“Why do we have to go all the way to her place?” I grumbled as Ron, Squeak and I made our way down Marine Drive to Serafina’s house.
“She said she’s got something very important to announce and she wants to do it from her new “podium” rather than the wheelbarrow at your house. Plus, she’s arranged a guest speaker who lives a few doors down from her,” said Ron.
Ron had arrived at my house earlier in the day and breathlessly told Squeak and I that Serafina required us to sit under urgency this evening at her house on Waipapa Avenue. I have no idea what sitting under urgency means. Maybe it was something to do with going to the toilet or perhaps we all had to sit underneath a some sort of emergency blanket? Could be anything knowing Serafina.
In fact, this was all starting to annoy me a bit. What had started out as Mindfulness Group meetings under the deck at my house on Wednesday evenings was turning into a series of usually urgent meetings during which Serafina made endless announcements about changes we all needed to make that usually never eventuated. This generally happened after an extended period of television watching binges on her part and it was clear she had obviously fallen asleep and totally missed the point of whatever it was she was watching. To be honest the Mindfulness meetings probably weren’t much better and ended with a similar result but at least they were a lot more fun.
“Who’s the speaker?” said Squeak with genuine interest.
“Someone called Smokey O’Neill I think,” replied Ron.
“Smokey O’Neill?” I wondered why the use of a surname. Normally cats were just known by the first names.
“Is he Irish?”
“Norwegian I think,” said Squeak. “Isn’t he the cat that disappeared for months and ended up in Motukarara?”
“Is that in Norway?”
I never got the answer to this question as we had arrived at Serafina’s house. She had already made herself comfortable on her podium and glared at the three of us for being late. There were more cats here than usual and I smiled at Cookie and gave a brief nod to Spooke before we sat down amongst a group of cats that I didn’t know that well. A hush came over the attendees while Serafina produced a small bottle of hand sanitizer and liberally spread it over her paws before vigorously licking them.
“There’s alcohol in that sanitizer,” whispered Ron trying not to laugh, and I groaned. Serafina liked a drink and was often seen at the local pub. This could be an interesting evening.
“Tēnā koutou katoa,” she began, and Ron, Squeak and I all groaned in unison this time. The last time she had started a meeting like that, we’d all ended up in an Isolation flat which had been a complete disaster. None of us said a word as Serafina went on:
“No doubt some of you will be aware that cats are again the subject of negative reports on the Diamond Harbour Facebook page.”
This was nothing new. Cats had regularly featured on that page and her proclamation was greeted with a general hubbub of discussion, mainly cats talking amongst their own groups, but I heard cries of “what about the dogs leaving their mess on people’s lawns?” and “what about sheep and cows escaping from their paddocks and wandering on the road?” I was fairly sure I caught Serafina at the hand sanitizer again before she raised a paw and continued:
“There were nine birds reported dead in the community overnight, five of which were from the same family. It is thought that this cluster of birds flew together from Purau to the Godley House grounds to attend a party on Saturday evening. Our modelling has indicated that these numbers are expected to rise.
“Flock,” remarked Squeak.
A hush went over the group at this unaccustomed use of bad language from Squeak.
“A group of birds is a flock, not a cluster.” Squeak, as always was hot on spelling and grammar.
“Perhaps it’s a clusterflock?” said Ron with a dry smile.
“I have also been informed of three further deaths at the party, seven who are isolating and there are two currently requiring veterinary attention. Cats are thought to be the sole cause of these deaths as these birds had no underlying health conditions. It is because of this that we need to go hard and fast.”
Ron leered and started making a pumping action with his paw before being silenced by a withering look from Serafina.
“It is because of this that we will be moving to the red traffic light setting from 11:59pm next Tuesday.”
Questions immediately erupted from the audience.
“Why next Tuesday? Why isn’t this taking immediate effect? What do red traffic light settings mean? How long will this last? Why is it called traffic lights when we don’t even have any traffic lights in Diamond Harbour? … ”
And on it went but the only question that Serafina seemed interested in was ensuring she referred to it using an appropriate traffic management analogy. After much discussion we finally settled on the Zebra Crossing System. Once settled, Serafina laid out the rules under our new system.
“Cats are natural hunters and it is acceptable to hunt rats, mice, stoats and other rodents without restriction. For a full list of unrestricted hunting options, please refer to the website. Birds however are a different matter, and we must slow the spread, or preferably stop completely, any murderous inclinations you might have by using these Zebra settings.
At Red, we need to take action to protect vulnerable species which means:
- You must wear your collar at most outdoor locations. You do not need to wear your collar indoors, although it may be preferable to do so to avoid taking it on and off all the time.
- You must wear your collar when visiting cafes and bars, attending gatherings and events, going to your groomer and to the vet. You must ensure there are no birds in the immediate vicinity.
- You must keep physically distanced from trees or potential nesting sites wherever possible.
- You can travel anywhere in Diamond Harbour to see friends and whānau.
- You do not need to wear your collar when eating and drinking or when cleaning yourself.”
I was beginning to wish I’d brought a pen and paper to write all this down but then I got even more confused!
“The rules relating to microchipping under the Red Zebra setting are as follows:
- All cats must be microchipped. We are at present only 61.765% microchipped (excluding strays and feral cats). This must be at 90% before we can move into the Orange Zebra setting.
- For those of you with kittens, these must be microchipped from the age of ten weeks.
- You will be required to memorize your microchip number and have readily to hand the barcode associated with it.
- You will be required to have two (2) microchips inserted followed by one booster. You will not be considered to be fully microchipped until this process is complete.
- This means that you will have to memorize three numbers and produce three barcodes before you can visit cafes and bars, attend gatherings and events, and go to your groomer or to the vet. Please visit the website for a full list of where you aren’t allowed to go.
- You may be eligible for an exemption, but this will have to be signed off by three veterinary surgeons, the owners of both your birth parents and a justice of the peace.
Far out – I’m only single chipped and there’s no way I could memorize the 15-digit number of just one microchip. This was starting to have a ring of unreality about it. I looked round and tried to engage Smokey O’Neill in conversation. Was this sort of thing happening in Norway I wondered? I was looking forward to hearing him speak as a cloud of fantasy was starting to billow around me and I hoped his story might bring things back to reality. I told him I was looking forward to hearing him talk about his sojourn in Motukarara but all he could say was “I’m very pleased to meet you Weasley”, then wide-eyed he scarpered out the door and ran home. Clearly he had shot his conversational bolt and was probably wishing he’d stayed in Motukarara, wherever that was.
In the background Serafina was still holding forth:
“Now I’d be happy to take your questions. Yes, Tova?”
Who the hell was Tova? Some of these cats I didn’t know that well but I’d be prepared to bet that none of them was called Tova. I glanced at the hand sanitizer bottle again and noticed that it was nearly empty. I motioned to Ron and Squeak.
“Maybe a small catnip at mine?”
I remember once watching a comedy show where three people tried to get through a small open door at the same time. Their performance was nothing compared to the rush Ron, Squeak and I made for that catdoor.
“She’s been watching far too much television again”, I said.
“Not to mention spending too much time on the Diamond Harbour Facebook page”, said Ron flicking on a Barry Manilow CD which boomed out around Serafina’s house before we finally made our exit.
Squeak shook his head and simply said: “Bonkers.”
I ended up being late home only to find that Mummy had been worried and posted my picture on the Diamond Harbour Facebook page. What a nightmare!
One thought on “The Red Zebra Setting”
LOL, lovely Claire. I hope you sent a link to Tova!