...and that was where it all started to go horribly wrong...
I return now to the nightmarish tale of the cat and kittens from opposite. From the moment described previously, little Zac was a regular visitor to my fence whenever he saw me in my garden. He was always full of happy chatter and questions, occasionally accompanied by one or both of his siblings.
One day, whilst my partner was cleaning out our New Teal Megane, I heard the usual cry of "Yaaayyyy!" and turned to see the three kittens dash across the road towards me.
"Now, children." I barked, in a mock stern voice, "Has no-one ever taught you to cross the road properly? You will get squished if you aren't more careful. Follow me." I led them to the kerb, while they all giggled and repeated "Squished!"
"Now then," I barked, "Here's how it's done. Sit down at the kerb." I sat down, and the three kittens copied me. "Look and listen carefully for cars or bikes." I cocked my head on one side, and smiled to myself as the little ones did the same. "Then, if it is safe, walk STRAIGHT ACROSS without stopping and go quickly and carefully to the other side." We all trooped across the road in a solemn procession. "Well done, children." I yipped, "Now try it by yourselves." I watched, with the vaguest sense of pride within me, as the three little kittens practised crossing the road with the utmost care. I spotted their mother, who had come out of her house to call her brood in for their luncheon and their nap. She watched their efforts as well, with a smile on her whiskery grey face. When the babes reached her side of the road, they spotted her and, with another "Yaaaaayyy!" from them all, they scampered to her to tell her what they had learned. I smiled and shook my head.
Later that day, as I was returning from my walk, I heard the little cheer again. "Yaaaayyyy!" And the three kittens came belting across the road to greet me.
"Children, children, children." I said, frowning at them, "Have you already forgotten your road safety?!" They made various "oops!" sounds. Then, they turned and bolted back across the road. Once on the other side, they solemnly sat on the kerb, looked around them, and then walked carefully back across the road towards me. I couldn't help laughing. "That's the stuff." I grinned, and sent the kittens back home to their basket.
In the evening, as I was watching the sunset in my garden, the kittens' mother came strolling across the road. She jumped the fence into my garden and sat beside me, not speaking. I eyed her warily, the memory of the severe beating I received at her paws all-too-fresh in my mind. Eventually, she spoke.
"I do hope that Zachary isn't bothering you."
"Not at all." I replied, "He is a delightful young man and I enjoy his company." Another long silence followed.
"He can be very persistent with his questions and conversation."
"Madam," I replied, "It is a terrible thing to try and smother the curiosity of an inquisitive child. You have a fine trio of children, who do you much credit, and you should feel nothing in them but pride." Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the cat smile.
"Zac speaks very highly of you."
"He is a good boy."
"My name is Chloe."
And then, without warning, the cat planted a firm kiss on my cheek, before jumping back over the fence and trotting back to her home. I was dumbstruck, and quickly glanced around to see if Starsky had witnessed any of this interchange. Fortunately, he was nowhere to be seen.
The cat's tongue felt strange, with odd little sharp bits on it. I knew I should have been flattered, but I felt greatly disturbed by this turn of events. And it didn't stop there.
The following morning, when my partner opened our front door to put the dustbins out, I heard her give a sharp cry. I poked my head out from behind her, and saw a small dead shrew on the path in front of our house. My partner was revolted by the sight, so I moved the ex-shrew to behind the tub containing our Acer tree and thought no more of it. Until the following morning. When a dead bird, minus one wing, lay in exactly the same spot as that which the shrew had occupied. My partner and I exchanged a glance, and the bird joined the shrew behind the Acer tree.
The third morning revealed the lower portion of a dead mouse. As I went to pick it up, I spotted a flurry of smoky-grey fur disappearing around the fence of the opposite house. The clicking of a cat-flap door closing confirmed my worst suspicions.
I am in BIG trouble...
My partner travels Northwards this afternoon, as her nephew and niece, Ewan and Carys, are being christened tomorrow. She will be staying overnight in the house occupied by my wife, Isolde. I have forbidden my partner from mentioning ANYTHING of the above to my dear spouse. On pain of nipping. What cuts me to the quick is that my partner seems to find the whole episode incredibly amusing. Apart, obviously, from the regular 'gifts' on the doorstep. And the Acer tree is beginning to smell.