a rather small conversation

June 14, 2016 § 2 Comments

A story which I thought was incomplete as the rest of it is lost on my laptop and I can’t find it. But maybe it’s fine as it is. With thanks to Tove Jansson for being there…



‘How would you know when you’d gone to heaven?’ asked Alice.

‘I’d just know,’ Gran replied.


‘I’d feel different.’

‘What kind of different?’

‘I’d feel calmer because people wouldn’t be bothering me with difficult questions all the time.’

‘What would it look like when you got there?’

Gran puffed up her cheeks and breathed out like she was a balloon and someone was letting all her air out. ‘I can’t be certain because I haven’t been there yet, and I haven’t talked to anyone who has either. I think it might look like that meadow over there.’

They went to have a proper look. The day was baking, the road was cracked and spattered with dried up cowpats, and all the wild flowers in the ditch were shrivelling up. They pushed open the gate and sat down in the long brown grass bending over from the weight of its seed heads. There were ripe buttercups to pick, and low spiky bushes of young blueberries hiding in the grass.

An earwig jumped off a seed head and crawled onto the old lady’s shoe. She picked a blade of grass and flicked it off.

‘Earwigs bite you know,’ said Alice.

‘Don’t think they do’, Gran replied. I’ve been in this world eighty eight years and I’ve not been bitten once.’

‘Well, I’ve been here eighty years less, and I have. Maybe you’ve never met a cross earwig.’

It crawled away and Alice wondered if it might come back and bite her. ‘Are there earwigs in heaven?’ she asked.

‘No,’ said the old lady firmly lying down on the grass and putting her sunhat over her face.


The Cat Who Knew

October 22, 2013 § 12 Comments


           The mangy black tom sat politely outside the kitchen door. Give me some breakfast, then I’ll be off. He lowered his head in salutation and flicked an ear by way of completing his request. He ate hungrily yet neatly, carefully wiping his face with his paws when he’d done. Half his tail gone, battles had pocked his nose and bitten his ears into tatters. His history written all over his skin.  A flea jumped and he twitched, raised his half-sail tail and lolloped into the hedge.

            Soon he came again, but this time with a paw in the air like a performing dog. Any chance of some nosh please, and can you do something about this leg?

            ‘It means the vet,’ I said, and waited for him to flee. ‘And going in a cat basket.’

            If I must, he said with his eyes, then flicked his tail sideways and hopped in.

            ‘We’ll keep him in overnight,’ said the vet. ‘He might lose the leg.’

But he didn’t.

‘You need to change the dressing every day. Shall we neuter him while we’re at it?’

            ‘No thanks. Just see to the leg.’

            When I went to collect him he looked pleased to see me. He did a three-legged hop into the cat basket without being asked. ‘I think you’ll be staying with us for a while,’ I said.

            Fine by me. He brushed my legs with what was left of his tail. Any chance of a bite?

            I discovered I’d made a mistake. Litters of black kittens appeared in the village and signs went up in windows:

Kittens Free To Good Homes

Apply Within

He grew muscles and shiny new fur, saw off rats and picked a fight with the Jack Russell who chased the hens. He raced along the landing, leapt into the air for joy and landed with a thump and a rattle on the coffin boards. ‘Don’t worry Mum. It’s only the stray. He’s seeing off ghosts. Do you think we’ve got ourselves a new cat?’

            ‘Ask him.’

            ‘Don’t need to,’ she said. ‘He’s already decided. And his name is Stubbs.’

            ‘You have got a ghost!’ the babysitter screamed down the phone. ‘It’s jumping on the floorboards trying to scare me off.’

            ‘It’s the new cat,’ I said calmly.

            ‘Don’t like it,’ she wailed. ‘Not coming again.’

            Fine by me,’ I said. ‘We’ll save on the booze you’ve been guzzling from the drinks cupboard.’

            ‘Thanks Stubbs,’ said my daughter. ‘She used to get drunk, fall over, then wake me up with her snoring.’

            ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’

            ‘Thought that’s what grown ups did.’

‘Well rid,’ I said.

He took to basking under rose bushes while the hens scratched about in billows of dust, and at the close of day he would politely round them up into the chicken coop.

‘They always do as he asks,’ she the daughter. ‘He must know what’s best.’

His whiskers turned grey and he stopped hopping. ‘You’re not looking so good,’ I said. ‘Vet?’ He looked at me and closed his eyes. ‘Ok. I’ll put you in the cat basket then.’

‘He’s winding down,’ said the vet. ‘He’s pretty old, you know.’

I brought him home with food like porridge and syringes full of steroids. He ignored the mush and put up with the daily jabs. But he got thinner and thinner, and wheezed like a steam train. He spent every day curled up like a ruin on the beanbag.

‘What shall we do with you?’

It’s nearly time, said his half closed eyes.

‘But I don’t want it to be.’

Well it is.‘ He turned his lips into a smile.

‘Here, or the vets?’

Here. In my own time. He waved his tail like the old days. But I do have one last request. Give me some proper food, then I’ll be off.


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