oh riley II

I’m just about to take Vera’s blood pressure when Riley starts barking – not loudly, it’s true, but bad enough to start Vera waving her arms, and trying to reach out to the side and bat him on the head.
‘It’s that dreadful cat again!’ she says. I unwrap the cuff and straightaway she hauls herself out of the chair and lurches over to join Riley at the window. (She’s put a worn leather pouffe for him there, low enough for his arthritic legs, high enough for him to see out). I stand behind them – and see a scraggy, black and white cat, sitting in the middle of the front path, slowly licking its paw. Riley keeps on barking, despite Vera’s attempts to stop him. She bangs on the window, too, so vigorously that she dislodges her wig and has to straighten it again. The cat’s not bothered by any of this, of course. It looks up from its paw, stares at us all in the window, then carries on attending to his paw.
‘You couldn’t go outside and get rid of him, could you?’ says Vera. ‘Only he’ll be there all morning and Riley won’t let up.’
‘Of course.’
As soon as I open the front door the cat stops licking its paw. Behind me, muted at the window, Riley huffs and coughs and growls, and I can tell by the way his shoulders bunch and relax that he’s paddling his front paws up and down on the pouffe.
‘Hey little fella!’ I say, bending down and reaching out a hand. The cat straightens, stretches, struts over tail in the air, sniffs my hand, then wraps himself round my legs.
I look back at the window. Vera makes encouraging shoo shoo gestures; Riley chokes with indignation.
‘Come on, cat,’ I say, picking him up. ‘You’re not helping.’
He’s strangely inert in my hands, like he’s well used to this kind of thing.
I carry him next door, gently pop him over the wall, and go back inside.
‘There!’ I say. ‘Mission accomplished!’
But no sooner have I closed the door than Riley is at the window, barking again.
‘He’s come straight back!’ says Vera. ‘You didn’t throw him far enough.’

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