A ginger tomcat tragicaly passes away in a road accident. What will become of the driver?
|The Cats Tail.
By Stephen A Abell
- for AliceNGoreland that helped me remember this little tale.
Number of Words: 4318
Twilight was his favourite time of day for it meant the free food would soon be available. It was time to start his rounds. He arose from the shed roof where lately he slept, taking full effect of the summer sun’s rays, jumped across to the tree and climbed down its trunk. He was in the neighbour’s garden, he enjoyed it here: There were a couple of trees to climb and since the humans that lived in the house both worked, the grass was allowed to grow tall and luxurious; great for curling up in. Unfortunately though these humans did not feed him; most of the time they tried to chase him away.
Finding the hole in the hedgerow, he eased into the next, well maintained, garden and ambled over the lawn and straight to the back door, where a bowl of milk and a few biscuits had been left. The old woman that lived here always put some treats out for him, if she was around. If she saw him then she would call him over, “Socks. Come on boy. Over here”, so she could give him a pet and a stroke. Nearly everybody called him “Socks” from the start, even though his owner’s named him “Argyle”, this was due to the fact that, even though he was a beautiful marmalade coloured tomcat, all his four paws were white.
After finishing the biscuits, he lapped down the milk and took five minutes to have a leisurely wash. His next stop was five houses down and if he could spare the time, he may have some fun scaring the caged rabbits that lived there; he liked to see them run from one side of their enclosure to the other.
He walked to the front of the house and decided to trek through the front gardens. There were a few rogue cats, from across the road, which were spraying his territory; it would allow him to claim it back.
He hated “The Road” and chose to steer well clear of it; there were plenty of gardens, front and back, without having to cross that dreadful thing with its hurtful objects of metal and rubber. A car had hit him once and, though he only received a broken paw, it was enough. There were over sixty houses with gardens that he could visit and enjoy, he was happy and content.
Five sprays later, he was standing in front of the rabbit hutch. He was slightly disheartened to see that the rabbits were hiding in their wooden house; he really had looked forward to giving them a little scare. As he made his way to the side of the house, where he usually found a dish of cat meat or tinned tuna, if he was lucky, his nose caught another scent. The fur on his tail bristled. It was too early for this bitch. He should be safe inside, curled up on his owner’s knee, way before this bitch made her rounds. Turning slowly he scanned the garden and hedge. Two red eyes gleamed back at him; off-white teeth gave him a deadly smile. The vixen broke from her hiding place and charged hungrily towards him. He could smell the cubs on her and the stench of their hunger. He spun and ran.
The fox was large, lean, and fast; very fast.
Socks made it to the gate and vaulted effortlessly over the top, feeling her hot tepid breath on the underside of his paws. He pulled up sharply as he neared the road. Turning around he watched and waited for the attack, from which side would she come? That would make the difference.
Mark turned the car down the lonely street and turned to chat to his passenger who had asked why he always took the back roads. “Well, ya’ see Dave; it’s like this road ‘ere. Look at it.” Mark eased on the brakes so Dave could survey his surroundings. “It’s long, hardly used and the people are so nice they all park on one side, keepin’ the other open for traffic,” his foot stamped down on the accelerator and the car launched forward, “like us,” he shouted.
Somewhere in the back of his mind Socks heard the cars engine accelerate, but chose to ignore it, all his senses focused on which direction the vixen would pounce from.
He was scanning the right when, in his periphery, he saw a fast moving shape. The bitch was leaping over the gate for him. Acting more on instinct for survival than caution for safety, he spun around and dashed into the road.
“CAT.” Dave screamed above the blaring music and modified engine.
“Don’t worry,” Mark smiled, “I got the little fucker.”
The vixen slid to a sudden halt as the blazing blue car slammed into the little body of her prey. She turned and started up the road searching for food, with which to satisfy her cubs hunger.
Ten minutes later and the small, neon blue, Corsa pulled up to the curb outside a small block of flats. “Not bad, eh?” Mark asked as they clambered out.
“No mate, not bad at all. Wish I could get outta my fuckin’ house. Parents are always fuckin’ arguin’.”
“Parents, tell me about it. I had to move out. Since Dad fucked off Mum’s gone right off the rails and she’s whorin’ it up too much for me.” Dave looked at him quizzically, pushing the issue. “There were different men every night. Didn’t know where they all came from: Didn’t think this town was that big. Then I comes home from a night out an’ find her and another woman fingerin’ each other on the sofa. I said to myself, right then, if she’s getting’ more pussy than me it’s time to get out. So I did.”
They had wandered across to the front of the building and Mark was about to enter the pass-code to gain entrance when Dave called his attention back to his car.
“Er, Mark. Talkin’ about pussies, mate, that one you creamed did your ride some serious damage.”
As they turned to look at the front end of the car, they saw that the front skirt was cracked near the middle; above, the metal grille had been knocked loose and was hanging freely. Splashes of dark red blood were drying in the warm September air.
“Fuck,” Mark growled into the stillness, “I’d just had the paintwork done. Fuck.” He smacked the pass-code into the keypad. “I’ll go and get some soapy water and we can clean it off. Then we’ll see if we can patch it up in anyway.”
As he emerged from the communal front door, he saw Dave on his knees, his hands under the car, scrabbling around, as if searching for something.
“What ya doin?”
“Take a look over there,” Dave, indicated the direction with his head. In the grass was a shiny glistening object. “That, is an eye. An’ I was thinkin’ that maybe the rest of the poor bugger might be under here. Our next-door neighbour once found a Blackbird that she’d hit. It dropped to the ground when she was washin’ the car. Bloody think was rotted and full of maggots. I thought I’d save you that.”
“You are a mate.”
“I know; an’ the Chinese is your way of sayin’ thanks. One second I can feel fur and….”
“What is it?”
“Huh! Your car wasn’t the only thing to get some serious damage today.” With a sound of tearing fur, Dave pulled the small carcass free and threw it onto the pavement. “Give me that water; I need to get this mess off my hands.”
Mark placed the bowl in front of his knees and disappeared around to the driver’s door.
“What ya’ doin, now?” Dave called after him.
“Just had an idea, that’s all. Might as well make up for the bit of the damage that fucker caused.”
“Why? What ya’ thinkin’ of doin?”
From the driver’s side Mark strode, with new purpose, towards the dead cat. Dave noticed the Bowie knife in his hand.
“Where the fuck did you get that?” He pointed to the illegal weapon.
“Stole it from the old man before he took off. Figured that the bastard owed me summat. Anyways you need protection when ya’ drive a car like this, luckily I’ve never had need for it, ‘till now.” In one deft movement Mark fell to one knee, beside the cat, brought the blade down with such speed and force that it neatly severed the tail away from the body, with no resistance. “Pays to keep the blade sharp as well. I think this’ll be a nice trophy. I might tie it to the aerial, what you think?”
“Think you’re fuckin’ nuts. I’d throw it away, along with the rest of it, that’s what I’d do. If I’d killed anything, on purpose, I wouldn’t want anything or any part of it around me, that’s what I think.”
“It weren’t on purpose. You saw it run into the road.”
“Yeah. An’ I saw that you didn’t slow down. You didn’t even stop to see if anyone on the street owned the cat. I bet it never crossed your mind to open that tag on its collar and call the owners and apologise, did it?”
“Now, why would I want to cause unnecessary pain and possibly a kid some tears, eh? It’s better if we leave it as it is.”
“Hah, but you wouldn’t think twice about hanging the poor buggers tail from the aerial, would ya?”
“Oh, Dave, my man. Look at the colour of it, it’s beautiful. Don’t you think it’d look great along with the blue? Stand out a right treat.”
“Come on, you moron, help me clean up your mess.” Dave said resignedly, “I know that I’ll never get you to change your mind and besides I want that Chinese and I want to watch some porno. So bin the cat and get scrubbin’ you old scrubber.”
--- x --- x --- X --- x --- x ---
The weekend had been uneventful for Mark. Friday night he stayed home with Dave, ate a take-away Chinese, watched a porno flick with a big cocked dude fucking tons of women, but when it came to the couple of lesbian scene’s all he saw was his mother and the mystery lady on the couch. Now the bitch had spoiled his fantasies too. In the middle of the night, heartburn had set in and he downed half a bottle of liquid relief before it settled.
Saturday he awoke just in time to watch the match on telly. He showered, shaved, and dressed to kill. Well, at least to fuck, he thought. The bad thing was the town was as small as he thought. Men, only glimpsed for mere seconds were asking him how his mother was. A couple of drunken ignorant bastards had even commented on what a fantastic fuck she was. Needless to say: The urge to pull had been replaced with the urge to run and slam his head into the nearest sand.
Therefore, when he got up on Monday morning it was no wonder that he was feeling a little depressed.
At work, he lied and told his colleagues of the great weekend he had survived. The copious amount of alcohol imbibed. The sisters he bedded, numerous times. The amazing ten-nil victory that his five-a-side team, of which he was captain, had scored. And, of course, the cat that had killed his car; almost. He made it through the day with his “street cred” intact.
He turned the car onto the street where the dreaded cat had caused the heinous damage to his vehicle. As his foot pushed harder on to the accelerator, his eyes caught site of the posters. Instinctively due to the shear amazement, he eased off and slowed the car down, finally pulling into the curb.
There were hundreds of them. All A4 in size and on each was a photographic shot of the cat.
All the hundreds of eyes were staring straight at him. Through him and into his soul.
Without any conscious thought, he unbuckled his seatbelt, stepped from the car and walked over to the lamppost, where the poster was sellotaped. He reached up and carefully removed it from the metal. There was a lot of thought behind the poster. Firstly, the photograph was well taken and caught the multi, ginger orange, colours of fur perfectly. It was sharp and clean, you could make out the collar and the tag underneath. The wordage was sparse and to the point. “Lost – one well-loved cat by the name of Argyle. Reward £100.00 for the return.” Then there were the obligatory telephone numbers and E-mail address at the bottom of the page.
Man, he thought, this was one well-loved moggy. This poster must have cost quite a bit in ink alone. Besides, they’re all bloody laminated. Shame the fucker’s dead, I could’ve done with the extra cash.
He threw the poster onto the passenger seat as he clambered back inside and fastened his belt.
--- x --- x --- X --- x --- x ---
The fish and chips he picked up from the chippy were cold and he was too hungry to wait for the microwave to warm them up, so he just slapped them down on the plate and took his usual dining position in front of the telly.
Flicking the remote he changed the channels until he came upon the correct partner with which to share his culinary delight; wrestling. As he watched the men-in-tights doing the “working man’s ballet” he slowly fingered the cold food into his saliva filled mouth. “The only way to eat fish and chips,” his Nana had once stated, “are with your fingers.”
“Damn straight.” He replied to the ghostly thought.
Except, there was something wrong with the fish. The chips were okay, even cold chips were good, but the fish. His mind could not quite grasp the fault. The batter was right, the fish tasted fishy. Not exactly the best catch of the day but it was still fish. But, does it taste like cod should taste? His mind asked.
Nearly. Not quite. But, nearly.
What does it taste like then?
Tuna? That’s it. It tastes like cod and tuna mixed together. Urgh. His mind reeled, as did his taste bubs with the revelation. Shit, he thought. I knew fish was gettin’ low but to mix in tuna…. Fuck no.
He spat out the terrible tasting concoction onto his plate and failed to spot the few stray orange hairs that were mixed into the masticated mess.
Looking back to the television, where the crowd were going crazy for a small masked-man-in-tights, his eyes fell onto the printed eyes of Argyle. He could not remember placing the poster above the telly, propped up against an old photo of his family, but there it was so he must have. Strange how he had not noticed that the tongue was peeking out of the corner of the cat’s mouth, as if it was getting ready to eat something glorious. A little part of his heart broke at the thought of what he had done. A very little part.
When the match concluded he pushed himself from the comfy confines of his armchair and headed back to the tiny kitchen to grab a brew. He smelt the strange acrid smell in the hallway that led to the bedroom and bathroom. His gag reflex took over and the taste of tuna refreshed his mouth anew. It was stronger in the kitchen itself. It had a dank musky odour to it. “Fuckin’ cat piss,” he cried.
For the next half hour he checked everywhere in the flat for the culprit only to find his abode devoid of any other life but himself. Shaking his head and letting out a half dejected sigh, he re-entered the kitchen to retrieve the beer he originally wanted. The smell was gone.
“What the fuck is goin’ on?” The empty apartment failed to give him any reply.
He popped the tab on the can, grabbed a glass and took himself back into the front room, just as a Diva match was starting. “No offence mate,” he stated as he tipped his can at Argyle’s picture, “but these are the real pussies I’m interested in.” Laughing he poured the beer into the glass, settled back and watched in awe and wonder as two beautiful, semi-clad amazons tried to dance the “working man’s ballet”. They were too graceful to carry it off, but it was more than worth watching.
The wrestling finished and he switched channels to catch the news, especially the sports. That was when the sound started acting up.
The reporter had just mentioned his football team’s name when a deep, pulsating, harmonic rumbling started to emanate from the speakers, making it nearly impossible for him to hear what was being said. Quickly, he flipped channels, hoping that the sound was only a programme fault. No. The noise throbbed on every channel. In fact, it was there in the silent parts too. That place between one channel and the next where there is momentary silence and blackness. It was there and here it felt familiar. A sound that he should know.
“Fuck it.” He said in a raised tone as he thumbed the remote and turned off the satellite receiver and television.
He picked up the newspaper to check out the babe on page three and browse the sports pages. However, when he unfolded the tabloid it became obvious that some animal had gotten its claws or teeth into it. The pages were shredded.
“I told ya’ a million times keep that fuckin’ mutt of yours under fuckin’ control or I’m getting’ the fuckin’ council on your arse. You worthless old cunt.” He bellowed at the partitioning wall between him and the fifty-ish woman next door. Her and her fuckin’ yappin’ Jack Russell. Bloody thing is always tearin’ summat up, he thought, or tryin’ to bite somebody. They should put that fucker down.
Maybe, you can splatter the little yappin’ shit with ya’ car. His mind rebuked and he felt a little nauseous.
He flicked on the stereo, turned the speakers up to full, slapped the play button on the remote, and waited to hear the mp3 club-mix CD that Roger “The Dodger” had burned him last night.
Instead of hearing the hard driving beats, repetitive bass-line, and high pitched rhythm what he heard was something akin to machinery getting ready to break; a screeching, caterwauling, that stole into his soul, making him exceedingly uncomfortable. He quickly turned it off and rushed to pull the plug out of the wall. The last thing that he needed tonight was the stereo to come alive in flame.
Ah, well, his mind tried to reassure him, there’s always the computer, and if that’s fucked then it’s an early night for you.
He grabbed the half-drunk glass of beer and strode silently into the bedroom. In one corner, behind the door was his computer. It was out-dated now being a couple of years old: Now machines were twice as fast and had twice the memory. However, this did what he wanted it to do; rip and burn music, enhance and print photographs, and with the power of the internet, it kept him in touch with friends as well as being his gateway to sport and porn.
Everything fired up as normal, no strange sounds were heard. On the logon screen, he clicked on the icon and entered the password to hear the familiar windows greeting chime. He smiled and breathed a sigh of relief. The light on his ADSL modem was green and he clicked the Netscape icon to connect to the internet. He checked his E-mails and found one from “The Dodger”. His virus checker had deemed it and the attachment clean so he double clicked the attached file. Winamp loaded and the visualisation window opened. The MPEG that played showed a black Ford KA in a drive, with its sunroof open. A ginger tomcat jumps up on the bonnet and paws its way cautiously onto the roof. Gingerly, curiosity getting the better of him, the cat sticks its head through the open sunroof. Which quickly closes, decapitating the kitty and its, lifeless, headless body slides down the windscreen on off the wing of the KA.
In other circumstances, he may have found this morbidly funny but after the events of last week, instead of laughing he found himself holding back the bile.
There was another E-mail, this time from Dave. The message simply read, “Thought U might want 2 C this.” Again, he double clicked on the virus-checked file. Infranview opened and loaded the still picture onto his screen. It was the poster of the late Argyle. Good old Dave, however, had carried out some Photoshop magic on the image. One of the haunting eyes was removed and in its place was a ragged bloody hole. Parts of fur and skin were torn to show white bone and deep red blood.
“Fuckin’ hell.” He stammered as he moved towards the bathroom and the toilet bowl. The bile had beaten gravity. When he finally staggered back into the room, he immediately shut the application down. The last thing that he needed to see was that atrocity.
“You fuckin’ bastard Dave.” The force of his anger reverberated around the bedroom. Somehow, Dave had been clever enough to write a bit of code and place the disturbing picture as the main background for his desktop. “You’ll fuckin’ pay for this.” He clicked on Start and Turn Off Computer. Then clicked on the Turn Off icon. Silence re-entered the tiny flat as the fans ceased their turning.
Dejectedly he stood from the chair and slowly crossed to his bed, falling lifelessly onto the mattress. He was asleep within seconds.
No nightmares marred his sleep. Nothing nasty twisted inside his subconscious mind. He slept peacefully.
It was the weight on his chest that woke him up. It felt like something was pushing down on him, then there was the deep throbbing vibration that he could feel shaking his ribcage as well as sounding in his ears. Realisation shocked him into stillness. The sound he could hear was the exact same sound as the television had made earlier. Now, though, he knew the cause of the sound and feeling. It was a cat. A cat that was purring. Slowly he opened his eyes stealing himself for the sight he would see. The first thing that he noticed was that the bedroom light was on. The second was that nothing rested on his chest, though the purring still shook him softly.
He felt the cat stir and raise up onto its four paws until it was standing on him. Still no solid shape could be seen. He could feel his heartbeat speed up and sweat start to erupt on his forehead. The ghost cat walked up his chest and stopped with one paw on his neck. Mark could feel the sharpness of a claw snag the soft skin and he gave a hollow cry of fear.
Two eyes appeared, disjointedly, in the air above his face and he thought of the Cheshire cat in Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland.” Had that cat been a marmalade colour also? He thought it had. As his mind started to wander into Wonderland, Argyle began to reveal more of himself, until he was fully visible. He was a very handsome cat and his pure beauty made Mark, for the first time, truly sorry for his callous actions. He tried to voice his sorrow to find that he could not move his mouth. Frightened he started to rise but his body rejected all of his efforts to move. Argyle changed in an instant. No longer the beautiful creature, but now, the sad and wrecked mess of an animal he had become in death. The one remaining eye stared blindly at Mark; blood ran from a myriad of scars and rents. A drop fell from the empty socket landing on Mark’s lips. They opened to receive the gift.
Oh, God I’m sorry, his mind screamed, I’m so sorry.
Something had just crawled onto his hand and again he tried to move and scream. To no avail.
It was moving up his arm and towards his face. He moved his ears looking and searching for any small sight of what it may be.
It was to his chin before his mind caught hold of the reality of the situation and made an educated guess as to the thing crawling over his body. The only thing that it could be was the tail. Argyle’s tail. He had stored it in one of the empty draws until he could figure out what to do with it. Now it was out and sliding up his face. He could feel the fur rub and catch on the bristles of his stubbly chin. It was at his mouth. The mouth that had opened when the blood-drop had fallen onto his lips. All his effort went into closing his mouth against this unwanted gift. He was still paralysed. It was too late anyway. The soft fur was now running over his tongue and towards his throat. The end cleared his lips and his mouth closed. Argyle strode forward onto his face, taking care not to place his paws on Marks eyes. Then slowly lowered himself and curled up across Marks nose and mouth. The tail had wedged itself deep in his throat. Breathing was impossible. As Mark faded out of his life, he could feel the rivers of blood running over his face and the deep vibrating purr of the murdered cat.