Tag Archives: cats

Number 47- if you don’t hold your breath…..


Number 47- If you don’t hold your breath until you get past….the bogey man will get you.

Number 47 is different to all the other houses on this street.

It’s bigger, three storeys, double fronted, large bay windows on either side of the solid front door.

Mr Harrison built this house for himself. Took some care over it, used decent materials, bullied the workmen, his workmen to take a little care, add some fancy edging, a bit of coving, a carved centre rosette to hang the lamp shade on.

Mr Harrison built all the houses on this street and the next street and the street after that.
Mr Harrison made a little Victorian empire, homes for the clerks and the shop workers and factory foreman.
Homes for the decent and the hardworking.

And just in case, in case someone didn’t know, didn’t know that he was the builder, the architect, the planner of this corner of a Midlands town.
Mr Harrison spelt out his own name in the first letters of every street where he built the houses.
Holly St
Alma St
Ruby St
Ridley St
Iona St
Smith St
Omsk St and
Newfoundland St.

Then, when all the houses are built, he moves his wife, his three daughters and two sons into his house and lives there until September 1918, when his second son, one already lost at Paschndale, is posted missing, presumed dead and then, quietly, with as little fuss as possible, he goes mad and spends the rest of his life in the asylum at the edge of the town.

His wife and daughters live on at number 47, all a little mad with grief and loss and sadness and time goes on and one by one they die and there is no one to leave the house to except a distant cousin and he doesn’t want it.
The neighbourhood has gone downhill, is still slipping downhill with no sign of the descent finishing yet
. The decent clerks and shop workers have moved on, aspire to semis with a bit of garden and somewhere to park the car and number 47 is an awkward size, too big for a family, too small to be made into flats.
So, it stays empty for a bit and starts to fall apart, just a little at first, but as the years go by, more and more shabby, more and more the kind of house that children run past without looking and adults fear strange illicit uses late at night.

And then, the polytechnic begins its sprawl and spread from a respectable red brick building So suitable for the education of draughtsmen and teachers and engineers and underwear designers and starts looking for spaces to house new courses that confuse the old guard lectures, passers on of knowledge that makes things and sends those sandwich course and evening class students into the world of real work, and so, a little mysteriously the department of cultural studies ends up, not on the real campus, but a 15 minute walk away and in academic terms, so far away as to be on another planet.

The house is tidied up, but retains its inherent housiness, desks and bookshelves and all the paraphernalia of academia sit uncomfortably in rooms that are still sitting and sleeping and eating rooms and no one remembers to get the bath removed.
In the heatwave of 1976, the pale young man who is trying to convince his senior colleagues that soap opera is a legitimate area of study, spends most afternoons lying in a tepid bath until his skin wrinkles and puckers.

Time passes and cultural studies becomes more popular, outgrows this outpost and is allowed to sneak back onto the main campus and the house becomes an overflow for the lecturers on part time posts and then, even they are found room in a new brutal tower block and the house falls empty again.

In the1980s, some graduates remember its existence and break in one winter afternoon and squat in the house.
The locals are suspicious, wary of the music that floods out of every open window.
The squatters paint the front door and all the window frames in bright neon colours and hold chaotic week long parties to which they invite their neighbours, who never come, but who do call the police and the university as the polytechnic now calls itself.

Finally, the squatters move out, the 90s are coming, greed is good and they long for the lifestyles they see each month in The Face.
Shared meals and badges with slogans and lentils seem a little sad, a little embarrassing and so,the house is left again.

The university almost forgets that it owns the house and the garden begins to move indoors and the wood on the window frames and the once sturdy front door begins to warp and crack.

Every couple of years, a resident writes to the university demanding that something is done about this eye sore and there are rumours that the house has been bought to be redeveloped or that it will be demolished or that a long lost relative of the almost forgotten Mr Harrison has been found and intends to move his or her family into the house.

But today, it’s raining and the wind is blustery, making the remaining glass in the Windows rattle.
The cats have long colonised the house. They particularly enjoy it on days like today, when they fill the rooms.
Some seek isolation, staring out of windows at passerbys,others take part in desultory mouse hunts and others yet curl up together, sharing body heat and mutual grooming.
A large black and white boy cat is snoozing, he has eaten his own science diet dry kibble, finished off a bowl of tesco value chicken flavour meat and scrounged half a sausage from a teenager eating his breakfast on the way to the bus stop.
The cat is full now, he lies on his back, occasionally licking the fur on his belly.
He has chosen his spot carefully, out of the wind, close to a hole in the wall where he is sure that the remaining mice have hidden.
The floor is padded with books left by the squatters and the last of the cultural studies lecturers.
The cat has found a good thick one, still in pristine condition, no sign of any wear and tear. It makes a perfect cushion.
The cat, whose family have called him Snuff, but whose real name is quite,quite different and much harder to pronounce, taps the front cover with his paw
“ Of grammertology “ Jacques Derrida.
The cat wonders if it’s any good.


Numbers 1 to 98.


 

Numbers 1 to 98 and a few houses on the next street too.
Continue reading


Number 72- I is a big dog, I is


 

Number 72- I is a big dog, I is.

Gretchen is trying to look out of the front window, she balances on her back legs, leans her chin on to the book case, but she is still to small, too short. She is reduced to jumping up and down, getting brief, partial glimpses of the garden and the cat that is sitting on the front wall, staring in at her house.
Gretchen is struggling to bark and jump, her flattened face and squashed nose make this challenging and even to her own ears her bark is tiny, yappy, not very impressive at all.
“Yip, yip, yip”.
The cat lifts his head and stares at Gretchen as desperately trying to bounce higher, to get nearer , to look bigger, she overbalances and performs a prefect back summersault, taking a whole shelf of books with her.
The cat doesn’t even blink and returns to his quiet contemplation of the empty street.
And then the crash of books and a vase that had been left,forgotten in the great puppy proofing of 2015, half hidden by books on the middle shelf and has finally succumbed to the curse of the dog.
There is a pause, a chance for Gretchen to adopt her saddest face, ears drooping, sitting on her haunches, head bowed and then….
“ Gretchen “ the voice is loud, followed by the thump of feet on the stairs and then a pause, a taking stock of the damage, pause. Gretchen sits quietly, doesn’t move a muscle, waits with her head held low.
At 9 months old,she has discovered that this is the most effective way to head off disaster.
Look sorry
Look cute
Make the sad noise
And if all else fails, roll onto your back and show off your baby pink belly.
She is about to start this manoeuvre when she is scooped up, squeezed against a shoulder and kissed.
This is a surprise to her, loud bangs, crashes and the smashing of breakables is usually followed by the angry voice and an exile to the crate in the kitchen, but today the girl has seen the smug faced cat on the wall. She holds the dog up to the window and laughs
“ too small” she croons “ too small to even scare of that little cat”.
Gretchen wriggles in frustration, she is not too small, it is the world that is too big, the world that operates at a scale unfriendly to a French bulldog. On the inside she feels huge, a wolf of a dog, the kind of dog that struts across the park, smaller dogs scattering before her.
Gretchens reality at the dog park is something quite different, the walk preparation starts with an outfit being chosen. She has an extensive wardrobe, coats, jumpers, even a darling little tank top and matching skirt and then a lead and collar chosen to match the clothing, a quick squirt of lavender scented dog parfum and then off they head. Gretchen pulls in her eagerness to get there, but remembers her manners and is patient when the girl stops to allow the many admirers to pat and cuddle her.
The park is full of smells, scents that call out to her, that are so vivid, so heavy with information that she hardly knows where to start.
She bounces with excitement as finally the lead is removed and she is set free and with that she is across the park, mouth open in joy.
On the park she doesn’t feel small at all, she feels herself to be all dog, the wolf within let lose as she races from trees to long grass and into the patches of undergrowth where the scents are most delicious.
Here, Gretchen is the perfect size to squeeze under bushes, into the spaces between the benches where foolish picnickers leave the tastiest morsels of sandwiches and can, if she breathes in and nobody’s paying attention, slide underneath the toddler climbing castle and forage for chocolate buttons and dropped crisps.
On the park Gretchen fills the spaces perfectly, rises above the girl’s attempts to make her small, to keep her cute, to negate the dog inside. On the park, Gretchen leads a pack of dogs exploring the skate park, encourages them to turn deaf ears to owners too timid to challenge the hoodies and the emos who have ownership of the skate space and the burnt out bench.
It’s Gretchen who discovers the carrier bag momentarily ignored by the father rescuing his over ambitious five year old from the big kids climbing frame and tears it open, sharp tiny teeth tearing at the wrapped cooked chicken and its Gretchen who gets the lions share, holding her corner even from the sheep dog from across the road.
Finally, Gretchen is recaptured, her lead clipped on and still yapping her excitement, they return home and as they enter the house, she feels herself shrink, diminish, becomes all to aware of her size in a house where everything is too big.
Gretchen tries to look out into the front garden, tries to monitor the cat situation, but without the bookcase to balance on,she is even smaller and can only get brief,momentary glimpses of the wall as she leaps up and down.
There are two cats now, both seem completely unimpressed by the tiny barking dog jumping up and down to see out of the window.


A vampire lives at number 84.


A vampire lives at number 84

It’s not immediately obvious, it’s not the most likely place to expect that one of the creatures of the night would choose to live out his endless immortal existence in a 3 bedroomed ( bathroom downstairs option) mid terraced house, but there you are and more pressingly, there he is and the local cats don’t like it at all.

Cats are not renowned for possessing club able, hangin out with the honeys, mi casa es si casa personalities, but, the cats on this street often congregate in small friendship or family groups to soak up sunshine, hurl insults at those considered deadly foes and to do to death any delicate and ideally expensive planting that the human dwellers labour over.
But, but, but, there is one garden that no cat, not even the least experienced, just out of the pet shop, never been through the cat flap before kitten ever steps into.
Even the most brazen, most vocal, bad boys on the block find good reasons to drop down from walls that band all the gardens together just as they reach the vampires back yard and continue that few feet of the journey along the alley floor itself before nonchalantly springing back onto the wall and heading down to investigate which cats flaps can be entered by the appliance of a good hearty head butt.
The cats’ objections are twofold really.
It’s not as though they are actually anti the dark arts and things that go bump in the night, they have no issues with witches and warlocks and actively like Mrs Prosser the White witch at number 56, particularly as her own cat, black of course, is a generous host, always happy to share his oversized bowl of kitty kibble, but vampires, well that’s just a step too far and besides, for delicate feline noses, vampires smell, well, wrong, rank, lower the tone of the neighbourhood.
And of course, there’s the issue of resources, in this mostly tidy inner city area, well, resources are scarce. There’s a real lack of rats, mice and baby birds.
The cats , although rarely ever really hungry, still enjoy a occasional al fresco snack, like to get in touch with their inner big cat and brutally, the street can’t support his feeding needs alongside theirs.
Their best hope is to wait, cross their paws and hope that sometime soon, he gives up his diet light and falls back on the bad old, blood red, neck chewing days of yesteryear.
And quite frankly, it can’t happen too soon.

The humans, of course, are in denial, even when most of the cats and some of the more public spirited dogs have gone out of their way to give warning after warning.
The house is always in darkness, blinds firmly drawn at all times, so well fitting that no chink of light is getting in there. The windows are not just closed, but closed with a finality that suggests that they will never ,ever open again.
There is never a single sound, no television, no radio, not even the hum of a washing machine or a vacuum cleaner. It’s as though the house is beyond empty,but, if you know where and when to stand peering up at the back bedroom window as dusk falls and the street lights flicker on, then you will see something, a movement, the shape of a man stretching, bending and at this point, the cat loitering on the next door’s wall usually remembers a vital errand 3 doors away and slides gracefully, but very purposefully away.
The vampire notices the cat of course, wonders for a moment what cat tastes like in the 21st century, more processed, higher fat content and more crucially, more noticed,likely to result in sad badly photocopied flyers tied to lampposts and a lack of cats allowed out late at night, let out to put themselves at any risk at all.
A slew of missing cats will draw attention and attention is not what he seeks at this point in his very long life.
It will have to be rabbit again, there are still two bucks, crouched together as far back in the hutch as they can be. Their bodies one quiver of fear,eyes focussed on what is beyond the wire, what has come each day for the does that filled this hutch to capacity a few days ago, what has shunk their already small lives to piss and fear and the stench of other rabbit death.
The rabbits have plenty of space now, but try and make themselves as small as possible, wriggling away in terror when his hand lifts the latch and gently stretches out to gather a bunny to his chest.

He thinks about real flesh, real food in the same way that a dieter dreams of cakes and chocolate and icecream. His mouth waters at the memories of previous feasts, when gorged on the blood of victims, some willing, some perhaps less so, he would lie replete, a small moan of pleasure escaping his mouth.
His tongue and elegant white fingers licking and dabbing at droplets and splashes.
Satisfied.

The rabbit will nourish him, keep body and something other than soul together and the rabbits are easy to come by, although he is having to travel farther and farther to farmers markets, old fashioned pet shops and even domestic breeders over-run by unwanted bunnies.
But it is real blood he want, not the mud blood of rabbits and rats and the occasional shabby city fox, he knows that times have changed. This century is not kind to him.
Leave one blood drained corpse in an alley way and all hell breaks loose and as for living in Eastern European splendour, well, even the vampires think that the future is more EU than gothic.

And so, he continues living here at number 84, he doesn’t have a plan as such. When you have lived as long as he has, well, times change, things come and go and eventually his time will come again and then he will hunt.
Eyes reflecting the full moon, blood red lips drawn back, his every sense more than alive and in front of him, running even though she know that there is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide is the maiden or more accurately, because this is what he is focussed on, the maidens neck, pale skin,, veins beating dark against the white flesh and the hunger growing in him as bears down on her.

He stops, blows his nose, takes a deep breath, he is getting too old for this much excitement, needs to pace himself, stay patient.
He removes a morsel of rabbit fur from between his front teeth, hefts the two little corpses into a bin liner and is pleased when he remembers that tomorrow is bin day.

Opening the back door, he looks up into the sky, the moon is there competing with the street lights and the glow for the shopping centre and the huge floodlights from the football stadium across the river, but the moon is still there and he basks for just a second before jumping onto the wall and then down and along the alley footpath and away.
He can taste young fox cub in the air.
As he passes them, two cats, tortoiseshell, mother and son, flatten their bodies against the ground, ears tucked down into their skulls.
They stay there far longer than they need to, still and silent and scared.
Waiting until they are quite sure that he far enough away before they move quickly together.
Over the walls.
Up the tiny garden path and into the kitchen with a definitive bang of the cat flap.
Then,a pause, a regrouping and then sleep, curled around each other for comfort.
Neither choosing to leave the warmth of the sofa tonight.


Detritus – On the night bus – 8


This is not a job for the fussy, the squeamish, Lee nods to himself, satisfied that he has managed to use todays’ googled word – squeamish

adjective
1.
fastidious or dainty.

2.
easily shocked by anything slightly immodest; prudish.

3.
excessively particular or scrupulous as to the moral aspect of things.

4.
easily nauseated or disgusted: to get squeamish at the sight of blood.

nice and early in the day.
Sometimes, if the word is especially tricky or complicated it take hours to find a sentence to drop the word into. If it gets to 9, 10, o clock at night, he can start to panic, wonder if he’s going to make it.

But today, 9.17 am, shift finished at the bus depot, full english in front of him and he’s used the word in a soliloquy, so there’s no chance of coming across as a complete ponce in front of the other guys.

so·lil·o·quy
[suh-lil-uh-kwee]

noun, plural so·lil·o·quies.
1.
an utterance or discourse by a person who is talking to himself or herself or is disregardful of or oblivious to any hearers present (often used as a device in drama to disclose a character’s innermost thoughts): Hamlet’s soliloquy begins with “To be or not to be.”

2.
the act of talking while or as if alone.

Result.

He slices into the egg, watches the yolk split and he’s reminded of a Jackson Pollock painting, all that red and yellow, drips and splashes.

People, he considers, spearing a bit of sausage onto his fork and dipping it into the egg, tomato combo, people think that anyone who does his job must be a bit thick, a muppet, not much going for them, but the truth is quite different, there’s more to his team than meets the eye.

For a start off, there’s himself – new word every day, Sky Arts, although obviously not if there’s an important match on, books, real ones, not just Andy McNab or the bloke who writes about the Holy Grail and stuff.

And then there’s Mohammed, of course his real name’s not Mohammed, he’s a convert, used to be Stevo, Hassan, who was at school with him, says Stevo was an ugly f***er back in the day , Hassan reckons he’s only converted so that he’s guaranteed a wife, maybe even two.
But, Stevo/Mohammed takes it pretty seriously, got a little prayer mat he rolls out and everything and mostly no-body laughs, much.

Lee thinks about the rest of the team ,the night bus cleaning and maintenance crew, there’s Hassan, working this job and then straight off to his cousin brothers’ factory for another 10 hours, sometimes he falls asleep on the back seat of the no 43, but no-body says anything.
Gay Martin, Gaybo, Lee’s not actually sure if Martin is gay, but once he asked if the caff served herbal tea, so there’s a bit of doubt there, but Martin has other stuff going on, always got head phones on, one day Lee overheard, expected it to be music, but it was some bird speaking, sounded like Italian, Spanish, Lee doesn’t really know what to make of it and then there’s the twins, Peto & Tibor, identical, self contained, Tibor the smarter, the leader, the one who’s learnt a bit of english, does the talking for both of them. They’ve got other stuff going on, always on their phones, guttural language, even when its whispered.

gut·tur·al
/ˈgətərəl/
Adjective
(of a speech sound) Produced in the throat; harsh-sounding.
Noun
A guttural consonant (e.g., k, g) or other speech sound.
Synonyms
throaty

Lee sits back, sighs, looks down at the carnage on his plate, full English devoured, he leans across, picks up a piece of toast and applies a thick coating of marmalade, lovely.

So, that’s the team

Himself
Hassan
Martin
Stevo/Mohammed
Tibor
Peto

and every night, they get to the depot, 2am and wait for the night buses to come in, bit of banter with the drivers and then clean team on board, they have 10, 15 mins max to turn the buses round, ready for the day shift, which is where the not squeamish comes in, no time to hang about.

People always leave stuff on buses, but the night buses, they’re something else, there’s the obvious, vomit and worse, bags, shoes, coats, underwear, of course and sometimes weirdly random stuff

ran·dom
/ˈrandəm/
Adjective
Made, done, happening, or chosen without method or conscious decision: “a random sample of 100 households”.
Governed by or involving equal chances for each item.
Synonyms
fortuitous – haphazard – accidental – chance – incidental

a sewing machine, bag of wool, a photo album.

Of course, they’re meant to hand in the valuable stuff, phones, lap tops, money and usually the driver has got there before them, grabbed anything tasty, but if you’re not proud and don’t mind grubbing around, you can find a lot of loose change and on minimum wage, well it all helps.

Lee has paid for today’s breakfast from the coinage off the Brent Cross bus, it being free has made it even more tasty and he sits back, checks his watch, plenty of time and orders another tea, cos what he’s really doing is pulling together the story of Detritus, giving it a proper shape in his head, considering writing it down when he gets home.

It was December, proper cold and there is no-where colder than a bus depot at 5 am in the middle of December. Everyone is busy, it’s a heads down, get through the work sort of shift and then Hassan shouts to Lee from the Tooting Broadway bus, says there’s something on the back seat, something making a noise.

They’ve never had a baby on the bus, but it’s not completely impossible and Lee has a pretty good idea of exactly how much hassle that would be, so he shoots off the Balham bus and heads over to see what’s occurring and as he walks over, he can’t help thinking that this may be the only chance in his life to use the word foundling in conversation

found·ling
/ˈfoundliNG/
Noun
An infant abandoned by its parents and cared for by others.

Hassan is standing half-way down the bus, black bin liner in hand, he points to the back seat and they both stand, listening carefully and then they hear it, a faint mewing sound and a scratching, scraping.
Hassan manages to put himself behind Lee and they walk down the aisle as the mewing, crying become louder. Lee does not want this to be a baby, does not want to be stuck at work for hours, does not want to talk to police, social workers, shift supervisor, mostly he does want to think about the kind of person who leave a baby on a bus in the middle of winter.

There is a canvas holdall, brown, bit battered, in the far corner of the long back seat and the noise is coming from inside, Lee takes a deep breath, bends down towards the bag and unzips it, praying as a hard as he can to a god he doesn’t believe in, that this is not going to go as horribly wrong as a shift can.

ag·nos·tic
/agˈnästik/
Noun
A person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena;…
Adjective
Of or relating to agnostics or agnosticism.
Synonyms
nescient – know-nothing

He actually laughs out loud, laughs with relief when the face that looks up at him is not the bluing shape of a freezing new born baby, but black, furry, a kitten, 6 or 7 weeks old.
He hears Hassan behind him breathe out, an expression of relief and realizes that he has been holding his breath too.

And after the shift, when the congregate for a smoke and a cuppa, Lee brings the kitten, still in the holdall, the guys look, ask him what he’s going to do with it, Peto strokes it with one careful finger
“cat” he says, surprising them all and Lee finds that somehow he has agreed with himself to take the kitten home.

“what are you gonna call it?” asks Stevo/Mohammed and Lee has one of his finest moments, he looks at the guys, all of them clustered around the little cat.
“Detritus” he says ” I’m gonna call it Detritus”.

de·tri·tus
/diˈtrītəs/
Noun
Waste or debris of any kind.
Gravel, sand, silt, or other material produced by erosion.
Synonyms
debris

Lee smiles to himself, the story is good one, neat, some pretty high impact vocabulary and a happy ending, it’s worth writing it down, he leans back and wonders if he justify ordering another round of toast.


THE AUF WIEDERSEHEN PET


A guest piece from our regular contributor – SW – enjoy

It started in the early days of the Great War, young men would

give their sweethearts, wives or their small children a tiny, tiny

kitten; they were perpetual kittens. In tearful farewells up and

down England, men would take the tiny kittens from out of a small

bag or from under a coat and pass over the tiny kitten to shaking

hands and tear-stained faces. They became known back then as

Auf Wiedersehen pets.

……………………….

Len Smith lay with his face down in the mud, clouds of lethal

Mustard Gas crept over his body, bullets slapped into mud around

him. And as his life slowly ended he saw coming towards him the

Auf Wiedersehen pet he had given his daughter. The tiny kitten

crept into his almost lifeless hand and it held the smell of his

daughter in its fur that he greedily sucked in. Men from all over

the Western Front reported they had seen these kittens crawling

along towards their fallen comrades. German snipers blinked in

amazement pressing their eyes into their sights in disbelief.

Hundreds and hundreds of kittens, but not a single one was found

later on. Back home the Auf Wiedersehen pets slowly began to die.

No one ever knew why.