operation today, Lachaise provides grave sites from perpetuity to ten years and is the resting place of millions of folks. Because of the number of famous people buried there, it is quite a tourist attraction.
Next: ‘The Propert Bequest’ by Basil A. Smith