Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Cats

Michael leans on his stick so hard he seems to want to push it through the floor of the ambulance. He thumbs his enormous glasses back up his nose, and asks me in a shout:

'How old do you think I am?'

I guess he must be at least eighty, so to be safe I say 'Seventy something?'

'I'm eighty nine. Eighty nine! Imagine how old that is!'

'You look very well on it.'

'Do I? I'm not. My wife died fifteen months ago. We were married seventy years. They burned her all up, and then we put her in the garden, under the trees. When she died I couldn't eat. First this leg went, then this arm, then this leg. I was mad with it all.'

I remember coming to pick him up a few months ago. A young man with a silver stud in his eyebrow had wandered out to me as I pulled up in the drive. Grandad was in the hospital, the psychiatric wing.

'We run a cattery. Or she ran it, I should say. I don't do much now. I'm no good. We bought the place years ago. Fourteen acres. I used to drive the van and whatnot. I'd carry the cats out to the van, and then I'd carry them back in again. We did all the cat shows. Manchester. We had about thirty cats, all the best sorts. Then later on it was rescue cats. My wife knew everything there was to know about cats. Me, I didn't pay them much mind. I'd help her out, and then I'd go down the pub. I've got a son - well, I say he's a son, but he's sixty himself. He's a barrister, and it's his son who looks after the cats now. The other daughter, she's a barrister, but she lives in Hong Kong. I just want to die now and give it all over to whoever, I don't care.'

At the house I help Michael out of the ambulance and up the steeply sloping drive to the back door. An old dog limps out to say hello, and a plump ginger cat looks up from a cardboard box. Michael almost falls sideways into a hedge when he bends down to stroke the dog; I only let go of his arm when he is safely up against a kitchen table. The dog sniffs my trousers, then follows him inside.

'They must be down in the sheds,' he says. 'Don't hang around.'

'Goodbye Michael, take care of yourself.'

As I turn to go he shouts after me: 'Do you want a cat?'

2 comments:

LifeLemurs said...

I've been following your blog for just a month or so, and decided to take a look at the beginning. This is my first comment. I love this story, but it makes me sad.

You do a good thing, sir. And you are incredibly gifted with words.

Thank you.

Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks v much, LL. I appreciate the trouble you've taken to read back through some of the older posts. I must admit it's been a while since I've been this far back in the blog. Thanks again for the lovely comment! :)