By way of explanation: a few weeks ago, three semi-feral kittens were born within the haystack in my partner's work-yard (my partner's colleagues maintain three conservation grazing herds - two of Manx Loaghtan sheep and one of Highland Longhorn cattle - and their diet is supplemented with hay and sheep-nuts during the Winter months whilst grasses are sparse). The kittens were blissfully ignored until the weekend - when their feral mother (the "semi" part coming from the insatiably randy tom who lives at the farm opposite the depot) was tragically killed in a road accident. Since then, Ewan and Fizzy's partner has been feeding them. The idea is to humanely trap them, have them neutered, and then either release or find new homes for them. I'll admit that there does tend to be something of a 'rat problem' on the premises over the Winter (I killed one of the b*st*rds myself, just before Christmas last), and a semi-feral cat may be a useful addition to the team. Because - of course - once rat or mouse poison is put down, the toxins are introduced into nature's food-chain. I wasn't allowed to eat the rat that I bagged, in case it had been poisoned beforehand, and one of my partner's colleagues brought back to the office a dead snowy-owl in perfect condition (yes - it had been poisoned via the mouse it had lately consumed).
Fizzy is livid. She is desperate to stalk and kill the kittens, but Ewan - for the first time in his life - has taken a stand against her and I'm siding with him. I would never have intended to kill the kittens myself, and I was keeping a low-profile eye on them. They are now too big to be in any danger from rats, but a plucky weasel could still be tempted to try for a hard-won dinner, so I make it my business to check that the toddlers are well at various intervals during the day. I was snoozing 'neath my partner's desk yesterday afternoon, when the most frightful shouting and growling woke me. Fearing lest a rogue aggressive dog had strayed into our yard, I jumped up and dashed outside.
Seeing only Ewan and Fizzy, I wondered what had happened - until I looked closer and saw that Ewan was in an uncharacteristically aggressive stance. He had his back to the tarpaulin-covered haystack and was hissing viciously at Fizz-Bang every time she tried to pass him.
"No, Fizzy, NO!" insisted my simple friend, in a respectful but defiant tone.
"Ewan!" snarled Fizzy, "Out of my way, or I'll bite your nose!"
"You will NOT hurt them!" replied Ewan, "They are babies! Little babies! And their mummy is died! I won't let you hurt them, and I don't care even if you bite me on my willie!"
Both dogs turned as I trotted towards them. Ewan stiffened his defensive stance. Fizzy wagged her tail.
"Thank goodness! Jasper!" she barked. "Come and help me beat some sense into this meat-head." I stared back at her. Then slowly, deliberately, I turned on my paws and went to stand beside Ewan, my back also to the haystack.
"Sorry, Fizz." I replied, not in the least bit apologetically, "But you'll have to batter your way past two meat-heads if you want those kittens. For I'll never turn on defensive, helpless, motherless babies."
Fizzy backed down, muttering curses, and stalked off to her bed. I knew the kittens were safe - Fizzy might defy either one of us individually - but never Ewan and I acting in unison. The daft but good-hearted Ewan watched her go and then fell on me, licking my ears and wagging his mad tail.
"Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!" panted the gangly dog, "I thought you were going to help Fizzy beat on me! Thank you Jasper!"
"Urgh! Gerroff Ewan!" I spluttered, trying to push him off, "The kittens are watching!" When I barked that, the three little ginger heads retreated under the wooden pallet on which stood the hay - but their little blue eyes continued to watch...
|Two of the three kittens|
Prior to these feline shenanigans, I took advantage of a quiet afternoon - whilst Ewan, Fizzy and I were basking in the sun-drenched yard, to confide in my friends about the spectral baby buzzard whose ghostly presence still haunts my airing cupboard. I had given up seeking solace in my partner; she felt that my waking her up at regular intervals to go and check the cupboard for me was becoming "unmanageable". Perhaps waking her up on three separate occasions after 2.00am on a work night was a little extreme... but there was no need for her to threaten me so... She told me that if I woke her up again for spurious reasons then I would have to spend the rest of that sleep alone on the kitchen floor. And if I ever use the word "scrattin'" in her presence again I am, apparently, also guaranteed a spanked-bottom. Each time I tried to protest, she repeated the same tiresome mantra: "There's no such thing as ghosts." But you and I, dear reader, WE know differently... It's got so bad now that I refuse to go up our stairs and past the cupboard by myself in the dark - even if I am especially tired.
I explained my impossible and sleep-deprived predicament to my two friends, who both sat up to listen, with sympathetic sounds and concerned looks. As I finished my phantasmagorical tale, Ewan began to assume a bizarre expression as his facial muscles contorted together in his effort to think logically.
"What... if..." he began eventually, and with the strain evident in his voice, "Why don't you get a priest in?"
"Eh?!" I barked, as Fizzy nodded in agreement with Ewan.
"Me and Fizzy and our people were watching a film a few nights ago," explained Ewan, beginning to pant with the effort of mustering coherent thoughts. "And horrid stuff was happening and they got a priest in to sort it out."
"They did." concurred Fizzy.
"Well, did it work?" I asked, the wheels in my head beginning to turn. I have, of late, been engaged in promotional work for a "pet service" at the local church, which takes place next Sunday. My presence is expected at this event (they need a "celebrity" to kick off the event and my diary was regrettably free) - I may avail myself of this opportunity to enlist the local priest to my cause.
"It's called an extortionism." continued Ewan.
"An 'exorcism'." corrected Fizzy, quietly.
"Oh, right, yes. An extorcism."
"Yes, but did it work?!" I barked, impatiently.
"Don't know." shrugged Ewan. "The film was too scary for me so I went away after a yukky bit and played with my toys instead."
I turned to Fizzy.
"Sorry Jazz." said Fizzy apologetically, "It was late and I fell asleep before the end."
"Oh, bl**dy hell, Fizzy!"
"Well, if it's any consolation, it did seem to be working..."
"Worth a try, I suppose." I decided, "I'm running out of options."
"Yes." nodded Ewan "Or you could always tempt it out with some cheese."
Ah yes. I was wondering how long it would be before Ewan returned to his favourite subject.
"The priest?!" I enquired.
"No!" barked Ewan, scornfully, "The ghost! You could get some ghost-cheese! Why do you need a priest?"
Fizzy and I just gaped at Ewan. At last he muttered, almost to himself, "Of course! He would need a priest to bless the goat cheese....!"
I felt a sudden chill, as the late summer sun disappeared behind a soft, grey, drifting cloud...
Next time: Definitely the next Evolution episode (running late due to the kitten-situation) - and some rather unexpected results ensue when 2,500 volts of live electrical current pass through Ewan's body...