"Jasper, my dear boy, I do believe I've cracked it!"
It was another warm evening and Eddie the Rottweiler was about to reveal to me his theory as to why Peaches the cat was so bitter and hate-filled as I sat beside him in his front garden, watching the sunset.
I had just been relating to him my previous encounter that evening with the vicious little furball. My partner and I were walking along the river to the ford so that I could take a refreshing swim. Immediately ahead of us, I espied Peaches himself on the prowl for mischief. Before I could reach him he had already launched himself towards the water, sending - flapping and terrified - the charming, affable duck couple who have been settled on their nest since the Spring. Utterly disgusted, I raced towards the sadistic Peaches, barking all the while. As I reached him, he took a flying leap over the other section of the river on the left of the little road. That bit of river is divided into two channels by a little wooden barrier - one side funnels into the watercress beds and the other continues the river on its natural course. I had the profound satisfaction of seeing Peaches misjudge the distance from the road to the wooden wall and knock one of his hind legs (no doubt also trapping his 'little Peaches' betwixt leg-bone and timber, hehehe) with a most enjoyable crack. His rear-end slipped into the water, but he managed to right himself and leap on into the water-meadow before I could get close enough for another go.
"Meowrrrllll!" he swore, loudly, as he disappeared amongst the reeds and grasses. Most amusing.
After my walk, as I returned home, passing Eddie's garden, the Rottweiler himself was lying contentedly on his grass and invited me to join him to watch the sunset. Peaches was sitting in HIS front garden (next door but one to Ed's), his damp side concealed from Edward's sight, licking and cleaning his back legs. The evil cat shot me a viciously poisonous look, which I opted to ignore.
In a low voice, I told Eddie what had happened, and he chuckled delightedly.
"It's about time that wretched hellcat got some comeuppance." He muttered quietly. "I suppose you know all about poor young Milo?"
"Who?" I asked - before remembering my feline entanglements from last year. I won't go into the business of the rat again. But, just to recap, I spent much of last year avoiding the romantic attentions of Chloe, the cat who resides in the house opposite mine (now thankfully diverted elsewhere... though the same problem seems to be rearing its terrifying, multi-fanged, head with Chloe's neighbour - a young ginger queen-cat called Honey, but that's another story).
Chloe had three kittens, now all grown-up. One, Zac, decided that I was an acceptable father-figure (the kittens' actual father, Eddie's housemate, a white tom called Kevin, being an ignorant, foul-mouthed, bully). Little Zac proved to be rather a delightful child, and I was happy to indulge him. The kittens are full-grown now. Zac has developed into a good-natured tom with a wide circle of friends. His sister, Sophie, is a distinguished killer (in fact, if you remember the squirrel from the winter, Sophie was the cat that I warned him about, when he was about to head off in her direction). Upon Eddie's raising the subject of the kittens, it occurred to me only now that I had not seen Zac and Sophie's brother, Milo, for many months.
"Of course - Milo!" I barked to my Rottweiler friend. "What about him?"
"That wretched scrote, Peaches, " Eddie explained, with a flick of his mighty head back towards the cat - who was gradually sidling ever-closer to us - "beat young Milo to a pulp, for absolutely no reason. The poor lad recovered his health, but not his nerves. He never leaves his back garden these days."
"Hmm. Oliver told me." (Oliver is the three-legged cat from the end of my terrace, who lives with the Jack Russell, Archie). "Olly quite often goes across to sit with him of an afternoon."
"That's nice of him."
We both sat in silence for a while, watching the sunset, and pondering poor Milo's fate.
"So anyway," continued Edward, "On our walk this morning, Angus and I were endeavouring to reason out why Peaches should be so thoughtlessly violent." (Angus being Eddie's fellow-Rotti and long-term gentleman-friend).
"Any conclusions?" I asked.
"Well, Angus doesn't really have that level of mental capacity, bless him. He's lucky he has me, to guide his thoughts and make his choices for him. If he wasn't such a poppet, there are times when I'd lose patience with the boy, there really are."
I smiled privately. Never before had I encountered a couple who were so obviously fond of each other but who bickered so much.
Eddie continued "Angus did come up with one idea though, and the more I consider it, the more I believe his point may be valid. And here's the thing. Peaches wants to be a dog! Think about it, old boy! He's constantly lurking around you and I - and for why? Because you and I are the strongest, most powerful chaps around here. He hates the world - because he is angry and bitter that he was born a cat, and takes his frustrations out on everyone. He's always provoking fights and troubles because he thinks that is how dogs behave!"
The more Eddie went on, the more I realised that he was probably right. It would certainly explain a great deal.
"Hmmm." I muttered, "If he was a dog, and he joined any pack that I know of, he'd be beaten senseless and booted out straight away, with the sort of attitude he's got."
Eddie and I became lost in thought as we reflected on this solution of the Peaches riddle, watching the sun gradually disappearing from the pink and gold sky, sinking beyond the trees and taking with it the last traces of another summer's day.
"Meowrrf." came the voice from the black cloud beside us.
"Oh, b*gg*r off, Peaches, you ghastly little insect." growled Eddie.
So there is the answer to that little mystery. As ever, another one arises to take its place - the ghostly scrattin' still echoes from within my airing cupboard... I'm going to go and hide now.