I couldn’t believe my eyes. Right in the middle of the local newspaper was my picture. My picture! And one of Mummy underneath. Had the media been alerted to the rumour about an aggressive ginger brute living in Diamond Harbour whose name was now linked to acts of mindless violence? A psychotic maniac who had already put one person in hospital. This had to be very bad news indeed. My first instinct was to run but first I needed a plan. I needed to think. I needed Mummy’s dressing gown.
Mummy’s dressing gown is made of this super soft fleecy stuff that feels absolutely delicious between your paws when you paddle on it. It sends me into a sort of trance. I prefer Mummy to be wearing it, but this was unlikely in the middle of the afternoon when she was working at her computer, so I was disappointed yet unsurprised, to find it hanging up in the bathroom out of my reach. Dejected and anxious, I went underneath the house and shook for a short while. I certainly didn’t want to see anyone and risk being recognised. I was lost in my own thoughts of living a homeless life of desperation on the streets of Diamond Harbour when Ron sauntered up with a mouse between his teeth. With a victorious grin he dropped it at my feet. Normally I would have pointed out that this was undoubtedly the same mouse I’d caught a couple of days ago, but instead I related the story about seeing my picture in the local newspaper.
Ron didn’t appear to be at all fazed by this. In fact, he seemed quite pleased to be gaining a level of notoriety by association. “You’ve been papped!” he exclaimed with wide eyed delight. “Before you know it the paparazzi will be crawling all over this town with long range lenses demanding huge money for photos of us all sunbathing, and eating, and … stuff.”
I sighed miserably, not knowing how to respond given that I understood very little of what Ron had just said. He had clearly been watching something on television again, yet his breathless excitement made me consider the possibility that this might not be a negative thing after all. We went down to the ditch and pretended to be lions. Although playing our favourite game took my mind off the potentially damaging newspaper article, I was still feeling anxious but it was better than spending the afternoon trembling under a dark house with dead rodents. I was going through my “stalk and pounce” routine when I realised that Ron had wandered off and was sniffing at a plant growing nearby. He seemed fully entranced by its smell and began rolling on the ground, pawing at it, licking it, and chewing it. I watched in alarm as he began leaping about and purring loudly before shaking his head and laughing hysterically.
I approached with caution, unsure if this was just part of our Lion game or if he might be having some sort of seizure. And then I caught a whiff of its heady fragrance and before long I too was consumed by this amazing plant that seemed to banish all my fears and inhibitions. I don’t know how long Ron and I wallowed in this blissfully intoxicating Nirvana. It might have been five minutes or it might have been five hours before we were interrupted by the arrival of a small grey cat, not long out of her kittenhood. She was quite simply the most gorgeous creature I’ve ever laid eyes on. Her eyes widened at the sight of me.
“I know who you are!” she exclaimed. “I’ve read all about you in the Bay Harbour News. You’re Weasley and I know all about how you’ve been such a comfort and help to your owner who has multiple sclerosis.”
“Have I?” I said unsure of how to act cool around this situation. I was lying on my back with my legs akimbo in the middle of the magic plant but I didn’t want to stand up because I wasn’t entirely certain that my legs were attached to my body. Feeling the need to say something, I blurted out: “You have not lived until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”
“Do you think so?” she replied eagerly. “I’d love to discuss this more with you sometime. Did you know that the plant you’re sitting in is Nepeta cataria. You should probably move away from it.”
Ron and I both looked blankly at her and for a horrible moment I thought Ron was going to start drooling. One of us needed to say something.
“Knowing when to walk away is Wisdom. Being able to is Courage. Walking away with Grace with your held head high is Dignity.” Where was I getting this shit from? I was scarcely able to walk, let alone with any sort of dignity!
“It’s a species of the genus Nepeta in the family Lamiaceae,” she said knowledgeably. “My owner has taught me all about it. It’s commonly known as catnip, catswort, or catmint. It’s often used as a recreational substance for the enjoyment of domestic cats’ but its behavioral effects extend to leopards, cougars, servals, and lynxes.”
“What about lions?” said Ron who had suddenly found his voice and gave a roar which sounded more like a rather pathetic high-pitched meow. We both giggled stupidly.
“Studies have shown that lions and tigers can react strongly but not as consistently …” her voice trailed away, and no-one seemed to know what to say next.
“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” I said nodding sagely, not knowing what this had to do with anything. I needed to pull myself together. I decided to chance standing upright but ended up in heap back in the catnip. Ron hadn’t moved but was ambitiously attempting to sing Stairway to Heaven.
“I need to get some help to pull you both out,” she said, and I could see her ears twitch and flatten as Ron attempted a high note. She turned to leave before saying “by the way my name is Serafina Pekkala.”
“Enchanté, Sarah Feener,” I said. Okay, the French touch was a bit cheesy but at least I had managed to keep a lid on the quotations.
“It’s one word – Se-ra-fee-NAH. Like the witch queen from Finland” she snapped leaving us both clutching our sides laughing in the catnip.
“It’s Se-ra-fee-NAH,” mimicked Ron in a high-pitched voice after she’d left. “No wonder she’s named after a witch queen. She’s a nightmare.”
Well I rather liked her but I didn’t expect to see her again as I was almost certain she’d overheard Ron’s last remark. With enormous effort Ron and I managed to make it back to my house and were surprised to find Serafina there with Squeak of all people. At least I think it was Squeak. He was looking extremely dapper and his black and white coat shone. He looked as though he was wearing a tuxedo. I whispered this to Ron and we both thought it was so funny that we made little snorty noises out of our nose. I felt really bad but Squeak was taking everything so seriously that I couldn’t look him in the eye without dissolving into giggles. My cheek muscles ached from laughing and then I remembered something. Mummy had bought me one those appalling lion hat things that you put on cats. I’d been too ashamed to mention anything about it before, but now seemed the perfect time to bring it out.
Ron and I took turns at putting the lion hat on and both of us literally honked with laughter until our throats hurt. Squeak didn’t want to spoil his hair by trying it on and Serafina only sniffed and haughtily hissed: “I don’t know why you think that a lion (her eyes shot skyward dismissively) is the king of the jungle. Did you know that it’s the lioness that does all the hunting and provides the males with all their food?”
“Okay so why don’t you nip up Hunters Road and bring us back a zebra for dinner?” said Ron sarcastically. “I’m starving.”
I realised suddenly that I too was extraordinarily hungry and started honking again. Even Squeak began to laugh but stopped himself abruptly. I laughed about that for far too long and when everyone was talking about other things I couldn’t help running mental replays of Squeak in his tuxedo tucking into a zebra, at Ron in the Lion hat, at me firing out clichés to Se-ra-fee-nah until I found myself smiling stupidly and softly snorting at random intervals.
An hour or so later when everyone had gone home, I began to feel terrible. I had behaved very badly to my friends and I needed to somehow put out an online blanket apology to let everyone know how sorry I was. I was still feeling a bit woozy but when Mummy was watching television and the keyboard was free, I saw my opportunity and took it. I’m really pleased with the result. I think I’ve shrewdly managed to cover all bases whilst ensuring that no-one bears any long-term grudges after my ingenious post: