Back before the fun died, I would frequently find myself in Richmond with Tristan and Tanya, having extremely involved meals where every dish is an essay, drinking the best quality wine that I could afford in defiant quantities, talking and dancing until late and then passing out spreadeagled on the inflatable mattress in front of the cricket highlights because I couldn’t drive home. Two hours into my deep and guilty sleep I would be awoken by the howling of the damned. Henry. The cat. Back from his nightly ramble. Seeking food that doesn’t run away.
With no flap, Henry relied on that fine set of lungs and the existence of light sleepers. I can open that window without interrupting my dream or fully opening my eyes. That’s how often I stayed and that’s how predictable he was. In he’d hop, ignoring me completely, straight to the food. Then sometimes he’d curl up on me.
Between lockdown the first and lockdown the second Tanya and Tristan moved. Just down the road, they went. Minute and a half by car, but the other side of Richmond Road, which isn’t small. Henry came along of course, and was confined to barracks for a while as is advisory – so he could reorient. They’ve been there for months now and he’s been back outside as he pleases for most of them.
Problem is, now there are levels in the new place. They sleep upstairs. The doors are downstairs. With no catflap, despite his lungs, if he shouts they might not hear him. Certainly last night they didn’t. So he went somewhere else. I’ve been getting updates all day when he didn’t show up in the morning.
Resident’s groups. Neighborhood WhatsApps. All the potential sources of cat have been bombarded by a concerned Tanya. Nothing. This evening’s exercise involved me walking on one side of the road wielding a bag of Dreamies with Tanya on the other side of the road doing the same. We covered a good radius around the new place and the old, on both sides of the main road and the side streets, but to no avail. No cat. Not a sausage. Nada.
In LA, Laural came home once with a dead cat. Hit by a car in the early evening. Mark and I buried it. It’s worth noting how much of our thinking can quickly go to imagining worst case scenarios.
I was about to jump in the car home with this all unresolved when – amazingly – the call came. From a neighbor.
Henry was in his old garden suddenly, yowling. “Screw you I’m hungry now”.
I’m in my car so I’m over there waiting while Tristan and Tanya, in a state of excited anxiety, have descended on their old property to continue to shake the Dreamies and call the name. (For the uninitiated, Dreamies are electromagnets for cats.) And this time, the Dreamies work. Suddenly I’ve got Tristan, masked and triumphant, holding a muddy hungry confused cat, hauling cat and filth into the passenger seat of the new Audi.
Henry is home again. He’ll be in lockdown tonight and I expect it’ll be the first night T&T have slept deeply for a while. They should totally get a catflap. And we should all try to derail the part of our brain that goes to the worst case scenario first.
Cheeky bugger got across that road though. “He knows how to get back,” Tanya says in a worried tone. I’m half imagining waking up one morning to find Pickle sitting on my windowsill like nothing has happened, and a text message from Brian asking if I’ve seen her. It’s a lot further to Croydon. But never underestimate cats.