Unlucky for some, the cat in this instance. She tried to pull a fly one on me this afternoon, but she would need to get up earlier in the morning if she thinks a pre-killed dead mouse is going to fool me. Especially when it was me that killed it a couple of days ago when I picked it up and pitched it out the open door into the street. OK, call-back. I promised I would explain the term ‘street’ in culchie-speak, as it is not at all the same thing as the thoroughfare with rows of houses on either side of it found in urban settings. The street in the country is basically the yard outside the front door, usually concreted, generally dung-speckled, sometimes tarmacked, as it is in front of my hacienda, but, then again, I have notions. Concrete is good enough for the rest of the inmates of the reservation, apart from the people in the ‘new houses’ with their fancy gravel. (The new houses have been there for ten years.) Got it? The difference in meaning here in Slurryville, however, between ‘road’ and ‘lane’ was harder for me to wrap my city brain around as it is a much more subtle and particular thing. To me, with my fancy city ways, esoteric vocabulary and acquaintance with the English language, a lane was just a smaller, narrower road, and as most of the ‘roads’ round my way are barely the width of a tractor anyway, the distinction seemed superfluous, and pointless.
In our early, wild days as a partly-married couple, me and yer woman would sometimes go out for a wee drive round the locale for no particular reason. Oh, the debauchery, I know! Those were indeed the days, my friends. The odd time though, at a junction, I would be jolted out of my heady bliss by a scream approaching terror from the passenger seat. ‘Don’t turn up there, that’s a lane!’ The odder time, I would ignore the warning of dire consequences and go up my chosen track anyway. When the said route – sometimes after a quarter of a mile, sometimes after a few miles – would eventually end at an isolated individual house, she would turn to me with the closest thing to satisfaction I have ever seen on her face and announce, ‘I told you it was a lane.’ Under severe interrogation over the course of several days, she eventually cracked and broke one of the basic tenets of country living by answering a straight question with a straight answer. A road, apparently, went places; a lane went only to a group of houses (the inhabitants of which would invariably be related to each other and in a legal dispute about right of way) or even to only one house, and it was close to a mortal sin to go up a lane unless you had business with one of the residents. Under no circumstances could you just motor about the place willy-nilly, as was my wont, and perform a nonchalant U-turn in someone’s front street if you ended up at a dead end, driving off almost exactly at the same time as the resident ran out the back door and round the side of the house to see who was calling. As to how the part-time wife could tell at the junction just by looking at them which of the two bog tracks was a road and which was a lane is something that will remain a mystery to me, and a secret she will no doubt take with her to the grave. Unless she is covertly passing on the skill to the teenagers who are, to all intents and purposes, culchies now. As proof, they naturally say ‘pure’ any time ‘very’ would do the job just as well.
Back to that perfidious cat, though (happy now, Rhona?). She hasn’t mentioned anything directly to me – that is not her way – but I can tell that this whole Kerfuffle business is getting to her a bit. I mean, she enjoys a bit of human company as much as the next feline: we are handy for opening doors, fancy sachets of food and as mobile scratching posts. But this whole humans in the house 24-7 deal is not what she signed up for. It is, basically, her territory after all in the normal run of things, with us homo sapiens heading off five days a week at ungodly hours of the morning to our various pointless pursuits, leaving her with the run of both the interior of the house, and, via the discreetly left-open East window off the study, of the en-suite wood. So having us about the place observing her every move has her a bit on edge. She is maybe faintly embarrassed at the undeniable evidence of the amount of time she spends … I suppose I can only call it cat-napping. Hence her subterfuge with the pre-dead dead mouse. Part-time wife burst into the study this afternoon right in the middle of me moving a memo from one folder to a different folder on Sharepoint, and nearly broke her neck (like I would be so lucky) rushing to close the open window looking onto the charming wood and through which some of the copious amounts of cigarette smoke I am currently producing during a working day was softly floating. ‘The cat’s running around with another mouse in her mouth and I don’t want her bringing it in here,’ she blurted by way of explanation, and left again, completely failing to trip over the computer bag I had nudged out with my foot for that express purpose.
Later I examined said mouse when sneaky cat had deposited it at the spot below the back step reserved for ritual sacrifices to what she considers the chief of the human tribe she has adopted, i.e. me. That is when I realised it was the same mouse from a couple of days ago that I had asked one of the male teenagers to chuck into the wood when he was going out for his nightly, solitary ramble. Imagine my shock: the teenager had actually complied with one of my requests. As everyone keeps saying interminably, things will never be the same again. (Yes they will, by the way, they always are.) So I figured out that the cat had found it there and looked on it as a sort of free lunch, in the sense that if she brought it back to the house we would think she was a great guard cat altogether having defended us from two rodents in three days, and would we ever think of overlooking all that sleeping she had to do to keep her strength up for the strenuous hunts? She gets a free lunch every day, by the way, so has no need of actually eating mice.
As for how I could tell the difference between one dead mouse and another, like the distinguishing traits of a lane, that is something that will just have to remain a mystery. Now, I suppose there is no chance our World Leaders are going to announce today that this was all some elaborate April Fools’ Day joke, is there?