He breezed in one day, cat-roared in the street until I opened a window, and in he jumped. Cool as a cucumber, an expression coined by someone who must have met him in one of his former lives. He was a beautiful, stripy tom cat with a tiger tail and a couldn’t-care-less attitude. He had arrived on our little street a few days previously, said the odd-job man who had a shed on the vacant lot at the end. Picked fights with the homeless cats who camped there and obviously decided he was a cut above the local fauna. We called him Raymond, and he turned the house upside down. It was like living with a tornado, a flash of long muscular limbs leaping from one piece of furniture to another, massacring the children’s soft toys, peeing everywhere, letting himself into every room, cupboard and the fridge. Stole an entire chicken once. We would watch him from an upstairs window as he made his way across the rooftops, leaping up sheer walls with the ease of a big bird, laying claim to his territory. Although he caused havoc, we forgave him everything, and when, exactly one year to the day he arrived, he walked out, never to be seen again, we were grief-stricken. We kept hoping that he would be back, picking his way along the garden wall, his tiger tail held high. Four weeks later, when Trixie waylaid the children on their way home from school one afternoon and followed them, wailing, all the way, crossing the main road, we knew that Raymond had moved on. Every stripy tom cat will forever more be a Raymond, a species all to himself, and we haven’t given up hope that he might still, one day, leap back through an open window.
Tiger, Tiger, somewhere in the night you made a choice, stalked into a new story, perhaps one more of many.
Perhaps you have a book now, a frieze stitched in stars, and if we look across to where the city lies, we might pick it out above the orange glow, a constellation of nine lives.
I don’t know what kind of birds the Lidl forest bird seed is intended for, but our birds won’t eat either the black or yellow seeds. Proof, there’s a carpet of bright green shoots poking through the empty husks of sunflower seeds. Good thing Trixie likes it.