A parcel named Horace

The news you’ve all been waiting for—Horace was delivered without complications on Monday. I wasn’t required to sign so I couldn’t say what was written on the delivery man’s docket. I never received the alert to tell me when the post was considering delivering Horace, nor the one to be sent the day before to warn me to block the whole morning so as to be at home when the doorbell rang. What I did receive though was the alert I’d already scratched from the list of propositions: a message to let me know that:

“Your parcel, Horace, has been delivered.”

I hadn’t seen the utility of that particular attentive detail. I was sorta aware he’d been delivered since I was the one who like opened the door and without me or my next of kin, the postier couldn’t have delivered the parcel…

This, by the way, is Horace. The real, live (well…) furry one.

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Horace cloud bathing

Fine-looking animal, isn’t he? He lies next to this chimney in the sun. Or in the gloom as this morning when there was no sun. He doesn’t give a toss. This is next-door’s roof as seen from our bathroom window. Our bathroom which is actually windowless at the moment since Finbar tried to leap through it after a cat (Branwell) waiting to come in.

The height of the roof has been cunningly designed to give cats easy access to our place. A small leap even a geriatric or bone idle (Horace) cat can manage no problem. Beneath the window is a handy ledge, cunningly designed to give cats easy access to our bedroom window in the event that the bathroom window is closed. This is often the case at night.

Our roof has its share of feline residents too. We have installed roof windows to give them easy access to the bedrooms on the second floor. They tend not to come in intentionally, but occasionally drop through when their curiosity makes them lean over too far. There’s a broom on the landing to chase them downstairs  and out through the front door. I don’t need to describe what happens when they meet Finbar on the stairs.

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Victor’s Little Sister
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Isabelle

Microfiction: Pasha

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She watches as the big brown cat lopes along the guttering and drops out of sight. Pasha wouldn’t be long. He’s as old as she is, she reckons, in cat years.
He’s all she has now. Joe is dead these twenty years, but she still catches the occasional whiff of his cigarettes when she moves the cushions on his chair. Springtime is the hardest. Each time like the first spring after Joe died, when everything else was growing, opening, faces smiling.
The baby too, the only one, is just a vague white-robed memory, but the pain is always there, just beneath her ribs. Today it seems sharper than ever.
The sun sinks and Pasha has not come back. She replaces the cat biscuit in the pantry with trembling hands. Her own slice of ham and tiny pat of butter remain untouched. Rheumy eyes spill over. Sometimes the smallest things are the hardest to bear.
She sits and waits.
In the gutter, the dull eyes of a large brown cat gaze unseeing at the rising sun. The last dampness on a papery cheek catches the light. But she has gone, following Pasha’s stripy tail and the growing smell of cigarette smoke.

Branwell: the cat who came in from the cold

Some of you who I know from Face Book might remember me mentioning Branwell, and you have no doubt been having sleepless night wondering how he’s doing. For those of you who haven’t got a clue what I’m talking about, Branwell is one of the many moggies that hang around our secluded little backwater. About ten of the locals (cats), all black, white and ugly belong to the neighbour. The rest are wild. We used to get a lot of visitors, cats that obviously had a perfectly good home somewhere, but just liked slumming it with the neighbour’s mean gang. The nice cats don’t come round anymore, too many third generation wild cats for their liking I suspect.

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Branwell though is a lost moggy, possibly the apple of some distraught pensioner’s eye; possibly some little girl has cried herself to sleep many a night over her lost pussy cat. Branwell purrs and sits on your lap, rolling in ecstasy. He’s a big neutered tom and very soft and easy going. He even hung around with Otto who is not the easiest of cats to get on with. Anyway, husband took one look at Branwell and said that if he wanted a home he could have one.

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I call him Branwell because I think he looks like a Branwell. The name hasn’t stuck though. Son insists on calling him Cromwell, and the girls call him by a variety of names: Branston, Brandon, Brownwell, Bromley (?) with Brommie or Brownie for short. Not much chance of him every responding to his name.
Finbar is not happy about us adopting another cat. Nor, must it be said, are the other cats. Finbar just can’t stop himself chasing cats (except Trixie) and generally, cats don’t appreciate his attention. So we are on constant cat patrol/dog alert, to cries of: “Where’s Branwell? Finbar needs the toilet. Can he come downstairs?”

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The funny Little Cat goes into paroxysms of fury when she sees him. She used to be very friendly towards other cats until the Mean One fell through the skylight and chased her all round the top floor. I had to corner the wretched creature in the toilet and chase it out into the garden with a broom.

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Trixie just hates everything indiscriminately. She growls and slaps if Branwell gets too close, lies across doorways to stop him getting past, lounges on windowsills to stop him getting back into the house, the usual sort of unfriendly gestures. Like lying on Finbar’s blanket if Branwell looks as though he might be tempted to test it.

To date there has been no bloodshed. Branwell can stay as long as he can stand it. At least it has to be better than sharing a chicken coop with Otto.

Cat poems

When the wind blows cold
and there is no shelter
from the lashing rain
cat curls among the market crates
and cheats his empty belly
with the smell of butcher’s meat.

* * * *

In the dark places

where the streetlights die

cat prowls

thin-ribbed

hungry

searching for an open door.

* * * *

Clouds gather

dark

rain spats

cold

cat slips

lithe

into the cellar

dry

* * * *

Sky colour of mud

rain dull pewter

a cold curtain.

In a dark corner

the stray cat waits

his eyes on the closed door

and the empty bowl.

* * * *

Silence

in the night

is a cat’s furtive footfall

and the hot hiss

of the stars

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Stray cat

He sits on the doorstep, the little stray cat,

ears twisting every which way

eyes darting back and forth

unwilling to hold my gaze.

I open the door slowly

watch him tense and quiver

next to the bowl of food half-eaten

that I leave to salve my conscience.

He eyes the door, the gap that opens

Sniffs the smell of warm quiet and other cats.

He gathers a hero’s courage

to still those back legs

quivering with desire to spring away.

More than food he wants to slip

a grey shadow

and hide among the mysteries of sanctuary.

I see a longing in those frightened eyes

for something all of us were meant to have.

A home

a place where there is no rain no cold

where no one with a careless laugh

will drive him from the dirt kept dry

beneath his curled frame.

I leave the door ajar and step aside

wondering if he will dare.

But the sound of footsteps in the street

sends him scuttling for a place to hide

hugging the wall like a wretched thief.

He turns

and the yearning in those restless eyes

fills me with shame that the effort is too great

to give the little that he asks.

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Otto, the swimming cat

Though we live in the city, the housing is low density and low rise, all gently-sloping tiled roofs and small walled gardens. You’d think the housing department had consulted the local feline population on what kind of urban landscape to plump for, as it is ideal for getting all round the neighbourhood without having to put a paw on the ground.
Generally speaking it’s quiet at night; the odd scream or short burst of swearing when somebody trips over the dog on their way to bed, but nothing to warrant keeping the windows closed when the night air is balmy. However, all those walls and low roofs mean the cats slink about at bedroom level, and they are not all respectful of human needs in terms of sleep.
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The mad cat lady next door, sole survivor of the destruction of the building, still hangs on, perched above the reconstruction process, in a relic of wobbly staircases and crumbling plaster. Her many companions are called in every night. Sometimes it can be almost midnight before the last loiterer is tempted or threatened home: but not all the local moggies have homes.

There’s a new kid on the block, a great white beast with a bushy red tail like a fox. Looks for all the world like a Turkish Van cat, the kind that are supposed to like water. My husband refers to him as ‘that swimming cat’. I call him Otto, short for Ottoman. Anyway, Otto, the swimming cat is lost. And Otto has a powerful pair of lungs. He floats over the roofs like a ghost, wailing like a banshee for his lost basket and Friskies. We’ve tried to get him down but he won’t come. Not interested in a place that isn’t ‘home’.

Otto screeched his way along the wall, over the shed roof, over the neighbour’s roof, past our bedroom window, over the veranda roof, back down the garden, up on the shed again, back over the walls, round and round ALL NIGHT. Like a soul in torment he haunted the neighbourhood, crying his heart out. Even the other cats got sick of it and about four o’clock they ganged up on him and there was an almighty cat fight about two yards from where we were trying to sleep.
From three, Chukkie the Rooster had been joining in, but he never seems to know the difference between night and day. Otto is now sleeping in the guttering round the back of the shed, worn out.

Otto taking five
Otto taking five

If anybody has lost a large white and red squirrel-tailed banshee, would they please like to come and claim him? Anybody with neighbours they hate want to adopt him? Anybody?

Cat tales

Since the work has been going on next door, Trixie has been very unsettled and doesn’t know where to put herself. She has been spending quite a lot of time in the bureau, mooching around and waiting for a seat to be vacated so she can squat on it.
We did give her her own chair and cushion, but she wants Finbar’s chair. And she wants it all to herself.
Trixie doesn’t like sharing, not even carpets. For example, an innocent dog might be lying asleep in front of the fire. Trixie NEVER sleeps in front of the fire, unless that is what Finbar is doing. This is how she usually operates.

Trixie drops heavy hints
Trixie drops heavy hints

A couple of minutes later…

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Nobody knows how she does it, but the place is always vacated. At the moment, as I say, she is upset by the noise of the commandos next door and creeps into the bureau looking for a quiet corner. Finbar has got used to it and after voicing his irritation by barking when they start first thing, he ignores it.
This morning, Trixie came into the bureau and stood in front of Finbar’s chair, lashing her tail and looking intimidating. Finbar didn’t budge. He hadn’t been out for a walk and he was lying doggo, hoping I’d forget. Trixie climbed onto the chair and walked up Finbar’s back. She dug about between his back and the chair trying to get him to move. Usually Trixie can shift anything when she puts her back into it. Archimedes had her in mind when he said the bit about give me somewhere to stick my nose and I will move the Earth.

Finbar playing dead while Trixie tries to burrow into the stuffing.
Finbar playing dead while Trixie tries to burrow into the stuffing.

This time it didn’t work. Finbar is a big dog and I have always thought it miraculous that he manages to fold himself up small enough to fit in an armchair. You’d need a massive shoehorn to get him out. Trixie’s snout, for once didn’t work. So after an attempt to dig up through the bottom of the armchair, she sat on the back of it looking down, working out the options. The best option turned out to be me, turning up with the dreaded lead to take Finbar walkies. The look on that cat’s face I would swear was VICTORY.

Spring drama

The sequel to the spring cleaning drama has been the start of serious demolition work in the building next door. The owner warned us it would be a bit noisy. He didn’t say they were going to use surface to air missiles to knock the partition walls down.

At 7.30 this morning the shelling started and all the animals in the household were startled into action. Cats scuttled to hide under the furniture, Finbar ran up and down the stairs barking, even Catherine got out of bed.

They have just started up again after a very long lunch break. I hope the chief gunner didn’t hit the gros rouge too hard or we could end up with a lot of collateral damage from whizzbangs coming through the chimney breast in our bedroom.

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