Somebody’s at a piece of hardwood with an industrial size rasp, I tell myself, and I think that maybe, possibly — well, I guess I’m thinking they’re demolishing the old Art Deco sideboard, oh, ok, I know it’s not exactly the most beautiful piece of antique furniture in the whole world, but what the heck, why would someone want to hack away at my sideboard with a giant rasp, and besides, hey, I say, down there, it’s my sideboard and it’s not bothering you particularly, is it, but they don’t stop and I tell myself that I really, really need to tell them to leave it be, just leave it well alone, yes, I better go and see who it is, and the next thing I see is myself and I am floating around a ghostly room – until someone starts using the biggest pair of old bellows I have ever seen, no forget that, I’ve never seen anything at all remotely like that, make it the biggest pair of old bellows I could have ever imagined, and they’re right by the side of the fireplace downstairs, and suddenly I am there too and I can see the bellows going, heech-huuump-phth-screekth-ppp-phummmphth, yeeetch-screektch, heech-huuump-phth… I can hear them, they whine and screech and scream like a scalded cat, again, again, again, the noise is almost infernal and I want to cover my hears with my hands but I need them to keep floating around, oh, but hold on, where’s those bellows come from, I can’t remember having any bellows by the fireplace at all, and what sort of fireplace is that, I ask myself out loud, that’s not my fireplace, hey, that’s not my fireplace, what I need really is to ask Pippo if he knows where that fireplace came from, but where’s Pippo, I can’t find him, and suddenly I find myself floating back upstairs to the bedroom and the bed and I can hear a lorry engine purring away somewhere outside, it’s loud, nice engine though, purrs like a perfect kitten firing on all cylinders, and did I really just think that to myself, oh I must be getting a tad doolally, but hang on, someone’s still rasping away at my sideboard, I thought they were done with it, I’ve really got to tell them to leave it well alone, just leave it be, and where the hell is Pippo, and suddenly the bellows literally yell and I come down to the bare awaken reality with what felt inside my mind as one loud thump and a start and…
Tchlump, I land back down this side of reality, straight from dreamland’s border checkpoint. What the heck…?
There’s a cat scratching at the bedroom door, and purring and meowing and making the most ungodly racket I have ever heard. Damn cat. It’s the middle of the night. A long, dark, freezing cold wintery night.
– And how on earth…?
Sure enough, as I glance over to her usual spot on the blanket at the bottom of the bed, I can see Flower’s not there. She must have somehow sneaked out without my noticing, and now there she is, crying desperately to be allowed back into the room and on the bed – and all patience exhausted, by the sounds of it, I add to myself, because Flower never made such a racket before. Never… ever. I wonder how long she could have been out there, meowing and scratching.
So I quite reluctantly get up, tiptoe my way to the door, open it and my right eye only just ajar, and call sweetly out to her. Flower’s always been a cat who likes to be spoken to softly, and thus I oblige in the knowledge that the faster she gets in, the faster I can get myself back inside my warm bed.
– C’mon, princess, it’s freezing cold, get in – how the hell did you get out anyway? I thought you were at my feet when I went to sleep. Daddy let you out?
The landing was deserted. No cat. At least not one my half-opened, half-awakened eye was tuned in to detect. For the fact is that, though nowhere near as brilliant as the pure and driven snow, Flower is white. Flower our kitten miss is a fine specimen of a moo-cat, white all over with a black tail and ears and a few artistically placed, paw print shaped, black splodges on her plumptious back.
– Princess, don’t play games this time of night, please, c’mon now, com’in, I’m freezing my bum out here!
But of the princess, nothing, and so I close the door and return to bed. Something moves under the bed, and I assume simply that Flower had once again sneaked in right under my oblivious nose – what else can a half-asleep human assume in the middle of the night? – and so I curse at her, only just slightly ‘cause I want her to go to sleep so that I can go to sleep, a soft little curse just for good measure, for playing her cat games in the middle of the night and especially on a night when the thermometers had showed a rather limp minus 12 outside, and the snow had been pouring down for the last two days like spoonfuls of frozen yogurt.
Soon I am back under the duvet pile, cursing the day I had fallen in love with a darned stone cottage in the middle of the absolute nowhere, and the madness of mankind that was making the weather so completely and unpredictably out of whack. Soon too, I was beginning to float into my cloud of feathered warmth and towards dreamland, my shivers giving way to soft little contented purrs of my own. And that is the precise moment when the meowing starts again.
And what meowing. But for the accompanying indecently loud, impossibly permanent purr, anyone would have sworn the cat was being skinned alive. Of course, half-asleep brain of me didn’t figure out that if there was a cat rustling under the bed, there couldn’t be a cat meowing the house down on the landing. Or, more precisely, that the meowing was coming from the other side of the door, when Flower was supposed to be firmly entrenched under my bed, which was definitely on my side of the door. The things sleep deprivation can do to you.
I sit up on the bed. The snow outside glowed under the full moon, and made me feel even colder. Putting on slippers and robe would only delay the whole inevitable thing, and prolong my unwanted time away from my toasty feathery bliss, so once again I gingerly tiptoed to the bedroom door, opened it, this time speaking somewhat sternly:
– Flower, stop this nonsense right now, come on in, or you’ll stay outside for the rest of the night.
As if. Things sleep deprivation do to you indeed: how could I forget that, if she was to be left out while I was in, while such status quo prevailed no-one, but absolutely no-one, not even the neighbours from what had by then begun to transpire, would have any sleep at all?
The landing had been, this time too, apparently deserted. Something rustled under the bed again, but all I could think of was feathers feathers and dreamland, so I again fooled myself that Flower had sneaked past my frozen toes. I shut the door once again, do a hurried tiptoe trot back to my duvet kingdom, and soon was away again.
And that had been the precise moment all hell had broken loose. If the cat had sounded as if she was being skinned alive before, now she sounded as if she was being minced into burgers. I sat up in bed, startled, puzzled, my brain hurting. A definite and very loud rustle came from under the bed. But did I make my sums?
– Pippo, I can’t stand any more of this, she’s your damn cat, go and sort her out. – And so Pippo patiently gets out of bed, with a little groan and a sigh. One has indeed to distribute the plague amongst all the villagers, I tell myself. It’s his turn to get cold.
– Oh, crumbs, it’s bloody cold. And it’s still snowing… – Pippo informs me, as if I hadn’t been up myself twice before, and didn’t know the score.
– I know – I answer back in a bit of a huff. – But it’s the cat I’m mad at right now, not the weather.
– Yeah, well, what’s all this racket been about? Where is she? Flower? – As if it wasn’t evident by now that she was out on the landing, and all ‘the racket’, as he called it, was her trying to get in.
– She’s your daughter, you deal with it. She’s been playing games all night, and I’ve had it with her.
And I bury my head back under the duvets, and curl up on a neat little ball. Maybe this time I can go back to my usual sweet dreamland, the one without the bother of giant rasps wasting my lovely Art Déco sideboard away and those house-sized bellows bellowing my sleep time away by the corner of a fireplace that isn’t mine but is planted right in the middle of my living room where the coffee table should have been, and where’s the coffee table gone, and loud lorry engines purring like perfectly tuned otherworldly 18-cylinders cats right outside my window.
Suddenly, there’s a war breaking out under the bed. When my head emerges from under the covers, there’s this scurrying noise, something that could only be the claws of that super mega giant house rat of before, you know, the one racing around in the rafters, which is soon followed by this puffed up white fluffy ball seemingly darting out from under the bed and flying across the bedroom floor I can see from my perch. The door suddenly bangs against the wall. Pippo is swearing, flat against the other wall. That any person endowed with a minimum of common sense and about the same amount og instinct of self=preservation would tell you that you. definitely. do. not. stand. on the path of a fluffed-up ball of darting cat, let alone in the middle of the night with your tootsies lying bare on the floor boards, and never mind the mega giant rat.
And then things are tumbling down the stairs. I hazily remember the books I had piled on the steps, and forgotten to take downstairs. A slipper soon follows, Pippo’s of course, thudding heavily on the floor of the downstairs hallway. Next, things are crashing on the kitchen’s old stone floor. Pippo’s footsteps are hurrying down the stairs, but I can no longer hear what he’s saying. Maybe he’s just mumbling. But I’m not too sure I want to. Hear, I mean. And then the cat flap goes tleck-tlock-pop-kpop-plomkp. The dog starts barking next door. Then they start barking inside these doors, reluctant blanketed wimpishly woofs. Next there’s the pitter-patter of Flower’s paws on the wooden stairs, followed by Pippo’s cursing. This time I hear him.
– Damn you, cat! You and your boyfriends. Honestly. You little… Floozy!
Flower stops on the doorway, licking her paw delicately. She puts her paw back on the floor with one of her regal gestures, and peaks round the corner to look at Pippo, round eyed and looking absolutely outraged at the insult. It makes two of us. Since when can’t a
girl cat have a bit of fun?
And honestly, I get up. What else can I do? With all this theatre, it’s ten to six, and there’s no point in trying to sleep any more. Flower curls up on her usual spot on the bed, which is essentially the exact warm and comfy spot from where I have just got up, as if it’s nothing much, nothing’s happened, whatever went on had nothing to do with her at all does it mummy? and, as I pull the fur boots on and don a half load of woolly jumpers, she flashes at me one of those unforgivably innocent little faces that only she can put on. As I get to the kitchen, the big brown tabby is on the seat of the motorbike and is till staring at us through the windows, looking absolutely and every inch as outraged at our behaviour as our reflection on the window panes does at his. Enough is enough. I call the dogs from their blanket nests on the downstairs sofa, and open the back door.
– Here, hounds, get at him, show’m whose territory this is!
The hounds sniff rather gingerly at the snow piled on the patio steps, and then pile themselves up even more gingerly on my furred feet. I give up. Nobody cares a word of what I say. Not the cats, and now not even the dogs. I close the back door again, the dogs gallop back to the living room sofa and their blankets.
– Go home! – I shout at the cat through the kitchen window I’ve opened just slightly ajar. – Go home, d’ya hear me? Scoot! I’m giving you final notice!
Mr Lousy-All-Night-Long-Screaming-and-Scratching-Outside-Our-Bedroom-Door-Tabby-Cat, his royal cattiness, is nothing but nonplussed, and all but laughing at me from the safety of his snowed perch. At least, I tell myself as I finally bury my frozen nose in the cup of hot coffee I’ve got my already stiff, mittened hands wrapped around, lo and behold!, it’s finally stopped snowing.
© Nina Light 2013 CC-BY-NC-ND
in Pippo’s photo: His Royal Cattiness and First Prince Heir, Mackerel, who has since moved in and become part of the Catdom family. As portrayed, busy helping us de-artex the blooming walls…