Short story — Cat
Cat, it was a common name. Not for a cat. That’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Cat, short for Catherine, or just a name women and girls want to be known by. There was a girl called Cat, she was bored, not old enough to get into the pubs by herself, even though she was old enough to get into the pubs. It’s just that women aren’t expected to do that kind of thing, unless they are waiting for a train…
She used to go to Central station and sit in an overpriced bar, just for the sake of it. And why not. Some days you feel like there’s fuck all happening, and all the people you know get on your nerves. And then you look up at the television screen in the bar broadcasting revolving news, on a good day. And something even shittier on a bad day. Cat didn’t like the sound down, even though she hated the sounds coming from the television. She liked the newsreader who quite audibly and genuinely let out a long sigh at the start of his shift on ASTRAL NEWS 24. The News Service that you can trust. It was a shame the rolling news didn’t have the presenters in their denims, rolling down a hill…the endorphin or serotonin or whatever rush would be good for the presenters and good for the audience.
So, she is in Central station. As it happens, and sitting on her own in the bar. She needed a drink, the cheapest drink there. House lager. She wasn’t popular. She had a tab of cheek longer than she could remember.
“Does this Bailey’s use long life milk?”
“No,” said the once cheery barman, who went off her long ago.
“How should I know?”
“Is it cause they ran out of immortal cows?”
The barman smiled the same smile he always smiled. A pretend one.
She went up to the bar. A little unsteady. And dreading having to go home to her pretend parents. They always seemed to be in bed lately when she got home, and the last time she saw her mother, who used to stay up to make sure she got in, she just saw a silhouette, while she was walking up the path looking for her keys.
“Hello, bar lady!” It was a bar lady this time. They should wear name badges like they do in some places. When Cat worked in a bar she spent the first few shifts thinking that the punters knew her from somewhere she couldn’t remember. Please not the back alley that few times, please not from school, where she spent the time looking out the window and also, she was either too lazy or too kind to use people’s visual peculiarities as a mnemonic back then.
“Hello,” said the non jolly bar lady. Who was sick of this shit too. Just like one of her many colleagues, who seemed to either be there a lot, or once, then never.
“A pint of house lager,” declared Cat. It wasn’t called that. She’d heard it called that in some other place on the receipt, so it was a good way of saying, “Serve me the cheapest thing you sell, apart from the Scampi Flavoured Fries!”
“That’ll be four pounds fifty.”
Cat handed over a twenty pound note
“Do you have anything smaller?” Said the woman, student.
“I could fold it in half?”
No reply. Just a look. And not the look of love.
The news had a flash, not that the weather girl was sitting with no skirt on, or who knows? But there was a newsflash, or Breaking News or some such. It was something about abortion. Depressing, thought Cat. She had a difficult enough time trying to cajole a gentleman into her pants. She wasn’t mentally able to happily compute what happens before the ejaculation, let alone after.
“I just want to squeeze in a quick question,” said the presenter, briefly. Or in his briefs. He certainly wasn’t going Commando. Or maybe he was. These middle class people and their student high jinx never develops out of the old boys network.
Cat went back to her seat in the corner, at the back, near the television, thinking about tadpoles. “They’ll be having young men take their wet dreams to a lab next. I’m all into female domination, but not femidomination!”
She wasn’t particularly pleased with any of these reveries, but noted them down anyway on her phone. Sometimes she purposely forgot her phone so she could spend time writing, pretending she was a film critic, or a tabloid diarist. She never wrote down, “People give a fuck about children of others, until they are born.” That would be a mood killer. Not a baby killer. What are words anyway?
Just then, the summarizer, or analyser, let out a massive fart. No, that was Cat. Well it wasn’t massive, more silent but violent, like a Ninja. Which is strange, cause just then, when she was sniggering at this notion, a man walked in, from somewhere in the far east. Well not exactly, that would be impossible. He must have flown in, on an aeroplane. Or maybe he lived here longer than Cat, and had a kimono that was older than this fucking upstart. Sorry, I’m meant to be a neutral omniscient narrator. Which I am, but maybe I’m starting to fancy this Cat character, and the ones we can’t have we hurt the most? Anyway, sorry, I’ve had a couple of drinks, back to the story…
Cat said, “Fuck off, this is my story.” And that seemed to resolve things.
“Fuck off, this is my story,” I said. “I’ll say it twice. Mr F*cking Old Spice, emphasis on the old.”
Cat had hair, teeth, and was over 70% water. Like most ladies.
“Back off fuckwit.”
On the bus home, calm and order was restored. Cat looked at the misty windows, the lights, it was all wonderful. Except that she couldn’t see out of the windows and she hated poetry. What use is poetry when you are single, go home to pretend parents and nothing much of interest ever happens, unless you are in the position to make something out of nothing
She couldn’t face seeing her mum’s silhouette, so went through into the back garden.
“You think you’re funny, eh?”
Cat was startled. A voice was coming from near the two trees in the darkness at the bottom of the garden.
“Your dad? I thought he wasn’t real?”
“Who is this? Step into the halogen light.” Although Cat kind of regretted saying this.
“Ok, I’m staying here. No, I’m going in.” She fumbled around in her bag for the key, but all she kept moving around were tissues and tampons.
“Can’t find your key, eh?”
“That’s none of your business.”
“Can’t find your key, can’t tell if your parents are real…what a pickle.”
“How do you know so much about me?” Cat didn’t like being goaded, even by a disembodied voice.
“I’m a fairy, I know a lot. A lot about a lot of things, but mainly about you. That’s my curse. I have to care about you.”
Cat thought back to the bar at Central station…Had one of the dour bar staff slipped something into her drink? It was possible. The last thing she remembered saying when she was looking for her last fiver was, “Does this smell like chloroform to you?” It was a way of getting away from the embarrassment of a hankie sticking to her hand when she handed over the Queen’s sexy visage. The Queen looked on a fiver like she had found a fiver in the pocket of an old jacket, and could pretend to be Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday. Although she’d probably have to tether her horse to a Car Park Sign at her nearest Burger King, for all that a fiver could buy her these days.
“OK, come into the light a bit.”
“I told you, No.”
Cat thought the fairy or whatever might be a homeless person. But she was surprised that in this particular situation, the Sprite never invited her to walk into the darkness and go to him. That’s what would happen in one of the horror films she watched.
It was either boredom or a death wish that led Cat to walk to the end of the garden, where when she was a little girl, her father installed a tree swing. That was long gone, along with any sense of hope or of a future, so if she disappeared into fairy land, it was probably a chance worth taking.
Right, I’m at the bottom of the garden, it’s not as dark as I was expecting, or my eyes have got used to the darkness.
We all have to get used to the darkness.
What? Where are you anyway, I’m tired, I need my sleep. I must be dreaming.
I wish I was dreaming, instead of sitting here under this toadstool.
Under? I’m surprised you’re so small. How is your voice so big?
I have to shout a bit, I’ll give you that.
You don’t sound like you’re shouting.
You don’t sound like you find life worth the effort, so we’ve got something in common.
Wait a minute, isn’t a fairy at the bottom of the garden meant to be encouraging, like a Jiminy Cricket, or reassuring me in the madness, like a Cheshire Cat.
I have no idea what you are talking about. All I know is you are called Cat, and you don’t seem to own one.
What’s the point? I don’t need a cat.
You are blushing.
I wasn’t expecting an annoying sprite to touch any of my sensitivities.
Why else do you think I am here? …So, why don’t you have a cat?
I like seeing the ones that prowl around the garden, maybe I like them to be free. Sometimes lately when I’ve thought of someone, an old friend that I used to have, a cat appears and sniffs the flowers next to the diseased water feature.
Look at the state of it, covered in gunk.
How do you think I’ve been quenching my thirst these past 20 years.
Yes, I’m bored out of my fucking nut.
I’m not surprised. You’ve dedicated 20 years to waiting for this moment? That’s really…stupid.
Thanks a bundle.
Sorry, my default is cheek. I spent so much time turning the other cheek, only for life to slap me from the other side.
Ah, the other side, now we are talking. I should say I don’t sit here 24/7… just at night sometimes.
And you’ve come all this way to tell me to join you in fairy land?
Well what have you come here for? I’ve got my mobile phone torch, at least tell me which toadstool you are hiding behind.
No, I don’t want you to know what I look like.
20 years, and you aren’t even vain enough to show your face.
I look like an iguana.
So? I look like a woman who is destined to become a Lollipop lady who wears a rain hat with the make up she wore when she was my age now.
Shut up and listen. I waited here to tell you this very important piece of information.
F*ck’s sake, spit it out.
I want at least a minute’s silence from you before I say anything.
(A minute’s silence)
I came here to tell you this. Just keep doing what you are doing. I think you are doing grand…
And with that the fairy left the garden forever. And I’m not telling you how this story ends, cause it doesn’t. Cat goes on and on. And if you feel short changed, well, you didn’t pay anything for this experience!