I wondered whether we’d offended Serafina by not leaping to support the C.A.T. Extinction Rebellion after her “address” at the Mindfulness meeting because we didn’t see her for several days after that. The fact of the matter was that not one of us had the faintest idea what we were supporting or how this extraordinary form of protest would help bolster her cause. I had to admit to being somewhat relieved as my health wasn’t improving and had got to the stage where I was going to have to take some action. I needed to talk to someone and since my sister Serafina seemed to be avoiding us, I decided to go to the man cave to find Ron.
The man cave was a favourite haunt for Ron and me as it was at the back of a neighbour’s property in between both of our houses. We usually found that the small window would be left slightly ajar and the cosy outhouse provided shelter on days when we had got caught outside in the rain.
The morning was overcast and I suspected there was a threat of rain in the air as I strolled toward the open window of the man cave. There were a lot of empty boxes on the lawn and packing materials which I thought Ron and I could play with later but first I wanted to get Ron’s opinion on my health concerns. I jumped up on the window ledge and scanned the room looking for Ron.
I got such a shock that I didn’t even notice what sort of dog it was. It wasn’t huge but it was big enough to give me one hell of a fright and I knocked my head on the window as I tumbled to the grass below the open window. I landed on my feet of course, but my weak leg nearly collapsed and I was even more dizzy after the bang on the head. I staggered home, relieved that the dog was unable to give pursuit since he must have been locked in the man cave.
Ron appeared from underneath the lavender bush and jumped up onto the deck.
“Did you know that the people with the man cave have sold the house to a dog?” he said stretching languidly and yawning as though dogs buying up properties in Diamond Harbour was a regular occurrence.
“I do now,” I said and flopped onto the deck waiting for my heart to stop thumping and the stars to fade from in front of my eyes after the bang on my head.
“Are you OK, mate?” said Ron.
“No,” I replied, and I gave Ron the full rundown on my symptoms and told him of my fears, after which he simply shook his head. I took this to mean that he was deeply upset but as he opened his mouth to speak, we were suddenly interrupted.
“Good morning to you,” said an unfamiliar voice and a dark-coloured cat who I hadn’t seen before jumped up to join Ron and me on the deck.
“I was hoping I’d run into you lot while I’m here,” he said confidently. He had his back to Ron who seemed utterly enthralled with his shiny fur which was well groomed and of medium length. It appeared to have been streaked and dampened by some sort of product so that it stood slightly on end with spiky tips. I could see Ron move his paw to reach out and touch it but he quickly withdrew it when the stranger continued:
“I’m down from Auckland for a couple of days with my owners. I used to live round these parts and we own a holiday home on the water. In some ways I wish we were staying longer but we fly out later this morning.”
He strutted to the edge of the deck and looked out over the fence. “Jeez the old place hasn’t changed in any way, shape or form, has it? Although you can’t argue that the petrol station next door has got to be a good thing regardless of what your stance is on fossil fuels. The place looked like it was in danger of becoming overrun by hippies and greenies.”
“You flew down?” gasped Ron, obviously seriously impressed, but the interloper ignored this question and jerked his head toward me instead.
“What’s wrong with the grumpy orange guy?”
“He’s just had a face-to-face with a dog,” replied Ron tersely. “And he’s not grumpy. He hasn’t been feeling too well lately.”
“Just a bit run down,” I said, not wanting to discuss my problems with a complete stranger.
“Have you heard about Cat-a-Tonic?” he said displaying a perfect set of sparkly white teeth but with a smile that lacked sincerity. “It has multiple health benefits – the coat, the eye and the teeth health, but particularly joint health with real tangible benefits around comfort and mobility. It’s formulated using purified fish oil. You’ve got your Vitamin D in there along with powerful anti-oxidants making it a fantastic all-in-one tonic for cats. It’s one of the easiest things you can do to support your health. I take it every day and look at me.” That smile flashed again. “If you order today you’ll receive a $30 discount and a free gift. But remember to read the label and use only as directed.”
I was starting to develop a dislike for this character who not only seemed to be trying to flog off dubious health remedies, but in my opinion was something of an insufferable know-it-all. Ron, on the other hand, seemed to have formed the view that he might have medical knowledge that might be useful.
“Weasley thinks he might have multiple sclerosis,” he said quickly. “He has all the symptoms.”
“Mummy – er, my owner has it,” I explained, embarrassed that Ron had brought this up. “She caught it three years ago. I tripped her up one morning back when I was a kitten and she fell over which is how she got it. Now I’ve caught it but it’s no less than I deserve. The wretched must suffer.”
“Oh my lord,” he said incredulously, raising his eyes skyward and giving an indifferent snort. “What you’ve actually got there is a severe case of hypochondria.”
Oh God, this was obviously much worse than I’d thought!
“How long do you think I’ve got?” I sniffed mournfully.
“I wouldn’t give you ‘til the end of the week with that attitude.”
Where was the compassion, I wondered? When I looked alarmed, he quickly went on.
“Hypochondria is a condition where you become unduly worried about having a serious illness. I’d say that in your case it has by and large, been brought about by your own guilt. This is just a precis and I won’t bore you witless with the minutiae. You don’t “catch” MS and you don’t get it from falling over cats or anything else for that matter. It’s an auto-immune disease that as far as I know, only affects humans,” he said and laughed before adding as an afterthought. “Provided that is, you haven’t been stupid enough to volunteer to take part in animal laboratory tests.”
At this moment Serafina and Squeak appeared on the deck and I became aware that Serafina had caught the end of that last sentence. She started to say something but as I knew that animal testing was a hot button topic for her, I silenced her a with a look. I didn’t fancy the idea of mediating an impassioned discussion about animal laboratory testing between my little sister and our new “friend”.
“You must be Serafina!” he exclaimed as though he had finally found the very person he was looking for.
“Yes, I’m Serafina Pekkala,” she replied giving him a caustic frown. “And you are?”
He had the irritating habit of waving away questions and replacing them with his own.
“So what’s your assessment of the nutter who’s organising a group of local cat crazies to protest climate change?” he said as though having extreme difficulty keeping a straight face.
“I am the organiser of the C.A.T. Extinction Rebellion march to Preserved,” she replied holding her ground.
“So, you’ve got your placards painted up. Got your superglue?” he said snarkily before his words got lost in a high pitched giggle. “What happens if you can’t get your paws unstuck?”
“We’re addressing those issues and are currently going through a process – “
“Jeez, you’ll be setting up a working group next. What is it you are actually hoping to achieve here?”
“Awareness!” she hissed.
“Here’s what I was trying to say earlier. The only awareness you’re likely to create is that everyone in the community will be aware that you and your little friends are dangerous nutters who need containing. Oh, and by the way, it isn’t Preserved anymore because it’s under new management, but I imagine having a group of neighbourhood cats stuck to the window might generate curiosity and provide some additional foot traffic for the new owner.”
Although I inwardly had similar feelings about Serafina’s latest campaign, I didn’t like his arrogance or his bluntness and felt the need to support my little sister in some way.
“It’s about climate change,” I offered tentatively, fervently hoping that it was and that I hadn’t got the wrong end of the stick.
“We are facing extinction!” said Serafina, and I fancied that once again she might using a slightly Nordic accent which I didn’t think was a particularly good idea in present company.
“I admire your drive but rightly or wrongly, having a group of neighbourhood cats on the street with sticky paws and placards up the wazoo isn’t going to make climate change go away,” he said.
I was wondering if there was anything I could do to make him go away when I heard a human voice in the distance.
“Hosking! Here puss, puss, puss. Time to catch our flight home.”
“No need to thank me for sorting out your medical problem, Weasley. You learn something new every day when you hang out with me!” And before he ran off to catch his flight home, he flashed another smile and said:
“Good to catch up guys – appreciate your time!”
“Dickhead,” murmured Squeak and he disappeared home.