The phone rang on Saturday morning, and The Mother was on the end. “I’ve got some bad news,” she said.
As a conversation opener, it’s not exactly ideal; but it is, at least, straight to the point. “What is it?”
“The cat’s died.”
The cat has been in The Parents’ care for the past 18 months or so, ever since we moved down to Bristol. Nevertheless, he was still always My Cat, and there was always the thought that one day he might move back in with us, once we had a house in a cat-friendly area (check) and cat-flap-friendly doors (uncheck).
My dad found him, on Saturday morning, stretched out dead just inside the cat flap. No signs of injury. The night before, he’d been happy, relaxed and purring; the parents did not try to find out why he had died. He was about a month or so short of his tenth birthday.
Sad to think that I’ll never again be woken by him climbing on top of me and miaowing. He was, I always thought, an unusually intelligent cat: it’s hard to be sure, but I’m confident he understood at least five or six words of English, and when he was a bit younger he regularly wanted to play fetch. He also managed to survive three months living wild, a few years back, after The Mother lost him en route to the vet. Maybe there will be other cats one day, but they’re all distinct.
In a few months time, I might suggest to The Parents that they take on a rescue cat, because I’m sure The Mother is going to miss having him around the house. For now, though, I’ll content myself with getting annoyed at the random neighbourhood cats that dig up our back garden; and remember lying back in bed stroking one cat in particular.
Back in July, my mother lost The Cat, accidentally releasing him on the way to the vet’s. She spent hours putting up posters in that part of town, searching round the neighbourhood, answering calls from people who thought they had seen him, but to nothing. After a month or so, the calls dried up, and we assumed he wasn’t coming back.
Yesterday, I got home from work. I went upstairs, changed out of my work clothes, and went to the bathroom. In there, I heard something squeak. A door, or something, squeaking once then twice, just like the cat used to miaow. Strange, I thought, opening the bathroom door to find him wandering on the landing, rubbing against the corners of the walls.
The mother had a phone call yesterday, from an elderly woman living maybe a quarter of a mile from where he had gone missing. She’d been feeding him for about a fortnight, and happened to go in a shop which still had his poster on the wall. She phoned us, dragged him out from underneath her sofa, and the cat came back. He’s lurking in the garden now, trying to re-establish his position in cat society.
Talking about pets: the cat has vanished. Not near home, either.
The mother was taking him to the vet, on Monday, in his cat box. She was a few paces away from the surgery – a mile or so from home – and the cat box, in her words, “fell apart”. It’s a plastic affair, with a removable lid, and it’s picked up by the lid too; so if you haven’t done up the catches right, it will fall apart. And The Mother has never shown any ability to be able to do up the catches right. I have shown her how to do it many, many times, but she still refuses to learn.
The cat immediately scarpered, and hasn’t been seen since. Since then we’ve had thunderstorms and constant rain, and The Mother – when she isn’t out looking for him – keeps saying things like “oh the poor dear, I hope he’s found shelter somewhere.” Which makes me think: no, you’re not allowed to say that. You would be allowed to say that if the whole thing wasn’t completely your own fault.
More than anything, I’m angry. I’m always angry with my parents at some level, because they are intensely annoying people. This, though, has left me angrier than normal. My mother has always been annoyingly semi-competant, being able to grasp 90% of an idea, but missing out the 10% that actually gives it its shape and flavour.* Most of the time it isn’t a big problem, but occasionally, it matters.
* Like the time she saw “Thai curry sauce” in the supermarket, the sort that you add to stir-fried vegetables, and thought “Ooh, I’ll make a Thai curry.” So she cooked some mince, heated it up in a pan with some tinned kidney beans, and added the stir-fry sauce to it. Ta-daa, “Thai curry”. It wasn’t inedible, but she didn’t seem to understand that she’d actually made something entirely different.