8 Jul

Jenny was searching and cooing for her cat, a ginger monstrosity that spent most of its life evading her attention, and she felt suddenly awkward when Josh Penrose (she glimpsed his head through a gap in the curtain) knocked her door because he was the one person on the planet that she couldn’t stand.

Look at it this way.

He was too short to be a lover and too tall to be a midget. He was too fat to be healthy and too thin to be cuddly. His hair was too sparse to be wispy and too plentiful to be bald. He was a set of contradictions. He was both ugly and, she allowed, handsome, and both at the same time.

And here he was, that walking set of opposites in one flesh, knocking her door.

And she still had no idea where the cat might be. It wasn’t that she loved the animal, just that she felt responsible for it and was sure it must be hungry by now.

She’d been out with Josh Penrose once, reluctantly. And only once because, at the end of the evening when he’d suggested a cosy chat over coffee in the room he called his “lounge” (which was too utilitarian to be anything of the sort) she’d mumbled something about work the next day and needing her beauty sleep, told herself never again and skedaddled home. She’d had to. Because, besides being a mass of walking contradictions Josh Penrose was boring.

And the gleam in his eyes suggested he might possibly have something more intimate in mind than a cosy chat over coffee. At least that was how she’d seen it.

Now where was that blasted, useless cat? If she cooed for it he’s be sure to hear at the door and know for sure that she was in, and then her refusal to open the door would seem most rude.

And he was knocking her door – a second time because she’d taken so long wondering whether to open it or not. Just because someone knocks your door, she reasoned, is no reason for you to open it. You might want to be on your own. You might be expecting a phone call (she was always getting those so it was a real possibility) or you might be about to take a shower, which is essentially a private activity and never requires an audience, not even an audience of one. You might even be planning to wash you hair, and if you were the last thing that would appeal to you would be the presence of a man you didn’t particularly like talking inane nonsense the way that Josh did, just to fill the room with sound. Not after that one date, anyway. Maybe if she fancied him it would be all right. But she didn’t.

She knew that she never would.

And where was that bloody cat?

Cat… she hissed, keeping the sibilant tones of her voice almost silently quiet in order to make the house sound empty

But Josh Penrose was, if nothing else, persistent, and he knocked a third time, more deliberately, louder, urgently, as if he had something on his mind.

Yes, there was something urgent about that knock. Something ear-catching. Something she ought to take notice of, but didn’t want to.

What if all he wanted was her flesh? She shivered. Or shuddered. Or both.

I’ll ignore him, and he’ll go away she mused. And I must find the cat before the poor creature starves to death. It’s been hiding for ever so long…

Jenny was a caring young woman and even though the cat was a burden that she didn’t want – and never had, but it had belonged to her widowed mother until that fine woman had passed away in a misadventure whilst returning home from the shops with two heavy bags of shopping, a misadventure that culminated with her having the life squashed out of her under a double-decker bus on the corner of Bright Street and Hope Avenue.

So she had inherited the cat along with funeral costs.

You can stay with me, cat, and that’s what I’ll call you. Not Tibby like mum did, but just cat, because, tell the truth, you’re not the kind of creature I’d share my flat with if I had a choice,” she had told it in no uncertain terms, znd she knew it had understood.

It was good of her, really, because she hadn’t had much time for either mother or cat.

And Josh Penrose rang the bell this time.

It was a loud bell, it echoed throughout the flat and she knew that Josh, standing on the doorstep, would be able to hear it quite plainly. And she also guessed that not only would he ring it again and again, probably until she opened the door, but that he would come back again and again until she did open it.

Would could he possibly want? That was the question uppermost on her mind. What might the Josh Penroses of this world ever want? She guessed it must have something to do with lust. Men were always lustful, and she’d been the recipient of her fair share of their disgusting attentions, and although she was quite sure that she’d meet the man of her dreams one day it would have to be one who wasn’t at all particular about the cut of his trousers.

I mean, she thought, scowling, how can any decent woman ever be interested in what they keep in their usually quite smelly trousers?

She couldn’t, she knew that much. Not that she’d ever let a lustful youth get anywhere near letting her find out. If it was to be a secret then it must stay that way in much the same way as her own beautifully fragrant underwear must remain untouched and undisturbed and known only to herself.

The bell rang again. Persistently.

I can see you through the letter box!” said Josh Penrose in a loud voice, and she suddenly realised that he could, what with her standing where she was standing and the letter-box being held open where it was. Silly her! Silly me, she thought. Why didn’t I think of that?

So she went to open the door. At last.

Josh Penrose was standing there, his face a glut of misery, his almost bald head perspiring and his clothes covered in blood.

But not his blood. Oh no. This was feline blood.

I’m sorry,” he mumbled, presenting a ginger bleeding corpse towards her, “it shouldn’t have been there, on the road, and I couldn’t help running it over… it is yours, isn’t it?”

What a relief!

That’s all he wanted! To give her a dead cat! Her dead cat! What a wonderful, wonderful relief.

Come in,” she said, “you look as if you could do with a shower, and afterwards, if you’re a good fellow, I’ll wash your blood-stained clothes for you. I’ve got a spare towel. But first, let’s bury the cat, shall we?”

Josh couldn’t believe his ears.

What did she want of him? Her shower? And her towel? Wasn’t it enough that he’d stood for ages waiting for her to open the door? Now she wanted to put him in a shower, watch him as he washed the blood of her dead cat off him, and all the time doubtlessly run the tip of he tongue over her lips while all sorts of terrible thoughts were going through her head.

I can’t,” he blurted out. “I’m very sorry but I’m expected at Tony’s. You know Tony, the nice boy on the corner? He’s my friend, my special friend, and I can’t be late…”

© Peter Rogerson 07.07.17


One Response to “THE GINGER CAT”

  1. kellygriffiths July 8, 2017 at 12:25 pm #

    This was surprising in so many ways. Well done.

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