The cat lady and her dogs


People only see what they want to see. i watch them walk past, their eyes slide over me, take in my sign, the dogs, my sensible haircut, comfortable shoes, a stout anorak and their thoughts are so loud, its like a shout.
NUTTER
SADDO
MAD OLD CAT LADY.

They’re the straightforward ones, never give a donation, don’t make eye contact, keep walking, sometimes even do that shuffle thing so that they don’t have to come too close.

Then there’s the other ones, they’re more complicated, their thoughts are more muddled, more about them than me
I WONDER WHAT HER HOUSE IS LIKE
HAS ANYONE EVER LOVED HER
PLEASE GOD, DON’T LET ME END LIKE THAT

They’re nearly always women, often a little younger than me and they usually give some money, but they try not to engage, don’t speak to me, keep moving even when they drop some coins into the box.

But the ones I like are the other ones, the ones who have time, no-where special to go, no-one special to see. They stop, pet the dogs ask about the cats, they fumble in their pockets, dig out a few coins, tell me about their pets, especially the dead ones, the lost ones, the ones who made them feel loved, special, needed.

They share their stories of love and I try my best to play a special tune for them, give them something to warm them, to keep the cold of their lives at bay.

And I feel lucky, happy to help.

The dogs snooze, they know the routine, up early, see to the cats, load up the shopping trolley, remember the flask and the sandwiches. Don’t want to waste good money on expensive shop bought food, I don’t understand all these people rushing by with their huge paper cups of coffee, a nice flask of mellow birds, milky sweet coffee, just the ticket.

I play, the dogs sleep and we make some money and then home.

The cats are pleased, they gather around us, waiting for food, a cuddle, time on the couch.

I know all their stories.
The kitten shot with an air gun
The big ginger, left in the house when the family moved on, it took a week for someone to notice his cries, another 2 days before anyone did something.
The black and white female, too hungry to feed her kittens, i found her in a box surrounded by her dead babies.
The tiny tortoishell, still covered in scars where someone poured lighter fuel over her.

I know all their stories.
The ones who can’t be touched.
The ones who scratch.
The ones who hide, creep around on the outskirts of the rooms.
The ones who remember their pet lives before they fell from grace,lost their cuteness, got replaced.

I start opening tins, Eric, the nice man in the pet shop, does me good deals, knocks the price down if the tins are dented, throws in a couple of boxes of biscuits, helps me load up the trolley. A kind man, understands about the cats, their needs, does what he can to help.

The cats are hungry, they fill the work surfaces, pawing at each-other, at me, too many of them remember being hungry, I don’t get angry, just try and feel them quickly, make them happy.

The dogs wait, patient, they have never been hungry or worried, they trust me to feed them and besides they know all too well how mean these cats can be.

Later, i count up the money, £8.53, a good day, a whole case of cat food, maybe even a box of own label biscuits, especially if Eric finds a box with a bit of a dent, a corner ripped off.

I find a bit of room for me on the couch, squeeze in beside the cats, feel their warmth against me. I love to look at them, never get bored with it. I didn’t bother to replace the television when it died, why have a telly when you can look at the cats.

I think about what I can have for tea, nice boiled egg, slice of toast, i don’t need to eat much, toast and milky coffee can keep me going all day.

I sit with the cats, my cats, dip my toast in my egg and consider how good my life is,how lucky I am.

People see what they want to see and mostly they don’t see anything at all.

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About cathi rae

50ish teacher & aspiring writer and parent of a stroppy teenager and carer for a confused bedlington terrier and a small selection of horses who fail to shar emy dressage ambitions. Interested in contemporary fiction but find myself returning to PG Wodehouse when the chips are down View all posts by cathi rae

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