They’ve given me Chicken Feast Classic pâté out of a tin. It’s for senior cats and I don’t know what makes them think I’m a senior cat. I certainly am not. I refuse to eat it.
They’ve given me instead Gourmet Natural White Chicken Meat out of a tin and it’s meant for kittens. I’m not a baby. I refuse to eat it.
They’ve given me instead some Gourmet Natural Trout & Tuna out of a tin. It’s what they gave me yesterday. I’m sick of it. I refuse to eat it.
They’ve given me instead some Gourmet Natural Wild Salmon & Shrimp out of a tin. What’s it with fish food? It’s much the same as yesterday. I refuse to eat it.
They’ve given me instead some Gourmet Natural Turkey out of a tin. One bite is enough. I’m half starved to death and yet I refuse to eat it.
What’s this? A slice of left-over chicken in the fridge from their meal last night? Now that’s delicious. I’ve already finished it but I want some more. I don’t care if there’s none left. I want some more.
After considerable pressure from animal lovers God relented and began to allow pets in heaven – provided of course that people cleaned up any mess.
“Let this be a lesson to all,” declared God, “that I am open to hearing prayerful petitions from good people.”
What excitement ensued! Lillian McPherson got her eleven dogs in a flash, to say nothing of Christopher Flannery’s seven cats, and Josephine Williamson’s seventeen rabbits.
The pets increased the delight of heaven even more than previously. Many an angel bent to pat a cat, and many a cherub gave dog-owners a break by taking the dog for a walk. All was wonderful for several years; all faithfully cleaned up after their pets.
Then suddenly Eleanor Whiddleworthy died and entered heaven through the pearly gates. While on Earth Eleanor Whiddleworthy had been a note-worthy person. She had spear-headed the fight to rid the world of plastic, she had spearheaded the fight to save planet Earth’s forest. Upon entering heaven she gathered like-minded people about her.
God was petitioned: rid heaven of plastic and stop the cutting down of forests. After considerable pressure God relented and banned plastic bags and the felling of trees to make paper bags and other wood-based commodities.
Poor pet owners! Oh the smell with no bags to gather poo!
That’s my cat fast asleep on her pillow on the bed. She is now in her eighteenth year. It’s amazing, given the traffic that passes the gate on our country road, that she has survived all those years. She crosses the road frequently while going hunting across the fields in search of a rabbit or a field mouse, or crossing the road to take a shortcut to the neighbour’s half a mile away to visit their cat. This is the fifth cat the neighbours have had in the years we’ve had our cat, and they’ve had so many cats for reasons I’ve hinted at above.
But now our cat is safely asleep on the bed, which seems to be her favourite sleeping spot these days.
One of the things about this country road is that it is used by massive logging trucks and trailers. There seems to be some forestry going on somewhere down the road. At first we thought it was going to be temporary, but the logging trucks have gone back and forth all these years and they never seem to run out of logs to cart. You can hear a truck coming for miles – such is the quietness of our rural setting. In fact, I can hear one approaching now.
These logging trucks zoom around the corner right next to our gate. I swear they don’t slow down one iota as they make their sudden appearance at our blind corner. Goodness knows what would happen if there was something on the road – like someone’s car broke down with a puncture or something. Or even a cow or a horse that had escaped its field.
That logging truck is approaching. You can tell from the sound that it’s speeding and huge. One good thing about them not slowing down is that we don’t get those noisy air-brakes (or power brakes or whatever they’re called) all day outside our gate. Imagine if we had to put up with that all the time!
Here it is now! Oops! The driver applied those noisy brakes as the truck came around the corner. That’s the first time I’ve ever heard that in all these years. I wonder why that was. These ruthless truck drivers never brake.
Anyway, it’s time to feed the cat. There she is, as nearly always these days, still fast asleep on the bed.
Juanita had a special gift: she could understand a cat’s meowing. Many people think that the meowing of a cat is simply that. But Juanita knew better.
She had three cats and they were all catered for to perfection. She wouldn’t talk through meows to a cat itself but she could understand what the cat was saying in its meowing. Sometimes, for example, it might be “I have a sore foot”, or “I have a tummy ache,” or even “You should know by now that I don’t like salmon out of a tin”.
What a wonderful gift! Juanita’s reputation grew. Even the local animal vet sometimes called on her if a cat that needed attending to in one way or another was proving difficult to diagnose. “He has an allergy to artificial flavouring in the beef and liver cat food.” “She is stressed out by the neighbour’s dog.” “My cushion stinks.”
Juanita had a friend who had a cat and the cat was doing poorly. It wouldn’t eat. Perhaps Juanita could help? The solution was simple. The friend’s cat explained in no uncertain terms: “I’m not a fussy eater; I just like variety”.
At one time a heart-warming revelation occurred. Juanita was watching the evening news on television when Estelle announced: “I have happy news! I am expecting five kittens!” What a happy day! Oh! But what a sad day it was when Juanita had to take the five kittens to the pet shop to be sold. “You have broken my heart,” said Estelle. “I shall never speak to you again.”
All the other cats joined in the boycott. And that possibly accounts for why these days cats will often appear aloof and haughty. No! They do not think of themselves as superior; they are simply taking a stand. There’s more to a meow than meets the eye. Juanita will tell you that every meow from every cat these days simply says, politely of course, “My lips are sealed.”
Bertrand had his late wife cremated. He buried her ashes on his back lawn next to which he dragged his barbeque. That was four years ago. He could recall as clear as a bell the circumstances of his wife’s murder. They still hadn’t arrested a suspect. But what fun it was to have guests around for a barbeque and have them stand all over his wife’s ashes without their knowing.
And now, four years later, her pet cat had died. The cat was the last living vestige of her life. He dug a hole next to the barbeque and buried the cat. She loved that cat. To be honest, Bertrand wasn’t particularly fond of either.
He invited some friends around for a barbeque. They had a great time, and in between drinks Bertrand decided to put the house up for sale.
This house is going to be largely about dogs – canine and human.
Even prior to being ousted from the previous place we had found a house in town to live in. In fact, although we would spend part of each day at the previous place we had shifted most of our belongings to the new address and slept in the new place at night. We still had the cow and the goat at the old place. The end came suddenly and before you could blink we were ensconced at 27 Saint Annes Street, Levin.
It was a large two-story house with a steep staircase that had no bannister. To get to the main bedroom you had to squeeze past the staircase, which suggested that the upstairs had been an afterthought. Outside in the front were two gigantic trees; a gum and a copper beech. Next to them was a fairly busy road. At the back of the house was a substantial lawn with a large, but old, garage and workshop. We put in trellis gates to keep the dog at bay.
We always regarded this place as being temporary. It would give us space to search anywhere in the country for as near-perfect a house as possible. We made a list of what a rented house would have to have, and a list of what would be nice but not necessary. Every day we looked online at the houses available, from the top of the country to the bottom. In the meantime we got on with living a life.
We were permitted to have a dog, so of course Delia came too as did the cat. Delia didn’t like the place much. She was used to expansive rural settings where she could roam at whim. And then she was diagnosed with bladder cancer. Luckily an expert dog surgeon was visiting the town. He said an operation would be touch and go. We held our breath, but within a week Delia was happily home as large as life. Six months later we went for our daily walk. We came home. Delia sat down and died – tail wagging.
A month or so later we had the opportunity to get a puppy – a black and white Springer Spaniel. We named him Bubble.
On one side of the house were neighbours Pearl and Norm. They were an older couple, and delightful. They would frequently pop in for a chat, as indeed we too would pop over to their place. Norm was into making home brew and I wasn’t beyond making a brew myself. Norm was a car mechanic and was called upon several times to fix our car. Pearl cared for half a dozen homeless cats.
There was a neighbour on the other side also called Norm; Norm and his partner Chelsea. All day, and for a good part of the night, you could hear them screaming obscenities at each other. (You get the idea). They had seven dogs; half a dozen fluffy lapdog yappers and a vicious Rottweiler. The Rottweiler knew how to jump the fence into our property right at the back where Norm had his marijuana garden. We were at times scared to go out on the back lawn, and little Bubble wouldn’t go there to pee. Luckily, Levin had a dog park of about ten acres. We would visit the park each day and Bubble would play and run with packs of other dogs of all shapes and sizes.
I continued to play the piano at the Levin Library when invited to give a concert. Usually I would play Scarlatti Sonatas or Haydn Sonatas. I loved it, and the library users appreciated it too.
Another thing that happened was a 7.8 earthquake. It was a biggie! It went on and on. In fact it was two earthquakes following one another without a break.
Rainwater had no escape from our back lawn, and the water from the roof of the house also gushed there. The back of the house with the wretched running Rottweiler became a muddy swamp. We made some raised beds to grow vegetables.
Then disaster struck. Norm-of-the-obscenities dropped dead at his front door. The body was taken away and the partying began. Crowds revelled at the house and a few stayed the nights. A second Rottweiler made an appearance. Chelsea could not control any of the dogs. They ran amuck. A month or so later their landlord called to ask why the rent had not been paid. He booted all out. The house had been trashed.
Peace at last, but we’d had enough of the place. With greater urgency we searched for a house we could call a home. We drove several hundred miles to view a place, but that is the next story. Eric went ahead to set up the new abode; internet and power and phone and so on. I stayed behind to supervise the removal truck and to shampoo the carpet. Three days later, with dog and cat, I set sail and left the wretched place behind.
After scurrying up and down New Zealand for four months or so looking for work, with every possession on earth packed into the car, we at last landed a job in Auckland, New Zealand. The new job put us up at a very nice hotel for two weeks. That gave us plenty of time to find a house to rent.
We did find a house in one of the suburbs. It seemed quite nice, and would be available on the very Friday that we had to leave the hotel. We turned up at the rental agency to pick up the key.
“Oh, sorry, but we rented that out to someone yesterday. We have nothing else available.”
Needless to say, it was pretty devastating. We went straight to another rental agency and told our plight. The woman said she had two houses available. Have a look at both of them and say which one you want. One was in the suburbs and a bit run down. The other was in a little village called Tuakau some way out of Auckland. We chose the one in the little village. That night we unloaded the car of all our possessions in the world. No chair! No bed! No table! But we had a computer! We sat and ate and slept on the floor!
The next day we purchased a dining table and some chairs.
My mother had died several months earlier. One of my brothers packed up some of Mum’s furniture and freighted it to Tuakau, including a clothes dryer. With it he had included money to buy a washing machine!
The neighbour had eleven dogs and seven cats. The palm tree outside our back door had a large family of rats living in its branches. (In case you didn’t know, rats love living in palm trees). There were snails in the wilderness around the house in the thousands.
The house was a bungalow – as the majority of New Zealand houses are. It had recently been painted inside. There was no heating; no wood burner, no heat pump. We bought a heater. We might as well have tried to heat the Antarctic. It was useless. It was freezing. I’ve never been so cold in my life. It was damp. When it rained the entire water from the street ran down the driveway and under the house. Quickly mould formed on the newly painted walls.
One of the neighbour’s kittens, clearly tired of living with eleven dogs and six other cats, decided to take up residence with us. She was the only warm thing in the house all winter! The neighbours had called her Bali because she had been born six months earlier while they were on vacation in Bali in Indonesia. We didn’t think much of the name, so for the last sixteen years we have called her Pussy Cat.
I would manage the Village Bookshop when Penny the owner went away. It was a good way to “meet the locals”.
Our house used to be surrounded by a cottage garden. It was now all brambles and weeds. I decided to clear it. In fact I dug over the entire quarter acre by hand and planted a pretty cottage garden all around. It was delightful. In fact it was so delightful that the owner decided the time was ripe to sell – “While it’s looking so pretty”.
At the final rental inspection the agency declared that “The window in the garage is more broken than it was.” More broken? I said. I simply cleaned it. “It is more broken and you will not get your bond back.”
We left with pleasure and with Pussy Cat. Over the next four months the house was sold four times – each time fifty or so thousand more than the previous sale. As far as I know the “more broken window” never got fixed.
Sometimes (quite often actually) I feel as if I’m being watched. It’s nothing really. It’s just that every time I go somewhere everyone and everything looks. In fact, once or twice I’ve put my hands into my pockets just to ascertain whether or not I remembered to put on my pants.
There’s nothing unusual about my appearance that I know of. I’m really quite ordinary to look at. In fact, when I left my home planet (somewhere up near Sirius – I’m not allowed to say) I thought the Department of Shape-Changing did a pretty good job of making me look like an ordinary Earthling.
But here on Earth it’s mainly the cows that stare. I know that the Crowdacians (they’re from a planet fairly close to mine, and they’re our greatest enemy) take on the appearance of a cattle beast. They’re so good at it that often I can’t tell a real cow from a Crowdacian. The Cow is one look that our Department of Shape-Changing has never been able to master.
So when I see a herd of cattle I stop. They all stare, and I shout: “Ha! Ha! Ha! Milking time! Go home! Milking time!” That usually sorts them out. The fake-cow-Crowdacians can’t stand that. They stamp their feet and drool at the mouth. So that’s one way I get to determine who is who.
But now I’m faced with a terrible conundrum. To make myself appear even more normal of a human being I got myself a pet cat. Every second Earthling seems to have a pet cat. And now I’ve discovered that my cat in fact is a Midconsevarian in disguise. At first I didn’t know where the planet was that Midconsevarians came from. But now I know and it’s not nice. I love my cat but have strict orders from my Department of Shape-Changing that I shouldn’t associate.
What am I to do? Everything and everyone stares. I love my pet cat. I want to go home. I asked to be relieved of this terrible cross (goodness, I seem to be taking on the language of an Earthling religion). I have been told that I am on a sixty year contract to stay on Earth.
So a warning to others: think twice before volunteering to do a spell on Earth. It can really suck.
There’s no doubt that Zoe takes up most of the bed. If she would just stick to her side! But no! I’m left wide awake and perched precariously on the brink of the bed ready to plunge down onto the floor the minute I nod off.
She does it on purpose. She pretends she’s asleep while she inches her way into the hollow in the centre of the bed. Straight away she’s fast asleep and breathing noisily. How is a man meant to sleep with all that? Getting one of those modern hard mattresses might help (there’s no central hollow) but I have to admit I do like a bit of softness.
Seriously, I’m thinking of getting my own bed. I shall have it all to myself. But of course Zoe is not to be trusted. I retire to bed before she does, and when she comes to bed, especially in winter, she likes to have the bed warmed up. So I begin by warming her bit of the bed first and then move over to my side. So probably if I got another bed there would always be one bed redundant.
It’s something I’ve put up with for ten years now. I guess there’s no getting around it. Just accept it and get on with life. Damn cat.