They appear silently, stealthily in the garden; all colours, thin yet agile. They bask in the sun on the wall tops and stare arrogantly at me before swarming away. They are the feral cats. Once they were fed by the previous owner of the house but I have hardened my heart and refuse to let any old itinerant moggy use the place as a convenient pit-stop.
Earlier this week, a bit bleary eyed I took my first cuppa of the day out to the garden. Whilst I mused on the delights in store for me I became aware of a tabby cat, lying flat out in the loggia. A peremptory “shoo” didn’t move it and since I was wearing flipflops I thought a toe-poke out of the question. I picked up the broom and gently prodded it. Not a whisker twitched…well it wouldn’t, it was stone dead; popped its clogs; gone to pussy paradise. It had ceased to be. This was a very a dead cat.
Unwilling to let the heat of the day do its worst I decided to bury it in the orchard. So there I was at six in the morning, armed with a small spade digging a hole in ground that obstinately refused to be dug. Every so often during this labour I looked furtively around to see if anyone was watching and mistook my intent. Eventually the deed was done and the only evidence was a large hump in the grass.
This charming domestic event reminded me of a half-written story that I abandoned and I thought that even though I couldn’t revive the cat perhaps I could do something for the story which, by happenchance involved a rather smart and mysterious feline. So I spent the day wielding pen instead of paintbrush.
The following night – actually it was three in the morning – I woke up suddenly. I could hear a clicking sound, sort of tchk, tchk tchk in my bedroom. At first I thought I’d been dreaming but then this dreadful pong at my bedhead assaulted my senses. Then, more tchk, tchk. I lay still running through in my head all the possibilities. Billy goat? Nah, too big. Squirrel? Not smelly enough. Snake? We had seen a big one on a walk a few days earlier. Had it followed us home? Do they make tchk tchk noises? Bats with bad indigestion? I could bear it no longer. Gingerly I reached out to switch on the bedside light and my hand brushed something soft and scrunchy. I squeaked, grobbled for the light switch only to find myself grasping my wheatie-bag which I’d used to soothe my aching back.
The lamp filled the room with sinister shadows and I peered around. Was that really a heap of washing in one corner or was something crouching waiting to pounce? Eventually, I gathered what little courage I possess (and it ain’t much) and slowly, fearfully, slid out of bed. It was then I noticed that the door was open several inches and I always have it shut. I didn’t feel able to confront this evil in the buff (yes dear reader I’ve abandoned the pj’s)so pulled on a dressing gown, found my stoutest shoes and made a dash for the door and the main light switch. In the full light I could see no trace of the intruder but, boy, could I smell him. I tiptoed out to the landing, down the creaky stairs and down to my kitchen on the ground floor; nothing… other than this choking pong that Old Nick himself would be proud of.
Finally I decided that I had vanquished whatever it was and after a thorough search of the kitchen…just to be sure…I made myself a consolatory cuppa, opened the back door and sat on the bench just outside. Deciding that a quick ciggie would calm ragged nerves I lit up whereupon this huge ginger cat shot out of the house, swarmed up the courtyard wall where it paused, gave me a withering look and disappeared into the night, leaving only eau de tomcat as a lasting reminder. The cuppa went one way, the ciggie another and I flopped into a gibbering wreck.
This morning I’ve rather a lot of washing to do…oh and some floor scrubbing too.