I always knew that the rest of my story is gonna be a good one. I don’t know how I knew that, but I always did. Ungow! I am Fester the cat. Welcome to my book, everyone!
From when he first ambled into Paul Magrs’s yard—skinny, covered in flea bites, and missing all but one and a half teeth—Fester knew he’d found his family. Paul and his partner, Jeremy, thought it was the ragged black-and-white stray, tired from a rough life on the streets, who was in desperate need of support. But clever Fester knew better. He understood that it was his newfound owners who needed the help.
Over the course of seven years, the feisty feline turned the quaint Manchester house into a loving home. Through his fierce spirit, strong will, and calming energy, Fester taught Paul and Jeremy how to listen and breathe, how to appreciate the joys of simply sitting and singing (what Fester’s purrs sounded like to his silly humans), and how to find joy and contentment in life, even when dealing with hardship.
This is the true story of an extraordinary little cat whose gentle charm and trusting soul turned two young men into a family.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.70(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
Paul Magrs is the author of many books, written for all ages and in many different genres, including the Adventures of Brenda and Effie and numerous Doctor Who novels, radio plays, and short stories. However, this is his first foray into memoir. He taught novel writing in the MA program in Creative Writing at UEA, and then at Manchester Metropolitan. Paul lives in Manchester, England, with his partner, Jeremy, and is now a full-time writer.
Read an Excerpt
I read a cat book a couple of years ago. Paul asked me to review one or two on his blog for him. He was like, “Look, Fester, you spend all that time lying on my chest when I’m reading. When I’m on the bed settee in the Beach House at the bottom of our garden, I’m reading and you’re lying on me. I’ve got to hold the book up over your head because you’re lying there, as close as you can get, until our noses are touching just about, and your paws are right under your chin.”
“Yeah, so what?” I said.
And he goes, “Well, while you’re lying about, maybe you could read some of these cat books for me. Maybe review them on my blog? It would be good to get a proper cat’s point of view.”
Well, I am a proper cat. That’s very true. I’m a cat!
And I’ve been one for quite a long time, as it turns out. Last time I went to see Mr. Joe the hairdresser I had a peek at my notes and they were saying there that I was probably about eighteen. Eighteen! What’s that? About a hundred and fifty in human years? Probably. But I’m not one of them who goes on as if they’re old, if you know what I mean? I’m nimble and trim and I can still run about at a fair clip. So, you know, people never really know my age.
Anyhow, I know Mr. Joe’s not really the hairdresser. I know he’s a vet. In a little shop on the Stockport Road. These two I live with—this daft pair—they hark on that I’m going to the hairdresser’s when they have to take me for pills or to give blood or have a checkup, whatever. I don’t know how the hairdresser thing started. Oh, maybe because he shaves a patch of fur under my chin to take blood (right in my Special Spot, as it happens, just as if Mr. Joe knows it’s the most delicious spot to have tickled).
So, Paul was like, “Review some cat books why don’t you, Fester?” And then he suggested this one about a cat who got on buses. He waited in the queue outside his owner’s house every day, apparently. And then jumped aboard the bus and went all over the city and people got to know him. Sounded pretty daft to me. You’d never catch me doing that. And then at the end some awful taxi driver runs the poor devil over and that’s the end of that. Well, I blame the owner, really. She had a houseful of cats and didn’t look after her commuting cat enough. I mean, I hear that the buses and some people round here can be pretty rough. No way would Paul and Jeremy let me get on those unsupervised. And I wouldn’t want to.
I don’t think this book about the bus cat was set in Manchester, though. I reckon it was pretty far away from here. Some dump down south where I’ve never been.
And this is the important part—this old wife who wrote the book—she was all pretty mawkish and stuff because her cat was dead and everything. She was full of regrets like, “Oh, why did I let him get on public transport unsupervised every day!” etc.
But then, in her book, she has these bits where the bloomin’ cat writes his own chapters! He writes letters from some kind of heaven . . . !
I mean, what’s that about?
He was on about sitting on the rainbow bridge and sending these letters back to his beloved owner and all her friends and—oh yeah—the readers of her bloomin’ awful book.
Rainbow bridge, my bum.
I thought back then, when I was reading that book and reviewing it for Paul’s blog, it won’t be like that. No decent cat would think very much of a rainbow bridge. I certainly wouldn’t walk on such a thing. Garish and not very solid.
Down the middle of our garden we’ve got a plank. I dunno where it came from. Jeremy’s always got bits and pieces of DIY and gardening stuff lying about, which is great. Anyway, for as long as we can all remember, this plank has been Fester’s plank. Nowadays it’s laid across the lawn diagonally between the shaded walk from the terrace, beside the pond wall, and it goes all the way to the Beach House. It’s a long, slightly muddy, sun-faded piece of wood that is great for scratching your claws and stretching out your body on.
And what I do is, I sit right in the middle of it. When the sun is full upon it I lie there and soak up all the light and heat and sometimes I doze, but what I do mostly is sit there and from my spot on that plank I can see the whole garden. I can see Paul working or reading in the Beach House or I can look back at the terrace where Jeremy might be reading the paper at the patio table, or diddling about with shovels and plants. He likes to move plants around and wear old clothes that he gets really filthy. He digs up all sorts of interesting stuff.
Also from there I can see the back of the house and the open windows and doors. The kitchen door is open at the top of the back stairs and any moment I like I can trot back down the garden and have a snack at Fester’s feeding station. These two fellas make up gags about Fester’s running buffet, but we all know it’s important I have food there all the time, just whenever I want it. It’s Fester’s smorgasbord. But I’ve got a thyroid problem, right? That’s what all the hairdresser stuff is about.
I can see the pond and maybe those frogs gadding about. I’ve got easy access to Poo Corner, should the mood take me. And I look up into the branches of the magnolia and the larch. Watching for those squirrels and what they get up to. I’ve a complicated relationship with the squirrels running rampant all over the trees of where we live in Levenshulme, but on the whole I guess they’re all right. They’re just getting by, I suppose. These are tough days for everyone, I’ve heard people say. The squirrels have to get along and survive, same as everyone else. So I’ve given up trying to catch them.
So the point is—my plank. I’m a materialist, I’m a realist. I don’t believe in rainbow bridges and cats sitting up there in cat heaven writing letters home after they’re dead. I don’t believe they write to their owners and say, “Blessings from the celestial beyond from your moggy who still loves you, even if you did let him get run over by a bloomin’ cabdriver.”
I think, if it’s like anything, it’ll be like sitting here, on my plank, with the whole world spread out around me. From here I can see nearly all of my world, and I’m happy because the sun’s out a bit today—it’s the start of spring. It’ll be my eighth summer here in this house with these two. And from here I can watch them doing the things they like to do.
And if it ever comes to it and I have to die, if my life turns into anything at all, I’d be happy enough if it was just this. Me being in the garden forever, with this daft pair, like this.
Oh, with the sound of that seventies radio station drifting out from the kitchen. They’ve got that on all the bloomin’ time. I guess I’ve been brainwashed and now I love all those silly songs as much as they do. At some point I’ll tell you about Cat Discos at Lunchtime.
I’ll tell you the whole lot. I might as well, mightn’t I? Doing those scathing reviews of other people’s cat books on Paul’s blog has given me the taste for expressing myself. Writing’s pretty easy, I reckon, whatever that dafty says.
So I’ll tell you everything I can remember about our lives here together.
Although I’m not like the cats in those books, today I feel like there’s a mystery going on. I’ve got all the clues like a cat detective. I’m like in one of those American novels where the cat is the cleverest character of them all and he pieces it all together and reveals the solution at the very end.
But my head is banging today. I’ve had a headache for days and I can’t shift it. My eyesight’s not right, either. There’s quite a few things been going wrong this week. It’s not been one of my favourite weeks, I must say.
And the worst thing about that is that the sun’s been coming out. Weird weather, this year. Last weekend we even had snow. We so rarely get snow in south Manchester. I don’t know why. When it falls it feels like a novelty. By the time it rolls around each year I’ve forgotten what it is. And I’m like—hey! What’s that?—all over again.
Monday it snowed almost horizontal. A very quiet blizzard through the morning. We were indoors, in the front room. Paul was trying to write downstairs because Jeremy had started—actually started!—doing DIY in the little room at the front of the house. Pictures were down, paintbrushes were out, and Paul was downstairs with his laptop, doing his work. I sat on his lap between him and the laptop and then I sat beside him on a blanky for a while. Then I got up and had a snack and I walked back into the front room and he was still going, but the snow had stopped. I could see through the big front window that the snow was petering out and the sun was coming through the trees at last. It was streaming over the houses and the trees at the bottom of our garden and it was slanting into the room. Golden, luscious, warming sunlight. So I charged over there and hopped onto the back of the armchair so I could stretch out in that light.
Paul joined me there. He put his chin on the back of the chair and his arm around me. I let him. I didn’t squirm away. I let him ruffle my fur up. And we just sat there for a while. Until the next load of clouds came over. He said something about the weather changing at last and how it should be spring by now. He said the snowdrops in the window boxes and planters had withered, but the anemones were holding up, even in the snow. Yeah, yeah, I thought. You don’t even know about gardening. Jeremy planted bulbs in those boxes and you just thought those things had grown there spontaneously. But I snuggled in. I had that headache coming on and the hug was good.
It was a headache like I get in the middle of the night. When my mouth is parched and I know I have to make the trip up the length of the bed, up to Paul’s pillows and then hop over to his bedside table. I can perch there, with my whole body curled up and my head in his water glass. He often wakes at the sound of my lapping. Sometimes I have to be extra loud because the water level’s gone down and I need him to top it up. He keeps a bottle of spare water on hand. I think it’s what he drinks from when he gets thirsty. For some reason he’s gone off drinking out of his glass.
One night just before last weekend—I sat there on that bedside table, having had my drink. I just sat there in the middle of the night and I didn’t have a clue what I was doing there, or where I should go next. I remember looking from the water glass to the bookcase on Paul’s side, and his wardrobe, and Jeremy’s messy wardrobe and all the bookcases at the bottom of the bed, and then the bed itself with the tangled blankets and the two of them underneath. They were both awake by then and looking at me. Paul clicked his light on and they both looked concerned. I guess I was moving my head from side to side and casting about like I didn’t know what I was doing.
“What’s up, Fester Cat?”
Then I was reminded that I had to go and lie on Paul’s knees and then in the crook of his legs and fall asleep until first light. It all came back to me and I was suddenly relieved. Ungow! I hopped back over and that was okay. It was fine. But it was a scary moment and the headache stayed with me when I woke up. It went away a little but it kept coming back and I knew it had to do with that raging thirst that keeps coming over me.
Monday morning and we’re sitting in the sun until the snow clouds cover it, and Paul decides we should take a walk down the garden. It feels daring after all the cold and snow. Some parts of the country have been snowbound all weekend. But when we crack open the back door and look out—the patio is dry. It’s not right hot or anything, but it’s dry and oh, the smell of the garden is wonderful. I can feel my nose doing that dimpling thing and I’m breathing faster as I sit there on the back doorstep. I love it and it always makes Paul laugh. He says I’m sniffing the news from outside. I guess that’s right. You can tell a lot of what’s been going on from the smells outside.
Down the garden we go. Down the crazy paving path Jeremy built, between the little walls he made out of old red bricks and the urns of herbs—all a bit frosty and dead by now. There’s a skin of ice on the pond and I reckon all last year’s frogs will be dead. Or do they sleep underwater? I don’t even know.
Down the plank. Look at the magnolia, and the buds are there but nowhere near out yet. They’re curled up tight on the knuckly, dark branches. Paul is opening the Beach House door, dragging it open, and it takes some doing. The wood has swollen in the cold and wet.
The cool air and warm sun are making my headache lift away. I hop onto the veranda of the little house and then I can smell last summer’s scents coming out of there. It’s all damp books and trapped sun and dust and cat hair, mellow wood and dry soil. It’s wonderful—and here comes the sun again, sliding through the dusty panes.
Paul sits on the bed settee, trying to write with his laptop. I jump on my wickerwork chair and my cushion smells divine. After a while of gentle dozing, I jump over to sit in the crook of his legs. Hey, I nudge him and my nose feels dry. This is the first day of spring, probably. This is the first afternoon we get to spend out here. The first of many, all over again. It’ll be our eighth summer here together.
He’s distracted, though. Off in that world of his own. He’s sitting up awkwardly, typing with one hand and giving himself backache and neck ache. But he never moves his legs and so I don’t have to move.
That was the Monday things started to seem funny. Last Monday. I wobbled a bit, swaying, as we went back down the garden, only an hour later. I dithered a bit on the patio. I know I did, and I know Paul noticed.
I sat on the back stairs and I had this amazing thought. I think the sun brought it to me as the clouds cleared once more.
It was: I’ve not had a tummy tickle in so long. What’s that about? I love them! I crave them. I always have. And yet I can’t remember the last time I flung myself onto the ground in an almighty flomp and shouted at that pair to come and tickle me daft.
I guess I’ve been feeling a bit less cushioned. I lost weight before Christmas and then again recently. I feel a bit more bony. But how could I forget about all the tickles and rubs? The fur on my stomach was the only bit Paul couldn’t get to when he combed out the snags and tangles in my fur recently. I wouldn’t lie down. I wouldn’t flomp. One night the two of them got down on the front room floor and rolled about on the rug. They were wriggling and shouting “Flomp!” and “Tummy Tickle!” and I just didn’t understand. That was last week sometime. I just thought they were being daft, as per usual. But they were actually trying to tell me something and now I remember.
I love flomps! I love flinging myself sideways and landing jaw first and rolling around onto my back with my paws up in the air.
I especially love it on the gritty concrete of the patio or the backdoor steps. There’s something immensely satisfying about rubbing the dirt into your fur like humans do shampoo.
Paul is delighted that I’ve suddenly remembered. He tickles me like crazy and I can’t help grinning. I purr so hard I’m almost singing. I arch and wriggle and almost fall sideways off the step. He takes a picture of me on his phone while I’m at my most ticklish and zaps it to Jeremy upstairs.
Then, when I’ve had enough, I’m like, all right, all right! Don’t make a big show of me! Come on. Back inside the kitchen. Food!
It was a busy week as well. There were all sorts of things coming up. It was Jeremy’s birthday on Thursday and then it was Easter at the weekend. We didn’t have any firm plans but there’s always stuff going on round here. I knew that since it was holiday time, the pair wouldn’t be going out anywhere. They’d be staying at home and it would be like one great long weekend and they’d be sitting here with me—and so it’d be busy, as far as I was concerned.
But then the Tuesday came and I had to go to the hairdresser’s and see Mr. Joe. Well, I’ve already said that I know he’s not really a Mr. Teasy Weasy. I know he’s really a vet. I go a bit quiet when I’m there and I stand still on his table, and he’s pretty kind. He knows me by now, after almost seven years of being in the care of these two. He dealt with my injections and my thyroid and my teeth and gums when I had to have my operation. So he knows my history and he greets me by name and stuff, which is pretty nice. I give him a quiet “Ungow!,” which comes out more like “mow,” because I’m feeling dizzy and tired on Tuesday morning.
He tells Jeremy I’ve had a stroke.
When did that happen?
He says he wants to take a blood test. We should come back tomorrow. No, wait, it’s early enough to do it now—it’s only ten a.m. We could do the blood now and it’ll be back by teatime. Then he can see what’s what. He’s worried. I can hear it in his tone.
What now? I think.
I’ve had a couple of infections and bouts of flu in the last couple of years. My first and worst one was about three years ago when they realised my thyroid had gone funny.
So now it’s like here’s something else and I’m getting my Special Spot under my chin shaved and Mr. Joe is talking to Jeremy and I phase out for a bit. My headache’s back, like those clouds rolling over the sun yesterday in the garden. I want some water and I want a wee.
Mild stroke. It was a mild stroke.
But a stroke is something good, isn’t it? A stroke is like someone ruffling your fur, or rubbing your ears. This isn’t like that. How come they use the same word?
Then we were home and I lay on my pink blanky with my dirtied-up toys and for a while I couldn’t be bothered explaining anything or talking to anyone much. I had some fancy cat food for lunch—the stinkiest kind, which was okay. I took my lunchtime tablet in a wodge of pâté and crunched it down without causing a scene.
Then the kitchen ceiling fell in. I was in the front room with Paul and he was kind of patting me and talking to me. Jeremy was upstairs pulling stuff about in the shower room he’s making. It’s directly above the kitchen, and yeah—it’s been ready to go for a while now—all the junk that was held up by plastic sheeting. All this black muck and dust. There was a great big crash and it all came down.
Me and Paul thought the sky was falling in.
The worst of the mess was in the kitchen, of course. But even in the front room we were like sneezing all afternoon, the two of us.
Paul tried to do some cleaning. I guess he was a bit manic, cleaning the surfaces and stuff. I guess he was making the time go faster until my next appointment at 5:50, when we had to go back for the blood results.
When it came to being back at the vet’s, it was all very serious. Mr. Joe and Jeremy were talking away and I didn’t really follow much of it. All I remember is Jeremy getting these, like, free cat-food pouches from the lady at the counter when we were leaving. I was in my Selfridges travel case, but I could still see out enough to clock that there was cat-food buying going on. It was like gourmet stuff in silver pouches that I knew I’d never tried before.
Not bad, I thought!
We went home and I heard Paul asking stuff and Jeremy saying, in that very calm way of his, “Let me get him out before I explain.” And he opened the box and out I sprang onto the pine table, which Paul had cleaned of all that black dust and gunk. Ta-da! Here I am! Ungow! It’s way beyond teatime! Where’s this new gourmet stuff?
And it was all right, actually. Didn’t taste too bad at all. Could have done with a bit more seasoning, I thought. And it was a lot sloppier than Whiskas. Jeremy said that was the point. No salt. I’m not allowed any salt.
The two of them were talking seriously now. I just had my bit of tea and slipped into the front room. I don’t like it when they talk like that, like they’re keeping stuff from me. I’m buggered if I’m sitting around listening for snippets. Best clearing off altogether until they decide to tell me properly what’s up.
The headache came back and I went away to the cupboard in Paul’s little study. I went into the corner until my head cleared. By then it was like the middle of the night.
I popped into the bathroom and saw they’d put down new rugs. The little tray was waiting there but I couldn’t be doing with that. I did a poo on one rug and a long wee on the white rug from Habitat. Gave them both a bit of a sniff. Okay. Bedtime proper, now.
I went into the boys’ room and they were both fast asleep.
Jeremy snores like an elephant snorting a bathful of jelly up its trunk. But I guess I’m used to how noisy humans can be. He’s also kind of restless in the night, jumping about and changing position.
That’s why, for six years or more, I have slept on the blue blanky on Paul’s side of the bed. He hardly moves at all in his sleep and he sleeps with his legs conveniently folded to one side. I’ve taught him to do that! So on nights like this, when I come to sleep beside him—I can take a swift drink at his water glass and then hop onto the bed. And I know he’ll have already made a space for me. Halfway down the bed, facing the window, wide enough for me to lie sideways.
Ungow! He woke up and looked so pleased to see me. Go back to sleep, I tell him. And I purr at him, going “sing sing” until he does.
This is a busy week. We’ve a birthday in the household and a special diet to start and people visiting, I think, and a long weekend. We all need our sleep. We all need a good rest.
This is the stillest, most perfect night, though. It’s three o’clock in the morning and it’s just about a full moon tonight, so there’s light on Fester’s garden. From here on the bed I can see the houses out back, the swaying trees, and the roof of the Beach House.
Paul goes back to sleep—and I start to follow him. I carry on purring. It’s like I’m telling a story to myself. That’s how I sound when I’m doing singing like this.
And I reckon I’ve got a story to tell.
Tonight is when I’ll tell it.
My Favourite Things
Things start happening pretty quickly after that, even though I personally get slower.
Wednesday’s not a great day, though thinking back, I got to do all my favourite, usual things, only a bit more carefully and gradually. I ate a whole pouch of that new cat food. It was beefy flavour and there was some fuss because I wanted more than just one pouch and it turns out Mr. Joe had stipulated only one pouch a day.
I was shouting, “Mow! Mow! Ungow!”
I stood there incredulously at my feeding station, staring at my empty smorgasboard. What was this? What else was I going to eat?
Paul was manically cleaning kitchen surfaces and then cooking human food. Choosing something I just wouldn’t be interested in, on purpose, I reckon. Then we gathered together in the front room and we watched Frasier. They’re up to Season Seven again and Daphne’s wedding. I sat on their knees one at a time. Yeah, looking back, Wednesday wasn’t so bad.
My two back legs were wonky, though. When I went upstairs to do a poo and a wee on the rugs, my legs were kind of out of sync. I wasn’t happy on the stairs. Also—aaarrgghh—my claws were too long. Last time at the hairdresser’s Mr. Joe was good enough to give them an expert, professional, no-nonsense clipping. And afterwards I wasn’t snagging myself on carpets, blankies, table mats. But he didn’t do them during my visit this week and I was a bit like, huh? But claw clipping is what really needs doing. It’s all very well giving out new diets and shaving patches of fur—but what about all this snagging and snarling? I just about twisted my front legs off coming down the stairs.
Actually, I was happier when Paul carried me up the stairs and down again. I feel woozier than I did yesterday.
Also, he fetched out their human nail clippers and tried to get me to cooperate. I did after a while, but he was a bit tentative and it annoyed me. Then he was grimacing and flinching because of the noise when you clip cat claws. They make a grisly crunching noise. At least he was careful to avoid the black bits. These are blood vessels and mustn’t be cut into. When I last had them done by Mr. Joe, he made a comment on the very fine, visible blood vessels in my claws, as I recall.
Anyhow, Paul did his best and managed to trim my front two paws.
By nighttime I was exhausted. I just went under the cupboard in Paul’s study to sleep.
He fetched me out at six in the morning, at first light. He thought I’d want to hear the birdsong in the back garden and to smell the fresh air coming in. The window was wide open, because apparently Jeremy snores less if the window’s open. What’s that about? But I loved the sounds of Fester’s garden and I snoozed on Paul.
When I woke up properly for Thursday things felt different. I did a lot of purring to make the boys feel okay about it.
When they asked and petted me and carried me about and stuff, I made sure they knew I was still singing. But I felt awful. The headache and my eyes spinning. And the stairs were out of the question. My back legs were crazy. Three steps at a time even on a level landing were quite enough.
In the bathroom I did a poo, but at first I couldn’t move away from it. I felt humiliated. Paul was with me and he carried me away, cuddling me. I was pretty proud of that poo on the new diet—because I’d been quite bunged up before that. Widdling is a problem, though. I’m doing really little widdles, which is weird. Paul and Jeremy take turns having a wee in their toilet to encourage me. They say I can pick any rug I want and piss on it to my heart’s content. They’re pretty daft.
But the important thing about Thursday really was that it was Jeremy’s birthday. Ungow! He’s forty-six now, which, I gather, in human years is pretty ancient. I lay on the bed at sevenish, and Panda was there, too, going on like he does: “Many felicitations on your birthday, Jeremy. Here are presents that Paul and I and the cat have chosen and bought for you, plus a card that Paul has made, which isn’t as good as last year’s, which featured a picture of me on it.” (I’ll explain about Panda later.)
Jeremy opened his presents and they had a cup of tea. One of his presents was a silly fluffy toy that looked a bit like a black-and-white cat. Though Panda said it was more like a penguin with pointy ears. I shuffled over and let Jeremy do a bit of cat Reiki on my face and I nudged his hand and his face and I gave his nose a lick. Why do I have this compulsion to clean Jeremy’s nose? Even I don’t know. It just comes over me.
We were all together on the bed. With the sun coming through.
Later in the day, people came round. Jamie and Kyle came and they had a look at me and by then I was tired, on my settee on my pink blanket. They had a look and patted me and heard about how my walking and stuff had gone a bit wobbly. And how I was building myself up with new pills and a new diet.
They were out to lunch at some deli place round the corner. I heard they had spicy cider and chocolate cake. They came back pretty soon, but I was okay. I watched them eating chocolates and having tea in the front room.
Then there were others—Karen from down our street, who pops in when the boys are away. And Jeremy’s pal Penny. We were all in the kitchen and the table had all these birthday cards on it, and wrapping paper and Easter eggs people had brought. Jeremy lifted me up onto the table and I could see everyone then. I could look them in the eye and hear what they were saying. Ungow! I always like to know what’s going on.
I walked up and down that table, like I always do, weaving between the obstacles. There’s always loads of crap lying around in our house. Don’t get me wrong, it’s always interesting crap. Messy, but wonderful. I love it here. I’ve always loved living in our house with all this stuff.
I weaved and wobbled down the table and shouted “Ungow!” at all our visitors. It’s just something I have to do. If someone comes visiting, then it’s only polite, isn’t it? Saying hello and seeing how they are. I like to keep sociable, and even though I was feeling so rough by then, I made sure I kept my standards up.
When we were all alone—just Jeremy and Paul and Panda and me and it was the evening—I relaxed. I was exhausted. All I wanted to do was get under that cupboard in all the cat hairs and dust and sleep as long as I could. Mortified they had to help me in the bathroom. I tried to remember about the litter tray. I made a big effort to hop into it, but nothing was doing. I kind of fell sideways onto the rug.
Friday was all about sitting downstairs. It was Good Friday. A human holiday. No one was working today. (Apart from those awful men fixing up a rooftop at the back of the house. They were banging away and using a drill. Which can be pretty annoying when your head is banging like mine.)
I lay in Paul’s lap in the sunny living room. All my legs were funny now. He had to tuck them in under me, helping me to sit nicely on his lap. I cuddled in and purred as loudly and as fiercely as I could manage.
Paul sat very nicely. He put on movie after movie that day. We watched The NeverEnding Story, Time Bandits, and Willow. It was all kids’ stuff. Sometimes weepy, sometimes exciting, nice and loud and silly and always interesting. I dozed sometimes and then I was awake and getting back on with telling my story and sing-singing as hard as I could.
I’d gone off those gourmet pouches from the hairdresser’s. Today’s was supposed to be chicken flavour, but I didn’t like it much at all. Mr. Joe had said only 50 percent of cats can stomach these silver pouches. I’d had two days trying them out. I could tell the boys were disappointed, but really. I wasn’t into them at all.
Jeremy went out in the car.
Did I ever tell you that when he goes to the nearest supermarket in the car, picking up ciggies, the paper, sweets and treats and top-up groceries—did I tell you that he calls it El Shoppo? I’ve absolutely no idea why. It’s not even like a Mexican place or anything. It’s just one of those things he does.
While he was out, Paul sat with me and he was talking about all this stuff. I realised quite quickly that he was talking about when I first moved in here with them. When I decided to adopt the pair of them. He was going into all the details and telling me everything about myself and our times together. I was a bit like, Ungow! I know all this! If you’d have stayed awake the other night you’d have heard me singing about it all! When the full moon was out and I lay on the bed.
But he kept on talking and he started laughing and crying at different parts. He looked at my eyes and I guess they were doing that flicky thing still. My head was pounding, but I went on listening. There was some stuff he said I think I’d forgotten. Thing is, when you’re a cat, you can’t really write stuff down to remind you. You can scratch things, you can spray them, piss on them, or bum them up. And every little thing you do tells a story. But Paul has this mania for detail and writing every little thing down. So while Jeremy was out at El Shoppo he just talked and talked up a storm and it was all about me. Ungow!
Well, soon enough Jeremy came back with a huge load of orange carrier bags. They were stuffed full. He brought chicken roll and sliced ham and pâté. He brought tuna and corned beef and smoked salmon. He brought me trout. Fresh, wonderful, pale orange, fragrant trout!
It’s my favourite food in the whole world! Ungow!
I wolfed it up. I almost had his fingers off, whoever gave it to me.
It was big flakes of trout.
Actually, it wasn’t all that much I ate. Maybe a few mouthfuls.
It was the sweetest, rarest food I ever tasted in my life.
And after that I stayed put and I dozed on the big settee. And Paul lay down with me and he dozed as well, holding me tucked against his body.
The evening ran by, as evenings do. Jeremy went out to one of his meetings about saving Levenshulme Baths and Library. It’s been a big project this winter and he’s been out at lots of meetings. It’s got him out of the house, which Paul and I have been pleased about. He was getting stuck in a rut, and since he started with this campaign marvelous things have happened. His confidence has come back to him, after two rough years. The council has adopted his business plan—or something. Something good like that. I didn’t quite get all the details, but it was good.
Paul and I watched telly and when we ran out of things we wanted to watch he put on the radio. It’s great, it comes on the wide-screen telly, so you don’t even have to move from your comfy spot. He put on Radio 2 and found that they were doing two hours about his favourite, David Bowie. They had dug out archive recordings of him talking and singing.
All these songs are very familiar to me. I’ve heard Paul and Jeremy’s records many, many times over.
While I was drifting off, David Bowie back in 1977 was saying something about, even though he’d just made a record called Low he was very happy in his life as it was. He had escaped all the bad stuff and moved to Berlin. He hoped to carry on being happy, he said. He hoped that his life was going to keep on being as super as it was right now.
And then that song “Heroes” came on.
The Farthest I’ve Been
What People are Saying About This
“A story about love and home and friends, and the construction of an invented family . . . At once hopeful and nostalgic.”—Jo Baker, national bestselling author of Longbourn
“A moving story that reminds us love comes in many forms”—Cleo Coyle, New York Times bestselling author of the Coffeehouse Mysteries