Serafina was very disappointed that most of the local cats had forgotten about the Society for the Prevention of Un-Neutered Cats which had been over-shadowed by pre-Christmas festivities and the unwelcome arrival of a crime wave in the village.
“It’s not only mail that’s going missing,” said a wide-eyed Serafina one morning. “A house has been broken into and a boat trailer stolen. Of course, the Bay Harbour News is quite correct when it says it’s all about prevention. And having all these homeless cats wandering the streets can’t be helping.”
Both Ron and I failed to comprehend the connection between homeless cats and sweeping crime waves but Serafina seemed to want to introduce SPUNC into our every conversation.
“Realistically it’s not likely to be cats though is it?” I questioned bravely.
“Well obviously not the boat trailer,” she said with a short chuckle. “But I was a bit concerned when I heard about the mail going missing.”
“How would a cat reach the mailboxes and get the stuff out?” I asked, certain that she was meowing up the wrong tree with this line of wild supposition.
“Evidently most are courier packs that are left on people’s doorsteps,” she said patiently. “Honestly, don’t you two ever read the Bay Harbour News?”
“No, maybe ours got stolen,” I snorted. “And in any case what would be the point since you seem to know every issue off by heart.”
Ron had been staring at his front paws throughout this entire conversation in a glazed sort of way and I fancied I caught the unmistakable whiff of catnip.
“Opposable thumbs,” he said, dumbly wiggling his digits. “We don’t have opposable thumbs.”
I was starting to get concerned that Ron might be in the grip of some sort of psychotic episode when he suddenly snapped out of it and turned to me.
“Have you got any of those kitten food sachets left? I’m as hungry as a lion.”
I wish he hadn’t mentioned the kitten sachets in front of Serafina. I only had the occasional one as a special treat – a change from my usual Healthy Metabolism blend of scientifically prepared Adult cat biscuits. Ron went inside and we could both hear him crunching loudly on my biscuit leftovers whilst Serafina used this opportunity to urge me to consider the possibility of setting up a Give a Little page to go towards getting the homeless cats de-sexed. I wished she’d give it a rest.
“Serafina, I’m already copping a load of criticism from the homeless cats saying I’m the fun police and a Nancy boy!” I said firmly. “I’m not about to become the poster boy for another one of your campaigns.”
“But you need to do more to stop them getting carried away and having kittens.”
“Why me? What do you want me to do, follow them around the village and if they look like they’re thinking about “getting carried away”, give them a lecture and hand out one of your SPUNC brochures?”
She was saved having to answer this by Ron who had returned after being kicked out of the house by Mummy. “You did know that the biscuits at the bottom of the bowl are OK to eat?” he began but stopped abruptly, sensing a certain tension in the air.
“I’ve had enough of this,” I said. “I’m going under the house to shake for a while … on my own!”
“Aahh,” said Serafina, wincing apologetically.
“What does ‘Aahh’ mean?” I said. I had a horrible feeling that it meant something I didn’t want it to mean and I wasn’t wrong.
“It’s only for a few days,” she said quickly. “Just until she can find a forever home. She keeps having kittens you see and I said it would be alright –”
But Ron and I both jumped off the deck and peered under the house at the scrawny white cat with the huge scared blue eyes. She was surrounded by miscellaneous items that certainly hadn’t been under the house before her arrival.
“No, it is NOT alright Serafina,” I shouted. We were back on the deck now. “What’s Hypo doing under the house?”
“I’ve told you it’s hypothetical!” screeched Serafina.
“I’ll have to cancel our Mindfulness Group Meeting this evening,” I said. “We can’t have it under the house while she’s there with all her er … belongings.“
“Surely Hypo-whatever it is, can come to the meeting,” said Ron magnanimously extending an invitation to something I was certain was not likely to be her cup of tea at all.
“I was hoping you might bring along your new friend, Stewy,” I said to Serafina. “I don’t know how he’d feel about having Hypo here though? If he’s a bit sensitive, that is.”
“Stewy is actually a dog,” said Serafina who had clearly come to the realisation that she would just have to come clean and accept her fate.
“A dog!” I was shaken to the very roots of my being. First of all I had to accept that I had some sort of Jezebel living underneath my house and now I was supposed to welcome a dog, a dog into our group.
“Do we have to be species specific?” she said defiantly. “You’re so prejudiced! Sometimes I think you’re just an orange bigot and a bully. A cat supremacist who can’t accept that we should be more understanding and embrace those who are … different to us.”
An orange bigot and a cat supremacist – really?
Surely she was over-reacting but I surrendered to her icy glare and said:
“Hypo can stay for a couple of days only, but no dogs and we need to find out what all that stuff is that she’s brought with her. If Mummy sees it I could end up in big trouble.”
“Hypo has a bit of a problem with … um, taking things,” said Serafina sheepishly. “Things that aren’t strictly speaking, hers.”
“Maybe we should call her Klepto then?” said Ron sarcastically.
An awful thought occurred to me. “She’s not the mail thief is she?”
“Good Lord, no! It’s just bits of old junk that people have left around the garden,” said Serafina before quietly adding: “… I think.”
We all went underneath the house and I was absurdly relieved to find that there was no boat trailer and nor were there any discarded courier bags or NZ Post envelopes. Ron talked to Hypo while Serafina and I had a good look at her cache of assorted stolen items. Apart from a pair of underpants, a child’s bucket and spade, an old sock and what looked like a bag of fake plastic acorns, most of it appeared to be dog toys. I felt dizzy with relief. What a day!
I was well overdue for a sleep and said so but just as she was preparing to leave, Serafina asked me if I wouldn’t mind doing her a little favour. I felt the now familiar wave of exhaustion that accompanied Serafina’s requests for (not so) little favours, but listened as she said:
“Can you watch over Hypo while she’s under the house?” she whispered in case Hypo might be able to hear. “Make sure she doesn’t have any ‘visitors’. We wouldn’t want her having any more kittens.”
“What am I supposed to do?” I said in a harsh whisper, my voice growing more hysterical as I went on. “Give her a brochure? Get Hypo involved in such an absorbing game of I Spy that she forgets about the bloody enormous sex-crazed tom cat nearby that I’ve got absolutely no show of restraining!”
Serafina, startled by my manic outburst ran home at once. I was very pleased when I was finally able to feel the luxuriously soft pile of Mummy’s dressing gown between my paws as we watched TV together that night. I just wanted to bury my head in it. I was so thankful that I’d had the sense to cancel the Mindfulness Group tonight. I couldn’t imagine any of us being able to bring our complete attention to the present moment when our current reality meant being surrounded by stolen goods with Hypo, and if Serafina had had her way, with a dog in attendance! What if some of the stolen dog toys had belonged to him! It didn’t bear thinking about.
Ron and I spent Christmas Day in the field behind On the Spot pretending we were lions. It’s our favourite game and because both of us are ginger I fancy we look more the part than say, Squeak who has long black and white fur and gets too hot and bothered to play for any length of time anyway. We didn’t invite Serafina because she just bangs on about lionesses doing all the hunting to the point where it takes the edge of the game and normally degenerates into an argument.
On Christmas night I snuck into Mummy’s room for some food and a cuddle but made myself scarce for all of Boxing Day because her daughter was there with that blasted dog. I let Mummy know how unhappy I was by staying away for a full twenty-four hours! I knew she was worried because she kept calling but I thought – blow it! That’ll teach her to invite one of those slobbering half-wits into our house.
Thankfully Hypo had gone from under the house. Serafina had managed to find her a nice home in the village. She was still somewhat “light-fingered” and had built up a fresh collection of stolen dog toys at her new home. The contraband that she’d brought to my place was still stashed under the house. Serafina had even suggested that we make an effort to find the dogs who owned the toys and return them!
“Do you have any idea how attached dogs are to their toys?” I said upon hearing this ill-thought out and potentially dangerous proposal. “It’s not the same as our toys which still look good as new years after their purchase date. It doesn’t matter if dogs’ toys are chewed beyond recognition. That only makes them more valuable in their eyes. You must be mad!”
“But they’re just old, chewed up bits of … rubbish really,” replied Serafina.
“Mental,” agreed Ron, and nodded his head in agreement.
I just wanted to bury my head in the luxuriously soft pile of Mummy’s dressing gown.