Fairly remiss of me not to have noticed until now, but I have come to the belated realisation that I am harbouring four fugitive teenagers, and not the previously assumed total of three. It would appear that the cat, too, is a teenager. It is not the fact that she uses my 40.2% paid-for house only for the purposes of food, shelter and lounging without ever sticking her hand into her own pocket that made me realise she was a teenager. Nor even the fact that she has forced me to learn a new method of communication that consists mostly of body language and wordless noises. Neither was it the fact that the words ‘thank you’ have never passed unbidden through her lips. That’s her in the pic up there, in case you were wondering, giving me a dirty look any teenager would be proud of as I spy on her activities – nothing much – through the bay window of the country-kitchen-style country kitchen.
No, her teenager status dawned on me the other night [some temporal mix-up there, surely? – Ed.] when I was ambling past The Vatican. Before you phone up the peelers on me for having fired up the private jet to fly to Rome for my daily, compulsory exercise, I should explain that, down my way, The Vatican is a small, mostly uninhabited cottage further on up the lane that used to be inhabited by a man who used to look vaguely similar to a man who used to be The Pope. Hence the name, which has stuck around even though the man and The Pope have gone the way of all flesh some time ago. So I passed The Vatican, giving it my secular blessing as I did, and spied the cat ahead of me on the lane at the edge of where the canopy of trees opens up doing her admirable impression of a stone. This appears to be her hunting technique: pretend to be a stone and wait until something small and alive comes within grabbing distance; saves all that running around, you see. Now I was not aware – she tells me nothing, another teenager trait I should have noticed before now – that the cat went this far on her rambles. I knew she patrolled the first and second woods in a proprietorial manner, and I have caught her on the odd time halfway down the lane in the other direction near the farmhouse where the other cats live, but these were uncharted waters for her, I thought. And there are foxes hanging out up this end of the lane, so potentially dangerous, uncharted waters too. But there was not a bother on her, it seemed.
I called her by a name. She does have a name, but I have no idea what it is, as I was not around when her mother christened her. The previous owner did tell us her slave name when she donated the cat to us: the cat was trying to kill her so she had to get rid of it. But sure that is only a name that humans made up and forced on her. Like Kunta Kinte in Roots, she no doubt has her own private, cat name that she keeps in one of her secret places and takes out and plays with when we are not looking. And anyway, when I am not calling her ‘cat’, I mostly call her by the name of the previous cat as I cannot keep two made-up slave cat names in my head at the one time. So I called her, and, after a pause, she stopped acting the stone and came towards me and, with only a desultory brush against my leg, kept going! That is when I had my epiphany about her teenager status. It is a punishment worse than death for a teenager to be seen in public with either of its two parents. Heaven forfend, both at one time! And so it was with the cat. Even though it was dark, even though there was a canopy of leaves shielding us from prying eyes, the cat could not risk being seen with me in public in case it damaged her cool level among her fellow creatures of the night. So she left me there, stunned and heart-broken, and sauntered back down the lane to a different spot to resume her stone-shaping activities.
I do not really know how I finished my walk so devastated was I, or even what route I took to get me back to the gate lodge and into the estate. I mean, I am well-used to such shunning from the human teenagers, but I really thought me and the cat had a connection going. She said not a word about it several hours later when she forced me to come to the window to let her back into the house – sleep was out of the question for me after such a blow, of course, and I was sitting with my head in my hands at the country-kitchen-style country kitchen table when she made her appearance at the window demanding entry. No thought of retribution entered my head, and I let her in immediately. I mean, hope springs eternal and all that.
But still, if she thinks I am going to start driving her to Ballygobackwards to collect her at three in the morning off the bus from some Kat Nite Klub she simply has to go to because all the kool kats will be there, she will have to dispose of the female, human teenager first as she has first dibs on that taxi service, which, thankfully, has been put on hold since the Kerfuffle business began. See, that’s me all over: always trying to find the silver lining. But my heart is clouded and dark. And will never be the same again.