Her lap is warm. I stretch my right leg straight out and flex my claws, ever so slightly grazing her knee. “Not on my tights!” she says and pulls me back. Pity. Snagging is my favourite hobby. Hers is the best lap in the world – soft like feathers. And there’s such a sweet smell whenever she leans over to stroke me. My favourite smell in the world. Prrrrrr. I turn my head and blink up at her – just to show her I didn’t mean to catch a claw in her tights. She doesn’t need to know that I did. Well, I can’t help dreaming. Somewhere, a thousand years ago, I remember claws ripping – flessshhh. “Bex” she says in a warning tone as I give an involuntary dig. She gives me a “good girl” stroke and settles back with her knitting. Clickity, clickity, clickity click. I fold my paws, flick my tail round my flanks and doze. Life isn’t bad. Not bad at all. Maybe a little dull at times. I squint out of the window – white light, a seagull or two diving, swooping, gliding. In the cold weather there’s one who comes and taps his beak on the window. My tormentor. He knows. Ha! Ha! I can see you. In morse code. Tap tap. Tap tap. Ha Ha! You see I don’t go out any more. Not since the big adventure. I like to go over it when I’m dozing on her lap. It’s my special lap-story. Just in case you didn’t know, cats don’t just have 9 lives, they also live in 9 other dimensions - one of them being the lap dimension. All cats on all laps in the Southern Counties can tune in to BlarneyTime, the StoryTelling Channel. There are 2 different channels to choose from - telling or listening. Telling is best. Sometimes I have a thousand cats listening to me. Although I say it myself, I have a kind of cat cult status. A following, if you know what I mean. Purrrrrr. Would you like to hear my story?.
Once upon a time I used to be an outside cat. I was always rather timid – a vain, frightened, pampered little tortoiseshell. Mrs S fed me well, and thankfully there were no children. I’d venture out into the garden under the chalky cliff. There I’d pretend to look at a bird or two, but mostly I didn’t really know what to do with my time. I was never hungry, so I couldn’t even summon up the energy to do the job I was born to do. Hunt to the kill. There weren’t many outside cats around in my area at that time - that is until the day Black Buster sauntered into the garden and turned my world upside down.
Black Buster was a free spirit. Lived wild – buttered up a couple of pensioners to fill in when birds weren’t available. He mesmerised me with tales of dering-do. “You ough’er get out more” young Bex he said. “Wanna come on an advennchur wiv me tomorrer?” I was in awe of BB. He represented another world. He spoke differently for a start. Mrs S had a lovely voice. She’d sing and coo at me – sometimes reaching frequencies only known to cats, and of course it influenced the way I speak. Posh Bex, BB called me. BB was rough, butch, but oh so attractive. “Yes please” I said. How could I not? “Alrigh then. We’re off early, splorin the sewers”.
Mrs S always lets me out early, for my morning wotsit, so there I was, all excited and a bit frightened, anxiously padding the garden, when BB jumped down with a thump from the fence giving me a fright. “Ok den,” he said. “Tail up and orf we go.”
I followed him round the corner and into the street. Cars were whizzing past and I felt quite dizzy. “Don mind em” he said. “We’ll be down there soon enough.” And he pointed to the pavement. I couldn’t see how we’d be “down there,” but I blindly followed. He must know what he’s doing I thought. BB knows everything. Shortly we arrived at a little black hole in the side of the road - big enough for a couple of cats to squeeze down. “Ere we are,” BB said. “You first.” “Me?” I wailed. I wanted to go home. It would be morning coffee soon which meant lap-time. “Go orn” he said and shoved me roughly through the hole. I fell down, Plop, into something sticky and slimy and oh so smelly. “Mmm, luvley” BB screeched as he plopped down beside me. “This is where i’s all at!” I couldn’t see where I was for a while til my radar vision kicked in. Black brick walls, oozing slime, slick water, cigarettes, paper, stuff everywhere. It was quite disgusting. “Come wiv me” BB said. “But I wanna go home” I cried. “Scaredy cat!” he taunted. I had no option but to follow, hoping upon hope he’d lead me out at some point. I felt something brush past me. (gasp) My back arched. “What was that?” “Oh thems the rats,” BB said. “We ignore em. Could turn nasty.” And then I knew I had been very wrong to leave my lovely safe home. If ever I found my way back there again I would never leave it ever, ever, ever again. But how would I get back? “Come orn,” BB screeched, and on I went, looking all the time for a chance to escape.
We continued walking or rather slithering in the slime, either side of us there was dripping and shapes of rats who sniffed at us but, thankfully, left us alone. And then all of a sudden a shape leapt out in front of me and landed on BB. “Jeezzzzzz!” was all I heard from him, a low moan, a thud and then nothing. “BB?” I called out. But all I heard was a sliding sound and a kind of scittering. I pressed myself low down into all the stinky mess and waited for silence. What could I do? BB was – I hardly dared utter the word – “gone” I whispered to myself. I was all alone with a thousand rats, down in the middle of the earth. What was I to do?
After a while I crept along cautiously, sniffing the air for trouble. When I was tired I lay where I was and rested, my eye slits open and ready for…who knew what? I don’t know how long I was down there, but it seemed to be a very long time. I ate whatever I could find – old applecores, flakes of rotting fish, once a chicken bone with nothing on it. Just scraps. I struggled on, terrified of the rats. Remembering BB’s advice I ignored them and they seemed not to notice me. When I could move no further, I lay lankly and thought of Mrs S, and how worried she’d be. Please, I said to the great Cat in the 7th dimension, please help me. And I miauowed myself to sleep with one of her little songs. (a snatch of Barcarole) and dreamt of her. She was so kind. She’d always talk to me, tell me what she was doing, and where she was going. “Won’t be long, Bex” she’d say. “I’m just off to the post office, or to the shops, or to do a bit of singing.” I always knew when it was the singing, cos she’d make these sounds that the made the air come alive, crackle, like it was on fire, and the fur on my spine would lift with pleasure. Before she went she’d bend and stroke me, bathing me in her lovely scent.“Won’t be long, Bex.” She’d say.
When I woke up there was a slither of light coming from above. I scrabbled up and looked up towards the light. It must be day I thought. If I could only…I flexed my claws and summoned all my strength and – I don’t know how – managed to crawl my way up that wall like a sheer rock climber, the bustling of rats below spurring me upwards.
When I reached the grid, I doubted I could get through the narrow opening, but I hadn’t counted on my weight loss. I squeezed through, and landed, blinking in the light. Ah! Bliss. The sound of cars and seagulls and people shouting, the smell of salt in the air, and, and, I sniffed weakly – surely a whiff of Mrs S?. I was by some steps so I made a super cat effort to crawl over to them and sniffed again. Yes! it was definitely her. I had no idea where I was, how far home was so I just lay there waiting and watching, hoping upon hope that she’d come.
I must have dozed off, but something made me wake up with a start. It was night and there were lights in the sky. For a moment I thought I was back in the tunnel. Then I focussed and saw it was the street lamps and there were voices. My ears twitched and turned straining to hear. Mrs S! Oh joy. I hauled myself up and wobbled towards her. Miaow! Miaow! I went. MIAOW! “Bex! What on earth….?” And there she was, bending down, the scent of her tickling my nostrils! “How did you know…?” And she swept me up in her arms and almost hugged what remained of my life out of me. 8 days, I heard her say. 9 days and all my cat lives would have been used up. “It’s a miracle!” She said. Miaow, I agreed.
I stay in now. Sometimes I listen to her telling her side of the story on the telephone.“And there I was just about to go into the Shoreditch - do my bit of singing. Miaowing, she was. Quite pathetic.. Yes! From Bo-Peep to the pier. Can you imagine? Oh a mile at least. What I want to know is how did she find me?”
Ah, I purr to myself, tucking my paws under my breast, it was your smell, Mrs S. Your wonderful smell.