Updated: Oct 20, 2020
The alarm went off with its usual gusto and Mary trundled, heavy-footed, across the room. She hurdled with athletic ease, straight over the large sleeping cat making her way to the loo. Then, true to form, popped the kettle on and shoved two pieces of toast into the toaster still half asleep.
The rescue, who was called Simon due to a previous owner, was a cat with a catalogue of neurosis and allergies whom she adored. He lay sprawled across the shaggy rug over the underfloor heating and, just as he did every morning, miraculously avoided being trodden on by his busy owner. He was used to her now. He trusted her, finally, after the early teething problems where her strange behaviour had put into question all the had learned about cat ladies. He had assumed cat ladies were either virgins or frigid, many were broken hearted even and, quite often, bookish. Simon loved their books. They were so warm and comfortable to sit on.
Unbeknown to his new owner, Simon had had a lot of other owners in the past and had moved around a lot. The last rescue hostel was unsure of his history, which was actually much harsher than they had guessed. Simon had known fear, death and abuse in his eight years on earth. He had seen ‘stuff’ and it had affected his view on the world. But now things were going well and he couldn’t believe his luck. He was in a great neighbourhood and there were no hooligans in these parts. He had heard about other cats being used for dogfighting bait and it was a worry for everyone at the shelter. Simon had not been able to eat and had experienced dramatic weight loss until that pivotal moment when he had purposefully locked onto Mary’s eyes and tried to look sad. It had worked, of course, and he was rehomed with her within a week.
Mary was nothing like her holy namesake. There were gentlemen callers from many cultures who spoke to Mary through her laptop. That laptop would get very warm and it made Simon quite envious but Mary would rarely let him lay on it for long. He would keep trying because eventually Mary would cave in. They had an arrangement about things. If she ever wanted to take a photograph of him on her mobile phone, he would allow it if he was on the laptop, otherwise, he would clean his nether regions whenever she tried.
Simon had had to do a lot of things to get rid of male guests from his new home. Usually peeing on their heads in the night was the best way not to see them again. Once he had had to pass a motion inside a denim jacket but it had not deterred the male who kept coming back. Seemingly, the dirty protest had failed. Simon had had to use something he had not relied on before, violence. The man ended up having a tetanus injection but he never returned. It was a near miss, Simon thought, but he had never really got over it. Now, when people came to his flat, he would watch them with an internal panic, fretting over his future.
Mary had finally left for work after a stressful fight against time.
Simon looked at sun. It was Tuesday, Sandra’s day off, he’d best get himself off post-haste.
Sandra was a more traditional cat lady but was currently unable to have her own cat due to a harsh boyfriend ruling. Simon considered it his social duty to visit and eat the treats. Sandra went all out, no expense spared. But these meetings had to be in secret for obvious reasons and Simon would always be slightly on edge in case they got caught. It could mean the end of things. Life was so precarious, it always had been and it occasionally made Simon depressed, though the treats were a great distraction from these heavy thoughts.
Simon stayed for an hour which was more than he wanted really. Sandra was very intense and he didn’t want to miss Julie, three doors down.
Julie had felt sorry for Simon as soon as he moved into the area but already had four cats so couldn’t take him on permanently. (Simon had a colleague who had two permanent owners and he had heard of a cat who juggled three! Of course, that may be an urban myth because juggling that level of commitment could mean, horror of horrors for a free spirit, being locked in for long periods of time.)
Simon flew into Julie’s conservatory panting. He tried to find his bowl, a white ceramic affair with paw prints, standard issue as one would expect from someone like Julie who didn’t seem to breaking any moulds. But the bowl was nowhere. He searched around the outer perimeter with no joy and he began to stress, scratching the areas on his body that were most affected by his stress allergy. He lifted his nose up high, sniffing in the mixed aroma of several resident cats and some food matter. If it didn’t come soon, he would need to leave. Jack and the new kitten would be expecting him.
Finally, after some calling and pained meowing, which generally worked well on cat ladies and even cat men, brunch arrived. Simon managed the whole bowl before running off in case Julie came back expecting cuddles. Cuddles were tempting but so were other things, and the time was getting on.
Crossing over the big road that cut through the village, being in a hurry and not concentrating after an excellent bowlful of the best cat food and gravy money could buy, Simon mistimed his leap to a wall. The car which had almost run him over pranged into a wall by the post office.
Simon did stop briefly to watch the mayhem as it was exciting to have this sort of thing happening. Besides, there was a dog going crazy and he loved to watch the crazies.
Annoyingly, it began to rain. Simon was not likely to make the next bit of the trip for a while so he took shelter under a bin outside a Chinese restaurant. Sometimes, there was a stray bit of chicken or some prawns lying about so he would check it out. No such luck today as the bin men arrived just as Simon was settling in for a quick nap. He really needed a clean too and began the slow process of getting into all the nooks and crannies. Simon was very particular about his appearance and grooming put him at ease if anyone was causing his anxiety levels to rise.
Suddenly, the bin started to move and Simon had to dart between black hobnail boots and a pile of maggots. The boots were successfully navigated despite some humans shouting and the maggots demanded a second look. Simon checked them out but didn't much fancy them so he darted off. The sun was straight above him now and the cloud had cleared. Time to get to the caravan.
Then something took his eye, a swift movement to his right, and there it was again. Ah, now this temptation was far too great. Simon caught a whiff of mouse and went straight in for the kill. It took longer than usual as the mouse was stealth and crafty. The chase extended around a large courtyard with a great deal of cover that was inaccessible for a cat of Simon’s girth. He worried about his weight and had noticed that some of his ladies were now feeding him less tasty foods with lower fat content. Others though seemed to enjoy his roly-poly-ness and cuddles came fast and frequent. Perhaps there were two types of cat ladies, those that liked him fat and those that liked him lean. Simon tried not to worry about his looks, it was shallow and he preferred to use his mind than his body to attract humans.
There had only been one incident where his tummy had impacted negatively on his life. A silly and somewhat embarrassing cat flap episode. But the flap had removed and Simon never saw the resident again, a very attractive white Persian female. Life goes on, he had philosophised. Their relationship was simply not meant to be.
The mouse was now scared and made a run for it across open terrane. It was poor judgment as Simon, although fat, was a nimble tiger in open terrain. The kill made Simon feel his inner worth and he wanted to show it to Mary. But there was still a lot to get done before home time so after nearly an hour of showing off to no-one, Simon hid it behind a plant pot for another day. Then he shook some muck from his thick coat and gave a quick lick of his paws. Deep cleaning would have to wait.
Time to get to Jack’s which was across the troll bridge where the house with the barking dogs imposed its reign over the smaller houses. Simon had to limber up for a tease. The dogs were unable to escape so Simon particularly loved to walk slowly across the top of the double gates pretending to be scared. If you pretended to be scared the dogs were even more mad. It was highly amusing and today he fancied being even more provocative by stalling on the gate and spitting at them. It was thrilling. It was stressful too of course and Simon wondered if he was some kind of dangerous adrenalin junky.
At Jack’s, the reception was warm and convivial. The caravan was a great playground and Simon and the kitten (called midnight due to its colouring) was a great partner for tag, hide and seek, and Simon’s favourite, chase the chicken feather.
This level of physical exhaustion, however, took its toll and by mid-afternoon Simon was feeling his age. He should get back. Mary went to bed early and once or twice he’d been locked out. He also liked the underfloor heating at Mary’s and, if he was honest, he had had some feelings for her that he could not explain. Of course, Simon was damaged by previous loves and found open shows of affection difficult. The fear of losing Mary often woke him in the night and he had had some bad dreams. He felt now that he wanted Mary to be his forever human but he feared completely letting go.
The journey home was a short cut Simon ordinarily avoided. He was rudely interrupted whilst minding his own business and keeping his head down, by a stray cat from the Tunnels. The Tunnels were where the feral cats hung out and had access to old pipelines and sewage networks. The Tunnels were dangerous and the feral gangs were hard as nails. This cat answered to the name ‘Tyler’ and was huge, in the muscular sense. Simon had heard that a run in with him on his turf would lead to problems.
Tyler wasted no time and with only a few moans and spits went straight for Simon’s head with both paws at once forcing it to the ground. Simon had never come across such dexterous cat boxing.
Simon screamed hysterically calling Tyler a big fat bully and used his weight as his only weapon against the violent onslaught. Fortunately, he managed to escape Tyler’s grip running for his life. It was a close call and Simon’s anxiety shot through the roof and made him itch for a good five minutes.
Simon stopped in Mary’s garden to check himself for any visual injuries. He really did not want Mary to know about the fight or to stress about things, so he cleaned himself up hoping that the small cut on his lip would not lead to infection. The vet had pretty much abused Simon on several occasions already and he really didn’t need that in his life at the moment. Simon took a few moments to breath and to think of calm things before his anxiety brought up his allergy again.
At home Mary got under the duvet and patted it a few times, demonstrating, without any shadow of doubt, that it was definitely cuddle time.
This really was Simon’s favourite part of the day.
‘Oh Simon, what a terrible day I had, so stressful....’
Mary continued sharing the many dramas she had experienced at work. But Simon wasn’t listening. Besides, his purring had become so loud that he could no longer hear her voice. He felt her warmth though, and after some preparation of the duvet and several circular movements to establish the likelihood of maximum comfort, Simon settled into his bed. Of course, he would have to leave later when Mary would suddenly become a sauna and toss the duvet off unceremoniously with him on it. It was worth the disruption and Simon felt sure that Mary would grow out of these hot flashes in the night.
Mary leaned over,
‘Oh Simon, if only my life was like yours, a life of simplicity,’ she said.
Then she kissed Simon goodnight on his warm forehead and leaned over to put the light out.
© 2019 Sarnia de la Mare