It seems like only a short year ago that I was singing the praises of the garden cats here on the blog. Hell, I even recorded a video blog, sprawled on our redundant trampoline like some beached whale.
“I speak French to them.” I purred, perhaps trying to give myself a modicum of gravitas that I never did earn, “Aren’t I feckin’ great altogether?”
Well not anymore, sunshine. As the man said, we’ve all passed a lot of water since then and those days are firmly gone. Poorly executed Gallic phrases have given way to openly hostile stares across the back garden wasteland.
The party is definitely over, pussycat.
It all started, as things so often do, with the Friday Night Takeaway. This is a bi-weekly event involving a well-established menu of fish, chips, chicken fillet burgers, garlic sauce and coleslaw. I invariably make the journey and, oddly enough, it’s one of my most favourite things. I feel like a hunter-gatherer, heading out into the woods to bag some dinner for my family, except the wilderness is ceramic-tiled and aluminium-clad and the bounty is heavily battered.
There are several traditions or routines attached to the Friday Night Takeaway, not least of which is that John opens the front door for me when I get home. This is kind of a running gag, based on the thought that nobody would open the door for me in normal circumstances but, when there’s food at stake, the door opens, and the food is hastened inside. I usually hand John the bag full of food and let him go ahead to the kitchen but this particular Friday, the one before last, was different. For some reason, I held on to the bag. I think it was how inviting the front door and the hall door looked, how clear a run I had through to the kitchen, how it would expedite the distribution of the food without any further gratuitous loss of heat in the merchandise. Whatever the reason, I dispensed with tradition and bailed straight down the hallway, leaving John to secure the front door behind me, which he did.
The food was great, the single bottle of beer that went with it was great. Everything was great.
Well… almost everything.
In altering the front door ritual, something has been lost, some small thing had been overlooked and that small thing would come back to haunt me with a vengeance.
The next morning.
It had rained all night. I had lain in bed for a while, before sleep came, and listened to it pelting down on the roof. I think I felt a bit self-satisfied that the rain couldn’t touch me here inside my house. Pride/fall etc. Where was I? Oh yes…
The next morning dawned bright and clear; well, I imagine it did. Dawn was well-over by the time I got up but it was bright and clear then so I can imagine it started out that way too. I got ready to hit the shop and get the paper and some freshly baked rolls perhaps, it being Saturday and all. I got my coat and left my house and…
The passenger door of the car was open, wide open.
For a moment, I thought I’d been burgled. Then the running order of the evening before played out in my head. The change to the routine. The straight run to the kitchen. When I would normally have been closing the passenger side door, having taken the food out, I had instead broke for the kitchen, John had closed the front door behind me. The passenger door was ignored and the damage was done. Nobody’s fault but my own.
I examined the damage. The rain that I had laughed so heartily at, the night before, had been doing its work while I snickered in my bed. The floor below the passenger seat was a soggy carpet-puddle. The passenger seat was drenched. The little storage wells on the inside of the passenger door were brim-full of rainwater. As a mess, it was more than enough to have to deal with. But, of course, it wasn’t all there was to deal with. Not by a long shot.
The cat had gone in and had a piss.
Relations between this particular cat and me had been rapidly deteriorating over the past few months. A large, predominantly white Tom, he had always been predisposed to fix me with his hostile ‘who da hell are u?’ stare while occupying my garden but then he upped the ante by finding some way into my shed, across the high garden wall, and through a gap in the eaves. He had taken to hiding in there and startling me when I went in to retrieve a peat briquette or two. In return, I would loudly ask him to vacate the place, with cursory swear words thrown in for good measure. It was, at best, a tenuous relationship. And yes, he would like to mark his territory in there, converting my tatty but passable shed into a cat scented unpleasant place to have to go.
So, there we were, this cat and me, in a tense ongoing standoff where I never for a single moment felt that I had the upper hand.
“Maybe it was another cat who pissed in your car,” you might say, in defence of this cat. My response is as graphic and it is unfortunate. It was this cat and only this cat. How do I know? Alas, I know his smell.
So, I’ve worked at it. I’ve dry hoovered, wet hoovered, newspapered, towelled, Fabrezed, Fabrezed and Fabrezed some more. “Why didn’t you leave the car doors open so it could air?” you might now say. My reply, “easy, because the cat would have gone in and pissed some more.”
Now, exactly a week on, the smell has been largely expunged, the damp eradicated, normality resumes. The cat stayed away for most of last week. He knew what he had done. He was on the back doorstep yesterday when I came home from work, giving me the old stink-eye. I pointed at him.
“You know what you’ve done,” I simply said, and not in French either, and I knew that he knew what I meant from the look he gave me.
This cat will come to no harm on my watch. He is, after all, just one of God’s creatures and his instinct to piss in my car is a natural one and thus, logically, a forgivable one. Live and let live.
But I can bear a grudge just as well as this cat evidently can, and it will be some time before him and me can sit down and break bread together.
For now, it’s a standoff. A Moggyton Standoff.
And I must remember to keep that car door shut.