Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Pieces not accepted by Sunday Miscellany #2

Betty Likes Ham
Another piece not taken by Sunday Miscellany

I am not a dog person and my husband is not a cat person. He wheezes like a broken bellows when we stay with my parents. They own or are owned by two elderly black and white cats. At home, we have managed a happy compromise. Betty is a beautiful tortoiseshell cat. She belongs to our neighbours but she pops in to check on us once or twice a day, more on the weekends. I say check on us but really she is checking on the state of our fridge.

She sits outside the kitchen window, looks pathetic and half-starved and does one of those silent meows. I know it’s silent because her actual meows could easily penetrate double if not triple glazing. Someone leaps up to let her in and she saunters by as if she had all the time in the world, which she probably has. Really. No job to go to, no school, no bills to pay. Who wouldn’t be a cat? She sniffs around for evidence of interlopers, rubs a few legs, table and human then stops at the fridge. She gives us her Puss in Boots gaze and says, quite distinctly “Ham?” Someone relents and give her a few scraps of cold meat. She hoovers it up and lets us stroke her, purring loudly. The children practise picking her up which she tolerates, she kills the ping pong ball in the corner for a few minutes and then asks politely to be let out. It’s a perfect setup. No hairs left to make my husband wheeze, no vets bills, no cat food to buy, injections to worry about, just a cuddle and a purr and off she goes.

Or so we thought.

Last summer, our neighbours went on holiday for two weeks. Someone was coming in to feed Betty every day but that wasn’t enough for her. She needed more than that. She was round our house every hour of the day. If you left a window open for more than five seconds, there would be a brown furry flash and she’d be in the kitchen saying “Ham?” If I opened a door, she would scurry in. Once we went out and left her locked inside. She had a little sleep and then, when she was ready to leave, set off the burglar alarm. The neighbour who came to check nearly jumped out of her skin when Betty made her getaway.

One afternoon when I was in the garden I heard her calling. Loudly. I looked around. She wasn’t under the strawberry nets, lurking near the bird table or any of her other favourite places. The mewing continued. Perhaps she was stuck somewhere or injured. Eventually I spotted her. She was upstairs standing in the spare room window shouting at me to get a move on and open the fridge. I chucked her out.
But worst were the nights. One particular night at around 3 a.m. we awoke with a start to find her shouting beside our bed. I lugged her downstairs and chucked her unceremoniously out of the back door which someone had left wide open all night.
The next night she was back. First she tried mewing outside my son’s bedroom window but he can sleep through anything. Then she jumped up to the porch roof and on to my daughter’s sill. She sat outside and shouted “Ham?” until my daughter had to retreat to sleep in the spare room.

Then somehow she jumped onto our bedroom windowsill. She jumped in through our top window, pushed the blind out of the way and scattered everything off the windowsill. She landed on the carpet, very pleased with herself and had a quick wash. I had to admire her persistence and versatility but I chucked her out the backdoor anyway and shut the window. For the rest of the fortnight, we slept with the windows shut and my daughter stayed in the spare room. We never told the neighbours.
Betty avoided us for a week but soon came back. We forgave her and went back to our routine. Betty is our daily feline fix. And there will always be a little piece of ham in our fridge for her.


Terence McDanger said...

I really enjoyed that.

Ken Armstrong said...

This is my favorite, I think.

Did she really actually make a noise that sounded like the word 'ham'? (Reminds me of a dog of That's Life years ago who could say 'Sausages'.

Of course it's not necessary to the story that she could say 'ham', but if she did, I would have made just a little more of it.

Great though. Cats annoy me for all the little antics you seem to enjoy :)

Emerging Writer said...

She did of course say Ham. try it yourself in a kind of meow. Sausages would be beyond even a cat!