Friday 16 March 2012

Good Luck, Bad Luck Cat

Rose Kelland

Black coffee and a little biscuit
 There’s a small park just around the corner from my house; a small piece of green among the dark brick suburban houses. The trees home numerous birds and squirrels, and the lush grass is a soft carpet to many pooch’s running paws!  On a dry morning I enjoy stepping across this small piece of paradise. My pace slows and my spirit absorbs the peaceful cooing of the doves, my whole being is cheered by the breakfast chatterings of the blackbirds and the scampering squirrels bring a smile to my face. Too soon this morning paradise is left behind, but it’s been enough to prepare my soul for a busy office day.
        On Thursday I looked up to the skies which had over the last few days rained its blessings all over the city, and decided that the next half hour would be clear and sunny and so I hastened across the busy road, past the sad, cramped houses, to the green and slightly muddy path which winds through the park. With the path just in sight, a skittish black cat almost tripped me as it ran from under a parked car to an open gateway. It stopped and looked back at the human who had made it run, before scampering to the cat flap, and, no doubt, a bowl of kitty breakfast.
Black cat, I thought, now is that good luck or bad luck?! With only a few paces to the park, my mind raced over what might be considered bad luck in the hours ahead. I am not seriously superstitious and I love animals, especially cats, so this thought was merely an early morning brain exercise.
 There were no mongrels playing games with the squirrels this morning, but there was a lady sitting on the park bench. I looked around expecting to see a scrappy puppy looking like a contented dirty little boy come bounding toward her – but there were no four-legged creatures in the park at all.
  As I drew closer to the bench, the lady stood up, straightened her skirt and started walking across the rain-wet grass away from the path.  But as I drew level I heard her hesitantly call, ‘’Scuse me.’ At 7.30 in the morning there are few commuters walking to work and I turned to the lady who now seemed to be a little distressed.
 ‘Can you tell me please, the way to High Street?’ 
 ‘Yes, certainly,’ I said, ‘Do you want to go by bus or walk?’ I was walking to the High Street, and I was quite happy to have a companion, but the bus stop was outside my front door.
 ‘I will walk,’ she said with very little hesitation.
 There was something in this lady that caught at my heart. While being wary of scammers, my gut feeling was that maybe I could be an angel for someone one day. Or was that black cat watching me?
 As we walked out of the park and away from the wildlife’s morning preparations, I noticed that she looked more dishevelled than I had at first noticed. Not wanting to sound rude I had to find a way of drawing this stranger to me, so if she’d let me, I could maybe offer help.  The black cat was maybe the stranger-lady’s good luck charm, maybe it wasn’t my bad luck!
 ‘Are you visiting this area?’ I asked tentatively.
 ‘Yes,’ but at this point her eyes welled up with tears and she sniffed openly.
 More quietly now I ventured to ask, ‘Did you sleep in the park last night?’
 The faintest of nods accompanied the screwed up face, the biting lip and the glistening tears now falling off the wrinkles of her cheeks. That black cat was definitely her good luck cat. It had nothing to do with me!
'Let’s go back to my house, and I’ll make you a cup of tea.’ I had to say it with more of a command than a suggestion, and gently held my hand out as I stopped to turn around. There was no hesitation in the dear lady at all, she turned and walked back the way we had come. Throughout the park the squirrels had woken up and were rushing around trying to find where they’d stored their breakfast, and a spaniel was sniffing the wet grass trying to find an unused spot near a tree!
 As we left the park where I had first entered, the black cat was sitting at the gate elegantly cleaning his bib. He meowed gently as we passed by. I smiled and winked at the cat – a knowing little look between us.
 Anka sat in our conservatory as it warmed up in the morning’s sun. We’d found her some clothes and hers were whirring quietly in the washing machine. She was on her second cup of tea and had gratefully accepted the muesli and toast with marmalade.  I had called the office to say I would be in later, and we sat, in frequent puddles of silence as she told me her story.
 Anka had left her husband in Poland. Her children had all left home for the city and good jobs and this was her chance to start a new life. She hadn’t seen her sister for many years, but knew she had moved to London about five years previously. I listened to the sad story of unhappiness, emotional abuse and subsequent low self-esteem.  As she spoke of her childhood with her sister, her marriage and leaving home, she slipped in her sister’s name and the man she had married. My brain had been lulled by the sad story, but suddenly clicked as I recognised the pure pronunciation of ‘Dyta’ and ‘Wojtek’. I backtracked my thoughts a little, and carefully asked her to repeat their names.
 ‘Dyta and Wojtek,’ she said again.
 Was it just a coincidence that these were the names of the Polish couple right next door to me who said they had been in the UK for nearly five years? Or were these perhaps common Polish names?  Anka continued with her story, unaware of the huge butterflies suddenly flying into a frenzy within me.
 At the next tearful interlude, I made Anka another cup of tea, added a biscuit, and excused myself as I sneaked out of the front door and knocked on my neighbour’s door.  Very unsure of how to approach the issue, I simply asked Dyta if she had a sister.
 ‘Yes!’ Her face lit up! Good! That shows there’s still good feelings there, I thought.
 ‘I think your sister may be sitting in my kitchen!’ I still wondered if I was doing the right thing.
 ‘Anka?! Anka is here?’ Dyta nearly knocked me over as she tumbled down the steps from her doorway.
 There were squeals and cries and ‘Ooh’s’ and ‘Aah’s’ coming from the back of my house. I stayed back, with tears welling in my own eyes.
             That black cat was certainly good luck for someone – in fact for some two! 

Bio:  Rose has been writing short stories and poetry for about five years since buying a writing mag for her daughter - who is now studying creative writing! She has had a couple of pieces published in Carillon Magazine, and was the December 2011 winner of an online creative writing competition, and also wrote 'Neighbours' for Cafe Lit in 2011. Rose uses every-day life situations and expands them into stories!


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