The sound breaks into my conversation with Ian Martin, who I went to school with nearly 60 years ago and have not seen or thought of since.
This time the sound is louder, and Ian Martin just seems to disappear.
It’s dark. Shit. I’m in bed and the bloody cat has got in the bedroom. I’ve already forgotten what Ian Martin was telling me in the dream.
‘Miaow’. It jumps up on the bed.
‘OK, OK,’ I whisper to it. I try and sneak out from under the covers knowing that with her bat-like hearing, my wife Margaret will have been woken too despite appearances to the contrary, and it was me who must have forgotten to shut kitchen door when I came up last night.
The bloody cat leaves the room now it thinks it’s got my attention. My alarm clock shows 3:15am. The temptation of staying in my soft, warm bed is enormous, but I know that if I don’t feed the bloody cat, it will be back. Bloody cat.
It runs down the stairs smoothly I stagger behind as quietly as I can, given that my rigid legs still think they’re asleep. I mutter under my breath. Bloody cat, bloody cat.
I rumble about in the dark kitchen cupboard for where I expect the pouches of food to be and knock a couple of packets of something onto the floor. ‘Bloody cat’, I call and reluctantly feel across for the light switch.
The light stings my eyes as I knew it would. The bloody cat doesn’t seem the least bothered but in desperation for food, miaows and rubs in an out against my legs.
‘Alright, alright,’ I say, trying to kick him off. In ripping open the sachet a globule of the disgusting cat food inevitably lands on my thumb as I discharge the gloopy contents intending more of it to land in the bowl than ends up on the floor.
‘Miaow.’ The bloody cat sneers at its bowl and stares up at me.
‘What is it? I’ve fed you – at 3 in the morning, you spoilt prick. I’m going back to bed.’
At this, the bloody cat makes a noise that sounds a bit like ‘notthiscwapagain’.
‘What did you say?’ Even in my tiredness I have to snigger.
I said not this cwap again,’ snarls the cat. ‘You deaf as well as cwuel?’ I’m taken aback and don’t know quite what to say. It carries on, ‘Kattomeat with jelly. Again. I’ve seen more meat in a budgies seed bowl and what’s more, that jelly stuff is foul.
I can’t believe what I’m hearing. ‘It’s cat food. You should be more grateful.’
‘Gwateful? For that…cwud.’
‘Listen here,’ I say reading from the side of the pouch, ‘Kattomeat tastes great and contains all of the nutrients, vitamins and goodness your cat needs for a full and happy life. There.’
‘Happy? You twy eating cold jelly mawni noon and night’
‘Excuse me – middle-of-the-night,’ I point out.
‘Whatever. My point wemains. You wouldn’t touch it. I’ve seen your jaw shudder when your teeths come into contact with the weeniest slither of jelly in a pawked pie.’
‘It’s pork pie, you fool,’ but I cannot help but wince at the memory of picnics marred by the unpalatable union of aspic and enamel.
‘See, you know I’m wight,’ it says with a Cheshire grin.
‘But you’re a cat. You’re meant to like jelly. You turned your nose up at the gravy stuff, remember.’
‘Don’t talk to me about gwavy. You twy eating cold low-quality meat flecks with cold gwavy evwy meal, evwy single day. Jesus Cwipes, I got so sick of the stuff.’
Inside, I have to concede that it has a point, but there was no way I can show weakness to a bloody cat. ‘It’s your choice, mate. Jelly or gravy: they’re the options’. I play my trump card, ‘…or you can always have dry food?’
‘Dwy? and have my evwy bodily dwoplet of moisture sapped by that evil life-sapping shingle? You must weally hate me. Where’s Marbwet?
‘She’s called Margaret, and she’s upstairs asleep, no thanks to you. Your ingratitude appals me – You waited until we’d bought three jumbo boxes of that gravy shit, then decide you don’t like it anymore so we ended up having to give it to next door.’
‘Not to Fwisky?’
‘Yes, that’s right – Frisky.’ I drive the point home. ‘You can see how healthy his coat is can’t you. That’s the gravy you know. Your gravy. The gravy I paid a small fortune for yet you refused to eat.’
The bloody cat yawns. I think I have the better of him. He lifts a front paw and exams it. ‘Would that be same Fwisky that scwatches your pwecious lawn with his paw then shits in the hole? Great job, Pilchard.’
‘You can’t even get my name right. It’s Richard, for god’s sake. How many years you lived here – ten is it? And if it is that Frisky digging up my lawn, you can tell that little bleeder if I ever catch him doing it, I’ll have his guts… for my tennis racket.’
‘Get over it, Wichad. And while we’re at it,’ it continues, ‘I’m vewy cwoss about the way you and Margwet just go out for the day, overnight even without even bothwing to tell me, or leaving the heating or TV on.’
‘But you never watch TV.’
‘Can you blame me? The wubbish you two watch. I’m sick to death of cookwy pwogwammes and if I see one more antique challenge or moving house show then this claw,’ it pings up a claw, ‘meets Mr Plasma scween.’
‘You wouldn’t dare.’
‘Oh, wouldn’t I? You don’t know what I’m cwapable of. How do you think the wemote control got in the greenhouse that time?’
‘That was you? Margaret blamed me. Thought I was getting dementia and wanted me to go for tests’.
‘I neither admit or deny. I’m just saying you should cease this coming-and-going as if you own the place, and either be more considewate leaving lights on so I don’t have to sit all evening in the dark, or else take me with you.’
‘Take you? Where do you think we go, exactly? An overnight stop at the rodent sanctuary maybe, or the balls of wool shop?’
‘Now you are just being facetious, Wichad. It’s a valid wequest. Anyway, you went to Birdworld; don’t pwetend that you didn’t. You took your gwampchildwin but didn’t even ask me.’
‘Ok, then, Mr poor abandoned cat. Next time we go to Birdworld we’ll stay at Margaret’s niece Sue again, and you’re coming with us. I’m sure her greyhounds would be only too pleased to meet you.’ I must admit I was getting rather annoyed with the bloody cat and was about to describe in great detail how they could all play together in her back garden when Margaret comes in behind me. ‘What’s going on, Richard? Why are you down here shouting in the middle of the night?’
‘It’s OK, Dear, I’ve got it covered. We’re sorted now, aren’t we, Mr Tickles.’ The bloody cat looks up at me as if I had spoken some foreign language. ‘I said we’re sorted, isn’t that right,’ but it still sits there, staring at its bowl as if I’ve put weapons-grade plutonium in it, not chicken liver and duck squidge.
‘What are you doing, shouting at Mr Tickles? Poor, poor Mr Tickles. You know he has sliced ham for his night-night treat, don’t you puss’. She reaches past me into the fridge and opens a pack of Taste the Difference ham. ‘Here you go my little darling’
‘Taste the Difference? That bloody cat eats better than I do.’ The cat scoffs this premium meat down as well it might.
‘Richard, don’t be so churlish.’
While her back is turned putting the rest of the ham back in the fridge, the bloody cat looks up at me and with a mouth full of top quality ham wrinkles it’s nose and says, ‘yes Wichard, don’t be so cherfish.’
He’s done it this time. ‘You little bastard, I’ll…’ It bolts for the cat flap.
‘Richard,’ Margaret shouts. What for heaven’s sake is wrong with you these days?’
‘Me? Didn’t you hear what the bloody cat said?’ I run to the back door and drop to my knees as fast as my arthritis allows, but he’s gone. I prop the cat flap open and yell, ‘come back you little shit and tell Margaret, or should that be ‘Margwet’ what you said’.
Margaret sits down with a sigh. ‘I’m not sure how much longer I can take all this.’
‘Me neither.’ I say with excitement. ‘The great news is that the bloody cat has admitted it was him who took the remote out to the greenhouse, as a penance for us telling him we were going away to the grandchildren – see, it wasn’t me after all. And you won’t believe what he’s threatened to do to the TV, bloody cat’. I lick off whatever it is I’ve got on my thumb. It tastes revolting.ts, vitamins, and minerals your cat needs to make the most of the day.
Margaret looks at me. ‘Oh, Richard.’