Matt and the Flat Cat

By Gabrielle Blondell

“She’s dead, Matty. She is dead….and flat.” Daryl says this as if it might be the eighth wonder of the world.

“Are you sure?” I ask.  I’m hoping he has got it wrong and the cat’s just in shock.

“No I don’t think so. Come and take a look.”

“Nah,” I say. I’m squeamish. “What colour is it?” I ask. I see Daryl bend closer to the road.

“It’s hard to know really. It’s a kind of black with some white, when you look through all the blood and stuff.”

Darryl is teasing me now. He knows about my squeamishness. “Is it kinda big?” I ask him.

“Yeah, “he says.

“Does it have a white tip on its tail?”

“Yeah”, Darryl says. “Do you know this cat?”

“Yeah, I think it might be Crabbe’s cat,” I say, not wanting it to be.

“Whose?”

“You know, Crabbe, the old bloke next door, the one who rang the cops when we had that party, remember?

“Aw shit, not him.”

I watch Daryl over the bonnet of the car. I know what is coming.

“We could just drive away and leave it here. Crabbe would find it and be none the wiser.”

“We can’t do that.” I have no idea why we can’t do. Except I like to think of myself as someone who would own up to hitting an animal.

Daryl doesn’t share my sensibilities. “Why the hell not?”

“Just because….”

“Well,” says Daryl, “I don’t want to have anything to do with this.”

I can tell he is resolved. “Okay then. But you know I can’t pick it up myself. You’ll have to do it. Just find something in the boot to wrap it in. I think there’s that old blanket Janine vomited on.”

“Gee Matty, don’t you ever clean out your car?”

I wait until Darryl has done the deed and disappeared into our flat. I pick up the blanket, trying not to feel broken bones or guts or anything to do with cat. Crabbe’s doorbell is exactly the same as ours and I find this absurdly comforting. I hold my finger to the buzzer a second longer than I would normally, just to show this visit is a serious one. I don’t want him thinking I am tentative.

Through the thin walls I hear the creaking of old springs and footsteps down a hallway identical to mine. I hear a key turn in the lock and watch as the door cracks open. I see an eye and then a whole face and I can’t help, but hug the blanket closer to me. This is when I feel the bones grate together and the guts. I try so very hard to look at his face. I feel if I can focus on something other than the flat cat, it will be okay. But it isn’t.   Bile rises to my throat and I know the worst thing I can do is open my mouth.  Crabbe is standing there making ‘get on with it’ signals and I fear that he will close the door in my face. I form a respectful word in my mind, ‘Mister’. I have just wrapped my lips around the M and am drawing them back to produce an i when out it comes, all exorcist-like. It hits him fair in the face and a good portion of it spatters on the blanket to join Janine’s.

“Feckin’ uni students! You feckin’ think I have time for your shit!”

I want to tell him about his cat. I want to sit on his lounge and comfort him, maybe make him a cup of tea, but at this point I’m a geyser. The only thing I can do is shove my foot in between the door and the jam so he can’t shut it on me. He tries anyhow and I take the full weight of the door on the side of my foot. This sobers me. I wipe my hand across my mouth to clean it up a bit.

“Cat,” I say.

“Yer lousy good for nothing. Get your foot out of my door!”

“I’m sorry,” I say. “Your cat!” I hold out my arms with the blanket in them like it’s an offering.

“What?”

“Cat,’ I say.

He takes the blanket because I think he sees that while I might be a feckin’ uni student, I might also have some purpose.

“My cat, you say?”

I nod, while he lays the blanket down on his doorstep right next to my shoe. I can see his hands are shaking.

I am looking everywhere else, while he is unwrapping the cat. I am looking down the long hall at a smart leather lounge suite and congratulating Crabbe in my head on his taste in furniture. I notice the hall runner, which I overlooked before and am finding that to my liking as well. I’d imagined something different, I suppose. Hairballs in corners and an old man chair in green corduroy.

This when I hear him wheezing. I don’t mean to look down, but I do. His bent head blocks my view of the cat and for this I’m grateful.

“Is this a joke?” he says, but I swear he’s laughing like a fool.

“No,” I say.

“So you’re just stupid then?”

“No,” I say.

“It’s not my cat.”

“What?”

“It’s not my feckin’cat, you feckin’ idiot!” Crabbe slams the door in my face. I hear him laughing all the way down his long hall.

I stand looking at his door for a few more seconds, but then very slowly I look down.

It’s true. I am a feckin’ idiot.

© 2016  Gabrielle Blondell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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