I haven’t written anything for a while. This isn’t because nothing has been happening. More that too much has been happening and I’ve been rushed off my paws trying to quash rumours, put out fires and generally go into damage control. Naturally it’s all my little sister, Serafina’s fault.
In a strange way I think she almost enjoyed the pandemic because it put her in the limelight but now that particular crisis has died down somewhat she spends most of her days watching the television and surfing the news posts on social media. This is always a dangerous thing. Our weekly meetings are now being held at her house where she addresses us from her “podium” and it is no longer just Ron, Squeak and me in attendance. There’s now almost a dozen domesticated “locals” and even a handful of ex feral cats who, thanks to a group of dedicated humans, have been house-trained and tamed and are now being integrated into the local cat community.
This week’s meeting began as usual.
“Tēnā koutou katoa.”
Serafina has a sort of death stare that can make even the bravest of cats’ tremble at the knees and Casey, one of the ex-ferals who only heard something that sounded as though it ended with “go to cat door”, made a bolt for it and headed home terrified. I had the urge to get up and follow her, but unlike Casey I was too terrified to leave. The cat door continued to flap as Serafina droned on.
“However, the impact of the pandemic continues to cause concern across the globe. Add social isolation, disrupted work and family routines, cabin fever and economic instability, and it is understandable that there is a lot of fear, uncertainty and anxiety amongst the local cat population. What we need is a structured system of governance with teams of cats led by dedicated experts to guide us through. With this in mind, I suggest we form a sort of cat cabinet and assign portfolios to certain senior cats in our group. These cats will oversee matters such as health, education, law and order, housing, conservation and the environment, domestic violence … that sort of thing.” Serafina continued, directing her death stare rather ominously at Ron, Squeak and me.
“What about kitten welfare?” suggested Spooke, one of our newer members.
“And dog control,” remarked Cookie.
“We need to get tougher on these gangs of feral cats,” grumbled Smokey O’Neill.
“I will be appointing my – er, our cabinet before the end of the week,” said Serafina imperiously and then as though she had realised the need to be more inclusive she hurriedly went on: “of course everyone can make submissions as to what cabinet post they feel they would be more suited to and I – er, we can go through the um – “.
“Charade of consultation,” whispered Squeak, although obviously not quietly enough.
“– the process of democratically voting for each candidate,” said Serafina waspishly.
We all went home to think about our potential portfolios. I was underneath the house trying desperately to meditate on the issue when Squeak turned up with Ron who had a large bag of catnip in his mouth.
“I don’t like the look of any of these positions,” protested Ron who had brought round a list of the suggested portfolios and the responsibilities attached to each individual post. “I don’t even want to be in her stupid cupboard or whatever it is.”
“Oh, come on, it might not be that bad. A chance to give back to the community and all that,” said Squeak. “Besides, most of these positions look to me as though there wouldn’t be too much work involved. I think with my background I should go for the Arts and Culture post.”
“I think I’ll go for Education,” I said bravely. “That should be easy considering cats can’t read or write.”
“Yes but Education to Serafina could mean anything,” said Squeak somberly. “It could mean sex education which could put you slap in the middle of having to negotiate with the feral cat population. You could end up trying to educate the cats of Diamond Harbour how to identify native birds, then how they can overcome their overwhelming natural hunting instinct so that once they realise it’s a native species they’ll go home and play with some stupid plastic mouse toy.”
“Oh god I hadn’t thought of that,“ I said and shivered at the thought of trying to tell the feral cats to do anything they didn’t want to do. “What do you want Ron?”
“I’d like to have Kittens,” he said helping himself to a large pawful of catnip. I wondered if he realised this meant dealing with final product rather than the act of creating a kitten embryo.
Thankfully we didn’t have too long to find out our fate. A week later we gathered at Serafina’s house nervously waiting for The Big Reveal. The meeting began with Serafina on her podium addressing the audience in her usual way.
“Tēnā koutou katoa.”
This was followed by the inevitable sound of the cat door flapping as Casey once again made her misguided and desperate dash toward freedom.
“Firstly, I’d like to say a heartfelt thank you to those community-minded cats who put their name forward for positions in our newly formed cat cabinet. Now that all the applications have been considered, the votes cast and counted, I am pleased to reveal that my first cabinet is awash with an abundance of talent and experience. It is truly a mark of … “.
I won’t bore you with the entire speech. After the meeting we had drinks and nibbles and then held our very first caucus meeting which was nearly as boring as Serafina’s speech. It goes without saying that Squeak and Ron came round to my house after the meeting was adjourned.
“Typical of her to go through the pretense of getting us to vote for the candidates when she ended up making the final decision herself,” grumbled Squeak.
“I thought you wanted Arts and Culture?” I said.
“Yes but I didn’t want to get Sport as well!”
The idea of Squeak getting involved in any sort of sport sent Ron and me into a fit of the giggles. Of course, it may have been the catnip that Ron was rather generously handing round. Squeak looked rather hurt and Ron quickly said:
“We’re only laughing because everyone knows cats don’t play anything that remotely resembles sport! Unlike dogs who make fools of themselves by chasing balls and supporting the human requirement that states they must regularly partake in organised walks where they subject themselves to having their excrement bagged, examined, labelled and … ”
“… they even go swimming!” wailed Squeak.
“Serafina has taken on the dog portfolio. I’m sure she can introduce the necessary reforms to resolve any potential cross-species “misunderstandings” that may exist.” I said taking on a confidential tone and attempting to make quotation marks in the air with my claws. I don’t think I quite pulled it off and started to babble. “She lives with a dog called Madeline who identifies as a cat. Perfect if we want to achieve our aims in that regard.”
“Serafina has also appointed herself as leader and given herself the Covid-19 Response portfolio,” said Ron. “Although that Covid business seems pretty irrelevant now.”
“Exactly. There’ll be no work involved in that at all. Cookie, on the other hand, will have her work cut out for her with Kitten Welfare and Housing,” I said then added: “I think Spooke really wanted to have Kittens but I’m sure she’ll do Domestic Violence well.” Then as almost an afterthought I said: “And what are you, Ron?”
“I’ve got Health plus Conservation & the Environment.”
“I’ve got Education and Foreign Affairs along with the Deputy Leader position.” I said puffing my chest out ever so slightly.
“Who’s got Law and Order?”
“Smokey O’Neill,” I said. “He’s got Law & Order and Justice?”
“Who’s got the catnip?”, said Ron.
I think we all settled into our new positions rather well even if I do say so myself. Then, eight days into our new regime, disaster struck. I was underneath the house working on a draft proposal to reform the education system in line with changing societal needs when the entire cabinet burst in unannounced and totally put me off my stride. I could tell that this must be something serious because even Serafina had made the journey from her house.
“What’s happened?” I said, gazing at their stricken faces.
“There has been a very damaging leak that has put my position as leader in jeprady,” wept Serafina.
“In what?”, said Squeak.
“In the Bay Harbour News,” said Ron, tossing the latest issue into the centre of the group of cats now known as The Cabinet.
“It’s not so much a leak,” remarked Squeak, “as a – “
“– true representation of the unrestrained merriment that took place in Diamond Harbour on that particular evening,” said Smokey O’Neill with a pompous, self-righteous air. “Of course, I myself wasn’t involved – “
“– because you weren’t invited,” whispered Ron.
“No, because I was bashed on the head, drugged and forced into a car that took me to Motukarara where I was held hostage for several months!” replied Smokey O’Neill indignantly.
I could see why Serafina had given him Law and Order along with the Justice portfolio. Even if he could be rather grumpy and a bit pompous sometimes, I liked Smokey O’Neill. Stories of “Smokey’s kidnap” were the stuff of legend in the Harbour and if he hadn’t been microchipped, well …
“What are we going to do about this?!” cut in Cookie, holding up the latest edition of the Bay Harbour News which bore the headline THE PARTY’S OVER SERAFINA. Underneath the headline was a collage of pictures taken at the somewhat impromptu party we had at The Isolation Flat when we were in the middle of the Covid crisis.
Worse still, some upstart journalist with an eye for scandal had dug up photos of Serafina comatosed amid a box of empty Peninsula gin bottles.
“Someone at the party must’ve, must’ve … leaked!”, said Squeak.
“But we had a dirtbox!” said Serafina meekly.
“Dirtbox is a very apt description,” I said. “There were loads of cats at that party. Even the Volunteer Fire Brigade were there and I can’t believe any of them would have let the cat out of the bag!” I said.
“Good Lord no,” said Smokey O’Neill. “Not the Volunteer Fire Brigade. They would have let sleeping dogs lie. And speaking of dogs, my sources have revealed there were dogs at that party. I don’t think we need to look any further for our leak. If any of you have read the Cabinet Manual I think you’ll find … ”
“I wrote the Cabinet Manual!” said Serafina grimly. “I’m going to have to resign or worse still, apologise. I can’t see how I can talk my way out of being seen to have held a party during lockdown. I must pass the baton to Weasley because I’ve got nothing more left in my dirtbox, um toolbox. Not enough tools in the tank. Not enough tanks in the toolbox. Not enough dirt in the dirtbox. The team of five million believe they’ve been intentionally misled and have turned toxic. Weasley, I think you should take over as leader and take on the Covid-19 Response portfolio. Smokey O’Neill can have Dogs. I know it’s not ideal, but these are unprecedented times.”
A great weight seemed to fall down upon my shoulders. I had no idea how to deal with this newfound authority yet managed to make my first leadership decision with some degree of authority:
“I propose that we hold weekly cabinet meetings at my house every Tuesday evening.”
“Perfect,” said everyone as if as of one voice. “See you next Tuesday.”
… to be continued
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One thought on “Party Games”
Very entertaining Claire 🙂