Communicating with locals while searching for a cat in a strange country.
|B.The Pool of Tears
3. "Où est ma chatte?" ("Where is my cat?") - You are a stranger in a foreign land – try to communicate with the locals in an attempt to find your missing pet – short story. (<1000 words)
Waar is my kat?
My first inclination was to have the title in German. I am reasonably fluent in French but it seems boring to me. German is all sort of Germanic and much more interesting. But then I thought, “What if I run out of my extremely limited German? I’ll look like an idiot, rushing between here and Google Translate. Much better to have the title in Afrikaans. That’ll keep the Dutch happy and be all exotic for those who have never been to South Africa. And, best of all, it won’t be in French.”
I should explain that, in Afrikaans, just as in Dutch, the W is pronounced as a V and the S of “is” is soft. So the title sounds like this: Vaar iss may kat? It makes me much happier to know that all my readers are now fluent in a language they probably never heard of before today.
And so to the story. The cat in question is what they call a tuxedo, meaning that she is black apart from white splashes at her neck, down her front and her stomach with little white gloves and boots. She is, in fact, a dead ringer for a cat wearing a tuxedo and this, no doubt, is why such cats are called tuxedos.
Her name is Pookie and she is very talkative, being fluent in both Cat and English. She is not loud, however, and this is probably why very few people have bothered to converse with her in English. Being in her thrall, I have paid attention to her since she arrived as a kitten and can attest to the fact that she does indeed speak English (she has a slight accent, partly explained by the high tone of her voice, I think).
Be that as it may, we were talking about travel one day when Pookie expressed a desire to visit South Africa. I was a little surprised, never having heard her on the subject of other countries before, but she explained it arose because of the stories of my youth in that area of the world. In accordance with her wishes, I booked seats for us on a flight to Cape Town. A week later we were sitting on a green hillside overlooking the town of Pietermaritzburg. Far away we could see the rounded mounds that formed the Valley of a Thousand Hills. These hills were as green as the one we sat upon, although the most distant were made blue by the haze. In passing, I mentioned their name to Pookie and she meowed some reply. I dozed off in the heat.
Upon awaking, I was alarmed to see that my cat had disappeared. Standing up did not reveal her whereabouts and wandering further around the summit of the hill revealed no sign of her. There were two people, a man and, presumably, his wife, standing at the summit and I approached them to ask if they had seen Pookie. Digging into my schoolboy Afrikaans, I ventured to ask, “Goeie more. Het u 'n swart en wit kat hier gesien?”
Oh dear, that means I shall have to explain about the Afrikaans letter G. This is pronounced rather like the German CH as in “Ich dien.” So Afrikaans “gesien” sounds like cheh-sin. Probably you could work out for yourself what I said but, to make it easy, I’ll admit that it translates to “Good morning. Have you seen a black and white cat here?” That’s one of the things I love about Afrikaans - it’s so close to English that even I can understand most of it.
But I digress and should return to the story. To my utter relief, the lady replied, “Ja ek het. Ek is seker dat ek 'n kat so 'n ent verder teen die heuwel gesien het. In daardie rigting.” (Yes, I have. I'm sure I saw a cat like that a bit further down the hill. In that direction)
I thanked the pair and set off quickly to search the indicated area. As I left, I heard the man say quietly to his wife, “Thank you for stepping in there, dear. I don’t think my Afrikaans was up to answering all that.”
Sure enough, as I descended from the crest, I could see a little black head with pointed ears emerging from the short grass below. It was Pookie, just sitting there, gazing at the far away hills. I sat down beside her. “You gave me a bit of a fright. For a moment I thought I’d lost you” I said.
She turned to look at me. “I’m sorry but it was your fault really. When you told me the name of the hills, I had to count and make sure you were right. There are actually a thousand and two.”
Word Count: 800