no dog walk

poor Lola
stress yawning
losing three molars
and a cyst
at the vets
this morning

she lies on the sofa
in a post-op stupor
wearing an old t-shirt of mine
(I didn’t mind
it was kinder than a cone
and wasn’t the nicest t-shirt I owned)

lying in that rumpled T
she looks a lot like me
before first coffee
staring mournfully
blinking slowly
each eye working independently

worryingly

she watches me put my boots on

I feel bad
she looks so sad
like I’m the Great Betrayer
grabbing my camera bag and phone
about to go on a walk on my own
saying
good girl see you later
phony as an alligator
wily, scaly, lowly
backing out the back door slowly

I thought I might go somewhere new
but somehow end up walking where we usually do
across the recreation ground
over Broken Tree Hill, down
to the stream with the ruins and the ferns
up the rooty path that turns
by the field with the cows and the crows
where the warm wind blows
through the high summer grass
to enter the wood at the broken fence
by the fallen chestnut and the badger setts

and for a moment I think I can see
Lola standing there, waiting for me
like she often will, her nose in the air
and the moment she sees me there
she turns and hurries on into the shadows

and I follow

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cat scene investigation

I took Solly to the vet’s for his vaccination and worming pill yesterday. Which is how I came to step barefoot on glass when I came down this morning.

You see, yesterday I’d taken the cooker extractor fan apart. It had started to make noises and drip gloop on the hob – a noxious, sticky substance that would’ve poisoned the whole family had it fallen into the soup (or improved it, one of the two). De-glooping the extractor fan is my least favourite chore. It doesn’t matter how much kitchen cleaner I spray on it, or how many times I flush it with boiling water, the two panels carry on oozing this stuff like it’s coming from a whole other dimension, like chef’s ectoplasm. Anyway, I did my best. I set the panels on some kitchen towel to drain as much of the gloop as possible. Whilst the panels were off, it seemed like a good time to change the bulb that had blown some time ago (shorted out by gloop, no doubt). We didn’t have a spare, so I put it to one side so I could take it in to get another.

Meanwhile, Solly had to go to the vets. He knew he was in trouble when he saw us bring the cat carrier down from the attic. But we’d thought ahead. We’d closed all connecting doors, shut the cat-flap and turned on all the lights. All that was left for him was to hide under the sofa, but we played the classic pincer-movement and made a grab when he ran for the chimney. Getting him into the cat carrier was tough. It always is. He sprouts extra legs, each one bristling with claws. It’s like trying to wrestle a bale of barbed wire through a letterbox. By the time we’d stuffed him into the cat carrier we looked like we’d been beaten up and thrown in a bramble patch.

‘Good luck at the vet’s’ Kath said, dabbing her arms.

As I took him outside, Solly began to wail. He’s a black and white cat, by the way – appropriate, given that this wail of his sounds exactly like the siren of a black and white cop car in an old noir movie, pulling up at the scene of a dreadful murder.

At the vets he was completely different, though. When the vet opened the carrier door and reached inside, he slunk out onto the examination table, looking straight ahead.
‘Wow! You’re like the cat whisperer!’ I said to her.
‘I wish I could take the credit’ she said. ‘But the plain fact is, he’s terrified.’
‘Poor Solly!’ I said, feeling guilty. I ruffled the top of his head, and that’s when he gave me the look. The look that said: Don’t think it ends here, my friend.
The vet began checking him over. Teeth, abdomen, ears. Stethoscope to chest.
‘How’s he looking?’ I said.
She sighed and took the stethoscope out of her ears.
‘Sorry. Carry on,’ I said.
She put the stethoscope back in.
And that’s when Solly gave her a look. See what I have to put up with?

Of course, when we got back home, Solly disappeared into the garden for hours. When he finally made it back in to eat, he was his usual, darkly mysterious self again, gnarling and chomping through his meat and biscuits with the noisy relish of an old sea captain back in the snug of The Neptune after a particularly harrowing whaling adventure. (Although I might be reading too much into it.) And that seemed to be that.

Except, of course, it wasn’t.

As Solly well knows, I tend to walk around barefoot. Certainly in the summer. In winter, it’s mostly socks, but I did get a pair of slippers, because the tiles in the kitchen are freezing. The only trouble is, I’ll often leave the slippers by the back door, so first thing in the morning, I’ll blunder downstairs, through the sitting room and into the kitchen to get them, not bothering to put on any lights.

That’s what happened this morning. Just as Solly knew it would.

I heard the crunch of glass before I felt the pain in my foot. I gasped and staggered backwards to put the light on, which showed me in an instant all I needed to know, like the flash of a CSI camera: Solly on the counter by the hob, smiling at me. Solly with one paw still extended – from having gently swiped the spent extractor fan bulb onto the floor. Solly leaping clear of the mess, and stalking away into the sitting room, his tail straight up, like an antenna, transmitting to all the other neighbourhood cats: Operation Vet Vengeance: Executed.

 

drag me to hell, traffic warden

We watched the Sam Raimi film Drag me to Hell last night. It was great. Plenty of outrageous set-ups, plenty of gloop (although nothing as horrible as the stuff from the extractor fan). One thing that did strike me, though – how convenient it is that the demons and evil spirits in these films always look so goddamn awful. They’ve all got terrible teeth and skin, weird eyes, ghastly nails. A demon is basically someone who pays no heed whatsoever to the basics of personal hygiene. Which is handy, in a way, because it makes them easier to spot.

Not like real life at all, then.

I mean, I was given a parking ticket the other day by a traffic warden, even though I wasn’t causing an obstruction, and even though I was attending to a very poorly patient.
‘Double yellows, yes. Loading bays, no,’ he said. ‘You should know that.’
‘But it’s Christmas’
He shrugged.
‘So let’s get this straight,’ I said, struggling to hold it together. ‘If I was unloading frozen chips to this chintzy fucking tea room, that would’ve been okay?’
‘Yes.’
‘So it’s chips and not sick people, is it?’
‘Yes.’
‘Don’t even bother,’ said a painter and decorator, passing by, stopping just long enough to give the traffic warden a stare that was worryingly like a curse. ‘He just better hope his family never needs help sometime.’

Looking back on it, setting aside all personal feelings about the matter, I have to say – the traffic warden looked as nice and friendly as anyone else. He certainly didn’t look like a demon, with yellow eyes and sharp teeth. And he had very nice hair, what I could see of it, round his cap.

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