Thursday, March 28, 2013

Crisis Part 1 of A Cat's Tale

For most of my life I lived with an old woman. She  was clean and compulsively tidy, characteristics which to some extent have rubbed off on me.  She was my only companion in the house where we used to live,  and it did not disturb me that she never stopped telling me what she was thinking. As though I didn't know!  What I liked least was the baby language.  I am not, nor ever have have been, a human baby. Smelly  little creatures. I hate them. Being addressed as one makes me want to throw up.

Nor did I enjoy being called Mr Toffee, a ridiculous name which had nothing to do with my appearance nor with my temperament, which is far from sweet. I would like a name that  I can be proud of. Hercules has a certain appeal. Likewise Tamburlaine. But as it is not in my power to  name myself I have to put up with what I am given. So I was glad when fate arranged that "Mr Toffee" should be dropped.

Though what  came with my new name completely changed my life. I don't like change. And this was shattering. A major crisis.  It happened a year or so ago, when the old woman one day put me in a wicker carrier and took me down the road to a neighbour's house. She didn't talk much on this occasion, and seemed sad even to the point of whimpering. When we reached the other house which belonged to the same terrace as the first, she rang the bell . It was answered by a woman. She was much younger than my old woman. She had a wild look,  an animal quality which appealed to  me. It was something about the way she stood, relaxed, one hip jutting forward, her mouth half open as though she were about to  protest. There was something fearless about her.  I immediately named her Cheetah.

My old woman began talking without delay and rapidly. She was talking about me.  It seemed that the next day she was to enter a retirement home. And she wanted to hand me over to Cheetah.  What was else was she to do?  Her daughter  had been going to look after me, but she had resolved to go to Australia at the last minute. I knew the daughter. The screaming woman, was how I thought of her. Not to my liking at all.  She smelt of embrocation. And now it seemed she preferred Australia to me. No taste. No judgement.  A lucky escape.

 We went in. I was still in my hateful carrier. It was the first time that I had been inside a house other than my old woman's, which, naively as it turned out, I had thought of as my own. On entering, even with my view limited by the sides of the carrier,  I had  probably the biggest shock of my life. The hallway was stacked with books, newspapers, boxes, items of furniture, which made it almost impossible for my old woman with me in the carrier and Cheetah jammed against us to make any progress. I could - athletic and supple as I am -  have managed very well  on  my own, by clambering over the obstacles.  But I felt  sorry for the old woman, who was not  steady on her pins. "I am afraid," said  Cheetah,  "that  although we've been living here for nearly a year, we still seem to be moving in. We've been so busy both of us".

 The next  thing I knew we were in a room stacked to the ceiling with  more boxes of books many of which were overflowing.  The floor was covered with stuff,  files and bulging envelopes, gadgets of one kind or another, a radio, an electric iron, an ironing board,  a vacuum cleaner. With a sweep of her hand, Cheetah moved some books and folders from what turned out to be a sofa. "Sit down," she said. "I'll get Keith." My old woman put my cage on the floor at her feet and cautiously sat on the edge of the  sofa. Keith was a narrow man, with large glasses and  long arms  which made him look like a tall monkey.  "You know my husband, don't you." My old woman did, and so did I. For I had seen him walking past the house head bent forward looking neither to left nor right, blinkered like a horse or a greyhound in a race. He tipped some stuff off an arm chair and sat down.

My old woman started talking again her words now interrupted by sobs. "Look," said Keith, abruptly. "We'll have the cat." He sounded bored by the thought of it, and I had the feeling that he just wanted the old woman out of the house.  I don't think he cared a damn about me. Cheetah was meanwhile trying to be kind to the old woman and me and to humour Kangaroo  (my name for Keith) who was beginning to twitch and bounce up and down.

What followed was mercifully quick. The old woman opened the door of the carrier and I stepped out into my new life, the unaccustomed smell of dust and mould, and a  maze of junk for me to explore and hide in. I stuck my tail up in the air and slipped into the jungle.  As I penetrated the unknown,  I felt  like Christopher Columbus or David Livingstone.  I heard talking and the front door closing , and more talking as Cheetah and Kangaroo were doubtless discussing me, their new charge.
Oh and the old woman? it seemed that I had blinked and when I opened my eyes she was no longer there. Ahead of me a brave new world, behind me, one which I would quickly forget. I sniffed the air and through the dust I thought that I detected the smell of food. Do you blame me? It was in that direction, towards what turned out to be the kitchen,  that treading with care, slipping through encumbered doorways, past a hat stand on its side and a sealed carton marked Fragile, I set my course. I was hungry. Definitely hungry. And indignant and scared.

                                                  End of part 1.