Every dawn and dusk there is a squat old man who walks his dog as far as it needs to to relieve itself in front of someone’s house and then back again. This, I detect, is the extent of the daily exercise for both man and dog. Let’s call the man Arthur. Arthur’s contribution to the community is to keep an eye on everybody else’s business.
Sarah and Tom, lovely couple a few doors away, decided to go away for a few days for a break. The two cats, a tabby called Biscuit and a timid black and white one called Cookie, were to stay at home, and Sarah’s parents, who also live nearby, agreed to pop in and feed them and just keep an eye on the place.
The day before their return home, Bill and July, Sarah’s parents, heard a loud knock at the door as they sat eating breakfast. Arthur, on dawn patrol, spat his words like machine gun fire, “Your Sarah’s black and white cat.”
“Yes,” said Bill
“Just seen it. Dead.” And with that Arthur turned and left. That, for Arthur, is conversation.
Bill and July stared at each other as their spirits sank. They knew Sarah would be heart broken when she returned home to find her sweet little timid cat an ex-cat. Bill grabbed his coat and went around to Sarah’s house and, sure enough, in front of Sarah’s gate, lay the rigid remains.
Bill scooped up the poor thing into a bag until they decided what to do. Sarah was due back tomorrow and she’d be beside herself with grief. She adored that cat.
Bill decided that the best course of action was to treat the animal properly for Sarah, and so, carrier bag of cat in hand, visited the local vet to ask for a cremation, pronto. Bill slipped the vet the asking price and the vet duly obliged. Bill, flushed with the warm glow of his humanitarian instincts, collected a lovely little casket of ashes that afternoon.
Dawn broke on the day of Sarah and Tom’s return. Arthur watered the dog and sat awaiting the imminent arrival of the neighbours. He let the curtain drop as he watched them unload the car in a pleasant post-holiday mood. It’s tough – but this would not wait. Arthur sidled up to Sarah and without preamble fired his volley – “Sarah. Your black and white cat. Dead. Saw it here at the gate.” – and left. (He doesn’t hold back doesn’t Arthur. Life is too short for pleasantries.)
Sarah, stunned, broke down. Tears fell like rain and before Tom could throw his arms around her in consolation she had run into the house and upstairs to bury her crumpled face into the comfort of her pillow. But there, lying on the bed, in all his “Welcome home, Mum” glory – was Cookie, the black and white cat, just where they’d left him several days before.
Mouths are agape in Bill and July’s kitchen as Sarah tells her story about Arthur’s outburst. Eyes turn towards the sweet little casket on the windowsill.
Discrete enquiries are now taking place down at The Queen’s Head to find out if anyone has lost a black and white cat recently and, er………..would they like it’s ashes back.