So, dear reader, how do you think Gisèle's 'I Love Peaches Party' went yesterday?
I shall tell you. To sum up, it went about as well as it went for Jeanne d'Arc after the lit taper had been applied to the faggots at her feet.
Elizabeth has been itching to bark "I told you so..." to Gizmo, but couldn't bring herself to be that unkind to her little best friend.
I have been trying to find a photograph of Peaches, to enable you to better visualise the scene. Alas, the only actual one I have is on an old blog post and is a view of his ample derrière - here it is:-
Here is the most accurate image I could find on the internet:-
Even this doesn't do justice to the permanently-angry and intimidating visage of Peaches himself. This cat is called "Guinness" (c/f http://www.flickr.com/photos/32445642@N03/3132337922/) and makes Peaches himself look like a veritable angel of light. Peaches' face is rounder and far more malevolent.
So the day dawned bright and early, and little Giz was so excited that she was virtually bouncing off the walls. As soon as my partner opened the French Windows onto our sunny patio, Giz was out laying out the napkins, little snack trays, her plate of fresh dead mice (kept carefully hidden from Betty's thieving snout) and the dish awaiting the special milk for cats. Betty herself pretended to remain asleep for as long as she could - but then Giz spotted Betty looking to see if her wakefulness had been noted, so the game was up. With a deep sigh and an air of "oh, let's just get it over with", Betty ambled out into the garden to assist Gisèle. She moved a pebble onto the pile of napkins, lest a sudden breeze blow them away and then sat down to watch Giz buzzing about with excitement - a bit like an hyperactive bee who's over-done the nectar...
"Mistress saw these lovely sparkly party-hats in the shop yesterday." Giz informed Betty. "I thought it would be nice to get a photograph of Peaches and put it on the hats and we could ALL wear one!"
"Gizzles, if you make me wear a party hat I will clobber you." muttered Betty, still in her early-morning grouchy mood (Betty was NOT a morning dog). "And if you make me wear a party hat with that stupid cat's face - or indeed, any cat's face on it, I will swallow you whole in one single gulp, and the last desperate moments of your life will be spent trapped in my belly."
"Hihihihi...!" giggled Gisèle, "Well, it doesn't matter anyway, because Mistress didn't have enough money left for the hats after she bought the carton of cat-milk."
Betty muttered something indistinct, and shook her head.
"Right." continued Giz in a business-like tone. "You keep an eye on the snacks - and don't eat any yet, I have counted those mice Elizabeth - while I go out on to the pavement to make our sign."
"Sign?!" spluttered Betty, and she watched as Gisèle busied herself in making some sort of odd display in front of the garden. It consisted of an arrangement with some old peach-stones Giz had found in the garden, some small pebbles, twigs and leaves. When it was - whatever it was - complete, Giz stepped back to admire her work.
"Lovely!" she pronounced, before tottering back into the garden. Betty moved closer for a better inspection.
"What is it?" she asked.
"It's my sign that says 'Welcome Peaches! We Love You!'" grinned Giz. Betty raised an eyebrow. It was just a jumbled mess; obviously Gisèle had no idea how to make words, but the overall effect was not unpleasant.
As Giz fussed around, straightening dishes and bowls that didn't need straightening, Rosie the little Westie from next door appeared.
"Morning Betty and Giz!" she trilled.
"Hiya Rosie." replied Betty, "Welcome. May I take your collar and lead?"
"Um... no, it's OK thanks. I've only come from next door..."
"Oh yes! Silly me. Well, help yourself to the snacks and drinks; there's plenty here..."
"Not the mice though!" Giz added, trotting over to Rosie and giving her a kiss on each cheek, "No-one's allowed to start those until Peaches is here!"
The next arrivals were Archie, the little smooth-coated Jack Russell from the end of our row of houses, who had brought with him Oliver, the three-legged black cat who lived with him. Gisèle relented and allowed the mild-mannered and sociable Oliver to have one of the dead mice. He accepted with gratitude, but then paid his respects to Gisèle and left. He was one of Peaches' regular targets for cruelty, owing to his disability, and did not care to put himself in the way of further bullying. Giz assured Oliver that she understood and let him have a second mouse to take back home with him.
As Oliver limped off, Laddie arrived; a sealed plastic tray of dips and a flower in his mouth. He gave the dips to Giz and then went around to Betty and presented her with the flower, with a low bow. I had to admire his technique - he had swiped the flower from the border of an opposite garden on his way over. Betty was surprised, but flattered. Giz pretended not to watch, as she pulled the cellophane cover off the tray of dips and put them in front of Rosie, who tucked straight in.
"Mmmnnn!" she exclaimed "I LOVE these!"
"Ha!" grinned Laddie, moving round the corner to address pretty Rosie, "I can let you have some more if you want. Got a job lot for the stall last week, thought they'd go nice with salads for barbecues and picnics - only the bl**dy weather turned, didn't it? Couldn't shift 'em. Now we've got one box left, with the sell-by date at the end of the week. Been having them for breakfast for the last five days, sick of the sight of 'em!" Rosie giggled. All of the local girls fancied Laddie, with his cheeky humour and his easy Cockney charm. "Nice little spread you've laid out here, Princess." he said to Gisèle as he took up a marrowbone biscuit and barked with his mouth full. "Thought some of the girls [Laddie's female feline fan-club, who tailed him around the close] would come along with me, but I don't think they're that keen on the ol' guest of honour. 'Ain't he here yet?!"
"No." said Giz.
"Gizzles," barked Betty, a sudden thought occurring to her, "You DID invite Peaches, didn't you?!"
"Yes!" Giz yipped, "Of course! I put the card by his door. He'll be here in a bit."
Laddie wandered off to bark to Rosie about his surfeit of dips, sensing an opportunity to recoup at least some of his master's losses, and Betty seemed to turn her attention to trying to work out how to sneak a mouse off the place and eat it without being noticed by her august hostess. Suddenly -
"Oh, bl**dy hell, I'm off!" muttered Archie hastily. "Sorry sweetheart, thanks for the nosh..." He fled. The reason was immediately apparent: Peaches was striding across the road.
A sudden chill breeze seemed to cut through the air. Gisèle didn't seem to notice and beamed with joy.
"Yayyyy!!! Here he IS!" she cheered as the cat drew nearer.
"What's all this, then?!" muttered Peaches as he approached. He stopped, smirking, in front of Gisèle's little pavement display. "And what -" he sneered, "- is this supposed to represent...?"
"It's a little something I put together, just for you!" enthused Giz, beaming at the cat. As soon as I saw the look in Peaches' eyes I knew that the situation was not going to go well. I wanted to reach out to Giz, to nurture her away from what was about to transpire and to protect her from the evil cat but, of course, I could not.
"It's a piece of art!" continued Giz.
"It's a piece of sh*t..." muttered Peaches, but Giz didn't seem to hear him.
"Would you like to come in?" invited Giz, beaming, "I have made this party just for you! To show that we would like to be your friends and play with you and that!"
"And why," whispered Peaches, slinking closer to Gisèle, "would I want to be friends with you?!"
"Erm... well... umm...."
"No, seriously." growled the cat, "I'm interested. What makes you think that I'd want to be a friend of yours?!"
"Well... I got you this special cat milk..." Giz indicated the dish of special milk, which she had kept guarded from the cheeky thieving attempts of Thunder and Kittenjasper (the tom-cats who lived with Honey across the road), "AND I have killed these mice, freshly just for you." She showed Peaches the plate of mice.
"I'll ask you again." growled Peaches darkly, "What makes you think I would want to be friends with YOU?!"
Little Gisèle blinked, uncomprehendingly, back at him.
And then, then, it got very nasty INDEED...
To be continued...